Then as it was, then again it will be
Independence, like honour, is a rocky island without a beach.
— Napoleon Bonaparte
I was reading a missive from Bob Lefsetz that really hit home. It was about independence. There were a few lines, specifically, that penetrated to my noggin:
The question is, are you working with your head or heart? At some point you’ve got to stop being who your parents want you to be and start being who you are.
If you need to play, don’t lament that you’re not a millionaire. The music should be enough. If you’ve got a roof over your head, if you can pay the bills, you’re on the map. Affecting a coterie deeply is more important than being a momentary comet, burning brightly and then flaming out.
So don’t do what you should do, do what you want to do. Even if your chosen field is not perceived to be a road to riches. Who knew all those chefs would become stars on the Food Network? Who knew you could make a career in extreme sports? Who knew gaming would outstrip both music and movies in revenue?
I’m not saying to forgo an education. Fundamentals are important. Only by establishing a foundation do you have a place to build.
It’s time to establish your own independence. To make your own decisions. So when you’re on your deathbed, surrounded by loved ones who will soon reach their demise also, you’ve got no regrets.
It got to me. For a number of reasons. But namely because I am a loved one surrounding my Dad, who’s more or less on his deathbed at this point. And he has regrets. Had regrets I should say … not a lot of conscious thought or communication going on at this point. But rewind to the past 5 years when he was healthier, he was steeped in remorse and depression. Haunted by ghosts of a life he believed he missed.
On several occasions, we talked about what might have been. It was a weekly ritual. He came into the city to see his shrink, and I met him afterwards for dinner somewhere in the East Village. I cherish those memories. Some days he said he should have gone into showbusiness. To be a performer of sorts. A singer or an actor or a comic. My Dad is an amazing storyteller. He does great impressions, has a good singing voice and needs to be the center of attention. But being the stern, strong practical man that he is, he gave up on that ambition without ever even articulating it in his youth. He told himself he needed to hold down the fort… put himself through college, hold his messed up parents together, get married and provide for his young and growing family. He needed to be the opposite of his deadbeat gambling father.
Other times he said he would have enjoyed being a history professor. My Dad has an affinity for history … kinda goes along with the storytelling thing … and a love of teaching/coaching/mentoring. He always coached our sports teams when we were little. Basketball and soccer for me, football and baseball for my brothers. Plus he has a keen intellect that he’s more or less buried all these year working in finance and doing nothing but watch TV every night. He’s wicked smart and didn’t exercise those mental muscles too much.
Point is, he thinks he missed out on something. Something he didn’t explore when he had the chance. As long and grueling as this whole illness and dying process has been, I see an incredible gift in it for me. The recognition that this is really it. One life … sans guarantees … and we’ve got to grab it by the you-know-whats. Right now I feel like I am on pause, waiting for my life A.D. It is exhausting and frustrating to wait around watching the Sun fade away. You love the guy and you know this is it but dang, how long must the rollercoaster go on?
Driving up here to my parents’ house yesterday, I had a feeling of total freedom. Windows down in the truck. Rolling greens and wide open space all around me on an empty road. Rufus in the passenger seat. Cool air blowing my long hair all over the place. The perfect song came on the radio. Led Zeppelin’s “Ten Years Gone By.”
Then as it was, then again it will be
An though the course may change sometimes
Rivers always reach the sea
Blind stars of fortune, each have several rays
On the wings of maybe, down in birds of prey
Kind of makes me feel sometimes, didn’t have to grow
But as the eagle leaves the nest, it’s got so far to go