Dear Apollo — A Reflection on 2021

As I sit here in the warmth of our friends home in Michigan, I’m struck by one thing — I must write. But about what I do not know. Not yet. So I’ll let the keyboard guide me.

Perhaps it’s my age, lack of caffeine, or fuzzy mind from all the travels. Whatever the reason, as I sit here sipping a warm cup of coffee staring out at the suburban Christmas lights that illuminate melted pockets of snow I know that I must write. Because even now I can feel the end of the year stripping back the memories of 2021 to make room for the next. What a pity.

Unlike last year, highlights from this year look different. It’s not so much concrete milestones and accomplishments as it is a collection experiences that combined created a year of transformation. Here are a few that easily come to mind.

  • The pandemic continues — but by now it’s something we’ve begun to learn to live with.
  • I discovered new worlds — reading overtook my evenings as I filled my mind once more with magic and legend.
  • Travel returned — and with it the joy of friends, and family, and the aches and pain of costs — not simply monetary.
  • A year of introspection and reflection — a challenging yet amazing experience of examining my own self for once.
  • A year of grieving — of learning to process the inevitable pain of change and age.
  • The shift from me, to your mother — what dreams does she have which have yet to be unlocked?

As with last year I continue to find myself so extraordinarily blessed, and in truth this brings tears to my eyes. But unlike the last year, they flow more freely. I hide from the less, for they are tears of joy, and of happiness. Why shouldn’t I let them flow? What do I have to be afraid of? I see the world around us now with a renewed hope for what has yet to come; for what will be and for what can be. What a difference a year can make?

Now let’s not kid ourselves, the world isn’t fully just sunshine and rainbows, for when the night arrives it can be dark and cold, but there is potential. There is the inevitable sunrise to seek out. Life abounds. Life thrives. Life lies in wait, to spring forth in all its magnificences. Life lives in everything around us and gives us potential. And for that reason I am excited for what will come in 2022. I hope you are too.

So let me share with you a bit of what I learned this year. Again with the hope that you can learn from my journey, to help guide you when you are old enough to strike out on your own.

I can still learn. School in truth is relatively easy. It is linear to a degree. You read a book, take a test, finalize a project, and submit it. Congratulations you have now learned the subject you desperately needed to know. But when you are finished with school, learning can be a real challenge. What is there that is pushing you to grow, evolve, and stretch? What is there that is driving you to do?

Well, in my case there is you and your mother. I set out this year to consistently improve. Though in truth I didn’t quite know at first that meant learning more about me, then it did about you or her.

When I first started in at this whole fathering and husband thing, I didn’t know what I was doing. But I was confident that I could learn quickly, and that it would be alright. As a husband I’d reckon it did my homework and was able to keep up — ish (#hubris) over the past 6 years… but then you decided to take it upon yourself to grow as fast as you could, and I found myself struggling to keep up. I knew that I could become a better father, but in the real world books, tests, projects… they all fall apart. So where could I turn? Where could I go to learn how to be a husband and father?

By seeking out old wise dudes who had done it before and talking… listening… and being nothing short of vulnerable and open about the life I’ve lived, and the passion for the future that I so desperately want to manifest.

Little did I know that what I had in store for me this year would become a wildly winding adventure with no end. But the destination doesn’t matter, cause in the end what are we besides dust and bones?… no, it’s the journey that matters. And on my journey, I’ve learned that I can still learn. That in itself is brilliant.

I’ve learned my life’s purpose, and with it I’ve found peace.

“I exist to make intentional contributions through problem-solving analysis and creative storytelling.”

I’ve learned my role as a husband, and with it found immeasurable joy.

“I exist to up-lift, support, and empower Natalie to be the best possible version of herself that can be.”

I’ve learned my role as a father, and with it realized how little I know.

“I exist to nurture, care and help enable your big dreams to become a reality, and for you to know immeasurably more than I ever will.”

My Opus Gloria:

“Josh brought me joy and empowered me to dream.”

Sounds pretty good right? Well in all these things I’ve only scratched the surface. If I sound vague within this letter it’s only half intentional because otherwise I’d be here all night. The other half… well that’s something else… maybe you can call it writers block?

Another time, I promise I’ll write at length about my discoveries.

I learned about the pain of the past. One thing though that I will focus on is the pain of my past. In truth I don’t recall much. I mastered the art of forgetting. Of burying the hurt. I don’t really have a coping mechanism for pain, rather I choose to become distracted by work and ignore it.

But my past haunts me. It’s a ghosted shadow sitting on the ledge of my left shoulder whispering sweet melodies in my ears that stick with a poisonous sweetness. It tells me that I’m not good enough. It tells me that you could never forgive me. It tells me that I am not the father I should be. My past is a pain that I’ve uncovered and begun to examine more closely than ever before. I don’t like what I’ve found, but I must continue to look, to understand what I am and realize the full potential of who I can become.

What is severe for me, is not for others, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. And the hurt cuts deep. I pray in your future you learn to face your fears, and hurt, and to cope with it in a healthier fashion than I did. It will likely be years before I can fully scrape the crusty remains of decaying skeletons from behind my eyes, and even more before I can see in true 20/20.

4238 Ivy lane. I lost my home. More than my home. I lost my grandfather’s freedom this year to the crime of age. It was years ago that lost my grandmother to deaths foul grip… oh how I wish you could have met her Apollo, I believe you would’ve brought her the same joy you do to me. What I wouldn’t give to see her aged lips curl into a small smile at the sight of you bouncing through the house.

But 4238 Ivy Lane… what is it if not just four walls? It was my safe heaven in my youth. It was a fortress in my time of need. A place I ran to as a steadfast representation of peace in a tumultuous childhood rocked by moments of incredible change.

I could write at length about 4238 Ivy Lane. In fact I should write about 4238 Ivy Lane. I could tell you stories of fresh home-cooked meals, of adventures in the forest slaying imaginary foes, of endless hours of yard work, and never ceasing cleaning. I could tell you stories of music, of joy, of love. I could tell you so much about my time at 4238 Ivy Lane. I promise that I soon will.

But right now I am weak. Even the thought of my old home tugs at my heart strings threatening to sap me of joy and replace it with sorrow. I mustn’t give in. Just know that I lost my childhood home, and with it so very much more. And because I still have no coping mechanism I’ll change the subject.

Clearly there is work left for me to do. Things left for me to learn. My promise to you over the coming year is that I will do my best to keep learning.

Tomorrow is a new day. It’s the start of a new year. A year full of potential. And like last year I am optimistic about the future. Like last year I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I know that we will be together as a family, and that excites me.

I’ve watched over this past year as your personality has developed a rich deepness. As you’ve begun to form opinions, develop beliefs, and let your imagination take flight. It’s exhilarating. It’s frightening. It’s wonderful.

Apollo there are adventures that you’ve yet to have. So many things you have yet to see and do. I’m just so darn stoked to be able to share some of them with you and watch the sheer amazement spread across your face as you soak it all in.

To reflect upon the year 2021, is to see the potential for learning, for growth and for discovery of the potential of life in the next year and beyond. It is to ride the changes and translate experiences to words through speech to others with honestly that is hard. To look back on 2021 is to understand the cost of change, and look forward to a new day with excitement for what comes next.

Dear Apollo, here’s to 2022. May it be one of the top 4 years of your life. May you awake each day and may you say— I’m exciting to see what I learn today. Dream big little man.

With Love,
Your Father.

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Product Designer @ Meta

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Josh Nelson

Josh Nelson

Product Designer @ Meta

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