Finding one’s place is an ongoing job.

I’ve written a lot about my first visit to Disneyland, before I was 10, when I felt I’d discovered another world, where creativity and fantasy were made real (should I say instead lovingly faked?) by a team of designers, painters, storytellers, architects, and inventors. In other words, one of the gayest places imaginable, tied I guess with film and theatre, built on dreams of escaping the mundane and expressing some form of one’s true nature. Ideally with some sparkles, or at least a little black light paint.

Others were no doubt transported by different longings and wishes. But under it all, the reality I was trying to deal with was being attracted to men, the train wreck I think I could (subconsciously) see headed towards me. I could imagine no plausible path to adulthood where I was my true self. I didn’t think I would find a home in the world. So scared, unsure, awkward, yet so moved by artistic visions brought to life by others.

I did, of course, find my way forward. It wasn’t, in my privileged life, even all that difficult. I figured out how to be gay in Texas, then made my way to Berkeley, probably more running away than knowing what I was looking for. Still there was some feeling of “here I am, this is the place, these are the people.” I was so grateful to find a home. The seismic changes in culture over the last 40 years have made my memories of the dilemma feel almost quaint, though the conservative backlash in this country right now is a reminder of how real it was for me, and still is for many.

Zoom forward all these years, with our oldest kid looking at colleges (!), our youngest not so many years behind, and the prospect of that empty nest suddenly seems real, if not quite imminent. It will bring a flexibility for the two of us that we haven’t had raising kids. Our parents, almost all our older relatives, are gone. Only ourselves and our grown, hopefully frequently visiting kids to take into account.

For a long time this has been my home, and maybe there’s nothing that needs to change when the kids find new places in the world. I love being here, the landscape and the people. But I’m also older and grumpier. Traffic is stressful, everyone’s in a hurry. I’m less tied to the schools and school groups. I realize you can pick any old guy cliche and insert it here, it will probably describe me better and better as I age into my next self.

I guess life is always about reinventing. I grew up terrified of being an outcast and wound up a pretty mainstream gay dad. We knew how to raise drama geeks and learned to parent ballers.

As the kids figure out their young adult lives, find their homes in the world, once again we’ll have a chance to figure out ours. We’re adept and figuring this stuff out, and we will. It just snuck up so quickly.