Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Mr. Son. Me. A conversation.

Mr. Son started a new job yesterday. I was excited. He was going to be out in the world again, and making some money to boot. Plus, he was working!

Today, I arrived home around 5:45, his car was already here. I walked in to find him at the computer. I could tell by his eyes, that he had only recently awoken.

* * * * * * *

"How long have you been home?"

"A while."

"What are you doing?"

"Applying for jobs online."


"I quit."


Long pause, my anger and disappointment building.

"I have never been so disappointed in you!"


"Why? Why did you quit!"

"I couldn't face it, it was like a factory job, monotonous, no thinking, nothing, I just couldn't face it."

* * * * * * *

I left the room, poured myself a glass of wine, exited the house, sat on the deck watching the clouds, thinking, thinking, thinking. How do I get through to him? How do I make him understand that this was a really stupid move? God, I am such a failure as a mother, a son who's a quitter, who won't stick it out because it is boring? A son who doesn't know what it's like to be hungry, to need a place to sleep, to not be clean, to be sick and have nowhere to go, to have nothing? How did I screw up so badly? How did we? Every thing's been too easy for him. Do I kick him out? I can't do that, I know I can't, and even if I did, his dad would just let him move in with him. What the fuck? He's an idiot! God, what did I do wrong?

I went back into house, he was still at the computer, typing away, and talking on the phone to a friend. I lay down on the bed, closed my eyes, and just listened. His answers to Z's questions were some of the answers I was seeking. But, they weren't good enough for me.

Mr. Son signed off the computer, and started to leave. I asked him to stay, to talk to me.

* * * * * * *

"What are your dreams?"

" Your pie in the sky dream, the dream that you may even think will never come to fruition, that you may even think others think is stupid, but you want to do it anyway?"

"I don't have any."

"I really hope you do. In fact, I can't imagine you not having some dream, something."

"I don't have one that anyone would think is too high, or too stupid."

"OK, then, tell me, tell me please. What is it? What do you want?"

"I want to travel."

"OK, you want to travel."

"How are you going to do that, what else are you going to do? What else do you want?"

"I love you so much. You have such a good, loving heart, and so smart, the way you think, analyze and understand so many concepts, theories, and constructs constantly amazes me. But right now, I am so disappointed with what you've done. I want more for you. You have to think about your future, when you're my age, even younger, when you're in your late 20's, your 30's, you have to have health insurance, savings, things are going to change here really soon, in a matter of years, maybe less than five, most definitely within ten, there will probably be no social security, people are going to be scrambling for jobs, any job."

"I know. I want to make a difference though. I want to make people aware."

"Aware of what?"

"I want people to know what we're doing to our climate, to our world, but I don't want to do that through science, that isn't enough, I want to do it through pictures, with words."

"So how come you aren't writing, how come you aren't taking photographs?"

"Because I don't have a good enough camera."

I just shook my head.

"Because I am afraid...I am afraid I will do the same thing with it that I have done with everything else."

"What is that?"

"I will stop."

"I will realize it is not enough. It just won't fit."

"I couldn't see myself getting a job with a linguistics degree. I really like linguistics, but what could I do with it? How is that going to help make people aware of what is happening to our world? "

"Everything we do adds to it. I have to tell myself that. One person can make a difference. Even if it is only one person's life. We can make a difference. I make a difference."

"And, as to languages, linguistics, science, photography, art...all of your interests can get you there. Each one can/does build upon the other."

"I have told you so many times, you can use your knowledge of Spanish, you can use your knowledge of Japanese to get jobs. Hell, you could tutor other kids, and still go to school."

"You have to get back in school. You're not going to have any job better than boring without an education, without a degree, in fact if you want to go far, you'll need at least a Masters. You have to find that spark inside you, that tells you that YOU WANT IT."

"Mom, you do make a difference, and I know that one person can make a difference, but I want more than that."

"Great, you want more than that."

"How badly do you want it? You don't seem to want it badly enough."

"You said you wanted to get back in school, you said you didn't want to take out loans to do that. If so, why did you quit a job that would have had you saving over a thousand a month? You could have set a monetary goal, and when you reached it then you could've quit, to go for your dream. But you didn't. What do you want? You have to find out what you want. You have to want it so badly that you will do almost any job to get it, it doesn't matter if you're cleaning up raw sewage, if you want it badly enough, you'll do it. Find what you want, find what you so badly that the job won't matter, the goal will matter."

"I am disappointed in myself, it was a really stupid move."

"You're right, it was. You're an idiot, you may have some genius level IQ, but you are a genius level idiot.

"So, if you really want to be a photo journalist, then get your ass back in school. And, ya'know what? Everything you are interested in isn't mutually exclusive, it does...it can all flow together. Anyway...who is going to listen...who is going to want to read what a 21 year old drop out has to say? Who's going to believe you know what you're talking about? Like it or not, our society listens to the educated. Why?"

"Because, we know they were interested enough to stick it out, to study it all, to work for it. You're right, I am a genius level idiot."

"Yes, you are. Find it, do it. Please, please get back in school. It really does matter. It all ends up mattering. Take your photo classes, the journalism, the English, literature, writing classes, take electives of all the other subjects that interest you, it all does matter. Then, people will listen, at least some."

"You're right, when I was in school, even the semesters I took such varied classes, linguistics, languages, philosophy, biology, astronomy, calculus, they all fit together, they all were connected in one way or another."

"You're an idiot."

"Call them back, tell them you want the job back."

"Alright, I know you won't, I'm not sure I could make myself do that. But, you do owe H an apology, he gave you a reference, got you the interview, you owe him that at least. I don't care what you say, tell him it was boring beyond words, but apologize to him for being such an idiot."

"I do owe him an apology. I have to find something positive out of all this."

"There is nothing positive. You are an idiot. You had a chance to make some money for school, for traveling, to buy that camera you want, now the only thing you have open to you are minimum wage jobs, that there are a thousand people applying for. And tell me, how is working in the stock room at Wal-Mart going to be any better?"

"I made a mistake, but I won't go back, I hope this will make me realize that I do have to work harder for my goal. I have to do something, and soon."

"Yeah. You owe me rent."


"You owe me rent, and tomorrow, you are going to mow, clean the house, walk the dog, and apply for jobs." "Are you using a resume? "

"No, I haven't updated my resume in years."

"Then do it. Make sure you list all the responsibilities you've had on other jobs. As I said, each experience builds on the other. I don't care what kind of job you are applying for, attach your resume. It shows what you can do, what you want to do, and what you have learned. Use your transcripts too. And if you want an interesting job, then apply at some of the campus bars as a bouncer, use your size if not your brain. But get a job, save, go for you dream."

"Why, those jobs don't matter, the classes don't matter? There is no solid field of study on my transcripts?

"I could do that, K works in a bar. We talked about a lot of this stuff you and I are talking about recently, he's almost done with school, and having a really hard time making himself go to class, but he knows he is almost done."

"Yep, almost all of your friends are almost done, but, that doesn't matter either. What matters, is...you have to get back in school. An education, and work experience will all matter in the long run. I just want you to chase your dreams. "

"Your Dad, made a mistake, he's worked a job for 25 years he hates, has always hated, because of security."

" But, it's not like I can really talk, I took the easy way out for years. I stayed home, let someone else take care of me. Now I too, have to chase my dreams. I want to, I hope I do. I want you to, please. Find what you want. Find what you want and go for it. You're an idiot by the way."

"You mean Dad was afraid to take a risk."

"He does hate it, it has even made him dislike things he used to love. We talked about that. He asked me if I liked working on my car. I told him, kinda yeah. He said he used to like it too, but with all the stuff he has to do in his job, he hates working on things now."

"Maybe so."

"I know this, I believe...yes...you should love what you do...when you are out there working to make a living to live the rest of your life...but now, and while you are in school...that doesn't matter as much, because you will be working to be able to do what you love. Now you work to eat, to pay your way through school, so you can do what you love. So you can try to make a difference. Right now this instance, you can't do that."

I hit him on the knee

"You are an IDIOT!"

* * * * * * *

He smiled, agreed with me, and went to his friends house. I hope, I pray, as he is driving, and talking with his friends, he is also thinking very very hard about the stupid mistake he just made, and hoping beyond hope, that he is thinking about making his dreams come true.

Sigh...he is an idiot. But I love him, idiocy and all. I have no idea if the conversation made any difference. Maybe I should have been tougher, meaner. But, that is not me. I can only say what I feel, in the way I feel it. I hope it was enough. Will be enough, I will not give up on him. I will not stop nagging, and pushing...and eventually, I know if I have to harden my heart to do it. I will push him out of the nest...HARD!

And, I also know, he probably won't mow the yard tomorrow.


Jac said...

He said nothing good came of this, but I think he was heard by you and heard you. And he knows you are on his side, even though he's scared. So make him do the mowing, it may be the last time for the season!

D said...

Sunny - Tough love but the right love. I have been in a similar position with my brother recently and although it's hard ultimately what he needed was the rocket up his backside to remember and act on his dreams. Your son sounds like such a wonderful man who will only bring good to this world I hope he fulfills his own desires.

deb said...

My son kind of sounds the same. Doesn't really know what he wants, only what he doesn't want. It'll work itself out eventually.

My son got a townhouse with a couple of friends and moves this weekend, yay. I'm smiling and clapping.

He's got a job delivering kitchen cabinets that pays really well but I'm sure it won't be quit so appealing come winter. He says he wants to go back to school but wanting and doing it are two differrent things.

Your son will find his way. And charge him rent! Even if you only put the money away for him, he's 21, he needs to pay rent.

Sunny Delight said...

We may have heard each other, but I am having a difficult time getting over my disappointment in his actions. As to the mowing...nope it rained today, but there is always tomorrow!

I need to be much tougher, much much, a rocket up the backside may be the answer! Wonder if the fireworks shops are still open!
Yes, I do think he has much potential, just so hard to see it wasted.

I hope it will, I get so very sad when I think of the time he is wasting, and at their age, they do not realize the gift they are throwing away.
Yes, he does need to pay rent...my nagging continues!

Fiona said...

I remember being just as aimless at an age similar to your son's. It took my father to push me into something I didn't want to do, just so I did something.

I can never thank him enough for taking control of my future at that point in time and making sure that the 'something' (secretarial training' was something I'll be able to use forever.

Sometimes our dreams can't be our working future. We have to live and put a roof over our head and food in our own stomachs. And there are some fields that require super-talent. My sister laboured under the false illusion that she was talented enough to pursue design as a career. Simple truth was, she wasn't. That was a hard lesson to learn and one which she never recovered from, becoming a drifter after that.

I hope, dear woman, that your young man finds a sense of reality in all this. Sadly, as you say, a minimum of a Masters is now required. Hell, I'd never make the grade these days, thank goodness I have over two decades of experience which still has some value in the commercial world.

Tough love, honey, and keeping it real. Those will be your greatest gifts to him now and always.


Sunshine said...

Wow, well handled sunny. You keep pushing and prodding him, I just loved the way you built him up at the same time. They need a reality check from time to time at that age.

X. Dell said...

Hmm. I sense that he's intelligent, actually, your Mr. Son. He's simply wrong....to a large extent. He's fearing about a committement he can't finalize in his head, it sounds like (not that I would know anything about this). At the same time, he can't see that a factory job will not be a permanent one.

Were it a permanent one, he might have had a point.

I remember seeing places that called for translators, here in New York. The government always needs translators AND linguists. The college degree itself, if it's a liberal arts one, should open some doors.

And none of these have to be permanent either. If he wants to continue his education, he can do that sooner or later. Colleges still teach linguistics. Linguists like Noam Chomski have a lot of influence in public discourse.

I sense he might be feeling a bit hopeless. But he hasn't got anything better to do than believe.

In the meantime, at least you don't have to cut the grass for awhile.

Phil said...

As always Sunny, you are brilliant, as a parent and in everything else you do. If your sn needs a job I'll pay him to mow my lawn.

LePhare said...

I recon he will find his way. It take some of us longer than others. I had all the plans in the world when I left school.... and never made any of them.

I found that happiness, food on the table, and a fire in the grate, was more important than what I had thought achieve.

He's got a great teacher and guide in you, so he'll do o.k.

Sunny Delight said...

I guess my biggest disappointment lies in the area of wanting him to want! Wanting him to dream! Wanting him to do what it takes to achieve those dreams!

I search, I question, I wonder why he holds himself back...I know it is a combination of many things...depression, the accompanying lethargy, his own fears, his own self-concept, maybe even my current life situation...sigh.

I hate seeing his talents going to waste...and I keep remembering the unstoppable energy and curiosity of his boyhood.

I keep hoping for a reality check...but really, until he is out really choosing to live all that life has to offer, and maybe suffering physically (in other words...feeling real hunger, thirst, and fatigue), I am not sure he will know reality.

There are so many factors that play into the decisions made by the young...our faster moving, ofttimes surreal tv/video/internet culture may have more of an affect that most of us surmise.

"I sense he might be feeling a bit hopeless. But he hasn't got anything better to do than believe."

Now, if only I can get him to believe in himself, to get out in the world and live, instead of feeling fearful and unconfident. (oh wow...the same thing I am trying to teach myself!)

Kind words, thank you for your support, as to paying him to do something...one of his problems...he only works for money...when his bank account is empty.

He recently reread John Krakauer's Into the Wild...in reawakened some sparklings of his dreams...now I wait to see what he does with those sparks...fan them into flames...or let them fizzle out.

If I saw him living happily, I think I could be satisfied with that...that is all I really want...my children to be happy.

OK, I want more than that...I also want them to be productive giving members of society...

LePhare said...

Stop beating yourself up Sunny. All these wants come from within and you can only do so much. The rest is up to him. It will happen...... promise.

Sunny Delight said...

Mind if I hold you to that promise Ian? (((SUH)))