At the beginning of January, 2010, almost 10 years to the day after selling our agency to DDB, I moved on.
I was excited to see how I would spend my days and only had a vague sense how it would be. But I was excited nonetheless.
I hadn’t had the kind of freedom, where anything was a possibility, since I left college. At the time, I was anxious to get into a career, and I hadn’t much enjoyed my “freedom.” So this time would be different. I promised myself to relish the opportunity.
I knew I would paint. I’d been an art major in college and had dived back into things when my kids were at napping age. (You can see what I’ve been up to at www.johnlivengood.com.) I wanted to start a web forum around sustainable home-building (www.ecomajority.com). I wanted to do some marketing/creative consulting, which I’ve been lucky enough to do with some friends old and new. But all of those goals shifted significantly when my wife, Ann, was diagnosed with breast cancer in May. We’re on the homestretch of treatments now, and things are looking good. Of all the things that have filled my days, this was the most important. Obviously.
It has been a heck of a year and I’ve learned a few things.
First, being around home most of the time has many benefits. Being close to a refrigerator is not one of them.
Second, and though I’d heard this countless times, kids grow up quickly and will be gone before you know it. I will always look back at this time with an amazing appreciation for the amount of involvement I have been able to have with them. I also realized that they really don’t like to do homework, and if you’re not there to push on them, it often doesn’t get done.
Third, I can’t imagine being away from Ann, or the kids, while Ann was going through cancer treatments. Obviously a lot of people manage it — and the patients themselves often work all through their treatments. My hat is off to them. I feel really lucky that we were able to be together. Even growing closer.
Fourth, it’s good to have something you can get lost in — even at a moment’s notice. Last January, I decided to learn to play the guitar. I had taught myself how to play the bass over the years, but I knew nothing about chords or any kind of music theory. I’ll write more about this, perhaps, but you can find part of my guitar odyssey at www.giftwrappedgibson.wordpress.com. My only regret is that I wish I’d learned to play earlier (or hadn’t given it up when my parents wanted me to learn when I was in elementary school). Being able to disappear into a song is a great escape — a great meditation. It has truly been one of my great creative joys over this past year. And my family doesn’t seem to mind (too much) as I work on a song, over and over and over and over again.
I get asked fairly regularly what I’m up to. In the most simple form, the answer to that is all of the above. What’s next? I don’t know. It’s probably too much to say that I have a few irons in the fire. More accurately, I have a few irons next to the fire. Who knows if anything will come of them. Whatever I do next will need to be get the juices going. That’s a prerequisite. I’m lucky enough to have a nest egg and a pretty good gig.
Speaking of nest eggs …
The genius of Albert Brooks in “Lost in America.”