March 19, 2012 2 Comments
I celebrated my 43rd birthday this week, but this one was distinctly different – it was my first birthday as a Dad, and it really had me reflecting on the past year and particularly on the future in a very different way than past years. My typical birthday routine is to enjoy a phenomenal cigar and an even more phenomenal glass of scotch while thinking about the past year and what I hope to achieve in the next year. While the cigar, scotch and prior year reflections followed a similar routine, my thoughts, objectives and priorities for the future could not be more changed. There were two key differences this year:
First, its not just about me and what I want to accomplish or what I want to do. This is probably obvious to you who are parents, the birth of your child and the immediate and complete priority shift and sense of responsibility for their happiness and well-being become the leading priority in life. But what really struck me and had me reeling (read: panic) a bit was the second stream of contemplation - the realization of my own age and it’s conflict with the longing I have to know my child into his old age. To experience his adolescence, help him through heartbreak, watch him become the man he chooses to become, rejoice in his marriage and see his world change, just as mine did, when his first child is born and I become a Grandpa. But wait! I’m 43. That means 60 at high school graduation. What if he marries or decides to have children “late” in life like me. That’s 86 at first child. Ugh, you can see how this began to quickly spiral out of control as I began to hyperventilate with the cigar and gulp 19 year old scotch.
Then it hit me. Quit being an engineer, trying to plan and predict your life and every outcome for those around you. While we like to avoid thinking about it, let’s face it, there are dozens of causes, accidental or otherwise, for us to “go” at any moment. Accidental death took my own father when he was just 36 years old (I was 9). There is no better defense of “live in the moment” than when talking about loving and nurturing your children and breathing in all of the experiences, every day, that they bless us with. The energy it takes us to worry, plan and predict is energy that can be channeled into our spouses, children, parents, friends and most important, our own happiness. This is definitely a work in process for me, I’m not so good at it personally or professionally.
So my personal objective for this coming year is to be present for Jack, Renee and the rest of my family while also satisfying my own professional and personal needs. And when I start stressing about my own mortality, I’ll just hammer out some miles on my bike, which I love, and visualize (but not stress!) being the healthiest Dad at high school graduation, even if 60 years old.