There comes a point, I think, when you start to realize that you’ll probably never live up to the expectations you carried as a child, and that your brightest years are behind you. I have had some significant accomplishments in my life, and I’ve got a ways to go yet, but as a pretty bright kid in a school full of bright kids I had expectations that by the time I hit 30 I would be a huge somebody of some sort. Well, I haven’t written a best-selling novel, and I haven’t become an accomplished musician, and I’ll never be a famous athlete; in fact, with my back having had surgery it is unlikely that I’ll participate in many sports in the years to come. Even that popular sport for the middle-aged, golf, is something I’m unlikely to ever be able to play again. I’m not as fit or attractive as I used to be, and will never be that fit or attractive again. Every year there are missed opportunities that I’ll never see again in my lifetime. And I see it happening, as if in slow motion.
On the other hand, where I’ve really won out is in those places where I had no childhood expectations at all. I’m a pretty good person, always trying to do the right thing, and am proud of the accomplishments I’ve had. I’m well traveled, can speak French and some Chinese (and English too!), and have a few international degrees behind my belt. I have a cottage in Canada, a Canadian and an EU passport, and some good work experience. I have a lot of options. And I’ve still years left; there’s still time to write a fantastic novel, become fluent in Chinese, or run a company. With limited time during each day it might require some motivation and some time management, but if I want to get these things done before I’m gone, I need to really work hard at them now. As Richard Machowicz would say, “not dead, can’t quit”.
I have a great family. Yvonne has stuck with me as I’ve dragged our little bunch from one country to the next in pursuit of my MBA. She works hard, does almost everything around the house, and is an amazing mother. More often than not she’ll have something cooked for the family by the time I get home even though I tell her that I’ll do it when I get there. When my assignment in Ireland is up we’re going to move wherever she likes; it’s well beyond her turn to decide where our family will end up and up to her what she wants to pursue once she gets there. It might be China. It might be somewhere in Europe. It’s her call.
At 11 months of age, Amelia (or Mia, or Mimi, or Mimsy, or Miggles, or Midge, or Little Mi, or Mimimimoomoo, or whatever her nickname might be at the current moment) is a little doll, always smiling and getting into mischief. Whenever you hear her little, “hehe hehehe hehe”, you will often turn your head to find her pulling wipes out of the bag and chewing on them, or getting into the fireplace, or methodically removing every item from the kitchen cabinets she’s able to open. She’s not walking yet but she’s very strong-willed; from out of nowhere she’ll grab hold of your hand, stand up, and then refuse to sit down until you let her hold onto your hand as she walks all over the house, giggling the whole time.
And when I get home from work in the evening, my 3-year old, Callum, is usually standing behind the storm door waiting for me (just the other day I found him curled up in the little cavity between the storm door and the front door, having fallen fast asleep). When he sees me he jumps up and down and starts babbling, though of course I can’t hear a word he’s saying through the glass. And when I open the door he looks up at me with love in his eyes and whispers excitedly, “daddy, are you happy?” Which everyone who knows Callum is well aware that what this means is that it is in fact Callum who is the one who is brimming with happiness. And I crouch down, give him a big hug and a kiss on the forehead, and tell him, “yes Callum, daddy is really happy.”
And it’s true, every time.