From Letters: A Memory of the Boys

We sat together in a room on Christmas morning. We talked about our favorite meals and our favorite memories from back when we were young. And we laughed for a while.
We laughed about our childhood memories and the way it was to be a kid on Christmas morning. We talked about the presents and the way things change from action figures to a new bike (or something like that).
We spoke to one another the way regular people speak. There was no hierarchy, no pecking order, just a roomful of men who wished to be elsewhere. But due to the circumstance, for the moment, this was all that we had.

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Ever Play Solitaire?

 There was a time before machines and applications. There was a time when I was much younger with the entire world on my mind. I was armed with nothing else but a deck of playing cards and a game of solitaire. I learned this game from when I was sick and hospitalized. I have no real memories from this time. I was very young and the name of whatever sickness I had was more of an adult word than something an 8 year-old would understand.
I have pictures or perhaps flashes of me in a hospital room. I sickly and tired and wondering if this was my fault or if “God” was mad at me for something.
As a matter of fact, I tried to make a few deals with God. I tried bargaining but the needles kept coming. And man, did they hurt!
Anyway, this is when I learned how to play solitaire. I was able to distract myself—or better yet, I was able to lose myself in the different color codes of red and black and how to organize the cards.

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For What It’s Worth

I think now is a good time that we have a little talk. I wasn’t going to do this here because I’m never too sure if we are ever alone—or at least, really alone. But at risk of exposure, I thought twice about this and yes, this is the right place. 
I think the only approach is the humble one, which in my case; this is me, here and now. What I am about to expose or explain is something that comes from the heart—and while I admit this is raw and perhaps somewhat uncomfortable or perhaps it is too much for some people to expose one’s self honestly, it doesn’t have to be uncomfortable or strange. This doesn’t have to be uncomfortable at all, but yet, I get it. Bright light exposes darkness. And sometimes, it’s bright . . .

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A Letter. . .

You lose touch after a while. The past is nothing more than the past and the old running buddies from the old stomping grounds are nothing more than part of your history. This took me a while to learn but I learned this, nonetheless. And for the record, I still remember. I’m sure you do too. I remember my old friends the same as I remember the stories that we shared together. I suppose what happens is we move on or in some cases, maybe we grow up. Either way, eventually, the past becomes old chapters that seem like stories, which happened in a different lifetime.

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From the Boys: A Memory

There was nothing so special about that afternoon. There is no reason why this day sticks out in my mind, other than the fact that this was simply a day in my life. Nothing happened. There was no special excitement. There was nothing specific or notable about this day. I was coming home after a weekend out. It was summertime in New York City. I made the choice to walk from 23rd Street at 2nd Avenue over to the Westside on 8th to walk upward towards Pennsylvania Station and make my train ride home.

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Abstract: A Little of the Ol’ Introspection

I had to take a step back. I had to break away for a moment just to detach. So before going forward, I want to be clear that I am doing this because I choose to and not because I have to. I want to be very clear that although I write honestly and openly, my aim is clear and therefore, I refuse the notions that one is in pain because they write about pain. I refuse the ideas that one has to be in love to write about love and I reject the opinions that assume a person is in crisis, simply because they write about crisis. This is not my case at all. Instead, I expose my weakness to gain strength. I expose my fears to become brave and I reveal my truths because, with a humble heart, this is me.

Maybe it’s the summer. Maybe it’s the heat and the build of tension like the humidity before the storm until — ah; the rain comes down to soak the dust of our crazy lives. Maybe it’s the social tensions around us or maybe this is really simple; it’s just difficult because we, ourselves, are complicated.

I’m not sure if you can see me where you are, up so high, but this is me, right here.

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Idea Ten: Last But Certainly Not Least

Before closing this series of ideas, there is an experience that I would like to share. My reason for this little handbook is to show that life can be relatable, regardless of our differences. My aim is to focus on the goals and the tasks at hand, which at this point (and given the mood of the current climate) we find ourselves in new territory. Regardless of the viral outbreaks or the rise and fall of our economy, the world is still moving.

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Idea Nine: Safety and Equity

It was an early summer morning when a start-up engineer began his morning shift at a commercial office building. His job was to start all of the building equipment, the fans and the chilled water equipment to cool the office suites in the building. Upon arrival, the engineer put on all of the building fans and then went down to the basement to a place called the Chiller Room. This is where the machine is. This is where the cooling comes from. This is where the pumps are that circulate water through a chiller system to remove the heat from the water and return to the coils in the fan units to remove the heat and the humidity from the air that blows across the coils. To put it simply; this is how air conditioning works. The idea is to remove the heat and humidity from a room and place it somewhere that is unobjectionable.

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Idea Eight: The Benefits of Team Synergy

When the school year ends, a long list of college students prepare themselves to head down the valley of summer internships. Students find themselves in working environments to get a taste of what awaits. These students are about to embark on a new journey. They are about to learn more from a practical level. They are about to see the ins and outs of working life. They will learn from people who work for a living, who had to roll up their sleeves and from people who live an everyday routine.

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Idea Seven: Understanding Energy

For this idea, think back to an old conversation that went wrong. Think about an old argument that you wished you handled differently or think about the time when you said something and wished you hadn’t. Think about a phone call that you wished you never made or a call you wished you never missed. Meanwhile, although this is all in the past and although this can never be changed or altered, we somehow relive old conversations or old decisions and rehearse what we wished we said.

Sometimes we play this out. Sometimes we carry on a conversation in our mind and try to relitigate the past. But no. There is no changing the past. There is no changing the outcomes. There is nothing more than an internal conversation that replays over and over. And what’s the result? It’s emotion. It’s assumption. The result is thinking gone awry.

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Idea Six: The Dangers of Comparison

The ideas in this program are designed to help build a better sense of personal understanding and unity between us and our interpersonal relationships. The point of this is to allow for the variations of personalities, environments and situations. Not all things are the same. Not all people are the same either but rather than fight against the grain; the ideas in this program are to help create a path of least resistance.

However, and more importantly, the idea to “Be the Better and Embrace the Culture” is a social design to help fuel a better sense of both workplace and personal cohesion. The idea is to promote synergy by focusing on the aspects of wellness, mental fitness and psychological safety. To be clear, these ideas are made to be simple and easy to follow. The ideas are designed in a relatable sense to encourage new ways of thinking, offer an understanding of ourselves as well as each other and to help boost a better sense of self-efficacy.

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Idea Five: Understanding Our Personal Science

For the record, I would like to make a few things clear. I have been on one side or the other of the mental health table for a very long time. Initially as a patient and later in life, I became a Life Coach and Certified Peer Recovery Advocate and Peer Specialist. I am certified in the State of New York. My goal was to break through the misunderstood barriers of personal limitations as well as to learn, find help, find relief and find both the motivation and the inspiration to grow and evolve.  As a result, I found my purpose.

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Idea Four: Encourage the Ability to Inspire 

A young man finished the first pay period at his first real job and received a paycheck. This was more than he had ever earned in one week’s time and yet, years later the amount he earned would seem insignificant to him. However, this was his first real paycheck. He unfolded the paper to see the itemized damages as far as taxes were concerned. At the bottom of the tally was his weekly take-home pay. He was on his way . . . 

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Idea Three: Addressing Our Belief System

I was a young man sitting in the back of a church basement. There were people in the room who were smiling and happy. There were signs on the wall with little catchy slogans. One of which said, “Think, Think, Think” and opposite of this sign was another that read, “Don’t Think, Don’t Drink, Go To Meetings.” A few people walked over to say hello and introduce themselves. They told me their name and asked mine. I was reserved though. I was unsure why I was here. My suspicions led me to believe this was more like a cult and less than a self-help model.

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Idea Two: Understanding the Variations of Color

Before we go forward, perhaps it would be best to narrate this from the perspective of a young mindset. Think back to the age of childhood. To remove any confusion and to be clear, this narration has nothing to do with skin color or race. Instead, this is a simple thought to explain the variation in the spectrum of color. However, the intention of this text is to encourage thought and promote tolerance and therefore, create a better level of interpersonal understanding. Hopefully, we can come to an understanding that we all see things differently. 

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Idea One: How to Make Positive and Healthy Culture the New Normal

It was a strange time in New York City. The busy avenues and streets were quiet during the usual midday rush. No one was around. The sidewalks were empty of pedestrians and everyone was quarantined in their homes, glued to their televisions to hear the news and updates. Businesses were shut down. Stores were closed and the office buildings in Manhattan were empty. All that was around were the essential workers. Meanwhile, the media reported the daily numbers and reports about the pandemic. People were panicking and there were restrictions on when to go to the supermarket, which aisle to walk down and where to stand while waiting at the register. This was the year 2020. All of the world was brought to a standstill.  

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Notes From the Road: Kids

The plane was delayed for more than an hour before it was cancelled due to a mechanical problem. I was all set to fly down to North Carolina with hopes of reaching my destination by dinnertime. The main objective was to make my way over to a behavioral facility where a 16 year-old girl was undergoing treatment. My plans were to be there for dinner, and then again for breakfast the next morning. However, my plans were about to be changed.

The airline sent me from LaGuardia to JFK Airport in a hurry to make another flight. Unfortunately, a heavy rainstorm came in to alter my plans even more.

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Notes From the Road: This is Where it Starts

I suppose it would be best to start here and explain that I was not ready. I suppose no one is ready for something like this. No one is ready for life to take place. No one is ready for the role reversal. No one is ready for their parents to grow older or be the one who needs care.
Parents are the introduction to the world. They are the teachers of the so-called right and wrong. This is where our lessons come from. This is where my lunch came from when I was a kid. This is who dressed me or took me to a store called Stride-Rite for a pair of sneakers called Zips.
This is who I ran to and this is who took care of me when I was young or sick. Moms and Dads are the entryway to the world and regardless of the way they held their stations or the relationships, there is a natural order here that has been ingrained and trained in our society.

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Notes from the Heart: Wake Up (With No Apologies)

There was a person who told me, “Man is only as strong as his weakest link.” The reason I was offered this opinion is something for another time. However, where I am now and who I am as opposed to the person I was before is different. My eagerness to become strong is based from a different intention. Then again, I used to view strength very differently. I used to think strength was the person who walked into a gym and racked the machines or bench-pressed more than anyone else. I used to think strength was as simple as the weight a person could carry, which it is. Strength is the amount of weight a person can carry. 

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Defining the Upcoming Path

I am a member of this machine that we call the working world. Of course, I am far from alone in this machine. None of us are. We work alongside millions of others and together, we are all the integral moving parts of an economic system that helps make the world go around. In fact, everyone is a part of this system, including the unemployed because somehow, the world has to function. Trains have to move. Planes have to fly. People need to eat and of course, investors have to be happy.

The truth is everything costs money. Food certainly costs money. Gas costs money. As it is, prices are going up across the board, yet we are finding ourselves at the corner of a new financial turn. We can’t go on like this forever. Remote learning cannot continue to damage the socialization of young students whose early interactions are necessary for their social education.

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Success is Not an Accident

There was a professional coach I met who admittedly, was older and more experienced. He had more formal training and a higher level of education than myself. Our backgrounds were different and so was our experience. He was a big finance guy and I had been working in the blue collar section for a long time.

Our lives were different in more ways than one. We were generationally different. We were economically different. However, the one similarity that brought us together was that we both wanted to improve ourselves on both a personal and professional level.

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Culture and Cohesion

I go back to the ideas we grew up with like things such as “Mom always knows best.” I go back to the ideas of the lessons we learned and think about the times when our parents would tell us what to do. I think about what parents say and how they preach about the way things were at their age. I think about this and how, of course, they were young once too.
I think about the way we look at our parents and how it is hard to consider them as humans who went through their teenage years. To us, they are a separate entity. Parents are not like other people.

I think about the ideas of when grownups tell kids, “You’re just a kid. You’ll understand when you’re older,” which may be true. At least, in some cases.
Then I think about the struggles of anxiety. I think about performance based disorders. I think about the separation and the isolated feelings that come with depression. And naturally, I think about the advice we receive from people and how they want to help, but yet, there is a difference. There is a degree of separation.  

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Notes from the Road

There was a little aluminum rowboat in the rear, northwest corner of the backyard at my childhood home. I suppose the year was somewhere around 1976 or 77. I was very young and of course, I was a little boy in need of attention. However, there was this small dream of mine. I would play with this dream play pretend for hours, outside in my backyard, during the cold New York winter months. To put a picture to this, my home was somewhat typical for the neighborhood. My town was like any other suburban town in Long Island. I was the youngest in my house with a brother who was six years my senior, which meant he seldom had time to play with me.

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Rainy Morning – Can’t Fly Without an Umbrella

There has always been something calming about the sound of raindrops falling on the roof of my house. I can hear the chattering tires from the passing cars that drive by on the wet streets. I swear this is like a lullaby. I can feel the gentle hush, which to me is the kindness of Mother Earth as she reminds us to sit back and relax.

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Transformational Change

Over the years, I have spent hours on long conversations with people in confusion, drunk, dazed, or halfway through a nod that left them almost dead. In some cases, death was inevitable. In other cases, changes occurred. I have listened to people talk at great lengths about their desire to change and yet, their changes were never met. I have met with people who lost everything. They lost wives, husbands, houses and family. I have met with  people who were unemployed and who, by their own standards, had nothing going for them and nothing to look forward to or live for. And yet, when offered a branch or offered help, they refused.

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Working For a Living: Smile! It’s Not So Bad

It is true that if you love what you do for a living then you will never have to go to work another day of your life. It is also true that you can always love what you do. But, be advised; this doesn’t always mean someone will pay you. Just because you love to do something doesn’t mean someone will buy into your craft. For example, I love music but I don’t think Radio City Music Hall is in my future any time soon.

Love what you do for a living and you’ll live a happy life. This is all true. However, for most of the world, the working life is a chore and tasked-filled event. For most people, their job often comes with few rewards. This includes dealing with people that are less than desirable. This means bosses and a possible environment that is substandard or unsatisfying. It is true that a harsh work environment can take over morale. It is also true that a good attitude can get any of us through the day. But yet, this is life and much of our life consists of working for a living.

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Understanding the Animal Called Me

When you’re lost, you want to find something familiar. You want to be found or at least feel safe. I have an interest in the way the mind works. I’m interested in the way people sell things to me and how billion-dollar companies tap into the mind of their consumers.
I have an interest in reading a book entitled, The Human Animal. To be clear, I have an interest in anything that helps me understand why we think or why we feel or act. The emotional brain is interesting to me, which of course, I have my own reasons for wanting to understand. Know what I mean?

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A Prose From the Daddy Diaries

You were small once.          (Remember?)

I can recall the look in your eyes. I can remember the glare on your face while twirling a little sparkler and the amazement was wild. You were little. You were young as ever and the world was so new. Everything was so big and amazing, like the colored flashes in the nighttime sky on the 4th of July. 
There is a picture I have of you somewhere. You were in a little blue princess dress. It was Halloween and your little plastic orange pumpkin was filled with candy. I can see this in my mind. I can see your smile. I can see the darkness behind you and the street we used to live on. 

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Not for Everyone: Just for You

There is something I understand which I understand well. I understand the terms of loneliness. I understand the feelings of being lost or empty or worse; I understand the feeling of being absolutely nothing at all.
I say this openly and without shame or regrets. I also say this because at last, I don’t have to impress anyone anymore. And besides, this isn’t about anyone else.
I do not mind what people think about this nor do I have room to care about outside opinions. This is between us and this thing we call mental health. And I get it. Stigma is real. I know it is.
This is real to me too. I look the way I look. I talk the way I talk and act the way I act. I have this thing inside of me, which at times, this thing can be hard to live with.
It’s an idea. No, wait. It’s a thought. It’s a sense of being detached or not being included; and by the way, I have this thing even if I am included. I have this thing in me that lies and whispers. I wanted it to go away but no, it never did.

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Notes From the Heart: Time for Some Truth

I admit it . . .
I don’t know much about what it’s like to live with a different culture. I’ve never grown up in anyone else’s home nor do I understand what it feels like to live with anyone else’s thoughts or ideas.
There are words I hear in corporate settings, which fascinate me. I find these words amazing. Truly, I do. 

I hear words like diversity. I hear about equity and inclusion. I hear about the attempts to unite and show a sense of cultural competency. I hear about this happening within the workplace and yet, something worse than the division between people is the false pretense of unity; to check off a box, to fill a quota, to say “Hey, look over here.” “Look what we’re doing?

I have met with people who declare this necessary; to practice inclusion and celebrate diversity. And yet, I have seen them celebrate this from their exclusive social clubs.
So tell me. What’s the truth? 

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Personal Best

The reason why they call something a “personal best” is because it’s personal. The question becomes what has to happen for a person to be at their best? Is the answer as simple as eat well, exercise and sleep right? Or is it more? Is the answer deeper than step challenges, wellness seminars and nutritional programs?

Perhaps, for a person to be at their best, they would have to define what their best truly is. This means defining our skill sets, which means we have to understand the tools we keep in our tool box. We have to understand our resources and how to use them accordingly. To be the best means to be able to maintain and sustain the highest qualities of our life. This has nothing to do with anyone else or the way others rate good, better or best. This cannot be hinged upon anyone or anything. This is not hinged upon outcomes or outside circumstances. To be the best means to hold a personal level of proficiency and maintain this, regardless of the different intervals of achievement and success. And lastly, to brand ourselves as the best has to come from within. 

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My Preface

Bedtime Stories for the Insomniac is something I have been working on for a very long time. All of the stories here are true to me. The chapters you are about to read have been inspired by life on life’s terms. The following pages are a collection from my journals. All of this is very real and personal to me. Take the name of the book for example, my idea for the title is very simple. I never sleep much. I’m up late and wake up early. There are times when I lay in bed thinking about life. I think about everything, which is probably why I have insomnia. I think about serious things. I question the universe. There are times when I question myself and challenge my own assumptions. There are times when I relive old memories with a smile or think about places in the world that I hope to see one day. This is what the book is about. This is life from my perspective.

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The Sequence of a Road Trip

There was a little town just a few miles above the border at Juarez. I remember this like a picture in my mind. I know I was there and yet, the memory is more like a story that I was told about a life that happened to someone else.
I had been in the car with my family for hours. This long drive began from my Mother’s hometown in Carlsbad, New Mexico. The drive was mainly through an open and empty highway with nothing else around us except for the desert.
I had never seen anything like this before. The desert itself was vast and vacant, barren and empty, and yet beautiful at the same time. The sands ran on for miles with a shade of perfect emptiness.
We began this trip in the early morning when the sun came up. I could only imagine what a drive like this would be like at nighttime when the sky is nothing else but a full moon and a sea of glistening stars. 

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A Little Thing About Friends

Do you want some honesty?
I suppose there was a realization, or better yet, I suppose a time came when I figured to myself, “I wonder if I would hear from certain people if I wasn’t the one to make the phone calls” And then I wondered some more about this. Next, I tested my theory. In some cases, I learned that I was right. In some cases, I learned that I was better off like this. And in other cases, I had to figure out if I was happier this way. I have met different people at different times in my life. Some of these people have remained in my life and some of them are those who I call my loved ones. Some of the people in my life were only temporary and never to be heard from again, which is fine because this is how life is. In some cases, we stay connected. In other cases, we lose touch.

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A Page From The Boys: The Advance From Ignorance

I see no reason to be disturbed or bothered by the way people live. I know there are different forms of life. I know there are people with different wants and desires or likes and fashions. I see no reason to argue about this or fight. Perhaps to some, there are things about me that go against their taste. I know who I am though. I know what I like and prefer or enjoy. I know this is me and you are you and this is fine. No really, it is.

There was a young man that I shared a room with for a short amount of time. His name was Chris. He was tall. Good looking. Chris was an athlete to say the least and although his challenges did not help promote his best interest, Chris was talented, strong, charismatic, and yes, I can say that Chris was my friend. As it would be for any friend, it was difficult to see Chris go through his tough times. 

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Ever Hear of Ghost Pains?

There is a story I once heard about a man that lost half of his leg in the war. After waking up from surgery, the man thanked the nurse for saving his leg. He said this because he swore it was still there. Unfortunately, the nurse was left with the chore to inform the soldier that he lost his leg from the knee down. However, the soldier was sure this was wrong. He even argued with the nurse. 
“But I can still feel it,” he said
“It still hurts.”
Could you imagine that?
Could you imagine feeling something that’s no longer there, attached, or even exists?

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Begin Cognition

This is my house, small, humble and with a backyard meant for dreaming. There are three bedrooms and one bathroom. There is an upstairs and a downstairs basement. My bedroom was the one upstairs and to the left. There were two windows in my room. One window faced the front of my house, which was on a main street. This is the window I could look through to see the world drive by.

The other window faced the side of my house. I used to dream through this window. And sometimes, I would climb out from my window and stand on the slanting roof on the backside of my house. No one could see me here. Below this part of my roof was the garage, which, for some reason, my family never kept a car in the garage. We had a collection of things in there. Just stuff. We had things like a lawnmower, a few rakes, a shovel or two and whatever collected things that never made it into the home. 

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Time

There isn’t much time left. No, wait, maybe I’m wrong about this. Maybe time is only an illusion. Maybe time is a personal limitation, like say, when we skip over an idea because the timeline is too long or too intimidating. Maybe this is why people stall on the idea of returning back to school when they’re older. Maybe this is why people balk at new endeavors because the investment of time seems too overwhelming.

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Putting the Virus Behind Us

It’s nice to see the masks come down. It’s nice to walk by and see someone smile or just see another face without a surgical mask over the nose and mouth. It’s nice to hear that we might be ahead of this, which means the pandemic might be behind us now. And this is it, the year 2021. Who knows what might come next. Who knows if this whole test is just another moment in purgatory. Or better yet, maybe this is just a social experiment to see how we’d treat each other or how we’d get along if something went wrong. Well, if this were true, I suppose the next questions is , “Okay, so how’d we do?

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Written for the Other Side of Father’s Day

I suppose there are things you never had the chance to say. Then again, I suppose there are things I never had the chance to tell you. I’m not sure why this happens. I’m not sure how. I only know that life goes this way sometimes. This is unfortunate but true. Not everyone gets along and not everyone likes each other, simply because they are supposed to. Not everyone fits into the typical family mold. And what I mean is regardless of our roles in one another’s life, not everyone gets along, even if we want to.

To be fair, I write this from both a personal perspective as well as an onlooker’s. I write this as someone who has seen this struggle from an outsider’s point of view and as someone that has lived through this with personal experience. I also write this without judgment or prejudice.

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A Little From the Abstract: A Dream of Mine

And here it comes. The summertime. Here comes the memories of being a child, riding around on the streets of the old neighborhood with a bicycle and a few friends. I have this dream sometimes. The dream itself must be an old memory. I suppose it has to be a memory because the place and the vision is real. I can see the streets of my town and the way they were to me then and this was it. This is where I grew up.

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Time to Get Busy

To believe that success comes without stress or pain is inaccurate. In fact, there are times when success comes with more pain than loss itself. It would be inaccurate to believe that success comes naturally or that success is easy. No. None of this is true.

I go back to my first published piece of work. I think about the punishing reviews that followed. I think about the people that told me I never had a chance. I go back to the older pieces of my writing, which are unreadable to me now. I am miles away from that time. I am years away and I can say that good or bad; hell, at least I’ve improved. At least I continued. I kept going. I kept writing. I kept learning and I kept trying.
I think about my first chance of speaking at a school. This was on my own steam. This was not connected to an organization or with anyone else. No, this was all me.

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A Page Out of Notes From the Heart: This One’s For You

I know there are times when you wondered if I was writing just for you. Well, I want you to know that this one is specifically for you. I am writing this to you because I think you understand. In fact, I know you do.
And so do I.
There comes a point where all the money in the world cannot cover the debt of living an unhappy life. The distractions run out and the relationships either turn or fall short. And there you are. You find yourself empty with no possible way to fill the void. Nothing is satisfying and it seems as if nothing can be solved.
There comes a time when the pit becomes bottomless and no matter what you do, no matter what you try, and no matter where you go, there you are. And there’s no escape.

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