The year is more than halfway over. That was fast.
Maybe my life is, too. I’m 35. Many men die before turning 70.
I look in the mirror.
Who are you?
I don’t know anymore. But I want to. Need to.
I think we go through a bit of an identity crisis after divorce. Maybe not everyone. Maybe just me.
For so long, I was Matt—husband, newspaper reporter, fun guy.
Then I was Matt—husband, dad, fun guy.
Now? Part-time father. Wannabe writer who doesn’t write.
The most-important lesson I learned in a decade of newspaper reporting—bar none—was that if you want to find answers, you need to ask the right questions.
I Am My Mother
My mom is the oldest of eight children—the first four of which were born in four consecutive years. Eighteen years separate my mom from her youngest sister, who is just four years older than me.
What does that do to a person? When they spend their entire childhood expected to help with all of the younger kids, and getting less than a year of undivided attention from their parents?
She grew up in a small farm town in Ohio. Less than 5,000 people. Everyone knew everyone. People have stopped me on the town streets to ask me which family member I belong to because my facial features resemble my uncles’.
Maybe that’s why mom moved far away after graduating high school. Escape.
About 500 miles from home.
That’s where she met my dad.
I Am My Father
My dad is the oldest of four children.
His father was an alcoholic and I think his mom was, too. She died just before I was born.
When my dad and his siblings were children, their mom started sleeping with the neighbor guy and their dad started sleeping with that guy’s wife. The two women switched houses and married one another’s husbands.
My dad once spent a night in jail after riding a wheelie on a motorcycle through his city’s downtown.
He’s a high school dropout who smoked a lot of pot, and drank and partied often. He joined the U.S. Navy as a teenager and traveled the world for four years.
Mom left him when I was 4. Probably because he smoked a lot of pot, and drank and partied often.
Are We Our Parents?
I don’t know what it’s like to grow up with both of your parents together. I vaguely remember one Christmas with mom and dad. And I remember the day of my parents’ custody hearing which would determine which parent I was going to live with nine months out of the year 500 miles away from the other.
Maybe when you live with both of your parents at the same time and observe them, it’s easier to identify the bits of you that come from your mom versus the other parts that make you like your dad.
My mother was a domineering wife and overprotective parent that had me craving freedom in ways that always had me at friends’ houses. It caused hurt feelings for my mom because I would avoid bringing friends around. Mom didn’t know who I was.
My father (and the closest thing to a hero I ever had) spoiled me because he only saw me two and a half months out of the year and seemed to walk on water because he was the dad I was constantly being deprived of seeing, even though that’s unfair to my mom and a romanticized version of the truth.
Mom remarried right away and committed to making my entire childhood the best and safest and most-nurturing she could. She’s a deeply religious woman, and her only priority is that I get to heaven after I die.
Dad filed for bankruptcy after my mom left and took me far away to Ohio. He kept partying and grinding at work.
Today, my mom is on her third marriage and struggles financially.
My father eventually bought the company he worked for and is now a well-deserving member of the 1%.
He was committed to helping me become the smartest, most-financially successful adult I could be.
Both of my parents are kind and decent people.
Both would go to the ends of the Earth for me.
Both, in very different ways, are great examples of what it means to love.
One of These Things is Not Like the Others
I don’t have brothers and sisters like my mom and dad.
I am—biologically—an only child, with two stepsisters about my age and a half-sister born when I was in high school. I love all three. But we have very non-traditional sibling relationships.
And I don’t really know what that means. I don’t know what that makes me.
Want good answers? Ask good questions.
Who am I?
I don’t know.
Single? Divorced? Father? Who makes bad decisions?
Aren’t we whoever we choose to be?
Who do I choose to be?
Someone kind. Someone fun. A good father. A writer.
Aren’t we defined by what we do?
Am I kind?
I really do try.
Am I fun?
I really do try.
Am I a good father?
I really do try.
Am I a writer?
Today, I am.