In one grandpa

My family was sharing holiday memories around the dinner table this Christmas.

Grandpa’s story began along the lines of “we were going there by horse drawn carriage, as this was still before the time people drove cars during winter.”

My eyes sprang up from my Instagram feed and I spat a mouthful of tofurkey clear across the table.

Grandpa was a kid before people drove cars in winter?!

I understand prairie winters are harsher than other winters and this probably made a difference. And I probably learned the timeline of automobile adoption during school. But still…

I know my grandpa.

In fact I’ve known my Grandpa for nearly 30% of his life. And here he was intimately remembering a time before cars. A time that was real at some not-too-distant point in his still ongoing life. 

And there I’d been earlier that same day, complaining to my girlfriend about how I’d like to start using our car less.

In one grandpa the world has gone from not being able to use cars, to reaching a point where we’re looking for alternatives to cars.

In one grandpa we’ve gone from the internet not existing to internet on airplanes, from no fast food to McDonalds selling a billion burgers, and from no tv to live-streaming videogames. 

In one grandpa the entire history of space travel has taken place.

In one grandpa the world’s population has also more than tripled. Nearly 500 species have gone extinct, the world’s temperature has climbed ten times faster than average, and we coined the terms “global warming” and then “climate change”.

In one Grandpa we realized black lives matter. That women matter.

As I sat across the table from my grandpa, listening to his story about a time before cars, contemplating all that’s happened during his one single lifetime, two thoughts came to mind:

If we can accomplish all that in one grandpa, I have no excuse to limit myself.

Lately I’ve been struggling with a midway to midlife crisis. 

I have a university degree but was it the right one? Am I headed down the wrong career path? Is it too late for me to learn to code? Should I work hard now to retire early, or focus on having fun while I’m young and healthy? Is it already too late for me to live up to my potential?

I often oversimplify life into school > work > retirement > done, and underappreciate the vast, limitless opportunity waiting in every moment along the way.

“It is a shame to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which your body is capable.” – Socrates (paraphrased)

If so much can be achieved in one grandpa, then my fear-based doubts, complacency, and resignations are bullshit. 

And if we can accomplish all that in one grandpa, will the world survive another?

I suppose everything depends on what the next batch of grandpas, grandmas, abuelas, grand-pères, 祖母, and nonnos choose to do.


Because one grandpa is enough to change the world.