There is a little town about 26.8 miles east of the Midtown Tunnel which leads into New York City. The town is known as East Meadow. This was, is, and will always be my town. This is where I come from.
This is where life happened. I grew up here. I learned here. I saw both awesome and unforgettable things here.
I lived through painful episodes and survived different phases of my young life and more, I have memories here which are both good and bad. In all, I have a story which comes from here, my town.
I am nothing more than a member of this place. I am only a piece of this place yet this place has a big piece of my heart.
There are places in the neighborhood which I hold close and keep them dear to me.
Even the bad times and the hard times are kept with a brand of love and respect. I say this because the combination of my life has made me who I am – faults and all. I am more than a product of my environment. I am more than a definition or description of my historic events. No, I am a true spirit and, as such, I have wealth from all of my past successes and misgivings.
I can recall the first time I drove through the old neighborhood as an adult. I had moved away long ago yet there was something calling me back. There was something welcoming to me. The best way I can explain this feeling is I felt as welcomed as a bowl of soup waiting in a Mother’s kitchen, made for her long lost son who, at last, has finally come home.
I can recall driving by my old home. The street doesn’t look the same but yenothing is unrecognizable. But the old house is certainly different now. I say this and yet – there was a feeling in the air, as if there was a familiar vibration of two old friends, seeing each other after decades of distance. The old soldiers from my past secrets are hidden in the walls of my old bedroom.
She knows me. And be “she,” I mean my old home remembers me.
She remembers my sins and my secrets. She remembers my first attempts at this thing we call romance. She remembers the times when I would climb out from my bedroom window and how I’d head out onto the roof above the garage. Then I would climb up to the top of my house and look out across the town.
I spent hours up there. Or should I say that I spent countless hours up there, thinking, contemplating my next moves, and reconsidering the things I said or did.
I sipped from a flask. I smoked cigarettes, amongst other things, which was fine to me because this fed a certain romantic façade of who I was, which was scared, unsure, and uncomfortable.
Even with all my scars, I was nothing more than a cautious rebel, pretending to have a cause,
I spent hours upon this roof at night – talking to the stars and trying hard to find a better presence of self. Yet, I had no idea who I was. I had no idea who I was supposed to be.
The idea of the future was too far for me to consider. Besides, there was no future – at least not to me.
I lived my life through a short-term lens which made it difficult for me to see beyond the trees. I saw no point in having long term goals because I couldn’t recognize that not everything is what it seems to be. Including me.
I never knew who liked me, at least not really.
I never knew if anyone had a crush on me – and if they did, maybe I assumed there was something flawed about them. The reason I say this is not an insult to them.
No, this is because when you see yourself as either awkward or uncomfortable, you tend to believe that everyone else sees you the same way. Who the hell would want to be with someone like that?
I come from a small town which is not to say that big things didn’t happen here – because they did.
Big things did happen here. Huge things.
My friends Tommy and Jeff ran into a home that was on fire. They did this to save a lady (and her dog, I think). They ended up on the news and in the paper.
The funny thing is both Tommy and Jeff are gone now. But I guess this is part of life.
As matter of fact, I talked to Jeff a few days before he died.
It’s strange too. You know?
Life is a trip!
I often find myself going back to these places of nostalgia. I find myself sifting through the memories in my mind, like pictures in an old photo album that hasn’t been open for decades. It’s as if these things are encased in a time capsule and every so often, I open this up and thumb through the mental albums of my early recollections.
Every so often, I will see a picture on social media from someone who is connected to my old life. I will see what they’re doing. I’ll see them getting together with old friends and I will both admire and envy them.
I will take a deep breath, in through my nose and then I will sigh and exhale in a sense of warm reflection.
I was not popular per se but I was not unknown either. I was more of a spectacle than anything. In some cases, I was a joke. I was a tragedy and a success and the funny thing is – there are people who say hello to me now but back then, they would sooner spit at me than say anything at all.
I have this goal in mind. This is a box on my bucket list which I hope to check off someday.
I want to speak in my town’s high school. I want to speak in the middle school too. I want to walk down the hallways of my elementary school and see if the smells are the same as when I was a boy.
I want to tell the students that it’s okay to be you . . .
I want to tell them about the nights when I would rehearse how to talk to people or how to be cool.
I want to tell them what it was like for me to read out loud in a classroom.
I want to tell these kids about the pitfalls of depression and how common they are.
There’s so much I want them to know,
I want them to know that all the abnormal shit they think is more common than they believe. Yet, although so much has changed; although life is different, fashion and music is different, and although the culture of today is absolutely nothing like the culture from my youth – at the core, we all have thoughts. We all have ideas.
We all have assumptions and feelings. We have emotions. We have questions and curiosities.
We all have doubts and concerns.
Best of all is this: We all have hopes and dreams.
Nurture them now!
There are certain natural fears, like the fears of loss or the worries about our position in social climates.
This is an important lesson that schools fail to recognize.
Life can be frustrating.
People can and will let you down. At the same time, you are going to meet people in your life who will be absolutely lifesaving.
I want to tell the kids about the pains and the surprises as well as the victories and accomplishments.
I want them to know that this is only a brief moment, so small, yet your lessons here on socialization and how to interact, or on how to get along and how to get ahead will be truly impactful to them when they graduate or reach the next level.
I want to tell them to find their best methods of empowerment because there comes a time when the crowds fade and there’s no one else around.
There comes a time when life hits “PLAY” and then it’s go time.
Life is going to happen to you.
One thing is for sure, life is not going to ask your permission or your opinion.
You are going to make mistakes.
You are going to hurt someone and, unfortunately, someone is going to hurt you too.
Not everyone plays by the rules or plays fairly. While I understand that we want to be treated a certain way – life does not and will not care if our feelings will be hurt.
You are going to try and fail and if you pay attention, every failure is going to lead to your best successes which means there is no failure.
There’s only work. There’s only effort.
As much as we’d like to be, “We are not in the results business.”
“We’re in the effort business.”
I quote this because this is not my line; however, this has been taught to me. So, if I had the chance – I would love to carry this message to the students from my town.
I’d probably need a minute after this. My guess is that I’d probably be emotional.
But more, I would be able to rest some of my needs to amend my old sins. I would value this as a success to wipe away the pains which have lingered with me for a very long time.
This not to say that I suffer or that I am in pain now. No, I have grown. Intellectually, I have learned to compartmentalize the different components of my past. But emotion and me, we go way back and sometimes, I open the door to let my “old self’ know that I’m still paying attention.
I guess . . .
I just want to keep the tip of a razor away from some kid’s wrist.
I want to keep a needle out of at least one kid’s arm and change the mind of a bully or the bullied – just for one kid. Just one and that’s fine.
If I can do that – then I imagine myself heading over to The Old Man’s headstone. But to be clear on this, I don’t like cemeteries because that’s where dead people live. I choose to view The Old Man as elsewhere. However, in this case, I’d make an exception.
I would go and tell him, “I did it, Pop.”
I did just what you told me to do.
Some day . . .