The Second Third, Week 14: Not Giving a Damn

Blogger’s Note: Yes, yes…most of you know, but occasionally I get a new visitor. So in case you’re that guy or gal, the whole idea behind these “Second Third” posts can be found here.

My father’s machinist-mentor Chuck used to have a slogan hanging on the wall of his shop, and to this day, Dad continues to quote it: Old age and treachery will overcome youth and skill. As you might guess, not being particularly skillful, I spent most of my youth thoroughly overcome by the treacherous old fellow.

Dad genuinely has different abilities and interests than me — that’s part of it — not to mention vastly more experience. But as I’ve become a father myself and watched my own children gaze in wide wonder at my courage, skill, knowledge, and strength, I find things that used to be a struggle come easier to me. In this respect, life in my Second Third is vastly more enjoyable that the previous 35 years — and I believe I know why.

See, when I was a kid, I was worried about million different things: screwing up, failing, disappointing myself, letting others down, looking stupid, getting hurt, hurting someone else, you name it. As the young samurai says in The Last Samurai, “Too many mind.” I was so wound up about about everything, so lacking in self-confidence, that I couldn’t accomplish anything without a messing up. My worries were often self-fulfilling prophecies.

My friend Father Tyler made a similar observation when he turned 30 last month: “[T]he pride which so hobbled my willingness to try then has been tempered. At thirty (especially as a professed celibate) it is much easier to not give a damn about how foolish one appears.”

I am not a professed celibate, but I can relate. I’m still not graceful, not mechanically inclined, etc. — but I can do many things I never used to simply because I’m no longer so tightly wound about them. Because I’m more secure in myself than I used to be, I can work within my limitations, ask questions, and be more patient — and it pays off more often than not.* In my Second Third, many** of the things that used to stress me and hold me back simply don’t concern me anymore. And as Fr. Tyler so aptly concluded, “To not give a damn, I am coming to understand, is one of the richest graces of full-fledged adulthood.”

*Of course, being 6’3″ and about 240 helps, too, at least in terms of striking fear in children, and intimidation, like treachery, goes a long way in overcoming youthful prowess. And if I force it — and I do from time to time — I still fall flat.

**Not quite all…but I’m working on it.

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