February 19, 2010

Fathers Planning for The Future

"It is a mistake to look too far ahead. Only one link of the chain of destiny can be handled at a time." ~ Winston Churchill 

I like the headline Fathers Planning for The Future for many of the same reasons that I like A Play In Three Acts. Mostly I appreciate the open ended aspect. Is it one father planning for the future or is it many. Could even be the title of an upcoming seminar I am going to provide on how to be a great father.

You know the kind of seminar I am talking about. I am going to charge you the very low and reasonable price of $19.99 to buy a tape/CD/MP3 excerpt of my talk. You'll be so enthralled by this you'll readily agree to spend $150.00 to come hear me give the full talk at a later date.

During that session you'll fall completely under my spell and agree to fork over a substantially larger sum so that you can participate in a full weekend of workshops, most of which won't be led by me. However as they will have TheJackB's picture and seal of approval you won't care.

Damn, I love being a brand. But that is not what this post is about. This really is about a discussion the boys and I recently had regarding the future and how to plan for it.

"If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up some place else."
Yogi Berra

I have spent more time thinking about what it is that makes me happy and fulfilled. More moments delving into the deeper recesses in my head thinking about what truly brings me joy. To me this seems to be the linchpin in my quest. More on this later.

It is another sunny day and we're sitting outside again enjoying coffee, the elixir of life. The conversation begins with the usual rhythm of sports, movie quotes and a curse or two about the mystery aches and pains that have taken up residence in our bodies. It gradually moves on to serious matters.

"I have been draining funds from my retirement account to pay for the mortgage." Heads nod and we hear tales of an impending custody battle. Eyes roll as we hear about the ex and her attempt to gain more than is fair. More stories are shared and there is more furrowing of our brows.

We're not much different from so many others. A group of college graduates who all have a hefty chunk of experience in the working world. Fathers who have done all that we can do to provide for our families and their well being.

And every single one of us is currently fighting a battle that they never imagined would happen. The wars we wage are all different, but we bear scars from them. They have taken a toll and that is part of why we are gathered together. It is another chance to lean on a friend and to see if somehow the collective wisdom offers a solution that we haven't come up with.

The conversation is interrupted by the sound of a female voice. A woman shouts out hello. Moments later she is standing next to the table. We know her, or at least a few of us do. We went to high school together. Pleasantries are exchanged and she runs off to pick her youngest up from pre-school.

Jim says that she has a great body for having popped out three kids. "If only I wish that we could say the same about you," I reply. We trade insults back and forth. He throws a twenty dollar bill at me and calls it a donation for lap band surgery.

I grab the twenty and stand up and before he can say anything I walk inside. Moments later I come out with more coffee and a few snacks. I drop the change in front of him and say "thank you." He grumbles something about not leaving until he gets his twenty dollars back. I ignore it.

We talk about the future. The fathers are a bit nervous. I tell them that I figured out a while back that it is really hard to say where we are going to be in five years. I am sincere in this. I do my best to plan for the future, but I really can't say where I'll be.

My life is different from what it was five years ago. All of ours are. In this particular group I have the oldest child. He'll be ten later this year. I don't claim to be the best father, but I am not new at this game anymore. I wasn't five years ago either.

It is easy for me to list a lot of changes in the past five years. Grandparents have died, jobs have changed and frankly some of our friends have died. Marriages have started and ended. I go back a little farther and talk about how I purchased a bunch of Worldcom stock.

At the time it was considered a smart purchase. Big company with little risk is what they said and so I believed. Guess who isn't around any more. There are a lot of stories that I can tell that are similar as can the boys.

Most of us graduated college and found jobs doing things that paid the bills. We were taught that it was more important to make a buck and that we could worry about being happy later. There is a lot of truth in that. But what you don't know when you are younger is just how much can change in your own perspective and desire. Life experience teaches you many things some of which just aren't evident and cannot be seen when you are younger.

I don't say that to make a claim that you have to be older to know who you are and what you want. Some of us reach that point earlier. But in many, it takes a while to get there. It requires time in the the salt mines to learn that what you thought you wanted has changed and that what you need is entirely different.

Having a plan is important and very useful. But so is the ability to adapt to change and to work with it so that you wherever you end up is somewhere you want to be.

The uncertainty is frustrating and that is really why a big part of my life is devoted to doing everything that I can to control my destiny. I can't control everything nor do I want to. But with a little luck and some work at least I can try and steer the ship.

No comments: