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

The Hamilton Spectator - - COMMENT - PAUL BENEDETTI

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.

What’s next?

Paul Benedetti is the au­thor of “You Can Have A Dog When I’m Dead.”

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