A life plan? I don’t even have a day planner
After all these years I feel I’m in the same boat as my kids — starting all over again
We got the good news the way you seem to get pretty much everything now. On our phones. My wife got the first message from our son Matt’s partner, Laura.
“I GOT INTO MIDWIFERY! followed by three “Grinning Face with Smiling Eyes” emojis.
Matt followed up by texting a GIF of a young Hans Solo saying, “Yahoo!”
As an adult I thought I should phone and officially congratulate her and make some sage comments about the future. Instead I texted “Yipppeeeee!!” followed by four Grinning Face Emojis.
I figure if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em. But I worry about really important things being transmitted in this way. I can see a day when your phone buzzes with a text that says: “Impending sun explosion. World end. Bummer,” with four Crying Faces and a GIF ad for an extreme sunblock sale at Walmart.
Anyway, it was great news and a bit of a relief, really. Now we knew the path that Matt and Laura would be on for the next four years.
Just the day before I had sat with our daughter, Ella, back from school, talking about a summer job, and next year and graduation and the rest of her life and, and …“Ahhhhhh!”
That’s actually me yelling, not her. All the talk about GPAs and job markets and LSATS and grad school made me feel suddenly faint. I thought it was caused by all the blood draining out of my head, but more likely it was the thought of all the money draining out of my wallet.
It’s fascinating and fun and scary watching the kids make their way in life: James with his new job and new apartment, Matt and Laura with a house and more school ahead, and Ella, momentarily confused, with a dozen ideas swirling in her head.
And all of that made me think about myself at their age. Early twenties, finished school, a strapping confident young man heading out into the world. Too bad that wasn’t me. I was unemployed, confused, and living at home. I had made some headway — my mom stopped walking me to school some years earlier and I had recently learned how to make myself coffee. Instant.
I didn’t really have a five-year plan. In fact, I didn’t have any plan at all. I had a vague notion that typing might be a bit easier than, say, construction.
I talked to my father. “I know a family,” he said. “The Sicolis. Their daughter works at The Hamilton Spectator. Maybe you should talk to her.”
So, with more temerity than sense, I walked into the Spec newsroom one afternoon and met Florence Sicoli. She was very nice and introduced me to the city editor, John Gibson, a gruff but gentle Scotsman.
He asked: “What do you know about hard news?”
I knew a bit about hard rock and hard candy. “Uh, nothing,” I said.
“Ack. Go down to Entertainment and talk to Bill Muir,” he said, waving me away.
So I did. Bill was a lovely guy and I told him I liked arts and entertainment and would write whatever he wanted. He gave me an assignment — the Mum Show. I didn’t even know what a mum was, but I took it.
That day was, in a lot of ways, the beginning of the rest of my life and it had all the planning of a summer rain shower.
Since then, I’ve never really had any plan. And I thought, in an odd way, that I had found myself — in my sixties and wondering about the upcoming years — in pretty much the same boat as my kids. Last week, I emailed my son, James, and said: “It struck me that, I’m kind of back at square one, where I was in my 20s (and where you are) trying to figure out what to do with ‘my life.’”
He wrote back: “I would like to think answers are granted to all of us somehow, but maybe part of it is creating our own. ... It really is a lifelong journey eh?” He’s a pretty smart kid. And he’s right. And so, I thought, you stand here, after all these years, asking yourself, and the world, the same question you did a long time ago.
Paul Benedetti is the author of “You Can Have A Dog When I’m Dead.”