I Travelled Through Time And Space To Get To You

May 13, 2014 at 8:29 pm , by

3 years, 5 months.

Dear Jack,

People are fascinated by the concept of time travel. I can understand why.

Only God is not limited by time or space.

However, we as human beings are stuck in the 70 year lifespan we are assigned. No such thing as a re-do for even just one day.

We can at least learn from our mistakes, but we can’t go back in time to change our past in order to ultimately change our future.

Still though, I think I keep secretly hoping that one day I can. It’s stupid to think that, I know.

I could have been a much more knowledgeable, helpful husband and father and son and brother and friend if only I knew then what I know now.

Not being able to time-travel puts us in an annoying situation where we have to make things right, ourselves- as people allow us, after the fact.

Saturday, Mommy picked up Frozen (more on that in the next letter) for you from Redbox and a movie called, About Time, for her and me.

When I saw the cover with Rachel McAdams, I assumed it was just another version of The Notebook.

I was wrong. It was more of a barely R-rated version of Marley And Me, without the dog, but with a plot line involving time travel.

It features the close relationship between a father and his adult son, as they both are able to time-travel to events in their own life in order to relive them for the better.

They eventually begin reliving each day, right after it happens, in an effort to catch all the subtleties they missed the first time.

There are those missed opportunities to smile at someone, to make someone laugh, or to just simply appreciate the otherwise uninteresting parts of life with the people they encounter.

The son begins realizing he no longer needs to go back and relive each day, as he sharpens his ability to truly appreciate those “lesser” moments. He begins enhancing the lives of his family, and strangers, in the process.

But I guess I don’t have to time-travel to learn that same lesson.

Actually, I feel that watching the movie twice over the weekend has actually helped changed my thinking for the better.

The movie points out that we are all travelling through time each day and it’s up to us how we manage that time the first and final time through it.

It just so happens, you and I are travelling through time together. You’re stuck with me, kid.

I loved that the theme song of the movie, which is featured throughout, is “The Luckiest” by Ben Folds. That was the song that Mommy and I had for “our song” at our wedding nearly 6 years ago.

“The Luckiest” points out how much it matters that two people are born in the same span in the history of the world so that they can know each other and be close.

Had I been born a hundred years ago and Mommy was born in 1981, as she truly was, then you wouldn’t exist. The three of us wouldn’t exist as a family.

But I believe we were meant to be together in this life in which we travel through time together.

This movie, About Time, helped remind me just how special and important  it is to be alive during the time I am… with the people I am here with.

 

Love,

Daddy

You’re Not Entitled To Much In This Life, Except…

October 27, 2013 at 11:15 pm , by 

2 years, 11 months.

Dear Jack,

Every once in a while, I try to take a break from narrating and bookmarking your life, and instead I like to share some advice on life, based on what I, as your dad, am experiencing.

Here is one of those things I especially want you to remember from me:

You’re not entitled to much in this life.

See, I am a child of the Eighties. Born in 1981, I am the firstborn of Generation Y.

Growing up, I was told by everyone, including every adult I knew, that I could do and become anything I dreamed of and put my heart into.

And I bought it. After all, I heard it all the time!

Yes, I do indeed believe that you, my son, can do and become anything you dream of.

But at the same time, I don’t want you taking that as simply as I did.

Because then there’s a chance your dreams will remain dreams, if you do. There’s a chance you may believe that making dreams come true is actually easier than it is.

It’s not easy.

I had to work very hard (and very smart) to get where I am in life.

But I admit, something that life has taught me, especially since joining the career world nearly a decade ago, is that basically, I’m entitled to… not a lot.

I used to believe I deserved certain things in life. I believed that because (at least in my own mind) I’m a “good person,” that meant I would be the automatic recipient of a somewhat easier path to my definition of success.

It has only been in recent years that I fully realized and accepted this is not so easily the case. Sure, I’m special, as every person is, but as far as being entitled to things in life because of it, I’ve found more of the opposite to be true.

Because if everyone is special, then it takes a lot more work to prove that you, as an individual, really are that special. (Hence the concept behind American Idol.)

So I had to lower my expectations on certain things in life. That happened by me nixing the belief that I am entitled to anything.

In fact, what exactly am I entitled to? That’s a deep thought- and right now, I honestly don’t know the answer.

Life is challenging. But as long as I am here in this life, you will have me not only rooting you on, but being that (sometimes annoying) person to also show you the fundamentals on how to make your dreams come true.

Based on what I know, it has a lot to do with capitalizing on what you’re already best at, while at the same time overcoming the challenges (and fears) of your weaknesses and not letting them be the reason you don’t get what you want in life.

I also know a lot of success in life has to do with money management, not simply making money: It’s crucial to become debt-free, then save and invest your money for the rest of your life.

You will always be hearing me preach this lesson to you because it was only this past July that our family worked our way out of over $58,000 of debt, now being able to save our money; and in the future, to be able to start investing it.

So that’s what you’ve got ahead of you, a life of hard (and smart) work.

You’re not entitled to much in this life, except… my direction and encouragement on how to work for dreams, not wait on or expect them.

You’re entitled to me passionately supporting your dreams, but you’re the one in the driver’s seat. I’m just reading the GPS to you.

You’re entitled to my love and support. I know that much.

 

Love,

Daddy

Just Like the Uniqueness of Human Fingerprints, No Two People Share the Same Version of Reality

Is the integrity of “reality” compromised because it’s different for every person on Earth?

One of the subconscious questions that we movie watchers love to deal with is “What is reality?”  Maybe the main character was actually dead the whole time.  Maybe the whole thing was a computer-generated reality that took place centuries after the main character died.  Maybe the setting wasn’t really the 1800’s, but instead current day the entire time.  These movie twists are interesting because they reveal our fascination with the fact that “reality” is more of an idea and less of a certainty.  Even if most people agree that this world we all live in is indeed reality, there is still the afterlife (or “after reality”) to consider, which completely complicates and enhances the importance of reality.

These thoughts about reality, the meaning of life, and the afterlife are unavoidable at some point in life, for most people.  When someone we are close to dies, our thoughts have to at least consider for a few minutes what happens next for that person.  But even in its simplest form, it’s still difficult to grasp the fact that reality, if nothing else, is different for every person on Earth- and therefore, reality is a static thing, even if most of us agree what reality generally is.  So why is reality so different for each individual?

Sometimes when I read, I come across a quote that I wish I would have thought up myself.  Last week as I was reading Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs by Chuck Klosterman, hidden somewhere in the middle of this random yet organized book (page 169) I found this nugget of epiphany: “The strength of your memory dictates the size of your reality.”

For a guy like me who is arguably only a few notches away from being Aspergers, with a vibrant memory of details of my life all the way back to my 2nd birthday party in 1983, my obsessive habits regarding pop trivia, and my natural ability to memorize Wikipedia highlights, it could be said that if the above quote is true, then the size of my reality is pretty large.  But even if you’re not a walking Wikipedia like me, you still have used your memory to save meaningful information (like certain things you learned in your highest level of education, as well as social cues and expectations) along with meaninglessinformation (like who won the Super Bowl in 1997 or who Jake Pavelka chose on the finale of The Bachelor).  The purposeful along with the pointless are both mixed together along with memories from your life that for whatever reason are not forgotten.  These are some of the major ingredients that make up an individual reality.

But even if we can’t all share the same reality (which would be beyond boring), through our meaningful human relationships we can form a similar version of reality.  For life to have meaning, life must be shared: The more shared experiences people have with each other, the greater their shared reality is.  Our friendships, our families, our political affiliations, our religious organizations… they all help make reality a reality.


Life’s Too Short: The Sad Truth that the Past is an Imaginary Place We Can Never Return To

About a year ago I was watching American Idol and Simon was interrogating one of the male contestants on why he wants to become a professional singer. The man explained he has a wife and a kid and he wants to be sure they’re taken care of financially. Simon asked the man again, “I get that, but WHY do you want to be a singer?” The man again explained it was because he has a wife and a kid… then Simon (who was obviously looking for an answer involving the man’s passion for music, etc.) cut him off with, “I get that, just sing for us.”

We focus so much on “right now”. Chances are, you’re never going to have enough money. Because once you do, you’re going to buy a bigger house or find a new way to get yourself in debt. Money is never enough.

Chances are, you’re never going to have enough time. America has set so much pressure on its people to be thin and in shape, yet it remains one of the most overweight countries in the world. We’re too busy to eat the right foods and to exercise, so instead of making time to be healthy, 74% of the population is overweight but carries the heavy burden of wanting to look like Jennifer Anniston or Brad Pitt, two people who are paid to make time to live healthy lifestyles. So obviously if we as a nation don’t have enough time to be healthy, we’re never going to have enough time.

Maybe I’m weird for not questioning the meaning life, but it’s never really been an issue for me. I’ve just always kind of known. I’ve understood since the age of six that this life is barely a speck of dust in comparison to the life after this. I’ve understood that God has blessed us with friends and family and we need to value them like the precious a gift they are. I’ve understood, more importantly, that God loves us and what it really comes down to our relationship with Him.  Even that goes back to loving people.

I subscribe to a magazine called Details. The thing I like most about it is its unique, random, and yet relevant articles. I realize as someone who earned a degree in English that quotes are only supposed to be a few lines, but for this I will cheat:

“…I climbed eagerly abroad this one-way rocket to Death in Adulthood and left the planet of my childhood forever in starry wake. I know this. My grandparents, my boyhood bedroom furniture… I will never see those or a million things again. And yet, lurking somewhere in the back of my mind is the unshakable, even foundational knowledge- for which certainty is too conscious a term- that at some unspecified future date, by unspecified means, I will return to those people and those locales. That I am going back. No, that’s false. The delusion is not really that I believe, or trust, that I will be returning one day to the planet of childhood…”
– an excerpt from “Time Bandits” by Michael Chabon

my Italian grandfather, Albert Metallo

Only a few weeks after I got married last July, my Italian grandfather died. He is the only one of my grandparents I have lost. Only second to my dad, he had the most influence on me as far as what it means to be a man. I know a lot of the reason I randomly talk to strangers in public is because of him. He always did it. I learned from him that much heaven can be found in spending hours working in a garden and then being able to enjoy the beauty of it. (Even though I don’t yet have a house with a yard.) It was because of his decision to move from Buffalo, NY to Fort Payne, AL in 1973 that I am alive. Otherwise my parents wouldn’t have met.

Like that article reminds me, all those weekends I spent at his house in the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s as a kid are only now a memory. He would push me and my sister down the hill in his front yard in barrels. Then when we got too dizzy, he would get in the barrel and make us push him down the hill. We would do that for hours it seemed.

Then he would take us to Burger King for lunch. We would sit next to the window right by the drive-thru and he would make funny faces at the people waiting in the drive-thru. It was hilarious to see a man in his sixties being so goofy in public.

We would go back to his house and he would watch taped professional wrestling from the night before (WWF- Ric Flair, Randy Savage, Vince McMahon… the whole gang) and we would get out the toys (which were Styrofoam blocks). After about 15 minutes of my sister and me playing, and him watching wrestling, he pick up some of our Styrofoam blocks and throw them at our heads. Which would start an all out war in the living room. Then we would sneeze for 15 minutes afterwards from all the dust in the air from those blocks.

He had a bathroom closet full of nothing but bars of soap. And a freezer full of freezer-burnt TV dinners and ice cream bars, which were a treat to us. He wore a flannel shirt, navy pants, and black shoes no matter the occasion. Except for my sister’s wedding, which he wore a tux and sunglasses. He really looked like he was part of the mafia.

And all these strange and funny memories make up who he was to me. There is a major importance to “showing up to life”. He definitely did that. He was always there for every family get-together and would look for an excuse to visit our family, like bringing over a junky knick-knack he bought at a yard sale the weekend before. He knew what life was really about.

I was watching my favorite movie, Garden State, recently and though I’ve seen it probably at least ten times, I heard (and finally processed) what is one of the major themes of the movie:

“You know that point in your life when you realize that the house that you grew up in isn’t really your home anymore? All of the sudden even though you have some where you can put your stuff that idea of home is gone.
…It just sort of happens one day one day and it’s just gone. And you can never get it back. It’s like you get homesick for a place that doesn’t exist. I mean it’s like this rite of passage, you know. You won’t have this feeling again until you create a new idea of home for yourself, you know, for your kids, for the family you start, it’s like a cycle or something. I miss the idea of it. Maybe that’s all family really is. A group of people who miss the same imaginary place.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Y2snCNXT2k

I’ll always have that sense of “home” when I think of my grandfather. I still have a lot of family and friends whom I still have that sense of home with. Despite whatever shortage of money or time, despite whatever amount of stress or chaos calls for, life is too short to worry. And if you feel you must worry, pray instead.

Classic song…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H6xMqo3wFxw