I was pretty sure that by now I’d have it all figured out. Indeed, I can still remember back to when I was walking around Fort Lewis, Washington as a 20 year old, think my 25 year old sergeant was old as hell and far past his prime. I actually once had the naive audacity to ask him if he still enjoyed his life, given that his best years were behind him. Ah, the utter ridiculousness of it all.
I find myself thinking about the simplicity of my life then. Despite having lived in Germany for two years, knowing how to operate a colossally lethal machine (an M1A1 Main Battle Tank), and planning to enter the University of Nevada, all these were self-centered operations. While people depended on me, thus rendering my actions potentially consequential, for the large part, the only person that I had to worry about was me. Now, things are different. A bit of an understatement really, considering the lost sleep and near constant anxiety I feel.
There is a certain peacefulness one can achieve, blogging next to a sleeping child at night. But the reality is, the world awaits, ready to throw new challenges at us in just a few short hours. No one ever really explained to me way back when that there is an aggregate effect with stress and challenges. (Actually, in all fairness, I’m sure plenty of people older than me attempted to do just that. But the ears of a 20 something are simply incapable of hearing their message.) As I’ve discovered, one does not get to discard a stressor when assuming another. They just keep building.
As I sit here, listening to my kids’ gentle, short breaths, the calming din of the fan, I think about their future. I think about my role as a father and the time I wish I was giving to them. I think about my own future, my desire to turn my PhD into something useful, my desire to move into the realm of education advocacy and school administration, and I try, unsuccessfully, to contextualize this view with the news of mass shootings, surging nationalism, and record heat waves. The combination is almost too much to bear. I’d like to think that every 45 year old father has faced various real and existential threats, but of course, it all feels very unique to now.
All this is to say, it’s a very confusing time to be a dad.