A startling revelation: I’m wealthy

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:

daughter-note1 daughter-note2

What do you do with a kid like that?

26 thoughts on “A startling revelation: I’m wealthy

  1. I was getting worried when an obviously fake and corny magazine advert made you seethe, so I’m delighted that your daughter came to the rescue with her wonderfully expressed note. I think she has leadership potential.

    • How right you are. It’s one of the most ill-conceived and snobbish ad campaigns I’ve ever seen! Yet, I allow myself to get lost in it every Sunday. I think to myself, “That rotten kid’ll never have his phone service cut!” But there IS NO KID. It’s FAKE! It looks like the target audience is Mitt Romney or Thurston Howell III.

  2. *hugs*we are going to have sooooo much to talk about over drinks, sugar! gorilla bananas is right, The Daughter has a brilliant future ahead. xoxoxxo(ok, now please explain that last photo.)

    • That kid’s going to keep me grounded.The last photo is a remnant in my phone. It was a fantastic exhibit from 2009 at the Guggenheim. Cai Guo-Qiang’s stuffed fake tigers lanced with arrows. There were about a dozen of them going up the ramp.

  3. That note actually made me cry (I am feeble of heart when it comes to original expressions of love, and children do it best). You are a wealthy man, indeed. Without my degrees I wouldn’t get the little work I do, so I agree it makes things easier. I was in my forties when I got mine, so in theory it’s not too late for you to get one too. Hard work, though, and I suspect bloody expensive where you are. It’s free here in Scotland, no less hard work, but free. One of the reasons I love it here. Thanks for the link to the ‘guy’ what a lovely blog he has.

    • I shouldn’t admit this in a public forum but it kind of did a number on me, too. But I can’t be faulted! She’s my daughter!A free education would be nice (albeit, with the hard work). But I think at this stage, that door is closed for me. I’ll have to continue to make the best of what I have.

  4. Let me tell you this… it’s no the watch that the man wears, it’s the man who wears the watch that is important. Patek watches I can get 3 for a tenner down at the Barras Market any given Sunday if you still desire one. But the respect that I have had for you personally over the years had to be earned. It didn’t come in a fancy box.As for the wee note fae the wean, aye, you are indeed wealthy my friend.

    • Has it really been years? Yes, I suppose it has. I’ve know this lesson but I still let stuff like this move me. My 6-year old daughter had one of her friends over. They were in her bedroom and here’s what I overheard: 

”You have a really small bedroom.””I know.” 

”My bedroom is much bigger than this.”

Does it matter? Not in the long run, it doesn’t. But there it is, nonetheless. It still bothers me.

  5. I keep tellin’ ya kid, yer good at this fathering thing. Very good.Probably the best gift I ever got was when I left my family for a week some years ago, (the only time ever!) to do a series of gigs in Moscow. The first thing I found on opening my suitcase was a photie of my three babies with ‘we love you so much’ written on the back. :¬)

  6. you’ve got it right, dear friend. letting go of the trappings is the way out of the trap. stuff. doesn’t freakin’ matter… and i will continue to argue with you about the formalized degree thing. ask the kids who are coming out with a freshly minted undergraduate degree, and crushing student loan debt, how much it’s helping them find work? ok, maybe they should have focused on actual skills/professional training rather than a five year associates degree in fine arts… as a hiring manager on occasion? i look for skills over degrees EVERY DAMN TIME.you done good. and continue to do good. now those tigers? THEY had a bad day…

    • Tell me if you think this is crazy: It’s harder to let go of the trappings if you never had them while growing up. There becomes this permanent state of wanting that gnaws as you and never really subsides. If you grow up with the trappings, you realize early on that they don’t count for a damn thing and are easier to dismiss as an adult. I just made up that crackpot theory while sitting here in my coffee shop at 7:08 a.m. while they play the Goo Goo Dolls’ cover of Supertramp’s Give A Little Bit. Is that a song that needed re-doing? NO.

  7. I’ve got a couple of homemade Fathers Day cards that my daughters made which have pride of place on my mantelpiece. And like your Dad, I was (am?) not made for fatherhood at all.Not for one moment have I considered my two degrees to be vocational training. It’ll sound pretentious, but I seem them as a way of a culture being transmitted to me in far greater detail than I could grasp unaided, with the aim of making me a better informed, more critical, and fair-minded person. How that translates into paid work I’ve no idea.

    • You have, it seems to me, a very evolved notion of a college education. I would argue that 99% of people entering an institution for higher education do so to enhance their earning potential. Yes, for the experience and all that crap but what’s their main goal? A job.

  8. This is beautiful. I must try to say nicer things to my own parents, I think. Even at 26 they must wonder if they did an okay job, if I’m okay, everything else. I must say it. Maybe even out loud. I’ll say, “Mum, dad: If I raise a kid to be as okay in the world as I am, it’s because you showed me how.”That’s what I’ll say.

  9. Poor tiger! Those must be the slings and arrows of outrageous conceptual art.Well, there are heirlooms and there are heirlooms. Funny that the ones made of paper are sometimes the most imperishable of all.Thanks for the point. Here’s the whole Noel Coward quote (toasting his friends in “Cavalcade.”)Here’s to each of us, and all of us togetherHere’s to happiness, and reasonable prideMay your touch on life be lighter than a seabird’s featherMay all sorrows, as you pass, politely step asideTink. To one of the richest men I know.

    • Those tigers were part of a Cai Guo-Qiang exhibit at the Guggenheim. There were about ten of them and they ran all the way up the ramp. It was pretty excellent stuff. I can’t believe at this late stage of the game that I let a poorly-executed ad campaign get under my skin. You just don’t know what’ll push your button until it’s good and pushed.Noel Coward! I should have guessed!

  10. The kid’s a gem… now don’t screw it up Dad, lol… sometimes we do things right even when we don’t really have a clue what we’re doing but seems to me you’re doing just fine dad… and as for college, i never looked at it as a way to increase my earning potential, i had this rose colored notion it was a place to learn things about the world and yourself, i mean i think the acid helped but really i spent more time in the library reading books that interested me, not for class but just for the general knowledge, just to fill my brain with usesless and trivial facts and stories so that when i was stoned out of my gourd i could ruminate on the human condition and all it’s folly, hell i’ve never made more than 15 bucks an hour legally, if i wanted to make money and find a job i’d have went to trade school, instead i have a fancy piece of paper somewhere in a box, i could go on and on but in short i’m glad i did it.

    • After I wrote this post, I meditated on it a while and maybe my dad actually DID teach me something. How NOT to conduct yourself when you have children. In a roundabout way, I suppose I owe him for providing a bad example to work off of. You and looby both have, what can be reasonably argued, an alternative view of college. I would bet my last dime that the majority of applicants are focused on career-creation, not personal enrichment.

  11. You indeed are truly rich given that letter to you. I agree with you about degrees, now I’ve been lucky and I did go to college but not to degree level but a diploma sponsored by my first employer. How not having a degree has hampered my career for 30 years and still does. Recently I looked at a new job, put in my cv considering that I was well suited to the role, I had bags of experience of most of what they needed etc. I got an email saying I was rejected. Shrug.. move on. Then earlier this week I saw the job was re advertised. So I phoned the agent and said “Hey I applied for this, if you haven’t found someone give me another chance.” He dug my CV out on the phone and asked about this and that. Then guess what… yes… “So what degree have you it only has a diploma on here”. I explain no degree, diploma was like 2/3rds the way there and via the recognised processional association in my field I reached “Chartered” status. I.e the same as someone with a relevant degree and some experience. He started to push me away “Client is insistent that you have a degree”. I couldn’t get the client from it and it is too vague in the advert to figure who it is and he wouldn’t budge. Even when I said “So I’ve 30 years experience, bags of relevant experience and knowledge, a professionally recognised post graduate qualification but because I never got a degree you’ll not put me forward?” “Yes”… there and his loss not mine in the end… My son is about to graduate from a Masters course. My daughter is considering unis, but she is partly considering not going I am trying to change her opinion without being the bully! I can see why she thinks this, here in England now you are £18,000 in debt before you start, 3 years (most courses) at £9,000 a year in fees. That is before her living costs whilst at uni. Now she’s grown up in a household with still fierce working class values (I cannot deny my roots) where debt and all that is a “bad thing” – if you can’t afford it you don’t have it etc. Don’t owe nobody anything was my Dad’s motto and to a degree mine too. She’s inherited that but I worry she’ll find herself in years to come significantly disadvantaged and she clearly has the brains to easily get a degree as well unlike her father who would have had to have worked his arse off if there had been the opportunity.

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