Having kids makes the future closer and more substantial

“Ten years from now” used to feel like a long, long, really long way away. Won’t I pretty much be an old man by then? Will I even still be alive when I reach that age? It was difficult to imagine, and there was no need to try.

It’s having kids that has upended my sense of perspective. Ten years from now my children will still be pretty young. And so will I! Right? I’ll be healthy and strong and with a whole life ahead of me!

Being able to think in terms of years and decades in that new way has had some big implications for how I think about my time and my habits in the short term.

Studying a language on Duolingo for two or three years years used to sound like a terribly long, tedious, painful, boring prospect. But if it’s easy to imagine a moment ten years from now, then that two-year stint ahead of me now is hardly a bump on the road.

If I have a reading project that will take years before it gives me any sort of impressive payoff for my studiousness, then looking at it from the standpoint of the present makes it feel futile and overwhelming. Looking at it from a perspective that’s rooted five years in the future, or ten, or fifteen, makes it something exhilarating. Just think how much I will know when this project is in the rearview mirror!

I’ve heard that it’s hard to sustain excitement over a long time. I find that that’s not necessarily true. If I can keep the longer perspective in view, and see who I will become, and how easy the process of getting there is as long as I’m patient, I find I’m invariably able to feel great anticipation.

And sustaining excitement like that is exactly what it takes to stick with a project and make it a reality, which makes subsequent projects all the more plausible and exciting. It’s a virtuous circle. One of many gifts I did not expect to receive from my children.

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