…is the price of their toys, or so they say. Well, they’re wrong. I’ve recently spent some time thinking about my own transition from boyhood to manhood, and I’ve tried to pinpoint as nearly as I can the moment when I became a man.
Truth is, it had nothing to do with my ‘toys.’ It also didn’t have anything to do with my age, my experiences, my successes or failures, or the knowledge I gained along the way. It mostly had to do with perpetual discontent and the decision to take my life into my own hands.
‘I understood that I was only one man in the world. Nothing more, nothing less.’ – Odysseus, ‘Odyssey’
As a boy, I didn’t really have anything of my own. Sure, I had things, but there was nothing I could really point to and say, ‘That’s mine. I built that.’ Relationships, life decisions – It was all sort of a passive position where I let others make my choices, where I let Fate decide what happened to me. I simply persisted at the mercy of whatever situation I found myself drowning in.
Perhaps it was my hope for something better. Perhaps it was my high expectations and standards. Perhaps it was my unquenchable thirst for fulfillment and enrichment that drove me to the perpetual disappointment of how Fate was treating me. No matter how long I waited, no matter how promising the situation, I was always disappointed and unfulfilled.
‘A man chooses. A slave obeys.’ – Andrew Ryan, ‘Bioshock’
One day, that changed. I remember the very day that something ‘clicked’ inside my head, something that told me with all certainty that if I was to ever find the things I dreamed about, I was going to have to make it happen. That’s the day when I became an active pursuer of my own life. In many ways, I left behind the life that I was born into to pioneer an entirely new life in a world that was completely alien to me. In a sense, I ‘carved out’ a new life – something that was me, not something that was given to me or imposed upon me. ‘That’s mine. I built that.’
‘I’m not asking you to allow it, Gandalf.’ – Bilbo Baggins, ‘The Hobbit’
I know men nearly twice my age who still simply persist. They let circumstance choose for them. They let their friends choose for them. They let their wives and families choose for them. They let the government choose for them. They are still boys. That ‘click’ doesn’t always happen in a boy’s mind, and honestly, I don’t know why it does or doesn’t. But every man I know has had that time when the reality strikes that he must step up to the plate. Sometimes, it’s when a son has to fill his father’s place and take care of his mother and siblings. Sometimes, it’s when a father looks into the eyes of his young wife or newborn baby and realizes that they’re depending on him for survival. That’s when the boy fades away into the background and the man emerges. Unfortunately, many guys never reach that point, despite their successes, responsibilities, or possessions.
No. It’s not the price of our toys.