This American Life: A Dream Lost

Over the last few months I’ve been feeling a little uneasy. Not exactly anxious, which surprises me, but definitely a little uncomfortable. I’m trying to be optimistic. But I just got that sinking feeling in my stomach. And I can’t figure out if my stomach knows something I don’t or if it’s just gas.

Fading American Dream
Fading American Dream (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are too many uncertainties in my life right now. Mistakes that I made, because I’m an impulsive jackass that has a hard time wrapping his mind around how my spending habits might affect our bottom line, is drastically limiting our breathing room. We don’t have any financial security what-so-ever. No safety net to speak of.  I blame our current predicament on my being too preoccupied with the past, and to casual with my present, and not spending enough time thinking about our future. I’m short sighted and too impulsive. I live for instant, yet short lasting, gratification. Which I admit is stupid, and careless and above all dangerous. I have no sense of fiscal responsibility. Money doesn’t hold any value in my mind, and because of this, I don’t take into account how much I have to work in order to earn what I spent. I’m not 15 anymore. I don’t have all the time in the world to learn and make amends for my poor judgement.

I find myself flashing back to earlier days. Back when thoughts of being married, or paying mortgages, bitching about dwindling job benefits, higher property taxes, aging parents, living check to check, maxed out credit cards, tons of debt, and health care cost, seemed so far off in the future, that it wasn’t even worth sparing a second to contemplate. But the older we get the faster we perceive time, and before you know it, you find yourself slamming face first into that future that for a while seemed like it was never going to get here. That’s where I find myself now. My face pressed up against a future that got here much quicker than I ever expected it.

I keep hearing murmurs about our jobs being outsourced, or layoff taking place. There are times, especially after a rough day at work, I welcome the rumors with open arms. Some days I fantasize of being handed that pink slip, along with a tiny severance check, and cordially be shown the door. I picture myself being ecstatic that I don’t have to do something that brings me so little joy. Not having to spend so many hours feeling trapped in a depressing environment. Working for a company that sometimes feels like it goes out of its way to make us feel expendable. Where the only voice that is heard and valued are the ones that hold stock in the company. And then the reality of my situation hits me, and the thought that brought me so much joy then fills me only with dread. We have a mortgage, car notes, student loans, and credit cards to pay down. I also know that sooner or later I will get the wifey knocked up and I will have even more responsibilities, more cost, more reasons to be gainfully employed. If I am suddenly showed the door then what? What do I do then?

I’m in the same boat as millions of Americans who live from payday to payday. Always being at the mercy of the best case scenario. As a pessimist, that does not bring me a whole lot of comfort. I admit my faults. I know I had my hand in our present predicament, but a part of me does feel slightly let down. Betrayed even.

English: The Supreme Court of the United State...
English: The Supreme Court of the United States. Washington, D.C. Français : La Cour suprême des États-Unis. Washington D.C., États-Unis. ‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: Høyesterett i USA. Washington, D.C. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When 9/11 happened, and the drums of war began to beat deeply and loudly, G.W. Bush told Americans that the best way that we all could serve our country, what was our patriotic duty, was to buy stuff. Buy as much shit as we could. Keep the giant, insatiable, American economic engine going. So we did. Credit cards were maxed, equities were dipped into, vacations were taken, and cars were bought. People all across the country lived way past their means. Some out of foolishness. Others out of necessity. But everyone stuck in the same perilous situation. All the while companies both big and small, were given the same rights as individuals by SCOTUS, flooded our politics with obscene amount of money, made record breaking profits, cut hundreds of thousands of jobs, stagnated wages, and increased stockholders return in investment. Leaving the little guy both voiceless and penniless.

Cover of "Stand and Deliver"
Cover of Stand and Deliver

Ever since we were all tiny little children, long before we understood what college even was, our parents, teachers, and government officials, touted the importance of a college education. We watched movies like Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds, and Boys N the Hood, that all shared the same basic notion, that only with the help of education, particularly a collage one, could we ever hope to rise above our humble beginnings. We were warned that we would never be able to earn a decent paycheck without that degree. That degree was the key to everything. Once attained all things in life would become possible. But that education isn’t free. The trajectory of tuition creeps upward year in and year out. We found ourselves bowering more, and more, and more. Only to find that by the time it was all said and done, we borrowed so much that the dept that we now owed was tied unceremoniously around our necks, like a noose. Keeping many of us from ever achieving any real financial freedom. What’s worse that for many of us, the debt from college loans threaten to put us right back where we fought so hard to escape from. And what happened to all those beautiful, glorious, high paying jobs, that were promised to be waiting for us once we graduated? Most of the people that I know that graduated college, are working in fields that they didn’t even major in. Getting paid only a fraction of what they envisioned. And having a not so insignificant amount of our earning going off to pay for the college loans that we took out. Loans that are not forgivable under most circumstances.

How about the great American dream of owning a home? How many Presidents, and politicians, and business leaders in this country gave speech after speech about how owning the home was the great equalizer. That owning a home symbolized that you made it. Yet most of the home owners I know are under water. And are stuck with the choice of either letting the house of their dreams go, or paying over inflated mortgage price to the same banks that caused the Great Recession in the first place. What about the forward thinking folks who weren’t directly impacted by the Great Recession? People who were diligent that bought their homes at a reasonable price. Who paid their mortgages every month without once ever skipping a beat. Only to see their hard earned equity drop drastically because their neighbors were not so fortunate. Now they are stuck surrounded by a number of abandoned properties, and a neighborhood that no longer feels like one. Big investment firms located in other states, bought wholesale, thousands of properties unseen, for pennies on the dollar. Flipped the houses for minimal investment, and then allowed only a handful of houses to go back out on the market at any given time in order to dictate supply and demand. All perfectly legal. All terribly unfair for individual families everywhere. Thankfully, the wifey and I were lucky enough to buy our house at a time when the market had hit absolute bottom, but we still find ourselves contending with ever increasing property taxes that make no sense to me no matter how hard I try to figure it out.

This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. This is not the America dream that I grew up with. I worry about what will happen when we reach retirement age. I worry about what kind of life I will be able to provide our future children. Some days I feel mad. Mad that I didn’t develop any foresight. Mad that so many fell for the same hollowed-out ideal that was sold to us as a promise, but instead turned out to be a pyramid scheme. Yet when it is all said and done we only have ourselves to blame. It is our fault because we no longer are outraged by injustices. We will bitch and moan about Ben Affleck being hired on as the next Batman (I know I did) but don’t blink an eye at how we all get taken advantage by unfair, yet perfectly legal business practices. We don’t bother to hold our politicians accountable, because we vote for party first, rather than with our conscious. We bought hook line and sinker every lie that we ever heard about the American Dream because it was convenient for us to believe in it. It meant that we didn’t have to take responsibility for our own actions. That we could spend and waste our hard earned money on frivolous things. It meant that we did not have to look at the companies that we worked for with suspicions. It meant that we could hang our hopes on politicians that promised us a change that we could believe in. We all were conned, but it was a con that we all seemed to enjoyed; so we voluntarily set ourselves up time and time again. We weren’t robbed. We happily gave it all away. But to be rather honest with you, on most days, what I feel the most is a sense of being powerless. Powerless to undo past mistakes. Powerless to bring about any significant change in my own life. Living in perpetual uncertainty. In a future imperfect. That’s 21st Century America for you.

Sweet Home Chicago: “Part II – Rock On!”

When we last left off, my friend had just finished convincing me to sign up on to the social networking site Migente.com. I didn’t join because I wanted to get in on the whole social network experiment. My reasonings where a bit shallower than that. I was just attracted by all the cute looking ladies that I saw while being introduced to the site. I’m sure you will forgive my male chauvinist reasoning’s. But what else would you expect from a 22 year old kid?

For the first couple of weeks, all I heard was crickets, when I would check-in to see if anyone had bothered to check out my page. I wasn’t surprised to learn I wasn’t exactly a hot commodity. After all, there was that little matter of me being well over 400 lbs. And with no Biggie Smalls, or Big Pun, around to make being big look fashionable, well lets just say it was a tough time to be a big fella’ in the city. It was only at that point that it dawned on me that the four year old picture that was serving as my profile pic was not going to attract anyone’s attention. Although this was before the time of selfies, duck faces, or narcissistic bathroom abs shots, it was still imperative to have one decent looking picture of yourself. Unfortunately for me, I really didn’t have one. Or at least not one that disguised my size. If I was going to make any type of positive impression with the ladies, I would have to put in some effort, and make my page stand out from all the other dudes that were on the site. Thankfully that wasn’t too hard to do. A good 95% of the male profiles usually went a little something like this:

Yo Ma what’s good? This is Tito Pena AKA Joey Wallnuts, cumming atcha from Da Boogie Down Bronx. You know how we do! Just trying to hook-up with some honnies and get things poppin’. So if you like what you see and you ain’t scurred ( yes you are reading that correctly. Scurred not scared. Remember we keep’n it real here) holla atcha’ boy. Ya feel me!

Terminal 5, NYC
Terminal 5, NYC (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now I have known plenty of ladies in my day that would have been perfectly fine with that guy. But that wasn’t someone I could pretend to be. Plus that’s not the kind of girl I wanted to attract. I was trying to meet the sweet, girl next door. The kind of girl that didn’t mind putting some time in to read an extra wordy profile from a guy that was obviously trying way too hard. That wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen with a big fat guy. The kind of quirky, down to earth, funny, playful, full of life chick that you only see in movies being played by Zooey Deschanel. Who, as a side note, I have had a major problem with since seeing 500 Days of Summer. Why did she have to be such an asshole in that movie? She did Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character Tom so wrong. But that is neither here nor there.

Since being my boring self got me nowhere, I felt my best bet was to try and become someone else. Or at least use someone else’s words. I spent several hours looking for thought provoking quotes that would perhaps make me come off as a deep thinker with a sense of humor. Thankfully a few key search words on the ol’ trusty browser lead me to all the deep sounding quotes and funny musings that I would ever need. Looking back I can’t help but feel a little embarrassed for thinking that I could sound like the second coming of Mahatma Gandhi because I copy and pasted a few quotes. But at the time I didn’t care. They sounded good too me and I thought it made me seem sophisticated.

To my happy surprise my superficial changes seemed to make a difference. I started getting a few more visits to my page. And a few girls actually signed my guest book which was a thing in those days. Then came the notes. I was receiving a few messages a week from a few of the girls that had checked out my page. They all mentioned the same thing. I love your page. Great quotes. So deep. And so on and so forth. I felt I was well on my way to Bootycallville. Now I just need to start corresponding with some of the ladies.

My first few attempts at striking up a conversation failed miserably. My so called game was way too rusty. I was trying desperately to come off being cool, swave, confident, and funny. Instead I just seemed awkward and probably a little desperate. Which always sent them fleeing; rightfully so. I needed to recalibrate my efforts.

I tried to take things a little slower, which is not exactly something I have always excelled at. But I did my best to make an effort. I took the time to get to know them. I planted the seeds of friendship. Which in turn led me to learn all about their wants, dislikes, dreams, and hopes. And just like that, it all started to fall into place. A couple of months in, I was talking with a few girls through notes, and over the the phone on a regular basis.

You would think that I would be happy with the way things were going. Yet that wasn’t the case at all. You see, I was suffering from– well let’s just call it stage fright. The problem was that every time I spoke with these girls I was putting on a front. I was pretending to be someone that I really wasn’t. I guess that we all do that when we are trying to hook up with someone that you are attracted too. You know, put your best foot forward. The thing was that it wasn’t even my foot. I mean I wasn’t using an alias or anything that dramatic. But I wasn’t being honest about who I was or what I really looked like. Eventually I would reach a point when the girl would suggest we meet up; and then I would have to go through a list of excuses that I had made up in order to try to delay the meeting. There was this particular instance when I was in high school that had stayed with me. I was going up a flight of stairs and several steps below me were a couple of girls that I thought were pretty cute. I overheard as one girl asked the other one “What do you think about him?” I knew that they were referring to me since there was nobody else in the stairwell. Her friend responded with  “He’s cute. But he’s SO big.” They were talking in hushed tones so that I wouldn’t hear them. So it wasn’t like they were going out of the way to hurt my feelings or anything. I just happen to be unlucky enough to catch what was being said. I gotta say that hearing those two say that about me hurt me plenty. You never really want to hear that you aren’t attractive to someone. It is a bit of a punch to the fat gut.  This was pretty much the only reason why I didn’t want to meet any of the girls I was talking too. I was afraid they would react in the same manner. Plus I didn’t need to deal with the added disappointment of having to explain to them that I did not actually possess a 14 inch penis. Eventually all the girls that I would talk with would all tire of my excuses and move on. And I would find myself back at square one.

Then on April 6th, 2002 I got a notification that someone had signed my guest book. I took a quick peek. The message read:

“Hey what’s up? Just wanted to leave my rocken’ mark on your spot! Well take care and ROCK ON! ROCKERS RULE!!!”

All these years later and that message still puts a smile on my face. You see in addition to all the silly quotes that I had plastered on my Migente page, I also had a small listing of the bands that I was really into at the time. Bands like Radiohead, Sublime, No Doubt, Weezer, and the Strokes. I never in a 100 years would have thought that anyone would have been drawn to my page because of the music I listened too. It was just something I had posted to fill some of the empty space. But as you can tell by reading the message above, it got the attention of a kindred spirit. Someone that also appreciated a good song with a heavy riff. Someone that was also a bit of a lost soul. That someone would turn out to be my future wife.

Little did I know that I was about to enter a miniature golden age. Fate was playing her little games with me; and once again, I found myself clueless about the significance of another pivotal event in my life. I was about to be swept out to sea by a tidal wave. I just didn’t know it yet.

To Be Continued: Sweet Home Chicago: Part III – Getting to Know You

Family Ties

Family Ties

Yesterday I accompanied the wifey and her family to a little family outing too Cantigny Park inWheaton IL. I can’t say that I was uber excited about walking around all day looking at flowers and whatnot, but my manager was kind enough to get me the day off, so any day out of the office is a damn good one in my book. I don’t know if it was because the weather was cool and pleasant, for being late July, or if it was that we all were feeling a little giddy about not being at work on a day that usually we all would be working, but something had us feeling like a bunch of Arthur ‘Fonzie’ Fonzarelli’s. There was this jovial vibe that seemed to be coursing through all of us. Any internal worries that might have been hanging around in the back of our heads decided to take the day off, and allowed us to just enjoy the day for all that it was worth.  So the father in law, two sister in laws, two nephew in laws, the sister in law’s husband, the wifey and I hopped in two vehicles, drove 20 some miles down the road and entered the former 500 acre estate of Colonel Robert McCormick. As soon as we pulled up to the place, I spotted a bunch of decommissioned tanks. I immediately got excited at the site of these war machines from a bygone era. But when I found out you could actually climb those metallic beast, I got extra happy,  and I thought to myself, this day might not turn out to be half-bad.

I did what any 340lbs, 35 year old kid would do, I claimed on the tanks. This turned out to be a bit of a physical exercise for me since there were no steps. I just had to grab on to something and step on the tracks in order to climb up. But it was fun. All the guys in our group were doing the same. The women just laughed at us and took pictures. We then toured the 1st division museum. Walked through the Ideas and Rose garden. We had lunch at the McCormick restaurant. Laughed at the sister in law’s disbelief when the waiter brought over this ridiculous large half sandwich, which she had only ordered because she was under the impression that it would be a very lite meal. We took the tour of McCormick mansion, marveled at his dining room and library, and looked over his impressive gun and ancient sword collection. We wondered out loud what the estate must have looked like in it’s heyday, when the richest and most influential people in Chicago, Hollywood, and Washington D.C. would frequent the grounds. After touring the estate for the better part of the morning and most of the afternoon, we all climbed back into our cars and headed to the sister in laws house for some grilled hot dogs, burgers and beer. All in all it was really pleasant day.

In my eyes the the wifey has such a large, extended family, and they are a close nit group to boot. When I am hanging around with them I feel envious of my wife. Yes, I know I probably shouldn’t feel that way, but I’m sorry, I feel what I feel, and that right there is what I feel. I admire how the wifey’s family support each other, sometimes financially, but always emotionally. Even the wifey’s father, who I am pretty sure was not my biggest fan at first, came around. He even helped us with the down payment for home. Without her father’s help, we would have missed out on our little dream a reality. The wifey’s family seem to share a bond that I have only seen fake TV families share. I never been lucky enough to experience that.  I’m not saying that my family and I never shared any happy times together. But it sure seems to me that we shared a lot more bad ones than good.

There are times I find myself fantasizing about what it would be like to hang out with my mom and siblings again. It’s not exactly a happy thought, but it is one that comes across my mind at some point after spending some time with the the wifey’s family. That’s one of the reason’s why I sometimes look for an excuse to skip out on one of their countless family events. I don’t feel the need for the constant reminder of how different my family dynamic is.

When I first arrived to Chicago, and I met the wifey’s family, I was really freaked out by them. They were really nice and kind, lite hearted people. Well maybe not so much her parents, but her siblings were real cool with me. I on the other hand was real skeptical about the whole bunch. I used to think that there was no way in hell that these people could genuinely be so pleasant and innocent. It had to be an act of some kind. But after spending almost 10 years mingling with the wife’s family, I can tell you with all the confidence in the world, that it was no act. They are genuinely a nice group of people that really love each other .

I know for a fact, that if our marriage failed for any reason, my wife will be able to count on the loving support of her family. At no point will she ever really feel alone. Because her family will do everything in their power to make sure that she knows that they are there for her. Her mom and pop’s, sisters and brother, aunts and uncles, and countless cousins, and nieces and nephews, will each take the time to pick her up, dust her off, and make sure that she stays up on her feet. Whether she cares to admit it or not, the wifey would have a much easier time recovering from our failure. I can’t say that I would be as fortunate. If the wifey woke up today and decided to leave me for whatever reason, I would pretty much be left to fend for myself.

When we got married, all of the wifey’s immediate family, and some of her cousins came to witness the event. But the only people that I had there for me were some very good friends (that I had actually met through the wifey), and my ex-roommate and her family. I knew that my kin didn’t have the financial means to make the trip on a short notice. So I figured that if I made it a 2 year engagement that it would buy them enough time to scrounge up enough cash to get their affairs in order and join me for my wedding day. But for one reason or another, they wound up not being able to make it for our big day. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t mind not having them there. The truth is that it stung a heck of a lot. I really wanted to have them there with me. We had experienced so many sad and unpleasant times together, that I had kind of hoped that I could at least have one memory of all us together, sharing in what turned out to be genuinely the most beautiful day of my life. I wonder how maybe their presence would have somehow made an already special day all the more incredible. I did manage to push off the hurt feelings long enough for me to enjoy the festivities that evening. But when it was all over, a part of me felt a smidgen of melancholia because I didn’t have my family around.

Then there was my attempt to throw a housewarming party for our new place this past spring. I had invited my brother, mother and sister, to come out and spend at least a long weekend with us. I thought it would have been a good opportunity for me to get the family once again under one roof. For once I didn’t want to feel like an outsider intruding in the wifey’s family events. I just wanted to share a very special moment for me with my family. But again, I could never get a real concrete commitment from any of them. Eventually I was turned off by the whole idea of holding a house warming party. So I called the whole thing off. I know it was stupid of me for canceling. The best thing I could have done was to hold the event as planned, and enjoyed the day with my friends and the wife’s family that has become my family. But I am an idiot, and I allowed my family not being there to get to me. All I managed to do by doing that, was to rob the wifey from having what would have been a very special moment for her. Which just made me feel twice as shitty.

The thing is that I am just as guilty. My brother had his first kid almost two years ago. And I have yet to meet my beautiful little niece. My wife encourages me to go back home and meet the little one, and her mother, all the time. But I always manage to convince myself of a million different excuses as to why I can’t go. My mother has been inviting me to visit her in Puerto Rico for the better part of two years now. She has even offered me to pay for my trip. Yet all I can come up with is more excuses.

I don’t know what is wrong with us. It’s not like there is any hatred or leftover animosity between my family and I. At least I don’t think there is. We talk to each other on the phone at least once every two weeks, however for whatever reason, we seem to do everything in our power to avoid being in each others presence. I don’t know why it turned out this way for us, it just kinda’ did. I wish I understood why, cause that might mean that maybe I could figure out how to bring us back together again. Even if it was just for one day.

There is this great quote from the movie Garden State, that I often go back to when I think about my family:

“You know that point in your life when you realize that the house you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of a sudden even though you have someplace where you put your shit, that idea of home is gone. You’ll see one day when you move out it just sort of happens one day and it’s gone. You feel like you can never get it back. It’s like you feel homesick for a place that doesn’t exist. Maybe it’s like this rite of passage, you know. You won’t ever have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something. I don’t know, but I miss the idea of it, you know. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people that miss the same imaginary place.”

I gotta say I agree with that assessment. It sure seems to correlate with my own experience. I guess that longing won’t end until I have my own kids someday. Or at least I hope it does.

I have nothing but kind things to say about my wifey’s family. Well…there might be some things I could do without. Like the fact that their food is way too spicy and it makes my ass feel like there is a fire burning right through it when I go to the bathroom. Or how they seem to share a love for loud, repetitive, Mexican music that features major accordion and tuba solos. They like chili powder on their candy, which should be considered a crime against nature. And some of them believe that most Puerto Ricans are knife wielding criminals that have an odd fetish for hubcaps; which I just notch it up to cultural misunderstandings. But when it is all said and done they are a loving bunch. They have accepted this Nuyorican into their home, and have reminded him of what I need to strive for when I have my own family. And as long as they don’t introduce any of my future kids too Tex-Mex fashion, I will always be proud to call myself an honorary Deluna.

Oh God!: Part III – Paradise Lost

Oh God!: Part III – Paradise Lost

I know I had previously described God as suddenly not seeming to be around. Here one moment, and gone the next. But that isn’t exactly an accurate description. God’s departure from my life was not an abrupt event that caught me off-guard. No, instead God just gradually faded, in the same fashion that the colors of a beautifully adorned temple gradually fade away after being exposed to the elements for a millennia or two.

Faith, like willpower, is a finite resource. You can lean on it to keep you propped up when all you want to do is fall. You can draw strength from it to keep you marching forward, regardless of how treacherous the terrain. However there are limitations to how far faith can carry you. In my experience I have found that sooner or later most of us need a break in the action. We need a chance to catch our breath. To recharge our batteries. But if fate so chooses to be relentless in it’s assault, that faith that you so desperately relied on to keep you going gets depleted down to fumes. Once that occurs, it becomes difficult to get any real sense that God is around.

Please allow me for a moment to make this disclaimer. I know I keep saying we, us, our, as in plural. But what I am talking about here is really only about my own personal experience in the matter. I wouldn’t dare to sit here and proclaim that what I experience is what some of my atheist friends have experience, or other folks that have dealt with matters of faith. That my friends would be nothing more than a gross over generalization on my part.

I’ve meet people that stopped believing in God but never suffered a crisis of faith. I know others that just never believed in him in the first place. For these folks there never was a sense of ever being let down by God. There was never any animosity. God just became an antiquated idea that no longer served a practical propose in their world. Others just saw the complete lunacy that organized religion sometimes stands for. I have come to know folks that saw God much like the the Wizard of Oz; nothing more than an elaborate prop used to control and manipulate the poor, the uneducated, and women. They refuse to believe in something that does not promote the advancement of knowledge, or whose followers dare to proclaim their superiority over others just because they want to apply 1st Century writings into 21st Century logic.

Then there are those on the opposite end of the spectrum. I’ve meet people whose entire existence has been nothing more than one drawn out battle. They have had mounds, after mounds, after mounds, of shit just flung on them by life. Who have been kicked and spat on, repeatedly by a world that treats the weak and the voiceless with utter contempt. These admirable people carry their cross in quiet dignity and never once doubted God’s existence. They take pride in their love for God. And although they might find themselves questioning his methods, not once have they ever questioned his purpose.

I have nothing but admiration for both camps. They are resolute in their belief and for that I respect them. Because at least they believe in something. Unlike me. I want to believe in God very desperately, but I dont feel his presence anywhere. I want to believe that there is a greater plan. That all the pain and struggles that I have experienced, and that my family seems to have endured for well over a century isn’t just because of random dumb luck. But there more I look into the matter the more I see that everything that has happened to us is a simple matter of cause and effect; a sprinkle of bad decisions, laced with a lack of understanding, and drenched in a whole lot of poverty. So my belief stay stranded in limbo. They are neither here nor there.

I want my life to mean something. To do something that makes a difference. To somehow leave my mark. And it has nothing to do with being rich or famous, because in my eyes, those are completely meaningless aspiration when weighed against the grand scheme of things. My goals are much more modest. All I want is to feel, real, honest to god joy. To be a decent family man. The kind of man that the wifey can look up too with pride. I want to stop feeling afraid of failing. To trust in my ability to persevere. And most of all I want to someday soon be a good loving father that will do for his children what no man has done in my family for generations. And if I had a sense that God was still around, I might actually trust that these things are all yet possible for me.

So I pray up to God, and I ask him to give me the strength that I so desperately need. To infuse my spirit with confidence. To give me a sign that he is still there, and is listening to my prayers. That I am not alone in my journey. I call out to him from time to time, but I get no reply. I don’t feel his presence. All I feel is a big dark void. I feel nothing. And it causes me to ponder, if God ever was there in the first place. Was I just praying to myself all those years ago. Was there anyone ever really listening? Did I credit him for things that I purely did on my own? And if so, then how do I fool myself into believing again, so that I may get over these hurdles that are keeping me from reaching the mountain top? Maybe I should have been placing faith in myself all along. I don’t know. Just understand that I am no a blasphemer.  I’m just a dude looking to believe in the invisible man in the sky.

Them Babies Gonna Kill My Swag

Them Babies Gonna Kill My Swag
Bertie wants to be a jockey and kim waits for ...
Bertie wants to be a jockey and kim waits for the off! (Photo credit: mark lorch)

So I am finally 35 years old. There was no total eclipse of the sun to mark the occasion. No plague of locust materialized. The earth failed to tremble. The dead did not rise from their place of rest. So much dread leading up to that day, just for it to be just like any other Saturday.  I did run a bunch of errands that day. Had a small cookout in my yard with the wifey and some of her family. And I got to witness the sister-in-laws dog repeatedly sexually harass one of my friend’s dog. So all in all pretty uneventful day.

English: An anxious person
English: An anxious person (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

That got me thinking. So what am I supposed to spend my times worrying about now? I know that 25 year old’s get the quarter-life crisis. And 45 year old’s get the midlife crisis. So what do us 35 year old’s get to fret about? How come we don’t get a crisis geared toward us? How am I supposed to know what I am supposed to be afraid off, and anxious about, if it isn’t yet “a thing!”

jubesbebbeh_zps53f0d117I guess it is up to me to find the next great fear that will take up my valuable time, and I think I found just the thing. Cute, chubby, drooly, projectile vomiting, always pooping, babies. Babies, and what they represent scare the living bejeezus out of me. They also seem to be everywhere. All my friend seem to have one, if not two or three. A day does not go by in which the wifey comes home talking about some co worker getting pregnant, or having a baby. The never-ending, baby factory that is the wifey’s extended family, seems to be always be welcoming a new addition into the world. Even Jubilee, best known for being Wolverine’s quasi kid sidekick back in the 1990’s, just returned to the X-men family with a newborn baby in tow. The world has caught baby fever, and it scares me that maybe I am immune.

English: Gov. Schwarzenegger visits Old Town E...
English: Gov. Schwarzenegger visits Old Town Eureka to survey earthquake damage. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There hasn’t been too many positive male role models in my life. As I mentioned in some of my previous post, my father and I didn’t exactly win father and son duo of the year. My grandfather was a kind man when sober, but when he was drunk, he enjoyed slapping my grandmother around a bit too much. My great-grandfather was some kind of orchestra leader back on the island. He was pretty well know for what I had been told. He had a wife and a family. He also had “a thing” for the help. Guess you can say he had Arnold Schwarzenegger problems. That is how my grandfather came about. I come from 3 generations of men with some serious father son issues. Men who at one point or another gave an oath and believed wholeheartedly that they were going to be nothing like their fathers. Each man failed in spectacular fashion.

Cover of "Robin Harris' Bebe's Kids"
Cover of Robin Harris’ Bebe’s Kids

I can’t help but wonder what kind of father I will turn out to be. I would like to think that I could be the open minded, nurturing father that sparks his kids imagination. Perhaps instill a love for sports, movies, comic books, and all the other geeky stuff that I gravitate too. Yet I also understand that each child is his or her own person. There is a chance that no matter how much I try, the kid would never love or care about any of the things I like. There is a chance that the kid could be born an asshole. Hey, hey, don’t judge me too harshly for saying that now. C’mon let’s be realistic here. We have all come across some bad ass Bebe’s kids before. Kid’s that have kind, nurturing parents, that provide them with all the food and shelter that a kid needs, and yet they still turn into tiny terrors. Kids that torture furry creatures, and hit everything and everyone without impunity. Kids whose sole purpose is to gestate enough criminal knowledge until they are old enough to partake in the american penal system.

stressed out parentsI’ve seen the bewildered, desperate faces of parents, who have had the life sucked out of them by their kids. I’ve had good friends with children, who have looked me in the eye, and have told me in no uncertain terms how miserable being a parent has made them. Sometimes I get the sense that folks romanticize the notion of having kids. Probably like poets, writers, filmmakers, and others romanticize war. The ideal falls way short of the brutal and soul crushing reality.

There is so much about being a parent that seems to be out of your hands. I don’t understand how parents don’t just spend their nights just looking up at the ceiling fretting about all the potential catastrophes that could potentially befall on their kids. I guess all you can do is go to your local witch doctor, sacrifice a chicken, light a candle to Ochún, the Santeria goddess of love,  pop those kids out, and hope that  the universe chooses not to screw you over.

Despite all that. I will confess that there is a part of me that would like to have a kid or two. For 35 years now I lived only to make me happy. I have had a very selfish life. A life that has been devoid of a lot of responsibility. I’ve done stupid things, and not really worried about the consequences because in the end, it would only affect me. Maybe it would affect the wifey too, but she is an adult. She has a strong and loving family to fall back on. She has a good safety net. But with a kid or two, I would be more mindful of the consequences. They are defenseless, and have no safety net to speak off. I would have to be more cautious on how I spend my money, I would be more motivated to strive in the workplace, I would have more incentive to be a better, and more grounded human being. Above all else, I just want to be a good father to my future kids. A loving father. A kind father. The kind of father that does not provide his kids with shit-loads of material to talk about with their future psychiatrist.

Video games for all
Video games for all (Photo credit: AnaleaGwendolyn)

My time of relative freedom is at the end. The baby making process has begun, and I expect to have the wifey knocked up in the next few months. It is making me super nervous and giving me plenty to be anxious about. But I also know that it is time to leave my childish ways behind, and be an adult for once. If anything having a kid in the house could at least mean that I might have someone there to play NBA 2K with me more often. That is if he or she isn’t born an asshole. Well I can hope right?