This article originally appeared at The Dignified Devil
My wife and four year-old son expect me to be an adult, but the adults I knew growing up had jobs and homes and cars and savings plans. My neighbor had an indoor swimming pool and an outdoor tennis court. At thirty-two, my father had collected three kids, a three-story city home, and a country cottage on a lake. At thirty-two, I’ve collected one kid and a bike with a peddle that fell off on the last ride to my small writing office. Yes, I’m a writer. It’s as cliché as it sounds. Some days, I consider developing a day-time drinking habit. Other days, I question my career path and whether I have fallen behind on life’s imaginary schedule.
When I was nineteen, I asked the Italian painter who was re-coating our living room if he had a job for me. He replied, “Aren’t you supposed to be a doctor or lawyer or something?” I guess I missed the memo.
I came to Los Angeles from Canada to pursue a Masters Degree in Screenwriting from The American Film Institute’s Conservatory, and despite my relative brilliance, and the fact that AFI was recently named the number one film school in the world, I’m now writing on spec – another word for being unemployed.
When I received my acceptance to grad school, I explained to my father that AFI was the Harvard of film schools. “If I got into Harvard Business School, you’d want me to go, right?”
“Of course,” my Dad said. “Because someone would hire you after Harvard.”
My father is obsessed with making money, saving money, and the thought of losing money. He lifted himself out of poverty. His father, my grandfather, went broke at fifty, and my father took over managing their family’s finances when we was fourteen. He put himself through school, became an accountant, and helped turn a six man firm into a two-hundred plus person operation. As I was deciding what career to pursue, my father said, “The first generation makes the money, the second generation pisses it away, and the third generation has to start over again.” Technically, I’m the second generation, but isn’t the American Dream to live better than your parents did? Is it not up to me to pursue a career of passion?
Near the end of my first year of grad school, my wife gave birth to our first child. We wanted to have children, but thought we would have a difficult time conceiving. We were wrong. As my son grew, we met parents with kids his age and I noticed that all the upwardly mobile, professional dads in Los Angeles are pushing forty, and older. There’s also a noticeable contingent of parents in their mid-40s and 50s who’ve adopted. Some describe L.A. as the town of perpetual youth. Others say parents are older here because it takes longer to establish yourself in this market. My son isn’t old enough to compare his dad to his friends’ dads, but I’m old enough to compare my one peddle bike to their Range Rovers.
One Saturday morning, while at soccer class, a set of gray-wrinkled parents sheep-dog their confused adopted son in all directions. Mom says one thing. Dad says another. The parents are well intentioned, but they jump from one instruction to the next so quickly that the child is left frozen, unable to process. I wonder if those parents go home at night and worry that they made a huge mistake. Do they question, “Are we fit to be parents?” A panel of experts approved their competency to solidify the adoption process, right? Where was my board approval?
I chase my son down the soccer field and he giggles with excitement. Hopefully, I can pull my life together before he notices my shortcomings. Hopefully, I can make enough money so he can go to the same therapist who will fix the adopted kid. And if my son thinks he’s not broken enough for therapy, I’ll happily go instead.