The Gifts of Unexpected Pain & Struggle

My time in high school

Attended high school in the

Overall high school experience
8/10. I had great friends and great teachers. I was in band, which was the best thing I ever did because I remained in band throughout college and it was the most fulfilling part of my college career. I only wished I had had more confidence in myself, more willingness to take risks and fail - particularly when it came to girls! If I could only go back with what I have and know about myself now! Ah well...

Grades in high school
Mostly A's. School came fairly easy to me, and it did in college too. In a sense, I never truly knew what it was like to struggle until I got married. I wish in way I had been exposed to more struggle earlier in my life so long as I also had the support and guidance I needed to have to work through and learn from those struggles.


Favorite subjects
Math, Performing Arts, Science

Struggled with...
Social studies and English maybe. I struggled not because I didn't do well in them academically, but because I didn't really appreciate their relevance as much as I do today!

Favorite extracurricular
Boy Scouts

Life since high school

Though I wouldn’t want to go through it again, I can look back now and honestly say I’m grateful I married not just any alcoholic - but THIS alcoholic. I now understand human suffering (my own, my wife’s, and so many others we have come to know in our respective recovery programs), and have developed faith in the hope, strength, and wisdom that comes from it.

Attended college / university at
University of Washington,

Majored in
Physics and Astronautical Engineering

Post-graduate education or training
Physics and Astronautical Engineering

Places lived in US
California, Washington

Places lived outside the US
London, England

Current occupations / past occupations
YMCA Camp Director, Trainee Engineer at NASA, High School Science Teacher

Industries I've worked in
- Educational Services
- Engineering

Did your education prepare you for your career or occupation?
I suppose it did, but I didn't end up in the career I actually went to school for. Looking back, I might have done better to major in something more aligned with the passions I have today. But such is life.

Has your education or career/occupation trajectory ever changed? How?
Yes! I went to school initially to study Physics, then decided to double major in Engineering with the goal of working at NASA and perhaps becoming an astronaut. I did end up working at NASA briefly after college. I even got to do work on the a Space Shuttle (not in space). At the end of my first year I was offered a job to live to Houston and work at the Johnson Space Center learning to train astronauts. But, I had some to realize my true passion was working with people - particularly teens. I discovered this through my years of working as a YMCA summer camp counselor and director. I ended up turning down the job offer and decided instead to become a high school science teacher which I have been doing ever since. I followed my gut - and I've never regretted it (though sometimes I wonder where I'd be right now if I had taken that job - but again, zero regret). I'm doing what I love and am most passionate about.

A little introspection...

To me, being successful means...
Learning to find joy, love, gratitude, and opportunity no matter what is (or is not) happening in our lives while remaining fully present and compassionate with the reality of our own and others' suffering and the light such darkness can reveal for us to share with others.

My definition of success has changed over time. 
I wanted to do something big with my life - and to me that meant being well-known and doing something high profile (like being an astronaut or a famous author). While I still struggle with that old attachment to having my ego-identity validated by as many people as possible, I've come to find the greatest sense of purpose in my life comes from the individual relationships I form and the opportunity I'm given to make a lasting and meaningful difference in the lives of others.

My greatest accomplishment to date and what I’ve learned from it
Being a husband and father were my greatest goals in life. The (strong, beautiful, inspiring) woman I ultimately chose to marry turned out to be an alcoholic. Her drinking got worse after we married. I spent my whole life trying to make the right choices and be as good a person as I could be and I couldn't believe that this is what I ended up with. I felt angry, resentful, scared, and often hopeless. My vision of having a beautiful healthy family seemed to be crashing down around me. I sought help - first through therapy. My therapist recommended I find something to do in my life that was just for me. I did. In brief flashes I would consider the possibility of leaving my marriage, but I truly did love her deeply. When she was sober, I adored her immensely. Even through the worst of it we'd constantly make each other laugh. Although I was suffering immensely from the pain of losing her every time she drank, I was committed to her and our life together - but I had no idea where it was going and I was dreadfully scared of losing everything I had ever dreamed of having. We began to see a couples therapist, and it was through that she came to see she had a problem. It wasn't because of my pain she sought sobriety, but because of hers. She went to rehab, started going to AA, and began seeing a therapist. I started going to Al-Anon and continued seeing my own therapist. We also continued to see our couples therapist. We surrounded and surrendered ourselves to the help and guidance of others. We had no other choice if we (and most literally she) were to survive. We remained committed to our programs and to getting the help we needed. Four years later - after a lot of very hard work on our own and together - my wife was four years sober and our marriage was better than ever. But the greatest fruit of our commitment to ourselves and each other was the birth of our baby girl. I had hoped to be a father much sooner, but life had other plans for me. I look back now at how much my wife and I have grown as a result of our struggles and our steadfast commitment to overcoming them. We are wiser, at greater peace with ourselves and our lives and each other, and more equipped than we ever would have been before to be loving, patient, present, and healthy parents. Our daughter is the greatest joy I have ever known - and hopefully she will never have to know for herself the suffering we had to struggle through to bring her into this world. But she will know her own suffering, and I am confident in our ability to share with her the wisdom we gained through ours. Though I wouldn't want to go through it again, I can look back now and honestly say I'm grateful I married not just any alcoholic - but THIS alcoholic. I now understand human suffering (my own, my wife's, and so many others we have come to know in our respective recovery programs), and have developed faith in the hope, strength, and wisdom that comes from it. I now do work to help others learn to be present with and thus heal their own suffering, and am extremely proud of the person I am today because of these unexpected, unwanted experiences. If we can learn to believe that life gives us what we need (wanted or unwanted) when we're ready to have it (whether we know it or not) - we can find opportunity and hope in every experience. This, to me, is resilience. My greatest - and ever-growing - accomplishment.

My biggest mistake or regret so far and what I’ve learned from it
I wish I had had more courage in high school and college - a greater willingness to face rejection and to fail. I didn't have the resiliency I needed, and fear held me back from having some of the experiences I wish I would have had during my teens and twenties. But, I was doing my best with what I had. I could not have done better, or I would have. The best I can do is look forward to what joy and pleasures there are to come with the courage and wisdom I have now. 

An unexpected event that significantly changed my life and how it impacted me
Well, I suppose I answered that in a previous question. My greatest accomplishment was overcoming and growing from the most challenging events of my life up to this point!

Anything else you'd like to share?
The sharing of stories and experiences about the truth and reality of struggle and recovery are a gift we can all give to each other. I am beyond grateful for the opportunity to share my experience, strength, and hope with others!

This alumni is open to your questions and follow-ups.
In order to protect anonymity, we will pass along your message and they can choose whether to respond.

My favorite spot in or around Palo Alto

Page Mill Road (great driving!)