Thursday, June 2, 2011

Teddy Roosevelt and His Quarter-Life Crisis: Part I

Conveniently, as I write this, I am currently in North Dakota, home to the Roosevelt National Park.  I’ve been reading “The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt” and I found his mid twenties to be an interesting time period for him. He took off and lived in the Badlands for a while.  Now, a lot of my friends are going through this weird and awkward phase in life which now has a name called “the quarter-life crisis”.  Maybe a bit over dramatic, since it’s not really a crisis…maybe a confusing period, or a quarter life conflict.  It’s no different than what society accepts now as the mid-life crisis and I’m convinced those addressing the issues of the quarter life episode actually avoid the midlife scenario.  Assuming this is correct, I would rather opt for the quarter life than the midlife or be one of the rare few who blissfully go through neither.

Since a lot of my friends are facing the same challenges, this post is for you and I hope you’ll find it encouraging.  Firstly, you are not alone….a great man and president, Teddy Roosevelt himself faced the kind of questions you are facing now, that in itself should be encouraging, and I chose Teddy Roosevelt since he obviously worked through his issues and became a success….but here is what he did:

Teddy’s Quarter:
When Teddy was young, he had asthma and was a sickly child in general, most of his illness plagued him all through his life at different periods. Maybe this is what caused him to overcompensate in other areas of his life for when he was finally healthy enough he did everything from ranching to boxing to climbing mountains.  He had held a nostalgia for the cowboy/soldier way of life.  At the prime age of 25, despite dropping out of law school had much political success.  Being elected to the New York State Assembly a couple years earlier he was making a name for himself and his wife, Alice, was pregnant with their first child who would also be named Alice.  His early success suddenly came to a screeching halt when he received word that his mother and his wife were both dieing.  Both of them did in fact die on the same day.  Suddenly, at 25 yrs old, Teddy found himself alone with a 2 day old daughter, just lost the 2 most important women in his life and on the same day.  He was so devastated that he couldn't even raise his daughter for the first couple years of her life.  He did not intend to ever get back into politics or had any aspirations for anything else.  If you think you have problems, imagine swallowing that pill.  After this and facing political defeats in the Assembly, Roosevelt fled for the Badlands of North Dakota where he purchased two ranches and intended to live out there for the rest of his days.  He did live there for a couple of years, living as a true cowboy rancher until he found himself physically in the best shape of his life and happier than he had been in years.  He of course came back to New York, remarried, became a war hero, re-entered New York politics and you know the rest of the story…

Glimpses of Eternity
Whatever it was the ranch did for Teddy Roosevelt, it soothed his soul, it comforted him and healed him.  For whatever reason, a man has a need and the tendency to distance himself and a desire to just get away, whether it be to the open country, the sea, the beaches, or the open road.  Think about whenever you’re walking along a beach or on a hike on a never ending trail, it’s as if it doesn’t end, and the great thing is, you never want it to end.  If the long stretch of beach, land or sea could just keep going and going that would be just fine.  I think this is a gift God gives us here on this earth, a way of understanding heaven without yet having been there, as if he is providing us with early visions or glimpses of what it’s like to live forever.  Teddy Roosevelt found a glimpse of heaven on his ranches in North Dakota.  

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