Month: December 2018

Musings

Goodbye 2018!


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I am glad that you’re over!

Why was 2018 so tough for everyone? For me it was the year of uncertainty. I felt stuck in life and complacency gives me anxiety like you wouldn’t believe. The problem was that I had to wait. For instance,

I took the firefighter’s exam in March. I had to wait for them to schedule the physical exam over the summer. Then I had to wait for results to come out. Though I am still waiting, I’m in the final phase, which is waiting for a job opening in my city! That could take years but because of my veteran status, I’m higher on the list. *fingers crossed*

I have to wait to purchase a home. I have the VA loan waiting for me, but I need a provable income and for 2018, my income was the GI Bill (Thanks Uncle Sam!). Unfortunately, though it was acceptable money to pay my bills, it isn’t acceptable money to take out a loan, so I was waiting to graduate, which I did this December! Look out 2019! I’m making moves this year.

I had to wait, again for the provable income, to refinance my car through my bank. The Honda dealership I went through got the best of me that day and I signed a horrible deal that I can’t wait to get out of. Once I have obtained provable income, which I am currently job searching for while I patiently await for my firefighting position, I will take out a loan from my bank, pay off my car, and have a much better deal to pay every month.

Most importantly, I had to wait to grow mentally and emotionally. I have spent too much of my life harboring anger inside, and though I am not perfect, I am far better at expressing myself. I used to hold it in and self destruct. I wasn’t much of the “lash-out” type, but more of the implosion, giving up, and making bad decisions type. I have been putting in work for years on this, but it still takes time to become habit, and I’ve been waiting to reach the point that I am at now, which, over the past few months, has allowed me to sit down and read and write daily. I love the person I have become.

I appreciate 2018 for its challenges and for the opportunities for growth, but I soooo look forward to sending it packing and welcoming in the new year!

2019, this one is mine.

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Musings

The Hardest Part of Writing a Memoir


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It all comes down to one question. Did that really happen that way? Memory is a tricky thing. However, when writing a memoir, it is your job as an author to bring as much validity to the story as possible. We’ve all heard about that best selling author that turned out to be a liar. If I don’t remember this exactly the way it happened, will they call me a liar too?

Worrying about that prevented me from writing for a long time. Whenever I reached a moment of uncertainty, I stopped writing, and eventually gave up. It wasn’t until I had a conversation with a professor at my school that I was able to put that fear aside.

He told me that a memoir is called creative non-fiction for a reason. While we try to keep as close to the truth as possible, in the end, you’re writing a story. Readers don’t think of the character as you do, they see it as a character in a book. He urged me to see it the same. “It is a character based on you, with a story based on your life.”

That one simple sentence helped me to keep writing when things got foggy. Is my memoir entirely true? In a word, no. The events that took place are true, but most of the people’s names have been changed. Some of the details about where we were or which day could be off. Dialogue gets reconstructed, and though I try my best to keep it to the actually conversations that took place, I don’t remember every word that was said. I recall the essence of a conversation and that’s where I get creative.

Do any of these things prevent you from writing? Do you agree that creativity can be a part of a true story? Some people don’t and that’s okay too. However, I believe intentions matter when writing. If you intentionally fool your audience, then that’s fraud. If you do your best to recreate truth, but have to fill in some gaps, then that’s the thin line of acceptability.

 

Motivation, News and Updates

The First Draft is Done


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Today is a very special day. I have finished my first draft of my memoir. It is just a skeletal outline of the whole story, but it give me a framework to work with. I have just over 50,000 words and 157 pages.

I have been taking notes along the way and already have at least another 30,000 words to add. So, I am a little ways away from being completely done, and like my professor told me in college, “When it comes to writing, nothing is ever done, just due.”

I can’t even begin to express how happy I feel about this. I never thought that I would actually do it. I have been talking about writing this memoir for a decade but didn’t sit down to do the important part…writing.

The only thing that kick started it was my final project for my master’s degree. I didn’t want to write a thesis paper, so I asked if I could do something more creative. They green lit the idea to write a sample of my memoir, then a 10 page paper “justifying” it. I had an adviser, Askold, that guided me through the process and read my work along the way, but most importantly, he gave me deadlines to adhere to.

After I finished the requirement for the project, I passed it in and received my passing grade, only to tuck away the memoir and not look at it again for almost a year.

I made a promise to myself that since I spent my twenties focusing on physical growth (I was skinny growing up so I hit the gym and kitchen hard), I would spend my thirties on intellectual growth. That meant more reading and writing. I wasn’t keeping that promise to myself until a few months ago when I read this quote that said, “The man who does not read has no advantage over the man who can not.” That hit me hard for some reason.

I made a new morning routine that I still stick to. I wake up early everyday, and the first thing I do is make coffee and sit down at my computer and work on my memoir. I don’t have a word count that I must hit, but I average about 1000 words daily. Then, I read 25 pages of a book. Then, I write a blog post. That’s the routine and it has changed my world!

50,000 words, four 300-500 page books read in a just a few months. I can’t wait to see where I am in a few more.

Musings

The Day I Rapped For Ice-T


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It was a day like any other in February of 2015 when I found out that the Legendary Ice-T would be coming to speak at my school. I was near the end of my two-year degree program at Bunker Hill Community College and nervous about what to do next. I hadn’t yet decided on furthering my education at Umass Boston.

The moment that I found out about the event, and its limited seating, I called and emailed everyone that I could think of at the school to get a ticket. I succeeded and patiently waited for the day to come.

I thought that it would be cool if I got to rap for Ice-T. I wondered which verse I would do if I got the opportunity. I picked out 3 of my favorites; that way I would have one ready for any mood. As a rap artist, I always came prepared to a show with multiple cds of instrumentals so I could gauge the temperature in the room and decide what performance would be best to give.

As the day grew closer, I got this determined feeling. I put it out into the universe. “It would be cool if..” turned into, “I am going to rap for Ice-T.” I practiced in my car constantly. I imagined the audience’s response. I pictured him saying, “That was so good that I am going to sign you right now!” I am a dreamer after all.

The day came. I sat in the auditorium, about mid-way up, a little right of center stage. I wore my Boston Bruins beanie, hoping the bright yellow would stand out. When Ice-T came out, I joined in the applause and enjoyed the speech he gave. I was surprised at how funny he was. His storytelling was amazing, and I had no idea that he was in the Army before his rap career. That decided it. I had a verse about PTSD and veteran suicide that I had written recently and figured it would be the best fit for the occasion.

After his speech, he said that he didn’t have much time so he could only take 3 questions. I shot my hand up in the air, I tried to lock eyes with Ice-T but he was looking at the other side of the auditorium. He called on a guy who asked general life advice.

He asked for another question. Again, I sat straight, arm raised high, eyes focused. He called someone else. I wasn’t going to give up.

Third and final question. “This one’s mine” i thought, but he called on a girl in the back. I felt defeated. I was so sure that I was going to get my chance. She said that she was an artist and drew him a picture and asked if he would like it. He was happy to accept, and then he said, “Well that wasn’t really a question so I’ll take one more.”

Without hesitation my arm when up. I leaned a little to the side to get an extra inch of height in my finger tips. I locked eyes with Ice-T, he saw me. I gave him a look that said, “Trust me, call on me.” He didn’t or couldn’t turn his eyes away and he said,

“The man in the Pittsburgh Penguins hat.”

I stood up and proudly said, “It’s a Bruins hat!”

He put his hands on his head, realizing where we were. “Of course!” he said.

I told him that I wanted to thank him for his service and that I was a big fan of what he’s done for Hip Hop. I said, “As a fellow veteran, and a rapper, I was wondering if I could rap for you?”

I could feel the audience’s smiles, some ready, some pre-judging.

“Yeah, go ahead. You better kill it though.” Ice said.

They brought me a microphone and I rocked it. We weren’t allowed to bring phones in, but somebody snuck a phone video here.

They cheered, Ice-T clapped and told me that he could tell that I rap for real and put in the work. I felt like the man. He didn’t sign me though.

For the rest of the day, I was a local celebrity. I was approached in the hallway for pictures and people asked about my music. It ended when I left to go home, but I will never forget that day and how great it felt to get a compliment from someone so established in the game.

They Boston Globe wrote a short piece about it here

What's Your Story?

What’s Your Story?


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Typewriter What is Your Story
Concept image with What is Your Story printed on an old typewriter

There is nothing I love more than great conversations with interesting people. What I’ve discovered over the years is that everyone is interesting, just some don’t believe it.

I want to know about your life. Truly. How many people will tell you that? Not many. I especially love the look on people’s faces when we talk and they realize that they are more interesting than they believed themselves to be.

I want to hear from you! The whole reason why I started RememoirMe was because of my fascination with memoirs and other people’s lives. I wanted to create a platform where people could share their stories. Now that the site is stable and has some consistent readers, I feel it is time to open it up!

Please, send me your story. If you’ve already written a memoir, or autobiography, then send me one story from it (maybe a chapter). I’ll read them and select one to share every week.

Send all submissions to: rj@rememoirme.com
please include your name, a brief introduction to the story, and a link to your website (if applicable).

I look forward to reading!

Musings

Don’t Tell me What to do


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Ever since I had my first job, I hated working. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind doing work, but I hate having to. It’s just my mentality that probably stems from my childhood. I have a severe problem with authority.

Having a job that you have to be on time to, day after day. That you have to request for time off, even when it is an emergency. Don’t even get me started on jobs that ask you to do more tasks than you were hired to do. If i’m a cashier, don’t ask me to unload a box or stock a shelf.

I don’t know what it is but it doesn’t just apply to work. Have you every said to someone, “Dude, you have to see this show!” or “You never read that book? It’s so good, you have to read it!” Guess what? No the fuck I don’t. And now, because I “have to” see it, or read it, or whatever it is you’re telling me I “have to” do, I promise you that I won’t.

You should see the looks I get when people find out that I’ve never seen nor read any of the Harry Potters.

I just watched Breaking Bad this year. I felt like the hype finally died down and nobody was telling me that I “had to” see it anymore, and I was bored, so I put it on Netflix. You know what? I liked it. But fuck you.

There’s no limit to my petty when it comes to authority. I dare you to tell me that I have to see your kid’s new talent.

I love chocolate ice cream, but if you bought some new brand and went to your freezer like, “OMG you have to try this ice cream, it’s the best!” There is a good chance I’ll tell you that I’m lactose intolerant. Then, I’ll harbor resentment because I wanted some but not because I have to. I eat ice cream on my terms. Fuck face.

It could be argued that I spent three years being homeless because my dad told me that I had to babysit. Obviously there was other stuff built into it, but that was the conversation that tipped the scales.

Just do me a favor. Don’t tell me what to do. I’ll never tell you either. Ask and you shall receive, but the moment you make demands is the moment you decided to be cut out of my life forever. Which is your loss. I’m pretty cool otherwise.

queenfingers

News and Updates

100 Pages


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I have officially passed the 100 page mark for my memoir. I never would have dreamed that I would find the discipline to sit down and write this book. I had the idea nearly a decade ago, and I wrote a few pages here and there, but I have made it my goal to sit down and finish this project once and for all!

I am thankful to my friends that have been helping me along with encouragement and feedback. I can’t even describe in words how much it means to me.

The more I write, the more I believe I am a writer. I have fallen back in love with my passion and I hope you all enjoy it when it is finished!

100 pages and counting!

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Musings

How To Write a Mean Letter


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Dear _____,

I hope you’re having a day as terrible as your breath. How don’t you notice that you’ve consumed nothing but coffee and cigarettes for the past four hours? We all talk about it, but I’m on to you. I think you know. I think you do it on purpose as a little social experiment. You’re trying to see how gross you can be in the office and still get away with it aren’t you? Well, not anymore! I am writing this letter to tell you that your breath is so bad that it makes me want to light a match and burn off my own taste buds. (I hear those are necessary for smell). I have taken the liberty of including a care kit for your breath with this letter. Enclosed you will find a tooth brush, tooth paste, Listerine, and Listerine strips. Please use them immediately, and especially when you need to speak with me directly. Otherwise, contact me via email or text message.

Down-wind and ready to vomit,

(Your Name Here)

Motivation

How to Get Back on The Horse


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“If at first you don’t succeed, destroy all evidence that you tried.”

That was my motto for many years. If I was great at something, I showed off. If I sucked, I pretended it sucked and that I wasn’t to be bother with whatever it was. Loser mentality. However, I’ve grown into a person who admits failure, and that is something that I’m proud of.

We’ve all seen them, the people who are amazing and never fall. Well guess what? That’s BS. They fail, all the time, but they, like I used to, don’t admit it. When you see a photo on Instagram and you think, “Wow, why can’t I look that perfect?” What you don’t see is the 100 photos that got deleted, or the number of filters put on it, or even some Photo Shopping that happened.

When you see a video of someone doing some crazy stunt, a flip or trick, they’ve got hours and hours of footage of them falling, failing, and trying again. You just see the final product.

Even your favorite TV show or movie has an outtake reel.

The point is, no matter what you’re trying to be better at, the road to success is built on failed attempts. I’m not perfect at any of the things I preach. My diet slips now and then, and I’ve gone on a 3-day Chinese food bender. I’ve skipped workouts, and I’ve even missed some writing days. It happens, and that’s okay.

Don’t let your idea of perfection ruin your attempt. Be proud of your failures, because that’s what makes your story great! Nobody wants to read about someone who was born amazing and never lost. We all love a good comeback tale. I learned that lesson early. My brother was the “screw up” and I was mommy’s perfect little angel.

I couldn’t understand why, even though I was the “favorite” child, did my brother get all the attention. He got unbelievable praise for basic stuff. Like if he didn’t misbehave in public, he’d get candy or a compliment. I behaved all the time, but nobody rewarded it. It was expected of me. I got good grades, and my brother didn’t do his work. If he ever did, he was showered with love. It wasn’t until I fell off my pedestal that I got attention, but negative attention. When you do the right thing all the time, people notice when you don’t. When you do the wrong thing all the time, people notice when you do the right thing. It’s a strange dynamic that we all tend to do. We grow accustomed to people’s behaviors and expectations form.

After a while of doing bad things, it wasn’t shocking to my family any longer. I was expected to be rebellious. Then, whenever I did something right, I got that praise I longed for. I learned that people love to see you fall from grace and come back up. They will criticize you the whole way down, but, depending on how far you fall of course, they will build you back up too. There’s no hope for Cosby or Weinstein, but we’ve seen many celebrities fall down and come back. Robert Downey Jr. Brittany Speares, Mike Tyson, etc. Their failures give them character, and it makes them interesting. Yours do too! Embrace them. Yes, people will judge you, and that is why we hide, but I’m telling you, they will forget and/or move on and suddenly you will be revered for overcoming your failure.

So make mistakes, fall off that horse, but don’t destroy the evidence of trying, embrace the error, learn from it, get back on that horse and maybe fail a little less next time. Repeat and before you know it, you’ve succeeded at whatever you were trying to accomplish, and ready to fail at something new!

 

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Motivation

Quotes I Adore


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“A wise man has something to say, A fool has to say something”

“Don’t speak unless you can improve the silence.”

“A single raindrop feels no responsibility for the flood.”

“Remember, you’re just a walk on part in everyone else’s play.”

“Do not look where you fell, but where you slipped.”

“Pay no attention to what the critics say; no statue has ever been erected to a critic.”

“When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”

“When you start yelling, you lost the fight.”

“What we think, we become.”

I love quotes like these. They help me ground myself when I am off balance.