I’m not a religious man, but the winter season still reminds me of family. When it’s 8 a.m. and I’m looking out the window at gray skies and frozen ponds, with only the sounds of distant ducks within earshot, it’s hard to deny that it is human togetherness that creates warmth that can survive even the harshest weather. The fact that Hallmark and Cotton Incorporated affirm this every time I turn on the TV between November and January is purely incidental.
I recently began renting an apartment. While I’ve always been a private person, the first month has taught me what it is to live alone.
It’s my first time living on my own and, no, I don’t count going off to college. In college you never truly have solitude; there’s no shortage of other barely grown human beings who think they spontaneously figured out the meaning of life after that last round of beer pong, and just HAVE to give, you the benefit of their newfound wisdom.
I think its true of my generation, having been raised in a time when the country was especially prosperous, that many high school graduates move on to college expecting a joyride of consequence-free fun. They must bid adieu to their families and everything they’ve known as they enter the car, and at the end of a careening ride they can pick up their adulthood like a party favor, no muss involved in the transition. We’re not stupid, these things have just been sold to us as a birthright; the milestones are just supposed to happen to us in montage, like in all the movies.
But what I’ve learned in retrospect is that adulthood is a deliberative process, much like drawing a well-done picture. And every pen stroke that has brought me closer to something resembling responsibility is in part because of the support and criticism of my family, always asking that one all-important question: “What are you going to do?”
That question, however it’s asked, has pushed me to apply myself when I didn’t think I had the energy to take anything else on, and has put my ambition in check when it threatened to take on too much.
I’m a capable adult today because of exposure to my family, not in spite of them.
So I want to dedicate the rest of this column to thanking each of my family members.
To my mom, Marian: I can’t tell you how many times somebody has told me you’re one of the most selfless and caring mothers they’ve met, and I can’t disagree. You’ve been supportive in the good and the bad times, always pushing me forward, never pulling me back. Your transformation into an amazing marathon runner in the past three years has only driven home all your lessons about hard work.
To my dad, Jaime: You didn’t teach me how to drive the first time around, but when I decided to learn a stick shift, you were there for the whole frustrating ride. You have always worked hard – literally going halfway around the world and back – to make sure we could live comfortably and do what we wanted with our lives. Like Mom, you’ve been consistently supportive. The most valuable lesson you’ve taught me is the value of wanting more.
To Katherine and Laura: In the past few years as you’ve both grown up, you’ve proven to me that, no, I didn’t use up all the family genius, and furthermore, I missed out on the lion’s share of dedication. You both continue to amaze me with your accomplishments. Katherine, your talent in music and virtually all your other school subjects is an incredible gift that will bring you far. Laura, your organization and focus is nothing short of freakish, and it will assure your continued success in college.
To my dogs, Winnie Mae and Hobbes: Woof.
I love you, and I can’t wait to spend the holiday at home with all of you.