Early morning departure. Coffee fills the travel mug. Eyes alert, at least, for now.
Gas tank full. Music set to shuffle through an eclectic hodgepodge.
Hours on the road.
The cup is empty and the bladder is full, so we stop for food and restroom breaks.
Very little sound escapes the backseat. I look. He rests his head, equipped with the obligatory noise-canceling headphones. Eyes closed.
My eyes return to the road, the scenery. I realize that my life isn’t so different now that the boys have grown to be men.
I think about the moment. A Saturday morning, speeding down the interstate to classic Chicago and Billy Joel intermixed with hip hop and Broadway tunes. Our destination: callbacks for a low-budget horror film in Chicago.
Our responsibilities have changed, but our duties have only evolved into bigger performances with higher stakes.
We spend our days and evenings helping our sons launch into the world. We search for apartments, make arrangements for auditions, juggle schedules to attend performances. We cheer when they do well and console when the world doesn’t see how awesome they are.
We book gigs for their hip hop group and make t-shirts with their logo for fans who want to buy merchandise. I blast their songs as I drive down they road, and they call me ridiculous. We push them to record and rehearse and perform, because we know those practices will help them reach their goals, just like sounding out words and forming letters on paper helped them learn to communicate, to read and write.
Our roles are different, yet similar.
Aren’t we always supposed to be in their corner? Some parents tell me they can’t wait for their children to leave. Others tell me I need to let my children stand on their own.
When a child is born, are you just responsible for the first 18 years? Or will you be their parent until the day you die?
I’m not implying that traditional parental roles must continue into adulthood. Just as they mature and grow, so do we. With that, our roles change, and a new battle arises as we face society’s definition of our roles.
The world puts a stigma on the very act of returning home in times of need. Did my sons move back home? No, not really. They live here, but it’s a temporary stay on their life journeys. I don’t consider their stays here permanent. I don’t fear that they’ll be sitting on the couch in their underwear when they’re 40. Their days here are a transition from one season to the next.
As much flack as we get from this, the harassment and pressure they endure from the outside world is even greater. Our older son is tortured by those for whom he cares deeply, simply because he has a bedroom in our home. They would rather he struggle and barely survive, as well as forego his dreams, for the immediate gratification of having his own place.
His brother’s perception is also skewed by the outside world. Our younger son lived in New York City for two years on his own. The world wants to tell him he will never return to the city. The world wants to convince him he will get stuck in the Midwest.
By offering them the opportunity to live for a short time in our home, are we enabling them to not figure it out on their own? Does a strong support system cause more harm than good?
Or, does knowing someone has your back give you the courage to try new ventures and risk great failures? Because achieving greatly takes great risks. If we play it safe, we’ll never achieve our dreams.
This is advice I need to take to heart.
I recently had a dream job opportunity fall in my lap. Just as I began to believe the possibilities of this job, I learned I was no longer being considered. As hard as I could, I tried to see the purpose. I didn’t seek the job that was a perfect match for my skills and talents. That must mean it was supposed to happen, right?
As disappointed as I was, I learned a valuable truth from the experience. I want to work as a full-time writer again. I don’t want to be content with life as it is. I want the world to see me as a writer, just as it would if I had been hired by that powerful company. Even more importantly, I need to see myself as a writer, not a receptionist or a cashier or anything else.
Some people who know me or have read my other posts may say, “Well, duh.” Everyone knows I want to make my living writing. But this is different. Just as my parental role has changed, so has my personal one.
While considering this potential job, I veered in a direction opposite of the path I had been traveling. Before that carrot waved in my face, I was intent on downsizing, moving someplace smaller and different. I wanted to look for a place where I could thrive as a writer. Most of you know that my primary destination was New York City. But, truly, I was open to anywhere.
When the job popped onto my phone via text message, my plans and thoughts came to a halt. If this job happened, I would stay here in the Midwest. In this house, even. We started thinking differently, and we contacted the owner of the house about buying. After several weeks, that fell through, too.
So what now?
I don’t know.
That’s part of this journey. Maybe I’m not the only one trying to figure all of this out. If you’re interested, I’ll bring you along. We can figure it out together.