The sky is gray over my little town at Wesley Hills. My place on Spook Rock is quiet and the pavement is wet from the morning’s rain. And the mountaintops behind my home, the Cobus, Horse Stable, and Panther Mountains have all returned to the necessary green of springtime, which allows the morning to take on the aroma of Earth. I can smell the soil; I can smell the leaves and the return of life as it happens. I tell you it’s beautiful here.
My place on Spook Rock is a combination of several things. As I write to you, I sit next to a coin that symbolizes 26 years of my efforts to maintain a certain lifestyle. It took 26 years to get this.
If you had asked me way back when, “Who is Ben going to be in 26 years?” I’m not sure what my answer would have been. If asked, I don’t think I would have been able to answer. I doubt the view from my loft and the scene I have behind my home would be the same as what I pictured then. If asked, I’m not sure what I would have told you. Besides, my values have changed and the visions I’ve had for myself have grown in so many ways.
Like you or anyone else, I always knew I wanted to be successful. I knew I wanted money and the things money buy. I wanted the right house on the right street in the right town. I wanted the “Status,” which I clung to as image of what I thought life is “Supposed” to be.
Although obvious to most, I tend to overlook that time is an irreplaceable thing. Like the rest of us, I live in a one day at a time world. This place moves constantly and without interruption.
Sometimes the world moves too slow. Sometimes I want to speed it up to fit my needs; but time moves as it does. It never waits and never pauses. It never speeds up or changes tempo.
Back when I was a kid, one year seemed to be a long time. But here in the grownup world of adult life, years pass quickly enough to make me wonder where the time went.
Children grow before our eyes—almost like we see them in a time-elapsed film. They go from diapers to driver’s license in what seems like a blink of an eye. And it goes this fast. Life moves and time is a valuable, irreplaceable thing.
Since this is the case, I’ve made a decision to keep myself from living my life in a “When” mentality. I used to say things like, I’ll do this “When” that happens. And when I lived this way; I lived in a reactionary life. I reacted. In fact, I didn’t live at all. I only lived in response. And I’ve lived this way too long. I allowed circumstance, other people, and popular opinion to influence my next step. I lived according to the calendar of others. I lived my life hinged upon the different variable of fears and insecurity. And I’m not alone in this. I know that. I’m also sure I’m not alone when I say this is no way to live.
The other day, I spoke with a client of mine who struggled with life in a “When” mentality. My client was clear on what he wanted. He was clear on what needs to do. But life in the “When” moment does not produce movement.
Since he was living in “When” moments with regards to his plans, I decided to ask him a few “When” questions myself.
When is it your turn?
When are you going to change thought into action?
But more importantly, when does “When” become now?
My client replied, “I’m working on it.”
Then he smiled. He smiled partly to defend himself from the intensity of the truth; he smiled partly to lighten the heaviness of the moment, partly because of the embarrassment that comes when truth is obvious, but yet, we struggle to look at it, and also, he smiled because he understood meaning behind my questions. This brought him hope.
Later that day, I was invited to join a program and speak to High School students in a classroom. This project was set up by a good man in the Paramus Police Department. The object behind this is to share a message. The idea is to educate as well as spread awareness and understanding while sharing my life’s experience.
Walking down the hallways, I looked at the blue lockers inset into the walls along the corridor. This place smelled like I always imagined a High School would smell. I passed classrooms with teachers in them and students at their desks. I saw banners spread up across the ceilings and the messages of school pride. I saw freshmen, juniors, and seniors alike. And I felt something there. I felt the emotion hit me hard.
See, I never had this. I never had the High School experience. I never went to a prom or sat with my friends in a driver’s education class. I never had the proper rite of passage that is necessary for teenage life. I never had the chance to walk in cap and gown and grab my diploma at High School graduation, and after switching my tassel from one side to the other; I never had the chance to throw my cap in the air feel like the rest of my life was about to begin.
I tell you the kids I met were amazing. They were beautiful—all of them; each and every one of them were beautiful beyond compare. They were beautiful to live and beautiful to be young. I saw them as an opportunity to give them something I never had, which is the benefit of hindsight.
I wasn’t sure if they heard me. I wasn’t sure if they would understand. I suppose I thought this way because perhaps when I was their age; I doubt that I could have understood. I wasn’t sure what would happen. However, I was absolutely sure that I would give them all that I had.
It took me 26 years to earn this. Many in the classroom wept quietly as I delivered my message of hope. I chose to inspire and place honor where honor belongs. I spoke about the benefits of living well. I did not waste time with war stories or the romanticized versions that honor and glorify a terrible way of living.
Instead of speaking about my actions, I spoke about my heart. I told them about who I was and how I felt. I showed them how afraid I was, how insecure I felt, and how detached I seemed from everyone else. I discussed the wishfulness I had to be brave, which seemed impossible at the time.
As a kid, I thought I was different. I was alone. And deep down, I just wanted to feel as if I fit. More than fit with the crowd, I wanted to fit in my skin and not feel so awkward or uncomfortable.
Sure, I was nervous. But hell with it.
I gave it all, every ounce of what I had—I gave it to them
Sometimes, when you put it all out there it’s hard to see what will come back in return. Whether I received what I expected or not—I kept to my commitment.
End result: I scored!
I did not go into this with a “When” plan. I did not go into this classroom and base my performance on reaction. No, I created a strategy. I set goals that matched my intention and I executed each goal, step by step.
I’ve never been kept after class for a good reason. I’m sure you remember. But the other day, I was asked to stay a little longer. And the feeling was beautiful
The rain is coming down heavy now. I can hear the raindrops hitting the skylight above my loft. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and it’s hard to find gifts that can reach you where you are. So I figured I would send you this letter with hopes that it finds you feeling proudly and with love.
It took me 26 years to reach where I am Mom. And with all my heart, I know that I wouldn’t have been any of this had it not been for you
Happy Mother’s Day
I miss you