Boyhood Lessons at Manhood
On my 21st birthday I made a list of all the things I wanted to accomplish before my 30th birthday. I’m sure many of you have made such a list. This is the list of wistful ambitions and dreams we make before the conflicts of life tire us and mar our focus of making these dreams a reality. While I certainly had my share of lofty ambitions some of my goals were simple. These were the things I never learned from my father as a child.
Don’t get me wrong. My father was absolutely WONDERFUL! I loved him dearly and he was indeed my hero. However unlike the other boys I grew up with, there were a lot of lessons I never learned. Maybe it was due to the fact that my father was always on the mission field caring for the hearts of the people or perhaps it was due to the almost 50 year gap in our age… Whatever the reason may have been I ended up learning lessons about things such as male responsibilities, sex, adventures and survival all on my own. While my Dad had been a diver and an athlete in his day, I never learned to swim, throw a ball, or even ride a bike.
Naturally I never broadcasted my inabilities because of a secret fear that society might deem me as less of a man. For the most part this did not matter anyway because the things that I grew to value were art, music and books. However recently, as I wrap up the decade of my twenties and prepare for marriage to an athletic nature lover, the desire to know these things surfaced. While I once vowed to be a conformed bachelor, I now entertain the thought of fatherhood in the near future and dream of the legacy I wish to pass on to my son.
Since I moved to LA away from the crazy deadlines and mindless rushing of city life, I have discovered new pleasures and risks. Last week, another opportunity for yet another boyhood lesson presented itself when my roommate proposed that our friend Nichole and myself join him for a day of biking at the beach. My first inclination was to decline or make up an excuse of how I would much rather run at the beach. Of course they saw right through me and it was decided that I would ride a bike that day for the first time in my life!
I felt my heart racing as we drove to Santa Monica beach and parked. With the encouragement of my friends, I got on the bicycle and of course wobbled dangerously. To my embarrassment, I felt the eyes of strangers on me as I failed to stay upright on the bike. Nichole cheered me on like a loyal cheerleader as my roommate strapped on his roller skates and steadied the bike with his firm grip on my seat. Ironically, Dustin was also the same friend who sat beside me on my first roller coaster ride a year ago, took my hand as I ventured into the ocean for the first time in years, taught me how to stay afloat in the water, and how to throw and catch a baseball. He is a little bit younger than me, and yet now I found myself like a vulnerable child as this all American man coached me patiently with the utmost care.
Just 30 minutes after I began my lesson, I found victory. I cannot describe the thrill I felt the first time I took off on my own after Dustin released his grip on my seat. It took a second to realize that I was actually doing this on my own. Nichole cheered excitedly and Dustin yelled excitedly as if he had just thought his child to walk. I felt less like a challenged 29yr old and more like a 9yr old who had just been given a new gift of freedom. I rode fast feeling the sea breeze on my face. All of a sudden, my dreams of riding along the beach with my new bride was a definite possibility. In fact the possibilities seemed endless.
I continued to feel triumph long after we tied up the bike and charged into the cold ocean under the golden sun. Who says that boyhood lessons can only be learned at an early age? At the end of my 20s, I have only just begun to discover some of the most glorious pleasures of being alive on this wonderful earth…