I Want You to Read this Essay

 

I don’t remember wanting to be anything when I grew up. This despite the fact my parents always said that I could be anything I wanted to be.

It’s not that I didn’t aspire to be anything – it’s just that committing to a career while still at grade school seemed like an awfully big decision.

Things were no clearer in high school. Teachers called me bright but claimed I lacked motivation. Not true – I did anything to get out of class.

But I wanted to graduate. And I did, with a “C” average. I assumed that stood for community college.

It was a beautiful campus. Unfortunately, my carpool had to drive past a strip bar to get to it. Our attendance at the latter was perfect.

Anyway, I wanted to see the world. So I left school and zigzagged Europe for half a year in a Volkswagen van.

Back home, I wanted to live on my own. So I got a job as a bartender at a real hipster joint – way before anyone had even heard of a hipster. Curiously, all my pint-pouring colleagues at the club wanted to be writers. And that seemed like a solid idea.

I wanted to be a screenwriter. 

My dad was skeptical. “If you want to be writer, you have to actually write something,” he said.

I wanted him to be less cynical. Then again, as a veteran print journalist he probably couldn’t get past the fact that I’d never shown interest in any form of writing before boldly declaring my intention to pen the next Reservoir Dogs.

No matter. At 23 years old, I’d found my calling. To celebrate, I joined a friend on a two-month sojourn in Mexico.

It wasn’t the heat so much as the hangover. And a man, clad in only a Speedo and a cowboy hat, trudged towards me across the sand.

He wanted to take my picture.

I didn’t want to be a model; but traipsing the world to frolic with its most beautiful women sounded appealing. I did that for six years, working – albeit inconsistently, always living frugally – in Toronto, Milan, Athens, Hamburg, Munich and Barcelona.

I was terrible in front of a camera. But I was legend at the end of a bar.

I never wanted to do drugs. Well, not for an entire decade, anyway.

I met a girl. We wanted to get married.

We wanted a family but thought it best to wait, since I wanted a university degree. At 31 years old, I got one. For my final year’s writing class, I wrote my first feature film. I’ve written five since. And a television pilot that was optioned by a production company.

All remain unsold. 

I wanted to be a better husband. She wanted a divorce (see drugs/decade, above).

I still wanted to be published. So I wrote an arguably funny essay about being unemployed and sold it to the Globe and Mail. Then I got a job at a small daily, subsequently becoming a freelance arts contributor for a larger chain.

But I wanted more. Specifically, I wanted to be able to pay my rent.

These days, I write and produce television commercials. Make a decent living, too. But where’s the meaning? The joy? The fulfillment?

I always wanted children. When my then-girlfriend was pregnant, people asked if we wanted a boy or a girl and we’d tell them that it didn’t matter – we just wanted a healthy kid.

Not long after my son’s birth, she sat opposite me on our couch and said: “You don’t know what you want.”

I certainly never wanted to be a single parent.

Now I’m 42 and suddenly I want to look younger. Because nobody wants graying hair, drooping eyes, sagging skin.

Nobody wants moobs. 

So I want to eat better, train harder, get fitter.

I want to work less, play more.

I want to travel around the world with my kid (we want my girlfriend to come).

I want to write a book about that trip. Or maybe produce an adventure travel series for television.

I want to do everything because I don’t want to regret anything.

Mostly, though, I just want to be a good dad. It’s really the only thing my son – who’s almost five and wants to be a monster-truck driver – needs me to be.

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