Morbid Flip Attempt

Christmas time is here, sings *NSYNC on repeat. The baby is turning 1. We bought a house. I had a foundation-rattling, extremely graphic homosexual dream starring my current friend, a middle school classmate I haven’t seen since middle school, and demurring version of myself.

Overall it feels like as good a time as any to think about death. My wife’s childhood friend (more a friend of a good friend on friendly terms) fought off breast cancer a few years ago. She got engaged in September, found out the same week cancer had returned and spread, and died this month.

I hope the brief summary doesn’t come across as callous. I think the tragedy speaks for itself, and I don’t want to overwrite it like I do everything else. I only got to meet her a few times and didn’t know much beyond what she shared publicly.

It of course sucked to hear though. Man, what a hand she was dealt as a 37-year-old with a super healthy lifestyle. I’ve learned to appreciate the draw of religion with older age, but things like this just make it so obvious to me the universe is random. Life is sometimes beautiful, sometimes cruel, and always precious because of the crapshoot.

In a well-intentioned attempt to make my wife feel better, I stumbled through this idea that might seem like a stretch and weird mental gymnastics. My wife is so deeply empathetic and sensitive, she thought I was on the autism spectrum when we first started dating because her frame of reference is so different. I have since graduated to “emotionally inept” in her professional assessment as a liberal arts major.

I am actually quite in tune with my feelings; I just try to direct them toward better outcomes. When I wish people congratulations, condolences, even just a happy birthday, I challenge myself to say something thoughtful, something with more potential effect or memorability than “Congrats” or “I’m so sorry.”

The latter was the first thing I said when she told me about her friend. But you can only acknowledge something sucks so many times before searching for a way to improve conditions.

So I tried to explain to my wife if you’re sad about someone dying, you can think about how you’re going to die too. Call it lazy nihilism, but for me it’s an effective stress reliever knowing my entire existence will end relatively soon. It takes the edge off most things. I mentioned this while reflecting on career insecurities at my college reunion six years ago.

If we were immortal, it would be harder to let go of people and occurrences. I couldn’t imagine losing a child and having to live forever. When my parents die, my primary coping mechanism will be reminding myself I’m on deck.

My train of thought goes something like: Someone died. I’m sad. But who am I, Thor? Tomorrow I’ll be 50, then 60, and then we’re looking at wrapping up. Why am I going to spend this time being sad for someone else? We’re in the same boat.

Suppose you lived in an affluent town, and suddenly everyone except you was thrown into immutable poverty. It would be hard to enjoy being rich. But if you knew you were joining them in poverty at some point, it shouldn’t be as hard to enjoy your remaining time.

Like I said, mental gymnastics — almost like trying to trick yourself into a better mood. The output is not intended to be carpe diem, hedonism or nothing-matters-why-bother. It’s more pragmatic, a little valve to release excess guilt, angst or whatever keeps you from an equilibrium feeling that everything is going to be more or less all right.

Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one post per month until I die or you unsubscribe. You can also reply to that email and I will reply back, thereby making us pen pals. Thank you!

Old Man and the Son

There was another marital quarrel — my “enthusiasm” was taken away for the day, as if I haven’t surrendered enough already — and the usual parental malaise. Those are easier to write about than everyday joys, the little highs we’re quick to forget. I’ll try. It’s Thanksgiving, my favorite holiday.

For some reason, this silly, mundane four-second high isn’t quick for me to forget. I think about it compulsively, and my eyes got misty the first time I told it to my wife.

I was killing that slow shot clock in the early morning with my 3-year-old on a big-boy playground in L.A. It was a weekday during our trip, so elementary school kids started sprouting out of nowhere before classes started. The place was soon overrun.

Last time we checked, my son was in the 11th percentile for height. So there he was on this sprawling playground, literally a midget, traversing the chaos with tunnel vision while kids double and triple his age raced around him and admirably avoided absolutely steamrolling him.

He looked like Simba in the fateful stampede. I was bracing myself for a Mufasa-like demise as I tailgated him up, down and around the towering main structure modeled after a spaceship theme.

As he climbed a ladder in the middle of it, I called out “To infinity and beyond” in Chinese. That’s our jam. We watch the “Toy Story” movies on Disney+ with Mandarin audio and English subtitles. Every night I recite the first part of Buzz Lightyear’s catchphrase and crouch down. My son then hops on my back and says the rest while holding out his arms in wing formation all the way upstairs to bath time.

He jumps off furniture the same way and wears Buzz pajamas and underwear. “Toy Story” was our liberating gateway from mind-numbing YouTube videos of garbage trucks to the mind-blowing creativity of Pixar. “Toy Story 3” also offers Mandarin dubbing on Disney+ and gets the loop treatment in our household.

Chinese is a cacophonous language to most native Western speakers, including me. When my mom and aunt have any conversation, my anxiety spikes because the volume and staccato are so jarring. I was shocked to count the same number of syllables in the translation of “To infinity and beyond” as in English. I swear it sounds like 10 sentences.

So I was blurting this out while my boy climbed the ladder, and he didn’t acknowledge it. I figured maybe he was distracted, or maybe this was one of those milestones. There was always going to be a time when he was too cool for his old man. It seemed premature now, but the thought crossed my mind that surrounded by these big kids, my son didn’t want to respond to some stupid Toy Story line in choppy Chinese from his dad wearing cargo shorts and boat shoes with socks.

It’s OK. I wasn’t mad about it. I could appreciate his social awareness and learning to read the room.

But as my little boy got to the top step, he stretched out his stubby arms like wings and lunged with his chest through them in a grand flying motion before scurrying to the next spot. He hadn’t been ignoring me. He was focused on getting to the top step because that kind of stuff is still hard for him. Because he’s still a baby.

In hindsight, no child can be a) too cool for his old man and b) require his old man to wipe his butt for him so Buzz Lightyear doesn’t get organic comet streaks. They are mutually exclusive conditions.

No child can be too cool for his old man and have to sit on a petite toilet seat placed on top of the regular one, so he doesn’t fall through. Something about the angle of this double-decker setup ensures his poop lands outside the water every time. It makes the bathroom smell like a Stagecoach porta potty in late afternoon.

I can tell when the payload is coming because his facial expressions basically transport me to the journey through his colon. His eyes lock with mine and subtly dart back and forth as if he were just finding out I betrayed him.

His lip comes up in a half-snarl while the rest of his face both freezes and trembles. Most of the time drool drips from his mouth onto his potbelly.

And here’s the kicker: While persevering through this natural phenomenon, my son feels the need to extend his hand to me, his dutiful servant waiting to wipe his little anus in downward dog position. We clasp hands thumb over thumb like Bertier and Julius at the hospital while he continues to push. Left side, strong side.

It’s almost degrading, this grotesque multi-sensory interactive experience forced on me as a member of his support staff. Yet I don’t hate it. There is something sweet and funny about our absurd ritual, his innocence and resulting extreme level of no f’s given.

I think it makes me love him even more. I am thankful that for all my griping and wishing these stages would go by faster… they don’t. And every now and then a bit of nostalgia can set in even before the kids take flight.


Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one post per month until I die or you unsubscribe. You can also reply to that email and I will reply back, thereby making us pen pals. Thank you!

The Politics of Immovable Trains

Because I’m p-whipped without the p, I will vote in the Texas midterms and I will vote the way my wife tells me. (If you’re interested in the Poon Tang situation, I predicted Tom Brady will win more games this year than times I get laid. We currently are tied even though he’s in the middle of his worst season in two decades. He will find a way to win as he always does.)

Dave Chappelle had a funny joke about white people oversharing about their sex lives while being offended when asked about their voting decisions. I will try to keep both private, but here’s a hint:


We went to this echo-chamber rally with a dozen stirring sound bites and zero questions taken. My wife already had me sign some registration form and will chaperone me to a polling place of her choosing Nov. 8. If she could supervise over my shoulder, she would. Republicans concerned about voter fraud might want to take a look at our household.

I’m not mad about it. I told Beto he earned my vote, and he really did. I love great speakers and rhetoric. I can still recite the “Braveheart” and “Independence Day” speeches with about 95-percent fidelity. I created my own on a Nashville rooftop trying to rally a bachelor party around the concepts of passion, penetration and semen.

Because political change generally is incremental and reliant on less sexy local officials and implementation, the majority of people don’t notice a difference in their daily lives after elections. So you might as well vote for someone you like to hear talk.

I don’t know Beto would do a better job as governor, let alone the qualifications of the candidates for all those less sexy positions on the ballot I’m supposed to pick based solely on whether they have “DEM” next to their name.

Sure I hate guns and believe it’s obvious a woman owns her body. Straddling to the other side of the aisle, I prefer lighter taxes because I’ve seen and experienced firsthand the inefficiencies, waste and sometimes straight-up fraud that comes when budgets, org size and bureaucracy grow.

However, I stumbled on an interesting philosophical question at my favorite grocery store, Tom Thumb. A friendly middle-aged woman complimented the baby strapped to my chest and struck up a conversation. She doesn’t have any kids but helps out quite a bit with her sister, who has nine.

After the pleasant chat, the question occurred to me while picking out strawberries. This was one of many times a nice lady was nice to my baby in conservative Orange County, Calif., or Plano, Texas, where there’s a church the size of a Wal-Mart every few intersections. It’s a good bet at least a few of these affable strangers oppose abortion rights.

Is it my responsibility or even right to try to change anyone’s mind?

The Tom Thumb lady seemed like a kind, well-adjusted person. Anyone willing to take care of someone else’s kids approaches sainthood in my book. I can count on two hands how many times some of my family members have offered to babysit, even if I were a double amputee. Frankly I would rather them be helpful Republicans than unhelpful Democrats.

One of these family members once said, “If you voted for Trump, you’re racist,” and I just thought that was so dumb and it made me hate the internet briefly. It’s ironic because saying something like that is kind of like being racist — not having enough open-mindedness and exposure in the non-internet, some might call real world.

To be fair, I also can’t avoid losing some objectivity when I hear someone is a Trump diehard, card-carrying Southern Republican, or resident of Florida. Not sure if that’s because I lived the last 16 years in California, where some folks have written off the entire state of Texas as a wasteland of conservative anti-everybodies.

I didn’t know what to expect moving back here. I felt curiosity tinged with a bit of uneasiness about what it would be like given the headlines coming out of Texas. The immediate surprise was the diversity of my kids’ school in suburban Frisco. A young woman in a hijab greets us at the front desk every day, often sitting next to the head of school, a Black woman.

There were ornate celebrations last week for Diwali and Día de Los Muertos. My older son is in a Mandarin immersion class with Black and Turkish girls. My endearing white father-in-law had to ask a few times after seeing pictures, “So all of these kids are in a Mandarin class?”

On a train ride into the city, we started out by helping a French family of four plan their route. We then gave directions to a Black woman with her daughter, which were supplemented by tips from a young husky Black man who looked like the rapper Xzibit.

A Hispanic man with tattoos the length of his arm offered to give up his spot, so I could park our embarrassing two-seat UPPAbaby stroller motorcade. My multi-cultural experience was rounded out standing shoulder-to-shoulder with what you might picture as a caricature redneck: loud, missing teeth, thick Southern drawl, dropping curse words almost accidentally while holding his Aryan-looking baby. He was nice, and we traded thoughts on parenting.

Really any city or place with some population density is going to resemble your city more than you might think. My guess is you will find a bunch of people just being people, regardless of political bent. That to me is a very good thing, to have a baseline of predictability and decency independent of the talking heads.

Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one post per month until I die or you unsubscribe. You can also reply to that email and I will reply back, thereby making us pen pals. Thank you!

The Drudgery of a Shocking Parental Contradiction

I’ve noticed a damning indicator of the effect of children on wellness. The parent who spends more time with them in a given time period typically is in the worse mood, while the other one feels more alive but guilty.

When I’m with my kids, I find myself willing the clock to go faster to reach naptime or bedtime or schooltime. When I’m not with them, I want time to slow down and feel intense deadline pressure to enjoy, to get things done, to live. Because when they wake up, my life on a basic level gets worse.

What does this mean? I can’t seem to decipher the contradiction. How can I love my kids more than anything, but hate being with them? There is an Eminem and Rihanna song called “Love the Way You Lie” that hasn’t aged well, but the conflicting supercharged emotions speak to me.

When my kids are at school or asleep, I think of them with such fondness I sometimes need to actively resist the time suck of pulling up cute pictures of them on my phone. I love getting lost in their faces and replaying their voices and giggles in my mind.


Yet almost as soon as we’re together — I mean within minutes — the steep diminishing returns turn negative. I simply don’t need that much time with them. You can eat cheesecake for only so long.

It’s excruciating. The first two-plus hours of the day from around 6 to 8:25, spanning predawn darkness and hot Texas morning sun, feel like I’ve lived an entire life. Think about how slowly even just 60 seconds go by when assembling a three-piece puzzle with an 8-month-old, or hiding under a suffocating bedsheet from imaginary rain with a 3-year-old. It requires so much effort and tedium.

When they finally go to school, I really haven’t done anything I want to do: exercise, eat, sleep, work, crap, shower, brush my teeth, unload the dishwasher. Presumably, none of these things are more important than family time as long as I eventually get to them. But they all feel better to do in the moment rather than be imprisoned by my thoughts while supervising children.

That’s a weakness of mine exposed by parenthood. I do not have serenity. My mind is a circus. My meditation attempts are a joke.

There is a funny experiment that found a significant percentage of folks would rather give themselves mild electric shocks than sit in a room alone with their thoughts. I prefer not to deaden my consciousness with Instagram or TikTok, addictions which likely prey disproportionately on parents bored out of their minds by young offspring.

Then again I often end up repeatedly scrolling ESPN or The New York Times and concede I’m only a slightly better person in that respect. If you check ESPN frequently enough the headlines don’t change, it’s worth asking whether you’re living your best life.

Sometimes I will actually look at pictures of my kids as an escape while they’re right next to me. The implication is the idea of children and what it all means is better than the reality and day-to-day.

Like I said, I can’t figure it out and should probably outsource to experts. My buddy sent me possibly the greatest article I’ve ever read. It should interest any parent or potential parent, in other words every adult on earth.

By the way, I know a ton of people who struggled or are struggling to get pregnant. We’ve had a miscarriage. I recognize hearing me complain about healthy children might be unbearably annoying, so let me just offer two thoughts if you’re still reading: a) Never give up; I believe it will happen for you and b) Try to appreciate the extreme benefits of not having children in the meantime.

I still can’t believe in this Covid-reconfigured workforce, some people can roll out of bed at 8:57 a.m. and not be late for work. They can go to bed at 1 in the morning and still get eight greedy hours of sleep.

Plus when adults with no dependents clock out of work, they can do anything. There are no children to watch, and no tasks created or backlogged on account of the children. I mean, that’s a crazy difference in time, like living an extra 30 percent on top of uninterrupted sleep. The problem is they will never appropriately value the freedom until it’s taken away.

One of the many useful concepts in the article is bifurcating happiness into how you feel in the moment versus how you might feel thinking about your life in a rocking chair with a beer.

“I think this boils down to a philosophical question, rather than a psychological one. Should you value moment-to-moment happiness more than retrospective evaluations of your life?”

– Tom Gilovich, Cornell psychologist

It’s a brilliant question. I remember a transcendent potty training episode when bedtime was dragging late, and I was hungry and tired with a million things to do. My son climbed onto the stepstool facing the toilet, pivoted 180 degrees, pissed all over the place like it was a Vegas alley, hopped off and slipped on the urine, hitting his head on the floor and triggering a tantrum.

At that moment, I was near a meltdown. Looking back now, the memory isn’t so bad. And looking back in 15 years when I’m unable to help him with his JavaScript homework, maybe I will be nostalgic for a time when he needed me so dearly.

I’m not sure this amounts to a life of purpose or meaning as referenced in the article. A more cynical view would be kids consume so much of your day, there’s no time or energy to define sources of meaning, let alone pursue them.

That’s not the Holy Grail answer to meaning in life. That’s distraction so you don’t have to confront those kinds of questions. In a way, kids are both the electric shocks and the reason why you need them.

Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one post per month until I die or you unsubscribe. You can also reply to that email and I will reply back, thereby making us pen pals. Thank you!

Along Came the Bananas

Three days after our sixth wedding anniversary, I asked during the crescendo of a fight if my wife wanted a divorce. Three days after that, I caught myself in a moment enraptured by her beauty and goodness and felt lucky.

So yeah, I overshot it with the divorce question. It was more misinterpretation than anything. I wasn’t getting a response out of her on how to address or even identify the problem. A friend who went through a divorce once told me the beginning of the end was when the other person just gave up.

I should know by now my wife wasn’t giving up. She just has a way of being silent when processing, whereas I work things out mind-to-mouth when pissed off. The ratio of our word counts during fights is like 100 to 1, which makes me seem like a bad listener, but really she’s not giving me anything to listen to. Hence my anger-influenced conclusion she had no interest in making it better.

During my three relationships including this one, I would say the clear majority of arguments boil down to this sequence:

1) I’m not mad.
2) She’s mad.
3) I get mad at her for being mad.
4) She wonders why I’m mad.
5) I get more mad at her amnesia regarding who was mad in the first place.

It is surely unproductive for me to point out there is one step we can omit here that stops the spiral before it starts. This might be unforgivably sexist to say in 2022, but in my narrow romantic experience, I’ve seen a lot of truth in the cliché that men want to solve the problem tactically, while women… let’s say, prefer more variety in their approaches.

I only mean that half pejoratively. My wife is great at seeing the bigger picture, the problem behind the problem. I’ve always thought she would be an excellent therapist.

On fight day, I played with our 3-year-old for five hours beginning at 4 a.m. and was impressed with myself for maintaining a good mood. He had been up all night scratching a rash outbreak all over his body, but also was in good spirits.

Yet my wife was the one in a sour mood. I ignored it all morning until I reached my limit. After my pre-dawn marathon with a needy child before a full day of work, I thought a benevolent king’s reception would be more appropriate than the ice princess treatment. If anyone should have been excused for being irascible, it was me.

With few words, my wife let on about being upset I didn’t share her urgency to take the kid to the doctor. I snapped back that I already set up our switch to PPO insurance in Texas, and she could take him anywhere. I had already told her this in previous days and encouraged her to make an appointment even though I didn’t believe one was necessary. I asked both rhetorically and genuinely what she wanted from me at this point.

If she was looking for someone to join in her “panic” (probably unfair word choice) and seek peace of mind in a rubber stamp from a white coat, then consider me a dead end. There will be a time when doctors are among the most important people in my life, but now is not that time.

People get too much medical treatment. I don’t worship at that altar yet. It seems to me there is often a misalignment of incentives in the healthcare system, to the point where it’s not really about health or care. Some opioid addicts probably would back me up on that if they’re not dead.

I told my wife our son had heat rash, and it was already fading. My dismissiveness without an M.D. annoyed her, but frankly I’ve been right every time when downplaying ailments.

Our aftershock tiff happened when I spoke too confidently about bananas going bad because of oxidation. I suggested we shouldn’t keep letting our son play with them in the shopping cart because smushing would speed the process.

My wife made a comment like “there you go again with your theories,” not meaning to start anything. But that struck a nerve, and I let her know.

Here was the problem behind the problem. We have very different ways of approaching the day. I hover around an internal locus of control. I feel like I can affect things. I am constantly trying to improve myself, others around me and our conditions. It’s almost like a game, a significant one that makes me tick and gives me purpose.

Often this entails thinking, hypothesizing, drawing conclusions based on observation, and iterating with more information. I don’t care about being right as much as getting it right. (I did guess right though about both the rash receding and the bananas. Smushing creates more exposure to oxygen, which is what causes the browning.)

In short, I have the growth mindset stated on nine out of 10 entry-level résumés. Truly I enjoy the process of getting or making things better.

My wife highlighted this trait in her touching wedding vows, saying sometimes she found it exhausting but most of the time she found it inspiring. But the ratio of inspiring to exhausting could be shifting over time. What seemed interesting to her six years and two kids ago might feel tired now.

There are lots of evolving ratios like this in any marriage. When we first met, I kept thinking my wife was like Jennifer Aniston in “Along Came Polly.” Most of the time I found her spontaneity and free spirit charming; occasionally it was a nuisance to a square like me.

Ten years later, with two small humans pushing up against our sanity every day, Polly doesn’t fit the lifestyle as well. What seemed like freedom and going with the flow back then feels like procrastination and suboptimal outcomes due to lack of planning now.

All this to state the obvious: “Happily ever after” is a moving target that takes work because life circumstances change. Children take your opposites-attract differences, turn them into acute pressure points in your relationship, and grind their nasty little fists into them until you want to tap out.

Our tradition of watching those wedding vows every anniversary got steamrolled by the kids this year, but we did get a “The Notebook” moment. Not the sexy 365 letters scene, but the end when they die holding hands with nothing left to give. That is how kids make you feel regularly, the conditions they create for your marriage. And you fight on.

Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one blog post per month until I die or you click Unsubscribe. You can also reply to that email, and I will reply back, thereby making us pen pals. Thank you!

Around the World to Texas

On my final afternoon as a California resident, I came up with a mild sex game that no doubt has many independent inventors throughout time. Our 1,500-square-foot townhouse was empty of furniture, and I begged my wife to do it in every room. I named it “Around the World”, sharing the title of the basketball shooting drill I absolutely dominate.

I don’t want to get too detailed out of privacy concerns, but I won’t leave you hanging with the obvious questions either. No, the rules did not require completion in every room. Even just the tip counted.

Frankly I was trying to move quickly anyway, as the transitions were hard for me. Or not hard enough if we want to push those privacy boundaries. The game played out so much better in my mind, particularly the window sill scene that sparked the idea.

I attribute my performance anxiety to multiple distractions:

  • Honestly I can’t remember for sure… but I think I was thinking about this blog post intermittently.
  • My wife declared the dining room and kitchen counted as one because they don’t have a wall between them. I felt uncomfortable with this interpretation, as the spaces have distinct functions and contents.
  • There was time pressure because my wife needed to drive an hour to the grandparents’ to feed the baby. She had told me she wanted to leave in 30 minutes, 15 minutes before we even started. A shot clock for the money shot functioned as a partial cock block.
  • The dryer in the laundry room happened to be running, which according to erotic cinema can only lead to magical, adult Disney-like outcomes. I couldn’t “rise” to the occasion for whatever reason, and this wasted opportunity haunted me the rest of the way.
  • I kept thinking about the next room and childbirth-recovery-friendly sex position, but in terms of logistics and planning rather than adventure and arousal.
  • In the final room, which actually doubled as the first one to somewhat make up for the dining room/kitchen merge, my wife felt the need to merge dirty talk with stand-up comedy. She was saying how my risk aversion turned her on, how sexy it was I avoided danger, etc. I did not appreciate the mockery while trying to concentrate.
  • Again, the deadline pressure. The reason we started 15 minutes late is because I spent too much time wrapping a computer monitor stand for transport. That got me all flustered and hurried — not to be confused with hot and bothered — and damaged my libido.

That last one is worth elaboration because it shows how I torture myself. Moving sucks for everyone, but it sucks more for me. The sturdy monitor stand was going into a car and didn’t need to wrapped at all. Done. Anyone else would have moved on.

But I felt compelled to use the bubble wrap my father-in-law had just bought because my mind fixates on no waste, squeezing the utility out of every resource from Chipotle napkin to 2007 Honda Pilot. To that end, I also wanted to use up the last bit of packing tape on a roll that anyone else would have tossed. This required cutting it with a broken dispenser attached to another roll.

I had to do this at least a dozen times to cover all surface area of the many-edged contraption. A rational actor would have recognized an extra 15 minutes of Around the World would generate far more utility than finishing the monitor stand. When I say fixate, I mean I can’t let stuff go.

My boss is fond of asking is the juice worth the squeeze when evaluating feature requests. In my personal life, I am all squeeze and a trickle of juice.

Many examples of this abounded during packing, which explains why I got only 90 minutes of sleep the night before the movers arrived. I will share one more just because it’s so bizarre.

There was a heavy bag of old statements and documents with marginally sensitive information. Maybe 5 percent of it could have been useful to an identity thief.

There were numerous little bags of ketchup packets left over from takeout orders, along with hot sauce, barbecue and soy sauce, and honey (KFC, let’s go). Maybe 5 percent of them would have survived the move to Texas and actually end up being used in the next year.

So I resolved to wedge the packets at intervals between the papers, figuring they eventually would explode in the dumpster and obscure the text. Of course as a bonus, it felt satisfying to find a use for the condiments rather than send unopened products directly to the landfill.

First I transferred the papers to two bags because I figured the current one with its thickness and handles could serve a better purpose elsewhere. Then I planted the ketchup bombs. A little weird, but not a big time commitment.

This was when things started escalating, or more accurately, spiraling downward into the abyss of my idiosyncrasies. I thought of all the condiments in the refrigerator and removed about 20 expired bottles, mostly weird Asian sauces but also a very American, ginormous bottle of mustard.

(None of them, not even one, was purchased or consumed by me. There is only one other person in the household capable of buying them, and she moonlights as a stand-up comedian during sex. I hate condiments in the refrigerator. Their primary function seems to be to take up space until the end of time and bother those who want to be minimalist and don’t need a crutch to eat meat and vegetables.)

I took the bags and bottles outside the front door, which required multiple trips. The plan was to pour the expired condiments over the papers to supplement the ketchup bombs, and I worried about leakage onto the floor inside. My hands got messy quickly from handling bottle caps.

Not even halfway through, I felt self-conscious about making too much noise with our front door five feet from our neighbor’s. Bottles were occasionally clanking as I piled some of the smaller ones into an old plastic colander to be recycled with them.

So I moved everything again to the front of our garage facing the narrow street of townhouses. Then I got self-conscious about the noise again. It was about 4 in the morning by the way, and I was slightly delirious.

I moved everything to our patio in the back, where I finished the job still self-conscious because of all the windows nearby. Yeah I was probably delirious and definitely stressed because I just wanted to get this stupid thing done and back to packing before the movers showed up in a few hours, followed by a 1,450-mile solo drive.

After waddling with the gross bags about 100 yards to the dumpster, I heard a violent rustling inside before opening the latched door. I knew instantly it was a raccoon and looked up to see another one with wild eyes perched on the wall snarling at me.

I was desperate to finish this craziness and debated whether to toss the bags over the wall. But they weren’t that throwable with all the liquid pooled at the bottom, and I didn’t know if the dumpster was full and the bags might end up overturned on the ground. Oh, and this effing raccoon was ready to pounce.

With sweat beading and my anxiety level at its peak during a really challenging month of Covid and work-from-home with kids, birthday party planning with kids, and a move across two time zones with kids, I lugged the bags back past our place and then another 150 yards down an adjacent street. That dumpster did not have raccoon guardians.

I had persevered around the block and would struggle similarly Around the World days later, but I finished both jobs in a triumphant splash of viscous liquid unique to me.
Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one blog post per month until I die or you click Unsubscribe. You can also reply to that email, and I will reply back, thereby making us pen pals. Thank you.

Diamond in the Meat Loaf

I had our annual birthday conference call last month with my two best childhood friends, born five days apart. One is a millionaire who lives in a high-rise in Manhattan when he’s not traveling the country. The other timed the unhinged housing market flawlessly, doubling his equity in L.A. and parlaying that into a 5,000-square-foot Texas home with no mortgage for the rest of his life.

What about me? Oh we don’t need to talk about me. Let’s talk about you, and we can get to me later.

I’m about to move in with my parents in Plano, Texas, shortly after my 38th birthday. You might picture me screaming at my mother for meat loaf, but they don’t have basements in Texas and the closest outcome in this household would be beef lo mein.

My wife and two young children are coming with me and will support negotiations with our landlords to swap Netflix password for Costco privileges. The numbers don’t quite add up, but I don’t know how you put a value on culture.

Same thing with stock portfolios. Can you really put a dollar amount on being a shareholder in a company? Yes, by definition you can. In an exquisite case of greed, hubris and naivete overriding risk aversion, I dropped $200,000 into individual stocks rather than low-cost index funds. I am currently down 85 grand and available to teach return on investment to any aspiring finance MBAs who want to get a leg up on the competition.

Where did it all go wrong for me? My mom would say it’s when I turned down Brown University and later refused to course correct by becoming a pharmacist. Stay in your lane, landlord.

This is maybe a defense mechanism kicking in, but most people probably agree wallowing in the past and what-ifs yields rapidly diminishing returns if any at all. I saw this quote by The Last Psychiatrist in James Clear’s newsletter that almost floored me by how much it made sense:

“The goal of adulthood is to let go of the other possible existences and to make the best of the one. A successful adult is one who understands that it doesn’t matter which life you ultimately pick, only that you live it well.”

I buy it, I really do. There are infinite ways my life could have diverged from this one: different college or dorm, cities or social circles, spouse and kids, career and income. I did not choose the path that resulted in the most money, and neither did you. I did not marry the person resulting in the wildest sex or make the friends resulting in the biggest laughs or embrace the religion (or lack thereof) resulting in the deepest wisdom — although mine score high and I love them very much.

All the variations aren’t so much different outcomes as they are just different packaging that life comes in. They don’t move the needle on happiness as much as how you live your life, whatever it may be. (I know I need to back up the armchair preaching here and apply it to my struggles with parenthood.)

Take this Depp v. Heard monstrosity. My wife told me not to comment on the verdict because I know nothing about it, and yeah I proudly know next to nothing about the case except the clear conclusion Johnny Depp’s life is not perfect.

Now here’s me sitting on the armchair thinking the movie star life seems pretty close to the pinnacle — banging supermodels, partying around the world, ransacking the Whole Foods salad bar without so much as a glance at the scale. I got a kiss on the lips from an African model while studying abroad in Prague in 2005, and I can tell you that life path has its merits.

But without blaming or absolving Depp for whatever happened, I believe the bigger impact on his quality of life is how he lives his movie star life rather than his choice to be a movie star versus something else. In other words, he could be better off living the accountant life well (which would entail no regrets about forgoing other paths) than living the movie star life poorly. You hear these stories of lottery winners ending up miserable and paraplegics living their best life, and they’re not implausible.

The intention is not to use celebrity misfortunes to prop up my self-esteem. I’m trying to reflect on why I feel good most days, even giddy, for a middle-aged man who soon will be asking his parents to extend curfew and waiting until they fall asleep to make out with his wife of six years. MA! MEAT LOAF!

I guess I feel like I’m living my particular life well. Yes the house will be a circus and nuisances unavoidable. But I also see this as a sort of bonus time with my parents. My dad has been looking so old lately on FaceTime. Asians age better than most for a long time, and then it’s like they catch up overnight.

It doesn’t feel quite right your parents put so much into raising you, and then you graduate college and meet up 2-3 times a year. If I were staying in Southern California, I wonder how many more hangouts I’d get with my dad. Thirty? Forty? That’s not a countdown I care to start.

So now comes an atypical bonus round with my parents in which we’re under the same roof again while they’re still in good health, and I have some maturity and experience, plus their precious daughter-in-law and grandkids. I am picturing unfettered dinner dates with my wife, Blue Bell ice cream for the kids after pool time, tennis with my high school friends, bringing a book on shopping trips with my mom, hazing my dad and brother with Shiner Bock, and supercharged summer and winter breaks with the L.A. grandparents.

Meanwhile, we should be able to rapidly accumulate savings in the absence of rent and California cost of living. Our school commute goes from 80 miles a day to 10, from $6.80 per gallon to $4.80.

It’s definitely a scrappier plan than I would have imagined 10 years ago or even 10 months ago, given the yet-unreconciled dual rises in interest rates and housing prices. And I realize many folks aren’t blindly lucky enough to be able to use a cheat code with supportive parents. This is my one life though, and I intend to live it well.

Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one blog post per month until I die or you click Unsubscribe. You can also reply to that email, and I will reply back, thereby making us pen pals. Thank you.

Stupid Is as Stupid Does Nothing Ever

Dang it school shooting, I was halfway through a solid blog post about a big life move but couldn’t get Uvalde, Texas, out of my mind. Twenty-one murders was too high, and the age group too low for a father on a business trip away from his two kids with a combined age of 3. Had it been, say, four high school deaths, I easily could have kept going.

So I started a new post on everyone’s favorite topic of gun control, then stopped because I didn’t want to bore you, tried to get back to the original one, but just couldn’t pick up steam again. It’s like when you’re erect and ready to shoot, Jack, and then one of the timeless “Dark Knight” movies comes on in the background. You’re distracted persistently enough to warrant a hard stop. And when you decide to get back to it, the mood and focus are just ruined.

I already wrote a scattered memo about guns after the 2017 Vegas massacre. It’s not perfectly coherent, yet sensible enough I could just recycle it every few years. Uvalde was the first mass, mass school shooting since I became a dad though, so it merits some supplementary thoughts.

My proposal is to allow bazookas for sale. That way the children don’t have to be scared before they die. It’s more humane. Sound good, Senators?

I don’t understand why, or at least I don’t want to understand why this needs to instantly turn into red team versus blue team. Offering two flawed political parties and telling me I have to adopt all the opinions of one of them and argue without nuance against logic and productivity seems pretty close to the opposite of freedom.

When it comes to gun regulation there should be less slogans and rhetoric and more scientific method — like those fourth graders were learning before they were executed. We have all these variables that potentially affect the level of gun violence and no perfect solution. We can sit there debating hypotheticals. Or we can test, collect data, learn, iterate, improve.

If Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos had his profits depend on reducing gun deaths, can you imagine the innovation, efficiency and bias to action? Progress would be made by end of day Wednesday, or somebody would get fired.

Can’t we just try something, anything? I’m not opposed to arming teachers if you think it’s practical and scalable to expect our most overworked, underpaid, nurturing professionals to add to their résumé the ability to win shootouts against sociopaths with rifles, body armor and a death wish.

Perhaps focusing a little farther upstream might be easier. Take these assault-style rifles. I have to use that clunky term because gun zealots can’t get past the semantics. They say there’s no such thing as an assault rifle. The ones used in these mass shootings were semi-automatic, one bullet per trigger pull.

Automatic weapons, a.k.a. machine guns, fire bullets continuously or in bursts when holding the trigger down. They have been severely restricted and essentially banned since 1934.

Well shoot, that sounds to me like a proof of concept. The Second Amendment makes no exceptions for machine guns, yet no one is mad about those not being sold at Walmart. Hey if you’re basing the right to bear arms on the need for a “well regulated Militia” to defend against tyranny, I would think machine guns are table stakes. Good luck with your peasant semi-automatics when the tanks and drones come rolling in to your driveway.

But no, that would be insane. It’s quite obvious the right to buy a fully automatic military weapon is outweighed by the risk of one showing up in a school, grocery store, church, movie theater… who knows where will be next. Same with grenades and yes, bazookas.

Obviously it’s not as obvious for everyone when it comes to assault-style rifles. Really we all agree that gun control in some form does and should exist. We just disagree on where to be in the mass-kill-capability spectrum, which maybe ranges from the muskets the Second Amendment was actually referencing to whatever our government is sending to Ukraine.

So all we need to do is calibrate, fine-tune if you will. That doesn’t sound so bad. If you let the loud outliers cancel each other out, I wonder if there is a nice chunk of the American public that isn’t so far apart. I think there are more team players out there than it seems, gun haters like me who are willing to live with them so others feel safe and happy and gun owners who are willing to jump through more hoops to get them so others feel safe and happy.

Ultimately, no matter how constitutionally free the society, we all give up something for the greater good every day, whether it’s observing a speed limit even though you’re capable of driving faster safely or holding in that fart in the elevator even though you feel like it’s rising into your chest.

Suppose we shifted slightly on that mass-kill-capability spectrum and prohibited ammo purchases over a certain amount, unless they’re consumed at the range. Or go bigger and ban assault-style rifles again, this time without lame loopholes. We could then look at gun fatality rates and have a more substantive debate on whether removing these is worth the tradeoff in freedom, utility and costs.

We are currently trending in the wrong direction. The CDC announced guns finally surpassed car accidents as the No. 1 killer of children and adolescents. Woohoo, persistence pays off.

If you just can’t bear to leave those pretty rifles at the range, then let’s test a stringent application process instead. This should be Harvard level if you happen to be an 18-year-old male. I need to see grades, community service, extracurriculars, references bro. There can’t be any doubt you have something and someone to live for. Ideally you’ve gotten laid a few times.

Maybe CIA level is more appropriate. I mean, these guns are so intense. This is sensationalistic to bring up, but I can’t imagine what an AR-15-style rifle does to these poor children’s bodies that their poor parents need to give DNA swabs just to tell them apart.

I can imagine, and so can you. One hundred and forty-two bullets fired by a boy whose balls probably hadn’t dropped all the way yet. That is cray-cray AF. Remember, not an assault rifle, an assault-style rifle. This is an incredibly important distinction because they have very, very different purposes.

An 18-year-old legally purchased two of these, compelled basically an entire police force to stand down for an hour, killed basically an entire classroom, and we can’t look at basic, partial regulations? Perfect need not be the enemy of good enough or slightly better.

Of course we can’t prevent 100 percent of these. Of course the root of the problem is mental illness. No mass shooter is of sound mind.

So let’s tie the two together. Anyone who wants to buy an assault-style rifle has to show mental fitness. You need a doctor’s prescription for certain drugs; you need a psychologist’s evaluation for certain guns.

I know it’s not as easy as tossing oversimplified ideas onto a whiteboard, but it’s also not as hard as it seems either. You just do it.

Australia is often cited as an example:

1) There was a terrible mass shooting.
2) The government passed new laws.
3) No more mass shootings.

The morning after Uvalde, I asked my Australian coworker about this. I expected a longer answer from an Excel wizard business analyst, e.g. depends on how you look at statistical significance, the data model, yada yada. But he just said… Yeah, that’s pretty much how it went down.

Cool, man. Thanks. I don’t feel stupid. There’s nothing stupid about gun deaths being so high in America you can barely see the other countries on a chart to scale.

My nonchalant colleague also told me to look up an Australian comedian who absolutely destroyed the stupidities around how we react to gun control. Savage Aussie, get up off me.

I see your comedian and raise you with our great American legend George Carlin:

“Think of how stupid the average person is, and then realize half of them are stupider than that.”

Yes I’m aware of the difference between the mean and median, another thing those kids might have been learning before they were executed.
Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one blog post per month until I die or you click Unsubscribe. Thank you.

Doughnut Chart

I ate nine Krispy Kreme doughnuts in three hours, ran 22 sprints up the 24th Street hill the next morning, and adopted a reenergized outlook on dad life that is holding up better against the daily onslaught. I refuse to walk anything back from last month’s diatribe because they were all valid points and I have a lot more to add at a later time. But at least some of the time, I can try to inch toward understanding rather than indulge in masturbatory complaining.

First, this is neither here nor there, but you should know those nine doughnuts included only one glazed. Krispy Kreme is best known for its original glazed, which can be consumed in a few bites. A fat child or dog could put down nine. I chose dense, colorful, grossly sweet, filled-and-or-frosted types because I am all man.

I have manly desires and compulsions that can be at odds with rational thought. My wife showed me an email that referred to the decision to have kids as being pre-rational. I really like this description for some reason. I think it makes me feel less crazy or stupid.

Perhaps having kids doesn’t fail the rationality test, but rather the answer is N/A. Based on what I consider to be fairly universal measures of quality of life – disposable time and income, liabilities, freedom, stress, sex life, sleep, etc. – having kids is not a rational decision if the goal is to optimize the numbers here.

But you could say that about decisions everywhere in life. The ultimate man’s man, GOAT Tom Brady, nixed his retirement to start another season in the NFL at age 45. He could probably make more money at this point focusing on his business ventures. He could certainly enjoy a lifestyle with less strain and essentially a blank check to experience anything in the world including his children.

Instead, this middle-aged many-millionaire wants to give up all his free time to be the target of linebackers half his age and one hit away from not being able to chase his kids for a year or longer. That’s not entirely rational depending on the metrics on your list.

Sure, Tommy gets to play a sport he loves. Yet there are plenty of folks in more mundane professions who continue to work even if they don’t need the paycheck. I don’t picture a lawyer’s day-to-day as being outright pleasurable, but I know of lawyers who keep putting in the hours and putting off retirement.

Hobbies too. People don’t make a T-chart of perks and lifestyle and decide to pick up ultramarathoning. I haven’t gotten paid to write since I was 24 and never look forward to forcing out a blog post every month. I just do it because I feel compelled without needing to question why.

Even something as ingrained as marriage might not be a rational decision at face value. Hang on, you want to reduce my freedom and personal space and increase conflict and obligations while consolidating sex life to one source? Come (never) again? Everyone knows the risk in not having a diversified portfolio. Severe downturns can happen. This year Tom Brady likely will rack up more wins than times I get laid, not even including the playoffs.

So maybe last month when I characterized having kids as an oblivious if not reckless “default” decision, I had the wrong frame of reference. It could be thought of more as a calling than a decision, one that can’t be broken down in terms of everyday utility.

We kicked off the Covid-delayed era of classmate birthday parties this month with consecutive Saturdays of small talk with adults and bounce-house-jumping with children while making a conscious effort to avoid giving off pedophile vibes.

This was one of the responsibilities I imagined about family life as a young single lad that always made me retch. Especially in the bubble of Orange County, Calif., I was dreading desperate housewives ambience and mind-numbing conversations about golf, grills, vacations and potty training. I mean, why not just get right to it and vomit into each other’s mouths, right?

It wasn’t bad though. I kind of enjoyed myself. There was Chick-fil-A, Costco pizza and a french fry cart. I consumed moderately and didn’t touch the sweets.

Watching my 2-year-old experience his first parties filled me with a visceral joy. The first one was for his undisputed best friend, a blond girl about 20 percent taller in the same Mandarin immersion program.

They’re not quite advanced enough to play together, so they play in parallel. I can still hear in my mind my boy’s high-pitched squealing and giggling as they frolicked in separate but adjacent universes, and it makes me smile.

I presume posting pictures of children not related to me violates some sort of internet etiquette, so let me just tell you this one is adorable and you’re missing out:
The besties were heartbreakingly split up two days later when the girl moved up to an older class. Thus the second party ended up being their reunion after a long week apart. I spotted her as soon as she arrived, snuck up behind and dropped my son right in front of her face.

It took a short moment of recognition, and then she swallowed him up in a hug. My son doesn’t really know how to hug and normally just sticks out his chest at a 45-degree angle. This time he actually hugged back with his little arms. I had never seen him do that, and I melted.

In an even more touching moment, the parents put in great effort to corral the children for a group picture. Inexplicably, my son the usual wallflower gravitated toward front and center and popped up his shirt to flash the abs. There had been no prompting, encouragement or contextual relevance, as there never should be for this type of maneuver.
I hadn’t planned on teaching him the hallowed shirt-pull move until high school. I don’t know if this was a triumph of nature over nurture or he’d been watching his old man’s highlight reels, but I never felt so connected. The insecure peacocking was something I did a lot in my younger confused days, and I have a paternal duty to support him through the phase.

March 20, 2022

The rest of the weekend sucked. My son crawled out of his crib for the first time right after the party rather than give us a nap and our one opportunity to address a backlog of tasks, thereby kicking off yet another era in which dragging myself out of bed at 5:30 in the morning no longer earns me the right to an uninterrupted 35-minute workout that has been the one thing I can control, the linchpin of my sanity.

As I’ve said previously, there are euphoric highs being a parent but the baseline existence is quite low. It doesn’t seem to add up, and the idea that it’s not supposed to could be useful.
Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one blog post per month until I die or you click Unsubscribe. Thank you.

Nothing to Fear but Everything

I’m calm now, so this won’t be as entertaining. I was furiously unhappy throughout the first half of this month, repeatedly one-downing each new low like my mid-cap-heavy stock portfolio.

If only I could have gotten to a keyboard in those moments and shared with you. It would be like Costco shopping when hungry, which ends in intemperate decisions and regret. I actually wanted to go for it anyway and tried scribbling into a notepad.

But the problem is when I’m mad these days, it’s the exact same situation every time: I have something pressing on my mind or something I want to do, and my young children have taken away the use of my hands or concentration or both. It’s torture for my tortured personality, laden with obsessive and regimented traits. The 2.5-year-old and 2.5-month-old won’t let me take a dump or brush my teeth, let alone sit at a computer alone and think through words.

Now those intense feelings – possibly postpartum depression manifested as anger, as this article from my buddy illuminated for me – have faded. I will try to channel some of them again for reflection.

I hate to pull the nebulous “Studies show…” card and have no idea how you could even set up research like this, but humor me. Studies show people without kids are happier.

This is so interesting and provocative. It’s worth discussing openly because private conversations rarely help anyone else. I don’t hear a lot of people talking about kids until after they have them.

We spend plenty of time choosing the right colleges and careers, partners and pets, houses and cars. Yet no decision affects our waking and sleeping hours more than this one, and people seem to just do it without analysis.

People have kids because that’s what people do. No T-chart needed. It seems to be the default option with an opt-out in tiny print, when really it should be an opt-in decision with a block-letter ARE YOU SURE? confirmation screen. Come on life, hire a UX designer.

Not every human being in modern society should reproduce. We’re pushing 8 billion people on earth, and to think every single one will make the right decision about this is not realistic. There will be broken marriages, effed-up kids and parents, and more commonly, folks who are doing just fine – but would have been better off taking the blue pill (or whatever color birth control is).

I cannot bear to write out the statement that I would be happier or better off without kids now that I’ve met mine. If they didn’t exist though, I would have no trouble putting it in bold, italics, all caps.

I love my kids so much it hurts. I hate parenting so much it hurts. This might sound like cheap semantics to disguise a thinner love that lives in the superficial cuddles-and-giggles layer, like the one favored by extended family members who fawn over pictures but would never give up a Saturday afternoon to babysit.

You can call me out on this, and I will listen. Indeed it doesn’t seem like a very meaningful love if I’m ready to move on to something else after hanging out with my kids for a half hour.

My wife said the reason why parenting is so bad for me is because I’m selfish, and she meant that more thoughtfully than pejoratively. I agreed, but I also don’t want to exalt parenting as some selfless path unless it involves adoption or fostering.

She came to this conclusion after I spent an entire Thursday evening in an absolute meltdown. I couldn’t articulate anything and just kept repeating ad nauseum, “This is awwwwful.” I was irrationally mad at everyone and everything – Russia for invading, coworkers for not being organized, her family for not babysitting, the fact we still haven’t moved to Texas. She listened patiently and waited until her solo drive to Del Taco to cry, brought back some decent burritos, and listened to me some more.

I’d simply had enough. We were both working from our baby-cluttered townhouse, trading off with the shrieking infant, and then the toddler was sent home from school twice in three days with a fever. The school is awesome, but it requires 80 miles of driving per day on the god-forsaken 405 and 5.

This sucks. I wish people would say it more. At the playground, some angel masquerading as a random O.C. white guy struck up a conversation after noticing we also had two boys about two years apart. Without much context or transition, he blurted out that it sucks at this age. I wanted to collapse in his arms like Jordan into Pippen’s during the legendary flu game.

Source: NY Daily News

It does suck, Scottie. Yes they’re cute. So are most small mammals, but I don’t want to be a zookeeper. Moments of joy don’t outweigh a crappy way to live every day.

While watching the older one for five straight hours, I was in the process of losing my mind when he tried to say “Acapulco” and added like nine syllables. I melted for five minutes… and then returned to my regularly scheduled programming of anxiety and drudgery.

When I was singing a silly Chinese nursery rhyme about two lions to the infant, he broke into a toothless smile. His brother came up behind me and started singing with me, along with hand motions interpreting the lyrics. I melted for 10 minutes… and then returned to my regularly scheduled programming of suboptimal resource efficiency and no restorative time.

The math doesn’t add up. You touch the sky every once in a while, but live most of the time scrapping on the floor.

Raising children mirrors a hard drug habit in some ways. It takes away from peak performance in all other areas of your life and strains or neglects relationships. You age much faster. You try to convince yourself it’s not so bad and keep dangling hopes it will get better. You get high on short dopamine bursts, but the lows are deep and lingering.

Detailing my daily schedule and grievances would be too boring if I haven’t lost you already with my whining. The short of it is everything — from trivial hobbies like friends, tennis and this blog to the fundamental building blocks that make me happy like exercise, sleep, meal prep, cleanliness and minimalism — are squeezed to the margins if not oblivion. I’ve eaten more Taco Bell and McDonald’s in the last two months than previous 10 years.

Kids aren’t so bad if you don’t have an interest in anything else or mind the feeling of giving 60-80 percent effort across the board.

Let me just briefly document the reason why I started off the month sulking and wrap up with a thought. I started a new job in January and got a late invite for a four-day company retreat in Austin, Texas. Learn all day, party all night, all expenses paid. It was a chance to meet my manager in person for the first time and bond with end users and execs.

This was the kind of environment I thrive in, an opportunity to make lifelong connections at a remote-first, Zoom-heavy company during a formative time in its trajectory. I wanted to show people I have personality, that I can rip shots with the party bros and hold my ground with the brainy engineers, that the square quiet guy in meetings has another side to him.

Plus it was a snapshot in time for a company of 300 people that will either build something big or fail. Without exaggerating, this would have been the memory of a lifetime. I turned it down to support my family, and I don’t have one memory from that week except it sucked.

I should have gone to Austin. I don’t deal well with FOMO, which brings me to my thought. Having children is the risk-averse thing to do. You pretty much know how it’s going to go. You will love them more than anything. They will love you back. Your days will revolve around them.

Choosing not to have children means a lot more uncertainty around what your days will revolve around, how you will find meaning, or more nihilistically, how you will distract yourself until death. If you’re not afraid of that, if you’re not worried about FOMO down the road when everyone else is going to ballgames and recitals and graduations and weddings, if you have the conviction that kids are not right for you and you will never regret not trying, then I envy you. That’s like winning the lottery.

I didn’t have the balls. Everything I hate about parenthood I anticipated long before I met my wife. I think I didn’t resist having children because deep down I was afraid of fear of missing out on having them. That’s a big difference between actually wanting them, and I feel it every day.
Writer’s note: If you spend any amount of your finite time reading the absurdities in this blog, we are either friends or highly compatible strangers. Thus I feel close enough to ask for your email address below. The only email you will ever get from me is one blog post per month until I die or you click Unsubscribe. Thank you.