My life in California was great. I had a great career, got to travel the world, made great friends, got married, had a baby, got divorced (that was not so great, but it was a long time ago and everything has worked out). Now I have returned home, with my (now) teenaged daughter in tow and we are remaking our lives in Texas.
We live in the suburbs. I wanted to live closer to downtown. I prefer city living and there are so many exciting things going on (like Bishop Arts and Trinity Groves), but the schools in the suburbs were just so much better, so we have settled in Richardson.
One of my daughter's observations after moving here, and this was coming from a girl born and raised in Southern California, who gamely (and bravely) agreed to make the trip with me back home, was that everyone here is "religious, racist and hates gays." It was a pretty heartbreaking thing to hear.
There are definitely some notable differences between the cultural climates here and in California, but I assured my daughter that Dallas is a big, progressive city that is culturally active and that it would be a mistake to judge the whole city solely on the impression made from the more insular and conservative suburbs.
I work near Downtown, in Oak Lawn, and I have been actively coming up with things for my daughter and I to do in the city, outside of the suburbs, to keep her experiences broad and diverse.
I would like to start meeting people here, adult people, to broaden my own experiences a little bit too. Looking for sharp, interesting people with similar values. Preferably no one who is (too) religious, racist or hates gays! :)
My daughter is eleven and next year she will be going into junior high. We are very close. Currently, we all live in Orange County.
I received the phone call while I was on my way to work. My ex-wife (I wish there was a more delicate way to put that, "ex-wife" sounds so abrasive and inadequate, but, whatever), my ex-wife said that she wanted to tell me first, before I heard it from my daughter.
Needless to say, that phone call really effed up my day. I couldn't concentrate. I couldn't imagine not being in my daughter's life. I cringed at the thought of being relegated to the familiar voice on the other end of the line who calls periodically to say, "I miss you and I love you."
I was sitting at my desk when a friend (and co-worker!) asked why I'd come in late, "Did you over sleep this morning? Too much Game of Thrones last night?"
"No," I told him, "I was on the phone with my ex-wife."
"Oh, ha, was she being high-maintenance?"
"No, it's not that..."
I couldn't get the words out of my mouth. It was still too fresh. I hadn't even fully processed everything yet. To say it out loud would have been so crushing. So real. I could feel the devastation rising in me.
"I'm sorry..." I stammered...
I stared straight ahead at my computer monitor and I finally managed to get out, "I just can't say it right now." He went back to his desk and I excused myself to the bathroom where I broke down.
People are pretty resilient, I suppose. Everyday the headlines are filled with people who have survived fates far worse than mine. Could I learn to adapt to a new life with my daughter, separated by a few hundred miles? Perhaps. But, could I ever really do without her?
At least I never want to.
I should add, since I have received several very nice and thoughtful messages of concern and support, that my daughter has decided to stay with me. We are looking for a new place in Costa Mesa, since I am currently in Santa Ana and need to move into her school district. The circumstances are not ideal, of course we would all prefer to keep the entire family close, but given the circumstances, I could not be happier.
Oh my gosh, this is obnoxious, but my daughter and I live in Dallas now.
By contrast, Dinosaurs ruled the Earth for over 165 million years. ONE-HUNDRED SIXTY-FIVE MILLION YEARS. Try to imagine life 165 million years from now.
In the unlikely event that humans continue to exist in any form at all after 165 million years, think of what the implications would be for recorded history.
Superstars like Tom Brady and Madonna are celebrated now and likely will be remembered for years to come. Luminaries like Thomas Edison and Abraham Lincoln will be remembered for generations. Singular, paradigm shifting personalities like Jesus and Einstein will be remembered for millennia. But who will be remembered in one million years? Who would be remembered in ONE HUNDRED MILLION years?
Let's suppose that Albert Einstein had the greatest impact on the course of human history over the last millennium, for argument's sake. And let's imagine that we could only pick one seminal figure from each millennium to venerate. So, Einstein from the last millennium, Jesus from the millenium before that and Julius Caesar from the millenium before that. That is three historical figures to represent three thousand years, sounds pretty manageable.
Now fast forward 165 million years and that number balloons to an unwieldy 165,000. To put that into perspective, there have been less than 50 American Presidents; if you can name them all that's great! Now imagine trying to remember 165,000 Jesus Christs and Einsteins. And that is to say nothing of all of the Abraham Lincolns, Martin Luther Kings, Moses, Buddhas, Gandhis, Francis Bacons, Leonardo DaVincis, Mohammeds, L. Ron Hubbards, Joseph Smiths and Justin Biebers that have been left out.
Stretched out far enough and given long enough eventually all personalities and accomplishments will become meaningless, especially given that time and the universe will invariably outlast human existence. One hundred sixty-five million years from now my life (and yours) will be completely indistinguishable from Mozart's or Shakespeare's or a fourth century Egyptian farmer's or probably even a grasshopper's or a banana's.
The Earth is about 4 billion years old and the universe (this universe) is approximately 14 billion years old. Eventually our sun will expire and our planet along with it (assuming it is still around). Humans will almost certainly have run their course long, long before any of this. Our universe ultimately will expand or contract into extinction.
It is not just that nothing will last forever, it is that there is no such thing as forever. Everything will end. Existence will be indistinguishable from non-existence. When all memory and record of existence have gone it won't just be gone it will have never been.
Honestly I don't spend a lot of time thinking about this. How could you? But, whenever I happen to catch myself thinking about it, slipping deeper into the hopelessness and despair of the thought (and the reality), I will look at my hand and see that it is moving. I notice how light is reflecting off of it and how it is covered in a tiny latticework of cracks and wrinkles. I open and close my fingers and know that I am controlling them. I recognize that I am walking back to my desk at the office or driving my car to pick up my daughter.
Self-awareness and the capacity to reason are exceedingly rare in our universe (insofar as we know). The dinosaurs never accomplished it in over 165 million years. In the history of our planet we are the only ones ever to have achieved it.
Maybe we don't exist. Perhaps nothing exists. Maybe we are just biding meaningless time until all that ever was ceases to be or ever have been.
For now I have the capacity to reason and the ability to consider myself and the universe and my place in it. I get to love and create and play and despair and experience and appreciate a myriad of emotions. I get to share and communicate and relate to other people just like me.
For whatever it is worth, this little sliver of space and time that we have been granted in our universe is special. If not for any other reason than the completely improbable fact that we are aware of it and so we are able to make it that way.
As long as we are here, we may as well enjoy it.
12/1/2015 Note to Self: I have an interesting idea for this section (to replace the content in this section). I need to make some time to work it out. Not sure how flattering it will be. :/