Ten Years Shredded
"How long do I have to keep these tax records?" I asked my tax guy. "Three years but ideally
seven." he replied. I dug deep into a five-drawer file cabinet, and found tax returns going back ten years beyond the ideal seven. So, I made a cup of tea, plugged in the shredder, and sat on my office floor with a pile of folders intending to make short work of shredding ten years of my life. But I learned there's a huge chasm between intention and execution.
The project was not what I expected it to be. As each folder was opened and the contents spilled out, my business and personal life from decades ago captured my attention. Taxes paid to the different cities and states I'd lived in brought up memories of not of what I had to pay (outrageous) but of the relationships and long-term friendships forged in each place. I recalled my first boss Tom who taught me an adage that I used throughout my career. Tom said "Twenty percent of the people do eighty percent of the work so feed the eagles and starve the turkeys." I wondered about him and those long gone friends. Where were they today? Did they remember me as I now remembered them?
The contents also spoke to both sad and happy life events. A lawyer's letter notified me of an investment that passed to my sisters and me upon the death of our mother. It was a loving reminder of her and how many years she'd been gone. Savings bonds receipts, purchased for each grandson when he was born, required an accounting with the IRS. I remembered leaving
an important executive meeting when the phone call came in that the first one was born, and my hair-raising drive from Connecticut to New Jersey to see grandson Deegan.
Charitable donations were made in honor of events that touched the world. There was one to the NYC Firemen's Fund after 9/11 which brought up long ago memories of a day engraved in the hearts of all - especially New Yorkers. Three file folders later there was a different donation to the efforts in Indonesia after the 2004 tsunami killed 230,000 people and devastated that region.
It took several hours to go through all the files. As I did my old life came into focus and was remembered well. I recognized it as a life well lived, filled with joys and professional rewards. W-2s showed a career with many promotions and much promise; while expense accounts recalled travel all over the country and to foreign ports. As I thumbed through the receipts I smiled remembering the events, banquets, guests and friends made along the way.
Recalling the memories I realized it was a life I had to leave behind in order to live the life I really wanted to live. It was impossible to do the work that consumes me today while continuing to live the old life in the Corporate world. Rewarding as it was, I had to leave it behind in order to pursue that which has since become a life purpose.
When a life purpose emerges you realize it's not a hobby you're pursuing but a powerful and meaningful path. It's a path that family or friends might not understand and they might actively try to thwart it. I experienced that for several years before making the final break. When it occurred the dominant feeling that overpowered all the others was "Freedom." I had the freedom to pursue that which brought me overwhelming happiness and purpose.
Those folders were a reminder that the path to meaningful happiness can take a 90 degree turn at any moment. It comes unbidden but is merciless in its demands for notice! If one is strong enough to do it, willing to ignore well-meaning guidance from family and friends, and courageous in resolve, the rewards to pursuing a new path are remarkable. Shredding tax documents reminded me of the strength and courage it took to close the door on the old life and open the door to something new.
All the skills learned in the old corporate life enhance the new one. I teethed on computers, perfected presentations, developed marketing plans and writing proposals - all still in use today. That life was ideal for the time I was in it. It afforded me happiness, and a good living to raise a family. As Ten Years were Shredded it reminded me there were no regrets. My past life brought me brilliantly to this new one here! At the end of the shredding I realized happiness is wherever one is planted.
Jo Mooy - July 2016