About a year ago, a friend of mine posted a thought on Facebook in celebration of the New Year. In essence, she said that she was glad that 2011 was over because it had been rather difficult and she was looking forward to a better 2012. I remember being struck by that and thinking to myself “I have never experienced a year that bad. I wonder what could make a year so bad.” As I discussed in a post last year around New Year’s Day, I tend to take things one day at a time and am sickeningly optimistic about pretty much everything. That being said, 2012 probably was the most consistently challenging year that I can remember.
While there is nothing that sticks out as particularly dark and I have many joyous things in my life to celebrate, there were more than a few times when I have looked back at the year and thought “Whew, 2012 has been kinda rough.” But as I recently reflected on what exactly that meant, I came to the conclusion that the roughest part was that I see the world just a little bit differently now. I think I have finally become an adult. It sounds strange to say that a person who is a 35 year old married pediatrician with two children and a mortgage is just now “grown up”, but I believe it to be true.
The strength, but also the burden, of being an adult is that they recognize the wolves outside the door. While the child laughs and sings and plays with no regard for the inherent dangers around them, the adult always has a small part of their focus on the wolves. Even when the wolves are out in the darkness, hidden from vision, the adult knows that they are there, waiting, biding time. The adult can still enjoy and play and dance and sing, but there is always a part that is on-guard.
When I was a kid, our town’s sewer system was terrible. On occasion, when there would be a particularly strong down-pouring of rain, the storm sewers would back-up and our street or a neighboring street would get flooded with an extra foot or more of water, which might end up creeping up towards the house. I always thought this was great fun, a little adventure right at my own doorstep. How exciting!
Now? Every summer when powerful thunderstorms rip across Central Indiana bringing torrents of rain and downed power lines, I hold my breath, say a little prayer and hope that the back-up sump pump keeps all of our precious memories in the basement free from water. I think about those days back in Cal City and I cringe at how naive I was, wanting to have our own McKenna Family Flood Experience.
When the great Winter Storm Euclid blew through town last week, I had to drive in to work early that morning, only to then immediately turn around and go home as the clinic ended up getting closed. Having grown up in Chicago and having to drive about an hour to high school, I am well acquainted with winter driving. Never once had I ever considered that something bad could actually happen while I was out driving. Until that morning.
For the first time that I can remember, I acknowledge the wolves that are out there. The fact that loved ones can be taken away from us without warning. Contemplating what it would be like to take care of a family member as they grow older. Bad things can happen on wintry roads. Being admitted to the hospital or getting diagnosed a chronic disease would not be embarking on an “interesting, new adventure.” I even have reconsidered some of my clinical activities and have cut back on attending at deliveries because they made my heart rate go up too much.
Such is the burden of being an adult. The child can play and laugh and love precisely because they are free to do so under the watchful guard of the adult. But in the end, I don’t it as a burden. I see it as a challenge, a benefit, a privilege. I have now received the benefit of becoming a more well-rounded human being. I am still going to laugh and love and play and be silly, for there is still so much joy and wonder in the world and in my life that it would be no fun at all to go about life as a serious, stone-faced watchdog. And in the end, that is how the wolves win, by sucking the joy out of us. (Plus, I can’t really go that long with out talking about Ke$ha, pop culture oddities and The Onion.)
But I do want to put the wolves out there on notice. I am now aware of you and I have my eye on you. You still might pop up and surprise me now and again, but you will never get the upper hand on me. I am a full grown adult now. Bring it on.
Today is the 2nd birthday (anniversary? blog-iversary?) of Mamihlapinatapei. I wanted to take a brief moment to thank all of you readers out there. I don’t know if this experience has been what exactly what I have set it out to be, but I have most certainly enjoyed it. Just last week, I had my 17,000 viewing which is an infinitely higher number of people than I ever imagined would read something that I had written. Hopefully, I will continue to put thoughts and stories out there that you are interested in. In that regard, just like last year, I am going to post a few questions to gauge where you might want this blog to go in the coming year. Also, if you are interested in writing something and would like to guest blog here in my little corner of the Internet, let me know. I am sure that we could come up with something cool. Finally, if I can humbly make a request of you, I would encourage you to leave more comments. Agree with me, pick a fight with me, I don’t care. I would love to interact more with you guys in the coming year!