- Writing – I used to write all the time. Blogs, reviews (that never went anywhere), short stories, etc. I have so much free time with my insane commute, I should be utilizing some of it to reconnect with something that, while I may not be all that adept at it, brings me joy and fulfillment. The great thing about all of the things I’m going to try to do with my year is that I should have plenty about which to write!
- Boxing – I wrestled a lot in high school and beyond. I wasn’t half bad at it either. There was something about a competition that was not reliant on a team, where in I couldn’t hide my deficiencies behind someone else’s talent. I’ve always loved boxing for the same reason, and it’s a killer work out. I’ve already signed up for a membership at a local boxing gym. I’m going two nights a week on those rare weeks when I’m not traveling for one reason or another.
- Fencing – Fencing has always been something I’ve wanted to try. I had friends back in high school who were on a fencing team, and they seemed to have such a blast with it. Getting to fight each other with swords for fun! Yeah, it’s not what you are going to see in Lord of the Rings, or a Samurai flick, but it’s still something I feel is worth learning. I’ve signed up for 6 initial lessons for the start of the year, and we will see if I enjoy it enough for it to stick!
- Piano Lessons – I took lessons back in college, thought I never got all that good at it. I was never one to practice much, there was always something way more fun to do in the dorms, or out of the dorms for that matter. I received a new keyboard from my family for Christmas this year, and I’m looking forward to signing up for some lessons. Let’s hope I have learned the value of practicing at some point in the last 20 years.
- Work Life Balance – I’ve never been good at this one, and living in the Bay Area doesn’t help. The culture here is often one of unlimited access by your employer and sacrificial weekends. I often work way more than I should, and this often leads to me being irritable, depressed, and just plain no fun. This year I am working on doing less work. I know that means I might not be as successful at what I do, since it means I’m not getting those extra 20 hours of work done every week. But my hope is that the quality of my work will improve as my enjoyment of life improves, and this will offset the lack of extra hours. I’m going to work hard to make sure my personal time stays personal, and my work time is used for work.
- Videos – I’ve decided to create a couple video projects for 2017. I am always coming up with new concepts for something fun to create for Youtube, or where ever it would live. This year, since I’m going to being trying to not be working in my off hours, is the right year to attempt my first video project. I’m finally going to get that internet fame I’ve craved my entire life.
- Personal Projects – The world is full of things I want to try, and now I’m going to. Starting with Home automation. I’m fascinated by the idea of technology integrating into the most personal space we humans inhabit, the home. Home integration of technology such as Amazon Echo, and Google Home, offer so many fun innovations, and bring us one step closer to living in the star ship Enterprise. We can enter our houses without a key, and issue voice commands to turn on lights, turn up the heat, and order a new 2-gallon jug of milk. But these awesome advances in technology and convenience come at a yet undisclosed price. No, I don’t mean the $150 price tag for the Google Home, or the crazy $65 you will pay for new wireless light switches, but the price that we pay in the way of what we will be giving up to the major corporations that we will be inviting to share our homes with us. We will be giving large companies a place so near us in our homes, that this level of personal life integration with something that could be used for evangelizing products and thought that has not been seen since the introduction of television into the masses. I decided to pick up both a Google Home, and Amazon Echo enabled device to weigh the value of integration vs the cost. It should be fun to write about for a while.
“I will never be safe, I will never be sane, I will always be weird in side, I will always be lame. Now I’m a grown man, with a child of my own, and I swear I’m not gonna let him know all the pain that I’ve known.” ~Everclear “Father of Mine”Before I can really unpack my deepest darkest pain for all of you complete strangers, and small group of friends who decide to read this, I need to go back to where this question was borne. You have to meet Young Thadeous, an odd young ugly duckling of about 9 years old. Sitting in the car with his mother pulled over to the side of a busy street in downtown Salem Oregon. Tears streaming down his mother’s cheeks as she tells him the truth about his absent father. He’s never heard his mother speak with so much pain and vitriol. He’s never seen so much hurt on her face. Every truth she tells him cut two ways, opening old deep wounds his father had left on her, and cutting just as deep into her young child, who was being forced into a new reality, one he could never have been ready for. I shouldn’t have started there. I should have gone father back into my past. My father left before I could form real memories. He left before I could even know what it was like to have a father figure in my life. I never knew what it was like to have a dad to go to for advice. No one taught me how to shave. I had never used a real razor until I was 20 in college when the electric razor my mother bought me as a teen finally died. I cut the shit out of myself for weeks until another student gave me some pointers. But that was pretty much how everything I should have learned from my dad went. No football on Sundays, father son camping trips, no talks about girls, man was that awkward with my mom; she had a book with diagrams, and charts. I can’t fathom the sacrifices the absence of my father caused my mother to make. She worked hard to make sure that my sister and I were taken care of. My sister’s father had also left; but he would take her away on weekends. My mother often worked two jobs, as a result we spent many nights at a friend’s house while she worked her night job. I still remember how smoke stained everything at their house smelled, and the creepy tree that sat right outside their bedroom window, knocking on the window as I tried to sleep, waiting for my mom to pick me up. We always had what we needed, and more. She tried everything she could to make our lives normal, and fill the holes our fathers had left. I remember during the holidays there would always be gifts under the tree from my father. They would always be big, always something I really wanted. It’s hard to not choke on the bitterness of the joy I remember when I would get them. My father loved me, he just couldn’t be there right now. I knew that someday he would come home. Some day he would come home and give me hugs, and take me places. I can’t imagine how much that had to hurt my mom to watch. Why didn’t my father want me? Back in that car, where young Thadeous was learning the truth about his father, about how his mother had bought all the gifts from him. That she had given him everything that he thought had come from his father. A man who had never once tried to see him, or contact her since he left. A man who had had lied, taken everything from her, and left them destitute. A man who had felt little, if anything for him. You know what, forget back in the car with young Thadeous. Too hard to write about. As I grew up, there were men who came into and out of my life on a pretty consistent basis. Men who wanted my mom, but didn’t really want the baggage of children. The men who would promise to take me camping, or to ball games. I never did go to a ball game; my mom took us camping every year though. There was one man, we will call him Brad, his name is brad, I’m not changing that fucker’s name, he was always on the border line of abusive. He yelled, forced to me sit for hours staring at cold food when I wouldn’t eat, and was pretty much just a jerk to me. I loved him. I wanted to make him happy. I desperately wanted his approval. We moved in with him, and for the first time I ever I had a man to look up to, and I didn’t want to make him go away like my dad. Then he tried to convince my mom to give me up for adoption, not my sister, just me. She left him shortly after this. In my post college years I worked hard to find my independence. I moved to South Africa to build orphanages for children whose families had been lost to the AIDS pandemic. I became the youngest manager in Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse history, and a pretty kick ass Sommelier, and started my own consulting company. I was driven to succeed at everything I did, often working nights, and weekends to make up for my lack of experience and training. I was driven to stand out in whatever I did. I masked my actions in arrogance, making people think I wanted success because I thought so highly of myself. The real reason behind my drive was simple, I wanted to be wanted. I needed to know that I was important and valuable to the people I worked for. I clamored for the recognition of the male figures in my life, often my bosses or clients. Their praise was a drug for me. It satiated the pain, and temporarily filled the hole that my father had left. I write in past tense as if I don’t do the same today. My life is filled with lofty goals I set for myself just to get another taste of that praise and recognition. To hear a man of authority tell me I’ve done well, that I’m valued, that I’m wanted. It’s fleeting, but it’s something. There has always a longing in me to finally “get there.” Be a man, a man that any father would be proud of. A man that no one could denigrate. I had a secret plan, one that I desperately wanted to put into play, but was always too terrified to even take the first step. The plan was to get answers to all my questions. I wanted to track down my father. I wanted to confront him, show him what he had left behind, tell him how much I hated him for what he did to my mother, and to my family. I wanted to tell him how much he missed out on, and most of all I wanted to know why. Why didn’t my father want me? At one point in my young adulthood I found out that my father had settled down, and had a family. He married, had a son who was in the military, and lived a normal life. I learned that I have a half-brother brother out there somewhere, living an ordinary life. He had a family. Was it normal for him? Were they loving? Did his father take him to ball games? Did they go camping together? Did he get bet time stories with voices? Did he raise him to go on to be a good father to his own kids? And most of all, why him? What was so special about him? Why did he get to be normal, why did he get to be loved? What the hell was so fucking wrong with me? A few years ago I received a package from my mother. It had a bunch of my old grade school report cards, some medical records, and other things from my childhood she thought I might want. Nestled in it was a letter. On the letter was some pretty basic information, I think it was a medical record of mine from my child hood. The important part though, was a note written in my mother’s hand writing in the upper corner of the paper. It said “Died, age 56 of heart condition, CA 2010.” It didn’t take me but a few seconds to come to the conclusion that the note was about my father. I put the paper back in the box, and discussed it with my partner. I played it off, he never wanted me, and I never needed him. Why would I feel anything about the death of someone who meant less than nothing to me? On my way to work that day I called my mother to confirm. She told me it was true, and that she was sorry for not telling me, she’s always hated confrontation, and hated hurting me even more. I went into work and immediately broke into uncontrollable sobs. I had lost my chance to ever know why. When my father died, when he died to me on the day I found that letter, I lost the focus of so much of my anger. I had always been so absolute about the fact that I am not him. I’ve never cheated in a relationship. I’ve never abandoned people who need me. I’ve always tried to be the man I knew he wasn’t. But deep down inside I always felt the need to find him, to compare, to prove that he was the devil, and that I had none of him in me. I had a motto that I had picked up in Latin class, though I’m sure I never quite conjugated it correctly “Et Non Estis Vestri Pater.” If my C- in Latin means anything my motto translates to “you are not your father.” Something I would utter to myself in the mirror constantly. After my morning shower, when I washed my hands in a public restroom, anywhere I had to look myself in the eye. But I’d never be able to solidify it, I’d never be able to know for sure that I was nothing like the man I had hated. I’ve been told that my life has turned out great. I’ve told myself that I wouldn’t be who I am if I didn’t have this as part of my life. The pain has made me who I am, and I shouldn’t want to be different or I’d might have turned out unrecognizable and thus lose everything great about my life. I’m not sure if any of that is true. I’m not sure that the pain my family endured, the brokenness I’ve felt my entire life, the feelings of always being out of place, and all of the shit that came along with my father leaving was worth it. I don’t think it’s true. This doesn’t have an end. I didn’t get better one day, I still carry all of this with me. I didn’t write this as a triumph story about how I overcame what I went through. I wrote this because I needed to put words to my pain. To put it in a frame, so there could be order. I want to publish it so I can talk more openly about what I deal with. Once it’s out in the world I can’t hide it behind a wall of toxic masculinity. Once the world knows no amount of bravado can hide it. I still carry my scars, I’m still weird, I’m still afraid, I still have no clue why I wasn’t loved, and why my father never wanted me. I never will. There are thousands on thousands of children whose fathers have left them. Every one of them will deal with the loss in their own way. Some will grow up and continue the cycle, and others will vow to be better. I don’t know if I’ll ever have kids. Part of me fears that I have nothing to teach them. That I’ll finally come to the realization that I am my father’s son. That I’ll end up finding fatherhood to be too much, and run. I have one request for anyone who reads this. Please, please for the love of everything good in this world. Please don’t ever abandon your child. Please do whatever it takes to be there, in whatever way you can. It might be a sacrifice for you, it may cost you time, money, or opportunity. But please, I beg you, never ever abandon your child. You can’t possibly know it will destroy him or her, even if you’ve felt the sting of absence, every child inherits a personal hell when a parent leaves, and no one is like the other.
“But that’s enough for now, he should have never left you broken, he should have held you. Things your father never could do.” ~ The Fray “That’s Enough For Now”
I just got off the phone. Why was I on the phone? It was an interview to do work for a startup. What did I do before the phone interview? I took a shower, shaved, and then put on some damn nice looking cloths. I didn't need to, I could have just worn the jeans and t-shirt I had been wearing all morning. I'm the same person in both outfits, but I chose to look nice for people who can't see me. Why would I go through the trouble?
To answer that question I have to explain that I, like so many other people in the world, get depressed. Often I mange to keep up a good front in the face of depression but I still get bogged down in a mire of self doubt and apathy. When this happens I find it hard to write, to respond to email, to create, and to go out and look for work that puts food on my table. Not being able to do these things has a serious effect on my life. First and foremost is the no work thing, I like to eat and have nice things like electricity and an apartment. Going out and finding the contracts I need to keep the bills paid is really important. Beyond that, I love to write and create. Not being able to do these things often makes my mood worse, leading to a spiral that often includes depressing music and lots of ice cream being consumed.
So where does dressing up come in? Well through out my life I have found a few things that help me move past my depression.
Success: Success is a big one, when I manage to make something I am really proud of, or I'm able give an over the top performance on a project it can often snap me out of a funk. The down side to this is that when something is too awesome it often leads to a small bout of depression following. I guess it's that after I do something that is amazing my regular work feels somehow diminished by it. Nonetheless, I have found that DIY projects, focusing hard on work I have to complete, or trying something new and succeeding really do help with my depression. Sadly there are few projects I can get done on a whim in order to ensure I am pumped up before a phone meeting or interview.
Exercise: I hate it! Well I guess I love it too but I hate the thought of exercise when I'm hard at work doing other things, or hard at work doing nothing at all. I spend an exorbitant amount of time trying to convince myself that I don't need to go to the gym. Or that I don't have enough time. Often when I'm in a funk I can do the convincing with little to no effort at all. When I do make it to the gym I often find that my attitude changes almost immediately. Perhaps it has something to do with succeeding; if I can run two or three miles it's something to be proud of. I'm pretty sure it has something to do with chemicals released into my brain as I work out. I could get more into the science behind it but let's just say that there are chemicals in my brain, and working out makes the happy chemicals more abundant.
Image: Image isn't everything. A lot of people will tell you that it is, but most of the successful people I have met in life will tell you that hard work has a lot to do with it. Also, knowing appears to be at least half of the battle. Really though, image has a lot to do with how I fight my bad moods. When I'm in a funk or depressed, getting dressed can become the same mountainous task the rest of my work is. I tend to wear the same thing, often for days at a time: jeans, a black hoodie , old sneakers and done. Oh I wear underwear too, though the color doesn't really matter and I do change them daily, cause I know it makes my mom happy.The simple act of putting on something nice, of wearing something that took effort to put together, somehow helps me break out of my funks. It's a first step in doing things that need to be done, things I usually avoid when I'm down. When I put together an outfit I like, put it on, and then look in the mirror it's as if I can see the road leading out of my depression and I can begin to walk that path. It's not as if I put on a jacket and suddenly I feel all better, but the investing of a little of my time into myself that begins the turnaround. My style and my image do not determine how my day will go. If I walk out of the house in an old shirt and some ripped jeans I won't have a bad day. But if I'm having a bad day taking the time time to look better often helps me feel better. I woke up this morning and I was in a darker place, but I had things I needed to get done. Now I look good, and I'm starting to feel better. When I get done writing this I'm going to go to the gym, then come home and get more work done. It's not all because I got dressed, but it definitely started there. Geek Out.