I didn’t know it then, not really until I was much older, but from a very early age fatherhood saved my life.
I had a pretty average, American upbringing. Nothing too extravagant and certainly not impoverished. I’d venture so far as to call it normal, but what is “normal” anyway. Yours is different than mine is different from my next door neighbors’.
In the 80s, my dad uprooted us from New York and replanted us in Arizona. He took a job at McDonnell Douglas as a database administrator and later went on to a decades long career in telecommunications at one of the leading colleges in the state before retiring last year.
Suffice it to say, I get my affinity for tech and tech systems from that guy. And I couldn’t be more grateful for that truth.
It was my dad who always fostered a curiosity in me to be an early adopter of technology. He made it trivial that I was a girl interested in computers and the mechanics of both hardware and software when the field was suppressing women in the space at breakneck speeds. Instead he welcomed the interest I had in personal computers the size of mini fridges and how to code a website.
I don’t think many people could have predicted the level of prominence that technology would have on our society as a whole. Deep down inside, I’m pretty sure my dad had a crystal ball he kept hidden in the dresser next to his collection of spandex bike shorts.
My dad wasn’t all digital all the time. Every year we would take a very analog, summer journey on a weeks long road trip. Sure he’d print and bind workbooks for my sisters and me to complete along the mapped course, but you can’t fault a man on a weeks long road trip with three girls.
Not only did he save me from falling into the stereotypical life story of a suburban woman, he also saved me from boredom.
As I left the protective bubble of living at home with my parents and the safety of a school schedule to pursue my interests, I felt equipped and confident to venture into something that combined my curiosities with technology.
My career has shaped me in many ways. What most don’t know is that while I’m unabashedly hilarious, that personality trait is secondary to my technical brain. This primary characteristic helps to define my brand of comedy and sense of humor. I fine tune the jokes by spending more time being analytical so I can craft the perfect thing to say or meme to make or video to produce.
It jettisoned me square into my gig programming and promoting radio where I would meet the man who quite literally saved my life.
While choosing the hottest alt rock tunes to grace the ears of Phoenicians with their dials tuned to 103.9 FM, I met the man who would become the father of my child.
For nine years, I bore and we reared an amazing son before I succumbed to the darkest corners of my mental illness. I became suicidal. And I shared it with my partner. He has always been one of the most composed, analytical assessors I’ve ever known. Never one to vibrate high, raise his voice, or, for lack of a better term, freak the fuck out, he listened when I shared.
And then he gave me the second greatest gift he could ever give me: he encouraged me to admit myself to a psych ward.
He made sure I was surrounded by my family, he made sure our son was taken care of so as not to be exposed to what initially was a very traumatic reaction by me to the encouragement, and he carried the load while I committed to my recovery, out of state, for eight months following my time in the hospital.
Through my journey, an unexpected community rallied around me. I had dipped my toe into the world of fatherhood online and made some friends who felt like home. Like we had never not known each other. And this community has only expanded since.
Over the years, my mental illness has caused some drifting. But with each ebb, the flow when I peek my head back through to the surface, after the waves have crashed all around me, the fathers in my life, now easily in the hundreds, have been a beacon and a foundation. A place where I always feel safe to be myself.
It is without fathers in my life that I would be lost.
Hell, I may not even be here at all.
So I raise a glass to the fathers who directly saved my life. And I raise another to those who may not have a clue their impact on my continuing story.