Sunday, September 25, 2011

Three Years Remaining
By Michael

Eleanor's new source of independence.
On Tuesday, I got an email letting me know Brian Kelley died in his sleep this week. He was my professor only a few years ago. In 2007 he completed his long, notable intelligence career with the CIA and then went on to teach graduate courses in intelligence and counterintelligence. Bill Gertz wrote his obituary for the Washington Times and T. Rees Shapiro wrote his Washington Post obituary.
I’ve been thinking about Mr. Kelley’s death daily. He was 68 years old. His unexpected passing doesn’t make me anxious about my own mortality, but it causes me to reflect on how I’m spending my life.
At age 42, I am recently aware of a new sensibility. I’m close enough to my 50’s and 60’s and beyond to realistically imagine those future decades. I can imagine my 5- and 7-year-old children growing older and more independent. I can imagine Windy and me living together alone, again. I can imagine my body wearing down and how that progression may affect me and change my lifestyle. I can imagine likely scenarios for our cruising lives and beyond.
I’m also close enough to my 20’s and 30’s to remember how open I was to an uncertain and unimaginable future. I remember my self-imposed limits on what was possible. I remember living in the moment and obsessing about the future. I remember how much more financially secure I felt with so much less. I remember my inability to see the progression I see now, trying to imagine my future: me married, me a father, me aging. I never doubted I would be 42, but my life at 42 was unimaginable until very recently.
Brian Kelley had about three years left to live when I was his student. The classes he taught allowed him to reflect on and share a career’s worth of significant, relevant experiences. I imagine he saw his teaching as a meaningful and patriotic contribution. I suspect he would not have spent his time much differently had he known the future.
On Thursday of last week, I learned that a former partner is suing Booz Allen Hamilton, the firm I left in D.C. to become an unemployed cruiser. Margo Fitzpatrick is a sharp woman suing for sex discrimination.

The U.S. is a litigious society (and arguably to a fault*), but court rulings shape and define our culture. Assuming her allegations have merit, our society needs plaintiffs like Ms. Fitzpatrick to engage in the long, bureaucratic, and contentious process she began. Yet she may spend the next three years of her life wrapped up in this litigation. Is this how she would spend her time if she learned these were her last three years?
I have no idea, but the question should be asked of all of us. We each have only one shot at a life.
Because of the way the Mexican civil courts are structured, litigation here is rare. Instead, disputing parties tend to negotiate with one another. The pressure is on to reach an agreement because both sides know that for civil trials, they must pay their own court costs and no special or punitive damages can be awarded. Mexican civil trials are not held before a jury, but judges alone review arguments in writing and render decisions. In Mexico, lawyers on both sides cannot be present when either party or witnesses are called in to make statements.

The girls in the main cabin working on something important, no doubt.


  1. Hi! I'm a friend of your dear mom, Linda. I enjoy your blog and think you are a brave and adventurous family. Your photos are wonderful, as well as your writing. I told your mom that I think you have her gift for beautiful prose. I have you and your precious family in my prayers. Safe and excellent voyage to you all!
    Margie M. (aka Margie-Bum-Bargie - a moniker given me by your mom)

  2. Michael,
    Thank you for your thoughtful post. The passing of Brian Kelley also made me pause to reflect as well. I'm glad to see you following your path, and am enjoying seeing a bit more of the world through your words and your lens.

    Luis Tsuji

  3. I think that she must do it to stand up for herself and what she believes is right. She'd want to be right with the world no matter her remaining years, don't you think?


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