The Wonder Of Christmas
Christmas, for me, was a time of pilgrimage. I couldn’t wait. I would count down the days. I would go on an adventure pilgrimage.
This pilgrimage didn’t include family. Christmas was a time of escape, not of bonding and sharing, not of the gratitude towards my family. No. I was too young to be tied down to all that. Life was too short. The world was full of adventures and I wanted to have them all.
For many years my adventure pilgrimage was to Florida. I would go for a month with a small group of people that I would teach to skydive. We’d go to Skydive DeLand – a mecca for skydiving set between Orlando and Daytona Beach. We’d skydive hard and enjoy the local sights on the odd day off. We’d make friends.
Each year I’d return. The friends I’d made would become better friends. I’d make new ones too. The skydivers became a family. Our backgrounds, our jobs, our ages, our ethnicity didn’t matter. We had a common bond – we jumped out of planes. Those that have done it will understand. Those of you that haven’t won’t quite understand – that’s ok though, the point is we bonded, we had something in common that no-one could take from us. We really did become family to each other.
It’s only now, in my older (late 30s), arguable slightly wiser, arguably more mature (although I still think I’m Peter Pan) family orientated life with an awesome 12 week old baby, that I look back and wonder.
I wonder if what I did was right. I wonder if I used my time correctly. I wonder if I went on the right adventures. I wonder what else I missed.
There is no doubt – I had an amazing time in those years. I really did join an amazing family. I had adventures that many people will spend their life time dreaming about. But what did I miss?
The Opportunity Cost
Opportunity cost is a micro-economic term first used by an Austrian economist, Friedrich von Wieser, 100 years ago. Essentially it’s the principle that the opportunity cost of a choice is the value of the best alternative that is forgone. The cost of my adventures to Florida each Christmas time was the cost of the opportunity that I missed out on.
I wonder what I should have done. I wonder what my next best opportunity was.
Of course, I could have gone on many other adventures but there’s one that I missed more. One adventure that I can’t replay in the same way.
I missed out on the family Christmas. Sure, I was with my skydiving family. But I wasn’t with my family. I wasn’t with my mother. I wasn’t with my father. I wasn’t with other close family members.
Missing out for the odd year, here or there, is fine. But missing out on multiple occasions makes me wonder. Now, as a new father, I wonder more.
There will be a time when my son will be fully grown and departing on his adventures. I’ll encourage him and smile and hope he has an amazing time, learning so many life lessons that you can really only fully learn by experiencing life yourself, making your own mistakes. But I’ll wish he was at home with my wife and I.
Taking For Granted
My family, the family that has done so much for me over the years, the ones that have been there at a drop of a hat, unquestioning, even when I am in the wrong, never once begrudged my travels. They never once moaned that I went away, experiencing life in the way that I chose to experience it. Escaping the confines of Christmas conformity.
But I wonder if I didn’t need to jump quite so far out on a limb. I wonder if I could have spent time celebrating a traditional family Christmas AND time with my skydiving family. Of course, I wouldn’t have had quite as long with the skydiving family but I would have been able to spend time with my close family, the ones that are always, always there for me.
I wonder, as I look back at life with the fresh eyes of a new father, if I was too selfish. I wonder, looking back through these eyes, if I needed to give back, to share. It was never asked of me, it was never expected. Yet, as slowly I develop an ounce of empathy and, selfishly, consider what life as a father will look like for me, I wonder if I should have done more.
If life ever takes a horrible turn and you need someone, unquestioningly to have your back, to be there for you, at any time of the day or night, who would it be? Family are the ones that are there. Maybe, just maybe you should invest that little bit of time with them now. And maybe, you might actually enjoy it. The years will fly and these opportunities will disappear, opportunities that you can never get back.
I have one request this Christmas, one call to action: don’t take your family for granted – ask yourself what you can do for them.
Main photo by Michael Li.