W hen you are 14 and youÂ feel like you are invisible when you want to be seen and glowing when you want to be invisible the world can seem like a harsh mistress.
I know because I remember and I know because my 14 year-old and I have discussed it.
There are girls in school who tease him. I tell him it sounds like one or more of them like him and he is outraged because he says it makes no sense.
Some of the boys do things that make him shake his head and he asks me to explain and I shrug my shoulders.
“Sometimes there is no explanation for why people do the things we do. Sometimes we just act.”
He shakes his head and tells me that he doesn’t like my answer and I tell him to get used to it because people don’t act based on logic or reason.
Sometimes we just act.
Be Present Where You Are
We are standing in the middle of a room filled with people but we only know a handful of them.
My son looks at me and says he feels uncomfortable because he doesn’t know anyone. I tell him I understand what it is like to be shy and he laughs.
“You can talk to anyone. You have no trouble at all.”
I smile and tell him it is not true. There are many times where I prefer to sit in the corner and watch people. Many times where I would choose not to talk but sometimes you have to be present where you are.
“What does that mean?”
“It means you get more out of life by being an active participant wherever you are. It means sometimes when you don’t feel like talking you put yourself out there, you talk, you take risks and you take chances.”
“I don’t feel comfortable with that. I am not you.”
“You need to be you. I don’t want you to be a clone of me but I can promise you some of what I do is self taught. I decided I wanted to get more and I couldn’t do it unless I took a chance on getting hurt and or falling down.”
I understand these feelings better than he knows because there are moments where I still feel exactly what he describes.
Moments where I wonder how I can be in Â my mid forties and feel like I am the guy standing on the outside trying to figure out that thing everyone else seems to know.
And then there are those moments where I say ‘fuck it’ and just do/say whatever I feel like. They come more frequently than they ever did as a kid because I pushed to obtain that comfort.
Because I worked on teaching myself to be present wherever I am.
Truth is I can fit in anywhere. I can live anywhere and find joy anywhere but it is because I learned how to take those risks.
Part of it is because life humbled me. It beat me to my knees and made me ask why, how and what did I do.
But pride/ego and determination not to be beaten helped me stand again and so did my kids. What kind of father would I be if I gave up when things got tough.
I want my children to do as Camus says, to live to the point of tears.
The Center Of The Tootsie Pop
When I was a kid there was a commercial in which an owl answered the question about how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop.
The answer was something like two, meaning that it tasted so good you couldn’t help but bite it so you would get to the center sooner than waiting.
I told my son about that and explained that I didn’t become who I am over night. I didn’t bite the Tootsie Pop and turn into this man.
I licked and sucked on things for a long time (that sounds bad, doesn’t it) and eventually turned into this guy.
And the man I am now is not who I once was either.
I am not talking about what I look like now. I am talking about who I am now, a few months short of 46 as opposed to 18, 25, 37 or even 40.
There are parts and pieces of my personality that have been here my entire life. There are elements that anyone who has known me would recognize but there are also changes.
Objectives, goals and desires that have only come through time and life experience.
Twenty years ago I wouldn’t have been able to predict what life would like now or who I would be and I am good with that.
I can hear Supertramp singing Take The Long Way Home now and I can’t help but smile because that is what I did and what I am doing.
Some people take two licks and bite and others don’t. Apparently I am in the latter group.
Blaze A Trail
My son looks at me and asks if we have to blaze our own trail or are there easier ways to do it.
I laugh and tell him part of who we are pushes us to blaze our own trail.
“We walk down the beaten and well marked paths but we see something shiny in the distance and we go check it out. Wanderlust is a part and piece of us, you as well. Sometimes you just have to take those extra steps because you can’t not scratch that itch.”
He nods his head and tells me he gets it and I smile.
This kid of mine is going to get where he is going. I don’t know what he is looking for but I know he’ll find it, same as me.