I can say that I have known a lot of people in my life. I’ve met different people in all kinds of crazy places from institutions, to corporations, to lock-ups, to homeless shelters, treatment facilities and from random coincidences to a more universally intended purpose. It’s safe to say that I have met the best of the best, even if they came from the worst of the worst. I can say that I have met people who endured unthinkable backgrounds yet somehow they were able to overcome themselves. They were able to overcome their circumstances. They overcame their life and their limitations. I have met those who came from “nothing” and grew into “something” incredible. If I’m being honest, they are incredible to me.
You wouldn’t know if you looked at them. You wouldn’t see the scars or understand the tales of their existence. Maybe no one knows. Maybe it’s just me who knows about them and their lives. Perhaps it’s me and the other men who sat in a small group talking about the outcomes of our lives.
Maybe in some cases, the shirt and tie covers up the scars or the tattoos of one man in particular, who say things like, “Vengeance is mine, sayeth The Lord.”
“I will repay.”
Maybe no one would be able to see through his rough exterior to see the young man this person used to be – maybe the only thing people would see is the man he was before his time behind bars, in drunk tanks or before the treatment facility changed his life (for the better).
Had I never known him, I might never have known what it means to be brave enough to tell my story or explain what happened.
There are people in this world – or should I say there are people who used to be in this world, whose lives were once lost or empty. Their fathomless lives were vacant like a bottomless pit and for some reason, the fall allowed them to become resilient; as in antifragile, as in better, stronger and more loving than ever because of the damage they took.
I have been privy to black poster demonstrations where names and faces of young people who were smiling brightly, like a memory left behind and I have walked through pathways of these posters or photographs where names of people were listed like lost souls who had passed too young.
I have seen these photographs and heard these stories and I wonder if any of them knew how amazing their life could have been.
I have met people who have endured and lived; yet, I have met people who could financially own the world and they have not lived one day in their entire lives.
I call this unfortunate. I call this sad but true. I call out to those on the list of leaders and so-called educated and the so-called privileged or the so-called gifted. As I do, I look at them and wonder on which account are any of them better (or worse) than anyone else.
I know that there are over 7 billion people in this world and, oftentimes, we waste our time with the wrong ones.
This blows my mind – and do you know why?
It’s because I’ve done this too – wasting my time, chasing my tail or chasing the wrong tails and the wrong people – looking for something or someone. Maybe . . .
Maybe I was misled. Or maybe not.
Maybe there is something to be said about the way we give in to titles as if our titles are what makes us valid or real.
Maybe my life would have been different if I had held on when it counted instead of bailing out of fear (or insecurity).
And by the way, nothing is free.
We pay for everything. We pay for every move – and we pay for the moves we never took, which is even harder to handle because the interest on debts like this is simply a nightmare.
I am real. I know that I am.
I know that I have earned my place at the table. And I know that my course through life was different – but this is the case with all of us.
No two lives are exactly the same.
I once started a presentation with a slide that said “You do not hire for skill. You hire attitude because skills can be taught.”
I loved this lesson yet, I forget to remember this on days when I am about to ante up and play my hand.
I don’t think this is something that is seen as the “norm,” although it should be.
We all come with special talents.
I want to be clear about something . . .
I don’t ever want anything to go to my head. I never want to be swept up by the sensationalism of the moment. Instead, I want to live it, see it, acknowledge the moment for what it is and then allow myself a minute to realize and conceptualize what happened and how, in any case, no one is so important in this world that we are all cosmic pieces on a massive chess board; that there is no “I” but instead, there is we, there is us, and there is a power far greater than myself (or anyone else, for that matter) that determines where we go, who we meet and, if we are lucky, we can maintain a modicum of humility and realize that the world is a big enough place for everyone.
I want to step away from the social biases and the labels of educated or uneducated.
No, I want to see the world more clearly now.
I have been blessed with the meetings of people who, by first glance, you would never know who they were. You would never understand what they’ve endured or what their life has trained them to be.
Am I trained?
Sure, I’m trained.
I’ve been trained to survive since September 20, 1972.
I’ve learned something new each day and if I have my way – I will build a school to teach what I have learned on personal survival, on overcoming the overwhelming and how to continue while enduring the unendurable until at some point, we find a level of awareness; in which case, nothing can stop us from reaching our best self.
I am in-between journals now.
And I’m not sure where to go next.
I need a project.
But don’t worry . . . I’m sure I’ll figure it out.
We always do.