Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The obligatory identity crisis post

First off, a reminder: don't forget to look at the results of the "What to Expect" book giveaway here.  There are a few prizes still unclaimed.


I've noticed that a lot of my imaginary friends in the blogosphere have recently written on variations of the "why do we blog" question.  Believe me, I've thought about it and talked about it and clickety-clacked about it on the various online forums (I was totally going to write fora just then but decided not to be a douche) where these conversations come up.  But I'm not going to do that here.

Okay, maybe just a little bit: I blog because I love to write, and I've always loved it more than just about anything when people say they like to read what I've written.  It's not just hearing the praise, of course.  I also like the idea that something I've written has given someone pleasure or made them think or laugh or maybe even cringe.  So it's only mostly about the praise and attention.  It's also about knowing that I have made someone feel something.  Just me and my powerful words of deepness and my syntax of passion.  It's hard for me to get similarly excited about filling notepads or Word docs that no one will ever read.

The "why do I blog" question is really a kind of identity crisis, as my friend (whose blog you must read, trust me) demonstrates in his recent (not at all whiny) post.  As is often the case, his thoughtful, funny exploration about why we do what we do is born of frustration.  It's a frustration that I've felt acutely at times, but not much lately, since a ridiculous stroke of luck sent a whole battalion of new readers my way--readers whose presence and kind comments have managed to slake my voracious ego, which would otherwise devour every molecule of decency in my being and turn me into a super-villain of the worst sort.  On behalf of my wife and children and others who have to be around me IRL (that's "In Real Life" for those of you who spend too much time IRL for that concept to require an abbreviation): thank you.

But let me remind you that the three preceding long-ish paragraphs are simply an introduction to what I'm not going to talk about.  What I do want to talk about is the other kind of identity crisis: the IRL identity crisis.

And, as in the case of my blogging frustration, my IRL identity crisis is at least temporarily in remission.  So I'm writing from the vantage point of probably the most existential comfort I have enjoyed since the era before the moment in the third grade when Jerry Wagner said Your breath stinks and you act like a girl, and I said, I know you are, but what am I, but I thought, Does it? Do I? and tried to inconspicuously cup my hand in front of my mouth and draw my own exhaled breath into my nose while shifting my posture to what I hoped was a manly slouch.

The crux of my identity crises, which have been mild compared to others', is that no matter what I did, I would always feel a nagging sensation that I should be doing something else.  If I did a, part of me just knew I should be doing b, and if I were doing b, my internal nag would tell me I was neglecting a.  This second-guessing could be on a small scale: practicing guitar vs. mowing the lawn; doing Algebra homework vs. getting high and watching "Different Strokes"; blogging vs. painting the trim in the guest room.  Or it could be on a larger scale: being in a band vs. going to college; being a self-employed carpenter vs. trying to find a "real" career; teaching high school vs. maintaining sanity.

The most curious symptom of my mild identity crises, though, was when I compared myself to my peers, especially those I went to high school or college with.  I naturally had twinges of envy toward my friends who had made boatloads of money and/or achieved great status and success in their careers, whether they were square lawyers and financial workers or creative mavericks. 

But I also found myself feeling sheepish about my relatively conventional lifestyle when talking to friends who had moved farther into the margins of society.

For example one of my best friends from high school is now a freelance pipe-organ repairman, musician, and general tinkerer who rides his bicycle fifty miles in a typical day of working and playing in New York City, and lives a life of freewheeling adventure.  In school, he was the normal kid with the letter jacket and I was the rebel.  Now I drive a minivan.  Another one of my friends from high school is the singer in the band GWAR, who are fairly famous, but I'm pretty sure don't offer retirement benefits.

As we were pulling out of the garage yesterday, with our diaper bag and stroller stowed in their respective compartments, coffee mugs in the cup-holder armrests, and kids in their bomb-proof safety seats; my wife and I looked at each other and laughed at how normal we were.  We live in a funky neighborhood and don't have a TV and I don't go to an office in the morning, but those are minor anomalies.  We're parents.  I'm a parent.  I'm other things too, but as far as identities go, that's a good fallback position should I ever get confused about what I'm supposed to be focusing on.

Here's what I have achieved so far as a parent (you should probably turn the volume down, especially if you have excitable dogs):

In case you find my bourgeois self-satisfaction irksome, check back in a few years when the kids are in school and I'm 47 and looking for work.



  1. It looks as tho u have figured it out.. Good for you.. Bottom line is, u have to do what satisfies u and not be bothered w/whatever others may have or accomplished... They say the grass is always greener, which may be true to a point and then again, I always figure the greener grass may have some crabgrass peeking through...The way I look at it, you have accomplished what most husbands would not choose to do or can't... My neighbor and you are about the exception who can handle a multiple...

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  3. Sounds like you're living the dream! Where some people might fantasize about winning the lottery or being a millionaire aviator adventurer, I fantasize about no longer being a borderline destitute twenty-something living with housemates from some godforsaken eddy of the gene pool, working an absurd and low-paid job and one day owning (or at least not being inches from being evicted from) a home. Alas, I'm sure I'll look back upon this time fondly (just like you when you're 47 and destitute!). Sure would be nice to be uncoventional AND financially secure though, which I probably could be if I looked at employment listings instead of blogs!

  4. This post just gave me heart palpitations, because I know there are four things I should be doing and none of those things include reading blogs.

    We all have these crises. You'll grow up to be OK, promise.

    (Seriously? GWAR?)

  5. I've really been enjoying the "Why Do We Blog" debate.

    But WOW, did you nail the excitable dog thing. Turned down the volume and the dogs still went ballistic. Impressive foresight.

  6. I can relate to this, even though I'm not a parent yet. I went to one of those colleges where after graduation everyone went off to save third world countries. All I have managed to do was go back home, find an administrative job and get divorced. So, I feel ya, but keep plugging away. You are a very good writer. My best friend from childhood, the most radical, adventurous, NYC living friend I have just told me she was pregnant and I'm shocked. So, I guess even the most unconventional of us jump on the traditional bandwagon eventually in some way or another!

  7. " matter what I did, I would always feel a nagging sensation that I should be doing something else."

    Whenever I get that feeling, I just remember to take my ritalin.

  8. Hubby and I are having this very same IRL mid-life crisis and we are in our early 20's. WTF, I thought college was supposed to give you all the answers? Nope, someone lied. Blogging is the only thing that makes me feel normal sometimes...

    Your kiddos look like Max from "Where the Wild Things Are" with their cute little hooded towels!!

  9. No TV, eh? You're a better man than I, and not just because I'm a woman. As for life crises, ditto much of that except the manly parts and the band.

    Oh, my son (18 mos.)watched the video with me and is emphatically requesting a playdate with your girls. The squealing has a greater affect on toddlers than dogs, perhaps.

  10. You know, dude, it's that old saying: no matter where you go, there you are.

    Maybe 16 years from now you'll be writing about coaching the girls' high school basketball team while running a construction company and dealing with some new cloned dog that runs on the ceiling and shits upside down.

    You're who you were when you were 6 years old, more or less. And you're always going to want things. You've got two beautiful girls, what seems like a supportive wife, and the ability to contribute to your family.

    You wanna go nuts? Put a 12" subwoofer in the UnSwaggerWagon. Itsy Bitsy Spider never sounded so good, man. But enjoy that coffee and these moments because in 16 years you could have dog poop in your hair.

  11. Seriously? I thought that was just a girl thing. So it's not just a girl thing? That means it's real and I'm fully having a crisis? Fuck. I'll be cowering under my desk making frantic to-do lists if you need me.

  12. I found that since my blog went private I have been doing my best writing (well that is what everyone is telling me).

    I MUST get a video of Moxie doing the whole WTF was that thing when I play the video of the girls.

    The twins need their own reality show! Adorable!!

  13. This is pretty great, and also... um... entirely familiar.

  14. What I wouldn't give for normal. Or crazy. They make really boring indie movies about boring people like me.

  15. DUDE! You went to high school with ODERUS!?? That's fucking great!

  16. I have no idea who you are IRL. You could be a crazy serial killer with bad breath who types this blog while wearing women's underwear and high heels. But regardless, in the blogosphere, you are a man who loves his family and writes with a talent and humor that should be recognized IRL as well.

  17. Well I for one am damn glad that you decided to write a blog and share it with the rest of us! I empathize, and I'm sure many others, with the sometimes anguishing comparisons of myself to other friends... those that have "made it big" or super rich, etc. But hey, we do what we do - learn to enjoy our individual rides. And it certainly seems that you have done just that.

  18. @Everybody--

    Man, I suck! I just wrote thoughtful responses to everyone's comments and then got distracted looking at someone's profile, and when I came back, my responses were gone.

    I can't recreate them right now, because it will cause me to seethe with anger at the universe. See how mature I am?

    Anyway, thanks for all the comments, and also, Hahahahaha, suckers! I got you to say nice things about me! You played right into my hands!

    I totally do NOT wear heels while typing. Please email me and tell me where you heard that. Thanks.

  19. Actually I heard that at He talks about you A LOT

  20. I have identity crises on a regular basis. Unfortunately, the fallback isn't really working for me at the moment, as my 3-year old tells me (with alarming regularity) that he doesn't love me. Obviously he's someone else's kid.

  21. Dude, you are one lucky man. I get all happy to see people living that kind of life, especially with those gorgeous tots tearing around.

  22. I have found, that the reasons we blog are as varied as the individual themselves. As it should be. I always say, it's YOUR blog, you write whatever YOU want (and for whatever reason.)

    Parenting is definitely a challenge that offers rewards those who are without children don't fully understand.

    If people choose to read our drivel, then good for us. Maybe we shouldn't beasking, "why do we blog", but "why do we read others blogs"?

  23. As someone who has been surrounded by talented and creative people a lot, I get what you're saying. I'm pretty sure that all of the awesome people I knew in high school and college are now leading amazing, adventurous lives, while I'm here grading essays and slowly plugging away at my own writing. Normal is as normal does, I guess.

    This was a great post (and not just cuz you gave me some link action).

    P.S. I'm extra cool because I actually do know Beta Dad IRL. So there.

  24. @Nari--Wagner! I knew it was him! He better get his shit together, because I'm coming after him.

    @Keely--Oh, shit. I'm sorry to hear that. I guess that's just what they do at that age. If it's any consolation, you probably won't remember any of his current meanness when you're older. My mom remembers me as a sweet kid, when I know for a fact I was a right bastard.

    @Frag--I am embarrassed by how lucky I am.

    @Ed--Yeah...the reading other people's blogs question is even more complicated. Good point.

    @DiPi--I think it was Longfellow who said, "We hate it when our friends become successful." I would qualify that quite a bit, but there's definitely a nugget of truth to it.

    We are both much cooler for knowing each other IRL!

  25. The paths we follow in life & the reasons we're on them are as varied as our reasons for blogging. But, in both, I think it works out best when we remember to stay true to ourselves and not let what others are doing distract us. At the very least we should try to please ourselves. Others liking what we've done is just gravy after that.

  26. When you are about to take a video of your kids to post online, do you stage the environment? Every time I take a photo or video of the "little bundles of joy", I review it before posting and notice the absolute shitfight going on in the background, feel like a complete failure as a human in not being able to maintain a clean house, and then delete the photo/video...

  27. I know exactly how you feel, because I have the feelings everyday. In fact I should not be reading your blog, I should be dusting, or doing dishes, or sleeping.

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  29. Ah the question of self.

    I'm a number of different things to different people,as we all are of course.

    People will pigeon hole you as they wish.As long as you are comfortable in your own world,then that's what counts.

    I was going to do my usual joke about my wife thinks I'm Daniel Craig,while everyone else thinks I'm more Wendy Craig.

    I suppose you'll have to google her to see what I mean.

  30. Just started following. Got lots of catch up to do. Rebels make the best parents; we see & hear the hidden stuff. Remember raising kids really is the most important adventure!

    I was at the computer typing away & my teenage son said how can you find so much to type? I said it's just like talking. I'm just getting into blogging & it's a release for me. Don't care if I publish or if anyone reads. I am loving yours. Could be your future in there somewhere.

    To let you know, this is the 2nd teenager I've survived. My two sons were 20 years & 11 days apart. Might have been closer, but this one got stuck he was so big. I wonder sometimes if I could have lived through 2 at one time. I concluded that God knew what He was doing by giving me a break in there.

    Gonna check out some of the blogs you follow. Yall just keep on & I'll keep on following from AL. Heck with housework. Very underappreciated work unless not done. I need to be quilting.

  31. Is all this identity crisis stuff just a cover/whetting our appetite for a super awesome Halloween post? C'mon! Jim at Sweet Juniper has already thrown down the gauntlet with only just the 1 kid. I've got high expectations for you BetaDad.


  32. @Vinny--Good reasoning. It's kinda hard sometimes to know what "being true to yourself" is. But it's usually pretty easy to tell when you've been untrue.

    @Inertia--I actually do all of the video and photos on a movie set. It's just easier that way. My wife and I were actually talking about how hard it would be to keep the place in any kind of order if we had one more kid. The synchronized naptime is a lifesaver.

    @Michelle--I envy people who have a sense of priorities. To me, almost everything (aside from the kids) is equally important.

    @Bonnie--Aww...why'd you remove your comment? It was so nice! Thanks anyway.

    @Jacks--When I'm teaching rhetoric classes to college students, it seems like in talking about language and expression, we always eventually get to the point where we have to question whether there is such thing as the self. I love that part of teaching. Googling "Wendy Craig."

    @4dreamsr--Wow. 20 years...that's quite a spread. You must have some interesting observations about the difference in raising kids of different generations. I'll check out your blog forthwith!

    @Kim--You know me too well. Of course I checked out SJ, knowing there would be awesome Halloween craftiness. But I'm totally going to blow his doors off. Just watch.

  33. I feel like that ALL THE TIME. But we don't live in a funky neighborhood so it may be that I just have to embrace my identity as the neighborhood weird mom. Also, my husband is a GWAR fan.

  34. Sorry,as a (somewhat neat) pack rat, I'm just trying to pick up my son-in-law's habits: when I see a trash can, I just have to toss something. He throws out everything but the wife and baby!
    You're hilarious! You should be a stand-up! In the meantime, keep blogging - you're irresistible!

  35. Hubs and I do the same thing, I am trying to slack off on comparing myself to others. It gets me super annoyed. I have friends younger than me doing super well that just "fell in" to cushy positions and I have others that are going through the turning thirty questioning everything crisis. One friend has been in a band his whole life, is very good, has achieved some success in the little doom rock genre, but is wondering if the the whole being a rock star later in life stuff may not be so hot, he may be going back to school.

    Who knows. I never thought I would work for corporate America but alas, here I am.

    I think you are a great writer though and everyone goes through the blog crisis I suppose!

  36. slake my voracious ego, which would otherwise devour every molecule of decency in my being and turn me into a super-villain of the worst sort.

    I can speak with some authority on this as I have been both a superhero and a super-villain. For a long while I very much enjoyed being evil. There is a special sort of joy in not having to follow rules.

    Really, at the post office I never waited in line but that was nothing compared to the joy I took in going through the ten items or less line knowing full well that I had 13 items in the cart.

    Yes, 13 items and then just for fun I left the cart in the middle of the parking lot. Good times.

    But I have to admit that over time I grew bored with the rogue lifestyle and turned in my horns for a halo. And while life may be duller I am confident that one day I will be immeasurably rewarded for this.

  37. Being a native New Yorker I just need to know - does the pipe organ repairmen ride his bike 50 miles a day to do repairs? I have seen plenty on bike messengers, but a bike pipe organ repair dude - that I need to see!

  38. Damn, my comment got eaten. Whatever.

    Chicken and Pig are awesome.

  39. @Triple Z--If your old man is a GWAR fan, he must be the weird dad in the neighborhood as well!

    @Bonnie--That's more like it! Thanks for the kind words.

    @Skeptical C--It's funny, from ages 9-20, all I wanted to do was be a rock star. Now it doesn't appeal to me at all, for a multitude of reasons.

    @Jack--I'm so glad you came to your senses and decided to use your powers for good. Even though good is boring.

    @Dan--Yeah. As I understand it, he bikes from borough to borough, with his tools in panniers and packs. He said that on big jobs, he has hired some of his hardcore biker buddies to ride with him and carry extra tools.

    @Cpt. D--I apologize on behalf of Blogger for your lost comment. That really disappoints me. I love my little chicken and pig too.

  40. I just think of this way; before there was blogging, no one would have known my thoughts. Now, not only do people know, some people actually want to know. It's pretty sweet reaching out and meeting people who share your interests you would never get to meet otherwise.

  41. Those twins are just too cute! I absolutly LOVE the new "GLUESTICK" pic, brilliant!
    I'm only a newbie to blogger, and so started out not knowing anyone, or having any followers. So I guess I just needed a place to get all the shit that is going around in my head, down in one place. If people stumble upon it and leave a comment, then yeah, I DO feel a little bit special they took the time. I hope my daily life musings inspire someone at least once. Even if it is to check the used-by date on the cheese in the fridge.


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