The misadventures of a first time father

Tag Archives: Destiny

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).

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The carefree twenty-something phase before ‘grown up stuff.’ I still have the red t-shirt, but wish I knew where those sunglasses went to.

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).

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The next generation.

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.

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Whose kids are those and why are we pretending to be adults?!

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.

 

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Frank Capra's It's a Wonderful LifeTonight we watched a holiday favorite and a staple in our DVD collection, “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

With a five month old now added to the mix, I admit that our movie viewing habits have drastically reduced, or have become divided into segments. After all, any time we get where he is napping is usually spent taking care of more pressing matters around the house rather than watching the boob tube.

Somehow, whether it was his being infatuated with his mother’s face, or the ceiling fan up above, my little monkey was pretty calm while the wife and I took in all the Jimmy Stewart-Donna Reed goodness.

Depressed George BaileyYou don’t need me to say that it still holds up to this day – the story of the average joe who’s sacrificed so much of his dreams to help out those around him, only to fall knee deep into it himself and hit rock bottom and wish he were never born.

When I watched it this year, though, something was slightly different. Perhaps it was the frustration George Bailey felt at home with the “drafty old house” or the constant noise of the kids after an absolute day from hell. Suddenly, I was not only enjoying this film as I have for years, I was suddenly relating to it.

We all have the things we wanted to do with out lives, and in George’s case, it was seeing the world and living a life of adventure. He gave it up, though, time and again – when his father passed and he had to take over the Building and Loan, when he fell in love with Mary and they bought that old, run-down Victorian house and decided to fix it up, when he realized that the ever flirtatious Violet was not interested in his wacky dreams, or when he stayed at the Building and Loan so that his brother, Harry, could have the life and dreams HE wanted.

"I want a big one!"George Bailey gave up a lot of what he wanted in an effort to help out those around him.

In the end, of course, that’s what brings all those friends and acquaintances rallying around George when he needs it, but it took some getting there for George to realize how good he had it when the chips were down.

Earlier this month, I came across this great introspective article over at “The Art of Manliness,” a phenomenal website definitely worth subscribing to. From teaching/reminding useful skills that often get lost in our fast-paced, technological society, to an appreciation for the things of the past, this website is really something.

Anyway, the article can be found right here: http://artofmanliness.com/2012/12/03/the-george-bailey-technique/

What it does is propose the exercise of doing a “George Bailey” on your own life. Sit down, and write out what your life would be like without a particular person, place or event in your life that brings you happiness.

It may seem like a simple thing to do, but once you start delving in to the paths that might not have crossed, you can hit upon some dark places in your mind, my friend. At times, it can be downright scary.

I think of just some of the seemingly random events that have led me to where I am today.

  • “What if I never took that phone call asking if I was interested in a job at my current workplace?”
  • “What if I never took that job?”
  • “What if I never went out for drinks that time and made some new friends?”
  • “What if I hadn’t, through those friends, found out about a play at a local theatre needing an extra actor or two and been coerced into trying out?”
  • “What if I hadn’t been at this new job that had the flexibility to be in a play?”
  • “What if I hadn’t agreed to go back months later and tryout again?”

ImageYou get my point. I could go on forever, and that’s just for one particular event in my life – meeting my wife. If those particular sequences of events had not taken place, I would never have met the woman I’m married to today. We would never have become friends, later begun dating, and eventually gotten married. The three cherished cats that have become like our first children, would never have been rescued, and been left to fates I don’t even dare think about without getting upset. And we would have, of course, never had our newborn son, the little man whose mere smirk or smile is enough to make me want to race home each and every day to see.

What I’m saying is that, while watching George Bailey torture himself to discover why he’s important, I realized that we all have those kind of days. Those days when it seems like we’re taking the falls for the absent-minded Uncle Billies in our lives, when our finances seem in trouble or drained, when the kids just won’t give you a moment to yourself, and when the Mr. Potters of the world just won’t let up and give us a break, trying to crush our spirits.

There’s countless times where I’ve been frustrated with work, or a co-worker, or a lack of space or function in our old house, or a surprise bill in the mail. “If we only had more money, if we only had different careers, if we only had a bigger, better home…”

It’s so easy to think about the obstacles we come across, what we don’t have, or to think the grass would be greener someplace or someway else. However, when we realize what we have an how such chance moments in life led us to it, how easily that could have all slipped by if we had made a different decision, it really puts things in perspective.

IIt’s easy to let the world crash down around us when this happens, to wonder “what if.” But instead of wanting to throw ourselves off our personal Bedford Falls bridge, maybe we need to listen to that little Clarence Oddbody (AS2 – ‘Angel, Second Class’) in the back of our minds and remember what it is that we have around us in our lives.

If we did that more often, we might all see that life isn’t so bad and those obstacles don’t outweigh what we have, who we have, and what lives we have touched.

We might just see that it really is a Wonderful Life.

It's a Wonderful Life



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