Yeah, it’s been that kind of year.
Or maybe it’s just been that kind of life?
I have no career. I have published zero novels, and despite having spent tens of thousands of dollars on college, I have zero college degrees. As far as banks are concerned, I own nothing. As far as history is concerned, I’ve accomplished nothing.
By now I was sure I’d be a successful novelist blasting around in Porsches, spending summers on Lake Tahoe and winters on the Gulf Coast. As I gracefully slipped into 40, I was certain my kids would be nearly graduated high school, well adjusted, and proud of their successful father. Instead, they are just learning how to read and potty train and one is barely able to put her hands in her drooling, toothless mouth.
Life, man. It does what it wants.
If I measure my life by a standard others may impose upon me, the above list of failures would be crippling. If I were to surrender to societal norms, I’d approach this imposing age milestone with regret and an excess of emotional baggage I’d drag to the Chevy dealership, hoping it’d fit into the trunk of the newest mid-engine ‘Vette.
Alas, no crisis for me. No wild spending. No illicit tryst. I enter 40 triumphant, confident and emboldened to experience life in its rawest forms.
Why? Because I’m a dad.
Being a dad is life’s real challenge. It’s pretty easy to procreate. Hell, I did it after I had a vasectomy. I even had a post-procedure infection that stole nearly a year of my life, almost killed me (I think), and then, after all that, I got my wife pregnant. During those moments when I went to sleep uncertain I’d ever wake up, only one thing was on my mind: my kids.
I didn’t lament the lack of book deals. I wasn’t annoyed I was driving a VW instead of a Porsche (most of the time). I never, not once, pondered any of the things a “successful man” must’ve surely accomplished by age 40. I only longed to see the sun again, so I could see the light reflected in my children’s eyes.
Dramatic? Yeah, a little.
So go find one of your kids. Give them one of those potentially annoying dad hugs (bonus points if this is in front of their friends), dig your nose deep down into their hair, breathe deep, and cling to the moments that matter most.
Society is filled with those eager to point out what you lack, eager to laugh at your failures, and desperate to prove you don’t measure up. As the years pile on, these judgments increase. The pressures increase. The ways to measure yourself against others become limitless, but I encourage you dads to remove yourself from the destructive narrative that we all must follow the same path. Instead, follow the path that leads you to conclude being a good dad is life’s greatest achievement.
While I’m deeply satisfied by the abundance of unconditional love swirling around my home, I’m still hoping for that Porsche. Maybe by 50?
Hmm. By then, I’ll have a 15-, 13-, and 10-year-old. Maybe at 60.