When You Recognize Loss, That Is When You Know You Have Entered Adulthood

As any person in the field can tell you, the IT department is not a place where there are a lot of young people. Most of the people I work with are in their late 30s or older. Almost all of them are married and have kids. Once you start working full time, the circle of people you hang out with narrows drastically. It gets even worse when you’re living alone.

I spent a lot of time alone the first year out of college. Most of it was spent playing video games and watching TV. I was on friendly terms with my coworkers, but outside of a monthly poker group, I never really hung out with them after hours. I decided to join a recreational softball league to meet people.

I never played a lot of sports growing up, but something clicked. I was hooked right from the start. I wasn’t very good and the level of play wasn’t very competitive, but I got a huge adrenaline rush every time the ball was live, whether I was in the play or not. And then in the third game of the season, I dislocated my shoulder after I tripped trying to field a ball.

The first time my shoulder dislocated, I was in high school. It kept dislocating in college so I decided to have it operated on. The recovery process was long and painful. But it had been 3 years since my shoulder popped out so I figure that issue was behind me. But that third game of softball brought that all back. Despite the fact that my shoulder was unstable again, I kept playing.

My shoulder popped out a few more times after that. Twice while throwing and once while sliding. I bit the bullet again and had another surgery performed. I still play softball, but I don’t slide anymore. I also changed up my throwing motion at the expense of distance. I simply don’t trust my shoulder anymore.

I’ve always wanted to do something like Warrior Dash or Tough Mudder, but I look at the obstacles and think “that’s a great way for me to dislocate my shoulder” and then decide not to try. I’m also a lot more careful when I run or do any other kind of physical activity. I’m constantly afraid that I’ll blow out my knee. Recovering from a shoulder injury is long and arduous; I can only imagine that lower body injuries are even worse. 

For the first thirty or so years of the average American life, the trajectory is up and out. You grow bigger and stronger. You accumulate knowledge and experience. Your legal rights expand. Everything is a story of gaining stuff. And it creates this attitude of invincibility. Your entire life up to this point has been a story of growth and acquisition. Why would tomorrow be different?

But inevitably, sometime in the future, tomorrow will be different. You wake up and something gets taken from you. You find out that you’re not as energetic as you used to be. Or find your hair thinning. Maybe your metabolism slows down or you can’t bounce back as easily after a night of hard partying and drinking. It’s not limited to your body either. Get married and have kids? Now you have a family to lose. You’re now at a stage in your life where it’s a slow glide downhill. Where the remaining milestones in your life will be marked by loss rather than gain.

There have been a lot of people writing about the transition into adulthood. The lines have gotten blurrier. Society is extending adolescence well into the twenties, and in some cases, into the thirties. But it can’t extend it past the point where you stop feeling invincible. Where you are suddenly aware of your own mortality. And the impermanence of the people and things around you.

People change once they start thinking in those terms. That anything can be taken from them at any time. I think that is what separates adults from kids, the recognition of loss. And not just a superficial understanding of that concept. When you start modifying your behavior. When you start devoting more time and resources to protecting what you have as opposed to getting something you don’t have.

Because even though all things are temporary, we find ourselves bargaining for more time. In the beginning, we are ignorant. In the end, the only thing left is acceptance. But in the middle, there is striving. That is adulthood. TC mark

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