Looking back, one of my regrets in life is that I didn’t mature faster. If I did, perhaps I could have gotten more done before I turned 50 two years ago.
So what brought on this sudden sob story you ask?
For one, a lifetime of wondering what if I could have turned back the clock. For another, a couple of recent encounters with younger men who showed maturity beyond their years.
These made the parent in me suddenly wonder: what would it take to raise my sons so they will mature sooner rather than later like their old man?
“I wish that I could turn back the clock!”
Now no one living past 50 can tell me they don’t look back and not have at least one regret (big or small) in their lives. To say so, this person’s either a liar, an eternal optimist, has amnesia or has no self-awareness.
For I certainly have regrets as numerous as the stars in the sky or sand on the beach!
I regretted not continuing with my piano lessons when I was 12 (although I blame that on having started it on the wrong foot as shared in an old post here). That same year I also made the mistake of picking a reputable secondary school to study in. That led to four humiliating years of feeling lost, alone and inadequate among cocky smart-alecky contemporaries. And another two more thereafter that were even worse!
I also regretted not pursuing courses in language and humanities when I was 17, though I clearly did better in those than STEM subjects.
That last one remains one of my biggest regrets!
In my late teens, I regretted wasting 2.5 years in compulsory military training— plus countless short-stint recalls over the next decade. I learned nothing except to dislike combat ration, gear, weapons, authority, and doing things without rhyme or reason. (Here too Johnny Hates Jazz’s other ’80s hit “I Don’t Want To Be A Hero” articulates perfectly my view about soldiers and war!)
I regretted mixing with friends who I needed more than they needed me. Which led to more years of loneliness than I care to count.
And don’t even get me started on college and career choices!
You can bet if had the power to turn back the clock now, I would have made better choices and my life now would be very different indeed!
(Or maybe not?)
My “interview” with mature young man #1
But my sob story today really came about because of two encounters this week.
The first was a Grabhitch passenger I picked up two afternoons ago. This happened while I was driving to my youngest son’s school to fetch him home. (Grabhitch is a paying private car hire service here that allows those on the road to pick up strangers headed in the same direction)
During the ride, I found out that despite looking fairly youthful, my passenger was already a father of three. His kids were between 22 and 27 while, to my surprise, he was 45! As someone who’s seven years older, but with two boys still only 11 and 13 now, you just know I had to ask the obvious.
He was candid and confessed that he got his girlfriend pregnant at 18, leading to a shotgun wedding. Back then, armed with nothing but a sense of responsibility, he took on many odd jobs to make ends meet. He navigated the realities of raising a growing family, eventually settling into a career as a realtor for what was to be the next 20 years of his still-young life.
Throughout our conversation, he sounded worldly-wise and absolutely street-smart, proving conclusively you don’t need a college degree to make it in life. He clearly had the gift of the gab and a knack for reading and sizing people up pretty well too. Thanks no doubt to all the years of “studying in the school of hard knocks.”
How do I know?
He took one look at me and told me I was 52, without batting an eyelid! No one’s ever gotten my age right before, thanks to the fact I still look to be in my 40s, with most of my hair (in its original color) still fairly intact!
Just before I dropped him off, the man even shared that he was ready to be a grandpa!
To say I was speechless and envious was an understatement. At 45, and assuming he lives past 80, here was a man who clearly had still a long runway ahead of him. Not to mention a maturity I find extremely rare in my country.
My “interview” with mature young man #2
The second encounter I had this week actually took place over two mornings.
The first happened in church last Sunday. I was on my way to fetch my youngest from Sunday School. (Now why is it that these encounters happen whenever I’m en route to collect my kid?)
Suddenly, a tall young man blocked my way. He grabbed me by the shoulder and said:
“Hey Mr. K, you remember me right?”
Now we all know the answer to that kind of question, don’t we?
“Err…no. But I’m guessing you are an ex-student of mine from several years back?”
“Yes, I’m N. You taught me when I was a freshman.”
“Ahhh…okay your face looks familiar now. How have you been?”
Turned out he’d been attending and serving as a youth cell leader in my church for some seven years now. Yet this was the first time we met. What’s even more astounding was the fact that he would be attending bible school in January.
Curious, I arranged to meet him again as I was in a rush to pick up my son.
So two mornings ago, we met for brunch and he shared his life story. He was raised in a Christian home and always had a deep interest in the Bible. Even when he was a teen, he entertained the thought of attending bible school. So this really was a fulfillment of that dream.
Maybe I’m not moving in the right circle but I gotta tell you. In my neck of the woods, you just don’t hear such stories every day coming from a young man of 22. And when I look at my firstborn J who’s nine years younger than N, I had to wonder — will J also come to me at 22 to say he wants to attend bible school?
Say what you want, but in my books, any young man who pursues spiritual studies voluntarily in this day and age has most definitely reached a level of maturity beyond his peers.
Think about it.
When all your fellow 20-somethings are taking gap years to circle the globe or hit the bars. Or they are entering accounting school or embarking on a promising career.
There you are.
In bible school.
Call it what you want. I’m calling it maturity.
Being mature early is counter-cultural
I’m just going to go ahead and say this. Being mature early is counter-cultural.
I can say this because, for the first half of my life, I had always made safe choices at every milestone. Just like everyone else around me. Staying with the social script — prep school, high school, college, career, marriage, parenthood — was all I knew we were expected to do. To deviate from this narrative would be unthinkable.
And no one in my parent’s generation would have allowed it anyway!
But here’s where the proverbial “nothing-ventured-nothing-gained” saying rings true. At least from the examples of those two gentlemen I just shared. It doesn’t matter if the venture happened by sheer force of circumstances or to fulfill a dream harbored since young.
The results, in the case of both gentlemen I met, are the same.
They both matured faster than their peers because they had to go against convention. Doing so takes nothing short of gumption and fortitude. Even if they may not realize it at the time.
So my motivation as a parent now is this: aside from shotgun weddings and bible schools, how do I help my sons mature faster like these guys?