Ten years ago, in March of 2004, I was a corporate executive at one of the largest media companies in the world. I had a salary north of six figures, a nice office in Manhattan and an expense account. A month later I was sitting at home with no job, no real prospects and no shoes on. I was ecstatic.
Truth be told, I had a pretty cushy corporate gig compared to most, but I was miserable. As good as I had it, I was still just a glorified bean counter, far removed from my earlier dreams of becoming a writer and pursuing more creative aspirations. I'd gotten a job in finance in my early 20s, and the next thing I knew, I was 36 years old and on a career trajectory not of my choosing. Yes, I was succeeding, but at what cost?
My wife noticed it too -- something was off. Although I feigned excitement with every successful step up the corporate ladder, I knew deep down that it wasn't what I was meant to do. I started trying to breathe some life into my creative side, and it was invigorating. I began writing again, which led to doing stand-up and performing improv. I even started booking some acting gigs. Life was good, but I was still living in two worlds. Finally, after some serious soul searching and heaps of encouragement from my ever-supportive missus, I quit my day job and flung myself over the precipice of following my dreams. No guts, no glory. No brains either, some said at the time, but they were just projecting their own fears onto me.
The past decade has been one hell of a ride. I haven't come anywhere near reaching the level of financial success that I had in my suit-and-tie days, but my account is full of untold riches when it comes to memories and life experiences. I have appeared on national TV, I wrote a book, I have become friends with folks I have admired for a lifetime -- Henry Winkler, William Hurt, Richard Kline and too many others to mention. I have sat and discussed my craft with Tom Hanks. I have golfed with Gary Player, Graeme McDowell and Happy Gilmore's Shooter McGavin (and won!) and I have interviewed NFL players, baseball icons, world-class comedians and Olympians. Sometimes, I'll look back at the past few years and really can't believe the stuff I've gotten to do. It would seriously blow teenage Steve's mind.
As great as all of that stuff is, you know what the absolute best part of quitting my job has been? It allowed me to stay home and raise my two young sons. We weren't even close to starting a family back then, so it was never even a consideration. As the years passed, we decided it was time. Since I was already working from home, it was obvious that my wife would go back to work and that I would be the primary caregiver to our firstborn in 2007 and the other little guy a few years later. It's sad to say, but if I were still running the corporate hamster wheel of success, I doubt I would have given up all that money to stay at home and raise my sons. Boy, would I have missed out on a lot!
Being with them for almost every life-changing moment has been more rewarding than any of my achievements in the boardroom or in the studio or on the stage. Has it been a smooth ride? Hell, no. Kids are a ton of work. Literally. These two hooligans have easily produced at least 2,000 pounds of dirty diapers in their lifetimes. There have been plenty of moments as a stay-at-home dad where I have been beyond frazzled and didn't know if I could do it anymore. But then one of them would smile at me, in that oh-so-special way or I'd look over and see the big one teaching the little one how to assemble his Legos, and I'd remember how exceptional this time has been. Even now, as I try to write this sentence, with my youngest trying to decapitate me with his Mace Windu lightsaber, it's all been worth it.
It sure beats slaving away in an office all year long hoping for a 3 percent raise and dreaming about a shot at the corner office.