Right in the middle of helping to lead a big pitch, my first in this new job, I had to take off for three critical days.
Of course I told my partner and everyone else, including the powers that be, well-beforehand. But that didn't make my guilt, or feelings of impending doom, any lighter.
In the 31 years I have been doing this, this is the first time I had shown up missing.
My daughter Sarah, whom we had driven up to see, was getting her Doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology. She wanted us there as she presented her dissertation and fielded questions about it. It was the culmination of long years of study, over a year of research and more than 200-pages of hard-core writing.
Maybe my old man would have been absent had I, his son, been awarded a similar degree. But I had to be there. As I said to Sarah, I wouldn't have missed this for anything.
So up we drove to Boston. A ride that can take just over three hours if you leave at 5:30 AM, or just under seven, if you leave at 5:30 PM.
For whatever reason, my wife decided we had to leave Thursday after work rather than Friday morning. Easing Sarah's anxiety (would we show up on time) while heightening mine. I did some work in the car. Was my usual attentive self to email. But I wasn't there. I wasn't at the office. I couldn't be in two places at once. And I chose my daughter.
I'm glad I did. Sarah is preternaturally wise and she's taught me a lot.
She's shown me the value of perseverance. She's shown me the value of going the extra yard. She's shown me the value of doing a job up to your own standards.
I feel shitty, of course, coming back to the agency.
I feel like I dumped on a lot of people who had to pick up my slack.
What's more, because of my newness, I'm afraid that people will assume I'm a shirker, not a worker. A big title guy who huffs and puffs then disappears.
I'm sure in time, this will all be forgotten.
The meeting will either go well, or it won't.
And there will be a thousand more meetings--equally important and pressurized.
But only one Doctoral defense. One eldest daughter. One occasion to celebrate this accomplishment.
The worst that can happen at work is that they regard me as a sham. And fire me.
I've been down that road before.
And find something.
But I'll never find another love like I have for Sarah.