Before becoming a parent, most people imagine their future life with kids as one of endless patience, tireless playtime, and sweet, cuddly moments.
Every parent knows, however, that no matter how calm and reasonable you imagined your parenting to be, nothing can prepare you for the constant fraying of nerves that a parent is subjected to.
I’m often amused when I talk to people who aren’t parents, and they say things like they’ll never snap at their kids because they remember how painful it was when their parents snapped at them. Yes. I used to think the same thing. Or that they’ll always make time to explain things and discuss whatever topic the kid finds interesting. Sure, in theory, but a kid asks questions faster than they can be answered, and their thinking is far from linear which is both delightful and incredibly frustrating at times.
Dad and me, circa 1971
Now, seven years into being a father, I see that no matter how much fun and how playful you imagine yourself to be before you become a parent, and despite the fact that playing with your kids is a great deal of fun, you still have to make time for it. Or I do anyway.
I have to consciously put down whatever project I’m working on, take a deep breath, and remind myself that my kids will not be this young for long. There will come a day in the not so distant future then they will not want to play and roll around on the floor with their dad, and so the time to be silly is now. The time to poke, tickle, chase, and play games with them is today.
And even then, Read More →
There are, generally speaking, two phases of life. How long each lasts varies on the individual and circumstance, but these two phases and the order in which they come are universal.
During the first phase, one longs for adventure. Predictability is boring, if not oppressive. During this phase the world, as it stands, seems like evidence that previous generations either lacked imagination, or were hopelessly incompetent.
The second phase is the opposite. Experience teaches you, one way or the other, that everything you have might be taken away from you at any time, for no good reason, forever. This is the stage were you’re smart enough to enjoy things you took for granted when you were young, like breakfast. Or going for a walk. Or merely having a reliably affable friend or family member.
At first things can’t change fast enough, and then things change too fast. We spend the first part of our lives looking for a fast forward button, and the second looking for a pause button.
It’s not as though one can’t oscillate a bit. At times when you’re young — if you’re lucky — you cherish the moment and wish things wouldn’t change too fast. And at times when you’re older you get restless or frustrated with aspects of your life, but in general once you enter the second stage you don’t go back.
Perhaps it’s as simple as being restless and greedy when you’re stupid enough to think that you have nothing to lose and are owed more than you’re getting. Read More →
Regret is a bad word, apparently. Many, many times, I’ve said said I regret something, and been reprimanded. People aren’t shy about telling you that you that they regret nothing. “No regrets!” they say. They sometimes qualify it by admitting they haven’t been angels but insist that regret is not part of their experience.
“I’ve made some mistakes, but I have no regrets.”
Apparently people associate regret with weakness, or being a failure. If I told someone, “I’m a failure” or “I’m too weak to live on this planet” then I would expect a reprimand followed by a little pep-talk, but to say that I regret something seems completely natural to me. It’s the absence of regret that worries me. If you truly have no regrets, then you’ve truly done no reflection about how your actions have impacted other people, or, for that matter, how you’ve suffered from some of your own actions.
I regret, for example, being overweight for the better part of two decades. I regret perhaps not all but much of the time I spent in relationships that I knew were doomed. I regret the time I spent running away from my passions instead of embracing them. I regret those things. I wish I’d acted differently, and, if I could do it all over again, I’d do things differently. That’s what regret means.
Another reaction I often get when expressing regret is that the mistakes I’ve made are all part of making me who I am today. And that’s fair enough, but I’m skeptical that who I am today is the best possible version of who I might be otherwise. Yes, my mistakes taught me lessons, and some of those lessons couldn’t be learned any other way. But I regret the things that I knew were bad ideas and did anyway. I regret the lessons I had to learn twice.
When I was 12 or so, much to my amazement, my dad decided to buy a motorcycle. Even better, it wasn’t a big Harley or a Goldwing — it was a little Kawasaki 100, a bike that wasn’t out of the question for me to ride. I must have sensed this, because I thought of it as mine, or at least partly mine, shortly after we got it.
It had been advertised in the local paper for $275. The address was in the older part of town. Not a particularly rough neighborhood, but not a nice one either. I remember driving up and seeing the bike for the first time.
I was keenly interested in motorcycles. Two older boys in my neighborhood had bikes like this one (better, actually, but you have to start somewhere) and I followed them around, peppering them with questions and hoping that they’d suffer temporary insanity and let me go for a ride.
I also knew my dad, and it wouldn’t be like him to say we were going to buy something and then change his mind. And so I’m sure it was obvious that I was excited, and I’m sure this fact wasn’t lost on the seller. Read More →
It’s hard for me to believe, but it’s been almost twenty five years since my second attempt at college.
The first attempt was brief, in 1987, immediately after graduating college. In retrospect I simply had no motivation. I dropped out and took a number of strange jobs. Some were fun but there was nothing that I cared to make a career out of. And so, two years later, I was ready to go back, and this time I was motivated — knowing full-well what the alternatives looked like.
My second attempt was entirely different than the first. I learned a lot, and met a lot of interesting people. One of these people was Emrah, a fellow student in the Computer Science department at Highlands University in my hometown. Emrah and I became friends even though it was, at times, humbling to hang out with the guy. He despised programming and math but was unquestioningly better than I was at both of them. He often encouraged me to have fun with him instead of studying for exams, but then he’d ace the exams and I’d barely get by.
After graduating from college, Emrah alternatively lived in California and his native Istanbul, where I have long intended to visit him, especially after moving to Denmark (Istanbul is only a three and a half hour flight away.) I finally managed it over Easter. It had been sixteen years since I’d seen Emrah. A lot has changed, but I still enjoy his company a great deal.
Read More →
So, so you think you can tell Heaven from Hell, blue skies from pain.
Can you tell a green field from a cold steel rail?
A smile from a veil?
Do you think you can tell?
- Pink Floyd — Wish You Were Here
When I was nine or ten, I became troubled by issues of perception. It started when our teacher had each of us tell the class our favorite color. To my amazement, the answers differed.
This bothered me. And conversations with my brother and parents did little to help. They seemed very comfortable with their choices for favorite color, and resisted my attempts to convert them to my favorite — green. They were amused by these attempts… but a touch dismissive too.
Then it hit me. We DID all like green. Of course we did. The problem was that we didn’t see colors the same way.
If, for example, my brother and I were looking at the same object, I might perceive the object as being green, but he might perceive it as being red. This is why we couldn’t agree that this object was the best possible color. Every time he saw something that I perceived as green, he saw red, and so he rejected “green” as his favorite color despite it’s clear superiority.
Likewise, when he pointed out an object that he perceived as green and said, “that’s my favorite color”, I would probably see it as yellow or something, and reject his choice even though we were in complete agreement. Green is the best color. Read More →