Perusing (but not pursuing) the Past

I wish I could really write.

I just got through reading this great blog, and was very impressed. His writing style is magnificent, and it makes me wish I had stuck with English Lit a little longer.

Ah well, that’s life… Lauren (my wife) and I have been talking about that kind of thing lately (regret, in case I wasn’t clear). And maybe regret is too strong a word. I guess curiosity is really what we’ve been talking about. You know, what might have been, etc. Probably nothing too constructive to engage in.

We’ve been married for almost 6 years now. That’s really not that long of a time, but it’s definitely long enough to have some ups and downs. I think we’ve grown up a lot. I was 22 when we got married, and she was 19. When Lauren was 21, we had our first child, Madelyn. Two years and six weeks later, we had our second, Hailey.

You really don’t know love until you have your own children. There is absolutely nothing I wouldn’t do for mine, and the first time you see them hurt, scared, or upset is terrifying.

Not too long ago, I was home with the girls, while Lauren was at work. Lauren’s a nurse, which is obviously pretty handy. It keeps me from worrying too much whenever one of the girls is sick. Anyway, on this particular day, I was giving them a bath. They had some cups in the tub that they had been playing with and drinking out of. I know, I know… drinking bath water is pretty disgusting, but they seemed to enjoy it, and I figure it’s gotta help their immune system in some way, right?

I had been watching Hailey very closely because she’s still very young and I knew it would be easy for her to choke on the water. She didn’t. But Madelyn wasn’t so lucky. She started coughing and spluttering, waving her hands in front of her face, and looking at me as if I could do something about it.

I reached over to her, spoke kindly, etc, but I really wasn’t that worried. I mean, I had been a dad long enough to have seen choking before, and as my wife has assured me, “if they’re coughing, that means they’re getting air.” So, like I said, I kept cool.

But Madelyn really started choking. She wasn’t coughing at all; all breathing had stopped, and she just looked at me in shock, waiting for me to fix it. But I couldn’t fix it, and that became more and more apparent as the seconds ticked by. I picked her up out of the tub, oblivious to the water soaking my clothes, and patted her back, my mind whirring frantically.

Have you ever had a car pop out of gear while you’re driving it? You know, you’re really moving down the road, maybe going up a hill, and suddenly, the engine screams, and the car starts slowing down? That’s what my brain was doing. It was running overtime, but it wasn’t in gear; I couldn’t think of a single thing to do.

Luckily, I didn’t have to do anything. Madelyn finally took a gasp of air, coughed, then began sobbing. “I couldn’t breav, Daddy!” I think I might have been crying too. I had never felt such pain or terror in my entire life, or such relief when she finally started breathing again.

Yeah, the love you have for your kids knows no bounds. But that’s not really where I was heading a minute ago… seems I took a bit of a tangent.

Because no matter how much you love your kids, they are work. You certainly can’t think just about yourself anymore. As a matter of fact, your thoughts have to be more like 95% family/kids and 5% you (don’t let that freak you out too much. It’s not like I’ve done any scientific research on the subject, I’m just making stuff up).

Six years can see a lot of changes. When I got married, the World Trade Center was still standing, and the Gulf War still referred to the one in 1990. But MTV had already stopped playing videos. I haven’t been married that long.

I’ve changed a lot too. Some good, some bad. I think lately, the good have outweighed the bad. I’ve gained weight, lost weight, and gained a little back again (trying to lose it again, too). And I recently had my 10 year high school reunion, which I actually enjoyed more than I thought I would.

But still, after a while, you wonder what things would have been like if you had made different choices in life. What if I had gone away for college? What if I had really pursued a career in music? Blah, blah, blah.

It’s ok to wonder about that stuff sometimes. But you’ve still got to keep your perspective. For one, you can’t go back and change anything. So if you really find yourself regretting something, you’d best forget it and move on. Life lies ahead of you, not behind.

And ultimately, you’ve probably got it pretty good anyway. I know I do. I got very lucky in marrying Lauren. She has been someone to laugh with, cry with, and someone to pick me up when I’ve come undone. She’s made me a better person and has given me the two people I care most about in life.

Sometimes it’s fun to speculate about how things could have been different. But there’s really nowhere I’d rather live than right here, right now (to borrow from Van Halen [EDIT: I’m a buffoon.  Jesus Jones did that song, not Van Halen.]).

That being said, I will say that a little adventure wouldn’t be a bad thing. Ever read Glory Road by Robert Heinlein? You should.

Got any dragons you need killed?


8 thoughts on “Perusing (but not pursuing) the Past

  1. Hey,

    Thanks for the blog props. English Lit was fun but even less lucrative than business management–in Baltimore, I occasionally wandered the streets in a shirt and tie as though some kind of guerilla professional headhunter group was tracking my grammatical prowess and would be coming around the corner any minute in an unmarked van looking for the kid who was dressed for an interview. It was pretty miserable, and the job I was then qualified for entailed underemployment alongside a lot of other English Lit grads, similarly underemployed, all at different stages of tapering off in their personal interests (as though our motto was “I used to write”).

    I’m glad you took the tangent–I had a similar, but different experience when my niece Madison (she’s two) was eating tortilla chips. We were at her house (my sister-in-law et al) and we were all in the living room with the chips, and then everyone but Madison and I wandered into the kitchen for some reason. The very next chip she ate got lodged in her throat, I guess, because she got quiet and her eyes opened wide and I didn’t really know what was happening for what was probably a tenth of a second but felt like forever.

    I picked her up, flipped her upside down, reached into her mouth and started sweeping like I learned way back in lifeguard training, and I don’t know if I’m misremembering this or what, because I feel like I was whacking her on the back, too, which would have required a third arm, because I was carrying her into the kitchen the whole time (all eight seconds of it). Finally, I got a fingerful of half-chewed chip and set her down, eyes watering. She looked up at her dad and said “stuck.” The whole thing was terrifying.

    I did read Glory Road, in fact. It was good, but very hack-and-slash, if I recall, like so incredibly adventurous that it didn’t bear believing, which was good in that it reminded me that real adventure wouldn’t be terribly appealing, because it involves disfigurement and serious lack of job security.

    But the real reason I wanted to post a comment was to say that, in my opinion, you should probably follow what you talk about it your next post, and figure out what it is you would rather be doing as a job, not just so you can pine, but so you can inch your way there. I am lucky to be able to go to grad school full time to learn how to do what I love. Before that, though, I was able to parlay my underemployment at a medical textbook company into underemployment + occasional graphic design work (which I was terrible at, but better than anyone there, and cheaper than real designers) for the medical textbook company. It didn’t turn into a dream job overnight , but I disliked it a lot less, and got some valuable experience–not just in graphic design, but in making my interests into my work.

    So I wrote too long. Less a comment than a long ramble. Nonetheless, thanks for the props and keep posting–I’m interested to see how things turn out.


  2. Jason,

    Thanks for the comment (or ramble…).

    Yeah, Glory Road is definitely hack and slash (by the way, in one of your blog posts, you mentioned Dragon Warrior, which I also played as a kid. But there can’t be many of us who got that reference! I laughed out loud!). But what I loved about Glory Road, and some of Heinlein’s other books, was the social commentary. It just showed how trivial some of the things in this life really are. Espeically at the end of the book, when he tries to reassimilate into normal life.

    Anyway… thanks too for the input about possibly going back to school. It’s really not the kind of thing I would typically do, but I do keep having this itch to do something different. And I hate to think that at 28, I might have already gotten stuck into some specific field. I’m waiting to hear back from UAB, my alma mater, so we’ll see what happens.

    By the way, I don’t live too far away from you – just over in Birmingham, AL. How do you like the South? 🙂

    Take it easy, and good luck with Pickle!

  3. What’s up, man? Sorry I still haven’t gotten your Cd’s to you…. I promise I will eventually. Just been really busy lately. Anyways, my real reason for commenting is to let you know that you CAN write. I understand your frustration, but Nate, if you really decided to do it, you could write a novel. A GOOD novel, at that. You’ve had several good starts, it’s just a matter of having the patience and determination to finish it. Anyways, I’m enjoying the blog. Keep it up!

  4. Nate,

    Lauren has been telling me about your blogs and I have finally had the time to read them so far!

    Keep up the good work. This one touched me….I know how it feels to be a parent now, too. It was not at all what I imagined… is MUCH more. You are AWESOME! And Ry is right….you could SOOOOO write a novel. In your spare time (which I know there is very little)you ought to dabble in that. Even if it takes you 10 years (which goes by really fast, ya know?) you could strike it rich once!! You would do “GRRRRRRRRRRRReat” ( Aka….Tony the Tiger)!

    Ok…I will quit now! See ya.


  5. Nate,
    Every great adventure in life begins with a single step, and often seems to outragous to be true. I’ll leave you with some thoughts from Teddy, and just know, you CAN write.

    “It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”

    “Citizenship in a Republic,”
    Speech at the Sorbonne, Paris, April 23, 1910

  6. Second time to try to leave a reply. I left one early this morning, but it didn’t take. Anyway, Ithink you can write very well. If you do it long enough, it will pay off. I don’t have time now to respond as I’d like, but I will respond later.

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