Imagining My Future Life
It seems like only a couple of years ago that my kids were toddlers. When they still slept in bed with me. When they still held my hand. When they let me take care of them. When the light at the end of the tunnel was far away. And I liked it that way.
But it wasn’t only a couple of years ago. The truth is, I’m getting old as f*ck. I have a high school senior and a sophomore in my house. And when I say “in my house,” I mean mostly in their rooms. Or with their friends. Or planning their life without me.
They still love me, but the life of a teenager no longer involves bedtime stories. Or cuddling with daddy. And it makes me sad. Because I miss that. But at some point, I have to start imagining my future life.
They will grow up and forge their own path and I get to do the same. I get to reinvent myself as something other than a parent. I will always be a father first. I will always drop anything for my kids. But I am beginning to accept the fact that they won’t need me to do that soon. Because they will be able to take care of themselves.
They may want me to send them money. Or a care package. Or ask me questions about the thing they were thinking about doing, which they obviously already did. And thankfully, it wasn’t that dangerous. They may just want to talk. Please, please, please let this happen.
And as I see them growing out and away from me soon, I have to accept that the light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer. And closer.
Where I’m Going (and When)
I live in New Jersey now, but I am not staying here. My timeline is down to a maximum of two and a half more years. It seems like just yesterday when I could barely see that light at the end of the tunnel. But now the light is right in front of me. My time is coming. Get me the f*ck out of here.
I’m going to California. Yesterday.
My sister lives in Carlsbad with my brother-in-law and my two nieces. My stepbrother lives nearby in Scottsdale, Arizona. I have about 25 friends, from camp and junior high to high school, who all live in and around Los Angeles. I am connected to California in a very deep way.
I moved there with my mom in the eighth grade. I lived in the San Fernando Valley for four years (8th-11th grade). My mother died at Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles in 1991. I have been going to California four (or more) times a year for many years to see my friends and my sister, who doubles as my best friend in the entire world and the person I trust more than anyone.
I’m going to California. As soon as possible. As soon as practicable. But not soon enough. But some days it still seems like a fantasy even though it’s right there. Or maybe I just don’t want to accept that I have to go. Because my kids will be gone.
Why I’m Going
California is home to me. Actually, my sister is home to me. If my kids are in college, I want to be near my youngest nieces. Maybe I’m addicted to family. It could be worse. A lot worse. I get an indescribable feeling when I get off the plane in San Diego. When I land, I feel like I am home. And soon I will be.
I’m going to California because my kids love California. I am hoping they both go to college there. I’ve been devising ways to get residency (legally) there first for that in-state tuition. But maybe I shouldn’t be thinking that way. My future life will have to be more about me because theirs will be about them.
It’s not that New Jersey is bad. I live in a hip and eclectic town. I have a nice backyard. Things could be a whole lot worse. But I’m from Brooklyn. And I lived back there for two years before I came out here. New Jersey isn’t home. Brooklyn was. But it’s not my future home.
Weather plays a role in my decision too. When I move I will be 50 and the thought of trudging through winters in my second half is not appealing. I want to be able to be outside every day if I want to. Even introverts feel better with a breeze on them.
I’m going to California because it’s my next step. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel right now.
Watching the Grass Grow
Knowing I am going to move and watching the clock for two and half more years is like watching the grass grow. And after this June, when my son graduates high school, things may look different depending on what he does with his gap year. But right now, it’s just blades of grass.
So I sit back and wait. I look at houses in California on Zillow every day. I look at land. And pre-fab homes. I look at the commute if I live in between Carlsbad and L.A. I hatch plans for rental properties in L.A. with my sister. We’ve been planning this for years.
And all of a sudden this past year, the grass started to grow faster. My son is a senior. Holy sh*t. California is within reach. But I am still watching the lawn. Pining for a different climate. A different pace of life. Different people. A different vibe.
But I am also dreading it. Because I am scared to be without my kids. Scared to have no one to take care of in my house. I know that it sounds amazing to some, but it’s hard for me to wrap my head around. So some days I really enjoy watching the grass grow.
Imagining My Future Life
Before I can imagine my future life, I imagine my kids. On their own. Happy. Enjoying life. Making mistakes. Being creative. I know they will do wonderful things. And I know I will get to see it all happen. In my future life.
And then there I am. There. A small dot. You are here. In my future life. Driving across the country at some point with my dog. Taking my time on that journey. Enjoying the travel. And the stops along the way. Smelling the roses for a change. Charting my course. Until I get there.
My nieces are there for me. To quell my parental depression. My youngest niece will be nine by then. She is the youngest in our family until the grandchildren come. My stepbrother has one in college and one junior in high school.
Soon we will all be in our future lives. Together.
But back to me. Some days I think I will be walkable to the beach. And that I will renovate a three bedroom bungalow that needs work. With a small backyard for Snoop Dogg, but walkable to town. A hip and eclectic town with independent shops. Like Encinitas. Or Carlsbad Village.
Yes, there will be kombucha. Organic food. Salt baths. Artisan flea markets. I will know everyone behind the counter at the local juice bar and health food market. I will sit outside at an independent tea house in the late mornings, soaking up the weather I missed while trapped in the Northeast for so many years.
Other days I think I will be living on land that is off the beaten path, but close to civilization. Somewhere between Carlsbad and L.A. In a pre-fab home, smaller but more efficient with its use of space. With plenty of land for a bunch of rescue dogs. Who have their own wicked dog house. And baby goats. Always baby goats.
Here I would sit on my front porch in the morning and observe nature. And listen. And smell. And breathe deeply. It would be the solitude I so often crave. It would be private. Secluded. My speed.
There are many more varieties. More adjustments. More turbulence to my thoughts and plans. But it all starts by going to California. Yesterday. Please.
Imagining My Future Life — Part II
It doesn’t end in California. Hopefully, some great things happen there, but no matter what happens I am committed to living outside of the country for at least one year.
I used to think I would do it right away, but something tells me I won’t want to do that while my kids are figuring out college. Of course, my son is looking at international colleges so one never can be a hundred percent about anything. Nor should they be. Life develops as it wants to.
So maybe I wait until they are done with college. And then I go. Living in different cities and countries for an entire year. Twelve stops in Airbnb homes in twelve months. Each stop for a month so I actually get to adjust to being a quasi-local. I hate being a f*cking tourist.
Berlin. Singapore. Iceland. Antwerp. Helsinki. Norway. Tokyo. Tallinn. These are all on the probable list. I never traveled enough when I was younger. We just went to Florida. In the past ten years, I have been to the U.K., Japan (Tokyo and Kyoto), Antwerp and Nicaragua. I was supposed to go to Tallinn, Estonia too, but had to cancel.
I sit and imagine this all the time. I look at houses in all of these cities. I look at all of the Airbnb rentals. I look at the map to see what’s walkable. I look closely at the magnified map, looking to be near an independent part of an old-world city.
I love imagining my future life for the first time.
Imagining My Future Life — Part III
She will find me. In my future life.
I will maintain myself as I creep toward 50. Healthy living, an efficient lifestyle, proactive health care, and streamlined exercise will keep my mind and body feeling as good as it can. And this will help my mental state stay near its peak as well. This is part of the reason she will find me. Because of how I feel about myself in my future life.
She lights a fire in me with her intelligence. Just the sound of her voice makes me hot for her. She knows herself. To the core. And doesn’t settle for anything in life. She doesn’t take sh*t. And doesn’t need a partner.
She makes me laugh all the time. She thinks outside-the-box. Inside that stupid box is just too boring for her. And for me. She understands when I need space and doesn’t take offense. She needs her space too. But she never disappears.
She is a conversationalist, epic at witty banter in random company. We stay up talking for hours and hours before we notice what time it is. She will travel. Whenever and wherever. She is up for anything. But doesn’t judge me because I am not. She never tries to change me. And I never try to change her.
I imagine her. But I don’t see her. I don’t know what she will look like. What she will feel like. How she will smell. I can’t see her smile. But I can imagine her. Because she is part of my future life.