Going Home is Hard, Staying Home is Harder

One of my favorite movies is “Hurt Locker”, starring Jeremy Renner as a EOD (Explosive Ordinance Disposal), Bomb Handler in Iraq on tour. Addicted to the excitement, mission and purpose in war. The last 10–15 minutes of the movie when he finally returns home is eye-opening and disturbing at the same time. After a tour on the frontlines with his life at risk, he finds himself in the mundane everyday life of an American. Cleaning out the roof drains, cutting up food for dinner. Grocery shopping where there is literally a full aisle of a multitude of cereal. He finds himself lost in the abundance. His eyes are dead.

The most telling is when he is playing with his baby boy and is talking with him.

“You love playing with that. You love playing with all your stuffed animals. You love your mom. Your daddy. Your nature pajamas. You love everything don’t you?

But You know what buddy? As you get older, some of the things that you love might not seem so special anymore, you know. As you get older, there are fewer things you really love. And by the time you get to my age, maybe it’s only one or two things. For me I think it’s one.

Next scene he is back on a helicopter landing in Iraq on another tour. He looks confident and happy. He is back where he feels he belongs.

I understand this feeling. Having spent so much of my career on the road doing business travel, I get it. You stay in hotels, you have almost everything taken care of and getting the business done. No distractions. It’s fun & exciting, you meet new people and see new things. You are busy but you also have a lot of “Me time.” You focus on yourself and it’s easy to become pretty self centered as you go through the days overseas. It’s also much easier: the metrics are clearer on the career side. How much money you bring in.

Much harder to work on the home life and family side. Can’t put a number to it. It’s intangible.

Yet you feel guilty for being away from family, missing their lives, missing being part of their everyday life. Not knowing the fun, happy things as well as their sorrows & sadness. Zoom & FB Messenger calls are just not the same and cannot make up for this. I think of the fact that I’ve missed so much of my kid’s life and this has probably scarred her in some ways as I have not managed the regular transitions in and out of her life.

I’ve never been a military vet and this is why I admire them so much. They sacrifice for us their lives and home life so we can enjoy the freedoms and abundance that we have here in North America. And why we need to celebrate them and support them after their service.

But my main point is be careful of what you wish for. Be careful of what you decide that you love. I dreamed of this life of travel, adventure, money and business growing up and I got exactly what I subconsciously and consciously wished for. I remember walking out of the Fujitsu technologies office in Taipei in an interview back in 1998. While I did not get the job I told myself this was what I was going to do for my career. Travel the world and do business at a global standard level. And boy did I ever. Millions of air miles later, elite status on multiple airlines, I’ve been lucky to have seen a good portion of the world. Yet, I’ve definitely paid the price for this in my somewhat broken home life that I’m still in the process of fixing.

You will have regrets in life, you will lament things. My reminder for those starting off, you can have it all. Just make sure you are conscious of your choices so you don’t end up regretting the wrong things like missing precious family life, messing up your health & friendships.

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Marvin Liao

Ever curious: Tsundoku, Reader, Aspiring Shokunin, World traveller, Investor & Tech/Media exec interested in almost everything! www.marvinliao.com