There was a good place on Hempstead Turnpike that has changed owners more than once. However, there was a time when I was new to the old neighborhood. When I say this, I say this because this was the time when I was reintroduced to my old surroundings.
My life had recently changed in a way that I was unsure of what would come next. I had left the home where I’d been living as well as a life that had not been mine for a very long time.
I was new to the process of divorce and new to the ideas of being by myself and on my own without someone to check in with. At this point, I suppose my basic intimidations were financial and emotional.
I was about to be a weekend Dad with visitations and limitations on my interactions with a child who I’d struggled to connect with. I say this because parenting did not come naturally to me. I see no reason to be dishonest. I also see no reason to repeat or parrot the views which I was trained to believe. Therefore, I own my mistakes as well as the challenges of being a Father. I admit to this as well as the worries of the back and forth games or the emotional chess moves that come with divorce. And yes, I have witnessed people use their children as pawns just to “get even.” I have seen parents who use their children as weapons of emotional destruction, regardless of the collateral damages. I’ve seen people do this to prove a point with their exes or gain control. However, and in fairness, this was not the case in my story. Better yet, this is not the intention of my entry.
Moreover, the intention here is to illustrate the initial feelings of being at the entryway into my next phase of life.
I was alone. Yes, this is true. I went from living in a very large home to a very small, upstairs apartment in a private home. I went from wide, posh streets with big homes and a decent parcel of land to closer-knit streets and the middle of the middle class. Moreover, I went back to my hometown because she knew me. The streets and the landscapes and the landmarks knew exactly who I was. They knew about my secrets yet my secrets were safe.
My old neighborhood remembered me the same as I remembered her. Then again, this is not to say that the kids from my youth were still around. Mostly everyone had moved away and although some remained, I didn’t move back to reconnect with old friends or anything like this. Instead, I moved back to a place where I knew the streets. I knew where the stores were. I knew the side streets and the short cuts. Also, I moved back to my old neighborhood because this was something I knew. I needed this. I needed something familiar because, at the moment, everything around me was unfamiliar and frightening. As a matter of fact, there was a chance of buying my old childhood home which was for sale. But no, I think I needed to find a new place to lay my head.
My work life was the same yet nothing was the same. I would come to work and do my time. I would punch in and punch out which was the same as usual. I had the same co-workers and the same bosses yet there was something ultimately different about all of this.
I went home to an empty place that was mainly undecorated. In fact, the rooms were so empty that the sounds would echo. To me, the emptiness and the echo was like an exclamation point that summed the equation of what my life had become.
Money was tight and about to become tighter. As for my meals, it’s safe to say that I was not preparing healthy or savory meals for myself. At least not yet. I was still in the rebuilding stage; as in the saying “to start from scratch.” This was it for me. This was my ground zero.
This little apartment was where I was to start my rebuild that began with an emotional comeuppance. I was alone and lonely yet I knew there was something that I had to do.
Besides, what else could I do?
Stare at the walls? Feel sorry for myself? Or what else was there, but allow that internal dialogue in my head the chance to rip me to shreds.
My friends changed. My social surroundings changed and at the point of this bottomless bottom; I chose to hit the brakes and regain at least a semblance of my best possible self.
It was clear to me that I had one of two choices. I was at an impasse or crossroad; in which case, there was no sense in fighting anymore. There was no point in struggling alone or processing the constant ideas of regret or the failures in my life. In fairness, I was not surprised the divorce happened. I was not hurt that the marriage didn’t work out. I didn’t miss anyone or wish that I was back “home,” and to be clear, I quote the word “home” to emphasize the meaning which was loose and mainly unfitting of the place where I used to live. Needless to say, I had to make a choice.
One could define this as a house or an apartment and, of course, this would be right. Then again; the word home also has a deeper meaning; as in a place of affection or a centered location that provides a true sentiment; as in a place or location that gives the mind and body warmth, shelter and a place to comfortably lay our head.
I had not had this for a long time. A home, I mean. I was not homeless by any means but at the same time, I did not have a location of sentiment or a place where I felt the pride of ownership.
This was my search: to find the place where I belonged, to finance a center of ownership and a place where I can comfortably lay my head. I wanted a home to provide me with more than shelter. No, I wanted a place that could shield me from the cold and protect me from the outside sources. I wanted a place to keep me from the hounds of anxiety that often look to nip blood from our heels.
This is when I made the commitment to follow my hopes of becoming a writer (someday). This is where I allowed myself the grand exhale. I was at the crossroads where I had to come to either an agreement with myself or a submission to the beast in my whispers. This is where I decided to shed my layers and rid me from the monkey on my back.
I was sober and clean for a very long time yet I was emotionally hungover and sloppily fallen like a hobo on the ground in the sense that I was sinking away into the depths of depressive thinking.
I hated myself and I hated my ex-life. I hated everyone who I believed had abandoned me as well as myself because, deep down, I knew it was me who accepted the trades and allowed myself to settle for a life which I knew could never fit me.
I started writing because I needed a way to alleviate the thoughts in my head. I needed something and, of course, medication never really pulled off the trick for me. My journeys with therapists were never too successful.
I would come home to an empty fridge. The emptiness matched the way I felt about myself. So, I had to find a way to pierce the emotional boil and allow the toxic or sentimental puss to drain from my heart and soul. Hence, the writing. To be clear, I wasn’t surprised that this is where I was. I believe that in my honest truth, I knew that this was somehow inevitable. My life had come to this point because I settled and sabotaged myself into this corner.
It was clear to me that I needed to change or do something to set myself free. It was here that I decided to sit down and write my thoughts. It was here in my very first journal that I wrote the words, “My redemption has nothing to do with your response.”
It was here that I chose life; and more, it was here that I learned how to feed myself. I learned how to cook for myself.
I learned how to shop in a supermarket. I learned how to cook on a stove and make myself meals that nurtured my soul. As I return to my opening statement, I also made sure to stop by a pizza place on Hempstead Turnpike where I was treated very well.
I used to talk to the kids who worked the counter. I learned about their lives and they learned about mine. I showed them some of my poetry and told them bits and pieces of my story.
Now, in fairness, I am a big fan of good pizza. And, also in fairness, I am guilty as charged when it comes to being unsupervised and ordering food.
I’ll take this one and that one.
As I say this, I point to everything that looks good.
Yes, this is the way that I order food.
But more importantly, I associate my personal success with the pizza place and the kids who honored me as a friend and who fed me, who would talk to me and ask me for advice – who told me that I should go into speaking with kids because after speaking with me, they felt motivated to do something with themselves.
But me, a motivational speaker?
Back in the year 2006, I found myself at the bottom of my aftermath and as a means to not fall through a trap door and fall further, I decided to start writing.
I decided to build my skills and become more of the person who I’ve always wanted to be.
Those trips to the pizza place and my interactions with the kids who worked the counter were lifesaving to me. So, I offer them this.
Thanks for everything. Meals included.
Thanks for the buffalo chicken slices and the grandma slices and oh, thanks for the slices of white pizza and the chicken marsala slices, the sausage sliced and the garlic knots and the extra 20lbs.
But more, thanks for being my friend when I thought I was absolutely friendless.
Trust me when I tell you.
You saved a life.