For no particular reason I spent some time today reflecting on pivotal moments that have changed my life in dramatic ways. Moments that changed the trajectory so drastically that I cannot retroactively anticipate what my life might have been like had I chosen “the road not taken.”
I’m not necessarily referring to large decisions that take a great deal of planning, such as college or a career move. Clearly those things have an impact on a person’s life. However, in that kind decision making process there are additional plans that need to fall into place, along with a significant amount of psychological preparation for the change to come.
I’m referring to moments that were either beyond my control, resulted from a chance meeting, or required a simple yes or no at a moment’s notice. I’m sure the list could be quite lengthy, and some I have likely forgotten. I decided to narrow it down to 4, as they are probably the most significant events in what I would consider to be my independent adult life.
— Losing everything I owned in a fire in 1999. I had no insurance. I was an irresponsible kid floundering through college with no real plan. Then I lost everything. A few months later, my girlfriend left me. It was one of the lowest periods of my life, and really about the time when I started drinking to cope with it. That worked for a little while. Even though I didn’t see it at the time, there was a silver lining: I owned nothing, and was accountable to no one. I could literally do whatever I decided I wanted to do. So that’s what I started doing.
— Showing up to work on a non-paying independent film set to work as a grip in Dallas in 2001. I had already been doing the job for a couple of weeks, but on this particular day I was exhausted and dealing with a pretty bad head cold. My job wasn’t terribly important. I didn’t have any experience, and there were other grips. I was basically just volunteering out of curiosity. I intended to call the director to let him know I’d be skipping that day, but I kept hearing my Dad’s voice rattle around in my head about finishing what you start and keeping your commitments. Begrudgingly, I showed up looking like hell. While there, I met my future best friend Ethel Lung. She was working as an extra and had a great sense of humor. We stayed in touch, started a band called The Ethels, moved to Los Angeles together on a whim in 2002, recorded one album, and ended up with a song featured in an episode of “How I Met Your Mother.” Ethel didn’t know how to play any instruments when we started rehearsing, and since it was just two of us, she became the drummer.
— Agreeing to assemble a band to accompany the live show “Mortified” in Los Angeles in 2006. I had doubts about my abilities to lead a large band like an orchestra, and my (more skilled) music writing partner Gordon Bash was out of town on tour. My first instinct was to say no to Dave Nadelberg, the show’s creator. I just didn’t have the confidence. But after some coaxing by Gordon, and a couple of hours to think about it, I said yes. The first show wasn’t exactly pretty. But Anne Jensen, one of the show’s producers, became my future wife. Lol Tolhurst of The Cure joined the group a few months later. We went on to perform for 8 more years, and after Anne and I relocated to Texas, the group continued to play music for a show that is now in a dozen cities all over the globe. Because of my participation in Mortified, I was inspired to get sober once and for all. At the rate I was going, I don’t know that I had much time left to get that done. Anne and I now have two great kids and a lot of incredible memories.
— Agreeing to teach someone to box for the first time in 2010. A personal trainer acquaintance asked me if I could teach his gym manager to box. I honestly had no idea. Even though I had several years of boxing and kickboxing training under my belt, I never fought, and had never in my life taught anyone to do anything as far as I could recall. I wasn’t even a personal trainer. I was a part-time musician, part-time bartender/waiter. Again, I wasn’t sure if I had the confidence, but I said yes anyway. Christie trained with me for over a year, and became a pretty solid boxer and legitimate sparring partner. That experience led me to become a personal trainer — a job I still have and love.
If you could pick 4 pivotal moments, what would they be?