Wednesday, May 26, 2021

On Following Dreams

I have recently seen a few people post a question on social media: "What would your career be today, if you had followed your childhood dream?"

If I'm being honest, or if we're really talking childhood, when I was seven, I wanted to be a construction worker. I dug the utility toolbelts, I think. Other than that, I find this question a symptom of an unhealthy paradigm. 

I have followed all of the things that I have loved since my youth and I have never stopped. It was always about stories and music for me. Did I dream about being a high school English teacher and writing a blog? No. Did I dream about playing drums in bars? No. Did I dream about writing music for music libraries? No. 

My dreams were more lofty. I wanted to be Sting or John Williams. I wanted to be the next Tolkien. So far, it hasn't happened. But, "so far" is the key phrase. Between you and me, I don't think any of these things will happen, but I can say "so far," because...I followed my childhood dreams and I still do. Could I still get that call from Spielberg? Probably not, but if my chances are 0% if I don't keep writing and releasing music, they are at least .00001% if I do. 

I'm not sure when it happens to people; when they put aside the things that bring them joy and replace them with what they think will bring them maturity. It's probably because of all the well-meaning types trying to convince them that there are easier ways to make a living -- more secure fields; more reliably lucrative fields. Comfort is a real temptation. 

But there is also this: Would I be a traitor to my dreams if I had decided to be a lawyer who writes music and prose on the side? I think you can argue two things: I'd still be "following my childhood dreams" and I'd also probably have a much nicer studio. 

As usual, the question is an oversimplification. What does it mean to have "followed your childhood dreams"? It means a million things. But let's not ridicule those dreams by pretending the best thing we could have done was to have moved on from them and let's not drown them in the tears of nostalgia and lamentation for our lost youthful energy.  

It's always been important that little me be proud of big me. I once saw a picture of myself as a toddler and the only thing I could think was: "Did I let that little guy down, or would he be proud." I think he'd know I did the best I could, at least. 

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

The Kind of Man I Want To Be

I know. It's a cheesy title. But it is necessary. We're not allowed to have opinions about others anymore. That's labeled as "judgmental." So, I'm not allowed to say what I believe is "proper manly behavior," because that implies things that we are no longer allowed to believe, like, for instance, that there is a difference between men and women or that, in fact, there is a such thing as "man" and "woman" at all. 

But I have a sense of what it means, for me, to be "a man." I'm not saying you need to be like this or that anyone else needs to care what I think. If you define being a man as standing in a field with a with a propeller beanie on your head and hitting 600 baked potatoes a day off of a tee, have at it. For me, though, there is a combo of stuff that I have seen and respected in men who have influenced me over the years and those things have guided me to where I am today, whether the Interweb groupthinkers like it or not. 


"Big boys don't cry," some used to say. "Sure they do," people of good sense responded. "Well, they don't cry in front of others," some said. "Well, it all depends," people of good sense responded. 

While my dad was a fan of the John Wayne brand of machismo, he was also a composer. I watched him unashamedly break into tears while listening to Ravel. I saw him wipe tears away during powerful emotional scenes in movies. When my grandfather (his dad) died, I can still see the image of him standing in the twilight-dark kitchen, looking out the window, drinking a glass of milk. His face looked wet. He didn't hide it, but he didn't bawl in front of his son. He didn't sensitivity-signal. 

That's the kind of man I want to be. 


Back to The Duke: He's been credited as having said that courage is not about not being afraid; it's about getting "into the saddle" even when you are scared out of your mind. Sometimes it's about putting youself last. 

My wife and I have been watching a pretty good show called Longmire. Walt Longmire is a real "throwback" kind of sheriff in Wyoming; cowboy hat, the works. In a recent episode, he decided to go on foot, up a mountain, alone, after a snowcat vehicle full of armed convicts who were holding an FBI agent hostage. When he was told he was crazy for doing this, he said, "If I was a hostage, I'd want to know someone was coming after me." 

That's the kind of man I want to be. 


I treat women with deference; I treat them differently than I treat men, in some ways. I respect them, even though I go out of my way to hold doors for them. (I know that seems impossible, since all of the suspicions point to the fact that this is just cog in the wheel of an insidious plan to keep women feeling as if they need men, but bear with me.) Sure, I hold doors for dudes, but, I might throw the door open wide behind me so they can easily catch it and then say "thanks man" on the way through, but I'd never do that to a lady. I'd stand there and let her go through. 

Why? Not because I don't think she can hold the door, but because I don't think she should have to. What did she do to deserve this? Women, for me, have always represented an ideal that we power-hungry, chest-beating men would do better to imitate. Women have a strength of spirit we only wish we had and that we historically have pretended to have by shooting others by and making labyrinthine rule-systems. Women are the source of life, literally, and they are no less than the bedrock of civilization. 

Least I can do is let them go first through the door. That's the kind of man I want to be. 

"Head of the Household"

I don't want to boss my family around, but I want them to feel like they want to turn to me when things get hard. I want my boys and my wife to see me as a source of courage and strength; of rationality and reliability; of safety. I want to be the captain to whose ship all of the sailors want to be assigned, not the one who is just known for running a tight ship. 

Bringer of Balance

I want to be confident enough in my manliness to be able, occasionally, seek comfort from my wife when things overwhelm me. I have learned to ignore stupid machismo markers like "the man should always drive" and to, instead, focus on doing the things behind the scenes that keep my family happy and healthy --  to expect or desire exactly no credit for being a dad and a husband. As I once heard a mother say on a call in show, I want my children to "take me for granted." My thanks is their respect and healthy develpment, not attention for broadcast-actions of empty toughness. I don't want to spike the ball in the endzone, as if what I did was a big deal; I want to casually toss it to the ref as if I never broke a sweat. 

That's the kind of man I want to be.