As part of my charity running campaign, readers who donated $50 or more were able to dictate the contents of one blog post. Today’s topic comes from long time RCAT reader, Rich. This is Rich:
Rich asked me to write a letter like it’s in the future and I need to provide career advice to my son Owen who would then be a grown up. Frankly speaking, it’s a terrible idea. But I am not one to renege* on my promises*, so here’s something sort of resembling what he asked for.
*I initially wanted to use the word “welch” here, but I googled it to find out if it’s actually welch or welsh, and instead I found out I was racist. So I apologize to all the people of Wales for my near derogatory remark. I trust you all no matter what.
**Except I might not fulfill anyone else’s blog requests.
Career Advice From Future Me to My Grown Son
By now you’re old enough to know most of my life story. I’m not just “dad,” I’m also the guy that people stop on the street and say, “Hey! Aren’t you that blogger guy with the beautiful wife who became a billionaire in her late 30s?” And yes, Owen, technically that is a correct way to describe me, but before I became “just” the trophy husband to your lovely mother, I had a career. Many careers in fact. You may not know this, but before that first Rob Complains About Things propelled me to profits in the tens of dollars, I had the following jobs:
- Golf Range Ball Picker Upper
- Camp Counselor
- High powered attorney
- SAT tutor
That’s right, my boy, I’ve done it all, and along the way, I’ve learned many lessons – mostly because I fucked so many things up. Because I don’t want you to be one of those spoiled billionaire brats, here’s some advice that may help you as you advance through your career:
1. Don’t listen to anyone else.
You will hear a lot of different things about the “right” thing to do. In fact, that’s precisely what I’m doing now. Remember that what’s right for one person may not be right for you. A wise woman once said, “Don’t go chasing waterfalls.” Well, that’s the best career advice you’ll ever get (if by waterfalls TLC was referring to money, prestige, or someone else’s approval).
Looking back through old pictures, I’m blown away by how clear my career intentions were. At various points in my life, I made it clear that I wanted to be:
and a naked cowboy:
Yet somewhere along life’s journey, that path got twisted and turned and tied up in knots, and I ended up trying to fulfill some unrealistic vision of the perfect career. I’m not sure where that vision came from, but it was misaligned with what my gut was saying to me (and at times that gut was a massive force).
So in a quest for a real corporate career, I wound up in some rather odd places. My first job was to call mutual fund companies pretending to be someone else so that I could pass judgment on their customer service department. I was essentially a rogue member of the Jerky Boys (or a humorless corporate behemoth version of the Jerky Boys).
Next, I ventured into the high-powered world of technology as a telemarketing sales rep. I cold called hundreds of people a day, but spent the majority of my time developing my writing skills by drafting uproarious emails to my friends.
Fed up with the nausea that developed when I told people I was a telemarketer, I left this illustrious career to attend law school. I’d show them, I thought. Lawyers are prestigious!!!! Who could hate a lawyer? I’ll go work for a big law firm and lead a life filled happiness and riches. Instead, I developed mild cases of anxiety, depression, isolation, OCD, and the Sunday mopes. That’s when I followed in my old man’s footsteps and became the SAT King of the East.
I hope you get the point here. Listen to your heart and follow your real passions. If you want to become
A 1920s paper boy:
A British Guardsman:
Or a Run DMC:
Well, I’m not going to stop you. Go with it!
2. Do the things that you want to do.
You come from a long line of entrepreneurs and risk takers. Your grandmother had a business that was built on a foundation of eggshells (literally). Your aunt is a Millennial Workplace Expert. (I know, sounds made up, but it really was a thing back in the Early 2010s). If you want to be the world’s next great egg painter, then you should. Don’t worry about what other people will think of your career choices. If you like it, it will work.
A brief anecdote about your grandfather: According to legend, Grandpa Buddy finished college and decided to follow in his old man’s footsteps. Although it seems impossible and contrary to every established fact you’ve learned about the old coot, Big Papa Buddy was at one time going to be a dentist. That means that he must have taken at least one science class in school.
Well, Big Papa Buddy got so far in his pursuit of a dental degree that he applied, enrolled, and matriculated in Dental College. Papa Buddy was moving along “the path” until the day the professor introduced them to the drill. When he started to drill – and take this with a grain of salt because the veracity of Papa Buddy’s stories is always in question – Papa Buddy accidentally drilled right through the tooth he was working on and then through the table in the lab.
Later that day, Papa Buddy informed your Great Grandpa that the quest for a dental degree was coming to an end. He became a dental school dropout, spent a brief period of time working in a hippy dippy poster shop in New York City, and then went on to have a legendary teaching career.
The point of this story, Owen, is twofold: 1) Don’t do anything just because I say to or because you think it will make me happy, and 2) Don’t become a dentist or come anywhere near my teeth with a drill.
3) Embrace the hard parts.
Any time I’ve started a new job, tried to master a new skill, or pursued anything with vigor, there came a time when it got difficult. Like way more difficult than I had initially thought possible. When that moment comes, it will seem simpler to take the easy way out. The “easy way out” can take many forms, but the most common are quitting or stagnating. If you settle into your comfort zone because it makes your job easier, then I promise you will hit a point where you hate it. It’s worth fighting through loads of challenges to break through to a level of competency that you could not achieve by staying in your comfort zone. Another wise woman once said:
I stole that from an episode of Girls (who probably stole it from somewhere else). See, Owen, I’m not afraid to borrow liberally from TV shows with gratuitous nudity and sexually suggestive language.
Anyway, when you hit the point where something gets hard, that’s the point when it’s really important to push yourself to the next level. If you don’t make the effort at that moment, one of the following things will happen: You’ll quit; You’ll stagnate; You’ll get bored; Others will pass you by. All of those are bad options.
Fight the urge to be complacent when you’re “good enough,” and try to be better. It’s the hardest thing to do because it means stepping out of the comfort zone, but it’s worth it because when you get to that next level, you’ll feel like that effort was worth it. You will also be really good at whatever you were working on. I mean, just look at how far my stick figure drawings have come since the beginning of this blog. Do you think that’s a coincidence?
4. End on a high note
Sometimes you have to know when to walk away. Even though I literally just said you have to push through the hard parts, sometimes it’s not worth it. If you hate something you’re doing, or feel like you’re doing it just to appease the desires of others, or for the money, or for the chicks, then it’s probably a bad idea. Walk away. There’s no such thing as career momentum if you’re momentuming towards something you don’t want.
I’m going to take some of my own advice right now, and end this before it gets even longer and shittier than it already is. So peace out, Owen. I hope you find a career that allows you to support me and my poker habit when I’m cooped up in that old person’s home eating mashed up peas.
It’s been almost six months since Owen was born, and in that time, I’ve learned a lot about the world. Lucky for you, I have a blog, so I can happily share these life lessons with you. To keep things simple, I have decided to leave out the obvious lessons, like “You won’t need an alarm clock anymore” or “Golf is something you used to do, Rob” or “use a wipe, not your hand” or “moms lose baby weight; dads find it.” You know these things!
Lesson 1: The minutes are long, but the months and years are short
At every first birthday party, the parents stand up and say, “Wow, this year really flew by.” I’m sure that I will give that obligatory speech when my son hits one year. But what does it really mean for time to fly by? There are times when I look at my son and think, “Holy shit, he’s a little person. It seems like just yesterday that I was getting weekly email updates from babycenter.com describing his size as about that of a kernel of corn. So in some ways, yes, the time flies by. But sometimes I am equally shocked about how long certain moments feel. Like I bet you didn’t know that when a baby screams in your ear, you can sing the same verse of twinkle twinkle 14,221 times without the minute hand on the clock moving even once. Then after giving it all you got and check to see if the baby’s asleep, you look down and see this looking up at you:
I can sometimes hear him saying, “Nice try, dude.” When the year is done and it feels as if it flew by, don’t forget about how excruciating some of those individual moments were. There’s practically a life time in there. Take one of those long moments to reward yourself for a job well done. You (I) deserve it!
Lesson 2: Holding a baby is an amazing lower back workout
There is probably some medical reason why it’s bad to arch your back just so in order to support the full weight of a small human being on your chest But for now, I’m sticking with it. In fact, there are a number of ways that a small child can be used like a medicine ball or kettle bell. I’ll leave it up to you to decide which exercises lend themselves to the child as medicine ball approach, but here’s where I come out:
YES (Anne wants me to make it explicitly clear that she says this is clearly a no):
Lesson 3: If you’re going to use Habanero Tabasco Sauce, wash your hands before you put your contact lenses in your eyes.
This one has nothing to do with parenting, but it’s a valuable lesson nonetheless. You would also think that it’s the kind of lesson I’d only need to learn once. Not so! I once read that it takes 21 times to create a habit. So let’s just say that I’m well on my way to making washing my hands after Tobasco a lifelong habit. About 1/7th of the way there to be exact.
Lesson 4: Getting out of changing a diaper is an art.
Getting out of changing a diaper is a subtle skill, and I am lucky to be married to a beautiful, kind, caring, considerate, intelligent, gracious, tolerant woman who has mastered it.
Now don’t get me wrong, Anne changes a shitload of diapers. Literally. (Get it?) (Because the diapers are sometimes filled with shit) (You get it) (It was bad. I know). But, she still manages to be an expert at the diaper bomb, i.e., handing a fully loaded baby over to get out of changing the diaper, but couching it in terms of love, with some sweet saying like, “Ohhhh, do you want to do some daddy hugs??” which makes me feel so great! Well played, Anne. Well played.
[A brief note to my female readers: Please refrain from your inevitable comments about breast feeding, giving birth, the physical demands of pregnancy, blah blah blah. I get it. Anne does not deserve to be the butt of my jokes. Well, she can get her own blog, damnit. Because when she hands me our child in the name of love, but actually intended for me to have to touch shit with my bare hands, then I get to blog about that. Also, this never happened. Most of you know that, I’m sure. Anne is a saint. (But just to be conservative, I just purchased Annecomplains.com and AnneComplainsAboutRob.com. Suck it, Anne!!]
Lesson 5: When it comes to parenting, most people are completely insane.
The other day a friend posted an article on facebook about rear facing car seats. First of all, who cares what other people do? Second of all, I freaking read the article and all the comments. Third of all, the comments were the most amazing thing I’ve read in my life. Here’s a summary of the comments:
Person 1: A friend of mine recently switched the seat to front facing because her daughter was screaming so much that it caused her to get in 250 accidents. When we switched to forward facing, she never had an accident again and the kid went on to the Nobel Prize for Car Seat Safety. Do you think this is okay?
Person 2: @P1 – If your kid is less than 15 and is facing forward, you are a terrible person. I hope you rot in hell.
Person 1: @P2 – Oh really? Well you can’t argue with results and my friend’s Nobel Laureate daughter is so much safer now.
Person 2: @P1 – She might be safe now, but if you hit a pothole, her head will probably pop off. #RearCarSeats4Life #YouMurderousBitch
Person 1: @P2 – You probably realized it by now, but my friend is really me. I lied to you because I was embarrassed. Sorry I lied on the Internet.
Person 2: @P1 – I am calling child protective services. You’re a whore.
Person 1: @P2 – I hope your kid can sit forward facing in High School, assface.
Let’s put this in some perspective. When people argue about child rearing on the Internet, logic goes out the window. It’s completely acceptable to use the small sample size of 1 child as a valid defense to an argument. If someone says, “it’s bad to give an infant alcohol,” another person thinks it’s okay to respond with, “yeah, but we gave my son a little vodka in his bottle every day until he was 3 and he became a neurosurgeon.” Just because it worked for A kid, doesn’t mean that it’s the right thing to do. As Wayne Campbell once said upon receiving a gun rack for his birthday, “I don’t even own a gun, let alone many guns that would necessitate an entire rack.”
Seriously, go read the comments. I am obsessed: http://csftl.org/rear-facing-car-seat-myths-busted/
Lesson 6: Blogging is Hard with a Kid. When in Doubt, Just Show Pictures.
I’m trying my best!
On August 14 at 6:07 a.m., my golf career officially came to an end. That’s when Anne and I welcomed our son, Owen Michael, into the world.
For the nine months leading up to that momentous occasion, I ended every night by whispering into Anne’s belly. “I can’t wait to meet you,” I’d say. “But please, oh please, pretty please, don’t come on August 14th. That’s the day when daddy gets to play a really nice golf course.”
Kids. You know? They never listen. 1 week ago, I didn’t think anything in the world could be better than playing a beautiful exclusive country club for free on a cool summer morning. (sorry Anne). But then I saw this for the first time:
And in that one moment, when I looked into my son’s eyes for the first time, I could feel my life changing forever. I felt a sense of purpose, of pride, of protection, of parenthood. And then, I had the most amazing realization: If I hurried, I could still make my tee time.
EXCLUSIVE: My First Interview
To commemorate the birth of my first child, a masculine child, I’m bringing back my “Interview with a Dad” series to answer all your pressing questions. My first subject, Ryan, is back. But this time, he’s the one asking the questions. Here’s what Ryan had to say for himself.
Ryan: Congratulations, Rob! I’m so happy for you.
Rob: I wrote that part.
Ryan: I know, but the rest will be the things that I really asked you. So let’s get to the questions.
Ryan: Biggest surprise so far?
Rob: I never thought anything in the world could prevent me from responding to emails at the precise moment I received them. Even if someone were to chop off my hands, I could just get one of those straw microphones to dictate my responses. So I was quite surprised that having a new baby somehow prevented me from responding.
I was also surprised by how much my kid sucks, and even moreso by the power of his sucking. One of the books we have suggested that the dad put his finger in the kid’s mouth to soothe him when he cries. I tried that, and the next thing I knew, I was pulling my shoulder out of his throat.
Actually, there was one other thing that was the quite surprising. After the onset of labor, when I was blitzing through the house grabbing every last thing we could ever need, Anne decided that she should take a quick shower and blow dry her hair. I was in full on panic mode, and Anne decided to clean herself up and make herself beautiful for the hospital. At least it worked – her hair looked fucking amazing until a little but of her vomit got caught in it.
Ryan: One thing that happened from the water breaking to the birth that you wish you could take back?
Rob: Nothing. But I imagine that I’ll say something in this blog post that I’ll need to take back. Maybe the vomit comment. Or the sucking thing. She’ll probably think I mean that he sucks, like “Man, what a jerk. That guy totally sucks.” When what I really meant was :
Rob: I’ve spent the last three hours thinking of a good response to this question. And believe me, I love taking shots at Anne. But she was amazing throughout the whole process. I mean, I guess if I had to pick something that was kind of mean, it would be the moment when she said, “Rob, I wish I never married you. I hate you and I hate your face and I hope that you burn in the pits of hell for ever and ever. Oh, and I hope that when you arrive in hell, you find this waiting for you:”
Ryan: Did you cry at any point during that?
Rob: No. You did a great job of preparing me for what to expect during labor. I’m basically a pro at this parenting thing:
Ryan: On a scale of Jodie saying yes to going to the junior prom to getting your socks wet on a log flume, how excited were you to see balls?
Rob: Good idea to reference two things that no one who reads my blog will understand. For the uninformed, I went to the junior prom with Ryan’s now wife. She loved me at the time. I also once got my socks wet at Great Adventure. I was pissed because my moron friends thought it would be a good idea to ride the log flume at the end of the day. I told them, right off the bat, that it would be stupid to ride the log flume because then we would be wet for the whole ride home. No one likes being wet and cold, including my son, who cries every time he has a cold wet diaper. That’s my boy!
So to answer your question, I was very excited to see the balls. I was especially happy when the doctor said, “it’s definitely a boy.” One of my biggest fears about not finding out was that the data would be inconclusive at the time of birth.
Ryan: What’s the first thing you said to Owen?
Rob: Wow, I wish I remembered this. I think I said, “Hi Owen! You have daddy’s hair!”
Ryan: have you been mad at him yet?
Rob: I mean, he did make me miss that tee time. Also, every day when I get home, we go through the same routine. I hold him for a few minutes and we have a blissful moment of love. Then he pees on my shirt. Then I change him. Then he immediately pees again. Then I change him. Then he starts crying. I sway and make idiotic noises to soothe him, but nothing works. Then he shits on me. Then I change him. Then I finally sit down and he gets this big smile on his face. I’m pretty sure it’s his way of saying, “that was fun, right pop?” Then he shits on me again. Then I change him. Then I hand him to Anne and he doesn’t go to the bathroom again until she hands him back to me. It’s not that I’m mad at him, but I know he’s doing it just to fuck with me.
Ryan: Has he been mad at you?
Rob: I think I crushed one of his balls once when I was changing his diaper. He didn’t like that very much.
Ryan: What’s the best thing about him so far?
Rob: When he falls asleep on my chest and snuggles in extra close while we watch golf together.
Ryan: what’s the worst?
Rob: That he can’t talk yet. The hardest thing so far is that I know he’s trying to communicate with me, but I don’t understand. Just try to imagine how mad Anne would get if we had this conversation:
Anne: Rob, I’m cold. Can you please turn the AC off.
Rob: Um…. Do you want to take your sweater off?
Anne: No, I’m cold. Please turn the AC off.
Rob: Milk? Do you want some milk? If so, I’ll go get your mom and have her bring it to you.
Anne: Is it fucking cold in here, or is it just me?
Rob: [sticks finger in her mouth] Is that what you want?
Anne: The AC. Off. Turn it off now.
Rob: [smells Anne’s ass] Did you poop?
Anne: This is really pissing me off.
Rob: [pulls Anne’s underwear aside and peeks] Any pee in there?
Anne: if you don’t turn the AC off right now, I will murder you.
Rob: Let me get your mom. I think it’s her turn.
Anne: I don’t want my mom! I’m just cold, you asshole.
[Anne takes the baby, Rob walks out of the room decides its cold, turns the AC off because he’s cold]
Anne: Thank you.
Rob: See, I knew you just wanted your mom.
That’s what it’s like when Owen cries. I have no clue what he wants, but I know he’s trying to tell me. It’s so stressful to not be able to give him exactly what he wants at that exact moment to make the crying stop.
Ryan: What’s the nicest thing someone said to you after the birth?
Rob: “He looks just like Anne.”
Ryan: What’s the best advice you’ve gotten since the birth?
Rob: “Whatever you do, don’t blog about your child. Respect his privacy and let him decide on his own whether his images or stories should enter into the public domain.”
Ryan: Did you stay in the north end zone?
Rob: Nope. I saw everything. The hospital didn’t do much in the way of delineating the end zones. I didn’t have much choice in the matter. And, frankly, I’m glad I got to witness everything. It’s unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I have a whole new love and respect for Anne, and think I’m not forbidden from ever getting mad at her again. When the delivery was finished, Anne said to the doctor, “things really seemed to get easier when you started sawing me open.” As a witness to everything, I can assure you there was no saw.
I feel like the luckiest guy in the world to be married to such an amazing woman. One who can endure 16 hours of pain, stress, and sawing, deliver the most amazing baby of all time, and remain so god damn beautiful throughout. I think all women can learn a valuable lesson from this: Even when you’re in the throes of labor, there’s always time for a quick blowout.