When love sneaks up on you, or: The rest of my life starts now

The day I realized I'd changed

4 minute read
Jean Antoine Beranger's 'The Young Parents': My priorities changed.
Jean Antoine Beranger's 'The Young Parents': My priorities changed.
I was sitting alone at an empty gate at the Philadelphia airport, on my way to Florida to visit a childhood friend, the best man at my wedding.

All week I'd eagerly anticipated a long weekend of hanging out and partying with my buddy, with whom I've shared many hilarious and stupid youthful days and nights. I was singularly happy to visit my friend until the moment after my wife dropped me off. Knowing that I'd be apart from her for the first time in several months made me feel sad almost as soon as I entered the airport.

Yes, I had a good time with my old buddy. I ate too much, drank too much, stayed up much later than usual, and forgot my day-to-day cares. Even so, in my heart I would rather have been home with my pregnant wife.

My wife, then and now

It sounds stupid to have to explain that, yes indeed, you do love your wife. But I'm in my late 20s and my wife has been part of my life since I was 16. So my love for her was growing all of those years while I too was growing as a young adult male and doing all kinds of stupid stuff.

Those two parts of my life never stood out in stark contrast to each other. In fact, they were completely melded together. I never had a moment when I got married where I had to say goodbye to my past, because my wife was part of my past.

I guess this is my way of saying that love can sneak up on you even when you've known what it looks like for years.

In the past, when I was leaving to do something I really wanted to do, I missed my wife, but I genuinely felt I was doing what I wanted to do. This time around, strangely, my fun adventure felt somehow more like a chore that I had to finish so that I could see my wife again. I didn't want it that way; my priorities had simply changed.

Glimmers of mom-ness

In college my most forward-thinking plans extended no further than where to hang out next weekend. Now my priorities are rooted in the well-being of the person I've loved for years and the child that we have created.

That kind of drastic shift in thinking doesn't occur overnight. But when you're exposed daily to a dynamic object, the dynamism can be difficult to detect. In the same way that it was difficult to recognize a day-to-day physical change in my wife over the course of nine months, I hadn't noticed a change in my thinking and priorities over the past several years. My changes have been mental, not physical, but in both cases the change has been right there in front of me.

Since the day I learned that I was going to be a father, I've felt more in tune with my wife. She's an amazing person who sacrificed much more than I did to bring our daughter into the world. And during the pregnancy, I began to see little glimmers of mom-ness in things about her that might have annoyed me before. In the past her meticulous approach to plans and schedules bugged me, since I instinctively preferred to fly by the seat of my pants. Now I appreciated her advance research about our daughter and found myself relaxing in the knowledge that she was bearing much of our burden.

Impending fatherhood made me realize that life goes by quickly, but changes don't erase what you've done and who you are. In fact, they define who you are.

Returning from my mini-vacation, I felt like I was returning to real life. Yes, I had some good memories and met some cool people over the weekend, but it was clear that my priorities were now different.

Even your small, seemingly insignificant interactions with the world around you, I now realize, are constantly forming you and carving your personality slowly, much the way a river carves the land over several millennia. These incremental transformations ensure that you change without noticing that you've changed. Could this realization be the beginning of wisdom?

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