I've always seen myself in terms of my mother. I have her thick, red hair and big brown eyes. I have her sense of humor, her tastes, her penchant for creativity, and (I like to believe) her open mind.
While overlaps do occur with my father, they were most apparent in school: I was a good student who always turned in homework on time and got good grades. I had a knack for finding the most efficient way of doing assignments and had easy access to the logic-centric left side of my brain.
But differences between my father and I were unavoidable. He's an all-American man. An athlete, a successful businessman, a hard worker who came from a modest middle-class home and created the life he always wanted thanks to his perseverance and work ethic.
Sports were the first thing I noticed that made me different from him and most other boys. While I liked the games we played in gym class like dodgeball, kickball, and capture the flag, organized sports were of no interest to me.
Trust me I tried.
Tee-ball somewhat caught my attention for a while, but there was no desire there.
In Kindergarten I played soccer, but instead of playing fair, I found the easiest and most interesting way to get the ball was to kick at the feet and shins of others.
I was competitive and not uncoordinated, but there was no drive, no desire for sports.
Lacrosse in Middle School was my last serious pursuit. I remember I wasn't terrible at Lacrosse, I could throw and catch, cradle, cut, and check just fine. But even during games I tried to stay out of the way, I didn't want to participate, I wanted to want to participate.
On the other hand, I loved Martial Arts, specifically grappling and sparring. The act of honing specific skills and knowledge to overcome an opponent, even if they were bigger and stronger was very engaging.
Thinking I could transfer my passion to wrestling, I went to the first wrestling practice during my freshman year in high school. My dad was a wrestler, and I knew he would be happy that I joined the team. As a kid, I remember how much fun my older brother and him would have wrestling each other. Why I never did it, I would never know.
Wrestling practice, as it turned out, was 3 pm to 6 pm every day. No, thank you. Above all else, I valued my time. I remember the guilt I felt at abandoning something that my father and I would've had in common. I had a chance to bond with him over a shared experience, but I passed up on it.
As I got older, the differences between my dad and me became more clear. I would often think he had tunnel vision. He was argumentative and couldn't see outside his own perspective, once he made up his mind, that was usually it.
My phases of weed smoking, anarchism, anti-capitalism, and spirituality greatly clashed with my dad's straightedge science-based mentality. I couldn't see how we were related and his presence would put me on edge, even if we rarely fought.
For years his very mind bothered me as if it stood in opposition to everything I believed. His unwillingness to believe in anything that is not 100% backed by science. His boomer misunderstanding of cultural concepts. His traditional beliefs regarding work. All of these bothered me.
What was worse is that I couldn't imagine how someone who worked in finance, an industry that is undeniably unethical and very likely soul-crushing, could be so much happier than I was. I wanted to live in order to experience life, not work at some job that would give me some measure of comfort.
I pursued my lofty dreams and ideals, but I was ultimately unhappy.
When the turbulence of my early 20s slowly dissipated, I was left with a different image of my father. Here was a man with a strictly regimented schedule who was healthy and by all appearances, content.
He would always work out for an hour each day and often run or bike or swim as well. He ate well, had worked hard, but had accomplished everything he ever wanted to.
He kept himself busy and was a confident man who I couldn't picture experiencing crippling anxiety and depression as I do on a regular basis. He was self-assured and had gained as much control over his life as anyone can.
Throughout the day, especially before bed, I have debates in my mind. It's not something I do consciously, but something I tend to notice after several moments. During these debates I have two voices in my head, one is the belief that "I'm" arguing and the other voice uses all the logic it has available to argue against my point.
Sometimes I do this when I'm trying to make a decision, other times I unintentionally do it to challenge a belief or idea I have. What I've come to realize is that this second voice is my father.
Not only have I turned him into a debate partner, but he's become someone that challenges my shortcomings and motivates me to persevere. Sometimes he can be critical, but he is more helpful than anything.
I know that while I'll always have my mother's eyes and (hopefully) hair, long after my dad is gone, his voice will be in my head.
His voice gives me an alternative opinion, it gives me strength. It tells me that while sticking to your beliefs and having dreams are important, a routine is vital to keeping you grounded. There's wisdom in being sure of yourself and the small tasks throughout the day can leave you satisfied.
Though it's important to try new things, a day that is filled with healthy, repeatable experiences is a good one.