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18

18 was the age. The most memorable. Finally legal in my country, but that wasn’t the distinction that forced me into adulthood. 18 was the age. I dropped out of high school, paid rent for the first time, felt broke for the first time.

18 was the age my daughter was conceived.

It was the first time I felt real fear, real insecurity about my abilities to be a father. All I wanted to do was play ball, chase girls, laugh with my friends. Instead I was nervous, anxious, dealing with family split between being unforgiving and empathetic.

Either way, 18 was the age I trained myself to not be sensitive. To know that from here on in I had to be strong. My existence wasn’t all that was at stake, my ego wasn’t the only thing to be scarred.

18 was the year I became a father. A child myself, but who had time to think about that. Who had time to try to make sense of what that word really meant.

Father.

Didn’t have one myself, but vowed to be better. Didn’t care that he was never there because I would be.

And I was.

And I still am.

18 was the first time I looked into my daughter’s eyes. First time I held her. First time I heard her cry.

13 years later and I can’t help but reminisce sometimes.

18...

#PassionAndPaper

Read "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul."

 

Reminiscing On My Holidays As a Millennial Parent

  In so many ways I’m the prototypical Millennial. Obsessively chasing my passion? Check. Freelancer? Check. Renting instead of buying? Check. Parent? Woah! I know I can fill that box with a check-mark, but that’s one many Millennials would leave blank. Postponed parenting is certainly becoming one of the trademarks of this generation, but it’s a trademark I’ve neglected, whether intentionally or not is up for debate.

Either way here I am, a former teenage parent of a now teenage daughter. And as the holidays approach I can’t help but to look back on all the previous holidays, the good and the not so good, the struggles and confusion, and the lessons my daughter has taught me along the way.

M.I.A Holidays

M.I.A was the reality of the first few years of my daughter’s life. After dropping out of high school and toughing things out for the first year of her life, I got myself together and accepted a full athletic scholarship to a university in New York state. Being from Toronto, that meant committing to only seeing my daughter over the summer for the next four years.

The holidays were even tougher. Our only communication was me listening to her mumble dada on the phone from my dorm room or from on the road in a hotel room. I remember worrying that when I did finally graduate, my daughter would have no idea who I was. That I would be a stranger only familiar by my voice. These were the lonely holidays, but I kept it in the back of my mind that higher education was the right thing for me to do, and it would pay off. It had to.

Postgraduate Lessons

No masters classes for me. But I headed back to Toronto knowing exactly what I wanted to do, and started working on the manuscript for my first book, taking any and every odd job I could in the meantime. As you could imagine, odd jobs don’t bring home much bacon. That meant the holidays were still a struggle.

And although I was home now, able to see my daughter for the holidays, it pains me to admit that I consciously remember thinking I would rather be hundred of miles away. You see at this point in my parenting journey, I equated my worth as a father to my net worth. And since I was barely scraping by, living in a one bedroom apartment with my girlfriend at the time, dreaming of being Khaled Hosseini but living like the typical starving artist, I felt embarrassed in my ability as a provider, and that embarrassment lead me away from even wanting to spend time with my daughter over the holidays.

Her gifts were small during these times. A Miley Cyrus cd (Hannah Montana days), an easel for her to do her art. One year I remember asking what she wanted and braced myself for the answer. Then when she said all she wanted was a collection of colouring books, I knew she understood. And when she ripped open that wrapping paper and acted like I bought her whatever Apple gadget was hot at the time, then I understood.

Too many thoughts were racing through my head during these holidays. Does anyone really know what it feels like to be not just any parent, but a Millennial parent? How can anyone know what it means to buy your ten year old daughter a cell phone one Christmas, and still have her be the last of her friends to get one. How can they know the pressure this generation puts on you to be a mega success at 25, and feel like a failure if you still aren’t by 30?

All of these thoughts weighed on me daily, but eventually they would become fuel. Eventually I would learn that I'm not or wasn't the only parent going through shit. That although some of the pressures were specific to my generation, the actual root feelings weren't specific to just me.

I had to stay motivated, stay focused on my vision and take the actions necessary to see that vision through to the end.

"Just keep going, Kern."

I repeated that regularly throughout each day. Reminded myself that I wasn't going to be perfect, but if I put in the work, drowned out the other noise, and stayed completely committed to being the best writer possible, then I would eventually be successful.

Holiday Spirit

I know people think that when you have kids there’s this automatic kind of love that comes with it. And of course that’s true to some extent. But what I’ve noticed is that you actually fall in love with your children. As years go by and you watch them grow, you realize that all they really care about is the time you spend together. They actually don’t remember the gifts as much as they remember you being there to watch them open it, or the endless hours spent on the couch watching Home Alone. That time, that familiarity, that getting to know each other; that breeds the kind of love that can't be broken.

The holidays are different now. I’m happy to say I’m forging an amazing career as an author and freelance writer with the flexibility to spend as much time with my daughter as I want. I’ve also fictionalized our relationship from start to end in my debut novella “Thoughts of a Fractured Soul,” which I tell a story around the struggle of finding and maintaining ambition as a Millennial parent.

Her gifts are a bit different now, too. OK, a lot different. But to tell you the truth, she still really doesn’t care. All she wants is for me to be there. And whether I buy her colouring books or the new Huaraches, she smiles the same smile and the bond we’ve forged remains unbreakable through another holiday season.

#PassionAndPaper

More from me www.kerncarter.com

Get your copy of "Thoughts of a Fractured Soul," here.

 

 

 

Why The Heck Am I Watching Oprah

OK so it was one of those odd occasions where I had a few minutes during the day so I flicked on the TV and it magically landed on Oprah's "O" network. Please don't judge me too much LOL, and to my defense, my brother's wife was over so I feel somewhat justified in watching a segment or two. But talk about eye opening. From what I could tell, the guests on the show were all women who had finally ended their marriages. And I say finally because all of these women were unhappy, unfulfilled, and outright miserable in their marriage for years before finally ending it. I heard one woman say she had checked out of her marriage after the first ten years, but stayed with her husband for SEVEN MORE YEARS despite not feeling any emotion for him at all and herself being constantly unhappy.

Fear of change, maybe?

Can you imagine being stuck in a situation you hated for seven years? Having to wake up everyday and deal with that situation knowing you absolutely don't want to be there. Then I thought a little deeper and realized this is what so many people deal with every day. Not just with their spouses, but so many people hate their jobs, or hate the classes they're taking or their majors, hate where they live, and on and on and on.

And despite feeling deflated, hopeless, dejected, disconnected, and whatever other negative emotional adjective you can think of, they stay. And some stay in their situation for much longer than seven years. Now I don't want to sound insensitive or even ignorant. I know there are always mitigating circumstances and other factors to think about. In marriages, children are always a consideration; with jobs, finances and bills are always a consideration.

There's always something, right?

But that's just the point. There's always going to be something holding your feet to the fire. Some reason, real or manifested, that prevents you from getting out of a situation that's draining you of your energy and your soul on a daily basis.

At what point does that something disappear and your need for happiness take precedence?

Me personally, I protect my happiness at all costs. And not saying I haven't done jobs I've hated or been in bad relationships. But I've always had goals with any job I've worked with the vision that it was either a stepping stone or a necessary evil to get to where I am now. And with relationships, once I could look at myself in the mirror and say I've given it my best shot, that I've tried honestly and intently to make it work and it still isn't fulfilling my expectations, then I have to move on.

And I have a daughter, so I understand all the repercussions involved. But to me, it can be more psychologically damaging for a child to witness a loveless relationship than it can be to end that same relationship.

I'll leave with words from one of my favourite musicians:

"Leaving you is hard, being here is harder." Lana Del Rey

#PassionAndPaper

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Dealing with Expectation

I had a tough act to follow. Playing runner up to an older brother that excelled on the classroom and on the football field, earned a full athletic scholarship to Stanford University and then went on to play four years in the NFL was no small task. I remember the first time I got caught skipping class in high school. The first thing the teacher said while she ushered me to the office was "I don't expect this type of behaviour from you, Kern."  It’s a phrase I would hear countless amounts of time during my teenage years. At first I took it as a compliment; that my defiance against how I was supposed to behave in some strange way made me cool. And in high school, who doesn't want that title?
But as I matured and the opinions of my acquaintances mattered less and less, I learned how to handle that expectation. Actually, it went beyond that; I craved that expectation. I stole those preconceived ideas of me being intelligent and talented with a gift for expression and focused all of that into my passion for writing.

"EXPECTATIONS ARE DANGEROUS ONLY IF YOU LET OTHER PEOPLE CONTROL WHAT THOSE EXPECTATIONS SHOULD BE."

Now I had new standards, and instead of worrying about fitting in, I concerned myself with meeting the enormous expectations I placed on myself. Today the standards people place on me is not based on familial affiliations. Instead they are based on the standards I created for myself. The way I carry myself, the way I speak, the quality of my writing are all expectations people instinctively (seemingly) place on me only because I have placed them on myself.

 

Reflecting back I realize that expectations are dangerous only if you let other people control what those expectations should be. If you create your own standards, your own set of beliefs, and then live everyday by those measures, people will come to expect what you already demand of yourself. Meeting those demands..well that's another post.
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Website: www.kerncarter.com
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My book Thoughts of a Fractured Soul is available for purchase now at www.kerncarter.com in print or e-book format.

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