Even before the events of 9-11, the company belt-tightening began, so by the time the fall of 2011 arrived, the number of families getting away to our corner of the world completely plummeted. In a town dominated by tourism, every company and household felt the pinch when Americans quit vacationing en masse. The annual awards dinner recognizing excellence in our all-day, everyday contributions to our company vanished and I took my once-in-a-lifetime trophy home and set it on a shelf where I could admire my hard work and recognition alone. A cake without icing is sweeter than no cake at all.
A year later, true to its word, the company brought two years’ worth of recipients together for a celebratory night, and true to form, kept the special guest speaker a surprise until the moment she appeared on stage. When the applause faded and the award winners took their seats, Barbara Walters spoke from a lifetime of experience on the remarkable individuals she had interviewed – those who epitomized excellence: world leaders, unlikely heroes, and us. A triumphant night, albeit more than a year in the making, culminated with a joyful call to my parents to share with them the excitement of my career highlight and the outstanding speaker who completed an exceptional evening. “Oh, I’ve never liked her,” my mother opened her rebuttal to my night of recognition, and specifically our guest speaker. I ended the call as swiftly as possible and returned home to fall asleep in the company of my trophy to again admire my hard work and recognition alone.
After becoming an empty nester, the tendency to pack up and go often gets the best of me, and since I depend on no one but myself for my travel planning, my vacation style tends to be secretive until my return. (In truth, how often are others excited by vacations other than their own?) And on this particular western excursion, I keep my destination entirely to myself and relish in the prospect that my get-away fits its definition perfectly, and the isolation of my drive rewards my furtiveness. While waiting in the Salt Lake City airport for my flight home, I place a quick phone call to share my vacation highlights with my father. His reaction? He muses about an unfortunate incident on US Highway 50 years before my birth, “Did you go through Fallon? I once bought a tank of gas there in 1957 and it was god-awful.” Why, yes, Dad, my vacation is absolutely lovely, thanks for asking.
I often say that I have three regrets in life and they have taught me my three greatest life lessons. Life lesson number two: only include those people in the best moments of your life who will enhance the moment, not minimize it. More than a decade and a half ago my moment of regret continues to teach me a lesson I cannot learn often enough. My parents notoriously and unknowingly dash my moments of victory and excitement with the tunnel vision of their own lives. Nevertheless, my secretive solo adventure across the desolation of Central Nevada ranks among the most inspiring drives and the keynote speech by Barbara Walters continues to give me words of inspiration. And my prized trophy still sits in a place of honor in my home, regardless of my parents’ patterned perceptions.