My recent trip to Massachusetts got me reflecting a bit on how much things change.
Flashback more than ten years ago. I was 21 years old and living for the first time on my own in a small village in Massachusetts. I worked serving drinks in a small cafe across from an all-women’s college, juggling the need to pay for rent, utilities and a car with a full load of classes as I studied Film-making and Screenwriting.
While it was one of the poorest times of my life (what isn’t for many college students), it was certainly one of the most fun. Classes by day, pouring coffee and chatting up customers by night and making writing come to life with low-budget films into the late, late hours of the night. Those late film shoots with theatre majors wanting acting experience often ended in great friendships and conversations about life over eggs at some 24 hour diner. We talked of life, of our dreams, of the future success that lay before us. Call it Destiny Over Easy (Hey, that’s a good film title right there. Need to jot that down).
Speed the clock up a bit. When I could no longer afford the private school I was attending and the student loans it took to stay there, I switched gears. I moved back home to upstate New York and enrolled in a state school where I would finish out not under the major of film, but Broadcasting and Media Communications. I would finally graduate (albeit a year and a half late), have trouble finding a job and spend time working in an office for a company that made airplane and turbine engine parts.
I couldn’t stay there but didn’t quite know what to do next. I didn’t have the leap of faith to pack up and go out west like others I had worked on the films would do. A large part of me didn’t want to. This was my home and I felt attached to it and those around me.
I still dreamed of what great things I would do, great pieces of art I would write/create. I still had the outline of my life set forth like some type of whirlwind adventure – even saying to someone I had been dating at the time that the writer’s journey I had in store had no time for kids.
I got a nighttime internship at a newspaper while working at the turbine engine company during the day. Maybe Hollywood wasn’t the next step after all, maybe a steady paycheck would be. That internship eventually led to a job at the paper. From there, I delved head-first into the world of journalism. It was an environment I would stay in for more than seven years, leaving the paper to work in television, writing copy for their website. In time, I would eventually move to a position running the day-to-day operations of the TV newsroom and anchoring the midday news.
Along the way I kept the performing arts bug alive not through film, but through area theater-houses, directing and acting in plays and eventually being cast with a quirky and funny young woman I would later marry. Together we would rescue three cats who otherwise were not likely to have survived on their own in the wild. When that trio of felines entered our lives, something about my outlook began to shift, my focus on nights with my wife and these furry little friends, savoring every moment of time and affection with them for that short period they would be in our lives. It didn’t take long before I started realizing this was some type of paternal instinct awakening inside, and before too long it dawned on me how much I really did want to be a father.
Moving the hands of the clock farther ahead, it would happen. I would come home one Halloween night from work to find notes clipped to the collars of our cats, the first two asking questions like ‘will you still love me?’ With only two wandering the downstairs and tears in my wife’s eyes, my immediate thought was fear that something had happened to our third cat, the one with health problems since we rescued him. When I found him upstairs sleeping soundly, it wasn’t a note attached to him, but a pregnancy test showing that we were going to be parents. It was like placing me in a clear sphere of fear and excitement.
I started this blog shortly before our little guy was born as a way to get a lot of those thoughts out of my head and just…somewhere for others to read. About a year into our little guy’s life I would once again pull up stakes and transition out of news and into a career writing for the world of academia at a university. It brought me less stress and more time for him, my wife, and of course, this very blog about all of it.
So, imagine the feeling when it was this very blog and the very life changes that I had undergone on the way here that would lead me right back to that small town in Massachusetts once again. I was invited to do some television segments for the mid-morning lifestyle program, Mass Appeal recently. So I hit that familiar road once again, just like I used to so many times in the past. Only this time, it was as a family and while we had made the trek to MA before, this would be different for one other, very different reason.
Sure, we had to get off the thruway and drive back when the check engine light went on and borrow my mother-in-law’s car to then start our journey all over again, but that’s not what made it different (interesting, but not different).
What made it different was when we saw some old friends, Missy and Josh, made long ago during those bygone days of coffee shops and college and indie film-making, only now they were new parents too, with a beautiful nine-month old boy.
Here we stood in their living room, our almost-two-year-old joyfully hugging their son, talking to him and bringing him toys as he cheerfully laughed and cooed. There were moments in between the laughs, between the baby-chasing and between the frantic parent-search for shoes, bags, toys, etc, when we would just look at each other and wonder ‘how did this happen?’
If you had told our younger selves as we goofed around with scripts and costumes and Guerrilla filming that we would be finding our thrills, our excitement and our greatest joys in these small creatures stumbling around like little drunks, their every utterance a source of amazement, we would’ve said we were nuts.
I’ve realized that there have been many times since I left that place that I want a return to that area in Massachusetts to be a step back in time, to be frozen just as I remember it – every business, every face, every feeling.
But that’s impossible. Not only have those businesses and familiar places that I once knew changed, but so have I, so have the people I knew. A physical return can’t mean a return to the mindset and feeling as it was back then – because that’s exactly what it is – back then, in the past.
Yet, here we are. More than a decade older. Still the same people, yet not quite. Things had changed. Priorities changed. We had changed. Sometimes your destiny is fame and fortune. Sometimes your destiny is to help guide a young soul on their own path. Despite all the jobs I’ve had over the years, or even all the jobs I’ve wanted, I can honestly say that fatherhood in these first (almost) two years, has been the best job yet.
And despite what the us of the past may have said, we wouldn’t have had it any other way.
We had lunch that day, but no diner eggs. Still, I’ll call it destiny, over easy, because it sounds funnier.