This one might get a little personal. Then again, all of this is personal to me. I suppose that as a young boy, I wanted to grow up to be big and strong, just like my Father. I wanted to be like him and to think like him. I wanted to know how to fix things the same way he knew how to fix things. He was my hero and to me, I looked at my Father with such admiration. I wanted to be charismatic, just like he was. I wanted to be able to talk to people the way he could or tell a story and make it just as interesting.
I wanted to be like him in every way. I wanted to be strong and be able to work hard. People would come to my Father for help. People loved him. He was respected and adored. When I was so young and small, I looked at my Father and swore to myself, “One day I will be just like him.”
Life is a funny thing though. Age comes in to pull off a trick and before we know it, decades have passed and it seems like it was only yesterday that we were young and carefree. I must have forgotten some of my childhood promises. One of which was that I would never grow old. Or better yet, I swore to all that could be sworn, no matter what, I would never become a grownup.
I swore that my childhood friends would be my friends forever. I swore that I would never forget the kids from the neighborhood or the secrets we shared. I would never forget the park or the stores or the summer nights when we swore we would live this way until our last day on earth. The music we played and the songs we sang were the anthems of our young lives.
Age came along and pulled us in different directions. Ed was the first of us to get married. We got jobs. We moved around. Some of us found a career and some of us lost to a world that we weren’t prepared to face. We’d see each other sometimes—old friends, getting together to howl at the moon in the late night hours, to swap old stories and talk about old fights and old girlfriends.
It’s funny though. I offer this as a person who looks back. I think back to the kids we were and the manhood we had yet to face. Some of my friends moved across the country, never to be heard from again. Some of my friends had children, which to me, this was the funniest trick of them all. I say this because I was there when they were crazy kids. I saw what they did. But then again, these are stories I’ll never tell.
I offer this to you with a sense of endearment that cannot be retrieved; the same as my friends can no longer be retrieved—except, of course, in memory alone. I say this because they are gone now. I say this because I know about Mike and his dreams. I remember Dorian and his smile, bright as ever, and his contagious laugh too. I think about Tommy and all the things he wanted to be. Then there was Craig. He went young. I think about them, my friends, and I think about their hopes and their dreams deferred.
God, we were so young . . .
Mike used to install carpeting. Joe did chimney work. Tommy did too. We all had jobs. And we’d swear to keep in touch. We swore we’d see each other again soon (someday).
I have heard the stories about the dreams that were forgotten. I have seen what happens to unfulfilled lives. I’ve seen what happens when people give up on themselves. But, I’m happy to say that I’ve seen those who’ve turned their life around. Like Steve. He’s president at a financial company. Could you believe that? (No one else could.)
During the pandemic shutdown, I facilitated a memorial for my friend Jeff. We spoke a few days before his passing, which was sudden and unexpected. We talked about what happens when life gets too far ahead of us. We talked about what happens when people give up on themselves. We talked about the past and how the past can be the present if we never leave it.
Jeff told me,“I always remember you as that skinny kid with that big toothy grin.”
This was one of the last things he said to me.
I had no idea that days later I would be speaking on my friend’s behalf at his memorial. This journal along with many others, and the work that I do, is all a testament to the people I knew and the places I’ve seen. This is for my friends. And believe it or not, this is for you too. This is so that you never forget who you are and where you want to be. This is because for the record, there is no rule that says you have to be unhappy. There is no rule that says you have to hate your job or your life.
Maybe this is why we try and go crazy when we’re young because when you grow older, you’re not allowed to ever go crazy again. But I argue with this. I say this is not true. I say that there is no rule that says we cannot smile or laugh or find our old friends and howl at the moon.
I have watched countless people forfeit their lives to a personal deception. Either they came around too late or never at all. I have seen those from my generation, like the poem Howl; lost to a degree of different sicknesses; too doubtful to believe and yet, too hopeful that perhaps someday their life would take on a new shape. But it never did.
I am writing this in part for those whom I have lost. In part, I write this for my Mother and Father. I write this for those who I miss and for those who I’ll never have the chance to see again. This is to let them know how much they’ve influenced my life. Partly because I was told that I never could; partly because I never believed that I could and partly because of teachers that told me I would never be anything; partly because I found out late in the game and partly because I wished I had someone (like myself) to talk to, or direct me, to nurture, or encourage me; and partly because I have come to the realization that life is abundantly short to waste time with ridicule, regret, shame, blame or guilt; and partly because I realized that “It’s go time.” I have come to the realization that I (like you) have a voice and that I (like you) have a dream to make come true.
Someone mentioned to me that at this point, I am at a disadvantage because I am older. I have no schooling to support my professional goals. Yet, here I am with book number seven and scheduling college lectures.
Here I am, working towards my goals instead of wishing that something will happen. Maybe it was when Jeff passed. Maybe it was a short story about an old man revisiting his lost childhood friend.
Or, in part, maybe I do not want to be part of the 85% who are miserable or unhappy. It could be this. Or, it could be that I grew tired of waiting for something to happen; in which case, I decided to create motion instead of waiting for it.
Maybe this is it. Maybe this is my intention behind these journal entries. Or, it could be as simple as this, I know there are others who, like me, are uncomfortable with their position. I know what depression is. We are on a first name basis. In fact, I call this me.
There is no law that says you or I can never improve. But more, there is no law that says we cannot change our direction. We can change our minds. We can update our thinking and learn to live a new life. We can set a course for a new way of thinking but above all, instead of running away, we can run towards the life we want to have.
I understand this journal might not relate to everyone. This might be too personal or too emotional. But good. This keeps me honest.
I told you this was personal . . .
And this is personal.
Please understand that I am sending this to you with all the hopes that this entry finds you when you need encouragement to change. I hope this finds you when you want to reshape your life, redirect yourself, or better yet; I am writing this as someone who woke up on the floor of a bathroom in a treatment facility and nearly died; as if to say “Now it’s time to live!”
I am not my weakness or my past. I am not a stigma nor am I a statistic. I am a real person who lives and breathes.
I know what my goal is and I know what my dream looks like. So, with all of my heart; I know what it looks like to be chained to a desk or to have a life that comes with no reward. We have a responsibility to ourselves to see this through; our life and our dreams; to not be deferred nor silenced or dismissed.
Tomorrow, you and I will talk about the next steps. We will talk about the game plans and the directions. I believe you and I have come too far to turn back now, which is why I am offering you this. I am sending this with a touch of my heart so that you can see where I come from. Since you’ve been with me this far; then perhaps you will see this through with me – all the way, together.
There are people who have allowed themselves to be caught in a life with no reward. They let their chains and shackles keep them stuck, I know because I lived this way too. I just can’t anymore. Understand. Besides, I like rewards.