By: Josh McDermott
I’m not the kind of person who readily shares details of my personal life. I’ve always been adept at keeping my professional and personal spheres separate. Throughout my life, I’ve only been in three long-term relationships, each of them significant. I hold dating and relationships in high regard, considering them to be deeply vulnerable and incredibly enriching experiences. Discovering someone who can also be your closest friend, and taking that bond to the next level, is an unparalleled feeling that transcends any other aspect of life.
At the age of 18, I embarked on a career path that would eventually become my dream job. Despite my youth, I was entrusted with significant responsibilities and found myself among older individuals and higher-ups who valued my insights. Being the youngest person in most meetings was a weighty responsibility, one that I took very seriously. At a young age, I made a conscious decision to prioritize the company above all else. While I cannot definitively say whether this decision was right or wrong, I do know that it had a noticeable impact on my personal relationships.
I spent the majority of my time on the road, residing in hotels, attending events, trade shows, and delivering speeches at colleges. On average, I was away from home for 200 to 250 days each year. My friends used to jest that I led a rockstar lifestyle without actually being a rockstar. This way of life was undeniably a blessing, affording me the opportunity to inspire and assist numerous individuals. However, the decision to prioritize the company took a toll on my relationships, particularly when compounded by the challenges that come with having a disability.
For an able-bodied person, extensive travel can already be demanding. When you add the extra burden that a significant other takes on due to my disability, the strain becomes even more pronounced. In my situation, this burden, combined with constant travel and limited physical presence, created a breeding ground for difficult realities. Trust and open communication have always been fundamental to me when it comes to building strong relationships. I consider myself fortunate that all my past relationships ended amicably. To this day, I stay in touch with two of them, both of whom are now married with children. The other one is single and thriving.
Now that I’m older, I reflect on the choices I made, prioritizing everyone and everything else except my relationships. I sometimes wonder, when meeting with one of my exes, whether I could be married with a child, a home, and a white picket fence, living the quintessential American Dream. Recently, I had the chance to catch up with one of my ex-girlfriends and her four-year-old son over ice cream. While she was visiting the area, I asked her if we would be married by now had I not been constantly traveling and working. Her response was uncertain, suggesting that one can never truly know how things might have unfolded. Ultimately, you do what you believe to be the right thing.