Write Away (part 2)


Sequels always suck. Well, maybe not always. But I have a feeling this ain’t going to be Godfather part 2. I almost ran out of time but it’s time to finally finish this post that grew quickly and say what I set out to say in that one. I know, all my posts drone on forever. They’re my posts. Grow up. (by the way, “grow up” is a phrase my friends and I adopted a while back as a catch-all, it almost never actually means what it says, I have to throw this caveat at basically every new person I meet).

In part one I wrote about, really, how insane I might be with my whole Truman Show thing. That was to be the entry point into more stuff which I will now attempt to word vomit in some coherent fashion. I should’ve written that idea, or psychosis, down and made a movie starring Jim Carrey and Ed Harris and been rich! I’ve always been known to enjoy writing. That should’ve been obvious. I worked on another book or screenplay or whatever for a bunch of years right after high school. It was about a girl, it’s me so of course, and I worked and worked and even met a semi-famous singer one night and told her my people would one day be contacting her about rights to these songs I would use in certain scenes if I could get it made into a film. Then one day a movie called Forrest Gump came out. I kind of wrote that, but without the awesome Gumpy historical stuff: Guy unrequitedly loves girl who keeps him as friend and basically strings him along, girl goes away to college, explores the world, etc, girl contracts a disease ( AIDS, for all intents and purposes), isolates herself from all her posh suburban friends, boy is the only one to stick around – often Duckie from Pretty in Pink style on a bike in front of her house, until one night she finally caves and lets him in, they get drunk and cry and have sex, he of course succumbs way quicker to the disease than she does and dies, but boy gives speech to girl about how worth it it was for just that one night, roll credits. Ok so obviously not exactly Gump without fixed found footage but I always just focused on the part where boy stays loyal, in both my thing and the Gump thing, that was more important than Tom Hanks hanging with John Lennon or whatever, so they were same, so garbage.

My other book idea did exactly what I worried it would, rather I did what I thought I would, which is outgrow it. I was going to write a book that was also a time machine. That was the idea. It was to be a book to and for my children but written from the perspective of an idealistic kid who was not yet changed by the trevails of parenthood. Like “cool” me talking to them before I ever yelled at them for doing anything that cool me would have been ok with. I would talk about partying and have “the talk” and the importance of being weird and allowing art to enrapture you. But I did not and now that guy, that particular author, is gone forever.

That idea definitely sprang from my love of writing as well as my changing station in life. At the time I was in the beginning stages of stay at home dad mode. I had no idea yet what I wanted to be when I grew up. And I was very much not grown up. So besides the idea coming from those places it seemed to me to be the best idea I could come up with for providing for my new family. Write something that, when someone was expecting or a kid was graduating, would be the go-to book one would pick up as a gift. Brilliant. And my kid would go to college. I’ve been worried about that since the term “ultrasound” was reintroduced to my lexicon. How am I going to possibly do this?

To say I am not a money guy is an understatement. I don’t value it. I don’t care about it in myself or others. But I get it, I have children. In my head I have that ongoing argument that money should be spent creating memories. Moments. Experiences. For my first solo tax return I bought a car for us because duh. It’s not fancy, it’s eco-friendly, good on gas, and reliable for the constant constant constant driving around I do with the kids. The next year I said screw it and the kids and I had the summer of our lives. We went away on a short excursion, and hit every concert that tickled our fancies. We mapped out a summer of us and it was amazing. Last year I finally joined this sportsman’s club we visit because a friend is a member. It is an hour south and amazing. I do not hunt but we camp and I could spend a paragraph listing all the features that make the expenditure worth it but the bottom line is the kids love it. And now it’s ours. After a big entry fee the dues are doable and it’s ours.

Here’s the thing – I live in my beautiful and generous aunt’s basement. With the kids when I have them. I don’t know how to do this. This being a single parent 2nd year teacher guy. Not emotionally, and certainly not financially. I get that I just laid out big ticket spending based on my yearly tax returns. But also, we finally sold the house at some point this year, it was months ago, anywhere from 5 months ago to a year, I’m bad at remembering stuff like that. Anyways, after that I had in my possession more money than I ever have. The idea from all around was that I was to now finally buy a place. Awesome! So I tried. I was about 8 grand short of putting a downpayment on literally anything that would allow for mortgage payments to be affordable for me on a monthly basis at my pay rate. I gave almost exactly that amount out of my share to the kids’ mom and the buyers because of some legality I didn’t understand. At least I then had some perspective on how buying a place would go. Cool.

That money is now gone. That makes me feel really, really pathetic. I bought nothing for me. I still 100% shop at Goodwill for all my clothes. I always have. Except for underwear which omg why are they so expensive?!?! All it meant was for all those months I didn’t have to “borrow” money from anyone. Because even living at my aunt’s, my paychecks don’t cut it. I have no idea how that is possible. We do have to eat out from time to time because everything the kids do is centrally located in Woodridge and to go back to my aunt’s and make something and then get to practice or games or whatever is literally not feasible. I feel like I’m still getting slipped cash by my grandma or friends at least once a month when bills come due and I don’t get it.

Every once in a while I will splurge and get the 7.99 grocery store sushi instead of the 4.99 stuff which I do maybe once a week. Otherwise it’s yogurt for breakfast, fruit, popcorn, and jerky in my desk to keep me going during the day, and a can of soup for lunch. When I do have to take the kids to Panera or even Taco Bell to grab food I order nothing for myself and eat what they do not. When I do eat dinner it usually is some mustard squeezed on lunchmeat I sometimes remember to pick up. A lavish lifestyle I do not live. I am a teacher. Basically a first year teacher. And I can’t figure out how to do this. Half of you are like “loser” in your heads, it’s ok, I get it. I feel it and I understand.

I coach so that “free time” is gone but it’s for the kids. My time with them has been reduced from 100% to 50% when I’m lucky so getting a job I have to perform when with them takes more time from them. That said, teaching requires tons and tons of time outside of the bells to do right so, since when I have them it’s just me and them I try to limit the time spent working to focus on them, which means my “free” time is spent on work. Like, my actual job. So the money I get from what I do is the money I have. People don’t get why I’m still at my aunt’s. I still don’t, exactly. But I just re-upped my pay as you earn thing on my student loans (which may or may not be financially screwing me in the long run, no idea) and it went up sixty bucks. So that’s fun.

So I make what I do. Money is not the reason we do this job. When I first set out to become this it was supposed to be some pretty solid supplementary income. Not stand alone with 3 kids and make a living income. Now I look for places and all I can “afford” are studio apartments. For 4 of us. And that means not being able to send kids to Washington DC with their class as I was able to with my eldest, or paying upwards of 2 grand for my middle guy to continue playing travel ball. No chance. No 7.99 sushi from a grocery store ever, either. I don’t need to have a social life, at all, I just need to give my kids what I think they deserve. A studio apartment will take up very close to HALF of my monthly income. Half. And then my other bills. I can’t even get a bedroom let alone the 2 or 3 we should have. So, what? I say hey kids no more baseball or, like, eating beyond ramen, and yes we are technically in one room now (the two littles literally sleep on a mattress on the floor with me, I sleep on a mattress on the floor. At 41. With 3 kids. Winning.) but we should move and take away half our income to rent a place so we have our own one room to live in because that’s what we’re supposed to do. Awesome. And that right there is the rub. I’m writing all of this and putting it out there. I don’t care how people see me. Truth is truth. But I am in constant fear that my children will start to see me, or even worse maybe, remember me, as a loser in a basement. I can only hope they see that I do it for them. I hope they see me always trying my hardest for them. I care how they see me and I care how they remember me. It’s complex, I know. They will grow up smart and solid. Hopefully that will help them remember me with kindness during this time, during their one childhood. And if it doesn’t? At least they have grown to be smart and solid, in the end that’s really what matters.

No this is not a rant session and yes I know you can now see why I had to split this into two parts. It should have probably been 3 or 4 parts. It should probably never have been written but here we are. This is me laying out my possible solution, finally, to this messed up situation I am obviously not equipped to figure out. I think I’m going to write a book. I think that by just typing that out, by law, I now have to. So I can give my kids the more they deserve. Because right now they are not going to college and that would kill me. Way, way, way more than the embarrassment of everything I just laid out about my pathetic everything and nothing. I get that anyone with a brain and an eye for good writing who is somehow still reading this rambling mess is saying “no. dude, no. i get that you enjoy writing and all, but you are not a ‘writer’.” Ha, believe me I get that. This is not the result of my friends and family who who are not used to long winded thoughts strung together by normal people and see my way too long facebook diatribes (shocker, right?) saying I should write a book. I’ve never written a publishable sentence in my life and I know that. But I also know I have a story. Full circle – it’s why I still bring up the Truman Show craziness. I mean, I know lots of people do too. Have crazy lives filled with twists and turns. But this one is mine and I’ve had lots and lots and lots of time to try and make sense of it and I still think it is unbelievably incredible, inexplicable fiction ready to be written. I think, the way I have considered packaging it, that my story will sell. That’s the point. Full, full circle. Turn it into a better life for them. One I cannot mathematically provide now.

I may still bite the bullet on the studio apartment thing if I can somehow find an under the table summer job that works. This is the first summer I will be paid for by my district. So I don’t know where exactly this plan will go down but I think I maybe spend this summer, when I’m not with the kids, writing my book. The point is not to have a publishable thing by August. If you’re reading this or anything I’ve written you know that’s not possible, ha. But it’s like I tell my students when coaching them to write long on word vomiting their first drafts – just think about it as producing a big piece of marble to be chiseled into a masterpiece. Even I’m not egotistical enough to believe I have a block of marble in me that can be massaged into a masterpiece. But my story with the packaging I have in mind…in this world? Maybe I can trick something into existence someday. Maybe. Once I get that marble on the page I can spend years working on it, editing and such. Maybe.

A summer filled with me writing, trying to give the kids fun, coaching, and still working out. A summer where, besides the working out, I don’t care how I look. Let my work d-bag too much product hair grow and be wild, same with my beard. It’ll be good to take a break pretending I want to Bird of Paradise anyone by trying to look purty. The only one I want to impress can’t even see me now anyways, but I will keep working out so a quick cut n shave if my invisibility status finally changes can make me at least presentable. And I just do the thing. Make it happen. Why not, right? Why not write?

6 thoughts on “Write Away (part 2)

  1. Uhh…… Yes! Consider this comment an official, legally binding pre-order of whatever literary masterpiece you decide to create. I am so excited for you (and selfishly, excited to get more writing out of Mr. Hren). Proud of you.
    P.S….if you ever need an editor…..


  2. Your voice, with its honest angst and quiet optimism, comes through in lines like:
    “word vomit in some coherent fashion…now that guy, that particular author, is gone forever… I don’t know how to do this…But this one is mine and I’ve had lots and lots and lots of time to try and make sense of it… [ and my favorite] Why not, right? Why not write?”
    You are a writer, and every time you click the little blue button in the top right corner, you are published. I hope you find that the life you envision is already right (write) in front of you.


  3. I love Goodwill! When I was a smaller gal. I would buy all of those Banana Republic dress pants and shirts…just so I could feel rich with someones hand me downs. You are very talented. Don’t stop writing. This summer will be great.


  4. You kids will only ever see you as the best dad ever! I have gone through so many of those money thoughts too and it’s so frustrating, but hang in there. I think you should 100% write; you are so talented and you voice should be heard. I’ll be sad when the SOL is over and I won’t get to read your brilliant words anymore.
    P.S. Underwear are oddly expensive- I have had this conversation twice with one of my friends and it just baffles us every time!


  5. I disagree. That guy, that author with that book idea, he still exists. I’ve been reading him, yo. He’s here already. And that is a phenomenal book idea. I have an essay form of one. Just a back and forth between my husband and I on all the musts they need to know about staying happy forever. It’s totally morbid like a deathbed letter to our sons, but whatever, it’s there. I say write the damn thing. It would be funny if you wrote it from both perspectives – the younger, cooler version and the older, wiser guy. Like a conversation between two you’s. I’d read it for sure… You do have me interested in your fiction story though. Sounds epic. Perfect for NaNoWriMo if you’re ever interested in going that route. One month – 50,000 words. It’s not as hard as it seems, really. 🙂

    BTW, didn’t read your previous musings on The Truman Show but just watched it with my son a week ago. It was his first time and he loved it. It was my umpteenth time and I every time I forget what a solid concept it was until it’s over. Makes me cry too. Could TOTALLY be a future Black Mirror ep, but way more disturbing.


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