Monday, January 25, 2010

Dear Dad,

It's funny that I haven't told you what the hell I've been up to in the 1 year and nearly 4 months since you died. I kind of went ahead and made some major changes in my life. And, in a way, you had a lot to do with those changes.

As you know I was not happy at the job I had when you were still alive. In fact, I hadn't had a job I was particularly happy with since those jobs I had in high school when working was really fun and it made me feel like an adult and it often involved free movie rentals or all the crappy snack shack food I could possibly ingest. But as an adult, work was always just something I did while I played music on the side figuring, some day, music would take over as my "career". Until I realized I didn't want music to become my career, because the business side of it makes me want to grab an axe and get all hacky and slashy. But I was so into the habit of Just Working even though my last half dozen jobs or so bored me to tears and made me feel like my soul was slowly dying. But during all of this sturm und drang, I would have this recurring fantasy of going to beauty school and learning how to become a hairdresser (or whatever the P.C. term is these days). And yes, I know, I know, how typically gay of your gay son to want to do hair. But I think you had enough evidence in life to know that I am hardly the Typical Gay. Still, that fantasy had been there off and on for about 10 years; ever since I had worked as a paid-under-the-table-and-possibly-illegal-assistant at a hair salon in New York the summer after I finished college. But it kept being a fantasy I quashed thinking I should have done it when I was younger or how I already had a Real Job and how could I make such a drastic change?

But with your mounting illness and all of the stress that brought, work became a place I loathed more and more. In fact, anything that I was not pleased with seemed to magnify in horribleness once it was cast in the long shadow of your deterioration. But as you came to your physical end, I started to think about all of the things you did in your life. And the things you didn't do. I don't want this to seem like I am criticizing you, Dad, because I am not. But I know depression was a major part of your life for a very long time. As was drinking, until I was in my early twenties. And I know there were often things you wanted to pursue that you either avoided for whatever personal reasons or would start and never finish. And here you were, age 67, getting ready to pass away far earlier than you should, and I wondered how many things you might possibly regret not doing. Now, I am not unrealistic, I don't necessarily think everyone can do every little thing they fantasize about doing in their lifetime; there's often not enough actual time, or money or resources to do everything. But I found myself evaluating my own life and wanting to not have those kind of regrets when it came to things I had a real yearning to do. And then that little fantasy of doing hair popped up on my shoulder again. And it wouldn't go away.

So I started researching schools in the area. And I found a really great one. And the next thing I knew, I was interviewing there! And applying! And giving notice at my job HOLY SHIT!! And I was scared. as. fuck. I hadn't been in school since I finished college in 1997. And I for sure was not 24 anymore. But I remembered something you said to me more than once in the last decade or so. Whether it was about me moving to a new city I wanted to live in or recording and going on tour with whatever band I was in at the time, you would say "You got more balls than your old man." Which is exactly how you would phrase such a compliment, and one of the many reasons I loved you. But that phrase, as glib as it may have sounded, always meant so much to me. When I was a kid I know you wanted me to do sports and other manly pursuits. And I wanted to be in plays and draw comics and write stories. I think sometimes I worried that I disappointed you with my less-than-butch ways. But as I grew up and came into my own and pursued the things I loved as an adult, I turned around and you were there to support me at every turn. To encourage me. To believe in what I was doing. And, I think, slightly envying me for not having whatever it was that blocked you from pursuing your dreams.

And it was with that "more balls" attitude that I left the working world I had been comfortable with for so long and plunged headlong into a career path that has been better than any of my fantasies about it could ever be. It's really amazing, Dad, I am so incredibly happy pursuing this; more happy than I ever thought I could possibly be with "work". Except it doesn't feel like work at all. Just something I want to get better and better at every day so I can really shine at it. And yeah, it may not be the most manly of pursuits. But I know you. You might have your reservations at first but then I'd give you your first haircut and you'd be singing a different tune. The next phone call we had would be you asking me what I was working on now, how much was I practicing and when would I be opening my own salon. You always did that: encouraged me and treated me like an actual adult; pushing me to not rest on my laurels and always strive for more. I think, in some ways, you were maybe talking to yourself in those moments too. But the one thing that tinges this all with sadness, is that you aren't here for your first haircut with me. Or you twentieth. But I guess I wouldn't be pursuing this dream if things hadn't happened the way they did. It's bittersweet, to say the least. But I really think this path saved my life in a lot of ways. Or saved me from plummeting into a depression so massive it could have swallowed me whole. Don't get me wrong, there is a lead cloak of sadness that I have to resist being crushed by on most days since you left. But having something that brings me so much joy and pushes me to work harder and harder has been so important in helping me have forward momentum.

And I have you to thank for that. So thank you, Dad, for helping me follow this dream of mine. I hope I make you proud.

So much love,

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