Editor’s Note:Â Â This was originally published in September 2009.
On that inevitable day that I find myself on the business end of a waterboarding treatment, pressed to divulge the most intimate thoughts crated in my cabeza, when my grand inquisitors finally get around to the topic of Favorite Blog Posts, I know exactly which one Iâ€™ll name Numero Uno. Off He Goes â€“ my heartfelt tribute to Colinâ€™s first day of kindergarten. Of course, longtime readers of this site could also pick that post from a lineup as Iâ€™ve often referenced it and held it up as the shining beacon that illuminates this site when it all comes together just right.
Yeah â€“ thereâ€™s a dollop of hubris for yaâ€™, but dammit, my nameâ€™s all over this site so despite the raging insecurities that often have my wife doubting if she married something less Mr. Right and more Miss Understood, Iâ€™m proud of what Iâ€™ve accomplished here. Which is saying something as this couldnâ€™t be more diametrically opposed to how I earned our bread and butter in the real world and yet, in that alternate reality, what I do here is what I really wish I could make money doing. So when I get the ingredients right and the end result ends up being something so delicious, then I canâ€™t help myself but offer a taste to everyone else.
And Iâ€™d like to think that somewhere, along his road of life, Colin will glance in the rearview and take a look at where his tracks have led him. At that time of great introspection, it should be a real kick to see that once upon a time, his dear Dad took a few minutes to tame raging thought and inscribe a few words of tribute to one of his earliest, and greatest, accomplishments.
So, thatâ€™s it. Hands down, Off He Goes is my absolute favorite postâ€¦ unless; this one jockeys for position and emerges the victor. Time will tell but just the fact that I sit here writing the kissing cousin already lights a fire within.
In the grand tradition of sequels, we need to go bigger and better. If a first flick introduced us to the protagonist â€“ that charismatic character that we follow through thick and thin â€“ the sequel will often give the hero a partner. To aid and abet Colin, I offer up Aria.
While weâ€™re still one year removed from having two children in full time school (in our town, kindergarten is an all day affair which the local Momâ€™s Club celebrates annually by going on a three day bender of margaritas and Twilight marathons). That said, thereâ€™s something symbolic in sending both children off to school â€“ as if that pinprick of light you spied in the distance right around the moment you sensed the potty training was beginning to take hold had suddenly flared to a blinding solar storm. Despite the fact that Aria heads out for a mere two days or 6 & Â½ hours of structured learning, it just feels as if we, and she, are on the precipice of newfound freedoms.
But itâ€™s less about us and more about them. Parents like to celebrate camaraderie â€“ throwing hands in the air, fist punching and belly bumping every milestone that coaxes children further from the crib, but at the same time, all it takes is a flash of baby picture to bring you back down to Earth â€“ curled in a fetal position and wondering why you canâ€™t realize that dream goal of enlightened parents everywhere â€“ the ability to freeze time, or slow it to a nice pregnant pause.
It happened to me just the other day.
As you all know by now, I write to you from the ass end of gainful employment. In early July, I was laid off for the second time in my life, from only the second company Iâ€™ve ever worked for professionally. 7 years at the first gig. 8 years at the second. Walking papers were served on exactly the same day â€“ 8 years apart. You guys know this story and could probably recite it by rote, but just in case, I figured Iâ€™d let yâ€™all know where my mind rests these days.
Essentially, my 9-5 is all about finding a 9-5. And it is as abysmal as advertised. Day after day, I scour the expected job sites â€“ Monster, Yahoo HotJobs, Career Builders â€“ while taking a chance on some outside-the-box offerings (one of these days, some dapper young diplomat will see me as their ideal Russian mail-order bride, or maybe, nyet).
In the last 30 days alone, Iâ€™ve submitted my resume (called â€œstrongâ€ by a trusted and very senior person at my previous place of employment) for approximately 35 positions â€“ some in league with my professional experience while others representing a stretch to try something different. Of these double digit applications, I have garnered a goose egg in terms of scheduled interviews. And itâ€™s not for lack of experience or trying.
Look, ask any of my friends and family and theyâ€™ll tell you that while I am an outgoing personality in public, behind the curtain, I am somewhat insecure. I freely cop to that but I also have a good sense of my strengths and I think I carry myself well with other people (which is a miracle given the lifetime of introversion I lived before hitting the hallowed halls of higher education). Iâ€™ve often subscribed to the notion that we wear different hats – so the Ed Humphries my clients knew is markedly different and more professional than the goofball who will drop trou for a laugh and streak through the quad up to the gymnasium. Different worlds demand different personas.
The bottom line is, outside of my comfort zone, I come across as an extremely personable professional and a kick-ass communicator. I can write like a mofo and lead meetings with great confidence. In the last few years at my most recent job, despite holding the title, VP of Remote Client Services, I became the public face for the lionâ€™s share of communications impacting our client base. The reason being â€“ I donâ€™t freeze up in a crowd, I can host a meeting and keep it running, and I was apparently a court stenographer in a prior life as despite the fact that Iâ€™m a two-fingered typist, I can transcribe meeting minutes in real time as those two digits work double time to get every last syllable correct. So, those skills earned me great acclaim.
Thatâ€™s why my layoff is bittersweet. Up through my final moments, I was held in high regard at the company â€“ earning some of the greatest accolades of my career. This purely was dictated by a crumbling marketplace â€“ a great tsunami that hit a financial marketplace lacking the necessary high ground to weather such a storm.
This tangent has a point. Despite the fact that my layover has sent me scurrying to chase down every lead and scrap of info pointing to new employment, Iâ€™ve come to realize that while I may have adopted the ability to thrive in a business environment, the air I breathe comes from a more creative climate. So, I have begun working on a few side projects to give me a break each day and allow my brain to recharge. Thereâ€™s the chance I could someday sell a book and while I know absolutely nothing about that process, I do know that you canâ€™t sell what you donâ€™t have. So, thatâ€™s an ailment Iâ€™ve begun to remedy.
In addition, Iâ€™ve taken inventory of this site and found that in 3 & Â½ years, Iâ€™ve published close to 400 articles. Thereâ€™s some fluff there for sure but also some real substance and I thought it would benefit me to make an index of the more relevant pieces, arranged by title, date, subject and URL, which I could potentially shop to online publishers who may want to see some samples of my writing. That would be the dream job for sure and while it remains a pie-in-the-sky ideal, I canâ€™t run down that dream without having the inventory to offer, so Iâ€™ve started working on that.
Finally, I have a special side project that I wonâ€™t reveal at this point but it branches off of the ideas Iâ€™ve sketched above. And along with those words comes the numerous pictures Iâ€™ve used to illustrate these pieces â€“ most notably the family anecdotes. And itâ€™s here where we climb back aboard my original train of thought.
While working on this project I ran across some of the earliest pieces I wrote, specifically the birthday tribute posts that I would write annually for Colin and Aria. And I would spy my children, who look so big these days, looking so little back then â€“ and not that long ago. And it came as a sucker punch. How the hell did this happen? Where did that time go?
Thatâ€™s a picture of Aria Leigh on her first birthday. Sheâ€™s propping herself up and thinking long and hard about when sheâ€™ll take those first steps knowing full well that when they come, theyâ€™re never gonnaâ€™ stop. This is the same little girl whom I can recall Andi and I would hunker down with on the floor of Colinâ€™s room. Me on one side. She on the other.Â And Colin watching from his bed on the sidelines as we would coax Aria back and forth â€“ looking to cover an inch or two longer each time â€“ as she took those first trembling steps. And Colin would laugh hysterically every time Ariaâ€™s feet would fail her and she would teeter-totter as an anxious Mom or Dad dashed to save the day.
That seems like only yesterdayâ€¦ except yesterday, Aria was sprinting over to me at the playground with the urgent mandate â€œDaddy â€“ Watch how fast I can runâ€ as she aped the superhuman she and Colin glommed onto when they watched the new childrenâ€™s show, The Marvel Superhero Squad. (Colin has taken a liking to Spider-Man and Iron Man of late and while the movies are far, far away in his future, this Lego-ish take on the superheroes and their villainous counterparts is as family friendly as these shows come). Anyway, Ariaâ€™s new found power is to sprint back and forth across a crowded playground, for hours on end, without getting tired. I donâ€™t know how she does it as Iâ€™ve already slipped into a coma just typing this Blog.
Thatâ€™s the thing with the digital age. We have access to these snapshots from our childrenâ€™s life and depending upon how diligent a shutterbug youâ€™ve been, you can hit up Flickr, Snapfish, or your hard drive and almost access time-lapse photography of your childâ€™s entire life. Technology has worked wonders for preserving the minutia that come together to form a life well lived, and weâ€™re living in extraordinary times where despite the fact that each precious moment comes and goes before we know it, memories have tapped the fountain of youth and gained immortality via electronic storage. While part of me wishes I had similar total digital recall to my childhood days; knowing full well that a grand global conspiracy was forged in the early 70â€™s to drape all school-age children in the same attire as our plaid sofa upholstery, I might be better off for growing up in the Digital Dark Ages. My theory there is that with Mother Russia still a huge threat, the U.S. thought it best to camouflage their children and keep them safe from the Big Bad Commie menace. And when all else failed, they could just sequester us in the shag carpet.
Anyway, as I stumbled across pic after pic of Colin and Aria â€“ as they made their march through the last few years â€“ from infancy to Terrible Twos, Troublesome Threes and Fâ€™d Up Fours â€“ I just stopped what I was doing. In fact, earlier in the day, I was in a bit of a bad move, precipitated by the ever-present worry that I may never find a job, and I had barked a few sour jibes at the family. One of those â€œWoke up on the Wrong Side of the Bedâ€ mornings. And then, as my temperature cooled and I took my daily break, working my way through some early days in our familyâ€™s personal history, I stumbled upon these lost treasures and I had one of those sublimely simple epiphanies that typically hit us just when we need them most.
Nothing matters more than these guys. Andi. Colin. Aria. Abby. Chatham. Thatâ€™s my nuclear family right there. The American Dream. And no matter what dreams (or nightmares) may come, weâ€™re in it to win it together.
And then I realized that while we parents begrudge each waking hour in that darkened dawn of parenthood, as we attend to every cry looking to decipher if it means pain, hunger, or pestilence errrr, Pampers change â€“ we also would do best to realize that someday, not that very far away, weâ€™re going to gaze upon those precious miracles we played a major role in creating and wonder where the time went as they strap on that blinding pink Hello Kitty backpack and head off for the first day of preschool, or in Colinâ€™s case, push through the portal of First Grade, knowing this is his last classroom in this building, as a new school, covering Grades 2 through 5, looms large in his future. A huge change in a childâ€™s life.
And then we realize that while we may never manifest that elusive ability to freeze time, we have demonstrated remarkable talents. We created life.
And with that great power comes great responsibility.
As Colin begins the last year in this school, a school where every faculty member has come to know and love our special little boy â€“ where a ten-minute late August visit to see his new 1st grade classroom morphed into a 60 minute meet-and-greet as every teacher stopped him in the hallways to hear his boisterous play-by-play of his summer vacation, I canâ€™t help but choke down a growing lump as I know what I think he is just starting to suspect.
All good things must come to an endâ€¦
Of course, then thereâ€™s always the other maxim which makes for a nice chaser.
When one door closesâ€¦
And thatâ€™s really what he has before him. At the end of this year, a door shall close forever. But heâ€™s staring down a veritable mansion of openings â€“ great big bay windows that look out upon untold dreams and while it will sadden me when this stage comes to an end for him, I know that the next stage is pregnant with possibility. And the stage after that. And then, after that.
Oh, the sites heâ€™ll see. Oh, the places heâ€™ll go.
As for Aria, in the grand tradition of 2nd children everywhere, she gets to coast through the next few years as â€œColinâ€™s Kid Sisterâ€. Heâ€™s made quite a name for himself at that school and sheâ€™s already received a warm and welcoming reception. But despite the fact that they all know Colin, theyâ€™re already falling in love with Aria. Seeing her strong personality begin to stand up to Colin on those rare moments when their cuddly camaraderie morphs into searing sibling rivalry, I have no doubt that sheâ€™ll have no problem forging her own identity. Why on Day 1 orientation, she was loudly answering every question that the teacher called out to the class, a far cry from her brotherâ€™s wall flower beginnings.
I guess if I can take something positive from my current employment situation, itâ€™s that I get to be here at ground level, soaking in these sites. A couple days a week, I take the lead and pick up Colin from school, giving Andi time to do her errands or get ready for work, etc. Both of us make a point to let the kids play on the playground with their friends for an hour or so before retiring home. Fortunately, the weather has provided the picture perfect backdrop for these exploits.
Anyway, Iâ€™ll sit there and watch Colin and Aria scamper to and fro â€“ making new friends, releasing steam and just soaking in those simple joys of being a kid â€“ and I realize that from my own adversity came great opportunity to sit for a spell and enjoy these fleeting moments. As I look on, watching their faces beam and their new friendships bloom, every once in awhile Colin or Aria will run over to me for another drink of water, a scrap of snack or simply to recharge. And then theyâ€™re back up again, eager to rejoin the fun.
Off they go.