I love my dad tons. In so many ways – including dem urges to do incredibly silly things – I’m absolutely his son. And nature’s pretty neat and means that offspring aren’t parental clones like in most 90’s cartoons. So, those differences show up too.
We also grew up in such different ages. He’s part of the baby boom generation. I’m one of the first millennials. I do think my kind should fall within a sub-genre of millennial with typical millennial distaste for later millennials, and be typed as “millennial falcons” but that’s a word-wall for later.
Dad also got to live in a one-of-a-kind kind of America. One where his parents ideals about racism were clearly shifting. Where “achievement” meant something entirely different than basic freedom or land ownership. Good households were nuclear families that never divorced, which meant that the pipe-smoking dad’s judgement was the pipe-smoking dad’s judgement. So long as the right bills were paid and no one died, it was an ok day.
But you also had weird byproducts of being of my dad’s one-of-a-kind weirdality of existence. Good men demonstrated certain rules: You got up, and went to work. (Conduct at work had a different set of rules.) You were motivated to get paid. Your worth could be tied to your demonstrated value. There are those of your kind that you’re supposed to be better than. Don’t forget lots of folks will view you as a racial token. You will get certain opportunities and are supposed to take them. “A job” is directly related to your value.
A bit of irony is that both of us are weird in what we choose to do and not do. I could almost link it to a genetic similarity. Can make us both pains in the asses. And we both had periods where it didn’t seem like the opportunities lined up right, so we did our own thing. And by “did our own thing” I mean, didn’t have “jobs”. (This is that period where I explored online stuff hard, had stints of bartending, and worked at a warehouse, and applied to be a meat inspector (no one even called me back) and dreamed and feared and lived off of savings and managed things in weird ways until I was starting to scrape by. I was also writing and getting some stuff published throughout. NYC can be tough. Behold its glory.)
Today, publishing a book is extremely easy. Publishing it successfully — where it reaches a wide audience and can become a full-time profession — is extremely hard by a factor that makes the extreme ease of having a book published shittily not deserve the word extreme. Ideally, you will have the following skills and talents:
The vision to create awesome stories.
The language skills to pen awesome stories.
The self-awareness to see imperfection in your awesome stories.
The editorial skills to perfect awesome stories.
The connection to reality that is real enough to make awesome stories relevant.
The charisma to obtain and drive a following.
The drive to connect to market.
The research skills to connect to market connections.
The marketing skills to package your awesome and perfectly edited stories to market connectors.
The support system to keep you alive enough to stay driven.
The health to not die.
The stubbornness of a lunatic, so that you will not take simpler opportunities in life.
I might be missing a couple.
I’ve been certain that I have at least some of the above. I spent some of my life reaching some writer milestones that I’m positive 95% of other people never will. And I’m sorry for how it sounds but I’m milestoning a little farther than “having written a book.” I have some things to be proud of, and there is a point where earning that pride means you have to assume lots of angles that will make you not look great, and others will attack. And I’m not referring to anything involving being a pain in the ass to others — or a jerk. I’m talking the gall to prioritize “attacking my keyboard like a shrimp attacks biofilm.” If a family member wants your energy or support, you’re gonna have to practice some time management, and others may not understand why you’re just not more at their disposal. It’s not like you can say “I’m being paid by the man, and you’re not the man so fuck off.” And pushy ones might figure “Can’t you just do that anywhere?” (No.) “What are you doing all day?” (….) “You can schedule your writing time like I can schedule the times that I am most motivated at work, right?” (Yes.) “You must not be humble in some ways.” (Could say the same for anyone with this style of thinking.)
And I don’t 100% know what my dad figured or where he fits into that weirdness. I have some guesses, like writers get hired at writer places and get to sit down and Clark Kent at a 9-5. (I mean ….I’ve also accomplished that and, there’s a reason I have two occupations listed in my taxes.) Or maybe you get some sort of agency agreement and are a professional writer paid for having an imagination and deep thoughts (maybe? But only in outlier cases, and still after a massive combination of time-spent, risk and luck.) Or that writers work “real” jobs and happen to become big ole writers. (This one I think is actually not inaccurate.) Or maybe that writers are writers no matter what, but as citizens they still also need to succeed conventionally.
I don’t know. Can only speculate.
But my dad was also my landlord for a while, and it was awful. And for stupid pride and clarity, I wasn’t regularly paying to live in his home. Family had extra property that was unoccupied, and I got to pay a discounted rate money wise, and pay for it in other ways because I’m also a family member. With greater privileges comes more responsibility, right? So maybe this made dad think he could do things as a landlord that a landlord couldn’t do to another tenant. Like show up randomly and decide a random stranger should enter my home and dissect the ceiling — no warning or notice. So we also fought. And there was one fight where he tried to use the barb that I was just marketing the third manuscript I ever penned. Said something like, “You know, are you even doing anything all day?”
I was very stern and went “Yes.” And I remember imagining a cliche then and feeling it chambered, but it also felt like a cliche and I didn’t wanna have to.
Although he kept it up.
“You know, it’s been a while since you had a real job.”
So I laid out my feeling pretty plain. It was early, and my day was being stripped, “You know, that’s a special angle for you to take. And just because I’m living off of my savings and not reporting in for some paycheck doesn’t mean I’m not doing anything. You have no idea how hard I’m working to try an succeed. No idea.“
And then he said a pretty jerky thing. I’d say a parent should only say it if their kid is actually delusional, and even then I think there are superior ways to express it:
“You know, some people think you might be delusional?”
“Because I’m trying to do a thing that they wouldn’t?” So triggered. “Let me tell you something, I may succeed at a dream, I may not. Trying seems to be the only we’ll ever know if it was worth the shot, but let me make something clear.” I started making sure I was yelling. At this point I’m definitely yelling. “I don’t think I’m delusional because I know I don’t know if I’ll succeed. But here’s something I do know: I know I know what it takes, and how I’m working towards it much more than you do. So I know that if I don’t know, you certainly don’t either. You hear me? You have no idea how high I can fly. No idea! Now leave me alone!”
I sort of regret that these sorts of interactions happen. But, I say sort of because I recognized some really corny things later. I heard him bragging that I’ve had books published. That was like, within a month later, because it was to another plumbers-butt plumber I had to let in. Around the same time I saw him tell my aunt who was starting to demonstrate that older school mentality where “a job” sort of became a loaded statement that should be written with italics, and he started to explain to her that the world has changed and she doesn’t know what it takes. Right in front of me.
Sometimes fights are good. And I don’t want to demonstrate my dad as just a jerk because he’s certainly not. He can just be a bit of a bullheaded derp sometimes and to be fair, me too.
But this was one of those fights that maybe had a bit of an impact. He stopped being as harmfully pushy, and I think sometimes you’ve got to make others wake up by asserting the right to explore and define your own self-worth. That’s what freedom fucking is, man.
And with that said, I think I’m doing pretty damned good by today’s standards too. It’s obviously resulted from a combination of my entire family’s support and some talent, drive and skill. I want to be humble about it, but also realistic. Realistically, I’m pretty proud of lots — including my especially weird family. So I feel like I can be proud and open of some flaws, too.