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One of Life’s Greatest Gifts

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By Jason Kirk on November 21, 2011

I know my posts tend to focus on the exciting and changing times in technology, entertainment and social media. And they should, as they are areas I’m passionate about and live and breathe every day. Today, however, I’m going to write about something completely different that’s more important than all of it.

November 23, 2001: I remember it better than I wish I did sometimes.

While the world was still reeling from the 9/11 attacks, I was 25 and trying to figure out the next phase of my life. I just finished working on my second start-up, which unfortunately was one of the many victims of Web 1.0 and had recently run out of money. It was Thanksgiving, so I was going to give soul-searching a break for a week and play a round of golf with my close friend before we headed off to our respective family gatherings. I would never make it to golf that day.

When I woke up, I looked at my phone and noticed I had 12 missed calls and five voicemails. Quite strange, since I had gone to bed at around 1 am following my buddy’s birthday party the night before. Who was calling so many times so late? Probably some drunk friend of mine is what I initially thought. Oh, how I wish that were the case.

The first message was from my father, his voice unlike anything I had ever heard, just asking me to call him back immediately. Then another from my mother requesting the same thing. Again and again and again they had called. I knew something was wrong. I called my father back, and he sounded like he had been shaken to the core. What he told me changed my life forever.

November 23, 2011 marks the 10th anniversary of the death of my stepsister and stepbrother. They were 23 and 25, respectively, and were killed in a car accident while on their way to visit their father for Thanksgiving. They had been in my life since I was 3 years old and just like that…they were gone.

My dad and stepmother have never been the same. It destroyed their lives, challenged their marriage, ruined their business that had been in my family for decades.

It nearly ended their lives on multiple occasions, too.

Luckily for me, I took a different path, but it wasn’t easy. Though filled with indescribable shock, sadness, anger, depression and fear at first, I came out on the other side with a sense of respect for how precious life is and how, even though I was in the midst of my own quarter-life crisis, I felt an obligation to live my life to the fullest, appreciate the moments and live for them as well as for me.

The world seems to move faster each and every day. We struggle to find time to “do it all.” We stress about our jobs, envy our friends who have more money than us, and we put ourselves in a bad mood when our football team loses a game. But we have to try and keep perspective and do better to appreciate all we have vs. focus on the few things we do not (when was the last time you appreciated your health?). All we know can change on a dime. Those things you see on the news or hear about third hand and don’t think could ever happen to you…could happen to you.

Work can wait if it means spending even 15 more minutes with your son or holding your wife. Who cares if your friends have more money than you? A) money isn’t everything and B) focus on your life vs. the lives of others. I know it sucks when your team loses (as a CU Buff fan, I’ve felt that 9 times already this year), but it’s just a game…a game you have zero control over the outcome.

Not a day goes by where Jamie and Justin aren’t in my thoughts. Not a day goes by when I wish I could do more for my parents to fill the void that is so clearly missing in their lives. But I can only do so much and I try to do that as best I can each and every day.

As we enter the holiday season, my hope is that if you’re reading this you take a minute, take a deep breath and think about your life and the things you love and the things you want to change (and then share it with someone you care about):

Tell your wife you love her. Give your brother an extra long hug the next time you see him. Call or Skype your friend from college you haven’t spoken to in years because you’d decided Facebook had become an adequate substitute. Be spontaneous. Find passion in your job, and if you can’t…find a new job. Wheel that bike out of your garage and instead of staring at it, ride it. Donate your money, or better yet, your time to a cause or a person that matters to you. Appreciate your surroundings. Yell and scream when your team is playing, and if they lose…just move on. Smile. Laugh. Make others laugh. And before you go to sleep at night, and when you wake up in the morning, rather than think about all of the things that stress you out, think about all of the things you are thankful for.

Perspective: One of life’s greatest gifts…if we choose to have it.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

Jason Kirk is vice president of content & distribution at Ustream. Follow him on Twitter @jkirk22.

You can also read his personal blog here.

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