Do I fly to Malta, walk along the red carpet, say cheese, cross my fingers, hope I win the European Poker Award for Media Person of the Year and then fly back home to celebrate with Pandy, Froggie, Boofle and Sherman (my wife’s teddy bears)?
Do I save the money and invest it in a memory that will last a lifetime? The smile that will be etched on my son’s face when I buy tickets to take him to Six Flags Magic Mountain in a fortnight’s time?
You can do the math.
In truth, that was never the real debate.
I was always going to use that money to create memories with my family.
The real question that I have wrestled with this week, is whether it’s worth going into debt to twinkle like a star for the evening?
When I was a kid, I played football in the hall using a rolled up pair of socks as the ball. I was the eldest of four. The other three were girls. I would force them to go in goal. They seemed to have fun.
We lived in a council estate in Manchester. It was called poets corner. Every street was named after a famous poet. Mine was Shelley. I moved to Wales when I was 10-years old. I only had one Christmas present that year. It was Crossbows and Catapults. My parents didn’t have any money because of the move.
On my first day of school I wore a Slazenger jumper. My Jaguar (at least I think it was a Jaguar) only had half a body. I wore a second hand pair of trousers, and a pair of Gola trainers. I looked like a right tramp.
I didn’t have the top gear like my classmates.
I vowed when I got older I would.
For many years I believed that materialism was an indicator of success. The things that I owned separated me from the people that didn’t own them. It gave me a superiority complex and I was fine with it.
I bought all of the top gear. I quickly ran up a pile of debt. I didn’t care. I looked around me and everyone else was doing the same. I needed to look good. I needed my house to look good. I remember paying £60 for a pair of Nike shoes for my son. He was a one month old.
I still haven’t truly matured. You can call me a work in progress. My heart is torn in two. I get headaches thinking about the difference between right and wrong. I lean one way, and then the next. My friends and family must think that I am such a hypocrite. Only my wife truly understands the turmoil that I go through.
I want to spend my money on experiences, and not on things. It seems easy but it’s not. My son is spoiled. An only child, he has had everything that he has ever needed ever since he screamed the house down the first time I brought him home from hospital.
I made sure he had everything that I did not.
Now I find it difficult to stop.
I am falling in love with the urge to help others. This is helping me through my confusion. Books like Conscious Capitalism by John Mackey, and Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie are making my head spin.
Mycoskie in particular is having a monumental impact on me. Ever since I read that book, when a birthday pops up on my calendar I buy everyone a pair of TOMS shoes. It works for me. I get to buy someone I love a ‘thing’ and at the same time donate a pair of shoes for someone who really needs them.
The last time I won an award was six years ago. It was an award for Cost Control at the Rail Industry’s version of the Oscars. It was held in the York Railway Museum. They had this huge screen, and all of my customers, and peers said very nice things about me during my highlight reel. Looking back now, it seems strange to be happy to win an award for ruining people’s lives.
It was 2008; the world was in the grip of an economic crisis. My job was to cut the cloth like nobody had ever cut it before. I stripped over £500,000 out of my operational area. A lot of die-hard railwaymen were sacked at my bequest. I remember sitting in a tiny waiting room in Specsavers, and the family of someone I had just sacked was waiting with me. That was awkward. I remember the wife of an employee attacking me in the queue in Tesco. I remember the death threats that I received one Saturday night whilst on call.
Back then it all seemed normal.
And then it didn’t.
I left the railway so I could help people quit drinking and change their lives. My plan was to become a professional poker player, to enable me the freedom of time, to work on my life purpose.
I got divorced during that time.
My son lives with his Mum.
I have to book my time with him like a Blockbuster rental.
He is 14 now.
I have missed most of the past four years of his life. Very soon he will be too old to hug and kiss his Dad. I used to sing Rocky Raccoon whilst I stroked his hair. It was the only way he would fall to sleep. Then I went to Monte Carlo, Las Vegas and Cannes. I went in pursuit of money. It was fear of lack.
I will never get that time back.
I won’t remember Daniel Negreanu making his one and only appearance at an EPT final table with too much fondness. I won’t remember my son’s birthday that year because I wasn’t there.
I want to help people discover the happiness and freedom of an alcohol free life, and to give that gift to others. I want to help housewives escape from the imprisonment of their lifeless existence. I want to help men understand the damage they are doing in their relationships because they don’t understand the needs of those they love. I want to help divorced fathers get through the times when they are ripped apart from their children.
I just don’t know where to begin.
Perhaps, it’s inside a roller coaster, cuddled in between my wife and my son; our hands flailing in the air, as our screams of joy bellow out of our mouths.
I’m pretty sure it’s not in Malta.