I didn’t exactly set the world on fire professionally. Not having a degree, I entered the workforce with one hand tied behind my back. I’ve forged ahead as best I could and am fortunate that I stumbled into something I enjoy doing, but it’s not my idea of success.
In his unheralded masterpiece, I Ain’t Got You, Springsteen sings that he’s “Been paid a king’s ransom for doin’ what comes naturally”. That, to me, is the very definition of success. Brothers and sisters, that ain’t me. (Chances are that ain’t you, either. Most of us never get to sip from that golden chalice.) And everyone who says I should stop my whining, that their college degree was a waste of time (this has been said to me many, many times) should perform the following experiment: remove any mention of college from your resume and try to find a job. Let me know how that goes. I got as far as I did out of a combination of talking a good game and dumb luck.
I was similarly ill-equipped for fatherhood. I was raised by a man who was so overwhelmed with the responsibilities inherent in raising a family that he developed severe bleeding ulcers in his stomach from the stress. My mom had to keep a quart of buttermilk in the fridge at all times for him to guzzle to temporarily relieve his gastric agony.
Evey Sunday there’s a full-page ad in the New York Times Magazine for Patek Philippe watches. The theme of the campaign is that you’re not buying a watch, you’re buying an heirloom. The scene is always of an über successful, über Caucasian father with his über Caucasian son. In one ad, he’s teaching him how to read the blueprints for—I don’t know what the fuck it is—the new wing, I suppose. In another, they’re on a grand sailboat and he’s teaching him how to hoist the mizzen mast. I seethe because my memories aren’t anything like these bucolic scenes. My memory is that after my father left, our phone service was occasionally shut off for lack of payment. So since I didn’t have any usable information to leverage, I was somewhat reluctant to become a father, to say the least.
It would seem that despite my bumbling and cluelessness, I might be doing something right. I might have figured this thing out after all. I went to bed on Saturday and found this on my pillow:
What do you do with a kid like that?