Starting over is never easy, and rarely sought after but it’s a reality of the world. Starting over at forty-four was not what I was hoping to do at this point in my life. Not to say that I ever had some grand plan for things.
I tend to build with the blocks from where they fall, making it work instead of obsessing over why it doesn’t.
Sometimes it is what it is.
In all my years I can’t say I have been fired. I was let go when a place I worked for was closing and I had a lady I did yard work for as a kid decide she didn’t need me any longer but never had I been fired.
It was weird.
It is weird.
I am not going to dive into it other than to say how weird it is and how similar to a romantic break up it was. How the friendship, the connection, and that bond dissolves before your eyes and then it is what it is.
I haven’t been unemployed for a long time. I have been working since I was fifteen and have faced times when I was out of work or was barely working but had never been let go like this. I am still reeling from it because it’s hard to process, like a break up, and hard to come to terms with how A lead to D, even when I know that the path was there, was clear enough for me to clear out my stuff before the act because I could read the way the road was being layed out before me.
But it still stings.
I haven’t been outta work in a while.
A lot is the same – just a little different.
You still register with the unemployment agency. I still had to go into MichWorks to register and to put my information into the system. It was fast, it was easy, and the system seems to have evolved since the last time I went in. I can register online every two weeks instead of calling a phone number.
The feeling of shame is still there, of having to turn to unemployment when I should still have a job.
The fear of What Next. That remains.
As I look for a path forward, for signs in the sky and for a trail in the wilds.
But there’s a tomorrow. And a hundred tomorrows after that.
There’s a future with hope and a new beginning.
Things are just a little overcast right now but the sun remains.
I just need to keep moving forward until it re-emerges.
Since the beginning Mankind has looked to the great Other for guidance. It was a Creator, or a Punisher. Or an an all seeing Eye that We have always looked to something else/someone else for guidance.
This is not a dig on religion at all, because the needle of faith, the heat of faith, can guide a life forward in a thoughtful way. This is not me saying There Is No God.
This is me saying – we keep creating gods.
We want gods for everything.
Our own, personal gods that will care only for and about us.
And that’s sorta weird.
We have gotten so that we build gods from anything.
We build our gods as walls to keep others out and armor to fight others off.
We want our gods to watch out for us, to take care of us, and to love only us.
We want them to forgive without question and judge without measure.
We want our gods that will make us rich.
We want our gods that will get us laid.
We want our gods that will let us win.
We want our gods make our teams win.
We want our gods to make us famous.
We want our gods to shine on us like an undying sun, forever and ever amen.
We play the lottery, make bets, and fill the casinos praying god will make us rich.
We pray during sporting events that god will favor our team over another.
We tweet, and video, and capture every moment of our lives in the hope that we’ll go viral or find some strange piece of fame.
All of these things we do to our other gods, the lonely gods we speak to only when we want something.
We don’t give them love, or faith, or fealty.
These gods without faces that we put together out of found parts and abandoned hopes.
The gods we turn against one another when we don’t get our way.
Faith, true faith, is found over time and contemplation. It is found with introspection and patience.
Faith doesn’t build walls to keep one another out.
Faith doesn’t run for the fame or the money.
Faith, true faith, is the foundation we can build lives upon.
It’s not a get rich quick scheme, or a means to punish the people we oppose.
Faith isn’t about making our lives bigger but making our lives more meaningful.
We forget all that though in the drive to be bigger, better, faster, and more.
We have gotten lost in the glitter of fame, thinking that that is the love we need, that the money is the support we need, and that power is the path to happiness.
LIke everything else in life, if you try to cheat the system it won’t feel nearly as authentic.
You will feel like a fraud.
And hey, if being a fraud still makes you rich and you can find your happiness in that wealth then boss.
You do you.
We have a new pantheon of gods in our modern world. Similar to how many niche saints we are.
Gods of wealth.
Gods of power.
Gods of fame.
Gods with no names, no faces, no bodies, just some invisible will that we can call upon.
We have taken to looking to others for so much of our lives that now we want these imaginary gods to step in and lift us up.
Where real faith can guide us or encourage us, this fool’s faith simply encourages us to keep still and wait for you to get what you deserve.
Watching other people’s lives via videos and pictures and stories and believing they have it so much better than you because we can’t see the clutter that’s just out of frame.
The mess that exists in everyone’s lives.
Oh lord, oh god, oh great and mighty whoever you are, gimme what I want-need-gotta have because I deserve it.
Only, we are better than that.
Stronger than that.
We can accomplish so much if we trust in ourselves and our own power
And if faith can guide you then swell.
False gods will do nothing though but distract you and derail you.
The thing about life is we are not made to get all that we desire.
We have to make choices.
That’s what makes the things we DO get, that we EARN and work for, so special and meaningful.
We will have days where we will wonder What If but the fact is that all we can do is forge the best life for ourselves and go from there.
And no faceless god of fortune can make that happen.
And there’s the rub.
(I write books. Go to the links and check them out).
All of us, whether we acknowledge it or not, come from somewhere.
Some of us hold where we come from in high regards, spouting off to whomever will listen about our grand background and lineage.
Others of us will act as if we sprung from the darkness fully formed, tied to nothing and owing nothing to anyone.
Each of us has a past though, a beginning, and it is that beginning that forms the foundation of who we are to become and what we have to overcome.
I was lucky.
I don’t think I saw it as a kid because when you are in the middle of a part of your life you cannot see past that moment.
I know I didn’t.
I was lucky.
I had a mother that was artistic, loving, and into scary stuff.
I have a father who was a smart business man and a straight shooter.
I have a sister and cousin who encouraged my imagination with scary stories and scares.
I grew up out in the country on a street where I was across from a field and had woods on both ends of the lake we lived on.
We had an island in the middle of the lake and I had friends who I would swim with when we weren’t riding our bikes until late.
No childhood is perfect, and no one survives childhood without scars but it’s the scars that help teach us about the world around us.
It’s the scars that teach us about life.
My parents weren’t perfect.
My sisters wasn’t perfect.
Hell, I wasn’t perfect.
I am still not.
No one is.
But I was loved, and I was taken care of, and I survived.
Sometimes that is what you have to do with childhood – survive it.
Get through it.
For me, it was about survival.
I had to survive myself and the hell of adolescence.
But I did.
Not all of us do, but I did.
Writing, and drawing, and watching movies, and making movies, and spending time with my friends got me through things.
It got me to the point where I could find myself and make myself when I went to college.
It got me to the point where I could start to make and re-make myself, flawed as I am, and could find people who would encourage, enlighten, and make my life mean so much more.
We all take this journey forward, from childhood to adulthood and to what comes afterward, and none of us will take the same path.
People can put all manner of expectations and demands and dreams on our backs but it’s we who decide what made this life worthwhile and happy.
And most of us will face death unfulfilled, realizing the things we didn’t see as they faced us – the time we should of spent, the love we should have shared, and the things we should have done.
But we do the best we are able.
Maybe it’s faith that guides you.
Maybe it’s love.
Maybe it’s just you, chug, chug, chugging along.
All of us are on this journey though, and we are on it together.
So easily we miss the pain of those around us.
We are so wrapped up in our personal stories that we forget that we are all in this together, more similar than different, our journeys all our own but the paths all heading towards some manner of happiness.
We live in an angry, hurtful, hateful world that has become moreso in recent years.
We accept lies told from the highest seats so long as it soothes us and tells us that things will be OK.
We turn our backs on one another for fear of losing the place we hold in society, terrified that change means loss, and loss means failure, and that we will be forced to admit that maybe we aren’t special, we are just as special as we believe ourselves to be.
The lie of this life is to believe that we are special above and beyond all others.
That we are chosen, because of our faith, color, sexuality, creed, wealth, or some other arbitrary reasoning that makes us feel as if we have a set path, a golden path to the salvation of our choosing.
Heaven, we are told, is waiting.
If we follow the right person, pay the right money, and do the right things.
Only, this sort of salvation is paved with brimstones.
Turning the back on the ideal and way of the savior as they listen to the words of someone with an agenda.
With a job.
With a golden lie.
Salvation is in moving the human race and the world forward.
Salvation is in honoring this planet and its creatures and the magic they hold.
Salvation is in finding the things you love, the people you love, and the causes you love and supporting them and working to make yourself a whole person.
A person of love, and happiness, and faith in something beyond yourself.
And happiness will come and go.
Love will come and leave.
But all of it builds who we are.
Who we can be.
What sort of world is built on hatred?
This fragile, collapsing world where the biggest bomb will win a temporary stay of execution so that those people can die last, alone and damned to dine on cinder and ash.
What god would tell you to hate, when it was love that unites us?
And we will not love all people.
We will not love all things.
But we must learn to live together, to find it in ourselves to accept one another, and even if we disagree, to find the common ground of humanity because hate has no future.
I was lucky enough to be born in a world of privilege, of skin, race, sex, family income, and location.
I was lucky enough to survive myself and my teen years.
I was bullied.
I spent more time hating myself than I can count but I survived.
I had people that helped me survive.
I had things that I loved that helped me survive.
I saw people not as my enemies but as people.
I didn’t have to like them, at all, but I didn’t have to actively try to hurt them either.
I had my heart broken, time and again.
But I survived.
No one owed me their love.
No one owed me their body.
I owed myself the strength to move on and move forward.
I guess I was lucky because no one taught me to not hate women, to not hate people of other races and creeds and nationalities, no one taught me not to hurt people that I either felt hurt me or that I felt should just hurt out of hand.
No one did but they should have.
We should teach our children that hate is a fuel that burns bright but dirty and it ruins everything it touches.
Love, even if it’s just the love of the self, is something that can lead you through the darkest of times, and we just don’t teach that.
Not in a way that seems relevant.
Instead we hate.
And we rant.
And we show the example that the only way to get ahead is to push down those around you and stand upon them as you climb higher.
We teach that you have to get yours and you deserve yours and that you are special above all others.
We don’t teach that we are all flawed, all struggling, and all deserve the opportunity to find our own happiness.
To do that would mean to admit that we need to step back sometimes and let someone else take the lead and that doesn’t mean we lose but that we don’t have to always win.
OR that we can win in different ways.
Or just that the path forward takes twists.
But we don’t.
We teach about money, and power, and fame.
We teach hate, and lust, and greed.
We teach that if you want that you deserve it and to hell with the person that doesn’t want to give it to you.
We let people build empires on lies.
We let people forge themselves into victims so they don’t have to feel guilty for their crimes.
We let ourselves turn this world into a timebomb that is tick, tick, ticking into oblivion.
But at least a few got theirs, right?
I was lucky in how I grew up.
I got a childhood.
An imperfect, messed up childhood.
But it was mine.
And I got an adulthood.
And it was mine, flawed as it is.
Damaged as I am.
A lot of people don’t get the opportunities I got.
And if we are not careful, a lot of people won’t get any opportunities at all very, very soon.
But at least we won’t be inconvenienced with giving a damn, right?
When it comes to cities like Flint the phrase ‘ruin porn’ gets tossed around, the notion that people take delight in the ruination of people in cities. While I do think that there are people, a lot of people – too many people – that take pleasure in seeing some peole and places fail, I think that by dubbing anything as such ‘porn’ is honestly about as bad as the act of disdain. It changes the topic and discussion and charges a word with more power than the tragedy of the situation has itself.
Ah, but that’s our way, isn’t it?
To come up with a cute phrase or catch word that makes us feel good to say as we point at other people and tell them they are the ones creating the scene.
‘It’s because of people like YOU that ruin porn stories like Flint are so misunderstood!’
‘There’s just so much ruin porn out there not dealing with the issues at hand.’
It’s as if we feel WE can use a slur as an example and not get any of that cultural blood on our hands.
Such is the case with Flint, a city that was pushed into the hole it was in and then the people in charge of its care dug that hole deep, deeper, and deepest and here we sit. Then you have the culture vultures that circle low enough to point and to stare and to make notes as if we are strange insects to be studied and not people. Not families. Not students. Not children. We have become a headline, a punchline, and a warning.
Don’t let this happen to you, friend, don’t let it happen.
For us though, it’s already happened
It’s already here.
With the water crisis we have seen the best and wort in the nation.
It says a lot that strangers helped this city more than the state of Michigan and its leadership.
It says a lot when celebrities would slink into town, do good deeds, and leave as quietly as reasonable – their focus on awareness and aid – when the governor and past leadership would hold press conferences any time they farted in reference to the city.
And here is where the road forks a little.
The fiction and the reality.
The fiction shows Flint as a city of ingrates, hands out and cashing welfare checks as we churn out criminal children and wait for the government to fix our problems. This is a hackneyed parody of reality that the worst sort of people have convinced themselves exists. It paints Flint residents as useless, shiftless professional victims that want the world to hand them things because they are inherently lazy.
It’s a portrait painted with racism and ignorance and aimed at small sections of the city that the people who feel this way have never been to.
The reality is a city of people who lost their major industry where skilled people whose families had uprooted and come here from across the nation to start lives and suddenly they were abandoned. The story goes on from there but you have to understand that fact before you move on, that people took their family trees and re-planted them here and one day most of those people lost their jobs and their futures and the futures of their families were changed. Forever. Now, again, this isn’t about being a victim but that is a crack in the foundation of people’s lives that needs to be understood. It sowed a seed of distrust that has been growing here for decades until the water crisis hit and that seed bloomed and flourished.
After being lied to, after being mislead, and after many had their own health and the health of their children put into jeopardy they are asked to trust the machinery that betrayed them once to trust that this time the water is fine. The water is good.
All is well.
And people who don’t live here cavalierly pretend that THEY would trust the government and the State and they would shut up and use their water and just move on. That isn’t the reality though. Not the reality of people who love themselves and their families. The fact is that after what happened here you have to take a moment to say – do I trust it? Do I trust them?
And now the safety net is gone.
I remember as the water crisis spread like a disease through the city and how the nation started to step up and donated money and water to help the city. Sure, there were a lot of get rich quick schemes put out there, and people with more blame than care, but in the end it proved that people cared. As time wore on new tragedies sprung up and the nation’s attention turned away but not fully. Not fully. Because it is hard to turn away from a car wreck, and what happened here was there. Lawsuits. Allegations. Lies. Criminal proceedings.
And now, now the net is gone.
The water is gone.
The State has closed its wallet, the government has turned its attention to other things, and the people of Flint must ask themselves – now what?
Common sense tells you that somewhere along the way a plan should have been put together. What Next.
What do we do next?
But there was no plan.
There was trying to roller skate on ice.
There was making it up as you go along.
There was this.
While many of us can afford to purchase water, or can get filtered pitchers, or can get filters for our faucets you have to ask yourself – why?
Why am I paying for water that I cannot trust to drink or cook with or, for some, bathe in?
And the answer is because.
That is all.
Last week they announced that the sites where water was available would be closing soon. The next day they annnounced they would be closed for good after that day.
They had said before that a day would come when this would pass but suddenly…it was here with no warning. No preparation.
And like we are seeing with the national government’s indifference to social and national issues regarding the people private citizens and organizations are stepping up to fill in the gaps.
And that is awful.
While there needs to be more grass roots support in the country. – people helping people – there also has to be accountability. There has to be a plan. There has to be a point where our government owns its mistakes and works to fix them, not just do the bare minimum and sneak away in the night.
Because these are people’s lives.
These are the lives of children.
Children who are already showing the effects of the lead they were poisoned with.
I will never say that this was done with purpose and intent but there has to be a point where people take the reigns and say ENOUGH, let’s fix this, fix it right, and let’s remake this city.
There is hope here.
There are fires lit to guide the way forward.
There is investment.
There are programs for the youth.
But the shadow of this water crisis will last for decades, and like a stain, it continues to spread forward in history.
There are those that will look to Flint to pick off the last of the meat that remains. To sell their book deals, and television shows, and movies, and to build careers on the people here, but with them there are people fighting for the city. Fighting for the people.
In the end we’re alone.
People are curious, and they will slow down as they go by, to look and see what is happening, but they don’t live here.
And we’ll have to find the way forward for ourselves.
But at least in that…we know we’re folllowing someone we can trust.
Every once in a while you run into the end of your path and your left facing impassable brambles. It happens to everyone ad you have two choices, go back and find another path, or forge ahead, pulling at the brambles and making your own bloody path. Either path can be the right path, in fact, that is the real heck of it – there may be fewer ‘wrong’ paths than there are ‘right’ ones. It’s just a matter of which path you choose to follow.
The journey is rough, and long, and there will be times when you lose every last bit of strength to push forward. The brambles close in, the darkness starts to suffocate you, and the light that you use to guide your way forward dims until it is almost extinguished.
You will fight but the harder you fight the dimmer your light will get because that light depends on you and when you are out of juice, it is out of juice and you give up.
You give up dreams, hopes, passions, and even loves.
You give up on yourself.
Once you do that, the path engulfs you and you’re just sleepwalking through the rest of your life, letting life push you this way and that along the path of least resistance, and you can find happiness there, sure, but you also find that the engine driving you has died and that instead you are on a conveyor, pulled along until your eventual end.
A passenger in your own life.
When you feel yourself running down you have to stop, to pause, and let that light dim and let yourself slow down so you can hear your own heart.
We forget that our only guide along this path is our heart and if we stop being able to hear it then we won’t get anywhere. We’ll just be wandering, following our own echoes.
We have to take time to breathe and think about where we are and what we are going towards and then we can plot our course.
Sometimes it is forward.
Sometimes you make your own path.
You never know.
The journey is full of all of those things and more.
The only way forward, truly forward though is if we slow down to make sure you are taking care of yourself and your dream.
In the end, despite the support of friends, lovers, or family, you are truly all you have in the end.
It’s your journey and your path and if you won’t take care of yourself and your vision then no one else will.
That’s just how it is.
There is a path forward.
There is always a path forward.
It may not be the one we like, or the one that seems best, but if we take the time to slow down and listen to our hearts, to ourselves, take time to recharge, then in the end we’ll still be moving forward, and that is the only way we can get to where we need to end up.
(hey, do me a favor and go buy a one of my books!)
The saying goes that you should never let your reach get beyond your grasp. The idea is that you will risk too much for a gain that may be achieved with patience and a time. And this is a fair thing to say and, in its way, very wise.
While not every endeavor is as dangerous as parkour or rock climbing, the notion that you must make a ‘leap of faith’ to achieve something you love while risking everything you have is a very present one. I have seen the stories of people that quit their ‘day job’ in order to pursue something they love. We look at them with a mix of respect and shock. How dare they? How could they?
Why won’t I?
Simply put, because it often doesn’t work. You reach too far and your grasp loosens and you fall. Not necessarily to your doom but enough to put you back so that you must take time now to move back to where you were.
No one likes to fall. To fail. But it is often through failure that we learn what it takes to succeed.
There is a balance, delicate as a spiderweb but just as strong, and that balance is how you find your way forward.
You must trust yourself enough to do the work to know that if you fall you will be not perish, but you must also trust yourself enough to know that if you are reaching for it then it’s something worth falling for if that happens.
Walk down the street or get on a social network and you’ll find thousands of people who will tell you how not to do things. How to fail. How to lose. How to wait. They will tell you that they know best. The thing is though that they don’t know. They don’t know you, your true heart, your true passion, and they don’t know what you are willing to do or willing to risk. The wise person never risks so much that they will lose everything on a lark but they also won’t let their dream stagnate and die if there was true hope and life in it.
People will tell you all day how not to do things.
Show them how TO do things.
Make your path.
Step by clumsy step.
Be the inspiration for yourself and others.
Fall and get the heck back up and learn how not to fall next time.
Sure, everything has been done, but not by you.
You have YOUR eye, YOUR vision, YOUR voice, and YOUR skills.
You don’t have to do things how everyone else did them. Know what you want, what you’re willing to do to get it, and risk something a little, and see what happens. Slow is safe, yes, but once in a while you have to take what you’ve learned and push yourself a little further than you are comfortable and trust that if you should fall, you’ll get right back up and figure out a way to succeed next time.
And success…that’s up to you. You make that decision, that call.
You’re the one that gets to say what is and isn’t success. No one else.
We have become a nation of people looking everywhere but within.
Find your passion.
Invest in it.
Reach for it.
And if it takes you falling a hundred times to fall into success, then my friend, bruised though you may be, you still made it.
And that’s what matters.