I run my social life kind of like Stalin’s Russia: every few years, I do a purge. I am never intentional about it, and I’m not like Stalin in the sense that I require complete allegiance to the party line (in this case, the party would be me). Part of the issue might be that I have been a little bit nomadic and it’s hard to maintain friendships when you move away. With some, admittedly, it’s more subtle: as in, you say bye to someone after getting a cup of coffee or a beer, and then, you don’t call and the other person doesn’t, either. It’s not personal; it’s just life. Then years go by and you forget until someone asks,
“hey whatever happened to X?”
And then you wonder:
“yeah, what DID happen to X and to my friendship with him?”
I have to be honest and admit that I’ve been a nomad emotionally, as well, which makes me do the whole personal reinvention thing a lot. For some reason, I can’t do the re-invention without first doing a purge, as well.
High school was my first personal reinvention of this sort. I stay in touch with one person from that period of my life. Except for my family and this one friend, no one I know knew me before the age of 18. If you ask me why, I’d say that I never really felt like myself when I was in high school, and I just got sick of pretending. If I am honest, that same feeling is behind the other purges that I would do years later.
So after high school, I went to college (the first time) to be a violinist. I made some good friends there, which I can prove because from that phase of my life, I managed to keep two friends. I don’t speak with either often. But I count them as friends, and I’m glad they are there.
I stopped with the music at the age of 25, which led to personal reinvention #3 if you’re keeping score. I transferred to Columbia and studied Philosophy and Religion. I discovered a piece of myself at this point: a love for teaching. I decided that I wanted to be an instructor at the community college level, but grad school taught me a couple other things:
1. I loved teaching not scholarship.
2. Scholarship, not teaching, is what you do at big “important” institutions, like Harvard.
From Columbia, I kept two friends, and then from Harvard, two friends more. Maybe I’m less Stalin and more Noah. I seem to find pairs of friends to load up with before I sail away to the next phase.
I was completely lacking direction after leaving grad school, but I met my wife during this period, and that’s something. She is the only friend I’ve kept from this period of my life, but she’s my wife and my best friend, so maybe she counts for two. And then we moved to SF, where I have been for the last 6 years: I’ve made a good friend at work and there’s my son: my two to take away when I move away from here in the next year or so.
But there is a difference this time. I’m leaving because this city is nuts. (See my posts about SF elsewhere.) Not because I’m trying to reinvent myself, but because I’m actually trying to be who I am.
Yes, I still like stories of re-invention. I’m inspired by people who keep working and re-working themselves until they find their way. I’m the same way about my art, by the way: editing is my favorite part of the writing and filmmaking processes. But I know from the art that you can only re-do so many times. At some point, you have to like what you have. I like to think I’m about to get there. After all these drafts of a life, I think I can stop with the reinventing.
I have a friend from my Columbia days who often says that artists lose some of their drive when they get married and have kids. I’m not sure. For me, looking at my little one, I feel freer to make stuff. This phase of fatherhood and husbandhood that I’m in–even with an imminent move–is going to be with me for the rest of my life, and I’m glad for it.
It’s surprising for me to say this, but maybe in the end, being a family man might be the work I was meant to do. I’m not giving up on the dream of being an artist and getting paid for it. It’s just that I’m less worried about who I’m trying to be. I don’t have time or the energy to be anything but what I am: a father, a husband, and yes, a storyteller, a creative type.
So, when you read this blog and you wonder,
“what with that re-Do thing?”
you’ll now know it’s a bit of my past. I have been doing the personal reinvention thing for a long time. But I realize now it’s time to just start doing. Maybe, in the end, that was the simple answer I just didn’t have the self confidence to take on.
Maybe this blog should be called, Do or Die. I’d consider changing it, but then I guess that would go against the whole lesson. So I won’t. We’ll just keep things as they are–for a while at least.