Monday, April 2, 2007

When the hell did I grow up?

When, exactly, did I grow up? I don't recall deciding to forgo the joys and frivolity of youth in favor of responsibility. I don't remember ever saying to myself, "Ya know, it's about time I stopped heading out to parties, concerts, and the bar with my friends so I can work 60+ hours a week, do chores at home all the time, and pay bills."

I have never been a particularly thoughtful, considerate, or responsible person. I get sucked into impulse purchases, make hasty and rash decisions, and loose my temper with the best of them. Ask Sonya. But somehow, somewhere, I stopped being fun and started being more concerned with what I'm supposed to do as opposed to what I want to do. It's gotten to the point where occasionally Sonya has to FORCE me to relax.

There was a time that Sonya and I would be able to pick up and go as we pleased. One morning we said, "Hey, let's drive to Chicago and surprise Ken & Marilee!" We hopped in the car, drove the 5 hours to find the weren't home, had lunch at Ed Debevic's, drove the 5 hours home and went to a party at Paulie B's while his parents were out of town. No planning involved. Just pick up and go. It wasn't a wasted trip. It was one of the best, most fun days of my life.

I recall hanging out with an old, dear friend of mine about 6 years ago. Heading to his house, I saw this friend – someone I used to drink with, cruise with, and even stand atop playground fixtures attempting to command the wind with – mowing the lawn in his calf-length black socks and sandals. Later we sat on his porch drinking a beer while our wives chatted inside, and discussing things like landscaping, car repairs, and home renovation. I remember the enormity of this moment hitting me like a Mack truck between the eyes.

I wasn't a kid anymore.

I didn't feel any different. I still enjoyed the same things: drinking, loud music, hanging at my old fraternity's house for parties, taking off on a moment's notice to see some band because a friend got free tickets, etc..

Then came kids, more and larger bills to pay, and the crushing weight of adulthood. It happened slowly. Over the course of about 10-15 years or so, I figure. One by one, more responsibility shifted from my parents' shoulders to mine. I started paying more of my own expenses – first gas for the car, then insurance, then food, some utilities, rent. One by one suffocating my ability to do what I want, when I want. Phrases like, "The Greatful Dead's at the Palace tonight! We got a spare $30 a piece! Let's go!" were suddenly replaced with, "I should pick up an extra few hours at work to pay the phone bill on time, for once."

This isn't just the result of having kids – though it certainly magnifies and accelerates the process. This metamorphosis started long before I held my baby boy and felt the future, and my responsibility thereto, in my very hands. Somewhere down the line, my future became MY job, and mine alone. Yes, I am surrounded by a wonderful circle of friends and family willing and even eager to help, but in the end, my future, and the fruits or failure thereof, are all up to me.

So now, here I sit: 32, working roughly 60 hours a week, spending most of my time "free time" at home doing dishes, picking up the kids' toys, cleaning out the cat box, folding laundry, making beds, vacuuming, mowing the lawn, preparing meals, and the like.

However, I also get to spend this time, reading to my kids, sharing classic family movies I was raised with, giving piggyback rides, playing "Tickle Monster", and watching my two beautiful and brilliant children grow up all too quickly.

I don't go out to the bar, save maybe 3 times a year. No time and too expensive. Going to concerts or events takes weeks of planning and coordinating childcare. Heading out to do the things I want, when I want – especially last minute – is virtually impossible. Spontaneity has all but disappeared from my vocabulary. I miss my friends.

Aside from being able to see my friends and family more frequently, for some bizarre reason I haven't figured out yet – I wouldn't have it any other way.

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