In the family room of my parents' house, on the glass table beside the couch, sits a small, framed picture. In the picture is the smiling face of an innocent and hopeful 7-year-old boy. To this day, my mother praises this picture, noting how it is the best Mother's Day present she ever received from me.
I have shown this picture to many people over the course of time. The most popular response tends to be, "what happened to him?" The question is asked in jest each time, but I sometimes think about it on a more serious note.
What happened to you, little one? Your imagination was inspiring, and your innocence was refreshing. You wanted to be an artist, a paleontologist, an astronaut, a movie star, and a robot (though not all at the same time). When you were born, you were adored by everyone near you. You were a miracle. You should have died, but you endured. As you grew, people expected amazing things from you.
Those were many winters ago. Am I still that? When did you stop being innocent? When did you stop being so imaginative? Did the burden of the world crush you under its heel, or are you still pushing back up for dear life? Have you smiled that same hopeful smile since?
I gaze upon this photo often as a form of self-reflection. I have come a long way, but has it been in the right direction? Most would agree that I've achieved all I have set my mind to in this world, and some still feel like I have only scratched the surface. I have my own place and car. I am an accountant, like my father before me.
In many ways I want more from myself. My family came from near nothingness - simple farmers and fishermen - to ascend to what they are. That little boy was sheltered and had a lot handed to him to make something out of himself. I am not sated. I want my own ascension. I want to surpass. I want to show others that I can forge greatness with these two hands, which were once so small and unblemished. Only then can I truly be proud of myself. Only then can I face my family with the fullest of confidence to show them that I am worth my weight in the most precious of substances.
While they may love me regardless of how far my reach extends, I will never forgive myself if I cannot demonstrate within me the same qualities that make my family great.
Do you have it in you, little one?