While on vacation last week, the realization finally hit me that over the course of the last year or so I have taken up residence in an entirely new stage of adulthood.
I’m not sure exactly when this realization first dawned on me. Perhaps it was when we were packing the night before we left. As I looked around my living room at all the stuff we were taking with us this year that we didn’t even own this time last year it made my head spin a bit.
- Diaper bag.
- Pack ‘N’ Play.
- Package of diapers.
- Several jars of baby food.
- Tons of toys.
- Three tiny swimsuits.
- Car seat.
- Stroller (which ended up being too big to fit in our rented minivan with all of our other stuff).
- An entire suitcase filled with miniature clothing that did not belong to either my wife or myself.
Perhaps it hit me the next morning while sweating like a nun in a brothel as I tried to get all of that stuff, plus mine and my wife’s belongings, into the back of the minivan. I can remember my dad getting frustrated over all the stuff he had to magically make fit in our vehicle on family trips when I was growing up and I can definitely relate now.
Perhaps the realization hit me as I was cruising down the interstate and happened to glance up at my reflection in the rear view mirror. I wondered to myself, “Who is that tired-looking old dude driving this van? Oh yes, it’s me.” The realization was also driven home when I glanced at the back of the minivan and saw my wife asleep in her seat and my daughter’s toes sticking up above her car seat as she slept too.
If not then, the realization was certainly clear a few days later as I was hauling about 40 pounds of gear back and forth between the beach and our cabin.
What a difference twelve months can make.
Just a year ago I was a young man. Just a year ago I had all the free time in the world. Just a year ago I was foot loose and fancy free. Just a year ago I went on a trip to the beach and the only thing I had to carry out to the sand was my towel and a book.
There was no pack ‘n’ play. No diapers. No car seat. No toys. No baby food. No diaper bag. No inflatable beach pool for the little one. No shade tent. No minivan.
And yet, in many ways, I can look back and make a pretty strong case that my life was incomplete last year, as well. Along with all the additional stuff that made the trip to the beach with me this year, something else made the trip with me also.
That something (or should I say, someone) was my daughter, Isabella Grace.
Sure, she’s probably aged me as much or more as she’s aged herself in the first ten months of her life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. In addition to all the junk she added to my trip to the beach this year, that beautiful little rascal has added more life to my years than she’ll ever know.
I’m still the same person I was last year, but in a major way, my identity has changed forever. This time last year I was a man in transition. This year, I am a transitioned man. I’m a dad now and that part of my identify is as plain as day. Unlike manhood, it’s not been something I’ve had to go out trying to find. It’s a role that I’ve loved learning to play since the very first time I held in my arms last September. And it’s a role that I will keep until the day I die.
Although I still feel the same way I did when I was a teenager, I realize more and more every day how quickly the pages of life are turning. And with each page, I find myself acting less and less like my old teenage self and more and more like the man who raised me.
I’m a dad now and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Michael Mitchell is an (almost) thirty-something dad who blogs daily tips and life lessons for dads of daughters at lifetoheryears.com. While consuming copious quantities of life from a glass that’s usually half-full, he spends the majority of his days trying to balance his efforts to be a good husband & dad, a man of God, a professional raiser of philanthropic funds, and a defender of all things awesome. On the rare occasion he’s not tied up with all of that, he enjoys fighting street gangs for local charities and stuff like that.