Dad and I aren’t close. We talk on the phone for a few minutes every couple weeks, struggling to find a common thread we aren’t on opposite ends of. He talks sports, I talk games. He brings up religion, I change the subject. We avoid politics at all costs, and if the divorce comes up I pretend not to know mom’s side of things and bite my tongue until it bleeds.
But these aren’t the biggest hurdles in our failed attempts at cordial conversation. The root of our problems come from the fact that he’s an engineer and I’m a designer; as such, we view life very differently.
For him, life isn’t about shades of grays. A structure will either stand or fall, people will live or die, something will be a success or a failure. There is no inbetween in these circumstances, its a yes or no. But in my world of philosophy and design, maybe’s make the world go round.
Compounding this conflict is the fact that, even as a child, he knew that he wanted to build things… so his entire life was about becoming an engineer. Everything was a step in the same direction, a linear path towards one conclusion. I, on the other hand, never had something I wanted to be when I grew up. There was no direction to go in, there was no path to follow. Instead, I swerved between interests, hoping to find something I could stand doing with my life (and make some money at, hopefully).
He criticized my time on the internet as laziness. He viewed my poems and short stories in high school as a waste of time. The four years I spent in the college radio station didn’t result in a job, so it was a dead-end. And he definitely scoffs at my philosophy degree, which, to him, I’m not using.
He doesn’t (or maybe can’t) connect the dots between different experiences and how they can lead somewhere in harmony, piggy-backing off one another to reach something greater than they could ever achieve alone. Instead, he see’s individual failures, one after another, for my entire life… and then, out of nowhere, a random, unexplainable success in “digita/lgraphic design.”
But if he paid attention, and accepted some maybe’s into his world, it’s clear that those failures were times that I learned something invaluable to what I do at work today. I learned to code in middle school, I became a decent writer through all that practice, I learned about audio editing, public speaking, and advertising from the radio station, and Philosophy taught me how to think critically and solve problems creatively.
He doesn’t see things that way, though. In his eyes I wasted ~30 years before finally finding my calling. And now that I’m doing something he can be proud of, I’ll spend the rest of his life sighing under my breath as he brags about what I do and exaggerates my successes, without any clue how I got here or what I’m actually doing.