Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Comparative Lifelines

It's weird to think about the fact that, when my father was my age, his life was completely different from mine. Like, entirely different in nearly every way. 

When my dad was 39, he had four kids, one of them under 5.  He'd been married to my mom for more than 10 years. He had had a dozen jobs by this point, including a short-order cook and a shop steward for a long-haul trucking company repair depot. His jobs were transitory, though, because my dad had a career, and that career was union organization. Whatever job my dad had, he was always focused on improving things for the workers around him, via collective action and collective bargaining. I know it cost him at least one job. I know it also got him at least one job. I don't know if that constant fear of losing a job at the cost of his career was part of why he drank. From our (very sparse) conversations about it, my father drank because he was an alcoholic, just as his father was an alcoholic. By the time he was 50, my father had given up drinking, saved his marriage from dissolution, and reconnected with his family and his faith, all without ever losing his drive for collective action and collective bargaining. In many ways, I am envious of my father's life, even as I recognize that he lived it specifically so I wouldn't have to. 

When looked at in comparison, my life seems a litany of failures: two failed marriages, many failed relationships, always drifting from one IT job to another, never doing much manual labour, always concerned with myself first, never connecting much with others. Some friends, some business contacts, but never the kind of driven focus that was the centerpiece of my father's life.

But we remake ourselves, especially as we get older. I am a different person than I was even at 35. I have roots, and a comfortable life even as I'm trying to find more work for myself. I'm contemplating going back to school, to avoid the death-sentence that is a gap in the resumé. I socialize more now. I seek diverse voices. I seek diversity. I seek to support those who are not as fortunate as I am even while recognizing that in itself that seeking is a privilege. I am more aware of my privilege and more willing to talk about it and recognize it and call it out in myself and others than I was even a year ago (much of that is because of my now-wife, who is so compassionate as to sometimes make me weep). I'm much more interested and connected to the messages of collective action than I was when I was younger, and might've understood the drive that burned within my father, seems to burn even now, even in his frailty and greyness.  

My father remade himself, at an age not too far from where I am now. I hope that I can be as courageous, as present and active, in my remaking. 

We are all remaking ourselves, every day, whether we recognize it or not. The trick is, what are you remaking yourself into today? Tomorrow?