I was upstairs when I heard two blood-curdling screams from outside my mom’s house, followed by, “Quick! Someone is here!”
My two children and their aunt were outside in the front yard.
As I rushed downstairs and out of the front door, I assumed someone was trying to either abduct or kill my children.
The reality was grisly but much less traumatic — my daughter hit her head on a swing, and blood gushed from the top of her head. And my sister didn’t say, “Quick! Someone is here!”
She said, “Quick! Someone come here!
After we completed the cleanup and wound kissing, I reflected on those few agonizing seconds. Reality aside, for just a moment, the horror was real.
In that brief instance, when I first heard the screams, I felt helpless. But I was the one who had to help. I couldn’t look to someone else to protect my children — that was my responsibility.
It was a sharp reminder that I’m no longer a carefree 18-year-old with no obligations, no sense of duty, and no sense of purpose. The 18-year-old that sometimes I forget I’m not. It wasn’t the first time I had come to such a realization. 2020 was a year of reflection — for me, and probably for you, too.
With more time at home than ever before, we could think through who we were, who we are, and who we intend to be. We also had more time to listen to music.
Songs resonate with us for different reasons, and often it’s only one line or one verse that hits just right. Spotify sent me a list of the songs I listened to most in 2020, and a few in the top five offer an insight into my emotional state from the year.
The number two song on my Spotify “Top Songs 2020” list was Alec Benjamin’s “Death of a Hero.”
That night I put my youth in a casket
And buried it inside of me
That night I saw through all the magic
Now I’m a witness to the death of a hero
In so many ways, I feel like I’ve put my youth in a casket. Maybe it didn’t happen in 2020, but I certainly became aware of it last year. Even though I feel youthful, I’m a 30-year-old Army officer with a growing family. I feel a deep sense of purpose that didn’t exist even six years ago.
As for the death of my hero, it isn’t a person but rather an idea — the idea that everything will be alright.
The pandemic response, racial unrest following the alleged murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, and protests of the results of a free and fair election highlighted deep flaws in our collective pursuit of a more perfect union.
If we can’t agree on simple truths — masks should be worn, Black Americans are not equal in our society, and Joe Biden won the 2020 election — what does our future look like?
It’s not as guaranteed as I once thought.
But regardless of which future we’re headed toward, time moves forward. At number four was Sasha Sloan’s “Older.”
The older I get, the more that I see
My parents aren’t heroes, they’re just like me
Like Sasha, I have come to realize that parents aren’t as perfect as I once thought. I am as flawed as my parents were, and I am more aware of that than ever before. What bad habits will my children learn from me? What moral failures will they repeat?
The responsibility of fatherhood weighed heavily on me this year, and I realized that I must model the behaviors and values that will be instilled in my children. (It’s a lot like leading soldiers!)
Rounding out the top five was JP Saxe’s “The Few Things.” 2020 was the year I spent more time with my wife and children than I ever will again. It was a time when it became clear that the building blocks to my future — however unguaranteed it may be — are already in place.
You’re one of the few things that I’m sure of
You’re one of the few things that I know already
I could build my world of
My reflective journey is not over, but I’m grateful that for all the awfulness that 2020 brought, it also brought a deeper understanding of my evolution into a bonafide adult.
It hasn’t been a sad journey, just heavy.
I sincerely hope you have a beautiful 2021, and may this be a year of personal and professional growth for us all.
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The views expressed are those of Brennan Randel and do not reflect the official position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or any government agency.