Something remarkable happened to me today. I’ll tell you what in a minute. First, let me regale you with a bit of background.
When I turned 18 I was still in School, in my leaving cert year. My birthday is in January, so I had to slog out a few months of hiding the uniform under the jacket before I finished my leaving cert and went off and got a job for myself. I was an adult then, I felt I had reached the first step on the golden path to the rest of my life. I was 18, had a job, a few quid for my pocket and a bit of Independence. After that came a few absolutely insane years. There were broken hearts, hangovers, laughter, love, hate, the odd punch up and best mates to back me up. We’d do what we could to entertain ourselves and to not bother anyone else while never quite realising that this was the only chance we would ever have to do it, but making the most of it none the less.
When I was 28 I met the woman who would later become the mother of my son. I settled in nicely to this new life. Over the previous ten years I had gotten used to enjoying good things in moderation. My work life had improved. I had a good job with a reputable company. I had gone past trying to avoid eye contact with bouncers in case they asked me for ID or didn’t like my shoes or whatever and later I generally came home after the bar closed. On Saturdays I would rise early to hit the local shop for breakfast materials and papers. Eat. Read. Go into town for a coffee. Back home for lunch, maybe a beer with lunch, find something interesting for the afternoon and a beer with dinner before socialising on a Saturday night.
Then The Bean happened.
A pint after work became home to give his poor demented mother a break. My lovely Saturday routine turned into an epic weekly struggle against puke, shite, nappies and drool on my best t-shirts. Socialising became trying to get in as much sleep as possible between feeds. Work was a daily challenge in the noble art of staying awake and not murdering people in the face to leave me alone. Our home became a bare, functional baby zone with anything of interest hidden well away from tiny, curious hands awash with broken CDs, scratched DVDs and foam corners on the fireplace.
But of course, as time goes by these things change too. The Bean Grew a little and changed from being a surprisingly small shit and breakage factory into a little man with his own ideas and things with stuff and that. Small shoes he takes pleasure in putting away, little shirts and jeans that he likes to get mucky and the odd worm he likes to eat if he can get away with it. The things I lived for in the past seem shallow by comparison with the pleasure I now gain from watching him discover the world and doing my best to help him where I can.
A newspaper. A pint of beer. A rugby match on the television in the local pub, maybe a glowing fire there in the winter. These are the small breaks from the bigger challenges that are the hardest yet the easiest things I have ever had to do. Hard to do yet a delight to achieve. Little smiles, soft hair, dirty hands and a cheeky laugh make everything worth while. It’s at this point I feel like someones Da. I feel like I have so much to learn but I think its the realisation of that fact that brings a certain amount of maturity and consideration into a persons life. I still study and I still feel like a young lad on the inside but the things that pleased me then don’t seem like they would be worth much to me now. Fifteen years have passed since I left school and set off on my adventure into life. I don’t feel very different, but things in life certainly make me feel very differently. I think I have settled into a life that’s very ordinary and pleasing in the most ordinary of ways. I now feel like the adult I felt I would like to be all those years ago. I am on my golden path.
So today, I went for my lunch and on returning to the car park I got into one of those situations where you have a person on either side of a door saying “After you…” and “no no, I insist”.
Then this remarkable thing happened.
This other fella said to me “Go ahead there young man”
He was a man in his fifties or early sixties. Grey, a bit smaller than me and wearing a suit. Then I thought to myself how its true that you never appreciate the power and beauty of your youth until they have faded and are gone forever. It wasn’t anything like a sudden realisation, it was more like the resurgence of something that I had forgotten to remember. The problem is, people tend to mourn that loss long before it has come. A 25 year old will mourn the loss of his teens. And in my case I’ve realised that a 33 year old has been mourning the loss of his twenties for some time without ever realising that the things that are gone are not the things that I want anymore.
It takes time to mould a life around what makes you happy, and in doing so you take gradual steps on your way over the course of your entire lifetime, getting things right and righting the things you get wrong. Life leads most people on a journey of self discovery that leads you through the thick and the thin through a few toll booths manned by setbacks but in the most part you pay your fee and drive on through to the next set of gates which open onto a brand new highway, over time learning to have the exact change to help get you past the next set of barriers
What struck me was the fact that regardless of how I ever see myself, or how much I might think that I have gained or learned on my journey, to someone I will always be a young man, for a long, long time to come there will probably always be somebody older who thought they were past it when they were my age too. What happened today gave me a nice heady breeze in which to open my sail and enjoy being a young man, even if its just for one afternoon, after which I’ll arrive home to a much younger man to whom I’ll always be an auld fella.
For every action….