Hericlitus (an ancient Greek philosopher) proportedly said that — which is ironic because it’s still as pithy & true as it was 2,500 years ago.
I forget it, though.
There’s so much hype about getting it right on your first try: the right job, the right partner, the right ‘look,’ even the right hobbies and pastimes. I’m 25 years old, and I feel like I’m stumbling around blind, trying to strike it ‘right’ before some unknown deadline (is it 30? Is it 40?) passes, and I’m suddenly locked into my life choices.
This is not really a great, or accurate, world-view; I get that. Doesn’t change the fact that I still get swept up in it.
That’s why I want to spend the rest of this post talking about my dad. Now, it’s not father’s day, and his birthday’s not till November, but arbitrary dad-holidays aside, I’ve really come to recognize and admire how much this guy has grown and changed in the 25 years since I’ve known him. Flash-back 20 years, and he’s recently moved to Lincoln, NE with 5-year-old twins, following his wife’s job. He’s a claims-adjustor for a well-known insurance corporation, which he hates. He’s a nature-loving liberal in the Republican suburbs of a conservative county in a Red state that’s mostly oil wells and corn. He’s got high blood pressure, anger-management issues, and eerily even tooth-edges from chronic grinding and clenching. As a little kid, my impression of him was of a scary, angry dude.
Flash forward to today. He lives in Old Town, Fort Collins, still with my mom, in their modest yet beautiful dream home. His daughters visit occasionally, but no longer require room, board, or insurance coverage. In fact, he retired early last November, and has a new daughter — 2 month old golden retriever puppy Siri. He dotes on her. He lifts weights for 2 hrs most mornings, and goes to yoga twice each week, and has dinner ready for his wife when she gets home from work. He and my mom have walked across England, ecotoured the US Virgin Islands, and spent plenty of time up in our own Rocky Mountains. In fact, part of his spare time is spent as a volunteer ranger for the National Forest Service. Now when he smiles it’s actually an authentically happy smile instead of that icky old grimace. He seems to be aging backwards.
Sometimes I see some of his former self in me — angry and obsessive about work (even at home), critical of others, and aggressive in my outlook. No, not all the time; mostly just inside my head and behind closed doors. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, and I know my loved ones — the people I can’t hide from — see it, and hear it. A couple weeks ago I called my dad for advice. I was hoping he would tell me
“Just quit. Get out sooner than later — it’s not worth it.” I was hoping he’d have a magical answer for what to do then, after giving up and cashing in.
He didn’t. Of course. I should have known — he’s a bull-headed lawyer, after all. But what he did say was really surprising:
“Do you do yoga? It’s very calming. You can put up with many things, indefinitely, if you practice yoga.”
I don’t think I’ve adequately conveyed just how out-of-left-field this felt. You’ve never heard him laugh maniacally about suing the sh*t out of former-boss big-name insurance company. You’ve never faced off with him in the courtroom (hopefully — and thank God, I haven’t had to, either. But I’ve heard stories). You wouldn’t peg him as a yogi if you saw him then. Trust me, he’s a changed man. He’s changed so much from the unhappy claims-adjustor, made a name and a killing for himself in personal injury law, and then moved on from that, too. All between the time that his daughters were 5 and 25. That means that we haven’t even touched on who he was before all that, when he was my age and working the night shift at Randall’s (a grocery store in Eau Claire, WI), or when he was using sleeping bag instead of a comforter as a dirt-poor newlywed, or back when law school was an expensive dream.
The thing is, he’s still going. There’s time yet to fill. He’s lived 63 years of life, and there wouldn’t be a story to it if he’d had it all figured out by 25.
This is what I tell myself. It’s somewhat reassuring