Before you know it, your days just blend right together. Sometimes in good ways and sometimes bad. I find that the whole process of figuring out how to survive the world without Ava is complex. It is full of many turns, many setbacks and endless possibilities. The hopeful side of me wants to believe one of those possibilities is I will reach a peace in life where I am not only accepting of my life as it is, but that I have also grown and became a better person. Ava has compelled me to question a lot about my life. Where do I belong? What is my purpose? What does it mean to move forward?
The American Dream is pounded into every child’s head as soon as they hit grade school, or at least it seems that way. You’re supposed to go to school, get good grades, go to college, get a good job, build a good career, get married, have kids, settle down and be happy. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. I wonder for how many people this actually happens. It probably is more than I would like to think. The American Dream just aggravates me. You end up being driven by this idea of what success appears to be rather than what it is. I know I believed that much of my success would be defined by how much money I made and what kind of stuff I had.
I can admit it, you get this obsession about appearances. You want people to perceive you as successful and like you have it all together. You relentlessly pursue this belief that so long as you get this next thing, you’ll finally be happy. But before you know it, someone else has this thing you want. They got it first. The seem like they just have it all figured out. What once was your own American Dream has become distressing, tiring and emotionally draining. I keep saying “you” when I really mean me.
I don’t know if I ever really wanted to go to college. I did it because I felt that I should. The only possible way I would ever make it in life was to have a degree. I thought I would be wasting my life and I would ultimately be judged if I didn’t go to college. Oddly, I never once ever judged anyone who didn’t. I only seemed to be hard on myself. I pursued college off and on for ten years. I “dabbled” in drugs and alcohol (if you read my previous post, “dabble” is an understatement) and would just let all things important slip through my fingers. Not just college– everything I ever cared about. I’m straying a bit off the path here.
During that time, I met the wonderful woman who would become my wife. I only took college a bit more seriously because of Leah. She graduated from college a short time after we met. I was nowhere near finishing college. Not even halfway. Once again, I would not judge anybody else, but I felt like I was really behind in my life. I truthfully had wasted a lot of it doing things I shouldn’t have. I felt like I was even more of a screw-up because I didn’t have even half a bachelor’s degree when Leah, being two years younger than I was, graduated with a bachelor’s degree. She had done what I should have and that bothered me. The fact that I am a man probably didn’t help.
Between the day that we met to very recently, I was motivated by looking far beyond the present. Every accomplishment was just a mere step towards something greater. I may have stopped just for a few minutes to think about what good thing had just happened. I would typically be thinking how this would get us closer to the next thing we wanted. I couldn’t think about the present. The present wasn’t where I wanted to be. The promised land looked like a big house, nice cars, a good job and family. It would be dishonest for me to say that having a family was held above all else because it wasn’t. All of my goals served the means to greater end, but the real problem was what motivated me to get there.
If you act on what you believe you should do or what by outside appearances is the right thing to do you invariably pursue the next best thing. You can never be content and there will never be a point where you can stop and tell yourself you are exactly where you want to be. I never understood how guilty I was of this until Ava came into this world. Leah and I just weren’t in a good place for a very long time. I have brought it up before in prior writings. There were times where I looked at Ava coming as another layer of complicated circumstances about to be layered on top of already complicated circumstances. Every line of communication between Leah and I was broken. We were worlds apart with no apparent way to come closer together.
Ava changed all of that. When I stepped foot in that ambulance, everything changed. What used to matter no longer did. What used to be my problems no longer were. They simply could not be. My heart is broken beyond repair when I think to myself how I thought that Aveline coming into this world was going to bring more chaos rather than peace. I was consumed with fear which then distorted any concept of a future. I was wrong. I was so wrong. I remember clearly how I believed that there was nothing that would stand between Ava and me. No matter what problems Leah and I had I would at least have Ava. Even then, I didn’t act like that was how I felt. I allowed every petty difference between Leah and I to overshadow the true purpose of my life.
As much as it can sound like a cliché I can’t help but describe Ava being born and then passing away as the point in my life when everything changed. Sure, Leah and I still have our squabbles and some of our past still has a presence today but it is still much different from what it was before. I am so sad that this is how we have ended up only because of Ava. It’s possible that until you experience something truly life-altering such as losing your child can you understand how what I am saying is nothing less than the truth.
We may have a nice home, I may have a good job, Leah may have a nice car (mine is not)… I pursue none of these things for the same reason that I used to. I want to be good at what I do because it supports both of us and keeps a roof over our head. I want to be good at what I do because I want Ava to see that although I spent about half my life headed in the wrong direction, I am still able to find my way. I do everything because I want my family to have all that they need. I do want to make a lot of money some day and I hope that I do. Not because I can have nice stuff. It’s so Leah has the freedom to do what makes her happy. If she wants to stay home and raise our family I want her to have that option.
Because of my precious daughter I am motivated only by doing what puts my family in the best possible place. I don’t care about anything else. I try to live moment by moment (sometimes I have no choice) bearing in mind what really does matter in life. In just two days, Ava was able to teach me something that has impacted my life every single day since the day I met her. Never has anyone had that sort of influence on me. She will always hold a place in my heart so secluded and so protected that no person will ever be able to enter. That’s how I know I have one amazing daughter. I will keep her with me always and I hope that some day she will get to hear from me how amazing she is and how grateful I will always be for her. I love you always, Ava. -Dad