And that’s a wrap. We’re now officially in a new decade and, if you’re reading this, that means you survived it. I did too. Congratulations. For a lot of us, it was a close call.
As of this writing, I’m 42 and that means I’ve lived through four of them. The first ten years felt like they lasted a hundred. The most recent ten went by in the blink of an eye. Before I know it, I’ll be looking back on today like a nostalgia show and wondering where the time went. As of now, though, all that time is still ahead of me.
Ten years ago, I was someone else. I was probably gnawing on a steak in a smoke-filled room, smelling wine and cheap perfume. My daughter was still just shy of two and my Mondays were spent covering chinlocks and chairshots. The guy back then had many more people around him yet was more alone than he is today.
I’ve lost many loved ones since then. Some are gone because they’re in a better place now. Others are gone because I am. Either way, the theme of these past ten years has been healing. Mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and any other way possible – it’s been about making myself and the people around me better.
That mindset has led me to changes in my lifestyle. Physical scars transformed my heart in the same way that dealing with the emotional ones did. I had my first surgery, my second child, and learned that all those things that I was sure could kill me, didn’t. When I found myself still standing, I found that the things that didn’t kill me made me stronger. That’s the old saying and the older I got, the more I found myself saying it too.
I love my children more than I love myself. I learned that having a child who doesn’t speak can’t stop us from being closer than some parents, many who remain forever nameless to their children, will ever be with their own. He’s the greatest boy in the world, not despite his Autism, but because of it. He’s shown me that the things you tell yourself you’ll have to stay “strong” for don’t require as much strength as you think they will when you’re dealing with realities, rather than hypotheticals.
Today, my daughter is just shy of her teenage years. The age that everyone warned me about is nothing compared to what I feared. She’s one of the greatest people I’ve ever known. All the qualities I am proudest of in myself are front and center in her personality. All the things I want to be are there too. I can never be more grateful to my wife for bringing me these two people and making me more complete of a human being, through fatherhood, than I ever dreamed possible.
I have plans for the next ten years and, unlike the start of the last decade, I don’t take the time I have left to do them for granted. Life is fragile, but I’m not. My will to move forward is solid and my confidence in my own abilities is unbreakable.
I like who I am today. I couldn’t say that ten years ago…or twenty…or thirty. I’m proud of who I’ve grown up to be and, if I could, I would go back in time and tell myself that everything is going to be OK, even when it isn’t. I’d walk up to that guy, whether he’s wearing a Champion sweatshirt, a Nirvana t-shirt, or a fraternity cap, and give him a hug. I know what he was going through and I know all the reasons why. I know that today, I’m able to see the person beneath it all and know he has genuine good to give to the world.
Even if the entire world doesn’t want it, that’s OK. I don’t have to be perfect for everyone. I just have to leave the Earth a better place than it was when I got here. That’s all any of us need to do, however that plays out. It’s the only obligation we truly have.
For me, every decade has started with the same question. Who will I be in ten years? I never knew and I always wondered. This time around, though, I don’t have to wonder. For the first time ever, I know who I’ll be.
I’ll be me.
And, also for the first time ever at the start of a decade, I can honestly say that I couldn’t be happier about that.