I once heard a woman describe her husband as the hardest working man she knows. I can't remember if it was in passing, over the radio, in person, or what, but I do remember, very vividly, that in that moment I thought it was the greatest possible compliment anyone (especially a woman) can bestow on a man. I decided right then that, if ever I was able, this is something I wanted people to say about me.
This was fairly long ago, and many things have happened since those days of being a new husband and green young man. I have not always been the man I envisioned that I'd become. In fact, there are very memorable occasions when I've been more like the men I loathed growing up. I suppose these realizations and self-disappointments are part of every man's maturation, and maybe every man takes them as hard as I have, but some days I feel like I'm at the bottom of the barrel as good men go.
I'm still disappointing myself, cheating myself out of what was in my school days an overly-celebrated potential. Maybe I still have that much potential; I'm inclined to think I may even have more (though with considerably less time to realize it.) Certainly I'm still bright, though over the years I've felt the keen edge of my mind dull, and watched my energy and awareness of the world around me shrink to the size of a two-story colonial. I know I have so much--I know so many men, much more successful than me by standard measures, would gladly trade places with me for one reason or another. But this only serves to remind me that, by not making myself the best man I'm capable of being, I'm failing not only myself, but now my beautiful, healthy family. And that makes me the worst kind of man there is.
I'm by far not the hardest working man I (and certainly not my wife) know, but maybe I can still strive for something just as good. To the people I love, I still want to be at the top of some list. Any list so long as I'm at the top. The lists I'm going for now are related more to caring, showing and teaching love, searching for inner peace, and providing a healthy and happy life for my family. But the more I think about it, the more I tend to believe that, the higher I get on all those lists, and all the other smaller ones I try to be on, the closer I will get to becoming that one thing I've always dreamed of being.