I used to be that guy.
Somewhere during the first real, professional job I held after college, I remember going down the hall to a co-worker’s office to ask a question about a mutual case we were handling. I walked into her office, and another co-worker was showing off her her new baby, much to the “oohs” and “aahs” of everyone present. I was mostly oblivious. I asked the question, and left with the answer, hearing comments and laughs about I was a “typical guy” who essentially didn’t even recognize that there was a child present.
Its not that I didn’t recognize that there was a child present. I acknowledged the fact, its just that this was data that I didn’t really have anything to do with. I mean, its not like I was going to interact with the little bugger or anything. My history to that point, and for several years after, had involved intentionally not being in positions in which I would have to hold a baby. And, when I did, I froze, and the baby screamed and cried, and it was a mess. So, I just avoided it.
Even after we were married, I would recall conversations that Karen and I had recently had with friends, and would have completely edited from my memory that the friends’ children were even present in the room. This was just not a fact that I needed. I had dumped the un-necessary data, almost as a web browser periodically does with cookies.
Since knowing that were are expecting, however, I’ve undergone a strange alteration in perspective…like someone threw a switch in my head. That change was relatively instant, too…I mean, it began the day I knew my daughter was coming. I’m hyper-vigilant now to children around me, playing with their parents, doing things that cause me to tense up because I’m afraid that they’re going to be hurt, or just catching my attention and giving me a big, baby grin.
At first I was afraid that I might be required to turn in my man card.
After thinking about it, though, I think that this is just indicative of how experiences alter the lenses through which we see life; changes our schema, to use the educational term. I’ve always suspected that I’ve reached emotional milestones late in life. That is, I’ve always felt as though I’m younger than I am, which has caused some interesting reactions from friends at times (“you’re going to do a career change now?”). I’ve always joked that I didn’t know what I wanted to be when I grew up, but, much to my chagrin, I’ve grown up. This, I think, is just one of those experiential things that prove it. And, far from turning in my man card, I actually feel as though I am completely entitled to it for the first time in my life.
I have these people around me that are older and that I feel comfortable asking questions about anything. I feel comfortable with this because, whatever the issue at hand, they’ve been through it already, by virtue of the fact that they’ve been alive longer than me. They can give me input on how they handled the situation, and whether or not it worked. If nothing else, they tend to know what not to try. One of the areas in which I had to mature was to keep my mouth shut and not offer advice in areas that I know nothing of, or in which I am inexperienced. Asking questions is one thing, but I had an issue with thinking I knew everything when I was younger. Actually, I suppose we all did.
Now, though, I feel like I’m one step further down this experiential path. There’s something else that I could begin to offer some feedback on to someone younger than myself. I could say that this means I’m getting older, but I’m going to say I’m becoming more experienced, instead. That preserves my illusion of being perpetually 20 years old…an illusion that grows progressively more transparent with the smallest of challenges.
Here’s to changes in perspective.