Friday, October 22, 2010


Five Years On

I'm sitting in a "library" inside a small Inn, on the edge of a small midwest university campus, located in a small town. I say "library" because that is what the room is called, but there are maybe three books, a bunch of empty display cabinets that look like they might have held books once, a chess set with missing pieces, a large fireplace with a cheap fire tool set that's missing the poker and the tongs, mismatched tired looking furniture, and a wooden floor that looks like someone dragged chains over it. The rooms walls are made to look like windows looking out into the lobby, but there's no glass in the window panes. The lobby carpet is hideous, and when you walk into the building you find yourself looking at a wall with a square four paned window (also missing glass) that looks into the front desk area. To your left is a quaint looking restaurant, and to your right is the library (where I'm now sitting), elevator, and also the front desk. In my peripheral vision I can see the front desk clerk, an older man with a long white beard dressed in flannel (basically Santa Clause in the off season) sitting behind a tall counter chewing on a toothpick and pretending not to be listening to my conversation.

"Well, Mr. Warriner, where do you see yourself in 5 years?" asks the very professionally dressed woman sitting across from me. She is Debra Lein, Vice President of Operations for Sodexo Conferencing.

It's a little after 9am. I'm exhausted from working the third shift at the Marriott Downtown in Indianapolis. I had been called in an hour early, worked an hour late, and had barely made it here in time. I'm here because I had given White Lodging and the Marriott Downtown almost five years of my life with almost no recognition. My boss didn't have half my experience and had been promoted because of who he knew and what relationships he had developed in the company - "politics". We'd lost all leadership on the third shift (11pm - 7am) and for the last six months I had been rebuilding the night audit team because I was the only manager who understood this part of the operation. Three weeks ago I had asked my boss to schedule the other managers (there were 4 of them plus multiple supervisors working the day and evening shifts) with me so that I could train them on this part of the operation and start a fair rotation. His response was to offer me the "Night Audit Manager" position and tell me that even if I didn't take it he wasn't putting me back on regular shifts. I'm here because that morning I went home and answered a blind job posting for a "Director of Operations" position.

Where do I see myself in five years? I ask myself as I look around the "library" of this weary looking Inn, having just learned that Sodexo had recently gotten the management contract from the university and that the university was financing a million dollar renovation of the property to make it a full service conference center, seeing the potential in the place and the company.

"Will your job be available?" I respond. Or, at least I hope I said something that cocky. Debra probably still has the notes. (Although, as it turns out, her job would have been available as she has since moved on as well.) After we finished the interview in the "library" we went on a tour of the Inn. We started at the front desk where Jack (Santa Clause) handed us a key (and by key I mean an actual metal key!) to a room on the second floor. We went up a short flight of steps, because the first and second floors were only accessible by steps, to room 201. I picked up some trash in the hallway. Debra proceeded to tell me about Sodexo's history as we entered the room. Bouncing on the balls of my feet I looked at Debra and said "keep talking, I'm very interested in what you're saying, but do you mind if I inspect the room? I'm dying to dig in."

That was in March of 2005. I got the job, started in May, and six months later (five years ago from today by date, tomorrow by day of the week) I would get out of bed and set foot on my bedroom carpet for the last time. I would feel a cat rub up against my legs for the last time. I would shower standing up, able to easily reach all parts of my body, for the last time. I would feel water running between my toes for the last time. I would brush my teeth and shave standing up for the last time. I would get dressed standing up for the last time. I would feel my socks and shoes on my feet for the last time. I would feel my pant legs for the last time. I would drive with my feet for the last time. I would feel the muscles in my knees, shins, and feet move and strain with effort of carrying a heavy object or climbing the stairs fast for the last time. I don't know if I stood bare foot in the grass that day, but I sure hope I did!

So much was lost that I try not to dwell on it, but the thoughts above actually started surfacing about two months ago. I don't dwell on it, but there's this underlying string of consciousness that wanders into those areas from time to time. When I started that job I never dreamed that five years later I would have learned to walk on a pair of microprocessor controlled prostheses, drive a car with hand controls (much safer than foot pedals, by the way), testified before a United States House of Representatives sub-committee as well as Indiana House and Senate committees, served on the Indianapolis Mayor's Advisory Council for Disabilities for two years, begun leading the Fund Development and Marketing committee for accessABILITY in addition to serving on it's Board of Directors, and would be working as a freelance inspirational speaker. Imagine how Debra would have reacted if I'd answered her question by telling her that! I'm still trying to make sense of it myself.

I've mentioned before that one of the most important lessons I've learned from the accident is to live in the hear and now rather than worrying about what's passed and can't be changed or things that haven't happened in the future. There's a song that I've become obsessed with over the past few days. The song, by Carrie Newcomer, is titled "Five Years On" and is the inspiration for the title of this post. It begins "Here I sit smack-dab in the middle, tomorrow is a crazy riddle, I wish I had a crystal ball, I wish I could see five years on. Like candle rockets you and I, oos and ahs and shouts and sighs, Is this the storm before the calm, I wish I could see five years on." To me the song speaks about the fear of the unknown future and the faith it takes to face it. I find myself hoping that the past five years have been the "storm before the calm". I also find myself feeling pressed for time out of a feeling that there isn't much time left, wanting to enjoy every moment in the hear and now, and shying away from long term projects and responsibilities.

That little gem of self awareness struck a few weeks ago when I was stressing over accepting responsibility for the new fund development/marketing committee at accessABILITY. Now that I understand why it was such a stressful decision I can better deal with the stress. This past Wednesday we hosted a reception at our new building in Irvington, which we can't move into until it's been renovated, but we wanted to introduce ourselves to the community. With the exception of a few short five minute breaks I was on my feet for about 4 hours! It was the first event since my accident where I socialized instead of staying seated in one or two places! Now, my butt has been sore for the last two days as a result of all that standing and moving, but I'm happy to know I can do it. If someone had asked me five years ago, after the accident, where I would see myself today, the outlook would not have been so bright.

Now I have a better understanding of myself and the world. Where will I be five years from now? I have absolutely no idea, but I know that if I stay positive, keep treasuring today, and move forward with my life I will be amazed by what happens between 10/22/10 and 10/22/15!

For those of you wondering how I'm spending the five year anniversary, last night I had a great dinner with Madeline and Sarah. Madeline made tacos! Tonight I'm enjoying a quiet night at home. Tomorrow morning I'll be driving up to Fort Wayne for my cousin Bob's wedding. Unfortunately the rest of the family couldn't make it, so I'll be driving up there alone. If you happen to see Mom & Dad, or Sarah & Madeline, and they seem a little stressed please tell them to calm down. I'm going to be fine. I refuse to allow the anniversary to have any more power over me than remembrance and reflection. Life goes on, there's no since in worrying about the past, or stressing over a future that is constantly in motion.

Jeremy - Awesome...just simply awesome.

Love ya!

beautifully written...we who love you can all remember vividly how we learned of this, where we were, our thoughts. You have grown so wise. You have educated, shared, opened our eyes every step of the way. This is truly a special post that you have given us.

Eva Jo
It's been said that everyone has a story. Yours is such a compelling and moving story so far, Jeremy, and we also look forward about how it will continue to unfold. Thank you so much for sharing this story with us through your words!

You are loved!
Jeremy, your comments bring us tears of sorrow for what was, but also tears of pride for what you have become and all you have done for others through your transformation. We knew deep down, even in our darkest moments, that if you survived you would be able to rise above this life changing trauma. Not long after your accident I was at Tech High School and saw a quote taped to the wall at the desk of one of the staff. It hit me so strongly that I copied it on a scrap of paper, and carry it to this day in my wallet. It says, "If you fill your heart with regrets of yesterday and the worries of tomorrow, you have no today to be thankful for". Your October 22nd blog entry embodies this in every way. We will always love the "old Jeremy" as we do the "new Jeremy", but are continually amazed at the man you have become as you continue to transend tragedy to live and grow in today. We are so proud of you!
Love, Mom and Dad
Jeremy, I just can't imagine being in your position. You are so strong to have made it through with a positive attitude. hopefully we will run into one another one day soon and you can teach Gunnar about Star Wars for real!

Take care,
Jeremy - I'm thinking you might consider free-lance inspirational writing as well. :) We're so proud of you!

Well-said, Jeremy. Thanks for sharing this with us. An abbreviated version would make a great column ... an expanded version would make a great book!

Thinking of you- Let's have dinner!! Or, lunch! On me! Matt
I think everyone has taken up every thought that I would have used in my response. Thanks for continuing the blog.

You're an inspiration!

Oh, and the next time you're in Irvington, would you let me know??? I'll treat you to Jockamos! - We live right around the corner!

Love you!

Vision doesn't get us anywhere, unless we're willing to use our positive energies today to shape our lives around that vision for tomorrow. You have taught me that: how to live meaningful lives today so that every day that follows can continue to be rich and rewarding. Thank you, oh Jedi Master, for the Force that is you.

p.s. I haven't forgotten that I owen you some Methodist ER info.

We share all the thoughts in the other comments. In sharing your past five years you have made us more aware of what one can do with the highs and lows that life gives us.

We agree with Kelly.... consider inspirational writing. You do have a gift.

Harry and Lilla
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