Birthday's are just another day in the year. But for me, I've always enjoyed the day because it's a significant reminder of another year passed, and a TON of memories created.
I’ve been on this earth for 15,706 days now, and I’ve got a few stories from a few of those days I’d like to share.
I was left at an orphanage in Seoul, South Korea when I was just a few days old. They don’t know when my exact birth date is, but they guessed that it was somewhere around September 10th, so that’s the date that is listed on my Foreign Record of Birth.
My given name from the agency is Koo Hyun Soo. My mom kept my Korean middle name and that’s what it is today. I was in foster care from September until about March when I was finally adopted. My mom tells the story about my adoption and it goes like this:
My parents had gone through the rigorous background checks and financial hurdles of adoption and were ready to pick a baby. At the time, they went through a local adoption agency named Lutheran Family Services. That agency then contracted with another agency named Holt Adoption Agency. It was 1975 and they were about to pick out the first of the babies they wanted to adopt.
The first baby they had picked out was taken by a Korean official who decided to take the baby during a routine visit. This seems ridiculous, but my understanding is that it was a common practice. I can’t imagine how devastated my parents were.
They were offered a second baby. This baby looked like it may have had some medical problems. My mother asked to have the baby tested first, and the orphanage refused. Had the baby been tested and found to have any defects, those would be permanently listed on their record. This would make adoption unlikely for that baby, hence it was refused.
They decided to pass on that baby.
You probably guessed it . . . I was lucky #3. Good thing for my patient parents that they waited for the best of all the babies. 🙂
It’s funny, but the number 3 has always been a lucky number for me. And a little interesting fact, but Kailyn was born a 3:03pm. I guess you could just say that she and I were meant for each other.
I arrived to O’Hare International Airport as Koo Hyun Soo and remained that until my mom changed my name to Benjamin Hyun Brownback.
With all of the immigration issues that are going on in this country right now, it’s hard to imagine that had this occurred 15 years ago, I would probably be back in South Korea.
In 2003 I applied for my passport to go visit a client in Mexico City. I was denied. Luckily I had a friend of a friend who worked at INS so I went to meet with him. He pulled my file. In it had photos of me arriving at the airport, information on my history and background, and also notes that my mom had not filled out my correct paperwork when I was adopted and WAS NOT A US CITIZEN.
Because I had a “little” trouble with the law when I was in high school, I they threatened to deport me immediately on the grounds that I had violated my green card (which had expired in 1977). I had registered to vote which is also a deportable offense. Luckily for me, I had also registered for selective service. Apparently in college when they offer you a free t-shirt for registering to vote and for the service, I took that t-shirt and did just that. Because it didn’t look like I was trying to cheat the system, and that I was just doing what was right, they took that into consideration.
I immediately hired two attorneys (one in Illinois and one in Nevada) to help me get my citizenship. After about $10,000 in fees and 2 years, I finally got my citizenship.
The Back 9
Skipping forward 42 years and some change, I’m turning 43 years old today. I find myself scratching my head, wondering how I got so old because I certainly don’t feel old. I still feel much like I did when I turned 21, except my knees and ankles hurt a little more when I get out of bed now.
After reflecting back on my past 43 years, and also forward to what “could be” for the next, I realize that I’ve lived a good life, and have a lot more to live I recently wrote a blog about “what if” and I think this would qualify as a good “what if” looking forward into the future.
I quickly realized that I’m on the “back 9”. 76.4 years old is the average lifetime of a male in the US, so technically I’m 56.3% through my life. Although, I have to admit, I’m really striving to beat that average.
It’s hard to think about the fact that I’ve lived more than 1/2 of my lifetime. I feel like I have so much more to do. More parenting, more fathering, more friends to meet, more work to do, more love to spread, and more time with Kailyn (did I mention that one already?).
Its sobering to think about, but it makes me realize that:
I’ve really got to make the remaining years of my life count.
I need to make sure, I’m prioritizing the things that are important to me. That seems like a no brainer, but I often do what’s most important to OTHER people, or even worse, what I “THINK” is important to me . . . but really is insignificant.
The most important thing to me is Kailyn. There’s no doubt about that. If you know me even a little bit, you know that my world revolves around her. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Spending time with her and creating memories with and for her, is the most important thing to me.
I had to prioritize my work life with my single dad/PTO President life. That’s not easy. There’s no doubt that my business could be more successful if I worked more, travelled more and spent more time at the office. But one of the things I told my employees when I hired them is that their personal lives MUST be as important as their work lives. That was how I wanted my company to run.
How could I say it, and not live it?
Days At Home
So I made a switch to be around more. I took over as the PTO President and planned over 40 events each year for the past 3 years (and continue this roll this school year). It’s not easy, and sacrificing work time for personal time is a difficult choice for an entrepreneur to make, but I’m glad I do it. I’ve missed only 1 assembly, event, concert, etc. that Kailyn participated in since she started Southern Highlands Preparatory School 5 years ago. I think that’s a track record to be proud of.
I guess my litmus test for life is now:
What will really matter 10 years from now? Will I remember that I travelled and won a deal for a new client? Or will I remember that I was at my daughter’s 5th grade concert, front row and experienced that WITH her. I think the answer is very clear for me.
I wrote a blog about Lessons Learned or “Words of Wisdom” so I won’t recap them here, but I think the most valuable thing I’ve learned that value the time I’ve been given on earth. Suppose that’s why I’m such a “glass-half-full” person. I don’t have time to tally a list of wrongs that have been committed against me. Who has time for that?
If I tried to even the score, or was mad about everyone who I felt wronged me, I’d spend so much time trying to teach people a lesson. I’ll leave that to fate and worry about myself and bettering myself, thank you. 🙂
I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, let a lot of people down and hurt a lot of people. I’ll spend the rest of my days on earth trying to be better and make up for those mistakes. But I won’t/don’t keep a list of those who have wronged me. They’ve got to carry that burden on their own shoulders.
I’ll tell you what . . . I feel a LOT lighter once I let go of that baggage. If you’ve got some that you’ve been holding onto, let it go. I promise you’ll feel better. I promise you’ll have happier days.
Indifferent. That’s the opposite of love. THAT’S where you want to be.
I can honestly say that I’ve placed all the people who have tried to hurt me in the “indifferent” category. That’s worse than hate. That’s the “I don’t give a shit about you, and I won’t give you any place in my headspace.” They can’t hurt you there, and they can’t harm you. It’s like isolation, and it feels good to move those who don’t deserve your kindness and love, into this space.
I’m not sure how many days left I have on this earth. I’m praying that it’s another 15,706 days or more! But I’ll tell you that if I dropped dead tomorrow, nobody would ever accuse me of living a “half-life”. I definitely live my life to the fullest. I try and live it with no regrets, and I try to leave the world and my friends in a better place than if I weren’t here.
Thanks for all of the birthday wishes today already. Here’s to another year alive!!
One Year Older,
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