The Day My Life Changed

This is a guest submission by Stuart McGraw

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I was one of those driven boys who was determined to be the next Donald Trump. I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a bazillionaire and I even had a pretty good idea as to how I was going to get there. College was critical, so was living in New York City and landing a job with a big Wall Street financial firm. Dating was fun, but I had determined early on that I wouldn’t even entertain the idea of a serious relationship until I was settled in New York working towards my second Million.

After three years of college, I was working on my next milestone… New York City. My degree was in Business, and I wanted to supplement that with an internship on Wall Street. My plan was to get a paid summer internship with a Wall Street firm and then while working in the Big Apple during that summer I would focus on networking and meeting as many people as I could to understand each of the different companies, what job functions were available at each, and which ones I would then follow up with once I actually finished my degree.

I was able to find the perfect summer job working with one of the top-three brokerage firms in the country. I couldn’t afford to actually live in the city, so I found a roommate to split rent with and we found a small apartment over somebody’s garage up in Westchester County. This was going to be the best summer ever, I would get the full New York City experience of riding the train in every morning to Grand Central Station, then I would either take a quick subway ride, or take a brisk walk, if the weather was good, to my office up on Madison Avenue.

This was going to be great! Plans were all set and ready to go by Thanksgiving and now it was just a matter of finishing winter term and then I’d be flying to New York by the end of April.

Then one day in January, my whole life changed. What was so important before suddenly wasn’t. There is absolutely no way of even anticipating something so traumatic and life-altering as what happened to me that day.

I had driven home for the weekend to visit my parents and as I pulled into the driveway another car pulled in behind mine. I didn’t recognize the girl who stepped out of the car, I’d never met her before, but I couldn’t stop staring. She cheerfully introduced herself and asked if my parents were home because she had been asked to pick something up from them.

As we walked into the house together we chatted briefly, I found it difficult to concentrate and I was stuttering and sputtering the entire time and I was getting angry with myself because of my reaction. I was not one to get tongue-tied around women and this was very frustrating for me, but I could not stop staring at this girl. Her voice was hypnotic, her smile was magnetic and I could not concentrate. It was obvious I had contracted something, and it was fatal.

Then, just as quickly as she had arrived, she retrieved the item and she was gone. I must have stared out the front window a bit too long as my mother noticed that I wasn’t quite myself.

(The only thing worse than totally reacting like a schoolboy with a silly crush in front of a woman is having your parents witness as you react like a schoolboy with a silly crush in front of a woman.)

With a smile on her face she asked me if I would like her to track down the girl’s phone number since she knew her parents. After a failed effort at trying to shrug it off as no big deal, I got her number and I spent the next couple of days working up the courage to ask her out. (Plus, I didn’t want to call too soon and act desperate, did I?)

To make a very long story a bit shorter, we went on our first date that next weekend. By Valentine’s Day I knew I was in serious trouble and I was starting to think crazy thoughts about not going to New York. By March, I was thinking more crazy thoughts and trying to figure out how to tell this girl how I was really feeling about her and by April I was entertaining the idea of actually marrying her. I was a mess!

One day in April, I drummed up the courage to let this girl know how I felt about her. We talked for several hours and she shared with me that she was feeling the same way, but she made it very clear that she did not want me to change my mind about New York because she did not want me to someday regret having missed that opportunity. It was only for a few months and it would not hurt either of us to slow things down a little bit.

Well, I did go to New York and it was a good experience, but not for any of the reasons that I had originally intended. My ambition and my goals of living in New York and making all that money suddenly just didn’t seem that important any longer. What I learned in New York was that I was miserable without her. I could not stop thinking about her. I had never considered that I could be so hopelessly and helplessly in love with someone else that it would make me physically ill not to be around her. After a few months of trying to stay focused on my dream, I finally accepted the reality that my dream and my goals had changed. Now, what I wanted more than anything else in the world was to be married to this woman and share the rest of my life with her.

I didn’t care about the money anymore, I didn’t care about the fame or notoriety, I only cared that I wanted to make her happy. I wanted to tell her I loved her every single morning as I left to work and I wanted to kiss her goodnight every night of my life.

What I learned by going away to New York is that without someone to love, any other success has no real value.

I recently celebrated 20 years of marriage with this wonderful woman. I think I love her more today than ever before, and she is certainly more beautiful now to me than that first day in my parents’ driveway. We have four children and I cannot imagine living one day without her. I don’t live in New York, and I don’t have a lot of money, but I am wealthier than any banker on Wall Street.

I love you sweetheart.

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