We’ve all heard (and perhaps experienced) the reality of not knowing what we have until it’s gone. Well, that pretty much sums up my first day without my mom and brothers. I thought I was doing pretty well for myself on my own. I had found a cardboard box that seemed cozy outside a restaurant that smelled like the delicious steak my mom and brothers had once shared. Moreover, I was on my own without needing to compete with my brothers for attention, food, or decisions on what to explore that day. Life was good…for about five minutes.
That is about how long it took for me to realize how lonely I was without my family. It was only about another minute that I realized how sparse the garbage at the restaurant was. Then it started raining right through my cardboard box. At least with my family around, I had love and warmth, which fed the soul more than I realized.
And so began the litany of questions that came along with being a premature adult. “Adult life is dealing with an enormous amount of questions that don’t have answers,” American musician Bruce Springsteen once said. He nailed it on the head with that one. Where had my mom and brothers gone and why was I not with them now? Will I ever see them again?
Questions don’t always have answers in adulthood. I didn’t ever see them again, but I’ve resolved to no longer be sad about that. I would have given anything in that moment to be wrestling with my brothers or getting scolded by my mom. Instead, I was on my own. A grown up. What that day taught me was that grown up is better as a state of mind than it is in practicality.
It breaks my heart to see the little people in my life trying to be “grown up” so soon. I wish I could tell them somehow that it’s actually not that great. I find some odd irony in the truth that (in my opinion) the best thing about being an adult is learning to be better with each passing day. I’ve said before that nothing is worthless if a lesson is learned and I truly believe that. “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether twenty or eighty,” said the founder of Ford Motor Company Henry Ford. “Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep you mind young.”
I feel the most grown up when I realize how much I have yet to learn. If grown up is a state of mind that I’m forever young. At the dog age of four, most dog-to-people age calculations put me at about 30 years old in people years. Regardless of how it’s calculated, my time on this Earth has taught me to seek answers in what we have now. Before it’s gone.