My daddy’s dead

I was three.

I only have a handful of memories about him.

After he died my male role models were my grandpas and Mister Rogers.

When I got older my Scout leaders became role models, too.

I wonder how I’d be different if my dad had lived.  Would I be more masculine?  Would I be a better father?

I used to worry that my sons wouldn’t be masculine enough because of me.  I don’t worry about that anymore.

I don’t want a cookie-cutter life

There’s a neighborhood near the place a I live.  There are a lot of big houses there.  The houses all look more or less the same.  They’re built from similar blueprints.  Some are probably even built from the same blueprint as others.  They’re all various shades of brown.  They all sit on lots that are really too small for them.

I’ve seen neighborhoods like this in other places.  New developments full of McMansions.

I want a house of my own someday.  But not one of those.

I want my house to be a reflection of who I am.

I want my life to reflect who I am.

I don’t want to do things just to fit in.  I don’t want to do things just to be different.  I just want to be me.

I’m not trying to reject anything that anyone else has.  I want marriage, a family, a home, stability.  But I don’t want to do things just because other people are doing them.  I want to think critically.  To make sure I’m doing what’s best for me and mine.

I want to be in charge of my life.  To make my own decisions.  To be as self-reliant as possible.
I want to be free to share what I want to share.  To keep private what I want to keep private.

Too many people are afraid to truly think critically.  To really think for themselves.  They do the things they’re told they should do, and never really question why.

I don’t think the Good Lord put us on this Earth  to be cookie-cutter people.  We were put here with unique strengths and weaknesses for a reason. He didn’t intend for us to be interchangeable cogs for The Machine.

“I had a feeling I should come talk to you”

It was Sunday night.  I’d just moved into my dorm.  Classes hadn’t started yet.

I graduated from high school a few months before that.

I didn’t have any friends there.  I was alone.

I went for a walk that evening.  As I was walking I noticed a girl wandering around.  I kept my distance.

Then she came up to me.  She had a feeling she should come talk to me.

We walked and talked for a while, getting to know each other.

We went back to her dorm.  She introduced me to her roommates, who I became friends with.

I started spending more time with her.  I started having feelings for her.

We went to school dances together.  I’d never danced with a girl who wanted to dance with me before.

Later we were alone in her living room.  I was sitting in a chair.  She was sitting on my lap.  We were talking and our lips brushed against each other.

Most guys would have kissed her.  I’m not most guys.  I’d never kissed a girl.  Well, not since first grade, anyway…

I burst out laughing.

Things slowly went downhill after that.

I didn’t see her at all during Christmas break.

I wrote her a long, rambling letter.  In the letter I said I loved her.  I slipped it in her bag before she went home for a long weekend in January.

She wrote me a short note.  She said she was sorry, but she didn’t feel the same way.

I was devastated.

I was secretly relieved to get kicked out of college

I didn’t want to get stuck in a job I hated.

I didn’t want to be mistreated by employer after employer.

I was a computer science major.  I was planning on becoming a programmer.  Then I read this:

Now let’s talk about death marches, mandatory uncompensated overtime, the beeper on the belt, and having no life. Men accept these conditions because they’re easily hooked into a monomaniacal, warrior-ethic way of thinking in which achievement of the mission is everything. Women, not so much. Much sooner than a man would, a woman will ask: “Why, exactly, am I putting up with this?”

Eric S. Raymond, Women in computing: first, get the problem right

For those who are unfamiliar with ESR, he is sort of the godfather of the open-source software movement, and a master programmer.  He knows what he’s talking about.

I wanted to be able to be a family man.  That blog post didn’t give me a lot of confidence I’d be able to do that, or much else I wanted to do.

My enthusiasm about school had already started to cool.  I had to take classes I wasn’t interested in.  A lot of the work seemed like busy work.

I talked to my wife about the doubts I was having.  She left me know she would be very unhappy if I quit.  So I tried to soldier on.

I didn’t do a good job of it.  I wouldn’t do assignments.  If I did them it would be hurriedly, at the last minute.  A lot of times I skipped class altogether.

This went on for a few years.  Then when the university told me I had to switch majors it ended.

I was disappointed, but also relieved.

A few months before the end of my last semester of college, I discovered James Altucher.  Glenn Beck had him on his show to discuss an article he’d written, called 10 Reasons Why You Have to Quit Your Job This Year.

I started reading through his blog and listening to his podcast.  Among other things, he says he regrets going to college:

When I was 19, I won some money in a chess tournament. So instead of using that money for my college tuition I decided to drop out of college and buy a car.

I bought a used 1982 Honda Accord. I drove it around for a few hours since they let me drive it right out of the lot.

But when I saw my girlfriend and everyone else taking their classes I got a little jealous. I returned the car and cancelled the check and entered my sophomore year of college. But I regret it now.

James Altucher, 8 Alternatives to College

James was a college graduate.  A computer science major, like me.  He graduated college and did programming work for them for a few years.  When he got a programming job in the real world, and he couldn’t even program.

I was more conflicted that ever.  I wasn’t sure I wanted to finish school.  I wasn’t sure I wanted a programming job anymore.  I wasn’t even sure I’d be able to get a programming job if I finished school.

But I didn’t want to upset my wife.

That summer the university gave me a reprieve.

I avoid the news

I used to obsess over the news.  I’d check the Drudge Report multiple times a day.  I’d read all kinds of news articles all the way through.

I was miserable.  My wife told me I spent too much time reading the news.

I stopped going to the Drudge Report.  I checked the news less.

I started feeling better.  But still not great.

I find that I feel better if I don’t check the news at all.

Watching the news is depressing.  I gives a skewed view of the world.  It’s almost all negative.  Sometimes there will be a positive story thrown in.  But most good news doesn’t get reported.

If you’re a news junkie, try avoiding the news for 30 days.  If anything really important happens you’ll still hear about it.  See if you don’t feel better.

I didn’t finish college

I went to college right after high school.  It was a little college in a rural town.  I didn’t know anyone there.

Before long I made friends.  I started dating for the first time.

I worked hard at first.  I took seventeen credits my first semester.  I practically lived in the library.  I didn’t shower for a week.

After a couple of weeks I burned out.  I started skipping classes and not doing assignments.  I hung out with friends instead.

Or I played on the internet.

I never really used the internet before college.  Once in high school our class went to the library to do research on the internet, but I had no idea what I was doing.

In college the internet and I became best friends.  I’d spend hours in the computer lab looking up everything I could think of.  Sometimes I’d take CDs and headphones so I could listen to music while I surfed.

As the year went on my grades got worse.  After going home for the summer I got a letter saying I would have to take a term off.  I decided not to go back .

A few years later I tried teaching myself Japanese from a book I got from the library.  That wasn’t very effective, so I decided to take a college class.  Then I thought, “If I’m going to take one college class, why not take a few?”  So I signed up for several fun classes.  After a couple of years I started feeling burned out.  I didn’t know what I wanted to major in.  So I stopped going.

A few years after that I was married and had a toddler.  We were living in my in-laws’ basement.  Then I was laid off from my job and having trouble finding another.

My wife suggested that I go back to school.  She suggested that I go to the small-town school I’d gone to previously.  I’d dreamed about going back, but I didn’t think it would happen.

I jumped at the chance.  We moved just after Christmas and I started school in January.  I was going to be a serious student and get good grades this time.

I did really well the first semester.  After that my enthusiasm waned.  After a year or two I had a conversation with my wife about whether college was right for me.  She was working to support our family while I went to school, and she let me know that my degree was her hope for the future.

After five semesters at the small-town school I decided to transfer to a university in a larger town.

I was at the university for a year.  When I attempted to sign up for computer science classes for the next fall semester I got a message saying I needed to be in the computer science program.  I was already a computer science major.  I emailed my adviser to find out what was going on.

My adviser informed me that I had taken Calculus II too many times without getting an acceptable grade.  I wouldn’t be able to take it again.  I had to change majors.

I wasn’t interested in another major.  I had gone back to college to get a programming degree.

I left the university.  For a while I thought of other ways to get my degree, including online courses.  I decided that wasn’t what I wanted to do.  There were other paths to success, and I wanted to pursue one of those.

It broke my wife’s heart when I told her.  She had pinned all her hopes and dreams on my degree.

Things haven’t been the same since.

Don Juan of the first grade

It must not have been that bad. I don’t remember hearing any complaints. Except for the teacher’s.

She asked my mom to meet with her after school. And to bring me.

She sat in the middle of her kidney-shaped table. My mom and I were on the other side.

I don’t remember much about that meeting. Just that she told my mom what I’d been doing and that it needed to stop.

Before school each class would make two lines. A line of boys and a line of girls.

I’d walk down the girls’ line and give them each a kiss.

I don’t remember exactly why I did it. I wasn’t in love with every girl in the class. At least I don’t think so…

I didn’t see a problem with it. I kissed my family members all the time. Even my grandpas.

I didn’t get in a lot of trouble. That’s probably because I stopped.

I didn’t kiss another girl for twelve years.

But that’s another story.

The girl who asked

Actually, she had the guy sitting next to her ask.

I was in junior high school.  I was sitting in Spanish class one day, minding my own business.  The girl sitting in front of me, and the guy sitting next to her, turned around.  He asked me if I would go out with her.

It was the first time in years a girl had shown interest in me.  I didn’t know what to to.  I think I panicked.

I don’t really remember what happened next.  I think I may have mumbled something about not being sixteen yet.

After that I pretended nothing had happened.  I think she did, too.

After that day, though, I developed a big crush on her.  I never acted on it, because I was scared.  I had a crush on her on and off until the end of high school.

I’m a Mormon

I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

I was raised in the Church and I’ve been a member my whole life.  I believe in it with my whole heart.

Our beliefs make more sense to me than those of any other religion.

We are the spirit children of our Heavenly Father.

Because he is our Father, we have the potential to become like him.  We were sent to this Earth for that reason.

He knew we would make bad choices, and that there would be consequences.  A vital part of His plan was a Savior who would take our sins upon him.

That Savior is Jesus Christ.  Through his atonement every one of us can reach our full potential.

If we truly repent our sins will be forgiven.  True repentance means making a sincere effort not to make the same bad choices over and over.

“Faith without works is dead.”  If you truly believe in something, you’ll act accordingly.  You can’t just say you believe in something and then not live it.

I believe in modern-day revelation.  The world is changing faster than ever, and it doesn’t make sense to me that a loving Heavenly Father would leave His children without guidance at a time like this.

The Book of Mormon is the word of God, just as much as The Bible.  They both testify of Jesus Christ’s divinity and each reinforces the message of the other.

Families can be sealed together for eternity in temples.

Joseph Smith is a prophet of God.  He saw our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and conversed with them.  An evil man couldn’t have produced something like The Book of Mormon, and a good man wouldn’t have pretended it was true if it wasn’t.  If he was a liar, the Church would either have died with him, or it would be an insignificant cult with very few members.

You don’t have to take my word for it, or anyone else’s.  At the end of The Book of Mormon there is a promise:

And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.

And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.

Read The Book of Mormon, then pray to know the truth, keeping an open mind and an open heart.  If you do, then like millions of others. you’ll know for yourself.

I’m a dad

I wasn’t ready to be a dad.

When she showed me the pregnancy test I knew it didn’t matter. I was going to be a dad, ready or not.

I’d wanted to be married my whole life. I’d rush into relationships because I wanted to be married so bad. I’d fantasize about what marriage would be like.

I didn’t fantasize about being a father, though. I imagined it would happen at some point. I didn’t really think about it beyond that.

My dad died when I was three. I only have a handful of memories about him, all distorted by time.

I didn’t know how to be a dad.  And at first I definitely didn’t enjoy it.

I’m still not sure I know how to be a dad.  I’m easily irritated.  I get impatient.  Sometimes I make my kids cry.

I’m learning, though.  I spend time with my kids without being asked.  I spend time with them when they ask, even if I had other plans.  I even enjoy it most of the time.

There are still things I don’t like.  Telling them no.  Disciplining them.  Making them do things they don’t want to.  But I want to do what’s best for them, even if it’s not enjoyable.

Am I the best dad in the world.  Of course not.

But I’m getting there.