Life As a Book: Chapter and Verse
Life is one huge book. Well, for some. Sadly, for many, it is but a pamphlet. For others, it is just one long, unending, run-on sentence. For others, it is a sprawling, well-conceived and manifested epic novel. The beautiful thing about this life/book axiom is the fact that the great majority of us can dictate its contents. Even when life throws you a curve, you have the choice to decide how you deal with that curveball: bunt it, swing for the fences (miss or hit a sizzling double or home run), or just watch the curveball pass you by (along with precious months and years of life; which we can all agree in reflective tones, is SHORT). However, at the end of the day, when it is all said and done, life can often be described as a book, chapter and verse.
And in the spirit of reflection, most of us, if able to sit and contemplate, can carve out several explicit lines of demarcation: periods of perfunctory action, the halcyon days of youth when everything seemed utopian in restrospect, but wasn’t; zeniths of pleasures, triumphs, and “good times”, and the absolute nadir of disappointment, depression, despair and dejection. It is what makes life worth living. It is what dictates that making memories is what makes reflecting upon life a pastime for some, and painful for others.
I challenge anyone who reads this to take some time out from whatever consumes you — sports, school, a 60-70 hour workweek, constant socializing, being consumed with
ignorantly discussing “politics” despite not knowing what you think does not matter one way or the other and reflect on the distinct periods of their lives which can be codified into “book” form, with clearly defined chapters and segues. Not necessarily written, but ponder this. It can help restore an understanding of your individual purpose (if you have lost sight of it), and even help regain a passion for something which you once enjoyed doing in the days of yore, but life’s difficulties sidetracked you in the process.
Personally, I could neatly divide each chapter of my life to this point — as I embark on 36 years of age next week — into four to five year periods. Each of those periods contained apogees, nadirs, peaks, valleys, wilderness experiences which taught me life lessons which carry me to this day, and allow for me to dispense knowledge and wisdom to those who desire to obtain it, and so forth.
From the time I was born until I began college, my family literally moved every 3-4 years on average. My parents had high expectations for my sister and I to achieve academically, professionally and socially. As such, they made several leaps of faith and major sacrifices in order to put us in the best position to do so. The moves were always with an eye on reaching the point where we would be able to achieve and set us up for adult life. It worked. However, to delve even further, you can look at each of those periods before I began college (which then meant that I moved once again within a four-year period, as we had moved just before I began the 9th grade).
I was a bundle of energy, always smiling and a ham in front of the camera when I was little. But I was always studious. I have loved to read since I became capable of reading. It has never been a chore (until law school), and all of my grade school teachers were impressed and loved my desire to read. Not only that, the reading, and articulation of what was read, even to the point of explaining the nuances (obviously later in grade school), which hatched the desire to always be a teacher/coach/instructor/advisor of sorts; obviously one of my chief passions in life. This piece is just another instance of that desire and ability.
Once I hit kindergarten, I became sickly. I had chicken pox that year, and began developing harsh allergies to certain foods and respiratory irritants. I spent most of my 1st through 5th grade years dealing with these things.
From 6th to 8th grade, however, I hit a growth spurt and became athletically-inclined. From that point until I broke my back when I was 28 (“spinal, couldn’t ‘boxth’, play basketball, or even walk/run without significant pain, requiring surgery at age 29), I played sports year-round, either on a club team, city league or some church league when other demands precluded me from playing in other leagues. However, once I hit the 10th grade (1994-1995), I was stricken with a weird skin affliction. It lasted throughout the remainder of high school and into my first year of college. The problem was, it gave the appearance of poison ivy, yet none of the treatments for poison ivy served as remedies. This went on for nearly five years, but in the midst of those five years, a major cyst developed at the base of my skull, and I was bordering upon becoming gravely septic. The doctors were able to catch it in time, but it was not until after the fact was I informed that I had a severe case of Erythrodermic Psoriasis. After the doctors flushed my system and restored my skin’s integrity, I gradually got better, until any trace of the ailment mysteriously disappeared literally overnight in April of 1999.
High school was an utter waste, 1) because I couldn’t pinpoint five things that I learned which were worthwhile, in retrospect, 2) because I did not want to go to high school in the area that I did. I had planned to go to a specialized high school, which catered to my academic strengths in Manhattan or the Bronx, but that was squashed without any further discussion. Coupling that with the health issues, and not only was I angry and miserable, but I lost out on any chance of playing college football due to the illness and septic injury (which occurred just before I began the 12th grade in 1996).
From that point, some 18, 19 years later, you can almost perfectly write a chapter for each of the subsequent four-year periods.
From age 18-23, I flourished. I felt better than I had in years, once the ailment cleared up, I enjoyed the last few “REAL” summers in New York City (before 9/11/gentrification/paranoia, etc. basically, for all intents and purposes, destroyed the city as we previously knew it), bought and paid off two cars, was signing to buy my first house at age 20, before deciding at the 11th hour — just as I was about to sign for the mortgage — to not do so; as I felt deep down that I would be moving around a great deal both for professional and academic reasons. Along with an 800+ credit score, a decent (but boring) job which paid remarkably well for a college dropout (although the decision to leave school was not of my making in any way, shape or form), in the form of a nice base salary, tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of stock options given to us annually, bonus wages, and the ability to make a good amount in “light lifting” overtime, which was the least stressful overtime anyone may ever work. I shopped when I wanted, copped new sneakers literally every week for about two or three years, every designer cologne, jewelry, ate wherever I wanted, made spontaneous road trips and went anywhere I wanted for the most part. It was a good period of freedom.
From age 24-28, the stakes were raised. I (foolishly) turned down a full scholarship at St. John’s University, because I had developed an anti-college mindset, while hustling both at work and on the side and making near-six figures without more than a high school diploma for the previous half decade. I bought my first sports car, which I had desired to do years before, but my father thought it was best for me to build up to my readiness to drive something with 400+ horsepower. Once I finished with modifications on my Nissan 350Z, it had just under 400. I had that car for four years, before deciding to let it go and focus on college full-time, since I had been back and forth between New York and North Carolina often and obviously did not need the car in New York City.
I transferred from Long Island University in Brooklyn to UNC Greensboro, which is where I had lived before, and completed undergrad during this period. Socially, things were fine, although, as mentioned before, at age 28, things changed drastically when I broke my back. That period from age 24-28 saw my great aunt (who I was extremely close to) and my paternal grandmother (who I was just as close to, and miss her one-liners/wise axioms, etc.) pass away, from having the most money that I had ever up until that point, and achieving as much freedom as I could have wanted, to, by age 28, having suffered a debilitating injury — the pain from which I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy — and rendered me a homebody for the following 10 months, before the pain became too great and no other remedy was available other than surgery.
However, once I had the surgery in September 2008 (at age 29), a new period began. The economic collapse made the prospect of returning to the workforce full-time upon graduation in May 2009 tenuous at best. Worse yet, as I would not find out until years later, a man with the same first name, middle initial, and last name, with the same birth year, had committed several felonies in the states of Georgia and Florida in the previous few years, which came up in
lazy background checks conducted by employers. It baffled me, in one instance, how nepotism didn’t even get me a job that I was a shoe-in for; both because I knew the hiring manager, who was passing me through, and because it was the same job that I had done at my previous employer for seven years. Little did I know, this clown down south was the reason why.
Once I realized I was not going to have any prospects by hanging around after UNC Greensboro, I came back to New York and started the next chapter. For about five years, I moved a total of seven times, and had done some wild and crazy things with the fairer gender which shall not be printed here, and been in rich places, the worst of hoods, been the driver for a former drug kingpin, you name it. It was a period nonstop hustling, since full-time employment was a a curse word from 2009-2013. I did everything from real estate, to business development, some under the table work, some off the books hustling, while completing two masters degrees and starting law school. It was after getting to Charlotte (for law school) that I realized that the way I had been doing things for the previous four years was not going to serve me well in regards to achieving what I had actually set out to do when I originally finished high school in 1997. I had gotten so far off track, and it culminated with being caught out of place at that school, which was not worth ever attending, never mind draining myself of $35,000 of my own out of pocket cash (not loans), while also giving up my apartment back in Harlem in the process. If there was a regret in my life — and I admittedly don’t have any more than one or two — it was doing this. Whenever you leave New York City, it becomes extremely difficult to move back each time, because the cost of living skyrockets, while wages remain stagnant or even decrease. Add to it the dearth of employment opportunities, and it made moving back prohibitive.
I moved out to Long Island to live with a friend, hoping to jumpstart my career again, but without a car, and having blown through my entire savings in Charlotte, I was stuck between a rock and a hard place even when I had made inroads at North Shore LIJ hospital. Whenever opportunities arose, the lack of a car (which I had sold, as mentioned before) came back to haunt me. The entire year of 2014 was the end of that chapter, however, as it was a year of several transitions; going from Charlotte, to Long Island, to North Carolina and now back to being in New Jersey on a daily basis for the first time in nearly 20 years.
I had worked hard to put some things into place during 2014, that, while the skeptics couldn’t see the manifestation of the seeds that were planted at the time, now see the fruit, as I have turned the page and began a new chapter that cleanly began on New Year’s Day in 2015. Everything (other than my slumlord and disgraceful excuse for human beings/”neighbors”) is flowing; school is a breeze — despite my now full-fledged fatigue — I am finishing my second thesis, and have a pending application at Florida State University School of Law, and several options regarding my next major move, which will be on tap come June 1. I also have two business projects that I will be rolling out once I am free from academic obligations in May. The goal, in all of the quiet toiling and reaching out to several key people in 2014 was to have several streams of income before 2015 was over. With a now healthy savings and some side work ensuring at least one stream for now, the goal is to have two or three more of them in place by this summer, which will happen.
I cannot say, however, that I would have re-centered myself if I had not taken the time out to reflect upon what had taken place in the previous “chapter”, learned from mistakes, bad decisions, and seized opportunities that fell in line with my goals. Some people can spend years — even decades — flying by the seat of their pants, withering in the wind like chaff. I was taught early on to do everything with excellence and with purpose. I had a purpose to make 2015 — and beginning a new chapter in my life — a highly successful one. I would not have done so without purposeful reflection and then planning the best way to bring those plans to fruition.
I hope this time, however, that this next chapter is longer than four or five years, and ends up being a decades-long run-on sentence, because that is the pace in which I am running nowadays and I don’t plan on slowing down again.