Lamenting the transient now and embracing the future
There are, I believe two tricks to living a happy life. The first is to possess gratitude; to appreciate how truly blessed that you are (and you always are.) The second, which is the harder bit, is to courageously embrace the challenges that your future holds. These things are at odds because to embrace the first leads to naturally fearing the second. Tonight I bore witness to the blossoming of this very existential crisis within my youngest son.
I had just worked a thirteen hour shift at the restaurant. I was sluggish and covered in flour and doing my best to energetically greet my boys with hugs and tickles while still facilitating a smooth transition to bed time. We wrestled a bit and I got them each to brush their teeth but apparently the stench of a long work day proved to be overpowering for my four year old because he became suddenly and irrationally afraid of a future where he would have to grow up and work a job.
“I dont want to grow up and go to work.” He sobbed into his mother’s pajamas.
I entered the scene at this point only to behold the icy glare of a protective mother. It’s not her fault that she is such a sucker for that puckered lip, doe eyed snare. Her baby was distraught and she was appropriately concerned.
I meanwhile, was simply trying to negotiate a smooth transition towards a future that entailed a couch, a TV and a glass of wine.
So I stood there in the doorway of the bathroom where my wife lovingly squeezed her baby boy and reassured him that he wouldn’t have to worry about growing up and working a job for a long time. I stood there like a flour caked idiot who was somehow responsible for this emotional mess by merit of simply existing and I shrugged my shoulders.
“Well…” I said.
Nothing good ever follows the apprehensive uttering of the word “well.”
“Someday you will have to grow up and work a job.” I said.
The kid cried harder, my wife glared harder and I found that my couch sitting, TV watching, wine sipping future was just a little harder to reach as well.
My thoughts on the issue are this; it’s not only a fact of life that one must become accustomed to perpetually growing up but in fact to embrace this reality with open arms is to gleefully confront the value of adversity.
I’m not saying that kids should be in a hurry to not be kids. I’m just saying that they should both enjoy how great they have it now and also be excited for how great they will have it in the future.
We tend to default to a place of fearful comfort and I believe that this thing is the cause of much stress. Case in point, my four year old. As great as it is to appreciate the perfection of now, there is nothing quite as wonderful as the promise of tomorrow.
Tomorrow is a place filled with infinite adventure and the pivot point of adventure is adversity. It’s thirteen hour shifts and unsolved problems. It’s blood and tears and sweat. It’s failure and success and constant, painful tinkering. When done well it is growth and growth is itself the reward.
Of course, this is not a conversation to have with a four year old. So instead, I picked him up and flipped him upside down and tickled tortured him into bed. I kissed him on the cheek and I said goodnight.
Tomorrow is a place where he will see both his mother and I work very hard. Tomorrow I hope greatly that he continues to appreciate how wonderful it is to be a kid. There is no hurry grow up. But the future is a place of endless adventure and I intend to live my life in such a way that will inspire this notion. My greatest hope for my kids is that they will courageously embrace the future.
It is because of them that I am inspired to courageously embrace it as well…