A reckoning I’ve had to have lately is my lack of outward growth over the last decade. I was very much a tomato vine, finding my footholds and stretching upward. I was always of the belief that securing a position in this world required one of two things: a varied skill set in many disciplines, or an expert level skill set in one thing. Those are the only ways to make yourself essential. And I leaned into the latter.
Now, I’m reversing course. I’m trying to expand my knowledge base and learn as many new skills as possible. I want to find the things that actually bring me joy. But in that process, I’m finding what I’m lacking at as well.
These things vary from the mundane to the serious. My right hand is my dominate hand, and thus, my left arm has always been weaker. But being out on a lake, driving boats, has all but erased that deficiency. You use your left arm to control the boats, and I’m seeing that influence. Small things, but noticeable.
Another thing that I’ve gotten accustomed to is my dislike of water I can’t see the bottom of. Being on a lake almost 24/7 has forced my hand. I’ve been in the lake and am much more comfortable with it now. And adding to that is really all of the aspects of my job.
None of these things I’ve been doing are things I’ve ever done in my career. It’s all new. And I’m finding the aspects that can be translatable into other career paths so that I can apply them later.
But the biggest demon I’ve been facing is death. Growing up, I thought about death a lot. I was afraid to die. I spent more time worrying about it than a teenager should, for sure. But that fear has evolved in a really interesting way.
Upon reflection, I realize now that I don’t fear my own death anymore. I definitely don’t WANT to die or anything like that, but I don’t fear it. I don’t fear it because when it happens, hopefully many decades in the future, it ends. Selfishly, there will be no fallout from my death that I will have to reckon with. I’ll be gone.
But that fear of death didn’t disappear. It transferred. I may not fear my own death, but I’m terrified of the deaths of beings I care about. And it’s that same selfishness that drives that fear: the fallout. I’ve lost people already, even people that I had a very removed relationship from, and it shakes me every time.
I don’t want to fear the death of others because I understand that it’s part of life. But to have that experience of loss is something I imagine is comparable to a hole blown into the side of a plane during a crash, sucking the air and everything else inside of the cabin out into the free fall.
To bring it back to how I’m learning to handle that feeling, part of my job includes cleaning our fish cleaning table and dumping the guts. Another small part is checking our mouse traps. I don’t care for either responsibility, but seeing it and feeling that sense of loss every day, even to animals I have no known relationship to, has forced that confrontation. And the hope is that I can translate those small coping skills into a more intense loss when that time inevitably comes.
I hate to end on a down note, but it’s the most powerful thing I’m working through right now. I’ve started to think of my life in thirds. And as I turned 30, I felt like I was closing the chapter on that first third of my life. I’m reborn again, in a sense. And children learn. They grow. They get better at things and find things they don’t like. That’s how I intend to start my next 30 years.