When people talk about responsibility there is often a comment or two about the weight associated with the burden as though the duty were tangible and made of lead. When asked, the most common "heavy responsibilities" are generally children, the mortgage, bills, and possibly the care of an elderly or sick family member. There is no denying that these can require a phenomenal amount of personal time and resources and, should any be neglected for a sufficient period of time, the consequences could be absolutely dire. Ignore the bills, and modern luxuries like cell phones and working plumbing are disabled. Forget the mortgage for a while and you can wind up homeless. Disregard a child or ill family member and … well … it's really not good. Many of us take on more responsibility as we progress through adulthood before enjoying a reduction in obligations as we near retirement. None of this is news to anyone who is a contributing member of society.

Yet despite the long list of responsibilities and expectations placed on me, I no longer feel a weight. Two or three years ago the rapid assumption of duties seemed a bit excessive. For so much of my time in Japan my core responsibilities were rather simple:

  • look after Nozomi's needs
  • pay the bills
  • pay the rent
  • ensure the government ID and supporting documentation is always valid
  • be productive at work and meet every deadline

After moving out of the classroom and into my current role at the day job, I then became responsible for servers, services, software, and systems. When the boy was born, I then became a father and quickly assumed the role. When we bought a house I became an immigrant home-owner and had to first manage the myriad of legal hurdles before taking on the day-to-day maintenance of a building and plot of land. The role at the day job has since expanded again, meaning I'm responsible for many of the same things as before, but for many, many more people across the face of the planet. Never in my life have I had so many expectations nor have the consequences of failure ever been higher.

Yet, despite all of this, I don't feel these responsibilities are "heavy". At one time I did, but the feeling has long since passed.

Mind you, I'll be the first to admit that I'm fortunate to have a great deal of support with every one of the obligations and duties. Reiko helps out a lot with the domestic items, and a handful of dedicated colleagues make the expectations from the day job easier to meet. Stressful days continue to exist. Impossible deadlines keep me awake some nights. Concerns about the health of some close family are constantly on my mind. But this is all taken in stride now. I can manage it. I can overcome the little issues that are sometimes irritants and sometimes roadblocks. Despite the sheer number of responsibilities on my plate, the vast majority of which are not listed, there is no weight on my shoulders.

Why not? Am I completely oblivious to the very real threats that could turn my current lot in life into something far worse than anything I've experienced thus far? This is certainly a possibility as we can't always know what we don't know, but this might not be the case.

There's always the possibility that I might lose my job, which would immediately impact the family's ability to afford anything. Reiko does work, but her hard-earned salary is not enough to cover our monthly operating costs. There's a chance someone in this house might become incredibly ill and require constant attention, possibly hospitalisation. A stupid mistake with a database at the day job could cost the company as little as 15 minutes of downtime1, which is measured in the thousands of dollars, or maybe tens of millions of dollars if student data was exposed to risk and the press caught wind of the situation. Any one of these could make like much more difficult, particularly if a family member is really sick.

Despite the serious ramifications from failure or fate, these situations do not even enter my equations for how much a responsibility weighs. Why worry about all the possible negative things all the time? It's enough to know that the possibility is there and have some basic plans in place to ensure at least some short term survival.

The more I think about how I perceive the burdens of responsibility, the more I think I'm feeling comfortable with these challenges because it's time to assume a bigger one. What it is exactly I haven't a clue but, from past experience, when I've become too comfortable with the day-to-day the mind will begin looking for something new. This could be joining a neighbourhood program. It could be taking on another role at the day job. Heck, it could even be trying to raise another child2. The hard part isn't finding some other challenge to take on; it's finding the right challenge to properly embrace.

  1. If we need to switch a hot-secondary system to a primary, this can be done in the space of a couple of minutes. That said, there is always some time spent on the first system to get it operational again. Fortunately this has never had to be done as a result of something I did.

  2. Given how much energy the boy demands from me, I don't know how I'd get by with another young child in the house. How did my parents manage to stay sane and get things done with five kids in the house?