Memories From the Balcony – Never Stay Down

It isn’t much though, at least not really. All we are is a series of tiny moments that amass into this thing we call life.
I am offering this to you as a treaty of sorts. I want to place this here for you to hold in trust; this way, you will know something about me. At the same time, you will also have something substantial to hold and to see that life does have the ability to change.

We are a series of times and collection of memories and moments. We have our little trinkets, gifts and keepsakes which we pick up or grab along the way.
We are this.

We are a few holidays and family gatherings which date back to the systems of our youth. We are the wired distinctions of life and the perception of what we think or see.
We are this.
We are the vacations that we took, which can never come again.
We are a moment, a time, a breath of fresh air in places like a resort that we went to once – all of us, together as a family. Or, forgive me – this is me. These are mixtures of my memories which I am offering as projection so that you (if possible) can see me as a person (just like you are).

I have a spirit. I have a heart which beats. I have lungs that breath and a mind which tends to overanalyze and overthink. I have worries and doubts. But ah, I have dreams. I have these tiny little beautiful secrets that, to me, are so precious and untouchable – but still, I keep them alive. Perhaps I only share them on rare occasions because I am afraid to crease the delicate flowers that have been pressed into my memory book – just so I have them. Please, stay with me on this. Before I start, I want to offer you the backdrop which is my thinking and the internal dialogue that comes with daily life.

We are an assortment of our history which, of course, is what has led us to who we are now.
And that’s fine.
I say that’s great.
I say that our beginning is the Earth where our roots began to grow. As we grow, as we move, or as we meander around the world and find our way, we come to different moments of realization. We find different motivations and discover new motivations to match our incentives to live a good life.
We come to different levels of awakenings – and what I mean is we enter into new agreements with ourselves. We face new realizations that appear to us in different moments in time.
Sometimes, we find ourselves at the verge of a new awakening.
Our eyes open wider and we can see.

We can find ourselves at the fold of some new realization where time essentially overlaps in a series of deja-vu moments – The lights turn on and yeah, it’s like I’ve been here before. It’s like I’ve walked this exact same way during this exact same time only the surrealness of the moment is so odd and so peculiar and also untouchable. Yet, there is something about this to me.
There is something about this awakening, hinting about an alternate universe and there I am, standing on the platform of the shuttle in Grand Central Station wondering about this connection between me and this oddly strange feeling.

I know this may sound too odd or perhaps maybe this is too deep or too trippy; but still, there are times when I find myself walking into a moment of realization.
I see myself; as if there is something cosmic about this episode and that somewhere there was a moment of foreshadowing or a warning, telling me, “Open your eyes, kid. There’s something about to happen.”
Only, in my hopes that all would work out and in my bouts with denial – I failed to heed the passive warnings or the writing on the wall.

I have seen my City throughout the journey of my entire life. No, I was not raised as a City kid nor was this the playground of my youth. But I can say that I have grown here.
I have grown in different stages. I can say that I have seen myself go from a youngster in a suit, hoping to make my first million before the age of 21 which, in case you’re wondering, didn’t happen.
I remember walking into my first real “grownup” job with my first real “grownup” briefcase and I was told that my salary was based on this thing called commission.
I was told the sky’s the limit; that there was no limit to what I can make; that all I have to do is sell. I just have to push a product and find a buyer.
I was told to knock on doors and close deals because this was my job.
They made this sound so easy too. 

To be clear, school and I had decided to part ways. Besides, no one ever paid me to go to school.
I never did well in classroom environments. Therefore, I allowed this to lead me to an assumption that book-smarts are the only smarts that count which, of course, is inaccurate. But biases like this are deeply rooted in the Earth of our beginnings.

There was this thing that I noticed about successful people. Not all of them were people who graduated with honors or even graduated at all. Yet, they still had this thing.
Whether this was charisma or the tenacity to continue and keep going; there was this great and elusive commonality that I saw and noticed about the people who I viewed as successful.
But how can I be like them?
Was this even possible?
There was something unafraid about them and something impenetrable; as if pain would not register on their meter. But me, I was always afraid. No, wait. I was painfully afraid.
I understood pain on a first name basis.
I recognized the traps and the pitfalls and, of course, I feared the rejection.

I feared the moments of possible exposure which came when people looked at me. There it was, I’d find myself locked in an assumption of judgment. I assumed that people would see me – that they would know that I am actually weak – that, in fact, I really don’t know what I’m doing; that I don’t know a thing about anything; that I’m just trying to wing-it and make what I can.
Even if it’s only a few scraps yet, hey, what else could I be if not my own predictions for myself. Even if all I could get was a measly few pesos and save up to be poor – who else could I possibly be?

This is a problem which is not limited to me or to only a few.
But more, this is a thing that goes on between us all. This goes on all around the world and thus, we all have worries and doubts. We’re all afraid. Everyone has their worries that someone will pull back the curtain that we’ve been hiding behind and then that’s it. We’re exposed. Or worse – humiliated!

I can remember heading home after work – ah, my first grownup job.
I’d head west, down 33rd Street, and walk to the Pennsylvania Station. I remember looking around and walking in a sea of moving people.
Everyone had someplace to go. Everyone was in a rush.
I remember there was a man who sold newspapers on 33rd, just east of 7th Avenue. Of course, I’d always buy The Post from him.
He was a homeless man with beard and surprising likeness to the late, great actor Robin Williams and the way he appeared in the movie Jumanji – he was bearded and wild, but childlike and incredibly kind.
The man would always say hello to me and refer to me as Mr. Dillon because for some reason, he assumed that I was the brother of Matt Dillon, whom I have no similarities with. But hey, who am I to deny the kindness and the inaccurate accolades of a would-be fan?

Bless him though.
Bless everyone that I saw. Bless them and their busy lives and their fast-paced world of “hurry up and get the fuck out of my way!”
Bless the tourists who would look up at the tall buildings in New York City. Bless them because they never saw The Empire State Building before – and to them, the sight was so awesome that they’d stop, right in the middle of the sidewalk and then they’d look up and halt the crazy foot-traffic on a busy street in good ol’ New York City.

I often wondered what if?
I often wondered if maybe the guidance counselors or the authority figures of my youth were right about me.
I wondered if that pumping gas or digging ditches were the only things that would be a good fit for my future.
I wondered the “what if” questions that were often brought up to me about defining my potential and, of course, then I’d have to live up to my potential – or could I?

Going back in my head, I was able to remember all the times when The Old Man would tell me to pay attention in school.
He’d say, “I’m telling you right now, kid. You better get your head in those books and pay attention in school because you’re not gonna like what happens if you don’t.”
I’d shoot back at my Father with a defying smirk and say, “Don’t worry about me, Pop.”
“I know what I’m doing.”

Meanwhile, I’d think about this with a briefcase in my hand which was filled with poorly executed paperwork and old sales tickets that never amounted to anything. I would think about my Father’s warnings about the future and how perhaps, if he was looking down on me from the Heavens above, I’m sure he was shaking his head.
I’m sure he was somewhat smiling, as if to say, “Ain’t as easy as you thought it was gonna be. Is it now, son?”
No, Pop.
It’s not.
Life is not easy.
Not at all
Then again, life isn’t always hard either – so, at least, the glass is half-full

Then again, how many times have we heard someone tell us, “Don’t worry. You’ll understand when you get older.
We’d hear this as if there was a special age of admission; as if to say that you’re too young to get the joke. You’re too young to see that you’re the punchline and that the adults around you can see you coming a mile away.
But don’t worry, you’ll get it all.
Someday –

It’s true, awareness is time sensitive. Me and you and all that we went through; all the times that we hit our head in the same places and all the times we fell down the same hole or we made the same mistakes – everything we’ve gone through has brought us to this place, which is here, where we are right now.

And dig it –
There are times when I look around at the waste from my past. I think about the old wreckages and the collateral damages. I think about the bumps and the bruises and the scars and the details of my existence. 
I think about the teachers who told me, “Don’t get your hopes up, kid. Life is tough and it doesn’t look like you have what it takes to make it!”

I think about an English teacher who took a paper of mine and tossed it in the garbage, right in front of me. Then told me “This isn’t even English” and he turned away as if I was some sort of waste of time.
I was just cleaned up, only a few months in to a new life. I never went to class much before this.
I had learning challenges and certain delays yet this son of a bitch just tossed me to the side like a wasted moment that could never be redeemed.

I remember other people in my life. They worked hard jobs and lived hard lives. They brought their lunch from home. They had calluses on their hands and they worked long hours. They learned to endure and ask for seconds.
They pulled overtime shifts; meanwhile, the rest of the world would see them as uneducated because they lacked the diplomas to certify their genius.
But trade their year-end totals on their pay stubs and see who smiles. See who’s child came from a humble beginning and had a hardworking family who paid for their college education. I see this every day. I call this the love of my life.

I don’t care what you do to make a living – as long as it’s honest and as long as this provides for you and your family.
That’s what The Old Man would tell me.
You’re gonna have to work hard.
And see? No one tells you this.
No one really prepares you for life; but then again, no one really listens to the warnings.
At least not when you’re young.
“Don’t worry about me. I know what I’m doing!”

Sure I did . . .

I have grown to an age and come to a place of awareness. Finally I understand that it’s okay not to know everything. It’s okay not to have an answer for everything. It’s true, the smartest person knows what they don’t know. 
I think what I was told is true. Crazy people never think they’re crazy.
And stupid people don’t know they’re stupid – no, they usually think they’re smart.

The fact that we recognize our craziness or lack of intelligence only means that we are sane and smart enough to know the difference. In which case, people like us are the most brilliant of our kind.
Please believe me.

I have come to a place in my life where I recognize my strengths and my weaknesses as well as the fact that I am far from what I was predicted to be. 

I remember when I was starting out in the business world. I remember my first sales job that was paying me a whopping $325 per week.
I remember the humiliation of bad sales calls. I remember having a customer throw a phone book at me because I stepped into his office without scheduling an appointment.
I remember the people who spoke to me in such a way that, as a somewhat grown man, I never believed that I would allow someone to speak like that to me.

I leave for work early in the morning. I work long hours. I work three jobs. I have my writing. I have my day job. I have my hopes for a new career which is evolving into a blossoming business and a proposition in the mental health world. 

I am scheduled to lecture in the upcoming semester at a nearby university where they call me Professor Kimmel  – and this is not because of my schooling or that I have the so-called legal title of professor.
No, this is a title of respect.
But more, this is an affiliation and appreciation for my work in the recovery world with addiction, substance abuse and alcohol use disorders.
This is a title given to me as a result for my work with depression, anxiety, suicide prevention and more – whether this is the advanced psyche class or alcohol and substance abuse class with people who look to start their career in either field – it’s me who stands in front of them – that kid who used to be in a suit and couldn’t afford a car or car insurance; or that kid that was nodding and leaned against a wall because the dope gods took hold of me, or that kid who woke up on a bathroom floor after a suicidal failure, or that kid who was told, “Don’t get your hopes up,” or that kid who swore there was no way that I’d ever make it or ever own anything better than a cardboard box, that I’d be a bum or otherwise homeless or dangling on a methadone line somewhere near 35th and 8th – or that kid who was predicted to be in prison or dead or tied to a chair someplace with whitecoat doctors injecting me with Thorazine  – this is me now. 

I am my endurance.
I am my survival.
I have grown.

I have continued and though I do experience pain (which is intense at times) and while I do know depression extremely well and while I do have an ongoing relationship with social and various anxiety disorders – I may be a lot of things – but no one can ever say I quit or that when I fell, I stayed down. 
No one can kill me but me.
I might fall –
But I’ll never stay down.

I am my history. I am my future.
I am this – a combination and a series of events which has led me to this; the here and now.

With you.
And for this – I am grateful.

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