Karl Farrow knew he was going to be a star. He had the looks, the charm, and the brains, and most of all, he had the ambition and ruthlessness to get to the top and let nothing stand in his way.
What Karl wanted most of all was to be on TV, to be the man who shaped opinions and commented on world events. Karl wanted to be Larry King without the glasses.
So Karl spent his summers working at the local TV station, and when he finished high school, he went to college and planned to major in Communication and Journalism.
Of course, nothing ever runs smooth, so in his senior year, Karl fell in love. She was the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen, the kindest, sweetest, and gentlest, so Karl fell head over heels for Gail.
Gail was as different from Karl as a human being could be, but somehow their differences fueled their attraction and their passion for each other. Unfortunately for Karl, that passion bore fruit.
Gail fell pregnant and even though Karl suggested what he thought was an eminently sensible solution considering their age and situation, Gail refused. She was going to have the baby, with or without Karl.
And because Karl really did love Gail, he stood by her and offered to marry her. It was the last decent thing Karl was ever to do in his life. Gail, as it turned out, was carrying twins — a boy and a girl, Lynn and David.
Karl was delighted when the babies were born. He was proud to see two tiny replicas of himself, but he quickly realized he was now taking second place to the children and that did not sit well with his ego.
The first six months were a nightmare for Karl. The babies screamed and pooped and peed, and Gail handled it all like a pro, with a smile on her face and a song on her lips.
Karl, who was completing his final exams, spent his nights studying in the library. With the exams and graduation behind him, he wanted to go to New York and look for a job with one of the major networks.
But Gail pointed out that New York was expensive, and there were the babies to think about… So Karl took his little family home to South Carolina and applied for a job at the station he used to work at when he was a kid.
They offered him a job doing outside reports, mainly going to local events or county fairs, and interviewing local celebrities. Karl hated every minute of it, but it was the first step and he made sure he did his job brilliantly.
By the time the twins were five, Karl was sick of his life and out of love with Gail. How could he ever have thought her sweet when she was merely boring? He started having affairs, and he didn’t bother to hide them.
Then Karl got his big break. He was reporting on a local county fair, standing in front of the Ferris wheel, when the whole structure started to buckle. As screams of horror filled the air, Karl ordered the cameraman to keep rolling.
He reported on the ongoing disaster in a passionate, emotional, but professional way. Karl and his cameraman covered the whole thing from start to finish.
Karl was there, helping the survivors climb out of the twisted wreck of metal, hugging a grieving mother, tears running down his own dust-covered cheeks, speaking to the first responders.
The station broadcasted the whole thing live, and Karl’s performance went viral and was picked up by networks nationwide. Three days later, he was invited to join a major network as a field reporter.
Karl didn’t hesitate. He accepted. He wasn’t in the mood for confrontations so he simply called an Uber, went to the airport, and got on a plane to New York. Whatever he needed he could buy. He was going to be a star!
Providently, Karl filed for a divorce before he signed his contract with the network, so there would be no big salary for the courts to attribute Gail a fat settlement. Karl was thinking about his future…
Success isn’t everything and can be very costly if you give up your soul.
As it turned out, Karl was just as good as he always believed he was and he quickly became almost as famous as Larry King and traveled all over the world to interview the rich, famous, and powerful.
He never thought about Gail or the children again. One afternoon, he was getting ready to do an interview with a controversial senator when his phone rang. “Karl? It’s Gail. We need your help. Lynn is sick…”
“Lynn? Who’s Lynn?” asked Karl.
“Your daughter!” Gail cried, “It’s me, Gail…”
“I’m sorry,” Karl said coldly, “I don’t know you.” He hung up and went to work. It was a brilliant interview and Karl demolished the senator. He never thought about the phone call again.
Within ten years, Karl was earning millions a year, but he also acquired a drinking problem. He also started to make inappropriate advances to some of the younger girls hired by the network, and one of them complained.
The network, worried about the repercussions, fired Karl and no one else would hire him. His victims sued him for damages and the courts stripped him of everything he had.
Karl was destitute, unemployable, homeless, and living in his car. He had nowhere to go, and no one to turn to. Then he remembered his ex-wife, his children. Gail had always been soft-hearted and kind, Karl thought, she’d take him in.
Karl begged for gas money from an old colleague and drove to South Carolina. He stopped in front of his old house and practiced his most downtrodden expression in the rearview mirror, then he walked up the drive and knocked on the door.
A tall pretty girl answered and Karl told him he wanted to speak to Gail. The girl yelled, “Mom! It’s for you!” and ran off down the corridor. Karl realized she must be his daughter, Lynn.
Then Gail was there, looking hardly older than their daughter. Karl let a sob escape his lips. “Gail? It’s me, Karl…”
Gail looked at him with a bewildered expression on her face. “Karl? I’m sorry,” she said, “I don’t know you.” Gail shut the door firmly in Karl’s face.
Karl heard a girl’s voice ask who it was, and Gail answered, “No one, hun, some drunk looking for a handout!”
That night, Karl slept at a local homeless shelter. He had no one and nothing. He had sacrificed the only good thing he’s ever had in his life to his ambition and all he had left was ashes.
What can we learn from this story?
1. Success isn’t everything and can be very costly if you give up your soul.
2. Don’t expect to receive what you’ve never given others.
Share this story with your friends. It might brighten their day and inspire them.