It’s always amazing to look back on your life and see what you have done in the past 12 months. That is probably what I love most about the new year. It’s not the aspirations to make my life better, but taking the time to think about what my family and I have done, and how we can keep making our lives and those lives around us better.
2011 brought a lot of greatness to my life. Great friends, great memories and great opportunities as well. None of this is designed to be bragging, if you know me you know that is not my strong suit. And you will also know that one of my weaknesses is a terrible memory. This post is mostly for me. I want to remember all of the things I have done. So with that, let me remind my self today of 2011…
Staying in shape, finding new friends…
Ran the Fangtastic 5k with Matt, Rachel, Matt & Nick
Cycled Over 1,000 Miles & Raced a 100 Mile Race
Battled (and Beat) the Warrior Dash with Amy and Nick
Ran the Cinco in the Gulch 5k
Friends & Family
The ones I love, and the things we did…
Sold our Country House, Bought a City House
10 Years Strong of Being Married to My Best Friend
Watched My Sister Get Married in Salt Lake City
Celebrated the Life of Eli Witt (RIP 2011)
Celebrated the Life of Tim McGovern (RIP 2007)
Visited Mexico, 1 Week, No Technology
Visited Florida with Matt, Rachel & Nick
Built Furniture for Rail Yard Studios
Managing Director of the JSF, Launching 6 Companies
Raised the First Round of Funding for Checkd.in!
Built Amy and Nicks First Startup – EverydayBetter.com
Invested in 6 Kickstarter Startup Companies
Attended TechStars Demo Day in NYC
Learned Tons About My Grandma Southworth
Funding and Growth (Doubled in Size!) for Change Healthcare
Season Tickets to the Preds with the CH Nerds
What’s in the Future?
I can only hope I continue to be blessed with great friends, a loving family and good fortune. I know not every moment can be glorious, as I found out in the past year. We remembered Tim on the four year anniversary of his death, donated oars and planted a tree for Eli Witt after his death from battling Lymphoma, and then finding out that my grandma has pancreatic cancer just to name a few moments.
But find the good in the bad. I realize over and again how important friends are. How important family is. And how important it is to try to live every day to the fullest. I’ve learned how to listen, how to help and how to care. I have also tried to teach more and more as I met with 100’s of startup entrepreneurs and mentors in Nashville and across the country helping them work on their companies.
My number one lesson in 2011?
Live life, appreciate your friends and family
& love what you do.
I woke up Memorial Day to a cool breeze and a bright sun. I had a cup of coffee and headed down to the garage to polish up the motorcycle for the day. The plan was to get dressed and head down to the Golden Gate National Cemetery for a few hours and then to take the rest of the day to ride and… well… think. Both of these are things I do not have the time to enjoy very often.
A little background about the Golden Gate National Cemetery:
It spans more than 160 acres in San Bruno, CA just outside of San Francisco
There are nearly 140,000 soldiers and family members with interments here
It was originally constructed (finished and dedicated) in May of 1942
Its amazing in size and beauty
Now back to my story. As I was riding towards the gates I was already feeling quite emotional. My whole body was getting warm and I could feel my eyes starting to swell. As I entered the large front gates, the first site inside was a large American flag atop a giant hill. Cascading down the hill were many other flags, some for states, some for other things. The next thing I noticed was the abundance of miniature American flags on poles located next to every single headstone. If you search around, you will find that this is a common way to commemorate the day. My previous research on what to expect when I went to the cemetery lead me to this link where I read the following…
“The 30th of May, 1868, is designated for the purpose of strewing with flowers, or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country and during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village and hamlet churchyard in the land. In this observance no form of ceremony is prescribed, but posts and comrades will in their own way arrange such fitting services and testimonials of respect as circumstances may permit.”
I cruised extremely slowly through the cemetery, emotions jumping wildly from sadness the thankfulness and back as my mind spun through years of images and videos from tv and movies as well as personal memories with those soldiers who are no longer with us. I didn’t make it far before I had to park and start my walk (which end up taking the next 2.5 hours of my day) through the cemetery. I know the pictures do not do this place justice. It is amazingly huge and hard to grasp the number of people in this one cemetery that are buried here.
I had no idea what I was getting into as I took off on foot through the cemetery. The place seemed enormous and while there were tons of people there, no one was near me, giving me complete freedom to think and talk to myself in peace. I wandered through acres and acres of land reading the names aloud of some of the soldiers and cleaning dirt off some headstones of others with a brush I had brought along with me. Some were extremely old and hard to read and were very coarse from years of weather when you touched them with your hands.
When I thought I had reached the end of the lot, where I had intended on turning around and walking back to my motorcycle, I looked up to realize the cemetery continued off on a 90 degree angle and I had barely covered half of it. I really had no idea how large it was or what I was getting myself into that day. I sat there perplexed by the sheer number of headstones I was seeing as well as the vast amount of land this place covered. I feel truly honored and humbled to live in a country where people give their lives to protect others like they do here.
I headed back to my motorcycle and cruised through the larger half before heading to the top of the hill, which was the center point and main viewing point for the entire area. I should have started here because from the top you can see the entire place spanning in all directions. I talked to a couple of older (80 years old) retired soldiers as I walked around. They were eager to share some of their stories with anyone who would listen… not about wars or killing, but just about living life to the fullest and about loving those around you.
After such an emotional few hours I decided to keep my time of reflection going by heading out for a few hours for a nice long motorcycle ride. I cruised for a few miles up the interstate but then veered off the main roads and followed the winding roads for about 75 miles. I cruised through the hills and eucalyptus trees and eventually ended up at Alice’s, a popular biker bar where, contrary to my guessing, it was practically empty. I hung out there for about an hour, grabbed some food, and just talked with some of the locals and staff who were enjoying the sunny holiday. After that, I saddled back up and took off towards the coast.
I was amazed there was no traffic. Considering how beautiful it was out and the fact that the coastal highway is a typical tourist destination, I had it mostly to my self! I was able to stop and snap all kinds of photos along the way because of that fact. Maybe it is just me, but sometimes I head out on adventures like this and think to myself how great it would be if I didn’t have to deal with assholes the entire day, or traffic, or construction. Today was that day. I had the roads to myself, I cruised alone through the woods, I ate at a typically packed biker bar with only the company of the staff, and as I mentioned earlier, spent most of my day in the cemetery with no one within 20 yards or more of me.
This is the first time I have truly paid my respect to the soldiers who protect us on Memorial Day. Typically it is just another day off of work to spend with family and friends with little thought to why. While spending time with loved ones to me is very important, I am glad to have spent the day alone with my thoughts and memories. I hope you appreciate my story. It is just as much for me as it is for you. To my family and friends and to those around the globe protecting us and our freedom, thank you.