On Beginnings

On Beginnings

How Escapism Led Me To Writing

Every now and again, we’ve to look back to our past and consider the lives we’ve lived. Up to this point, overall, I’ve not lived a bad life. Yet, who I am today stems from the moments of my life that I didn’t wish to face, whether it be due to pain, anxiety, or the desire to be elsewhere.

Growing up I had the good fortune of being part of a family who took great pleasure in vacationing. They didn’t vacation for the adventure of traveling, but rather for the indulgence of escaping a ordinary life.

It was never the destinations that drove them to a location; local culture, history, and art did not interest them. Instead, it was the prospect of complete service. The idea that they could spend money upfront to have others care for them. At least, when I think back to it, this is how it seemed to be.

Every now and again they’d sign us up for an excursion, but most of these vacations were spent around the pool, with me fetching them drinks, over-eating at the buffet, and sleeping.

Over the years, when the number of family-friends who joined in climbed, we started looking into different resorts, but the similar areas. For me, most of the time, I was on my own during these vacations to Mexico.

Being the youngest, I had to find ways to entertain myself, to get away from the feeling of being an outsider. Aside from being the youngest, I was a shy, heavy-set child. To do something alone was terrifying, yet to sit around the pool and watch all others laughing and becoming drunk would worsen that sense of not belonging.

I suppose I should’ve added that I began reading at a young age. Not necessarily because I wanted to, but because I was told it would help with my speech—for a number of years in elementary school, I was part of the speech therapy program. Through reading, I found a kind of pleasure in the act of fantasizing the material. Like many other children, I would daydream constantly, and I found that reading only served to deepen those daydreams. In a way, I read to bring about more intricate, enjoyable dreams.

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when all the anxieties begin in life. When did walking into a room of strangers become terrifying? When did the shaking in my hands, the sensation of my body locking up begin? When did my dreams become nightmares?

At some point in my childhood, things changed. Fears began. Shame started to grow within me. Things that I had found joy in seem to lose the appeal they once had. Dreaming became a frightful act of violence. My subconscious had seemingly turned on me, and night after night I tried to stay awake, to keep away from dreaming. This was the time that night terrors began.

During these years, I stopped reading. Before, before the terrors, I would record my dreams down in a notebook. Now, I tried to keep away from them. Most nights when I’d sleep over at friends, I’d wake in the middle of the night, crying, demanding to go home—the only place I thought of as comforting.

It was also during these years where I began playing video games, and it was through video games where I found pleasure in escaping the present. It was a means to live a life that was not my own, yet, in some aspect, was my own. After all, I was the mind behind each character I played through as, guiding them through their world. I had become a hand of fate to these fictitious characters.

With the ongoing divorce of my parents, and the hard move away from my childhood home—a house that I always said I’d never leave—this is how I spent a large portion of my teenage years: hiding away in digital realities.

When I was nineteen, after working a year in a UPS warehouse, I landed a job at Barnes & Noble. They hired me because of my experience in that warehouse. Not due to my background or remote love for literature. In short, I had no idea what literature even was. I was in community college at the time, on academic probation for nearly flunking the spring semester. Life wasn’t what I thought it would be. All my close friends were away at universities, and I was struggling with community college, working at a Barnes & Noble for extra money.

The feeling of being an outsider was, perhaps, a feeling that never truly left me. There were numerous times, early in the morning, as I stocked the book aisles, when I’d think back to those days of my youth spent on vacations with my family, about the time wasted hiding away in video games, about the night terror—which were returning at this age after years of calm. I was nineteen, and I didn’t know who I was, or what I was supposed to do.

One day, relatively early on in my days at Barnes & Noble, I was shelving fiction books. I flipped through the first pages of the books I had heard about in high school—Slaughterhouse-Five, Frankenstein, Catcher and the Rye. After that shift, I bought three books. Among those three books was The Alchemist.

I didn’t know anything about it, or Paulo Coelho, only that a friend I worked with at that time, Janna, highly recommended it. It was in that book that I started discovering the wonders of language, the light that’s tucked between the pages. It was The Alchemist that allowed me to escape, yet with a purpose.

The next morning, after finishing the novel, I sat down beside the fireplace of my home at the time, opened a blank page, and began writing for myself. It was with these first lines, which grew into one of my first short stories, that taught me who I am, what I am, and how to become that which we’re meant to become.

Often the world works against us. However, every now and again, we manage to remain quiet enough to hear its whisper ushering us into a specific direction, towards the light that remains at a distance in the dark.

Cover Image Credit: Coty Poynter

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Loving An Addict: The End Of You And Me

I knew this would be how we would end, but I never thought it'd be so soon.

I've rewritten this a thousand times. It's been edited, and edited again. I can't seem to get it right. Maybe because I'm not ready.

Or, maybe it's because there's a part of me that'll never be ready to say we reached the end. Maybe, just maybe, there's a fraction of a possibility we haven't.

I posted this quote once, on Instagram: "One day, whether you are 14, 28, or 65 you will stumble upon someone who will start a fire in you that cannot die. However, the saddest, most awful truth you will ever come to find-- is they are not always with whom we spend our lives."

And you looked at me the next time I was at your house, busted my balls, and said, "I saw your Instagram post about me." You proceeded to recite the entire thing word for word. I laughed, because at the time I posted it, it wasn't about you, and you hadn't even been following my private account, so someone must have showed it to you. It wasn't about you at the time I posted it, but maybe it was always meant to be.

I went to Hawaii last week. And I can't tell you how many times I felt you there; on the tarmac as the plane landed, the sun dipping under the horizon. In the sunshine as I laid my head back, floating in the ocean. On the edge of a cemented outcropping of Diamond Head that's off limits. And most importantly, by my side-- on the beach, at Manoa Falls-- in some small piece of every adventure I had.

I tried to leave you in 2016. Yet you still managed to be the first kiss of 2017 the same way you were the last one of 2016. I never could shut you out or leave you, not really, no matter what you did to me. And I have some small comfort in the fact that I was your last kiss, even though you won't be mine. And that you never left me either, no matter what I did to you.

I wrote you a letter, last year, and told you some things. Things like you couldn't be in the cards for me; you couldn't even be in the same deck, because you'd always be an addict first and a husband second. That you'd have to fight those demons every day. That I'd never understand that craving, but I would feel that pain. And holy shit, do I feel that pain.

But I was wrong. I owed you more than that. And I am so sorry.

I tried to build you up with my words, but I still managed to tear you down with my actions. I was afraid of being hurt-- again-- and again, and again. So I tried to hurt you instead.

Two wrongs don't make a right, and in the end I think I started to realize that. I tried to turn it around for us; to accept you as you were.

But you told me that effort and trying wouldn't be enough for us. I guess you knew something I didn't. And maybe they wouldn't have been enough. Because as hard as I tried, I could never save you.

You knew my worst fear, babe. I told you a million times. Walking into work at the county morgue and seeing your name on that board. Picking up the phone and listening to some cop rattle off your name while I was expected to take the details, handle the call and your corpse. Waking up next to you dead in bed, stiff and foaming at the mouth.

And while I did wake up next to you, alive, on Saturday, it doesn't change the fact that you were still dead by Sunday. It happened a little differently than I imagined it, but my worst fear came true just the same. I still lost you. And in losing you, I still lost the future I vehemently denied wanting, in a feeble attempt to stave the pain. And guess what? I still feel all of that pain anyways. Part of me will feel all of that pain, for the rest of my life.

I'm not alone, in my grieving. You have parents, and sisters, and cousins; aunts and uncles, grandmas and grandpas, friends. All of these people that loved you; they all tried to save you the only way they knew they could. None of it could have ever been enough.

You'll never be a husband, or a dad. You'll never meet your future nieces or nephews. You'll never breathe, ever again. You made me the person who's going to be thirty-two, standing at your grave.

And while we may move forward, love, we will never really move on. We'll never "get over" losing you; a brother, a son, a friend. Whatever you and me were.

We'll move forward, and keep spreading your legacy. Because everyone should know just how beautiful you truly were, inside and out. Because for all the pain you felt, and everything we went through, you were still the light in every room.

I'll forever miss your smile, and the way we'd be at each others' throats. The way you'd duck away, trying to hide your laugh and your smile when you didn't want me to know you thought what I said was funny. The way you'd hug me from behind the second I was within five feet of another guy. The way we used to fight. God, I love the way we used to fight. And I can't begin to express to you how unreal this still is to me.

We weren't dating. We weren't even together. We could go months without speaking and pick up where we left off without a hitch. We weren't everything, but we were something. You were my best friend, my biggest weakness, and a giant pain in my ass. You were my future, so long as you were breathing. I could do anything, be anyone, so long as there was hope for you and me in the end.

I don't know how to live in a world where you're not breathing. So far, I've hated every second of it. And I'm not the only one.

I told you that if you died, I died. Remember? And I did. The person that I was before I lost you, is buried in the ground beside you. Who I am now, is something I haven't entirely yet come to comprehend.

And now I'm left standing here, looking at all of the promises we made each other. Promises we never got the chance to fulfill. I knew that some day I'd lose you. That one day I'd wake up in a world where you'd ceased to exist. And still I prayed, I prayed that I'd be wrong. I hoped, until the very last day, that you'd turn it around for me, no matter how stupid that sounds.

But now I lay here in your shirt and I look through videos and pictures and the black cavern that sits in my chest aches at the edges, while grief sucker punches me in the gut and steals air from my lungs. You are so loved, bubby, by everyone who knew you.

I said at the beginning, that maybe there's a fraction of a possibility that this isn't the end, not really. On Earth, maybe. But I know in a sense you're still here; your presence. And even though this is the end of us down here, I know that someday you'll be waiting for me. And you'll say, "Let's go home," like you always did after a long night. And you'll be ready this time. And I'll be ready too. And then we'll begin again.

Cover Image Credit: Rachel Perna

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We Are As Free As We Choose To Be

Unchain your mind.

Isn’t it quite cynical to choose a life that wastes our fleeting days? Isn’t it painfully sad to have an overabundance of opportunities, yet we crawl into bed, unaccomplished, alone, and not where we want to be?

We say, “oh, tomorrow, it will be better.”

We say, “it won’t be like this for long.”

But what if your ways stay stagnant because you’re too reserved to move? You are running in place because you’ve chained yourself to a false reality that has kept you small and comfortable for far too long. It’s easier this way — I’ve said it all before too because at the time I didn’t realize, I was staring fear in the face and it looked like my friend.

As I watch and learn from those around me, I’ve seen it all too and my biggest take away will be that choosing comfort over growth is a fatal decision; it’s in the continuous belittling things we do that destroys our well-being, our consciousness, our integrity until we are morphed into someone who retreats at the idea of failure, rejection, and discomfort — until we morph into someone we are no longer proud of.

We are as free as we choose to be — as blessed and humbled as our minds dare grant us. We have all capabilities in the world to create a life we love and nourish our soul that radiates from the inside out. It should be a simple choice, although it may not always be the easiest because temptation is real and inclusion feels vital. Yet, how do you expect to always fit in if your soul is requiring you to be on another journey, a new path, uncharted territory?

When things go sour, relationships fall through, and opportunities turn a blind eye to us, those instances can be considered a prominent end or a flourishing beginning to start something new or try again. It’s quite special to have all this power inside of you, to be strong in your convictions, to know your worth; so why would you spend one more moment doubting your existence? Why would you spend one more moment pondering all the lost causes?

Why wouldn’t you spend every moment of your life loving deeper and living to the fullest?

There’s one thing I know for sure, I will continue to choose my freedom, without chains, burdens, and obligations because in being truly free, I will know my most true, authentic self.

Cover Image Credit: Ashley DeBoer

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