Up to a year or so ago I was a Dad. Then something happened that has changed my life forever; the youngest of my children became a grown up.
I turned fifty last year, not that I apply any relevance to my age or even celebrate my birthdays any more, but I had a realisation that for the past twenty-five years; half of my entire life, I have been Dad, before I am Terry. Whatever has been going on in my life has, quite rightly, come second to what was going on for my kids. They will never know the things I have done, behind the scenes, to try to make them happy, fix problems when they go wrong or simply jiggle my own finances around to help them out. They probably don’t even realise that whilst I was doing it for one, I was doing it for the other four too, and that often I am pulled in five different directions, simply to keep everyone happy.
Being a Dad was what defined me.
Taking each end of the spectrum, the youngest of them is now seventeen. She’s going out with a really nice guy, going to college, got a part time job and the eldest has a beautiful one-year old daughter of his own, and whilst I will always be Dad, I’m not really needed on that same level any more, by any of them.
They are all making their own decisions and life choices and not only don’t need but in some cases don’t even want my advice or support any more.
But that’s not what this blog is about. Its not about them, its about me.
So where does that leave me?
A little bit lost, if I’m honest. Its wonderful to see my children getting on with their lives and like new-born cows, being a bit wobbly at times but eventually being strong enough to go off on their own. However, I do feel a bit like Sam Gamgee at the end of The Lord Of The Rings. You know when, after this incredible adventure, everyone goes off to The Undying Lands and he’s left in The Shire thinking ‘So what the F**k am I supposed to do I do now?’ (I paraphrase, from the original Tolkien).
Well I have this amazing freedom don’t I? I can fulfil my dreams and heart’s desires, I can go out and do whatever I want, I’m free!!
Well, no actually. What I have is a life that has been constructed around the needs of other people. I have been so busy for the last twenty-five years trying to help my children fulfil their dreams that I haven’t even had time to come up with any of my own and quite frankly, most of the time I’m too bloody tired to be bothered going out.
I’ve got myself in a bit of a hole where everyone else’s lives are dynamic, moving on, being exciting and bit scary and mine is a bit stagnant. At fifty I have probably reached my peak earning potential, I’m not getting any fitter (or better looking) as I get older, I will probably never do anything significant in my life that will change the world, I am fed up with my job that contributes nothing of tangible value, but to a growing world of technological circuses and frankly it’s a bit deflating to look in the mirror and admit that to myself.
So what am I going to do about it? I know I need to do something. I can see how men of my age find themselves in this position and turn to gambling or fast cars or having affairs to try to inject some sense of excitement back on to their lives. But I don’t want any of that. I’m actually quite happy with my life, its just lost its meaning and focus. I have a beautiful wife of ten years and we are blissfully happy and in love. I hate fast cars and find them about as exciting as a washing machine and on my honeymoon in Las Vegas I discovered I neither like, nor am any good at gambling.
But something’s rotten in the state of Denmark, as The Bard once said (look at me dropping lit-bombs everywhere!).
I think the problem is that I have cluttered my life with the physical, emotional, financial, digital, habitual and opinionated detritus of fifty years and now I can’t see the wood for the trees.
If I’m going to have this fresh start, then I need to shake the metaphorical etch-a-sketch, stand back and see what else I can draw.