So what's a young guy to do on spring break at 21?
On a whim, I met my brother in Tijuana, then biked and bused and hitchhiked the Baja Peninsula.
Well, because: why not?
Biking the Baja.
It had a good ring to it.
The Baja is great because you’re never more than 100km from the sea. The hot desert sun gives way to the cooler coast air as you make your way down into the fishing villages.
The half-baked "plan" was hatched the week before.
"Hey, Pat. I've been thinking of going to Mexico."
"Ya, me too."
"I think - like - maybe next week."
We bought plane tickets and were off.
Bikes were an afterthought for this "plan". We managed to get a good few hundred kilometres out of the "chafa" bikes we got swindled into buying once we got there, only thanks to an amigo who gifted us a wrench so that we could put our pedals on every time they fell off.
We made a game out of finding the cheapest tacos you could eat; which went ok for a while because they were all delicious.
Then came the 50-cent tacos.
Don’t try the 50-cent tacos.
When we drove into La Paz we couldn't find a soul. The fairly large city was completely dead. Vanished into the abyss.
Then we got to the main strip by the beach and realized it was Carnival; we found the people.
All the people.
Bros on the large.
That “me” was one I enjoyed.
In my early twenties, I’d bounce between classes and sports and trips and jobs that took me all over the country in the rugged outdoors, where I'd get to take a helicopter to work.
I made the trip back to Mexico four times. I was able to make what I wanted of pretty much most of my time.
But then I met Aleisha.
For young guys settling down has a hint of morbidity in it.
The thought of a house in the suburbs with a bunch of kids, a steady job, and the choice of Netflix or Disney Plus that evening you find time to watch something made me cringe.
There’s some truth to that in marriage.
It’s a death to self, a letting go, a giving beyond what you’d like.
The “I’d just like to take ONE shit in peace” sort of feeling.
You may be clinging desperately to your freedom and avoiding making the walk down the aisle because you don't want to get bogged down. You don't want to become boring.
I know I didn't.
You may be knee-deep in marriage and wondering what happened to the wind in your hair and the open road - wanting the freedoms from before.
I did for a long time.
But then I figured out that endings allow for new beginnings.
When I finally owned my dadhood, when I chose it;
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when I started to see the possibilities, it allows instead of looking back to the freedoms it closes the door on, marriage started to open up worlds that were unavailable to my non-hitched self.
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For the lucky few who find one, there’s a lot of freedom that comes from a stable relationship.
To come home to someone whose job it is to care how your day went; that’s wind in the sails.
And if she’s true, well, then she wants the best for you, and for the best part of you.
Take me and me writing kids' books and blogging, for example. I wallygaged for years before my wife finally sat me to down and said:
"You better get on it."
As a best friend, a good wife wants to see you prosper in all your God-given glory. She trusts you without effort. Supports you without compromise. She's someone you're able to scheme with. Dream with. Do better things than you’d be able to do on your own with.
This wasn’t supposed to be an ode to my wife, but here we are, and there you go.
I'm quite proud of what we've accomplished: both of us have masters, we've got six out-of-this-world kids, and we live in Catholic community on a farm that offers vacations to low-income families (waupoos.com). None of this would have been possible on my own.
My point is that the freedoms you give up earlier in life are freedoms for a time. Freedoms that bring a certain amount of excitement and self-fulfilment and purpose.
But they’re just that.
For a time.
Later-life freedoms are different. Not necessarily as exciting, but with more depth.
There are “fun-freedoms” in becoming dad. Nerf gun fights and trips to the water park, and hours playing LEGO. Middle-aged single men struggle to pull these off and retain their self-esteem.
But the goods - the real heart of the matter of becoming dad - are privileges of a tall order.
The first time you hold the soft, little thing that weighs a feather that you helped make.
That is a part of you.
Becoming the most significant figure in life of that little person. And then building them up with love and confidence until the can take on the world on their own.
These freedoms blow Mexico’s beaches out of the water.
This wasn't always clear to me. I longed for the me I was. The frivolity of no responsibility. To come and go and do as I pleased at any given point.
But gradually, it’s taken hold. The vision of what it is to be Dad and the good it does them.
But also - and likely, mostly - the good it does me.
The little people you help make are about the best reason going to become your best self.
There's a spiritual dimension to it, too. A training in what some call holiness.
When my 2-year-old says:
"Daddy, hold me."
I think to myself:
Now that's worth a few dozen books on how to pray.
What is afforded a husband, a father, in terms of the ability to be and do and love is freedom on a whole other level.
It’s an honour and a privilege.
As Yogi Beara would say, “it’s worth it all over again.”