My Weekly Descent Into Madness.
The fire. Never quite been able to put my finger on it, or properly articulate it. But it has always been there. That want. An inherent obsession. Burning blistering hot in the middle of me. It has taken on many forms since my adolescence. But the impetus has always been the same… To stand apart. To do what I was told to be impossible. To upset the apple cart by defying the status quo. The dream attached to that fire has evolved and grown as has the man whose soul it inhabits. But the method to this motivated madness has always been the same. Hoodie up. Head down. Doing the dirty work in the shadows. Believing, through the tears and heartache of the darkest days, that one day the pain would make sense… That the dues paid would pay dividends… That the unseen efforts in the dark would break through into the light. Never giving up, if only to serve as a monument to unyielding persistence. As the wind or rain never pause to question their purpose, over time I have come to understand this drive as intrinsic to my being. And I no longer contemplate it, accepting it as I do my height or the color of my hair. It is just who I am. I do not resist its pull. Instead I let it guide me. Confident that what will one day illuminate and warm all in the world I hold dear will be the one thing I could always count on. The fire.
The fountain. Finite are our days in this realm. Organic beings, we arrive here with an unbeknownst expiration date. Some find their way with ease early, falling into a pattern of successful behaviors, walking a well-lit path. For many so fortunate, this is enough. This is as good as it gets. For others, they do not progress without first stumbling and struggling, discovering their purpose in the midst of forging their character by fire. Forever works in progress, their ascent is far from meteoric. And where others seek comfort and familiarity, they do not settle. Where they are today will be just a few small steps behind where they stood a month ago. Such is the nature of their lives. I find myself in this moment passionately appealing to both my younger readers, and the elder statesmen who have found their way to these words. While I beseech you to guard the few precious moments you have in this world, do not let age own you. Do not let time define you. So many my junior put their eggs in the basket of youth, seemingly oblivious to time’s relentless march. When your bodily adolescence has evaporated into the atmosphere, as it always does, what will be left? Did you peak early, only to live out your many remaining moments in modest mediocrity, dreaming of the glory days? Conversely, if you’ve weathered the storm of youth and accumulated many a survival milestone, are you no longer viable? Do you no longer have anything to contribute? In time, I have come to understand that age is relative. Some, so caught up on an arbitrary tally of years, put an undue premium on the fleeting commodity of youth. Because as most will testify, in the blink of an eye, you're no longer a kid. Then what? Vitality and idealism need not have a short shelf-life, depending on the perspective of the individual. Are your tastes and attitudes young? Is your spirit strong and resilient? Can you muster the will to care? Or will you marginalize yourself into bitter irrelevance? Often, the answer is within. You can be 18 and lame. Or fifty and just catching your stride. The fountain of youth you seek, is in your mind.
Evolution. Revolution. Two words simply separated by a single consonant. Often, it seems, you cannot progress without first destroying what stood before. Like flowers sprouting forth from the ashen soil left spectacularly fertile after a wildfire. In the depths of the aftermath, sometimes we are low enough to mine what is really great, at our essence. Our recent conflicts and the trying times in which we live can be disheartening at best, demoralizing at worst. But the hopeless optimist in me can’t help but squint to find a silver lining in what seems like the most ominous storm clouds on the horizon. Some of us actually embrace pressure. We’ve gained confidence dealing with adversity through hard times, finding coping mechanisms in the productive processes of the grind… Because that’s where we find our purpose. Against the odds, against the grain, under oppression, we are redeemed. So instead of feeling depressed or defeated, I am defiant. I am ebullient. In the spirit of the season, I am choosing to instead, focus on gratitude. Thankful to be the man that I am, at the right time in history. Thankful to be able to communicate, with dignity and respect, with good people of diverse backgrounds and divergent world views. Thankful to do my part to positively impact the lives of those who I am privileged enough to influence. Thankful for all of the everyday blessings we so often take for granted. The prayer of thanks in my home will once again stick to familiar themes—we are profoundly grateful for the roof over our heads, the warm meal on our plates and the love of our family, for we know there are so many of our brothers and sisters not so fortunate tonight. This measured perspective. That re-ordering of priorities... This is the evolution we need. To impact the external world by working to become better people within... That is how we all progress. Together. Unified. With concern for our fellow man. Even when faced with derision and opposition, standing tall. Buoyed by the prospects that what changes the future most may not in fact be the warfare of bombs and guns, but a spirited revolution of hearts and minds.
Speak softly and carry a big stick. Coming up, that was my impression of a real man. He had conviction and was resolute. He stood up for those weaker or less inclined. He was never too insecure to compliment, never too rigid to learn, never too awkward to love. I guess a lot of that masculine archetype that made such an impression came from my father. I took that example and ran with it, and for better or worse, it informed who I would one day become… What kind of man I would ultimately build myself to be. From a measured distance, now, in times of contention and conflict, I am able to observe the human condition with clarity. So often I witness those so up in arms about today’s entitled young people and whiney “snowflakes”, and I see right the fuck through it. And in some ways, it speaks to my humanity and makes me sad. Apathy has bred contempt for those who care. Selfish indifference scoffs at those who are engaged. Antiquated views from bygone eras condescend themselves into greater irrelevance. It seems the manly types with the bacon in every meal and the arsenal gallery on social media are always so very offended. So sensitive to that which is different--that which challenges their perception of the appropriate social order. From the safe spaces of their echo chamber they snipe at those who reject their values. That familiar feeling you’re struggling to deal with, tough guy, is fear. And we all feel it from time to time. What defines us, is whether we own that fear or if we allow that fear to own us. When you speak so loudly, I don’t believe you. And that’s because you don’t believe yourself. Allow the way in which you live your life to do the talking. Let your character be the big stick that you carry.
Never going back. I think everyone has a love/hate relationship with the place in which they grew up. I’m no different. But that thin line between those most powerful emotions, for me, has always been more acute. I am forever proud of Dunmore and Brigantine, on the outskirts of Scranton and Atlantic City, respectively… Of Northeast Pennsylvania and South Jersey. Those very real places helped form me into the man I am today. And my roots were critical to my development, not unlike those that drink from the soil, feeding the growing tree. But unlike that acorn that eventually becomes a mighty oak where it first nestles itself, I could never simply remain. Those familiar confines always felt too confining. As if the branches of my dreams could never grow to their fullest reach within those boundaries. And in the cases when those limits were not entirely physical, I could sense the weight of the comfortable and familiar bearing down on me emotionally and intellectually. There was no contempt for what I knew so well, but instead the understanding that I simply couldn’t abide standing still too long. I couldn’t allow myself to settle—literally or figuratively. By definition, progress would be impossible if I didn’t force myself to slowly advance. As I saw it, that was always my destiny. And as such, I had to live with the baggage of grand ambition… The resentment that comes with rejecting your peers’ “good enough” as not good enough for you. After all, even if we spend a decade in a particular place, some of us are just passing through… Recharging and regrouping at a rest stop along the road of our steep and winding mountainside ascent. For every place that I’ve lived, every job that I’ve had, every friend that I’ve held dear, and all of those invaluable experiences I’ve gathered along the way, I am grateful. Even the critics and detractors each played their essential role. But in their hearts they always shared in the same truth that I elementally knew… That these dreams were bigger and stronger than them. And that for me to make them real, I would always be scratching and clawing and fighting my way forward. Determined to make sure I was never going back.