Coming Out on Top: Four Things I Learned from Loss

“Though there’s no one there to guide you
No one to take your hand
But with faith and understanding
You will journey from boy to man “- Phil Collins’ “Son of Man”

Loss is an inevitable thing– it doesn’t just have to be death– it could be a loss of personal valuables, job, people moving on, loss of a sporting game, end of a journey, etc. Here are a few lessons I have learned from loss, as I just experienced one myself. It was tough, as any loss is, especially, when this thing or this  person has been ritualized. What I mean by ritualized is that you have been deeply attached to a person or thing because of the intensity or duration of exposure so much so that it would be unfathomable to think about losing this person or thing. It will hit you hard if you do end up losing this person or thing. Here is my story and lessons I learned from it.

I just lost a friend through him moving on in life in a ceremony called college graduation. He graduated June 2016. I spent all my time with him for 2 years (or in college years) 4 semesters together. This will be be my first in four semesters that I will be without this guy. Shed some tears for two nights.  No joke. I’ll see him of course he lives not to far away from where I live and go to college, but it would be hard as we are both busy. He has a life and I have one too (in college for one more year).It’s been ritualized. I’m already used to him being there–my partner in crime and role model– that is will be tough to go back to school Monday without this him. He was the friend who saved me. You can read more about him here: https://apexliving1.wordpress.com/2016/06/03/the-friend-who-saved-me/.

If you don’t feel like reading that post, here’s a summary, he saved me academically because I had no specific goal to achieve, but now I had a goal. I was determined to get on the Dean’s list and Alpha Kappa Delta, just like him. I worked my butt off and asked for help from professors and students. I was determined to be like him. My hard work succeeded and I have been on the Dean’s list for three semesters and am on AKD. I am like him. He recently graduated with Magna Cum Laude and, well, that’s my next goal. And I finally had a friend at college, not just fleeting acquaintances.

Now, going into a new year– my last year. Everything is different and it’s scary and tough. While some may argue that there are things called cell phones, it doesn’t replace an actual person being present.

But, contemplating about this loss, I learned several things and I wish to share it with you. It can be applied to any type loss– it doesn’t just have to be death– it could be a loss of personal valuables, job, people moving on, loss of a sporting game, end of a journey, etc. First, the best way to deal with loss is to make something good out of it. For me, it was helping underclassmen and friends who need help by passing the lessons he taught me on to them. In hopes that they will benefit from it and lead successful lives. To extrapolate, a sports player can teach others not to make the same mistake that led to the downfall of the game. Second, continue a ritualized tradition you have had prior to the loss. Or if none could be found, find a similar tradition to replace the one prior to the loss. For me, it was to continue to strive for academic excellence– as we both did– and continue doing WMNJ college radio –an extracurricular activity we both did together. To extrapolate, a sports player can continue the work ethic and dedication prior to the loss. Third, talking about it with others and thinking– not dwelling on it– will you move on and start a new chapter in your life. I talked about it with friends and contemplated about it and I look forward to a new chapter in my life. As with our sports example, talking about the loss of a sporting game can help the team move on and conquer many wins, instead of dwelling on the loss.  Lastly, there is no right or wrong way to go through a loss.

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The Catcher: Outta My League

Chapter Two: Outta My League

It was a summer evening on a Friday and behind my clothes I felt like I was on fire. I was sweating profusely from head to toe. So much sweat was falling from my face it looked like Niagara Falls!

We just won a big game against our rival– more like our arch enemy. We have been rivals since the dawn of time. Now game time is over and I can be the true me. I’m known as “Wolf” on the field cause I’m a ruthless predator on the field.

Trust me, I’m not that mean. I just do it to get in their heads–I’m actually genuinely a nice and caring guy. So, I guess it’s true nice guys finish last cause I haven’t found the one.

I keep dreamin’ of a happily ever after with him, but Andrew is wayyy outta my league. Plus, I keep fuckin up and miss those damn chances. All I wanted was to be with somebody who I liked and cared about me. Is that too much to ask?

But, I digress, I heard that there was a concert going on Main and that a really famous local band was performing and it was gunna be lit as fuck.

Since I had nothing to do after the game I thought that I’d attend the concert. I pull up to the venue in my metallic silver Lexus IS350 sports car. As I made my way through the crowds trying to find a friend or two, I saw Andrew. I was quite surprised as he is never round this area. But, I knew, I knew God put him here for a reason. To give me another chance. I gotta, I just gotta. I gotta before this chance passes.  Just like every other fuckin chance that I had.

 

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The Catcher: Fearless

Chapter One: Fearless

It’s a Wednesday night and I can’t sleep. Counting sheep don’t help. I’m too restless from dreaming– my head is often in the clouds– usually dreaming of finding him.

Dreamin’ of all the things we would do together. Livin life to the fullest. I wanna see all the beautiful places on earth– like there’s no tomorrow. I want to party– like there’s no tomorrow. All with him. There’s gotta be a way– somehow. Only in a fuckin Disney fairytale would you find a guy like him. He’s everything I ever wanted and everything I wanted to be.

He is a catcher on his college baseball team. I love it when he takes off his catcher’s mask. The way the sweat makes his short golden brown hair spike up and how it looks when sweat drips down his face. The way he holds his mask and how he looks down when returning to the dugout. He looks so lean and mean when he steps up to the plate.

Yeah, I’m on a different college team– rivals actually– but I get so happy when he does well. Especially when he gets a homer. The look when he does– priceless.

To be honest, I’m my own worst enemy, you know. I keep missing chances cause I’m too afraid to talk him, ya know– maybe ask him for his number. Something I die to do.

I fuckin missed so many chances. It’s a shame. And I’m pisssed. Pissed. I really wish I was as fearless off the field as I am on the field. As a pitcher, I always do my best to win and reach my goal– to make the other team cry like babies. I can’t let another opportunity pass me by and gotta talk to him. I just gotta. No ifs or buts.

 

 

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Chronicles From A Nobody: What is Real and Make Believe

Chapter Three: Lightning Crashes

Hi, it’s Lance. I never wanted to grow up– like Peter Pan. I wanted to be like other students. A happily ever after- like a normal child. Never wanted to be an adult. But, I guess life doesn’t work that way. Sometimes life forces you to be an adult.

I was supposed to have a normal childhood and teenage years– do all those things that children and teenagers do. Hanging round with friends talking about relationship statuses– who’s taken and who’s on the market. And the road trip adventures to someplace new every weekend.

Sometimes going to sporting events and sometimes doing stupid stuff. But life changes. You know, it never turns out the way you planned. All I can do now is dream of a childhood and teenage years I never had– it’s like a Disney fairytale. Dreaming of a happily ever after that would never come. I mean that how I live now.

It all started when dad left. If if you’re like me– you got a heart that doesn’t break easily– well, this was time when it did. How did it end up like this?  Everything fell apart cause the man you called your role model just left. Lightning crashes down. All your dreams and hopes– just gone– and reality hits. Can’t blame it all him though– I was naive. Things change. You grow up fast. Take care of the house, you know– man of the house. Help round the house you know. If I can, make some money.

Sometimes, I can’t deal. I just want to have fun– like the others. But, this is real life, not make believe. It’s like baseball– or any sport really. You plan and practice before every game. Analyzing past games and practicing your pitches to perfect it and improve on your past games. Of course, you expect to win, but something happens you really didn’t expect and you lose. Lose badly. Where did it come from– I don’t know! It was unexpected–  just like life. Life’s tough.

I can’t deal anymore. You know, it’s been 3 years since dad left, I have had depression ever since. Sometimes it’s ok and I can deal. Sometimes, I can’t deal. Depression isn’t your normal sadness that you get… It’s much worse. Much, much worse. You feel like it’s the end and all hope is gone. You have no purpose to live anymore. You don’t wanna do anything. I felt that I’d rather end it all sometimes– you know. It’s bad and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.

However, ever since I met Matt (the same Matt from Dreams From Two Towns) half a year ago, it has gotten better– he is the only reason I want to live. The only person I live for.

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Chronicles From a Nobody: Chances

Chapter Two: One More Chance

Hi, it’s Lance. I wish there could be more chances at life. You know, do overs– to right the wrongs. To make things better. One more chance could be the best thing right now. Everything in my life right now is screwed up. Its woulda, coulda, shoulda. I’m a screw up. I wish I could right the wrongs. A better son, a better student.

Someone that people could be proud of. When dad left, I wish I woulda, shoulda, coulda been there for my mom… instead I’m out hangin with my friends. Now, I wish I shoulda, woulda, coulda do more for mom so she could take a break. But I don’t know– I really don’t. I’m a dirtbag, just like everyone here– deadbeat up to no good.

Yeah, I coulda, shoulda been a better student. Instead– well I am not going to go there. Yeah, she had a dream for me. Well, I guess, she wanted me to go to college or some ‘upper level’ education. Yet, I was up to no good. You know, I just wish I had more chances at life– just one more chance would be nice. Turn back time… something like that… Just like baseball.

You know what I love about baseball? Chances. That’s right. Chances. In baseball you get nine innings to make magic happen. When you’re up at bat, you get three chances to hit a homer– you know.

I remember this time when one of the hitters got hurt and I got picked as the replacement. Mind you, I was a good hitter, but wasn’t a GREAT hitter. I was a pitcher. My job was to pitch and I was a PRO. But it was an emergency situation, what can you do? I was up to bat, you know. The first two hits were no good.

A granny could have hit better, really. Yet somehow I managed a homer on the third try. A fuckin’ homerun. It was awesome. Well, in life, it’s not like baseball, you got one shot at something and you make it or screw it up. I gotta make it up somehow, there MUST be a way, right? I gotta. I can make it right.

There’s this park on Rich Lane and Sky Road. I love going there sometimes at night. I love to sit on the ever so soft grass feeling the wind against my face while looking up at the starry sky–I’m on cloud nine. It’s beautiful. I love to dream of a world where I had a chance to make it right and get us out of this dump. I guess…I guess you can dream, right? Dreams keep hope alive– you know… just another chance to make things right.

 

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Chronicles From A Nobody: Glory

Chapter One: Friday Night Lights

Hi, it’s Lance. Yes, the same Lance from Dreams From Two Towns. It’s a Friday night and I am free. Mom’s at her job –the graveyard shift again. I have the house all to myself. I have to make myself dinner, but we don’t have much in the fridge to make much of anything, so I eat cheap take out pizza.

As  I sit on a really old beat up couch– the fabric is ripped– I turn the television on to see if there is anything new. It’s the weather and politics on some news channel–  which I don’t understand half of it anyway. I mean, it must be nice though, being a politician. Having so much power and can do so many things and get to be on TV and all. All famous and stuff.

I want to be famous. You know make it big on TV and everybody would know my name. Shine so brightly like stars in the night sky. I want to be… and now look where I am! In this shithole. In my dream, I like to imagine that I’m some celebrity where everybody knows my name. It’s the only comfort to me. It’s my only source of comfort– to keep up my hopes that one day I’ll get out of this place and make it big. Just like back in the day– in middle school. Baseball.

You know somethin’ I got my first taste of fame playing baseball in fuckin’ middle school. You know I was that best pitcher in town. The other team got nothin’ on me. I was the town favorite. You know, they’d cheer me on in the stands– every game I played. I was a household name– even our mayor knew me! The fuckin’ mayor. It felt nice, nice to be on top. Be a star– the center of attention. Everybody knew my name. Then the economy started to go bad and businesses here began to leave the town, people began to leave town one by one to find jobs elsewhere Look at me now– I’m a nobody. No one knows me now.

My life is like a romance fairy- tale gone sour. It’s a Shakespearian tragedy. I’m on top of the world one moment and a dirtbag the next. I guess fame doesn’t last. It’s like a really, REALLY bad craving you know– fame is. Once you’re off you experience withdrawal symptoms. You crave it again.

I don’t share this with people here.It’s not that it’s raw. I like being raw cause that’s when I can be the most honest and real. It’s just that no one cares about that here. It’s a shithole here and everybody’s got their own problem to deal with and they don’t want or have the time to hear mine. I’m a nobody.

 

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Dreams From Two Towns: Something Different

Chapter Five: Matt

As I was feeling the weight of the ball tug on my arms– pulling it down, I noticed a slight smirk coming from Lance’s face as he eyed me up. He let out a big pfft— kinda looking down on me as if I were inferior. Lance glanced at me again and let out a stifling remark.

He let out: You come in here thinking you fucking own this place… must be from the Eastside? Must be nice there. Whatcha want huh?

I was stunned by his comments– aghast. I thought to myself it can’t be possible. He must be nice…I envisioned him to be nice… I must be dreaming. Before he could make a remark again… I knew he was about to– I replied: No. No it’s not fucking nice! It’s like a shithole.

I could tell he was aghast as he tried to come up with some coherent and logical response, but all that came out was: You are shitting me, right? You are a liar!

I paused, thinking there must be a way to get to him. He must have a soft spot and I will get to it. I won’t give up. If a hundred boys couldn’t reach him, I could– no– I will be the one. The one to get to him. I, myself, was thinking of a coherent and logical response. I ended up coming up with a poetic monologue: No. No. No, I am not a liar. I am Matt. Yes, I AM from the Eastside and it is a shitty place to be; everyone is hiding behind their white picket fences and you know what I really hate? I hate that difference is shunned upon. It’s not okay to be different– it’s not okay to be unique… it’s not okay to want something better, want something, be yourself. I just want to be me– be me– even if that me is different from everyone else there. Is that too much to ask for? Is it? Answer me.

As I gathered myself, I looked at the other people and they all had their jaws dropped– as they looked in awe or in horror. I was horrified at myself too. As I let out a sigh I said: And that is why I came here– to look for something different– to be me. I guess I didn’t come to the right place.

I looked at Lance, as with the other people, he too was shocked and horrified (rightly so). He just stood there speechless. As we all stood motionless, I lowered the ever heavy bowling ball, and waited for a response. Silence. After a while, Lance came close to me and put his hand on my shoulder and finally spoke: Dude, you found the right place. Everything changes round here. One minute someone is here and they’re gone the next. Your friends, loved ones, neighbors– everyone. Everything changes. Stores that were once here– gone. Closed when the people left. You kinda feel lonely after a while. No one really to call your friends, your family. Do you really want that?

I gathered my thoughts: No, no I don’t, but I just want to get out of there just for a while. Where I can be me. I guess, that’s why you said the East was nice, huh? I guess no where’s perfect.

Lance sighed and gave me a nod. And replied: Yeah, I guess. Nowhere is perfect. You see, I too, wanted something different, away from here. Somewhere where I had a family, had friends to call my own. And for eternity. Somewhere where people didn’t just leave and never come back.  

Lance paused and continued: Why me though?

Puzzled, I asked what he meant by Why me?  Lance hesitated: You came straight to me after coming here.

I stood there silent and finally replied: I think you know why. I think it’s the same reason why you opened up to me after you heard my oration about how I wanted to get outta there.

Lance smiled and gave me a nod: Yes. Yes, Matt, I do.

Even though we lived in different and totally opposite towns, leading total opposite lives, we both wanted to try something different than what we currently have… and both of us wanted to find a place where we belong. And wanted someone who understands us. We ended up understanding each other.

 

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Dreams From Two Towns: This is Real

Chapter Four: Lance

 

I want something else other than this ever changing life.I want someone to take me outta this shithole cause it ain’t getting any better. Mom’s not home and when she is, she’s sleeping or making a fuss about something bad that happens around the house– like it’s somehow my fault. I know she’s tired; I know she works 12 hour shifts and sometimes overtime.

The graveyard shift. But… what can I do about it? It’s not my fault that dad left. It’s not my fault that our house is slowly falling into pieces. We had roof problems last week. That is fixed– for now. Today, the faucet is leaking and it may be something else sooner or later. Sooner rather than later. It’s not that I don’t help. I know she works her ass off. Yeah, I buy the groceries. I cook sometimes when she is tired. The little things. I can’t deal with everything.

Just got into an argument with mom today. The faucet. She blames me for breaking the faucet. It’s been falling apart for long time… I don’t know how to fix it. If I did, I would! After today’s argument– I can’t take it anymore. I can’t. It’s not supposed to be this way. It’s not fair. But, I guess, it’s the pain that makes it real. AND this is real.

It’s a Friday evening. I’m free Friday evenings. I can escape from this mess. It’s a time when I can dream… dream of a place where everything is okay. A fairytale. I escape from this mess the only way I know how.  My only solace– my silver S2000. I can drive for miles on end into the abyss into the night with the stars shining brightly. Top down, feeling the wind press against my face. And the only place I know where I can truly be at peace. JERRY’s. A bowling alley.

I’m a regular there. They know me, I know them. I walk in and Tommy, the bowling alley owner, greets me in his usual deep grouchy voice: hey there son.

I nod.

Tommy continues: The usual?

I nod.

The usual is a bowling ball, shoes, and a pop from the snack bar.

I say a thank you to Tommy and go about my own business. I’m good at bowling– the regulars know it. They got nothin’ on me. I beat them all the time. Per usual with the regulars cheering and sometimes jeering (when I pull a bad one)  I do extremely well.

As I take a break from a winning streak, I hear the door ding. In walks this well dressed young 20 some year old guy with dark brown hair. Tightass, thinks he owns this place– but he’s just so perfect. AND he walks over without a care in the world– to me.

 

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Dreams from Two Towns: JERRY’S

Chapter Three: Matt

It felt like springtime on one chilly Friday evening, I walked alone on a dimly lit sidewalk. Without any destination in mind. Just somewhere, anywhere outside of here– thought about the west side though. Heard the grass is greener there. I’m tired of being in the same place. Friday evenings are my only time away from here. I wish someone could take me outta here– forever– not just friday evenings. It was a Friday and free.

It was Friday evening that I will never forget. I went the distance and reached the westside. It felt like home; the westside is a place where I was meant to be. Everything here is so different– not many people are here.

Kinda abandoned and dilapidated. The roads are cracked and the buildings are in disrepair. Heck, some lights are dimmed, some are flickering, but it’s so peaceful and calming. So beautiful. It’s freeing, but I don’t know why.

I’m on Main and it’s a stretch of nothingness— an empty street that feels like it goes for miles. Most of the stores are closed, but there is a purple, blue, and yellow vintage neon sign still shining brightly as can be. Cautious, but curious, I slowly walk toward the light. It says: JERRY’S. Yes. All in big letters. It’s a bowling alley.

The door dings as I walk in. Accidentally in Love is playing in the background. Few people are there and some give me strange looks, but I pay no mind. I see Lance.  I get distracted by a grouchy deep voice: Whatchu want son?

Startled, I replied: uh… shoes and a bowling ball please.

The grouchy deep voiced man replied: Here…Six dollars

I gave him the six and put on the shoes and walked over to Lance.

He looked so burned out, yet so perfect with his short blonde hair and blue eyes.

 

 

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Dreams from Two Towns: Dreams from the West

Chapter Two: Lance

Nothing stays the same. Everything changes so fast. Especially people here. People come and go. One day they’re here and the next they are gone. I just wish that everything stayed the same. Why can’t they stay the same– even if it’s just for a day.

Every night I would wish upon a shooting star that everything would stay the same and nothing would change. I’ve been told that I should make some friends round here. But, what’s the point? They’re gunna be gone sooner or later. Sooner than later. Attachments only leave me feeling empty and heartbroken. I much rather be alone and do my own thing– on my time.

It wasn’t always this way. It used to be a stable town– people stayed where they grew up. Some of my former neighbors were in this town for 40 years!  Couple years ago that all changed. Businesses here began to leave the town, people began to leave town one by one to find jobs elsewhere. Yeah, I mean people came, but found no reason to stay– so they left.

My own family is in shambles. Dad’s gone– found a job elsewhere– just left (snaps)– like that. Never heard from him again. Mom worked her ass off, and still does to this day, working long hours to make ends meet and, if we are lucky, a bit surplus. Yet again, that leaves me all alone.

My only solace is a 2003 silver S2000. It’s one thing I can call mine. One thing that won’t leave my side. Something that doesn’t change. My friend. I can drive for miles on end into the abyss into the night with the stars shining brightly. Top down, feeling the wind press against my face. Sometimes when I drive I dream of a fairytale life where it could be the same— ever the same.