This Isn’t Me Anymore

Like a lot of guys, I used to collect weapons.  Well, “collect” is probably too strong a word, but I’ve had various blades hanging on the wall for a long time.  But the time has come to take them down.  The sword will stay up–it’s a dress-sword anyway, not a real weapon–but the rest are coming down.  It’s not that I wouldn’t defend my family if necessary.  (I have four daughters; I am no pacifist.)  It’s that my innermost desires are no longer for adventure and conquest, but for stability and peace.

Bayonet Box 4-2017When I was a teenager, I started collecting bayonets and knives.  I had carried a pocketknife since I was 10, but I think I bought my first vintage bayonet when I was 14 or 15.  Over the next few years, I picked up a few more at antique shops when I could afford them.

Why?  Because I was a young man, and I thought knives and bayonets were cool.  I still admire the craftsmanship of some of them.  (The one pictured here was made in Switzerland and hefts like it.)  But most young men just enjoy playing with sharp, pointy objects.

When my wife and I bought our house years ago, I hung the bayonets up on the wall, but then I more or less forgot about them.

In the meantime, I needed to build things.  A LOT of things.  I had started buying tools and learning how to use them. I had made a bookshelves, a storage box or two, a side table, and more bookshelves.  Then came the beds for us and for the kids.  I rebuilt the back porch.  I built a dining table.  I built more bookshelves.  I made a lot of wooden spoons.

And every now and then I would glance at those bayonets hanging on the wall.  The more I did, the more I thought, “That’s not me anymore.”

Of course I had never used those bayonets.  I had taken one or two of the knives on camping trips, but otherwise, they had never been of any use to me.  At best, they were slightly odd home decor.  At worst, they were fuel for heroic, violent fantasies.  Unlike my tools, which I use on a weekly basis, I hadn’t touched the bayonets in years.  I was holding onto them for nostalgia’s sake, I suppose, but I wouldn’t have missed them if they had disappeared.

What had happened to me?  I grew up.

There is a strong fighting instinct in boys, and it persists into adolescence.  I will openly admit that fantasies of fighting and aggression were probably behind my impulse to collect and display weapons.  (Thank Heaven I’m a cheapskate, or I might have ended up with dozens of those things.)  I see this aggressive impulse in my young son, who loves dressing up in super-hero costumes and racing around the house, “fighting” with any opponent, real or imaginary, that he can find. (He’s learning not to attack his sisters.  Or the dog.) I was like that as a kid, too.  Most boys are.  They love hitting, kicking, stabbing, and shooting stuff.  It’s in the blood.

It’s wonderful to be a kid, and I sure did enjoy being a little boy.  I made a lot of wooden swords.  I enjoyed a lot of my adolescence, too, especially when I found I could buy real weapons.  I don’t regret collecting the weapons I did.  But once I started taking on responsibility–a job, a spouse, a home, and children–I found my desires changing.

I no longer wanted to fight, but to build.

In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul remarks that when he became a man, he put away childish things.  Paul doesn’t mean he suddenly gained a Y-chromosome.  He means that he grew up.  Being a man is about responsibility motivated by love.  And for me, becoming a man entailed putting away fantasies of violence and replacing them with the slow, steady work of building a home, and taking responsibility for the everyday well-being of those who dwell in it.

So in the spirit of putting away childish things, I took the bayonets down off the wall and packed them away.  I found some pine boards and built a little crate to store them in.

Bayonet Box 4-2017

It’s not a fancy box–just nailed together in an old-fashioned manner.  The lid fits on snugly with only friction, thanks to the thin battens on its underside.

Bayonet Box 4-2017

I filled the crate with those old weapons and tied some cord around it. Perhaps one day I’ll know what I should do with them, but for now I’m storing the box somewhere safe and out of the way.

I want to be a man of peace.

I want to build things.

That’s who I am now.

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6 Responses to This Isn’t Me Anymore

  1. Steve G says:

    Thanks for the inspiring post. I also have been sorting things from earlier in life, getting rid of some and lightening our load.

  2. Jonas Jensen says:

    Very well said.
    It is strange how much it means to have a family to protect and provide for. When I was younger I rode a lot on my motorcycle, raced to be honest.
    But when we had our first child I realised that I wasn’t just responsible for myself anymore, so I started driving more slowly and more responsibly.
    I guess I also grew up.
    I don’t know the climate that you are living in, but might I suggest that you put in a small bag of silica gel down there with the bayonets to prevent them from rusting? I know that would be needed where I live.

  3. flo schuler says:

    I would say in many ways you have put into words what is also in the hearts of your brothers. I loved who all of you were as young boys and I love who you are as men. I am so humbled and yet proud to be your mom.  Thanks for writing this. I love you. Mom

  4. Joe says:

    You sound a lot like me and where I am in my life. Family and furniture are what I spend a lot of time doing. For about 30 years (before marrying I was focused on many disciplines in the martial arts – firearms, edged weapons, archery, staves and sticks, and spears and empty hand stuff. With a family now, it’s less important but I still feel a strong sense of protecting the home. Much of what was out is in storage.

  5. Dave says:

    It’s uncanny, the timing of this post.
    I wholeheartedly share your sentiment; I want to be a man of peace, I want to build things.

    I too collected knives & other weapons as a young man. I was seduced by the power I imagined wielding with an effective weapon. As we mature, we (ideally) learn the truth of authentic power – not power derived from external sources (including money, status, job title, & certifications, not to mention muscles or good looks 😉).
    To care for a household and those in it is an heroic act these days. It takes faith, and strength, courage and all-out endurance sometimes.
    My hat is off to any who apply themselves to house-holding.

    Thank you for sharing this personal, authentic piece of yourself. It’s for these these tidbits that I read your posts, and I always enjoy them.
    Keep it up professor!

  6. Pingback: Clutter-Creator #4: Stuff of the Past | The Literary Workshop Blog

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