Today, marks the anniversary of my birth 33 years ago. As I often do at moments like this, I become very reflective and in doing so I wanted to write some thoughts down and share with any whom might be interested. I think of this as kind of a retrospective for the previous iterations in my life — what has been good, where could I have been better, and what I plan to do about it going forward.
It seems natural, to segment my life up into thirds, given my age today. Though, they way I would partition them up are not symmetrical in years — let's call them phases. There is a lot that can be reflected up, after all we are talking about 33 years! Let's contrain this to focus on a single personality trait. Throughout all these phases there runs a common personality trait, that is now apparent to me, that has been pretty constant over my lifetime.
I care deeply.
Sometimes this manifests itself in geekiness, other times, it's not giving those I cherish not enough space. It can also mean at times, I am a bit of a work-a-holic. Another description from those who know me well is obessive. While I think this general trait of mine has generally been a strength, it hasn't been free from being a huge weakness and blindspot, either.
From my earliest childhood memories, I recall my father instilling many character traits in my brother, sister, and I. But one must have been seared into my being more than others as it's the one that I continue to recall with such clarity, that it is inseperable from who I am. "Patrick, whatever you do, do it with 110% effort," my father would say at the dinner table. Or maybe it was, "Son, just remember, give it everything you've got". The words were generally different, but the meaning was the same — never give less than your best. It didn't matter if it was cleaing the kitchen after dinner, studying for a test, or playing high school sports.
I think this must be the kernel of it all. I mean, in order to give it your everything, one must genuinely care a lot. I suspect to some degree I care deeply in order to make putting in extra effort more palatible for when I am tired or bored. Or perhaps, extra efforts causes me to care. Hard to know for sure really.
While this sounds as if it must be a positive only trait, it woudl get me into trouble from time to time. I tended to get overextended a lot (and still do) in high school. I found myself if stretched to thin, pulling back on any care at all on things that mattered (e.g. certain classes where I didn't even try). Or at times pushing myself too hard in sports where I ended up injuring myself — remember one day distinctly where I was insistent on doing extra sets of squats during weight training and ended up not being able to even walk up my stairs at home for a couple of days. But more than these things what did it do to my relationships with people. I didn't hang out with friends much at all. Between sports, school, and running a small computer business, and doing this with 110% effort who had the time. I missed opportunities to build better friendships and memories with people and instead focused on my various pursuits.
College was a time that really challenged my self-worth. I was used to my 110% effort being enough to make me one of the best. I came from a small town, an even smaller school. Competing against 50 other students in academics was a lot easier than competing with a couple thousand students who were all top of there respective high schools. Competing for just notice, much less playing time, on the college football team was a lot harder than it was in high- school, where while we had very high calibre team, was still a small school where no one was cut from the team for lack of ability.
What if my best wasn't good enough to be the best?
Of course, this isn't what my father had ever sought to instill. He wasn't saying that I had to be best, just try your best. But I was used to being on top as a result of this effort so I had connected to the two.
I was shaken. Shaken to my core.
Up until then, I had taken solace in my own abilities. I relished the glory of achievement. It is what fed me and built up my self-worth. As I learned, a self-worth based on one own's building is nothing more than a house of cards.
But this was a good thing. The best thing that ever happened to me.
Because of this, I realized I was mistaken about where my confidence should come from. I knew that Jesus loved me for who I was not on any earthly accomplishments I may or may not acheive. I realized that none of what I was striving for really mattered, not in the grand scheme of eternal life. For so long my own achievements had been my idol, the thing that mattered most of all to me. I further realized that while I knew all about Jesus and even believed him to be God and to have died for my sins, I never actually had turned my heart over to him. I had never told Jesus that I wanted him to be my idol, to be the primary focus of my life, to be the only thing that I derived my self- worth from. So, one night, in my bunk, during a pre-season football camp that I was getting smoked in every day, I prayed and I asked the Creator of Universe to take over my life, to be Lord over it as well as the Saviour of it.
The next day, I still got my butt handed to me during drills.
But that was ok, I knew that it didn't matter. I finally realized what my dad was trying to teach me: just do your very best, let the results worry about themselves. I was a Child of God, how could anything compete with that when it came to my confidence and self-worth.
That isn't to say there were not and still are periods where I get those priorties jumbled but that was a huge turning point in my life.
This brings me to the phase of life I find myself in now — parenthood.
I did not understand my capacity to love another individual until I had a family. I would most certainly give my life for my family, but to all those who have families, that's no surpise or big revelation. It just is.
To be entrusted with the care for my wife, for our children, is an awesome and amazing thing. One that is hard to describe. I am trying my best to be a 110% husband, a 110% father. Many times I fail. I fail to put them first. I fail in my duty as a spirtiual leader for my family. I fail in be attentive to my wife in how I know she needs me to be — I tend to want to solve problems instead of just listen. But this is a marathon, not a sprint. I must continue to address the failures and continue on. It's been a challenge (and continues to be) to learn what giving 110% effort means in terms of relationships, especially in being a husband and a father.
Overall, the thing I have learned most about myself in this area has been the need to have balance, doesn't mean giving less than 110% effort on any partiular pursuit. As we progress through life, we all have different and varying levels of constraints. I think it's important to have somethings that take priority and therefore have no constraints, and other things have very well defined constraints in terms of time/schedule, and yet still others that are low priority but also no constraints — you get to them when you can for however much time you have available. Then you do the best that you can do within the constraints.
So with 1/3 of my life gone (hopefully it's not a larger ratio, but who knows), I still have lots to do and accomplish.
- Get to know my Creator better and better every day
- Give my wife an ever sweeter marriage each year that goes by
- Continue to build a strong family; raising children into strong, productive adults who love God
- Help build a successful business that earns an awesome return for its investors
- Figure out how, in some small way, to improve my city, my state, and my nation, leaving them in a better state that I found them when I depart this earth
This ended up being less organized and more rambling, but I am not going to edit it at all — it's my birthday and my blog and I don't feel like it. :)