Stepping Back in Time and Reflecting on Life’s Different Chapters

Running through Cambridge, 2019

Running through Cambridge, 2019

This is a sponsored post in partnership with Disrupt Aging from AARP for which I received compensation. All words and opinions are mine.

I’ve been a parent for more than seven years and it has really messed with my sense of time and age. On one hand, my children change so rapidly from week to week and year to year that it’s impossible to go long without thinking about the passage of time. On the other hand, I feel almost ageless. Certainly not in a narcissistic or boastful way. Quite the opposite really. My body feels the years, but my sense of self sometimes feels stuck in the past.

I got married when I was twenty-nine. Months later, my wife Michelle and I moved to England where I undertook a one-year master’s program at Cambridge. Somewhere in the middle of that year abroad, we learned she was pregnant.

When I was thirty, we moved back to Florida and we had our first child. It was an eventful year and a half. I remember Michelle’s water broke in the morning at our home two weeks before she was due. She didn’t seem too bothered—she is a labor and delivery nurse after all—but she did confirm for me that yes, we probably should go to the hospital. After a flurry of activity and a confusing few minutes for me trying to figure out how and when to put on the operating room attire, things slowed down.

Routine replaced spontaneity. Because Michelle was established in her career and I had just completed a rather obscure graduate program, she returned to work and I became a stay-at-home parent. Soon my days were filled with diaper changes and feedings and naps and walks and car rides to kill time.

Over the next several years, daily activities and routines evolved, but pace of life remained steady and predictable. Without external signposts like work or school accomplishments, my life sometimes felt paused. Sure, there were the children’s developmental milestones and birthdays and the addition of a second, and later, third child, but for me, the individual receded as the collective took center stage.

This feeling of waiting and toiling behind the scenes is something moms throughout time have certainly experienced, but many dads are just starting to understand. When your primary responsibility is your children, it’s easy to lose yourself. As the years have passed and my family has grown, I’ve learned to find ways to carve out space for me. Through writing and freelance work and this blog.

But, part of me still feels like that thirty-year-old fresh out of graduate school. Ready to move to the big city or tackle a new career.

Cambridge Graduation, 2011

Cambridge Graduation, 2011

It’s as if I’ve called time out, like my kids do when we’re playing tag and I’m about to catch them. Soon enough, when my children get older and more independent, perhaps it will be time to call time in again.

Last week I returned to Cambridge for the first time in eight years. I found myself walking along the same streets, getting a coffee in my favorite cafe, and admiring the same old buildings and beautiful college lawns I remembered from a previous chapter. Michelle was there and so was one of our best friends we met almost a decade ago in this very corner of a small island in the North Atlantic. But, we weren’t alone this time. There were three small people with us as well.

Senate House, Cambridge, 2019

Senate House, Cambridge, 2019

Our time was spent much less leisurely. Instead of lounging in the fourth story cafe, admiring the view of the River Cam and the punting boats below, we gulped down our drinks and rushed around in search of napkins before any of our newer companions blew their tops about incorrect donut presentation. Later, toward the end of our day, we chugged a cider at the famous pub where Watson and Crick brainstormed about DNA. We had to hurry before anyone fell asleep in the booth or crawled around under the table for too long.

The Eagle, Cambridge, 2019

The Eagle, Cambridge, 2019

After the train ride back to London, we didn’t meander down the platform or pop in a London restaurant to grab a bite to eat. Instead, I staggered along, carrying a sleeping seven-year-old and we tried not to lose anyone to the relentless London traffic.

If we’re lucky, our lives can have many chapters. The chapter I’m in right now is dominated by a young family that requires tremendous physical, mental, and emotional attention. And as much as I’ll miss my little boys and girl when they’re grown, I’m also interested to see what future chapters will look like.

And that’s one reason why I’m excited to be a voice for Disrupt Aging from AARP.

Because aging isn’t just about growing old, it’s about turning the page on old chapters and starting new ones. Or sometimes, finding those transcendent moments of timeless serendipity that weave together the past and present. Like when we first emerged from the red double-decker bus in Cambridge City Centre and one of the first sounds we heard wafting from a nearby street corner was our children’s current favorite song being played by a street performer. The song our four-year-old demands I play every time we get in the car. No, our ears weren’t playing tricks on us. That was indeed Despacito being played on an electric violin. Nothing could’ve been more perfectly appropriate.

To learn more about how AARP is working to help people live the way they want to live for longer, have more adventures, and maybe even travel back in time (figuratively speaking), visit their website and explore #DadsDisruptAging on social.