San Antonio, Texas. The seventh largest city in the U.S., settled in 1731 by 16 Spanish families. Boasting over 300 sunny days a year with an average temperature of 70 degrees (though some locals may argue that after the summer they just had!). Home to The Alamo, The River Walk, The Spurs and over 40 private and public golf courses. And most importantly, home to a 40-year Starwood veteran, Mr. Tony Cherone (you may remember the Cherone family from one of my former blogs).
After spending the weekend there, I actually didn’t see any of what San Antonio has to offer. No River Walk. No golfing. Not even shopping at J Crew (I have this thing when I travel in the U.S. to go to the local J Crew and check out what’s happening). But what I did get from San Antonio was the experience of amazing people and a few personal challenges.
The reason for our trip was to celebrate Tony, a mentor, colleague and friend of 12 years to Rick and as of recently to me as well. We had the honor and privilege of being invited to the weekend retirement celebration, starting with the employee party at The Westin La Cantera (where I spotted the most amazing cowhide table cloths…only in Texas could anybody swing that…), followed by a more intimate dinner at La Cantera Grill and concluding the next day with a party at Tony and Lisa’s house. I could type a lot, as always, about the people, the food, the weather, some funny highlights, etc. But instead, I am going to share with you what challenged me most over the weekend. While I don’t know if I can express it precisely, what comes to mind is a cliché, but an important cliché nonetheless: Life is short. And before I know it, I will be the butt of a lot of jokes at my retirement party. Read on…
Here is an invite into my head on Friday night listening to the speeches for Tony (it’s pretty ironic that I type this 30,000 feet in the air on September 11): Holy crap. I only have 34 years to figure this all out in prep for my big retirement party (note to self, get those great cow tablecloths…very Midwest chic). I better get busy. I need to make a bucket list, I need to solve world hunger, how can I get more followers on my blog, I need to be a New York Times bestselling author, I need to know if I have helped anyone in my career, we should move overseas, we need to have 2 kids and if we want to adapt, I better start filling out the papers now, I should start my own business by January of 2012…And then God intervened as He usually does. Ann, calm down. And I did. But the question that is with me and the question for you, perhaps, is this: What will they say at MY retirement party? In other words, how will I be known? What impact will I make? Will I have regrets? What career risks will I take? Who will I help? How will my failures grow me? Will I honor MY desires or God’s? Did I take enough time to stop and celebrate? Did I work too much? Not enough? Did I love well? Did I take life seriously? Or maybe too seriously? Was I selfless or selfish? Did I maximize all the gifts God gave me and use them each day? Was I peaceful? Joyous? Courageous? Bold? Brave?
I don’t have all the answers (and never will), but rest assured this is on my mind – and in my heart – and frankly, it has been the last year and a half. In fact, this blog was born through challenging myself and asking the tough questions (and then acting!). I want to challenge myself to live life to the fullest every single day, one day at a time, from a place of yes (foreshadowing future blog…stay tuned!).
Congratulations, Tony! And as always, a special thanks to both Tony and Lisa for their amazing hospitality (I guess working 40 years in the hotel business does pay off!). And San Antonio, we will be back.