I’m working at Darwin’s today, a local coffee chain; nice decor, all dark wood and exposed brick, sporting the usual assortment of artisanal ten dollar sandwiches and excellent coffees.
Eighteen years ago I knew the owner’s wife; we both had infant children, and we both had coffee at the 1369 in central square many mornings. I guess she needed a little break from her family coffee shop? I guess that makes sense. I had a little circle of almost friends, for a little while, in central square, while the babies stayed in the carriages.
When you have infant children you suddenly realize that you need to have friends with infant children so you can cultivate friendships and playdates for your kids. As a male primary caregiver, of course, you’re at a disadvantage. Nine out of ten of the people doing the caregiving thing are women, and that ads an alienating layer of complexity. It’s even worse if the woman is ridiculously attractive of course, as this woman was…
I don’t think about that time much. I was giving up on writing, losing myself in the kids in the aftermath of 911 and the collapse of the tech bubble… all those things percolating… Complexities.
I ended up wasting years of my life working for failed start-ups with a series of business partners, making less and less money. Friends wondered why I didn’t start writing again, as I was engaged in pure speculation anyway.
I couldn’t explain why, but mostly, I found it easier to chase someone else’s dream than my own. I made great money in the bubble, and I had that abundance thinking, that anything I gave myself to would eventually work out, as long as it involved the internet and my professional branding and user experience skills.
It’s hard to speak of that monstrous optimism without wanting to cry. The Wired magazine cover story titled The Long Boom said it all–the idea was that the internet would fuel a revolutionary change in the economy which would transcend the business cycle, which would become like that Escher print of the staircase that loops endlessly upward.
The tech boom was going to go on forever.
Oh, it was a time of win win. No losers! Can you imagine that? Sure most of the money went to a very few, but during the 90s the rising tide did raise all ships, event the beat up shitty ones, a tiny bit. For awhile. Until we found ourselves somersaulting every downward on that Escher staircase, through the dust and flames of collapsing towers.
Fast forward eighteen years. My kids are teenagers, smiling and waving as they make their way into the world. I’m working on my own dreams this time around, and will own completely any success or failure I find.
I’ve cut myself off of Facebook and twitter and I’m mostly alone. My writing friends scattered over the world. Only a few business relationships survived the collapse of my failed start-ups. Immediate family hundreds or a thousand miles away.
Lise’s baby (was her name Lise?) must be 18 now too—babies age at a uniform rate. Kid time is over. No more kid movies and kid books and going to parks and pools together. No more kid music on the car stereo. No more bathtoys underfoot. No more kraft macaroni and cheese and dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets. No more happy meals and happy meal toys.
No more reading to them at night.
Eighteen years after your last kid is born, you get your life back. It’s like this thing your ordered on Amazon and forgot you wanted, it just shows up on your doorstep and you open it up and say, “Oh!”
There it is.
Your life, halfway over, to begin again.