Who am I?
Working with the Loudoun Education Foundation is extremely rewarding but it also give me the opportunity to attend some very special events. One of those special events I was able to attend was the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation 2017 Scholars Weekend Reception and Dinner Banquet. For those of you who don’t know, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation supports exceptionally promising students from elementary school to graduate school through scholarships, grants, and direct services. The Jack Kent Cooke Foundation provides the largest scholarships in the nation to approximately 235 students annually with awards that may reach as much as $40,000 annually. Each year these students, as well as former scholars, are invited to attend a scholars weekend which includes a banquet to honor their accomplishments.
This year I was honored to attend. The event is extraordinary with speakers, awards, grants, and a keynote speaker that in years past have included US Secretary of Education John King, Retired US Army four-star General Colin Powell, and Rev. Jesse Jackson. This year the speakers were Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under Barack Obama, Julian Castro, and his twin brother, Congressman Joaquin Castro. While they were riveting to hear, the more impressive part of the event was talking with the 10 current high school and college kids that were sitting at my table.
Not that I know a ton of kids that age, but I was very impressed at how well they communicated with each other and with me. The kids were thrown at a table with strangers from around the country and they chatted as if they had known each other for years. It was very cool to watch.
All of this introduction was to get to one question that was asked of me at the dinner. One of the young ladies looked at me, read my name tag, and said, “Mr. Clark, who are you?” After going with the sure-fire dad joke and, in my opinion accurate representation of me, I replied “My name is Wes. Mr. Clark is my father.” Waka Waka. Then I started to tell them about being a CPA and my work in accounting and with the Loudoun Education Foundation.
After my two-ish minute recap the girl (I say girl and not woman only because of her age which I would say was 18 at the most. No disrespect intended) she looked me dead in the eyes and said, “No, what I mean is who are you? Not what do you do?”. That struck me. Not only is it a very interesting question but it also showed an incredible mindset. For so long my work-life has ingrained a natural response to answer a question like “Who are you?” with a recap of my professional credentials. However, this kid didn’t care that I was an accountant. At the time I responded with some stuff about being married, having a kid, and even showed off this blog a bit but it wasn’t really in-depth. The question did get me thinking about “Who am I?” and what is the real answer to that question. What is really important in my life? What do I want people to know about me? I thought about that and the next time someone asks me, “Who are you?” these are the things I’ll want them to know.
1. I’m a dadda. I thought long and hard about what I wanted to say first because, well, anyone can be a father but not everyone is a dad. Becoming a father is a simple act of human nature. Evolution has seen that a father is required in order to procreate. However, a father is not required to raise a child. You become a dadda (or a dad, or a mom, or momma, or whatever loving name your kid learns) when you sleep on the floor of your kids bedroom because the kid is sick. You become a dadda when you give her a bath and play dinosaurs at night. You become a dadda when you happily take her to ballet class and do all the dancing with her. You become a dadda when you want to and love to spend time with your kid. Any schmuck can have unprotected sex and wind up being someone’s father. It takes real balls to be a dadda. And I know I have those balls because my kid has treated them like a speed bag on more than one occasion. I’m a dadda.
2. I’m a partner. When I started drafting this post I had originally written in my notes that “I’m a husband.” However, as I was writing the part about being a dadda I came to the conclusion that just like any schmuck can be a father, any schmuck can be a husband. How many drunken buffoons have said “I do” in front of an officiant in a tiny little chapel on the Las Vegas strip? How many of those father’s from number 1 above tied the knot because they happened to get a woman pregnant but they had no real intention of raising a kid or staying together?
But a partner is someone that works in a relationship in tandem with their significant other. Rizzo and I work together to raise Cece and to enjoy life together. We share the responsibilities of our home and we share the enjoyment of each other’s company. There is no one that I would rather do household chores with and there is no one I’d rather go out with to grab a beer.
We each do our fair share. Our household responsibilities are partially divided up on stereotypical gender roles but that has nothing to do with actual gender and everything to do with the fact that Rizzo cannot mow the grass in a straight line (she has tried and missed many a spot) and with the fact that I would rather have a giant pile of unfolded (but clean) clothes in basket on the floor than having to undergo the torture of folding clothes and putting them in a dresser drawer. I can’t emphasize enough that the cloths are clean but the simple process of folding clothes is more painful than Cece punching my testicles.
The point is that I love sharing my life with Rizzo and I love that we do things together, sharing responsibilities and joy. She is my partner in life, my partner in crime, my drinking partner, and my rewatching-the-entire-series-of-Park-and-Recreation-then-going-to-bed-at-9:30pm partner, and I’m hers. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
3. I’m family. I can’t express how lucky I am to live about 2 miles away from my parents and nearly as close to my sister. To say that we take advantage of this convenience is an understatement. I have babysitting services ready and waiting when the need arises. I have a handyman (Dad) available to assist with many household responsibilities which is great because I have no ability to fix anything. I get excited when I can hang a picture on the wall so the idea of replacing a light fixture on my own was bound to be devastating.
Not only that, I love that I can be near my family to help them and be with them when needed. I enjoy grabbing a beer with my Dad. I enjoy grabbing a movie with my Mom. I enjoy making fun of how old my sister is to her face. I love my family and wouldn’t have it any other way.
4. I’m a friend. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t make friends easily. It’s not that I’m terribly difficult to get along with but it’s the fact that I’m not so great at meeting new people. It is that one of my biggest fears is talking to a person I don’t know. I don’t mean public speaking because I don’t really mind doing that. I mean talking one-on-one to a new person. I won’t re-write the blog, just see what I mean at my previous blog I Hate This.
For that reason, I don’t make lots of new friends but the friends I do make usually stay in my life for a long time. I sound old saying this but most of my main circle of friends have been my friends for twenty-five years or more. That may be normal for someone that is in their fifties or sixties but for me it means that I’ve known most of my friends since I was twelve. I’d do anything for my friends and I know they would do anything for me.
5. I’m an accountant. Finally, we come to what I do for a living. As you may remember when you started reading this post last week (I know, it’s long) I started by talking about the question “who are you?” and my instinctual response of saying that I am an accountant. In reality, I’m much more but that doesn’t take away from the fact that I am an accountant. I enjoy what I do especially now that I work for myself. I’m proud that I can help nonprofit organizations and small businesses to grow. No one starts a nonprofit or a business thinking, “You know what I want to do, I want to reconcile bank accounts and write checks and make deposits and prepare financial statements.” Unless, of course, your business is accounting. People start business because they want to sell good beer, or work with computers, or develop games. That is where I come in. I help nonprofits and business owners get out of the office and get back to business.
So, who am I? I’m a dadda, a partner, family, a friend, and an accountant. How about you? Who are you?