Of Rolexes and Childhood Lessons Learned

With a singular focus that looking back almost seems pathetic, I had a goal in my sights

There are very few objects that scream ‘winner’ like a Rolex watch. Founded over a century ago in London, England, the two brother-in-laws went onto create what many today regard as the ubiquitous status symbol of the ‘made man’.
I didn’t grow up highbrow and never knew a watch existed that cost as much as my childhood home. In fact, where I was raised the only ingredients for success were owning a late model pick up truck, American made of course, and possessing a full set of teeth.
Quickly after graduating college I found my way into the cubicles of corporate America where I was captivated by the perceived lifestyles of those in the corner office with their German automobiles, private parking spots - and those Rolex watches. It was immediately settled, whatever it took, I was going to be one of those guys.
I began working long hours and donating blood, sweat, and tears with the intention of making that dream come true. I became a company man. Cut me and I’d bleed whosever colors were on the check. With a singular focus that looking back almost seems pathetic, I had a goal in my sights and come whatever may I was going to make it happen. But the watch was only symbolic of a deeper burning. In retrospect, I was doing my best to scrub away the backwoods of my past with this trinket of the successful man.
I finally achieved my goal and still have the watch and the box to prove it. I’m certain I looked like a kid on Christmas morning as I walked out of the jewelry store now a full-fledged member of “The Big Man’s” club. For weeks afterwards I intentionally gestured with my left hand while speaking. I wore short sleeves shirts every chance possible, and I would pull my suit jacket sleeve higher just to make sure anyone who could see, did.
Soon the glamour of my triumph wore off, which I later discovered it always does. Instead of realizing that a watch or any other ‘thing’ could never bestow the feeling of accomplishment I was so desperately seeking, I shifted my gaze towards a bigger and better ‘next’ that I was sure, this time, would give me the satisfaction and attention I craved.
The result was a distorted view of the world around me. The drive to look and feel successful ultimately affected my finances, friendships, and marriage. Any friendships I had were orchestrated to provide me the greatest possible ego boost. I was too busy keeping up appearances and one-upping the neighbor to even recognize my wife’s affair.

The spiritual and emotional bankruptcy I endured was wholly unnecessary if I paid closer attention to my parents. It would take three decades and hitting rock bottom to finally understand what they had been telling me all along, in their own unique way.
They would always imply that peeking over into your neighbor’s yard was never a good idea. What my family was trying to tell me is that keeping up with society’s view of success, or what they fondly referred to as the Joneses, is a losing proposition. They always believed a man’s first responsibility was providing for his family. Do that and the rest would take care of itself.
I still have the Rolex, though I rarely wear it, opting instead for a plastic digital workout watch. I’ve often considered selling the thing but don’t think I could part with it. Not because of some lingering attachment or a leftover need to paint myself as something I’m not. Instead I want to keep the watch as a constant reminder of what happened when I chose not to heed my parent’s warning, looked over into my neighbor’s lawn and began keeping up with the Joneses.