The Before Times

In my last post, I referenced a time period in my life that I’ve began referring to in my head as “the Before Times.” I also consider them to be “the Good Times,” times before certain decisions were made. I don’t know for certain, but I suspect that I will be referencing that concept more frequently over the next few months, so I thought it worthwhile to talk about what I mean by this, what that time entailed, and why I was thinking about it a lot to begin with.

Elizabeth and I had been married about 3 years, and we had gotten this fantastic apartment. Dual income and no kids, we were living the lives of successful post-grad-school professionals. I was still pondering “what next,” and we were very actively involved in creative ministries in our local faith community. I had not changed careers yet. I was helping people, every day. We were dreaming about what we wanted for our lives. Netflix subscriptions still mailed DVDs every month. The Internet was not yet in everyone’s pocket.

There was this specific moment that I recall in which I was home from work, and was looking out the window later in the evening as several others began returning from their workdays. I remember them seeming obviously stressed, obviously having put in a long day (given the time), and thinking that I was thankful to not be in the corporate machine. I never wanted to be in the corporate machine. I was, in that regard content.

Through a series of life events, I made a career change that was a great financial move, but entailed being drawn into the corporate world with which I never anticipated being involved. I didn’t know how negative an impact that would have at first. I wouldn’t learn until much later. I remember our oldest daughter being born just before that career change…the time that I was able to spend with her. After the career change, the time vanished, but in a deceptively subtle way that you don’t notice as it’s happening. It was years before she regained that time. I shudder to think that perhaps our youngest never had that time.

I realized this when I was briefly unemployed last summer. Those sorts of crisis events have a way of giving you space to focus on what’s important. I’m blessed to be out of the corporate world now and am regaining my faculties.

There’s something else that contributed to those times, all those years ago, being better. Technology had reached a point where it was helpful in many aspects of our lives. There was a “sweet spot”, as it were. We’ve passed that now. We’ve reached a point in which we’re willingly serving the technology instead of the technology serving us.

As I think back to those times, I remember an idea that I had once to write a book, sort of a memoir, about all of the places that we had lived and some of the neighbors we had encountered. I may have even started a manuscript for it somewhere, long ago. We’ve had a lot of neighbors over the years, and I’m amazed to think about how our lives have impacted each other, briefly been a part of each other. Those are holy encounters, encounters which are sadly less prevalent, or at least less appreciated, now in the age in which we serve our technology.

I want to go back to the Before Times. I entertain this desire occasionally by watching television series from that period. I would love to go back and re-make some decisions, but, as Billy Joel pointed out, we can’t go back, only forward. I’m wondering what from that time I can bring forward into this time, because I’m convinced that our family will be better for it.

Prayerfully, that will be a success.

Into the future we go….

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