I’ve been writing a proposal for the Long-Distance Dad book — for which this blog has been a working diary and draft, along with hundreds of pages of chats, images and other stuff. I have plenty of resources, but to be useful in telling a story that information must rest on a strong thematic framework. Defining that critical element is a little more tricky.
In an earlier iteration of the proposal written a couple years ago — when I was deep in the day-to-day rollercoaster with Mtuseni — the framework was focused on how his life was changing with my help. But now that Mtuseni is more self-sufficient, my involvement is less intensive and consuming. While adjusting to this empty virtual nest has been tough, I now have enough distance to get a bird’s eye view of the experience. And what I am realizing is how much this has changed me… something that I never anticipated.
Just before connecting with Mtuseni, I had been unsatisfied with my life for some time — actually for a loooong time. Feeling adrift, bored, unfulfilled, disconnected, lost. I had finally succumbed (again) to the old standby of going back to school, but the two programs I started never lit my fire. At middle age, how do you transform yourself? I was close to throwing a dart at a world map and just moving wherever it landed; I needed a monster reset button.
To this day, I cannot recall exactly how I stumbled on the nonprofit that matched me with Mtuseni. Surely it was the result of hopscotching topics through the Internet, a favorite procrastination tactic. Existentially bored and craving some wildly new experiences, connecting online with a kid in South Africa sounded interesting… but not much more. Most of my brain was focused on choosing an MBA program.
And here we are, five years later. I have a long-distance son who’s months away from finishing college — and my single semester of MBA tedium is a distant and fading memory. And as my energies from shaping Mtuseni’s life path shift to crafting a new path for myself, I start that journey as a very different person. I am not who I was five years ago; being Mtuseni’s dad has changed me. The existential reset button has been pushed. And all because of something that caught my eye and I pursued on a whim.
There are so many crazy, almost scary similarities and coincidences between me and Mtuseni that I often think that fate brought us together. On some energetic level our paths were destined to cross. And that makes me think of a quote from Rumi that I have on my office wall: “What you seek is seeking you.” It reminds me that when we desire something important in our life, the universe is waiting, ready to meet us halfway. Sometimes you don’t even need to try so hard to get what you want. You just have to watch for when the universe cracks open a door — and be willing to walk through before it closes.
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