Transparent Thursday: Diagnosis

In History class during my junior year, Ms. Ross walked the aisles checking homework. I sat with an open book on my desk, and the realization that I didn’t do my homework again, she stopped and said out loud “Are you boycotting homework?” I looked around and saw some of my friends laughing, and looked to her and saw her irritation. I was embarrassed, agitated, and like many teenagers, I decided to not do the work out of defiance going forward but that’s not what happened at first. Every day, I would write down the assignment in my notebook and put it in my bookbag. Then I would go home and forget that the notebook, the homework, and even school existed as I threw myself into a writing frenzy at my computer.

This was a common occurrence in all of my classes. My teachers were mystified, as they were left wondering how I was so smart but never did the work. They cycled through assuming that the work was too easy, that I wasn’t engaged, that I was lazy and as a result, they put me in classes with higher achieving children. The consistent thought was if I was rubbing elbows with kids who consistently did their work then I would be forced to do the same. With each experiment, they watched only to be disappointed when their hypothesis proved to be false. 

My grades in school didn’t match what anyone expected of me, but no one at home was aware because I was driven by anxiety and would rush to the mailbox to pick out and trash any progress reports. This was a different time, there were no emails sent home, there was no website to check my grades, and teachers didn’t call home to see what was going on. I slipped through the cracks, and so did my problem. It wasn’t until I failed a class and had to go to summer school that my Mom found out what was happening. When she asked why I didn’t have the words.

It was these struggles that lead me to take years off of school after graduation before going to community college and later Temple University. I figured the problem was maturity. Once I got older, once I had to pay for school, I would take things more serious. What I found was an inability to focus and sit down to work. A yearning to look at another screen or scroll on a social media site before I wrote a paragraph or read a section of a book. The obsession to write a daily music blog when I had video projects, scripts, and papers to write. 

These problems persisted after school and into married life and parenthood. I would consistently forget about things, or others wouldn’t occur to me and my ex would have to step up frustratingly. She assumed I didn’t care, which wasn’t true, but I couldn’t prove her assertion to be wrong. I found myself able to do tasks such as cooking, cleaning, the daily care of the child, but I was completely incapable of handling the abstract thought processing that comes with adulting. It was then when I felt like a complete failure but this wasn’t a failure of a grade. It was a failure of life, and I stood as the world fell apart beneath my feet.

It didn’t occur to me that there might be something going on with me until one day she came back from therapy. She said her therapist asked her, “what if something was ‘wrong’ in Tim’s brain, would you stay with him to work on it?” Her answer was negative, but that possibility shone a light in my head.

Last Spring, I took a Professional Development class on working with children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (AD/HD). I went in with the intention of learning on how to work with students who learned and processed information differently but instead I saw myself. I was in awe and captivated because it made everything make sense. It was too late to save a marriage I didn’t want to salvage, but it wasn’t too late to save myself. It wasn’t too late to get help. It wasn’t too late to have a direction to move forward.

It was a year before I got an appointment with a neurologist for testing. Four three and a half hours, I sat in a chair going through a battery of tests. Each judging how I process and retain information. A week later, I came back for the follow-up. As I sat down the neurologist went through my information before finally revealing that my results were consistent with that of someone who has AD/HD. I went in feeling ready to be labeled, but as her words washed over me I felt a tinge of emotion hit. It wasn’t a feeling of triumph, but a feeling of what now?

There is a weight that comes with being labeled. It can either be vindicating, it can be limiting, diminishing or any combination of the three. At that moment, I felt all three. When I got up to leave, I thought of the people I talked to when I assumed I was undiagnosed. They often asked how much it really impacts my life, or they said I didn’t need to get help and that it’s a superpower. Yet, I pushed forward and at that moment I decided the label was just what it was and wasn’t going to define me in any way. With the diagnosis in hand and a plan to treat it, it felt like it was a smaller part of my story than when it went unchecked.

Fast forward to today, and I am on my second week of taking Strattera and I have no complaints. I am able to plan, get more things done, focus on the task at hand instead of consistently looking for stimulation (even while driving), and being on time (except for one thing that I’ll talk about another time). I’ve noticed an improvement in my quality of life, but it doesn’t fix everything but no one thing ever does.

This fall, it will be officially two years since I was separated. I’ve been more connected to my family, I’ve been a better father, working on being a better friend, and I’ve been a better me. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I stand here and look to where I want to be. I am no longer standing at the bottom, and my mind is clear enough that I can see the steps that can lead to where I want to go.

Advertisements

#transparentTuesday: Dated

My ex and I were separated for a year before I began to date again.

It wasn’t the first time I tried, but every effort beforehand fell short. I knew why. It was because I wasn’t ready. I attempted to jump back into the swing of things using Bumble, OkCupid, and Tinder amongst a host of other websites. I would swipe left, swipe right, and swipe left again often matching with people who seemed interesting enough. We would trade a few messages and then the conversation would die. On one side of the screen or another the interest faded and no matter what side I was on, I felt it as a slap against myself.

I can be dramatic. I can be absolutist. I can take a single strike to mean that I’ll never have a chance again. But I took the logical route and realized that I wasn’t ready. Not only wasn’t I ready, but I didn’t want someone else to try to prop me up. So I deleted the apps and took time to myself. I learned to live a life of solitude. A life where I lived in my own space, took care of my own needs and was satisfied with my ability to be self-sufficient for the first time in years.

I took the time to acknowledge the accomplishment. To see the little victories that littered my road to progress and by the time summer 2018 hit I was ready to try again. When I did date again I felt lucky, but more importantly, I felt confident.

She was beautiful, she was educated, she was smart, she was accomplished, and she was witty. She was also into me, and I was… well, I was me. Yet, unlike other times this version of me wasn’t full of self-doubt, wasn’t searching for reasons why I wasn’t good enough. I was confident, I was charming, I was comfortable, and I controlled the date. I felt like an idealized version of myself but I wasn’t pretending. I was simply being, for a change, and she couldn’t see the insecure version of myself that had existed. We talked about philosophy, politics, pop culture, how she didn’t understand music, and I didn’t understand art.

When I was with her there was electricity, a feeling I had never felt with anyone else in my life. When I looked at her I saw someone I could spend the rest of my life with but (isn’t there always one) she was ready, and I was not. We had the conversation about what we were doing once before but decided to keep going. As the summer turned to fall we decided to just let the fun continue and think about it later. Later came faster than either of us expected, and we had the discussion again.

She had her education. She had her career. She was looking to have her family to make her life complete. I was newly divorced, with a child, and not in a situation to make that commitment. Our lives intersected at this moment and I was given a choice that was too easy to make. The past me would have clung on, admitted I wasn’t ready but that I would be eventually. Would have tied her up and held on dimming her light and stealing her years in the process. I let go. I knew the more we saw each other the harder it would become and the more of her time I would take up.

Through this experience, I learned not who I could be but who I am when I let go of all the things that I use to define me. That’s what helped me let go. That’s what helped me fall back and continue to work on myself and not look for someone to fill a void.

Sometimes, I think of those cool fall nights. I can hear the leaves under our feet as we hold hands walking in the Philly night. The warm feeling in my stomach, and the smile on my face. I don’t mourn those nights but I still smile when I remember them. Not because of what was but because of what can and will be.

It’s been six months since I’ve last dated, but I’m not in a rush. I’m not necessarily interested. I will be eventually, but until then I’m going to continue releasing the words I’ve used to define myself all of these years and just live.

Out of Pocket: FOX in the NFL House

Article: “The Great NFL Heist: How Fox Paid for and Changed Football Forever” Author: Bryan Curtis
Publication Date: December 13, 2018

As a 36-year-old football fan, I remember life before the NFC went to FOX. This is one of the many things that places me amongst the Xennial generation. There are things we have come to take for granted that didn’t exist prior to FOX getting the NFL package. One of the most jarring of those is noticed when you watch a classic sporting event in 1993 or earlier and notice that there are long stretches of gameplay where the score isn’t displayed. That innovation (brought over from SkySports) was known as FoxBox, and now we can’t live without it.

The story of how the NFL got to FOX like many things isn’t a simple story. Instead, it starts in steps, and who better to write an oral history about the process than the Ringer’s Bryan Curtis? This is a phenomenal read, and you’ll love it if you’re a media nerd (such as myself). I will highlight some of my favorite parts of this extensive piece.

What happened in 1993 was that the old-line networks were coming under increasing pressure. All three were run by cost-cutters: ABC by Capital Cities, NBC by General Electric, and CBS by theater mogul Larry Tisch. After the 1990–91 recession, the cost-cutters complained, almost in union, that their NFL deals were leaving them in the red. “No way I am going to lose money on the NFL,” Tisch thundered.

Under its previous deal, CBS had paid $265 million a year for the NFC. The network calculated that it could break even if it paid the NFL $250 million a year. So Tisch did something audacious: He told his executives to offer the NFL no more than that figure, which amounted to a $15 million pay cut. Neal Pilson, the president of CBS Sports, was in a bind: How could he appease his boss and keep the rights to the NFC?

One of the worst kept secrets in media is that television networks lose money on rights deals for major sports and sporting events. So why pay? These events tend to be rated highly and can be plugged full of advertisement for the given network’s weekly programming. When the NFL isn’t on the air “NBC, CBS, and Fox’s viewership is 45% lower among men ages 18 to 49, a coveted demographic for advertisers.” So despite this cost, it becomes a deal that these networks have to engage in. They can hope to get some money back through advertising but that is limited.

So let’s flashback to 1993. Each time contracts were up, the NFL practically had three networks bidding on their own individual deals. ABC had Monday Night Football, NBC had the AFC slate of games, and CBS had the NFC. Cable television wasn’t what it is today, and CBS didn’t feel like it should keep paying $265 million. This is a bold move especially when they held the more valuable package. The NFC package (at the time) had Dallas, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Chicago, and Los Angeles amongst other major markets. So how could this go wrong?

To put it simply, Fox came in with a pitch that focused on how they could present the game. David Hill (head of Sky Sports) came in explaining how they would give the NFL more cameras, more sound, and an exciting presentation that would be promoted year-round. Despite all of these things, the NFL didn’t exactly want to work with Fox. Much of the reason was that Fox wasn’t what it is today:

Preston Padden, Fox Broadcasting president of network distribution: There were about 60 cities in the United States where there was no fourth TV station to become our affiliate. CBS was saying to the NFL, “If you move these rights to Fox, in these 60 cities there will be no free over-the-air broadcast of the NFL.” Mr. Murdoch said, “You got to come to this meeting with the NFL TV committee.” Mr. (Rupert) Murdoch did not tell me what he was going to say. We stand up in front of the TV committee, and he says, “Within 60 days, Preston will get a secondary affiliation with some TV station in every one of these 60 markets.” I just about wet my pants.

Where CBS, ABC, and NBC had existed for decades Fox had only existed for a handful of years. It wasn’t available everywhere, but what it lacked in coverage it made up for with creativity and Rupert Murdoch’s (seemingly bottomless) pockets. CBS believed they had the latitude to call shots with the NFL, and Murdoch saw landing the NFL as tantamount to buying a network. He was such a visionary that he saw that acquiring the NFC rights would legitimize Fox overnight.

There is a suspenseful package that details how a CBS exec attempted to get the bid up to (then) NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue’s asking price of $295 million. When CBS that number, the exec runs to tell the NFL the news only to find out that Fox bid $395 million. The number was told to CBS head Larry Tisch and he refused to match. This marked a huge change in the climate of sports rights as explained by Steve Bornstein:

Steve Bornstein, ESPN president: When the league took that package from CBS and Tisch and sent it to Rupert and Chase at Fox, it changed the dynamic for the next 30 years. In the past, all the content that you were buying from the NFL or the NBA or Major League Baseball, the broadcaster had to maintain a profit on it. Now, you could rationalize that that’s how you build a network and get attention.

Realizing how big of a blow this was CBS tried to get a reel together to present the NFL to get the AFC package from NBC. What they learned was not only did NBC sign a $217 million deal that sealed them the rights to the AFC they would also get two Super Bowls over the duration of the deal.

Tagliabue: CBS came back the next day and said, “We’d like to go after the AFC package.” I had to tell them, “If you’re the loser on the first round, you don’t have a second round, even if we think we can get more in a second round. We’re not going to do that.” That was explicitly understood by both networks.

Just like that, it was over for CBS’ almost 40-year relationship with the NFL. What had to make it leave a sourer taste in their mouths is that this was all of their own doing. The NFL didn’t really want to move to Fox, but CBS overplayed their hand not realizing how eager Fox was to land the league. CBS didn’t stay out of the game long though as they went to outbid NBC for the ABC rights the next time the TV contracts were up.

The process of how the NFL landed on Fox is what interested me the most, but the entire article is fascinating. It gives a behind the scenes look on how the Fox courted John Madden, put together its studio show, and approached filling the rest of their announce teams. There are also insights from Jerry Jones who (along with Pat Bowlen) were the new power brokers who worked with Paul Tagliabue to not be so accommodating to the networks.

What we know is the relationship between Fox and NFL has been a mutually beneficial one. Fox became a legitimate network and has allowed Rupert Murdoch to extend his influence to start other networks (including Fox News). With the help of the Fox deal not only were the owners made richer, but so were the players. The NFL became a year-round product in a way that no other domestic sports league is.

What makes this article so important is that we are on the precipice of what could be another great change in sports broadcasting deals. In the past four years, the NFL has tested the waters by having games be streamed via Yahoo!, Twitter, and now Amazon Prime Video. Similar to how the broadcasts giants didn’t think the NFL would consider Fox, there is the thought that they wouldn’t risk taking their programming off of TV to go streaming. The NFL will go where the money is, but how long will networks have the money to stay in the game? That is the question we will have to wait to see the answer.

#transparentTuesdays: Resolutions & Ish

I’ve been living life by the seat of my pants.

It just happens that the seat is the cushion of a sofa. It’s a passive seat in front of a TV, adjacent to a laptop and holding an iPhone watching the world as life passes by. It’s even easier today than it was a decade ago. There is an endless chain of information, entertainment, and talk that makes it possible to fill your entire day without doing anything. There’s this urge to keep up with everything while falling behind on myself. It’s to the point that I don’t watch as much TV or sports as I used to but I know about the happenings.

That said, I’m better than I used to be and if I learned anything last year it is that better is a good thing. The problem is when I consider how I’ve lived my life better isn’t what it ultimately could be. Improvement is good but without intention, it is just a step in a direction that’s different from where you were. Progress is progress, but this year I want to do something different and I want to have a plan.

Before I go further, I have an admission. I’m the guy who used to look down at people who used the New Year as an arbitrary line of demarcation to start their life anew. The same guy who looked down upon the people who made resolutions only to fall short of them. I was the cynical asshole, but to go deeper I was a coward who was afraid to make a plan because I didn’t want to fail as well. I can see now how we all ultimately fall short of something but if you give a fair attempt the “better” you end up at is in a direction you can build off of.

In 2018 the following happened:

  • I got a divorce.
  • I discovered there’s a strong possibility I have ADHD.
  • I solidified the fact that I want to become a teacher.
  • I moved to a program that works with teenagers with emotional and behavioral disorders.
  • I dated in the summer and saw a version of myself I didn’t know existed.

These things (amongst others) are the reason why I feel much better about where I am going into 2019 than I was going into 2018. I just think of how much better I can be going into 2018 if I have a plan.

So while Cynical Tim will look down at current Tim, but I am writing a list of resolutions that will help guide me into the New Year. As a (newly minted) 36-year-old, I have an idea of the person I want to be. The relationships I want to have, and the way I want to move through the world. There’s a confidence that I want to feel as I move (despite admitting I don’t know what it feels like).

So here are some of the things I’m going to do this year:

    • Get tested for ADHD: This is the big one. It impacts everything else and I need to stop avoiding.

    • Go to therapy: I’ve been to five different therapists in my life and I’m still looking for one that I click with. Therapy has definitely helped in the past, but I haven’t had one that has provided what I’m looking for.

    • Enroll in grad school: If I want to teach I have to make a move. Sure, it’ll bring me into more student loan debt but I can’t avoid this step if I want to teach.

    • Budget, budget, budget!: I’ve avoided doing this for years, but I started at the end of 2018. This is another building block that will help me in other areas.

    • Volunteer: Working with high school students has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life. It allows me to see the difference I can make in the lives of others. I believe volunteering will help ratchet that up.

    • Vacation: Not necessarily go to an exotic locale (though that wouldn’t be bad), I’m thinking more about weekend trips to visit friends. I haven’t taken a real vacation since the spring of 2014 (yikes!).

    • Write (almost) daily: Blogging has been a huge help for me. Writing about anything feels like a release for me and it puts me in a good space. It is self-care that I have been avoiding for far too long.
    • Exercise: Doesn’t have to be a gym membership (though I’m considering it), just has to be consistent working out.

    • Create: I wrote more last year, but I want to be intentional as well and create more. To stop being afraid and work to complete a project.

    • Go on at least 10 dates: I’ll write more about my experience dating, but I will say I want to try more of it this year. Without worry that it will become something, or that I will fail.
    • Take More Risks!: At the end of 2019, I want to be able to look back and have a year that was full of adventure and growth that is predicated on adventure. I also wouldn’t mind failure as I’m tired of avoiding it.
    • Learn a new skill: Doesn’t have to be a job skill could be a craft, but I want to learn how to do something new every year.
    • Be More Present in Relationships: Lastly, this is the most important of the bunch. I want to reach out and not be so content living in my own bubble. Being comfortable on my own is a good first step, but being connected with my people is even more important. In 2019, I pledge to set out and be vulnerable and transparent in how I feel.

 

 

 

That’s it. There’s no narrative that I’m stringing. Just a day to have an outlook toward the rest of the year. I have a ton more things I want to accomplish but this is the foundation. If I fall short or I don’t even attempt any (or all) of these things I’ll bring it up here… this is my attempt to hold myself accountable.

So here’s to a New Year, and the death of my cynicism.

Happy New Year!

-Tim

Book Report: Kill or Be Killed

Title: Kill or Be Killed, Vol. 1 – 4
Author: Ed Brubaker
Artist: Sean Phillips
Colorist: Elizabeth Breitweiser
Year: 2016 – 2018

Dylan is a depressed, 28-year-old grad student who is at his end.

killorbekilledHe is in love with his best friend, Kira. His best friend is dating his roommate, Mason. When Mason is out of town Kira and Dylan have sex. It taps into Dylan’s strong feelings for his friend but his world is crushed when he overhears Kira and Mason discussing how pathetic he is. This conversation sends Dylan deeper into his depression and he decides to kill himself by jumping off of the building. Dylan jumps but survives. Dylan’s survival is where the story truly begins as he is visited by a demon who tells Dylan that he owes him. The only way to repay the demon was to kill an evil person to be granted another month to live.

In the hands of a less talented creative team, Kill or Be Killed would be a straightforward story about a reluctant vigilante. What the team of Brubaker and Phillips gives us is a story that delves into pulp, crime, detective fiction, action, and mental health. There are turns in this series that have you asking why something is even important only to be brought back in an explosive way. What makes the story even more compelling is that Brubaker walks the tightrope and lets the reader see that Dylan isn’t a hero yet draws them into cheering on his success.

The further Dylan is drawn into his role as a vigilante he becomes more self-assured. Yet his decisions bring him the sights of people who want him dead and brought to justice. As he goes through this new life he searches for answers in his past. These answers bring the existence of the demon into doubt.

What makes this story so effective is that much like Roman Polanski’s Chinatown that each extra detail we are told reveals another layer. To add more to that Dylan is the narrator and tells the story in a disjointed almost Tarantino-esque fashion that by the end proves to be unreliable.

Kill or Be Killed is Taxi Driver meets Dexter meets Breaking Bad. It is a story about how a person sees the world and makes a decision on how they will exist in it. The same way that Travis Bickle, Walter White, and Dexter Morgan have their own worldviews, so does Dylan. He makes bad decisions for what he deems are good reasons. If you couldn’t tell I can’t recommend this series anymore, it’s great and you won’t regret it.

killdemon

Highlight: As a result of his behavior Dylan is put in a mental institution. He doesn’t allow this to stop his work. It is at this point where we see what drives Dylan. Is it the demon? Or is he driven by his own desires?

Grade: 45villains
4.5 (out of 5) villains

Out of Pocket: The Underrepresentation of the Working-class in Politics

Article: Working-class people are underrepresented in politics. The problem isn’t voters.
Author: Dr. Nicholas Carnes
Publication Date: October 24, 2018

It’s been a while so I’ll quickly explain the premise. Since 2012, I’ve been saving articles to Pocket to read later. The number of articles I saved outpaced the number of articles I could read, and eventually, I stopped reading (but didn’t stop saving). In this space, I highlight an article that interested me. Now with that out of the way… giddyup.

I remember in the run-up to the 2008 election, Barack Obama said that if he didn’t win and become President he would never run again. He believed he would be too far removed from the people to truly be able to represent them, and his connection to people was his entire reason for running. But that makes how much are politicians truly connected to the average American? This is something that Dr. Nicholas Carnes jumps into on his article “Working-class people are underrepresented in politics. The problem isn’t voters.”:

This year, it might be tempting to think that working-class Americans don’t have it so bad in politics, especially in light of recent candidates like Randy Bryce, the Wisconsin ironworker running for the US House seat Paul Ryan is vacating, or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the former restaurant server whose primary election win over Democratic heavyweight Joe Crowley may go down as the single biggest election upset in 2018.

In reality, however, they are stark exceptions to a longstanding rule in American politics: Working-class people almost never become politicians. Ocasio-Cortez and Bryce make headlines in part because their economic backgrounds are so unusual (for politicians, that is). Their wins are stunning in part because their campaigns upset a sort of natural order in American politics.

He follows this up with a graphic that shows how “workers make up half over half US citizens but less than a tenth of US elected officials.” I always thought of people in politics as wealthy, but put in such plain terms this was still jarring. It’s not just that they aren’t working class, but only 2% of the pre-congressional career of the average congressperson is spent working a regular job. To compound that no one from the working class (or below) has gone on to become a member of the Supreme Court, a governor, or the President of the United States. With these facts laid out how representative can the government be? According to Carnes, not very. 

In the first major survey of US House members in 1958, members from the working class were more likely to report holding progressive views on the economic issues of the day and more likely to vote that way on actual bills. The same kinds of social class gaps appear in data on how members of Congress voted from the 1950s to the present. And in data on the kinds of bills they introduced from the 1970s to the present. And in public surveys of the views and opinions of candidates in recent elections.

….

Social class divisions even span the two parties. Among Democratic and Republican members of Congress alike, those from working-class jobs are more likely than their fellow partisans to take progressive or pro-worker positions on major economic issues.

States with fewer legislators from the working class spend billions less on social welfare each year, offer less generous unemployment benefits, and tax corporations at lower rates.

There is an assumption white-collar people are more qualified to be politicians by virtue of being white-collar. This status supposedly gives them the ability to handle the tasks they would be required to take care of while in office. The working-class person, on the other hand, is too ordinary and unable to navigate these waters. But what if they got the chance?

When working-class people hold office, they tend to perform about as well as other leaders on objective measures; in an analysis of cities governed by majority-working-class city councils in 1996, I found that by 2001, those cities were indistinguishable from others in terms of how their debt, population, and education spending had changed.

Dr. Carnes’ study reveals that the reason we don’t have more working-class politicians is that they don’t run. The reason is a bit of a catch-22. To get more working-class people to run for office they have to take time off from work to campaign, but by virtue of their being working-class, it’s harder to take the necessary time off of work. It is a great sacrifice for anyone, but even more for someone who doesn’t have the means to take the time off. As a result, someone who in theory makes a good candidate is disqualified by their class.

So what happens? We according to Carnes we get more of the same as “people who recruit new candidates often don’t see workers as viable options and pass them over in favor of white-collar candidates.” So, as a result, the people who get into offense tend to fight the same issues in the same way. Carnes suggests that the best way to combat the wealthy’s influence on politics is by giving the working-class a voice inside of government. Such a move would allow people to make decisions based on their own experiences instead of having a proxy. He points to a potential solution:

the New Jersey AFL-CIO has been running a program to recruit working-class candidates for more than two decades (and their graduates have a 75 percent win rate and close to 1,000 electoral victories). But the model has been slow to catch on in the larger pro-worker reform community.

He points out that the pro-worker reform community would rather focus on how the working-class can impact things from outside. The cynic in me says it is to protect themselves, and their control. If you have a system where the working-class are excluded and their only hope is to pick a self-appointed protector, why change? The easy conclusion to come to after reading the piece is that this exclusion of the working-class, as presented by Carnes, isn’t a flaw but a strong feature that dates back to the beginnings of this country.

This is an important issue for our nation going forward as the middle class continues to shrink, and the divide between the haves and have-nots grows. Where millennials make less money than previous generations while everything is more expensive. How long can things go the direction they’re going now? 

#transparentTuesday: On Wednesday, Confidence, Compassion, and Fatherhood

I’m horrible at basketball.

My handle is extra loose, my jump shot is broken, but I still love playing. It’s one of the few things in life that I can think of that I enjoy despite being bad (only other thing I could think of is bowling). I remember asking someone how I could improve my shot and they said I just needed to have confidence in the shot. Confidence and consistency in my form. The advice sounded simple, but I had to stop and ask “what’s confidence?”

The question on the surface may sound ridiculous, but I was a teenager who spent most of his free time at a computer screen. Who set himself apart from his peers because of a confluence of depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder (all undiagnosed at the time). I knew what the definition of confidence was, but I didn’t know what it felt like. I was a teenager asking for basketball advice from a guy I knew through fantasy wrestling, and I didn’t have a clue and I wasn’t afraid (for once) to show it.

Questions that are perceived as ridiculous often are never considered by the target of the question. The reason being that person takes whatever the subject of the question is for granted. For example, blue is blue, right? How would you explain to someone who never saw the color what it looks like without showing it to them? The question goes into deeper meanings of the world around us… but long story short, I never got confidence in my jump shot. My jumper is still trash, and I haven’t played much basketball since I asked this question.

What I didn’t know at the time was that I did feel confidence, and that confidence was in my writing. I didn’t give myself room to doubt. Instead, I was plugging away at my computer. Writing more for writing groups online than I ever wrote for school. It was a passion that drove me, and eventually, I got good and I knew it. I just didn’t know how to translate this confidence elsewhere and then eventually I hit a wall and it all stopped.

=========================================================================

I started working at the National Basketball Association in November of 2016, and by September of 2017, I was leaving for a new job. It would be the fourth switch between full-time jobs I would make since the Fall of 2014. While each prior change was an attempt to make more money, and advance in my career this one was different. By this point, my marriage was in shambles, and I was disillusioned by the world of working for a large corporation. I had a slight hope to save the marriage, but I felt like my days working in video full-time might be over. Now I was set to work in a high school.

I’d be lying if I said working in education was my first choice. I applied to any place that looked viable. I applied for a job at NFL Films, for a video editing/social media job at a lacrosse equipment company, and plenty of dead-end jobs. The job search was stressful because I knew I had to find something before the season started, and the new NBA season was set to start earlier than ever before. It was then that my ex’s friend suggested I apply for teacher’s assistant jobs. The selling point was the benefits package, a daytime schedule, summer’s off, and a decent wage. I went on to have my worst interview since graduating high school but I still got the job.

After I found out I was hired there was a change inside me. I stopped thinking of it as a stopgap job, a bridge to another profession, and I started thinking of it as a transition into a new field. I scrolled upon videos that explained the importance of black male teachers, but more than that I saw the damage Betsy DeVos was doing to public education in America. It was at that moment that I saw this as my being part of the resistance. I was never going to be the one to march, or protest, but I don’t think people have to make their stand in the same way. It was almost as if this was a calling.

This year was the first year since I graduated that I hadn’t switched jobs. Every day I work with kids with special needs. I talk with them, I encourage them, I make jokes about myself and them, but most of all I find myself caring about these children and wanting them to succeed. I see kids with anxiety, depression, ADHD, behavioral issues, poor upbringings, and I see kids who want to see someone who cares. It is in these spaces where I don’t think about confidence at all because I realize it is not about me at all. As an assistant, I don’t carry even half the workload a teacher does but working beside them I see where I want to be. It’s no longer working for a major corporation in video production but teaching a classroom and hopefully helping them develop into greater versions of themselves as they age.

I relate to these children because in many ways I was one of them. I still am. I still lose track of chunks of time because I’m doing something irrelevant in the morning. I still find myself avoiding things (sometimes as simple as shaving), and sometimes I find myself unable to leave the house. But as I’m living I’m learning how important self-compassion is and how you have to forgive yourself. How to be kind to yourself even if you’re mad about a misstep.

It’s definitely been a process.

=========================================================================

There was one moment this past summer that broke my heart.

My ex sent a text saying how my son cried about coming to my place. She said he told her that I told him to stop kissing me. The context of why I told him that didn’t matter. What mattered was that I was denying him, because what he was doing annoyed me. My son is a touchy, feely, and affectionate child. Denying his kissing wasn’t a small thing. It was denying who he was. Cameron was only three at the time, but that didn’t make his feelings any less real.

There’s this weird moment with kids where you realize they aren’t just living breathing creatures, but creatures who are capable of making connections, forming conclusions, and communicating it. This change becomes painfully obvious when they move from two to three (and even more so when they turn four). And here I had a three-year-old who wasn’t made to feel welcome in my home. That hurt me because I remembered times I didn’t feel accepted in my home growing up. So it was at that moment I made a change and became more affectionate.

I’m not a perfect father, but I strive to be better every day. With this, I began to hug him, kiss him, encourage him, and tell him how much I love him. Where I used to channel my Dad and yell when I was frustrated now I work to communicate more, and if I do yell I apologize after the fact. When I see my son I see all the possibilities in the universe, and I want him to feel comfortable with me in a way I never was with my father. I want Cameron to be able to come to me with the questions that might seem ridiculous, and if I don’t have the answer? I want to tell him that I don’t know and encourage him to find out.