I’m having a panic attack.
It’s not your normal kind of attack. I’m not stressing over work or home. It’s not a mid-life crisis. I have no desire to run into work, throw my laptop onto my boss’ desk and get on the first plane to Hawaii or the Maldives or run to the nearest car dealer and come home with a flashy new convertible. I have to admit the trip to Hawaii wouldn’t be half bad.
No, I’m panicking, because in a few days my daughter will turn 21. I’m extremely happy for her, but I’m having a tough time with the milestone. I’ve known this day has been coming. She’s matured in front of my eyes from a bright-eyed, studious high school student to an energetic, passionate, young woman full of ideas and beliefs on how to make the world a better place. She’s mature beyond her years and wiser than some people twice or three times her age.
Two decades and then some
No, I’m fine with the choices she’s making with her life. The problem is me. I remember turning 21. I remember how I felt, how I looked forward to the special day, and what was going through my mind. I’m not talking especially about being of legal age to enter a bar and order a beer or an alcoholic drink. Sure that was fun getting together with friends and celebrating. In particular, I remember my friends buying me one too many shots of Wild Turkey bourbon. While fun for the night, I’m talking broadly about the excitement and anticipation of my early 20s.
Where I sit now, nearing middle-age, my high school years feel like an eternity, elementary school feels downright prehistoric. However, my twenties and early thirties, including walking across the podium to pick up my college diploma; moving to Washington, D.C. to kick-start my career; and meeting my future wife, well, those years are fresh in my memory. I think they stick out so much in my mind, because I took such bold steps out of my comfort zone. I worked without a net and challenged myself to see what I could make of myself.
Just a dad
When I mention this to my daughter, she gives me a polite laugh. She’s known me all her life simply as “dad.” She never met me as a 20-something with a few bucks in my pocket and a head full of dreams. To her, I’m the guy who sends encouraging notes in the mail, and if she’s lucky, maybe a few dollars stuck in between the pages; the guy, who asks when she’s coming home next; the guy who dresses out-of-style, but is there for her when she needs someone to listen. I’m just dad.
So I’m working through my panic and anxiety of her birthday. In the end, I’ve decided that my best course of action is to simply step back and be happy for my daughter. You’re only 21 once and I want her to make the most of the time.
Happy Birthday Baby Girl!