parenthood

Father's Day

"When one has not had a good father, one must create one." - Friedrich Nietzsche 

    The clock on my laptop has just rolled over to 12:00, which means it is officially Father's Day. This is a holiday I've not had to give much thought to until now. I've been wrestling all day with what really isn't a big deal for most people- do I call my father? I mean how do you wish a happy Father's Day to someone who was supposed to be your father, but never really was?

    There's a good to fair chance I'm making a mountain out of this mole hill, but this is one of those things that no one tells you you'll have to think about after you've made the decision to find and meet your father. Do I call him? Do I text him? Do I just do nothing? These have been the questions I've been asking myself everyday this week. One of the things I have to keep reminding myself is that I'm the one who did this. I decided to open the door, and I'm worried I may not be as prepared to actually walk through it as I thought. At this point, I've already done the hard part. I made contact. That's HUGE!! I don't think I've truly given myself enough credit for that.

    It would have been so much easier to go through life angry, and rightly so. It would have been so much easier to go through life curious, with all these questions, never knowing the answers. Well now I know, and as they say, knowing is half the battle. I've chosen to go with door number three, and now I have to live with that choice. So whether it's the car, or the goat, it's mine now. 

    I think I've just solved my own problem. Thank you for reading along through my thought process. I know these blogs have recently been few and far between, but I don't want to just write for the sake of writing. If I don't feel like I have anything to say, then I won't say anything, but my hope is that these entries can help even just one person who's going through what I am. 

    With all that in mind; if you have a father, wish him a happy Father's Day, tell him you love him, and know that you are lucky to do so. As for me, I think I'm going to text my mine. I'm also going to text every father figure I've had, because unlike sons, fathers are not born, but made. And I've made some pretty great fathers over the years. 

Twenty-Six

"When you're 26, you can do anything." - Norman Lloyd

    Twenty-six is by no means a monumental birthday. At 26, you wake up, go to work, and maybe go to dinner. Turning 26 isn't special, unless it is. Well, it is for me. Here's why...

    November 13, 2017 - I'm at Sky Harbor in line at Starbucks, ready to return home after the most emotional week of my life. I get a text message and look down at my phone. It's my father. 

    "Is that your dad?", Caleb (Assistant Director) asks, ready to start shooting. "No, it's my mom", I lied. I wanted these last moments back in Arizona to be just for me. I didn't even open the message for a few minutes. It wasn't until I was in line to board the flight that I read it. 

    Four words. Four words that made me empathetic towards my father for the first time. Four words that left me speechless. 

When is your birthday?

    So yes, this typically unspectacular birthday, for me, is special. It's the first year my father wished me a "happy birthday". It's the first year he even knew when it was. I'm releasing my first film. I'm doing my first radio show. I'm planning my first press tour. I'm working on starting my first non-profit. 

    I think every year can be special. Every year can be full of "firsts". I know it's cliché, but life is what you make it. Don't wait for your birthday, or New Year's to make something happen for yourself. Go out everyday and work harder, and learn more, and love better, and create fearlessly.     

5 Things I'm Keeping For My Kids

“You don't remember what happened. What you remember becomes what happened.” - John Green

    You see, I’m not one for sentiments. I own very little, I’m quick to get rid of “non-essentials”, and am what most would consider a minimalist. Recently though, I’ve found myself holding onto things I would normally throw out. I am certain this has stemmed from meeting my father for the first time, so here are 5 things that I’m keeping for my son.

1. Every Old Notebook

    I’m lucky enough now to be a professional musician/music director, but I spent most of my teens and early twenties playing in bands and writing songs. I have notebooks full of half-written songs, and some of them are just awful, but that’s something I think I’ll want my kids to have. It’s great that I’m much more polished now, but there’s something special about the beginning stages of any art form, in that you’re bad… Really bad. But anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first.

2. My First Guitar

    It’s not great. it’s an old, bare-bones, Epiphone Les Paul, but it’s what I learned on. I played it at the first show I ever booked, and to this day it’s in my mom’s basement. It doesn’t hold much of a tune anymore, and I haven’t played it in probably 8 years, but it was what started me on the path to becoming the musician I am today.

3. Clothes

    As I said before, I’m a bit of a minimalist. I have four black t-shirts, one pair of jeans, a red flannel (as a musician, that’s a requirement), and two jackets. There’s something special though, I think, to being able to give my son the denim jacket that I wore basically everyday for years. It’s not much, but I know I wish I had something like that from my dad.

4. High School Memorabilia 

    I’ve moved at least once a year since I graduated high school, and every time I bring with me a box of crap from high school; letter pins, trophies, awards, etc. My mom told me that I’d want to keep that kind of stuff to give to my kids, and to be honest, I didn’t believe her until a few weeks ago. I know now that I’ll never get rid of that box.

5. Memories

    This is the biggest thing I wish I had of my father. We’re on a path now of trying to figure out what a relationship looks like and how to start over, but I’ll never have my own memories of him. I’ll always never have grown up with him. There will always be this long period of time in his life that I was never a part of. I don’t ever want my kids to feel that way. 

 

   These are just a few, primarily material things I’ll keep for my kids. What will you keep for yours?

3 Reasons I Made A Documentary 

"Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home." - Matsuo Basho

 

Why did I decide to make a film about meeting my father, and not simply meet him? Why include the additional stress of hiring a crew, and raising funding, and drag through the editing process? This is why…

1. I Needed Community

    I’ve thought of doing this for years. I’ve tossed the idea around of meeting my father for as long as I can remember. Right up until the moment I called him, I had wondered what I would say to him. If you’re someone who grew up not knowing your mom or dad, I’m sure you’ve thought the same things. I knew myself well enough to know that I needed a community of support, people who had my back every step of the way, before I could push myself to go through with picking up the phone and actually calling him.

    As soon as I had the idea back in April, I immediately launched social media sites to get the word out. I needed people all over to know that I was attempting to do the hardest thing I’d ever done. Had it not been for everyone who supported me, and asked questions about how it all would happen, I may never have met him.

2. This is Bigger Than Me

    I’ve stated many times over the last few months that this isn’t just my story. Forty-three percent of my generation will have grown up in single parent homes, and I’d never really seen a film like the one I was trying to make. I only knew of one person who had actually reached out to their estranged parent. So for better or worse, I knew that I had the motivation, means, and crew to tell this story; to tell our story. 

    First time documentary filmmakers don’t stand to make a lot of money. I knew that going into this, but it was more important to me that this story simply be told. I wanted to tell my story, as well as the story of so many others like me. 

3. To Showcase Grace and Forgiveness

    I know too many people who’ve had similar upbringings to mine, that spend their whole lives angry and bitter and are never able to move on with their lives. I know how hard it is to always wonder “what could have been”. I also know that you can be happy and successful and fulfilled; even with a part of you missing. 

    The intent was never to give parents who weren’t a part of their child’s lives a pass, nor to tell the kids in this situation to suck it up and get over it. Instead, I wanted to show anyone who’s been through what I and so many others have, that forgiveness is possible. It’s not easy. It took me years and years to move from anger to forgiveness.

    Who knows, maybe my father doesn’t deserve forgiveness for not being a part of my life, but that’s where grace comes in. The beauty of grace is it’s unrelenting unfairness to those who receive it. Grace isn’t getting what you deserve, and forgiveness gives you permission to let go.

 

    I do not yet know what impact this film will have. I hold firmly to the belief that if even just one person sees it, and is able to find reconciliation, then it will all have been worth it. I know it was worth it for me. 

This Is for You

   “It is a wise father that knows his own child.” - William Shakespeare

 

    When I was 25 years old, I met my father for the first time. I felt like there was an enormous amount of pressure because not only was it the hardest thing I’ve ever convinced myself of doing, but I also decided to film its happening and make a documentary of it. While I wouldn’t recommend filming a major life event like that, I know that for me, it was the only way I would have been able to push myself to do it. 

    This blog; this manuscript; this amalgamation of words and ideas; this is for you. This is for your son, your daughter, your mother, your father, or your friend. This is for anyone who has ever been abandoned or felt abandoned. This is for the kids who stay up late at night wondering what they did wrong. This is for the parent who wishes they could make things right. This is for you. This is for me.

    When I first had the idea to tell this story, I was on a flight back from Los Angeles. As usual when I fly, I was listening to a podcast. This one was different from the typical comedy podcasts I listen to though. This was about filmmaking. They were discussing the keys to making great films, and said, “If you want to make a film that people want to see. I mean really want to see. Find a story that you can see yourself in. Stories worth telling are those that reflect real life. Reality is the best story.” At the time, I had no idea that this quote would change my life forever. 

    Now why write a blog about the process of making a documentary of finding my father? Because long before I started filming, I started reading. I scoured the internet to find any tips or advice about how one goes about this journey. I had joked with a friend of mine of how there was no “how-to” book about how to meet your father for the first time. While I may not be an experienced writer, I have experienced firsthand the rollercoaster of emotions that goes along with a life-altering event like this. In some ways, I feel as though I have an obligation and a duty to help the millions of people like me who share in this same experience. At the very least, maybe this will help those who’ve contemplated, some maybe for years, what this experience may feel like. 

My name is Marcus Lee, and this is my story.