As I rose standing stationary aboard the cattle chute escalator out of the bowels of Penn Station, I gritted my teeth, my jowl muscle flexing hard under my bearded cheek. Having just completed my cramped quarters commute with the rest of the hustlers and bustlers, I observed the landmark train station decked out with Christmas regalia and I felt nothing. Golden bells, metallic bulbs and boughs of holly designed to push those familiar sentimental buttons… Quaint, Yule jingles streaming through the old public address speakers preying upon memories--the romantic flame of which has long since been extinguished.
Sure I was once a kid and I felt that flutter this time of year, but though the neatly wrapped boxes under the tree were nice, even as a child it meant something more--that familial warmth, that idealized sense of a mankind that was kind to its fellow man… That warm, fuzzy bullshit tough guys like us aren’t so comfortable openly acknowledging. The notions of which take a piece of you with them, when they, like everything else pure and good, inevitably die. It is indeed a dark day when a man must come to grips with the fact that so many of the small joys of life are a lie.
Lies that have nothing to do with friends or family, nothing to do with the birth of a cultural revolution twenty plus centuries ago. Materialized, marketing figments designed to alter our value system and grift us out of our last buck. Grown men competing to see who can outspend who, compensating for their little dicks by uprooting the biggest of the mighty pines and then letting that majestic tree die slowly in their living rooms on display for the entire neighborhood to see. It all seems so important, it all seems of such great consequence, but in reality, it all means nothing.
Truth is, it is a cold, cold world. Colder than the winter wind off of the Atlantic. It is “dog eat dog”, “look out for number one” and every other cliché you can think of to signify the fact that you are on your motherfuckin’ own. It is harsh out there and if you aren’t willing to go hard, to go all in and to do everything it takes to get yours and to ensure your own survival, this world will eat you up and shit you out. Don’t laugh… It has ripped to shreds a whole army of motherfuckers ten times tougher than your punk ass.
Go hard and guard what’s yours with your life. Build that ruddy and weathered muscle, that scarred and calloused outer shell to protect your soft spots. Temper your emotions and never show your hand. Come to grips with the lonely and solemn existence that is your daily life when stripped of all of its pomp and artifice. I wish I could be more pie in the sky, more sunshine and happiness, but there is a weighty sense of duty with which I must address you. Honesty is the cross I must bear, spitting the awful truth here when I’d much rather spin a tale of love and light.
In illustration of these earlier points, I will share with you a story of recent loss. Last week, a new friend and associate of mine, a close friend of one of my oldest comrades, a brother in our lifestyle, took his own life. Pushed to a point of despair and hopelessness, lost and scared, he drove to the top of a casino parking garage in Atlantic City and leapt to his demise. As he was driven to that point, working contrary to the most basic human instinct for self preservation, standing on the edge, seeking to make the pain stop, I can only imagine what ran through his panicked mind. How alone he must have felt, looking at the cold concrete so many stories below and seeing relief there, an escape, as he swayed in the cold December breeze. I shudder when I ponder his loneliness, imagining that it could only be trumped by that of his infant daughter, some distant day, so many years from now when she’s old enough to understand.
My friend Josh will be missed and while our mourning won’t bring him back, while his family’s pain can never be relieved and his vast potential can never be fulfilled, I have to believe that he didn’t die in vain this holiday season. That this waste of a promising life can’t possibly be for naught, that his passing was meant to happen for a reason—for a much needed dose of perspective to the many of us apt to pity ourselves and to grow bitter, failing to see the promise with the blessing that is each day we’re lucky enough to open our eyes.
Life can be a motherfucker, but fuck it; it’s all we’ve got. As our days dwindle away more quickly than we realize, hold onto your ideals and fight the good fight. Fight because you can, because life is worth fighting for, fight because though guys like Josh can fight no more, you won’t let them lose. I implore you to go hard in everything you do… At work, at home, in the gym and anywhere else you pursue your dreams.
Love those you love as if you’ll never see them again. Let them know that they’re treasured and dear, that even in this cold, cynical and cutthroat world, you’ll never let them be alone. Go hard for those that can’t motivate themselves, those that have lost hope and given in. Let your struggle and strain be an example to those that can’t afford the luxury of optimism, that while you’re neck deep in the same shit that has broken others stronger than you, that you refuse to be broken… That you refuse to give in… That you won’t quit this life til this life quits you. Go hard for those that can go no more. Go hard… And while you’re at it, be happy.