This year, the realization has finally become official: I am an adult. There’s no denying it. Sure, there are some signs of the kid in me that will never go away. I still follow sports the way I did when I was 12. I still listen to some music better suited for 17-year olds. And I still wear my Orioles cap around, just like I did through all those years of college when it never left my head. But so many things have changed–and the biggest pieces were in these past two years. I can remember a couple of years ago when I sat in my manager’s office and with a smug look on my face, boldly reminded him that I had nothing to lose. "I’ve got no kids, my car is a 92 Nissan, and I rent an apartment. I’ve got no financial obligations and if I got fired tomorrow, I wouldn’t lose a minute of sleep." Wow, that was a great moment for me. I was young, cocky, and arrogant. Fast forward to 2006. Car payments. Mortgage payments. Iris’ projected tuition: $60K/year. Uhh, OK, maybe I will lose a few minutes of sleep if I lose my job…
As part of this newfound adulthood, I can honestly say that I’ve never grown more as a person than I did in the last year. I’ve been pulled and stretched in more ways that you can imagine (and I’m not talking about what Iris does to my face nor am I comparing myself to Cherise at childbirth–I always lose that contest). I’ve often told people that once you have a kid, it becomes time to prioritize: sleep, fatherhood, and career–choose one and a half. Early on, I had this goofy notion that I could continue to live life as normal and just merge Iris into my life. Well, that didn’t work. I couldn’t juggle e-mail on one knee and baby on another, despite the humorous picture I’m sure that paints. The only way I could survive was literally to work smarter in all facets of life and also focus as much as possible. Now, I avoid looking at e-mail at home until Iris is asleep. Weekends are primarily family time. Plus, I use every moment at work to be much more focused on getting stuff done within that time, as opposed to assuming I’ll get something done at home (which I had done for years). I don’t let stuff bother me at work as much as it used to and I try to keep the stress from work at work. Every week, I update the experiment to see if I can a better mix or a better formula that makes Iris happier, Cherise happier, and me happier. I keep trying, sometimes successfully and sometimes not so successfully, to find that happy medium that doesn’t destroy everything I’ve worked for at Microsoft, but also supports my goal of being a good father.
Frankly, the idea of being a good father is really important to me. I spend a lot of time wondering about whether I am being the best I can be. Needless to say, I’ve made a TON of mistakes. I know I am a lot better than I used to be, but it’s so important for me to give Iris what she deserves. That’s what my mind is filled with nowadays. Will Iris think the same of me that I think of my father? I sure hope so and, while I don’t think my opinion of my father was based on what happened in the first year of my life, I still feel like I want to be great from the start and never stop. But am I? I don’t know. I read some really good advice in a magazine recently that puts my mind at ease: "The only time you’ll suck at being a dad are the moments you refuse to put your kids needs first. If you’re ready to prioritize them consistently, you’ll cruise."
So, as I look at the year and Iris’ impact on my life, I’m reminded of what most football players say when they reach the NFL. Many often describe the NFL as the same game that they’ve always played, only it all happens five times as fast–as if the VCR is playing and you hit the fast forward button. That’s what Iris has done to my life. Things just happen so fast and you just need to learn to adapt. And like those football players at the end of their rookie seasons, beat down and sore from a year’s worth of pounding, you feel the aches and pains, you reminisce about a lot of good and a lot of bad, you let the wounds heal from the beating you took, and bizarrely, you can’t wait for the next season start because you know you’re just getting going and you know you can be even better.
Well, this 35-year old is no longer a rookie. Bring on the new year!