OTHER FATHER

★ ★ ★ ★

HUNGER V. APPETITE

By James Prenatt

What does it mean to be hungry? Hunger, like exhaustion, excitement, or fear, is an emotion, not just a signal to your brain that you need nourishment. But hunger can also be linked to desire: desire for more, a craving strong enough to become a need. Lately, I’ve been feeling pretty hungry. But not for food. I’m lucky enough I don’t have to worry about that.

I’m simply hungry for more in life: a better job, to be more successful with writing, to have more money, and to simply have more. Sometimes I sit down at the end of the day, my emotional appetite full and content. I’ve had enough and I will continue to have everything I need: a stable job, a perfect healthy relationship with the love of my life, two wonderful kids and we’re lucky enough to be able to rent a decent house for us all to live in.

But then I want more time with my wife. I think about couples without kids who are rarely compromised for time, couples with kids who always seem to be going out and doing all the wonderful fun things that I’m not. I don’t just want a stable job, I want something I’m proud of, where I don’t have to follow the question of “What do you do?” with the answer of “Well, I really want to do X or Y and I’m working on it, but for now…” We’ve all been there before. I want to own a house—a dream house, and just settle down somewhere. I want an agent and I want to be the one writing about all the failures that have led up to my success, not the one reading the story and wishing it were me.

All of those things are possible. But they’re not going to happen right away. The more I think about it the more I realize I’m not hungry, not really. I’m just mistaking hunger for other perfectly natural human cravings and desires. I’m sitting in a restaurant with a perfectly good meal and staring at everybody else’s (hey, you’ve done it too, don’t judge me). I’m not hungry; I’m impatient. At first I wanted to say jealous, because jealousy is always something I’ve struggled with. My dad taught me the saying “the grass is always greener” and it’s true, but sometimes that green grass is made from money and I’m pretty sure that would solve a lot of my problems. But to me, jealousy is wanting something someone else has that you can’t: a perfect body, an expensive car, and ultimately a different life. A lot of things in life are attainable, but you can’t have someone else’s life. How about instead of asking yourself how you can be like someone else, why not ask yourself how you can be better at being you, how can you attain something you want, that only you can attain.  

There are still times where I feel like one of those cartoons, where the animal runs with a stick behind their back with an apple tied to it. The goal is right there in front of me, but the solution is simple. Slow down. Realize that chasing your dreams doesn’t mean sprinting to them. The phrase “life is a marathon, not a sprint” comes to mind. Of course, if you’re a sprinter, that’s a different story. Even then, it takes time to get faster.

Hunger is a necessity. One might say hunger is your mind telling you that you can’t stay in one spot. You need to be hungry to graduate school, to get a new job, to write better and write more. But then there’s appetite. Appetite is wanting more after you’ve already eaten. Appetite is when you’re not content with first place. You want to run another lap and another and another until you are at your fastest. Appetite is feeling like you’ve been starving when in fact you’re well fed.

At this moment I’ve got to put things in perspective. I was talking to a writer friend the other day (one who writes for a living). I said I didn’t have any peers, not any I had met in person. He said he felt the same way. But I do have peers, whether I know it or not. I may be young and my writing may be in its infancy, but I’m not a beginner. I have a routine, I’ve got a few publications. I may not have crossed the finish line yet. In fact, in my line of work there is no finish line but I am a peer to someone else, that person they long to be, who they admire and want to be equal with.

More importantly, as a parent I think I’m already doing well. After all, my stepson is learning to read and he’s pretty good, but he’s not about to pick up Ulysses. My daughter can’t walk yet, but I doubt she’s jealous. After all, we have to do boring adult things and she gets to roll around the floor, watch cartoons, and eat. If she’s hungry, she’s brought food and doesn’t have to work to get it (not that she should, she’s barely a year old). Hopefully some day she, and her brother, will see us as people that they look up to as role models, and not just flaws to rebel against.

At the end of the day, my family is happy as long as I’m happy. Maybe one day, they will understand that I am a fallible human being and they’ll be okay. Or maybe I’ll just always be a superman. Either way, I know they’re not keeping tally on my accomplishments. All I have to do is be myself.     

James Prenatt lives in Baltimore, MD with his beloved wife and two kids. He writes fiction and poetry along with contributing to blogs such as Everything for Dads and Parent.co. He likes punk rock, good movies, and bad coffee. You can support his writing on Patreon.

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