I find myself preoccupied wondering where to begin the deconstruction of this seemingly long life. Could I begin at the moment of consciousness? When I experienced thought for the first time, what was the world like for me? I have to imagine that the separation of my parents was a particularly narrative-shifting event. Even as I am haunted by the thoughts of their coexistence, I wonder what actually happened. I can figure out the timeline mathematically, there are documents with dates, marriage licenses, divorce papers. But I can’t figure out the in-between. Day 1, they were presumably happy, what newlywed couple isn’t? But by year 10, they were at the doors of disaster, friendly goodbyes were not going to happen. Instead, we’d get decades-long alienation and grudges. For me, I inherited confusion and mystery, and aside from that a heavy feeling of incompleteness.
What I think I am missing the most is closure, but the roots of my low self-esteem could not have originated there? Sure, I am curious about their decision. How much thought did they give it? Was it impulsive? Did it take others by surprise? Did they sit at a table to talk, to weigh the pros and cons? I cannot figure that out, but much worse is the understanding that they will probably never admit their wrong-doing, or right-doing. But here is a confession, as much as I cannot come to terms with the absence of my father during my upbringing, I cannot imagine what life would have been like to have him present, caring, supporting me as I came of age.
My identity was crafted on my lack of a male role model. In response to his absence, I became dedicated, enamored with the idea that I would be a good man (my mom had painted him as a bad man, though there are disputes to her claims and evidence to the contrary). I would treat others well, speak honestly, engage with the world in a positive manner. There were male figures that inspired me to be better, but no one to have dinner with me, or take me to a ball game or a museum. No one was around to share enthusiasm in my interests, to spark my curiosity. And in that sense, having no dad provided certain freedoms – that I wouldn’t be exposed to his interests. I could make myself my own version, and lay a grand foundation upon this empty canvas. Because dad, as I know him now, doesn’t really go to museums, he’s not into basketball, he doesn’t know about competitive swimming, doesn’t read philosophy, isn’t versed in mathematics, has no curiosity about speaking German, or German people, nor about any book, or activity I’ve shown interest in. It is entirely possible, that just like the other members of my family to whom I feel alienated and apart from, he would just be one more person I could not relate to.
But am I supposed to be thankful these holidays? If so, for what? The world seems so arbitrary. Everything that is could have been another way, and what meaning would that have? What I think about when I say is that life goes on when you are gone, right? But what it would have been if you had never been is just the same, Life. But perhaps that’s the thing to be thankful for, that no matter the outcome, the happenings and circumstances, I got to experience a unique version of life where I didn’t win all the time, and I didn’t get more attention than I needed.
I don’t know, to be honest, where to begin the work that I have to do to discover who I am. At this age, I am afraid I will never find that out. Another conversation, of how I went from where I am at back to square one, because I got far out enough to see this isn’t the right path either.