On Presidents and Not Feeling Like a Grown-Up

With the Presidential inauguration today, I was thinking about what a tremendous amount of responsibility comes with the job. I mean, who actually feels qualified to take it on? He’s not all that much older than I am, President Obama. But when a pale shadow of the responsibility he shoulders falls over my life, my blood pressure rises as my confidence falls.

Put me in front of a desk, with a banker behind it, and watch how my hand trembles as I sign the mortgage papers. (As an aside, here’s further evidence of my immaturity – any time I have to sign official papers, I like to pretend I’m signing the Declaration of Independence, or else a pardon for Sirius Black.) But, back to the mortgage. Even though I have a life-long history of behaving responsibly with money, I still can’t believe someone will trust me with a loan amount that contains a comma. Imagine taking on the national debt.

“When I’m a grown-up…” These words echoed through my childhood. The prelude to my vows about the decisions I’d make, the ways in which I would take charge. But the truth is this: ever since I’ve been a grown-up, I’ve felt like a fraud.

On the rare occasion I have to call a professional of some sort, an attorney for instance, I always half-expect them to tell me to put my father on the phone. I wonder how Barack Obama felt the first time he dialed up Vladimir Putin.

Once, when my kids were little, I pointed to them and said to their dad, “We made new people. Other human beings. Are we allowed to do that?”

Sometimes it gobsmacks me, the knowledge that I was allowed to do such a monumental thing. And then there were all of the decisions that followed. Huge decisions sometimes. Decisions about schooling and medical treatments, decisions that shape their very lives. And I have to make those decisions, even when the voice inside me is yelling, “I don’t know what’s best. Ask someone who knows. Ask a grown-up.”

I agonize, because what I do will change the lives of two people. Multiply that by 150,00 million. Wow. I wouldn’t take it on.

 

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