memories

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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Musings

Diligent Dilettante


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Remember that old Planet Fitness commercial with the big guy who repeats, “I pick things up and put them down?” Well that’s me, only not with weights, but with everything I do.

As a writer, I am told, “Find your niche and stick to it.” If I want to make any type of living off my writing, I am supposed to be an “expert” at something and write content in that area. Why does it have to be this way? Why can’t I be that way?

I love too many things to pick just one or two. I have always been that way. A jack of all trades, master of none type of guy. I have a gift/curse that allows me to be “naturally” good at most everything I try, which creates motivation enough to stick to something for a little while, while it is fun.

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Then I reach a point that it isn’t as fun anymore, because it takes real dedication and time to get to the next level. That’s when something else will pique my interest and surprise surprise, I’m good enough at it to want to do that instead.

Some activities that I’ve done include:
writing, rapping, painting, crafting, cooking, gaming, Tae Kwon Do, boxing, power lifting, calisthenics, poetry, running, gymnastics, etymology, English composition, teaching, dog training, food critic, movie critic, relationship advisor, motivational speaking, plumbing, electronic technician, chauffeur, customer service, waiting tables, light construction, hiking, camping, survivalist, archery, how to bulk on a budget, protein powder reviewer, dress nice on a budget, yoga, mediation, etc.
The list goes on.

I loved every moment I spent pursuing these momentary passions, and I learned so much doing them, but inevitably, they all came to an end. Some were picked up again, and some lasted longer than others, like rapping, which I did almost daily for 10-15 years. Poetry was sporadic, but something I still do, and writing motivation comes and goes, though I am currently on a hot streak of daily writing with this blog. I stay in relatively good shape, though I don’t hit the weights nearly as hard as I used to. I got my degree in English Composition, and I teach at Umass Boston, but that is coming to an end because there aren’t enough classes available next semester for me to teach any, being lower on the seniority totem pole.

Either way, I don’t know what I can write about to build an audience big enough to allow me to write as a profession. I have a vast amount of knowledge through life experiences, but I haven’t the slightest clue how to create a niche with it, nor do I really want to.

I never want to become something I’m not just to make money. I never want to be locked into something I no longer enjoy. Being a niche writer is putting me in a box, and that’s something that I cannot do. To quote Roy from Shanghai Noon,

“I am like a wild horse, you can’t tame me. You put the oats in the pen though and i’ll come in for a nibble every day, but if you ever shut that gate, i’ll jump the fence and you’ll never see me again.”

 

News and Updates

10,000 Words


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Today is a very special day for me. I have reached 10,000 words of my memoir. It was my first goal, and milestone when writing this book. I feel like I have accomplished a great task and even though I have tens of thousands of words left to write, I am proud.

Like a house is built one brick at a time, a book is written one word at a time. Just keep writing!

 

Musings

Vietnam Trip


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I’m currently writing the section of my memoir about my trip to Vietnam back in the summer of 2005. It’s a strange experience looking at the old pictures that I have locked away. I want to share some of them with you.

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Check out this view!

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Wait guys, I come in peace!

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Why am I looking satisfied like, “Hmm, this is a nice rock.”

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That money exchange rate though…

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Check them Jesus sandals! Also, our dumb prison poses

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Had to take a picture with these two. No clue what’s the deal with that unfinished wooden structure behind us though.

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Ok, so this was actually in the Hong Kong airport on our way TO Vietnam, but I just thought it would be a good one to share because it is important to laugh at yourself!

 

Overall, I had the best time ever, I can’t even describe what it did for my perspective in life. I only knew my small chunk of the world in Massachusetts and our way of life there. It is amazing how different life is on the other side of the world, and also how similar we all are in other ways. If you ever get the chance to travel, do it. Those memories and lessons are irreplaceable. I recommend Vietnam to everyone because I had an absolute blast! Thanks for reading

Motivation, News and Updates

Black Friday Update


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Let me begin by saying that it was stupid of me to attempt a new diet two days before Thanksgiving. Especially a Keto diet considering Thanksgiving is the carbiest holiday of the year! I’m not giving up, but I definitely chose to enjoy myself on Thursday.

With that being said, I want to remind those who are struggling with bringing new, good habits into their life that there will be days that are set backs. Don’t let that turn into giving up! I had two successful days of Keto, then I carbed up. Does that mean those two days are worthless? No. Even though I have to start over, I learned alot from those days. First, I learned that I can do go a whole day with minimal carbs. Second, I learned what meals to eat. So now, it will be much easier to attempt it again! Don’t let a set back ruin your motivation. You still learn with every attempt. I know people that attempted to quit smoking, 5-6 times before they actually succeeded! The goal was still reached, and they are living a much healthier life now. You just have to keep at it. What is the old saying? “If at first you don’t succeed. Destroy all evidence that you tried.” Just kidding. “Get your ass back in gear and try again!”

I think it is important to admit your failures. Especially when you’re like me and bragging all over the internet that you’re accomplishing your goals. You never now who is reading, or listening, and taking your words to heart. The problem begins when someone is influenced by you, but they reach a set back, and when they compare themselves to you, Mr. “Never fails” then they think they just aren’t capable of being better. I’m here to say, I’ve failed my way to success, every time. There are always set backs. I don’t feel bad about them anymore. I used to, but now I know that they are part of the process. Water beats stone every time in the long game.

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After indulging in some delicious food, my wife and I decided to go to bed early to wake up and go out shopping. We didn’t have anything in mind that warranted being out at midnight, so we got up at 6 and headed to the stores after the mobs have left. It was slow at first, not really finding anything great, but after 8 hours of shopping, we made out pretty good. We got our daughter some stuff that she wanted for Christmas, and we got our puppy some bones and a few hoodies. He’s a little guy and it gets mighty cold in Massachusetts.

I took the day off from posting, but I’m back at it again today. Perhaps the break was necessary because this very morning, I finally figured out the plot of my book! I’ve been writing a fiction story for a few months now. I have written 50-60 pages, most of which is being thrown out, but it led me to where I am now. I have far fewer pages, but they’re good pages and I’ve got the plot now so it is going to zoom from here! I’m so excited. I used to write all the time in the past but when I reached a road block that would demand me starting over, or throwing out most of my work, I’d give up on the story entirely and start a new one. I thought that If I didn’t write it perfectly on the first go, then it wasn’t a good story. How dumb was I right? Now I know, writing is rewriting. A college professor changed my world when she said, “Nothing is ever done, only due.”

I just wanted to share what is going on with me, with you. I’m just so excited to announce that my book finally has direction and I can’t wait to get back to writing it! Have a wonderful day!

 

Motivation

Attempting a Keto Diet


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I have been trying new diets for the better part of a decade now and I’ve been toying with the idea of going keto. It seems to be all the rage right now.

When I first started paying attention to my food, it was a mess. I wanted to gain weight, being a life long skinny man

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Yes, that’s a baby swan.

So, I only focused on the calories. I didn’t care how I got them, just as long as I kept shoveling food into my face. At one point, I was eating 4000 calories a day.

 

 

These became my portion sizes, every day. I was eating full meals, every 2 hours.

But I grew into a 205 lb beast!

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I got big, and strong, but also slow, tired, and not as little around the middle. I could bench 315, squat 320, and dead lift 405! Not record breaking numbers, but for the kid who could barely bench the bar when he started, it was like climbing Everest!

However, I couldn’t maintain the caloric intake after the military, because food wasn’t free anymore. Because of my metabolism, I quickly lost size. I shredded up, which was nice, but I couldn’t get over the fact that I lost all of mys strength.

Back down at 170

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I started paying more attention to my diet. I cut out sugar, almost entirely. No more soda. I tried to eat vegan, vegetarian, and even a very short attempt at carnivore. I just didn’t feel great on those diets. I’ve lost even more weight, now back to my original 165 lbs, but with a much more solid frame. Recently, I’ve got the kick to try Keto. I’ve been hearing so much about it and decided that I’d give it a shot. I like trying new diets, and if worse comes to worst, I’ll just shovel pasta in my gullet and balloon back up!

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Motivation

The Biggest Lesson I learned in my 20’s


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I don’t know how it is for everyone else, but my 20’s were a shit show. Well the first half of my 20’s. I was homeless from my late teens until I was 21. I spent my 21st birthday as a guinea pig for a group of friends who wanted to see if I could stay drunk for 21 days straight (which I succeeded at, then surpassed into a habit). Life was terrible because I didn’t care about myself.

Then, I decided to live. I joined the military (GO NAVY!) and got my life on track. Not overnight, because while in the Navy, I still drank like a sailor and didn’t do much looking inward at first. When I turned 24/25-ish is when I began to rebuild myself, from the inside-out. If there is just one lesson that needs to be learned in your 20’s, though it may sound cliché, but it is simply to learn to Love Yourself.

People like me seek the approval of others in order to define themselves. I’ve been like that for as long as I can remember. I had an easy time making acquaintances, but my problem was that I would latch on to people. If I made a friend, I would say it is my best friend, and then I’d go out of my way to make that person happy. They would usually reciprocate when it would be just us, but when there was someone they thought was “cooler” than me available to hang out with, guess who’d be alone? Yup, little ole me. It took me over 20 years to realize that this was a problem with me, and not them. I thought that these people were fake and not a true friend, like me. Don’t be so full of yourself. They had lives outside of our friendship and that’s okay. I blamed my lack of a life beyond them, on them. Not cool old me, not cool.

The real issue was that these people didn’t depend on me for happiness as I did to them. I wasn’t happy with myself and I was using them like a drug to numb my emptiness. I couldn’t be alone without crying my eyes out for no reason. Maybe you’re not as messed up as I was, but the advice still applies. Love yourself. Spend some time thinking about your own insecurities and then figure out WHY you are insecure about them.

For me, I found that my older brother and my mother played a big role in mine. My mom was a single mother, living in poverty, who worked constantly for little money. She worked all day, and when she was home, she would be too tired to spend much time with us. My brother bullied me verbally and physically, so I went out and found comfort in friends. It was in my 20’s that I was able to figure this out and forgive them for their faults. I’ve learned that they have their own insecurities and that they never maliciously contributed to mine. I’ve learned that my brother’s anger was a problem with HIM and not with ME. I have learned to love me for me and you know what? I can be alone now, in fact, I prefer it most of the time.

One good decision led to another and before long, I ended the bad relationships that I held on to for no good reason other than my fear of being alone. Good bye to the drug users and dealers, Good bye to the unmotivated and negative thinkers, and Good bye to the old me! I now keep a small circle and if I see them, I enjoy what I can, and if I don’t, I enjoy my own company.

Love yourself! Nobody has a clue what this is…Life. Some people are convincing and pretend that they know, but I promise you, not a single person has a clue. We are all just trying to do the best we can with what we have. Unfortunately some people have less to work with than others, but we all can find happiness within. And if you ever feel like nobody cares, just know, you still have you!

Motivation

How to Improve Your Imagination


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If you’re like me, you might feel like you lack imagination. Which is strange because as a child, I had the wildest imagination. Somehow, over the years, it began to fade. I became more literal and logical. These are great qualities to have, especially in this world that we live in, but let’s be honest, the outside-the-box thinkers are just as necessary. It takes imagination to dream and wonder “what if?” Then it takes the logical mind to bring dreams into reality. I used to think that I had to choose between the two ways of thinking, but I now believe it is possible to be both.

Just a little over a month ago, I began to read books again. Like page turning, hold in my hand, use a book mark, type of books. I have grown to dislike reading, mostly because I have a huge love for movies. However, it is the media that I consume that I believe killed my own imagination. Movies and games are amazing, but they do the creativity part for you. You don’t have to picture anything. However, those mediums do still keep your logical brain challenged. In movies, you might be trying to figure out what’s going to happen next, or analyzing the message of the movie, or something. In video games, especially in the ones that I enjoy, there is a strategic element that challenges me to figure out how to best my opponent. Thus, the logical brain has been strengthening over the years.

Reading books was a challenge for myself, mostly because I enjoy writing and all writers that I know or follow say, “Reading and writing go hand in hand. To be a better writer, one must read.” Honestly, I didn’t want to believe it, but I have decided that I would give it a shot. I didn’t realize the impact that reading would have on my imagination. At first, it was so difficult to even picture what was happening on the page that I was reading. Words were just words to me. I read them, but I wasn’t being whisked away by them, and I stayed in the reality of the situation. That is, sitting there, staring at a page, reading words. However, after a few days, maybe a week of continuous reading (just 25 pages a day), I began imagining small details. Not entire scenes, or the the whole story, but little things, like the description of a characters neck tie, or, while reading a detailed description of a room, I could imagine just the chair. It was small, but it was a start, like I was flicking the imagination switch back on and impulses were starting to connect.

After a month of reading daily, I can now imagine whole scenes. I still have work to do to keep me in the story, but I can see steady growth in my imagination. It has given me more motivation to read because I am seeing tangible results, which pleases my logical brain =] I have been writing daily too, and I am starting to add more details to it as I go and revise.

So there you have it. Just read books. Something that many still do, but also something that is increasingly becoming a digital task. Spend some time, everyday, just 25 pages, and read a real, page turning, physical book, and I guarantee that your imagination will improve.

News and Updates

When Plan Z Fails


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January 1st, 2011

It was a night to remember. I had spent New Years Even with my new wife and beautiful daughter. We drank champagne, sparkling cider for the little one, and ate junk food, while we watched the ball drop on TV to count down the new year.

3…2….1.. Happy New Year!

We cheered and raised our glasses, smiling, laughing, and sharing our resolutions. I had just been promoted recently to an E3 in the Navy, which I couldn’t believe seeing as though I had just been promoted to E2 two months prior, after graduating from boot camp. My Navy career was off to a great start, and I couldn’t have been happier.

Let me go back a little bit. I never planned on joining the military, in fact, I was dead set against it. I was going to be a big rap star. That was plan A. I always joked and said, “Joining the military would be my plan Z.”

After a failed attempt at a rap career. After the 3 years of being homeless. After the drug overdose, I decided that maybe plan Z was looking like a good idea. I was living in California, if you could call it living, and I called my dad up and told him that I wanted to join the Navy, and asked if I could stay with him until I left for boot camp. He agreed so long as I was serious.

It took a year to get in. The military was flooded with people, and were actually looking to downsize. During that year, I was spending all of my time working at Walgreens, and seeing my girlfriend and her daughter. The day finally came that I left for boot camp, in July of 2010. I came home in October and proposed to my lady.

engaged

We went out to a fancy engagement dinner

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We got married in December. I was a whole new man. I gained some weight and muscle back. The Navy dentists fixed my teeth. I got a hair cut and clean shave. I got my confidence back, and I was dead set on being a squared away sailor, possibly for life.

My phone vibrated, I never had the sound on, and it was Mark. He called to say that he was outside. I checked the time. 3:00 AM. I had dozed off for a few hours while waiting to be picked up. I kissed my wife goodbye and left.

Mark and I were in the same duty section. Our base in Connecticut was on whats called “Christmas stand down,” and we were allowed to take 1 week of leave, either the week before Christmas, where we’d have to return to base on Christmas day, or the week after Christmas, having to return by New Years day. Mark and I both got the second week off, and he had a car on base, and happened to be from Massachusetts as well, so was kind enough to give me a ride to see my family and bring me back to base.

When I got in the car, he had the windows open, and was pounding back an energy drink. I told him that I was exhausted and going to sleep, but to wake me up if he needed me to take over. We pulled away from the house, and once we hit the main street, he turned the music back on and blared some high energy, rock n roll. I have no idea how I managed to fall asleep.

I woke when the windshield shattered, and the second I opened my eyes, I felt a quick sting in my right eye, and then blackness. A piece of the glass cut my cornea. I had no time to think about that. My immediate instincts said to get out of the car. I heard Mark grunting in agony, trying hard not to scream. I tried to open the door. It wouldn’t budge. The windows were still open, so I jumped out of my window and ran over to Mark’s side and helped him get out of his. We moved quickly through the snow towards the road. It was pitch black, not a street light in sight.

Once we were far enough away from the car, Mark collapsed. He had shattered both of his feet. I’m amazed that he was able to walk on them at all before that. Adrenaline is one helluva drug. He realized the pain suddenly and the screams began getting louder. I had my cellphone in the pocket of my pea coat, Navy issued, and called 911.

“911 what’s your emergency?”
“We need an ambulance, we were just in a car accident.”
“How many people are with you?”
“Just me and my friend. Just two.”
“Was there any other cars involved in the accident?”
“No, we hit a tree.”
“Where is your location?”
“I…I don’t know.” I began to look around for any indication of where we were. “I can’t see any signs. It’s pitch black. We were coming from Massachusetts towards Connecticut. I… Mark.. Do you know where we are?” He was screaming and couldn’t hear me. “Mark!”
“Sir… Sir” The woman on the phone tried to get my attention.
“I don’t know where we are.”
“Sir, we have you on GPS, an ambulance is on the way.”

After we hung up, I ran over to Mark, and I crouched near him. I didn’t know what his injuries were so I just kept telling him to stay awake and keep his eyes closed. He apologized over and over. I kept telling him it was okay, and I repeatedly said that I can’t see out of my right eye. We spoke in circles between repeating our injuries and apologizing until the ambulance arrived. The moment I saw the flashing lights, I collapsed in the snow and just laid there. They took us on two stretchers. I can’t remember if we were in the same ambulance or if there were two. I just remember flashes from that point. They spoke some medical jargon, while asking me questions. They took out scissors and began to cut my pea coat.
“No, I can take it off.”
“Sir, we need you to sit still.”
“No, this is part of my uniform, it’s expensive.”
“Sir, they’ll give you another one.”
“No they won’t. It’s expensive.”
They cut it off anyway. They also cut off my clothes.

I saw Mark only for a brief second when we arrived at the hospital in Rhode Island. They carted him off in one direction and me in another. I was in some sort of lobby area, when a nurse approached me and asked if there was anyone they should call. I, for the first time, got to say,
“Call my wife.”

I quickly realized how panicked she would be if the nurse called her and left a message saying that I was in an accident and in the hospital so I asked if I could be the one to speak with her. I left a message, saying I didn’t make it back to base, and that I’m in the hospital in Rhode Island but that I’m alright.

I remember waking up in the hospital bed, in a room, feeling exhausted but the drugs kept the pain at bay. My wife showed up, it was an hour drive, and she looked shocked to see me in such a vulnerable state. My dad showed up shortly after too.

The doctors said that I had a concussion, a fractured sternum, and a corneal abrasion. A few months of medicated drops in my eye and my vision returned. Mark wasn’t as lucky. He spent several days in the hospital getting his feet operated on. It took months to recover enough to return to duty. He eventually got back on track, and as far as I know he’d still in the Navy.

I appeared alright sooner, but as I went back to work, I had pains in my back. I couldn’t stand or sit for too long without being in unbearable back pain. I couldn’t pass my fitness tests. I looked fine on the surface, but my lower back was definitely not. It took many tests and attempts, but due to my injury and the fact that the Navy was looking to downsize, they decided that I was no longer worth the investment, and they let me go. I received an honorable discharge, and my GI bill. They thanked me for my service and that was it. Plan Z failed.

I didn’t know what to do. I decided to roll into college, not for the education, but because the GI bill would pay my rent so long as I was a full time student. So, two weeks a civilian, and I was taking a full course load while reexamining my life and direction. It took a long time to figure out what I would do next. Years of classes and degrees and I finally decided that I would take the firefighters exam.

I know what you’re thinking. “How could you be a firefighter but not a sailor? What about your back?”

You are correct for thinking that. My back is still in pain, though over the years I’ve managed to find ways to bring it down. So long as I stay light weight (I was power lifting in the military and got myself up to 205 lbs. I’m 160 now) and stay flexible. I stretch daily, and I keep my core strong. So long as I eat good and avoid foods that cause inflammation. My back pain is manageable. I’ve completely changed my life, mostly for the better, although when I slack and eat too much junk or miss too much exercise, my back reminds me that I’m not as healthy as I think sometimes. The doctors said that I will probably have worse pain in my 50’s and 60’s so I’m trying to get in the fire department. Kick ass for as long as I can, and get a decent pension.

I took the test this past March, the physical exam in the summer, and I am currently in the waiting part of the process for a job opening. Wish me luck!

You never know where life will take you and how your whole future can change in the matter of seconds. How one car ride can decide your fate.

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Motivation, Musings

The Mountain


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“Maybe I’m just like my mother. She’s never satisfied.”

I’ve been told that I’m extremely stubborn. I guess it’s true. It isn’t that I refuse to do what other’s want. Actually, I’ve got an uncontrollable need to please people. Let me explain.

If we were to hang out, and I wanted to go to the movies, but you wanted to go do something else, I’d happily decide to do whatever you wanted to do. The same goes for dinner. That’s why I feel like Ryan Gosling in “The Notebook” when asking my daughter and wife what they want for dinner.

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I wouldn’t care if it were my birthday, in fact, as a child, I’ve given up birthday presents so that my brother could open up a gift too, because I felt bad that I was receiving toys and he wasn’t. Material possessions don’t mean much to me.

However, when it comes to something that I supposedly “have” to do, that’s where my stubborn self comes alive. I am a human being, equal to all other human beings around me. I don’t care if you’re the pope, king, president, or homeless; we all breathe the same air, and bleed the same blood. Therefore, no man or woman shall have domain over me. See, in the previous scenarios, I concede to other’s desires, but it is still my choice in the matter. When I am told, “You have to do this, or else.” Then my freedom of choice is being challenged, and I will usually go with the “or else” option.

I don’t know what it is. There is this feeling, deep in the pit of my stomach that just won’t allow me to give in to the power of someone else, unless it will harm an innocent person. For example, the time I walked in on a robbery, I was surprised to learn in that moment that I didn’t fear death. I was more disappointed that I was bested, like losing a game of chess. I was outnumbered, and unarmed, but my mind was still looking for a last ditch effort to fight. However, I was not alone. There were 10 innocent lives behind me, and one wrong move could have put them in danger, and so I decided to do nothing. It is a moment that I will wrestle with for the rest of my life as to whether or not that was the best course of action, even though we all ended up walking away unharmed (relatively, one guy did get pistol whipped when they first arrived), I also wonder, what if they weren’t going to let us live? And I did nothing. But I digress.

When I was in the military, where you have absolutely no rights. I still somehow maintained some respect. When I would get yelled at by a superior, and if I didn’t deserve it (sometimes I made mistakes, in which case I accepted the verbal lashing), but when they were just being jerks because of my rank, I always stood up for myself. I’d usually say something like, “Look, I know you outrank me, and I know how this works, so I will do whatever you’re asking me to do, but you don’t have to yell at me, just tell me what needs to get done and I’ll do it.” And to my surprise, and if we were alone, it worked. Only if they had fellow superiors around them would they dig their heels in and act worse, but I completely understand that.

I’ve learned to praise publicly, criticize in private. So, later, when I felt disrespected, I would bite my tongue, and find them later, alone, and talk to them about it. Again, it usually worked. Most of the time, they’d make a conscious effort to speak to me better. Now, when I say better, I don’t mean that they’d not make commands. They still outrank me, and it is still the military. I mean the added nonsense. The name calling, or family insults. So, instead of, “Harrigan, go fucking clean that mess over there you inbred piece of shit!” They would begin to say, “Harrigan, I need that mess cleaned.” and I’d say, “Roger that” and get to it.

Moving on, when it comes to jobs, outside of the military, I understand that I have a boss and my position in the company. However, like the military, I won’t be told what to do. When I worked at Walgreens, before the Navy, I had tickets to a Celtics game. I told my boss, a month in advance, that I would need that day off because of the game. He said it shouldn’t be a problem. The day before, near the end of my shift, he approached me and said,
“I couldn’t find anyone to cover your shift, so you have to come in tomorrow.”
“Umm, I told you that I had tickets to the Celtics a month ago. Why would you even schedule me to work that shift?”
“That’s usually the shift you work. It isn’t my responsibility to find someone to cover your shift, it’s yours. You didn’t find someone to cover your shift, so you have to work. Plain and simple.”
“No, you said that you were going to find someone to cover my shift. If you told me to find someone, I would have. You said that it shouldn’t be a problem. I already bought the tickets.”
“You’re scheduled to work tomorrow, if you don’t come in, then you’re a no call no show and you’ll be fired.”
“Ok.”

The next day, I went to the game. I was fired. I regret nothing.

Shortly after, I left for boot camp and my life has been exponentially better since. I might not have had the guts to go to boot camp if I still had that job. The lack of options played a pivotal role in my motivation.

Perhaps these are just examples of me being a stubborn brat. I don’t know. What I do know is that when it feels like someone is flexing power of me, I don’t budge. When I was a teen, and wrestled with my friends, they’d have to literally choke me unconscious for me to stop. I would rather be put out than to give in to someone saying, “You give up?” while they clamp down on my neck. However, that same will is what drives me to succeed. It is the reason that I was able to stop drinking without help. Once I realized that people around me saw me as the “sure thing” when they wanted a drinking buddy, I decided that I wasn’t going to be their sure thing any more. In a weird way, it felt like a power they held over me. All they had to do was say something like, “Who wants a beer? Harrigan, I know you want one” as they’d toss me a can. Like they are the gracious beer kings throwing a bone to the lowly peasant. Not I. The moment I had that realization, I cracked open that last beer and just stared at it. I watched it for probably an hour before standing up, putting on my jacket, and leaving the party. I said, “I gotta go.” And I haven’t looked back. Those friends faded from my life, with no ill feelings, I still value them and wish them well, but I started walking a different path that they just wouldn’t fully understand without walking it with me. I still don’t drink, but because I choose not to. If I drink again someday, It will be because I choose to, not because I feel I have to.

That stubborn will is what made me go back as an adult to the Tae Kwon Do school I had quit as a teenager. I had always regretted not getting my black belt and it haunted me that I gave up on something I loved. I felt like the people in my past who said I wouldn’t amount to anything were right. So, during one of the hardest semesters of my life, taking 4 classes, 3 of them being at the graduate level, I decided to go back to Tae Kwon Do. Same school, same teacher. And you know what?

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That same stubbornness has driven me to achieve my bachelor’s and master’s degree. I thought of all the teachers I’ve had that didn’t think I would do anything. I thought of the few that believed in me. I push myself hard because I never want to be “less than.” I’ve lived too long in my life believing that I was nothing. A nobody. Because of my past, because of my financial status growing up, and because of circumstances that were out of my control, I felt like a complete waste of human life. I would never show that on the outside. Nope. I doubled down. I trained hard. I practiced everything that I did, whether it was athletics, video games, or rapping; anything that I could compete in with my peers, I became the best or the top contender. I would not let someone say that they are better than me at anything. I will not be looked down at. And when I am on top, I will not look down at anyone else. I demand eye level contact, and I promise the same.

I know that there is always someone better at something. I have grown to understand that I don’t need to be the best at anything to be treated equally. I used to believe in my youth, that those at the top had the privilege to look down at those below, because they’ve earned it, but I now understand that there is no top. There is no below. There is one level that we all exist on, and only when zooming in real close, on specific subjects, does one appear to have elevation. But we appear higher and lower depending on what we are looking at. I might be “better” at athletics, but my brother can draw like you wouldn’t believe. Michael Jordan is arguably the best basketball player of all time, but I wonder how well he can write a poem? Or if he sews? Does he bake? Or fix cars? Possibly, but the point is, there is something Michael Jordan isn’t “The Michael Jordan” of.

This expands my understanding of equality. And it strengthens my stubbornness ten-fold. If you dare look down at me, or demand something from me, while we stand on the same ground, breathe the same air, bleed the same blood, then you better believe that I stand firm, like a mountain

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