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Michael J. Hebenstreit: Life Rushing By

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IBA-hebenstreitLife moments. Some may be an accomplishment (winning a big trial), a disappointment, a funeral or a seemingly insignificant event. We all have them—some good, some not so good, but they are those events that for some reason stick with us for a lifetime. One of mine occurred about 20 years ago. I was accompanying my son on a Boy Scout camping trip and the other young Scouts kept addressing someone they called “Mr. Hebenstreit.” That had always been my Dad, but it dawned on me that even though I did not feel particularly old or grown up at that time, they were referring to me, not my dad. They reminded me that I was older than I thought. A real life moment.

This summer, we have just finished a marathon of five weddings on five consecutive weekends. They took us to Hilton Head Island, Peoria, Oxford, Ohio and two were actually here in Indy. Although they certainly dominated our social calendar, all were quite fun. Four of them involved the weddings of children of our good friends and two involved “kids” who were also very close friends of our children.

The final wedding was for the daughter of my law partner, Greg Zubek. Mollie and our youngest son met in pre-kindergarten and have been close friends ever since. In fact, it was probably their friendship that encouraged the conversations between Greg and me that lead to our practicing together.

As I watched all of these young men and women walk down the aisle to begin the new chapter of their lives, I was stuck with the thought that an entire lifetime had passed in front of my eyes. We have known the parents for decades and watched those “children” grow up through various school events, sports, school troubles and successes, and vacations and have been a part of their lives. Now each was heading out and forging new lives. We enjoyed seeing our friends and being a part of this new experience for their children. It was a life moment that was about life passages.

Weddings and funerals are two life moments that create unique challenges and opportunities. How much does it really mean for the person or family to see you at the wedding or attend the funeral? It is easy to diminish the importance and find excuses for not making the effort. We all are busy and have too much to do already. The importance of reaching out to friends really hit home at Mollie’s wedding. Our son had debated if it made sense to fly in from LA just for the weekend when he knew he really would not have much of a chance to actually talk with the bride. When Mollie saw Kyle in the church, she actually started crying. That simple moment was worth a king’s ransom. Like most folks these days, they stay in touch by Facebook and the other forms of social media, but that face to face interaction obviously meant so much. A real life moment.

Every legal publication we pick up these days has at least one article about life / work / career balance. How do we juggle home life, career, the practice, the family and still make it all work for us. Why is it important? I really don’t think my parents devoted any time thinking about their life/work balance. They were too concerned about raising four children, paying the bills and getting all of us educated to have time to worry about their own happiness.

Recently, I have spoken with age contemporaries in bigger firms who have commented that they are confounded by the perceived lack of work ethic in the young associates in their firms. Many are nowhere to be seen after 5:00 PM. Perhaps they are working from home remotely after they put the children to bed, perhaps not. There is nothing wrong with hard work. After all, that is the foundation upon which our society has been built and supported. Virtually anything worth accomplishing comes as a result of hard work. It is a necessary part of our lives. But along with that hard work comes the challenge of creating positive life moments. Through all of these weddings, it has become very clear to me that it is critical to not only develop friendships, but to maintain them throughout your life. It enriches life, gives it special meaning and puts everything in perspective. Work hard, play hard, but don’t forget to make time for friends.•

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