Thursday, February 25, 2010

Have I betrayed my childhood self?

IMG_0018 - Copy I can recall the big questions I wondered about as a child (I was a frequent and vivid wonderer):

What will I be when I grow up?
Who will I marry? (Will she be beautiful?)
Where will I live?
What will my kids be like?
How old will I be when I die?

I remember some of the promises I made to myself as a child:

I will let my kids stay up as late as they want to.
I will eat dessert whenever I want to.
I will become rich.
I will become famous.
Nobody will ever tell me what to do.

I didn’t keep any of those promises.

Less evolved Mitch (Mitch of only a few years ago) sometimes felt guilty about failing to live up to his childhood expectations. More evolved Mitch understands that I hold no obligations to my childhood self. Screw him. He didn't know what he was talking about. He was just a kid.  Granted, he was a darn cute kid, but a kid nonetheless. 

We hold up our childhood dreams in false esteem, especially the famous few among us who actually achieve them- “ever since I first picked up a baseball I knew I wanted to pitch in the World Series.” We formulate these dreams to serve a developmental purpose, not as a blueprint for our life. Our childhood dreams are misguided because children cannot appreciate life’s complexities, and don’t comprehend its subtleties. The degree of wisdom necessary to do so is acquired later in life, if at all.

In retrospect, these are the questions I should have pondered as a child:

Will I be lucky enough to find real love? (I was)
Will I have my health? (I did for the first 38 years)
Will I lead a happy and contented life? (I have)
Will I have a fulfilling career? (for the most part, I did not)
Will I be a good person? (with some exceptions, I think I have been)

And these are the promises I should have made to myself when I was a kid:

I will not feel that life owes me anything, as it is a privilege to simply be alive.
I will not waste precious time on jealousy and hatred.
I will remember to stop and smell the roses.
I will not take my good fortune for granted.
I will be a contributing member of society.
I will live each day as if it will be my last.
I will be true to my family and friends.
I will not be mean spirited.
I will be a lifelong learner.
I will be reliable.
I will be humble.
Even if life becomes difficult, I will persevere.

Would I have kept these promises? Let’s just say that at age 46, I’m still a work in progress.

So, have I been true to my childhood self? If he could have seen the future, he would have considered his (my) life to be a failure. But childhood Mitch just wasn’t smart enough to understand what a good life looks like. How could he have? He was just a kid.


  1. Great post Mitch, and perfect for me to read on my birthday!

  2. Nurse Cindy likes this!
    Hope to see you soon!

  3. Wonderful writing -- so wistful...really got me thinking!

  4. From one work in progress to another, great blog.
    I also found real love at a very young age.
    My body is failing but my mind is healthy.
    I am leading a happy and contented life.
    I did have a fulfilling career. I LOVED my job.
    I've tried my best to be a good person.

    I like your promises too. It's never too late, but for as short a time as I've "known" you it seems like you can check those things off too.

  5. If you're a work in progress, it has a lot to show for it -- wisdom, generosity in sharing your knowledge with the rest of us, and an indomitable spirit. Thank you for all you do.
    Judy (also a WIP)

  6. My childhood self would be cracking up, she was a morbid little beast, and never expected to wind up "grown!" But she dragged me along into adulthood, so I guess we would be laughing together.

    Thanks for snapping me out of my MS mopes.

  7. Great thoughts Mitch. If we all could live up to those ideals the world would be a better place. I especially like the thought about our lives being a work in progress. One more thing, in my eyes you are famous!

  8. Sarah!!!,

    Did you legally add those exclamation points after your name? That is so cool. I hope you had a happy b-day.

    Nurse Cindy,

    Are you the naughty nurse in my dreams?


    I'm glad this post got you thinking.
    I guess that's all its intended to do.


    We're either a work in progress or we're hopeless I think. So WIP may be the highest attainable state of being. Glad you liked this post.


    Thanks for your kind words. I do enjoy keeping up this blog. It gives me some sense of purpose.


    Those damn MS mopes! I'm glad you and your childhood self may have reconciled.


    Wouldn't you know...of either rich or famous I end up the latter. That won't pay for a trip to Cancun! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

  9. Hi everybody! I do not know where to begin but hope this site will be useful for me.
    In first steps it is very good if someone supports you, so hope to meet friendly and helpful people here. Let me know if I can help you.
    Thanks in advance and good luck! :)

  10. You were a cute little boy, what happened? :)

  11. Great post, Mitch. I once promised myself that if I hadn't already, when I turned 35 I would drop everything and go spend a year in some small village in the south of France. Didn't do it, kinda wish I had.

    Don't know you well, but from what I do know, you turned out alright. You learned (are learning) all the right stuff. Life is what happens while we're making plans...

  12. Kim,

    Ouch. As retribution for your comment I've cancelled the order of 12 long stemmed roses I had placed for today.

    Wheelchair Kamikaze,

    Thanks. Ah, those promises we make...I've stopped calling them promises though. With this disease, we can't be held to lofty goals. "I'll get up tomorrow," is sometimes a significant accomplishment, and should be recognized as such.

  13. As a child I pondered more of the questions that you thought you should have. Most of my answers today would have been yes except for the health and rewarding job. Both cut short by MS.
    As for the promises I to am still a work in progress. I have good and bad days and as I watch my babies run through the house I regret every bad day.

  14. Mitch,

    A very cute boy has turned into a very fine man. I can imagine how proud of you your mother would be if she were alive today.

    I'd like to share your reflections with my soon to be 15-year old son.

    Thanks for all you are and for all you do!

  15. Centenniel,

    If you can get your teenage son to read my blog, then you are doing better than I am with mine!