My 18 year old daughter is in NY this week with her mother, auditioning first at NYU and then Syracuse. I wanted to wish her to break a leg as I dropped them off at DIA at 7:15 am Monday. It should have been at 6:45 am. That would have been better for my schedule of a 7am staff call, feeding the 7 year old breakfast, and making all my much more important obligations. But Brittiboo pulled an all-nighter doing God-knows-what in her room and was late. And then forgot her driver’s license so we had to turn around. Plus she kept me up all night knowing she wasn’t asleep. I really can’t put into words just how pissed I was at her other than to say I dropped Brit off at DIA for what is probably a hugely exciting event for her without saying anything nice. Did 16 years of IBM make me such a dick, or have I always been this way?
My life was different at her age. I didn’t work Sunday’s in a trendy coffee shop. During the 100 degree summers in Texas, I painted houses. Mostly new construction. I expected to attend college and never pictured myself doing manual labor when I grew up. But I never thought myself above my peers and worked hard. That paint crew taught me to appreciate the quality of our work when we were finished. We did mostly high-end homes on Cat Mountain and Lake Austin. The thing about painting, or construction work in general, is afterwards you can see your end product – and feel proud. But it was 10 hours each day of intense labor.
Something I learned from it, or developed, was work ethic. I mean, you would think that’s what I learned. But it’s more complicated than that. I also learned something that took me years afterward to appreciate. I had my first experience with the anti work ethic. I say that because it’s not non-work, it’s a different credo. I’m not sure how to describe this but I’m referring to how intelligence equates to laziness, or the inverse. My 1st summer, I worked alongside a HS buddy. I’d always be hustling, working my tail off. I’d sweat off 10 lbs. from morning to end of day. Rob generally worked as hard as me but this one time he questioned me. We were carrying unpainted doors to another part of the house and I’d clearly outpaced him 2 to 1. “Ed, what the hell are you doing? We make $5.25 an hour, and when the day is done, we’ll still be making only $5.25 an hour!” I’d been racing like some mad dog chasing a ball. Rob was pacing himself because he’d considered the end game. We had different value systems. Or Rob had one and I was still developing mine. That was over 30 years ago. He’s a personal fitness instructor and volunteer search and rescue dude now. He was in the search party for that guy who died from exposure in Oregon a few Thanksgivings ago. He moved to Grand Junction recently to run some college athletic program and he’s got me into mountain hiking. He got me to hike my first fourteener – Pike’s Peak.
So I worked hard through high school. I worked every semester of college – usually delivering pizzas until 3am whilst running varsity Cross Country in the fall and Track in the spring. I got through a Masters program and to where I am now – which is comfortable. Brittany left a dirty room for me to clean – knowing the plan was to get the carpets steam cleaned while she was out of town. But I don’t know. Is my teenage daughter as lazy as I think? Or even if she is, does it matter? Can what’s important today be what was important for me at her age? Rob taught me I didn’t exactly have a plan when I raced to the end of the day. Brittiboo wants to be a performer. On Broadway. She practices her lines, her songs and her monologues. She got the lead in her high school play. She seems to know how to get what she wants. And she has a plan. I never did at that age. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not going to ease up on her lazy ass. I’m a dick remember? But I will try to appreciate that she knows what she’s doing and will very likely be a star at whatever she does.