Sunday, November 19, 2006

Finding His Way

I have a son, one I rarely write about....I was wondering about that...why I don't write of him as often as my daughter. He is a very private person, one I don't see as often as I like, we don't get to spend much time together any more. He visits home at odd hours, purposely choosing those hours because he knows we all either won't be home, or his father will be in bed.

Why does he do that? Because he does not want us to know how lost he is, he is afraid of disapointing us.

I somehow have to get the message across to him that although there are things he does that I wish were different, he himself, I can never be disapointed in. He is large man, at least 6'2" tall, weighing in at 250 lbs. or more. He is strong, attractive, has a wonderful though slightly dry sense of humor. He is an intellectual, a philosopher, rather inhibited, but with the right people he is very capable of letting himself go and allowing himself to feel the joy of laughter and commraderie. He is a kind sensitive gentle man, one who values the diversity of our world.

But he is lost, and perhaps found, perhaps it is me and the rest of the people in his life that cannot see what he does. He has stopped attending classes for the second semester in a row. He feels as if the type of education at the university is not his way. He has told me twice now that he prefers self-teaching. And he is very good at that, he will find a subject that interests him and explore it to the ultimate. He is able to retain all the information he absorbs, put it into the context that it needs to be and use it.

But when I hear him say that he wants to self-teach himself...I wonder....where is the focus he needs to bring it all together....will it eventually all blend into the skills he needs to get a job that will pay his bills, get him health insurance, allow him to live his life comfortably?

Perhaps I need to go beyond those thoughts though. When I ask myself those questions I am making comparisons to a few people I know that have a sense that they are entitled that the world owes them something...they do not need to do anything to achieve, it is owed to them.

My son does not have that sense of entitlement, he realizes that what he receives is a direct result of his effort, of what he gives.

I have to find a way to let my view, my need of him achieving grow into his view of his life. It is so hard though. I cannot at this point even organize my thoughts on the matter.

I try to look at the way he spends his time, and I see someone doing nothing. He goes to work part-time, sleeps, explores online the various things that interest him, spends time with a very few close friends. Makes his occasional visits home to eat, spend time with his sister, sometimes to talk to me. There doesn't seem to be anything more.

I look at his talents, he is a very talented photographer of still life and landscapes, many of his photos grace the walls of my home. He is an artist, especially with wire sculpture, and drawing. He can write, he can put down on paper the most amazing things, so descriptive, bringing his views to life. All of these things that used to bring him so much pleasure have fallen to the wayside. His camera has sat for 2 years gathering dust. His pencils, his collection of wire has done the same, in fact they still reside here in this house, not his.

I look back to the little boy he used to be....the little boy who was in constant motion, the little boy who questioned everything, the little boy who knew the biology stacks at the library like the back of his hand. The little boy who spent hours and hours building legos, first building them as designed, and then changing that design to one that just seemed to be better in some way. The little boy who was never dressed as himself, but as some superhero or another. The little boy who with his sister could bring the worlds they created in their imaginations to life in full living color in the many acres they had to play in.

I look at my 20 year old son, and wish for him to tap into that young boy within himself. Would that allow him to find his focus?

He told me that he is depressed, I know depression, I have been there myself, and I witness its debilitating effects on a daily basis in my career. But my suggestion of him seeking help fall upon deaf ears. My suggestion of him using the many avenues available to him on campus fall on deaf ears.

My request of him last week was to me very simple. I asked him to please visit the university one more time, make an appointment with his advisor, explain the situation as best he can, and try to get incompletes for the classes he no longer attends. Thinking in my convulated way that will be some small protection for him if/when he decides to return to school. The university he now attends will most likely not want him back as a degree seeking student. He will have to prove himself to any school now, he will have to enter on a probationary basis. Perhaps that will be what he needs. Because the colleges that sought him out, the offered many incentives for him to attend there did nothing for him 2 years ago. He took the easy way out, because of a promise his father made to him...they made a deal, my son lived up to his side of the bargain, his father did not....his father twisted it to fit his own needs and did not keep his promise. A what if...that has no basis on today...but one I do wonder about.

In our last conversation, I told him he must pay back this semesters tuition, he must get a full-time job and start paying his own utility bills and rent. I told him to also set some money aside and make plans to take that road trip I suggested.

One other thing he recently told me that makes me wish I had done things differently, we discussed his appalatian trail fiasco.....not in any derogatory way....I had just told him that I wished I had done then what I had the instinct to do...which was give him all of my cash, give him my car, and encourage him start a roadtrip then and there, that I could have grabbed a flight home. But I didn't. His reply to me was very simple....he said, "I gave up too easily."

So I ask myself....I didn't push hard enough then, I gave him an out, and he took it. How hard do I push now? Do I push at all, or do I just accept that this is what he needs to do....and only push when he doesn't get a full-time job, do I remind his father to stop paying his utility bills, to stop paying his car insurance because he is afraid it will be late? I don't know how to let go, or what is letting go, and what is encouragment.

I love this young man with every fiber of my being, but I have no idea how to help him.


Miranda said...

Nothing hurts more than feeling we can't do anything for our kid, having to cut the apron strings.

My daughter complained of not being happy, being depressed. SOmething that scares me a bit, as her father is a manic depressive.

We can only pray that they find their way. It's hard to be strong waiting.

plan0 said...

I see a lot of myself at 20 in him. I didn't know what I should do, attended university because I should, took jobs that fell my way not because they were what I wanted to do, but I figured it was better than nothing.

I ended up dropping out of university (I was fortunate enough to skip classes and still do well on the exams so didn't have to go the Incomplete route). I had friends who later were not so diligent, to the point of being kicked out, but that's another story. I did go back to school, changed majors, and finished my degree. It was not for job prospects (there really wasn't any) but for the personal challenge and chose a subject that interested me.

It wasn't until my late 20's that I had the confidence to change my job to my passion. It was probably the riskiest time to do it, married, with a young child, a mortgage to pay. Maybe that in itself was the challenge. And it's worked out now, my hobby is my job and my job is my hobby, I'm making more than ever for doing it.

I wouldn't have been able to identify the opportunities that presented themselves without the experiences from even the lost times. Have faith that you raised him right, it may take him a while to realize that.

Fiona said...

Wow....I sometimes look back and wonder when/if my parents felt I'd let them down. I know there have been times. Most of all when I finished 'A' Levels and couldn't decide what to do. I sat home moping around until my father dragged me off and enrolled me in secretarial college *L*...shock horror...I don't want to be 'just' a secretary I told him. To which he told me you'll bloody well do this until you make up your mind.

I did it, and I excelled. I had a couple of lucky breaks and I worked hard and made it to where most people are only with a university degree. I'll freely admit it was a combination of hard work, luck and huge doses of common sense.

Sometimes we just take a while to get where we are going to be. And at that age I know I couldn't decide. Hang in there, it will all work out.

Wow that trail thing. I could really identify with it. Many years ago I found myself in the Himalayas on a forced 4-day trek (as opposed to a 2-day jeep trip) and I really thought I wouldn't be able to do it. I've never known such pain, I've never known muscles could react the way they did. But it was a case of get the hell up and move, or sit there and die basically. Maybe that's what made the difference. It went from a pleasure trip to survival.

I think maybe there's a bit of Scottish determination in me too *VBS*

Sunny Delight said...

Miranda--yes it is one of the most difficult things i have tried to be understanding...but I am so afraid he won't go back and he is so very smart and talented....all i can do is love him for who he is though

Sunny Delight said...

Plano--if he is anything like you, then I have no are a man of great inner strength and integrity...i hope he finds his passion

Sunny Delight said...

fi--darlin I know you could have never have disapointed...and you have done amazing things....and maybe it is that scottish determination

LePhare said...

I've read this post several time and your link and wish I could offer a solution. He looks like a smart lad who just hasn't found his way as yet. Some of us take a little longer than others. You don't mention a partner and it's often this situation puts things in place

My daughter lost about eight important years from when she left school to when finally settled down and that was due mainly to finding the right person.

All you can do, and I'm sure you have, is to make sure and hope they have common sense to carry them through.

Heart felt wishes.

Sunny Delight said...

Ian, thank you for your he has no partner in his life, has not had a girlfriend for well over a year now...he is very shy around women unless he has known them for years...I feel in my heart that he needs to get away from here for awhile, be away from all that is familiar, perhaps in that way upon his return he can view his life with fresh eyes...maybe in his explorations he can find his passion...I don't know...I feel for him...he is very unhappy with himself right now.

So many things as a parent we wonder about...did I do this wrong? or was it that? I have to get past what I see as great potential and let him find that drive within himself to seek out the things that can help his make him choices. I sometimes wonder if it was the mixed messages he received from his father and I....I taught that we have a purpose in this life...sometimes it takes us many years/or a lifetime to find it...we have something within each of us that calls to us...allows us to make a difference in the world even if it is a very small one...even if it is only one person's life.

His father's view is the opposite of mine...more goal what you have to do to survive, to be successful...whatever his definition of successful, which seems to be more monetary than anything else. His father has spent 25 years doing a job he hates....afraid to give up our financial security to do what he loves. So yes a very mixed message my children have received.

So perhaps that tears at him...he had a vision once...of using his love for science to find answers to some of lifes ills...but maybe he thinks that is too hard. Mostly though I see it as a fear of success, for if he succeeds once, he must then top that. Or maybe that is my own fear...and I am projecting it on him...Whoa! I most definitely think too much!

LePhare said...

It's a whole different world now to the one I grew up in. The pressures and competitiveness forced on kids today must make things so difficult for them.

You can only do your best and trust to luck.