Check your watches…
It’s been a crazy ride, the last ten years.
I’m on my sixth (6th) residence. I’m on my 8th employer (counting 3 mini-stints as a temp). I’ve put on a bunch of weight and then lost it.
I’ve had the same group of friends for pretty much that whole time. A couple of new people came in, a couple of old people filed out.
I had my heart broken a few times.
I broke one heart.
I was depressed, I was homeless, I was unemployed, I was broke.
The day of my 10 year High School Reunion I was at the Social Services (read: welfare) office because I couldn’t find work and my unemployment benefits ran out.
I thought I was going to be a father, but it turned out that the baby wasn’t mine (luckily I found that out 5 6 months into the pregnancy and not on the Maury show).
I had some fucked up moments, some fights, and a lot of pain.
I punched walls and bloodied up my knuckles. I got sad and I cried and cried, I got lonely and cried and cried. I would sleep for hours and not bother turning on the lights.
I hated everything about my life–the people in it, the person living it, and the fact that I was too lazy to change it and too scared to end it.
I was trapped in the proverbial vicious cycle, and I had convinced myself–some time around ’03 when we were using our oven as a heater because our boiler broke and we couldn’t afford to fix it–that it was my lot in life to suffer. Suffer being poor, suffer being alone, suffer never having enough, never having anyone love me…
To just suffer and hurt and not know of joy, and not have the passionate blaze of hope burn any brighter than the pilot light all of us are born with.
And then Nicholas was born.
Two of my closest friends, Dom and Megan, had a son. They had a cute little boy that cut through all of the pain and the regret. They had an angel with green eyes and the perfect combination of his mom and dad’s features. He was beautiful and tiny and he was a blank slate, a brand new person with Episode IV.
I got to feel him kick once when Megan was carrying him. I got to feed him once, and he was flailing and making cute hungry baby noises and I gave him his bottle and his little eyes closed and his tiny hands grasped the bottle and he was at peace and I fell in love.
The kid made me so happy, he completely rearranged what I knew happiness to be. I was beaming and my soul was joyful, not because of a check or a girl. He taught me…
No, he told me, that I could be in a bad place, and still have hope, and happiness. He would cut through it all, and light up the darkness, and when those flashes would happen, I would see my path.
Nicholas was here, my friends Ziggy & Belynda would have my nephew Bryon 16 1/2 months later, but the clouds did not leave.
I had dug in my heels. I had convinced myself that good things would happen to me because that’s just how it worked. I would do me, and talk a good game, and indulge in the sad and the emo and my fairy godmother would just fly down and give me everything I wanted.
I spent lots of days in that same pattern: Wake up at 1 in the afternoon, computer, TV, nap, computer, TV, computer ’til 5am, bed. I spent months that way, putting minimal effort in. My friends were in relationships, my money was running out, and while my mind told me I was ready to receive all of the happy things I wanted, I never lifted a finger to make them happy.
It was Spring 2008 and the doomsday clock was ticking. My money was almost gone and I had no direction, no ambition, and not even an ounce of Give A Fuck.
And then I went down to Florida to see my big brother Prem get married.
Like always, I made the trip kicking and screaming. I figured I would go thru the motions, more to keep the peace than anything else. I mean, I like weddings and all, but in the state of mind I was in, a wedding was not competing with my couch, my computer, and my bed.
The first week I was in FL I had a double ear infection. It sucked. I stayed at Prem’s apartment and watched the NBA playoffs. My ears progressed, and I enjoyed that what little time I was able to spend in the Florida sun had given my skin a brown color I hadn’t had in years. Eventually, we drove down to Long Boat Key and started setting things up for the wedding.
After we were down for a day, my brother Mario came from San Diego. It was Mario and I, and I was overjoyed to see him. No distractions, no bother, no friends to see. Mario and I, rocking together while Prem dealt with wedding prep fun.
The days were amazing. I’d wake up stupid early, go out onto the balcony and just look over the pre-BP’d Gulf of Mexico. The water was that blue-greenish color you only see in Bahama resort commercials, I could see dolphins jumping in the distance, I had “Don’t Stop Believing” playing in my headphones, and I thought to myself, “Is this really happening?”
I was happy. There were no girls, there was no big check, there wasn’t even any Nicholas. There was just me, and my ba’y bro, and my big brother, and my soon-to-be sister in-law.
The day of the wedding came and even tho’ I was in a small rented tux in 80 degree weather, I had so much fun being with Mario, and seeing Prem and Kara happy, and I was happy for Prem. I was happy that Prem had his life-long friends, and his brothers, and his parents, and his grandparents, all there.
I was happy to hug my big brother on his wedding day, and I’m so happy I went. I’m so incredibly grateful that I was able to see that happen, to have that experience.
So now my whole universe is shaken up.
I didn’t need a girl or money to feel happy or peaceful. I didn’t need the guys to be there with me every time I did anything ever. Nicholas was (and still is) my Patronus, but I had other happy thoughts to carry me through darker days.
The path that I had been on, a long path filled with drops and thorns and rocks and pain and darkness…
The path became less treacherous. The night sky eventually gave way to dawn. Sure, I had setbacks and moments of stubborn. I had my brother play the “Everything you’re doing is wrong game.” I had my best friend in the world flat out ask me, voice rife with disgust, “What are you doing with your life?”
I had girls take enough of an interest to be intrigued, only to get to know me and decide I wasn’t right. I had made enough of an effort emotionally and mentally to untangle knots that had been around since high school. I stopped trying to finish arguments from 5, 6, 7 years prior. I had done lots and lots of cleaning and rebuilding, but there was one final hurdle. There was one final obstacle.
I had made peace with what happened in my life. I had made peace with the people in my life. All I had left to do was make peace with myself. I had to start working on me so I stopped hating Me.
And make no mistake about it, I hated who I was. I hated how I needed the guys for everything. I hated how pathetic I felt crying about things I couldn’t change. I hated how I knew, just KNEW I could have been and should have been doing more to make my life a life worth living. I hated being so fat, I hated being so depressed, I hated not feeling good enough and I hated how all of that fucking hatred burned and burned and burned into my soul.
And then one day, after a summer of rejection, a summer of The Friend Zone, and a summer of feeling like an asshole for even thinking I was good enough…
…I started going to the gym.
I worked my ass off when I was there. I was sore and out of shape and breathing hard and I felt like every fat person does when they walk into the gym. I felt like all eyes were on me.
It didn’t stop me tho’.
I walked on the treadmill until my legs were in intense agony. I lifted my tiny, modest weights around the big muscle-bound bastards and I told myself that I was finally doing the work, finally doing what I needed to do.
I switched from the treadmill to the elliptical after a few months. I was able to lift more weights. I cut out crap from my diet. I saw improvements. I received compliments. I had people tell me that they were proud of me.
I had amazing new friends that supported me, I had old friends that chose to believe in me one more time when, by all rights, they could’ve rolled their eyes and shooed me away on some ol’ “I’ll believe it when I see it” stuff.
I went to that gym, and finally…
…after 10 years of heartbreak and loss and self-loathing…
…after a decade of watching my Greatest Misses on a never-ending loop through my head…
…after all that, one day I looked in the mirror and I realized that I didn’t hate my life anymore.
I realized that I was actually…
I was happy with myself. I was proud of myself. That little evil voice that made me hate, hate, hate everything about me had nothing to complain about. I was finally working on me, giving myself an opportunity to live my life, to cash in on the genetics that will see me reach 30 years old with all 4 of my grandparents–320 years combined–still with me.
I feel like my sense are alive. Food tastes better, stars are brighter, scents are sweeter, touch is more electric, and the musical stylings of KanYe Omari West are taken in through my ears and fed straight into my soul.
I made it out.
I made it out.
I made it out.
I made it out.
So I turn 30 in two days.
I could not have gotten here without so many people. I could have very easily lost my way, and spiraled even further. I want to thank everyone, so if you want, you can CTRL + F to find your name, or you can just stop reading here. I won’t be offended.
Here… we go:
1. Papa– My incredible father, who gave me every bit of fighting spirit I have. The toughest bastard I’ll ever know, someone who put his life on hold to make sure Mario and I came out as good people.
2. Mom– My mother, who I love with all my heart and soul. You let me spread my wings and fly, you helped me evolve, flourish, and grow. You never let me do without all of the stupid little things that the haves had that I wanted. You took us on trips and you helped us have stories and adventures and never let a Christmas go by. I know we’ve had our differences, but you are an amazing mom and I have always appreciated you.
3. Prem– My big brother. I hate that time was stolen from us, but part of the reason I bust my ass at the gym is so that we can grow old together. You and I are way more similar than anyone would think. You make me so proud, and I love you.
4. Mario– Oh God… I wish I was a better bigger brother. I really do. I wish I could’ve pulled my head out of my ass sooner and walked you through the bits you couldn’t handle. That catch there is: There was nothing you couldn’t handle. I hated that I wasn’t the cute one or the smart one. I hated that I was the quiet, thoughtful, fat one. But when it comes down to it? You are secretly the motivation behind every good thing I do. Every night out. Every trip to the gym. Every time I seize a moment, I do it thinking of you, that I’m living a life you can be proud of.
5. Aunts, Uncles, Cousins– You would never know by how awful I am at calling, but remember that bit about happiness that doesn’t involve a girl or a big check or a party or a winning Knicks season? The first time I ever felt that kind of contentment was with you guys. Birthdays, thanksgiving, Christmas… I love being around all of you. I love how it feels, being around people from the same blood, a unifying thread that keeps us together. I love the singing, the jokes, and just being in your presence.
6. Joe– I don’t even know what to say. You’re my other half. Period.
7. Danny– Did I ever tell you that you were the 2000, 2005, & 2006 ReyLand MVP? Did I ever actually thank you for being by my side during both bouts of Melissa fuckery? Did I ever tell you that I felt safe with you? Did I ever say any of it? Did I ever write up our friendship for the world to see? I didn’t do any of that. You had the most difficult job of all, Dan. You were the one that was with me during the darkest of the dark. When the night was pitch black and the wolves were howling, you did not leave my side. When Maya left, when Tucker died, when we lost Ralph avenue, when the baby wasn’t mine… You were there with me. You were there for me. I have yet to actually figure out what I did to deserve a friend as good as you, but I think it hit me: You are an Angel that got stuck with a shitty assignment. You could’ve bailed, would’ve been well within your rights to, but you never did. You carried me on your back and kept hope alive in my heart. You do not get the credit you deserve. You do not get the credit you deserve.
8. Dom– For picking up the ball and running with it when Mario was called to California. For not keeping score. For being Superman. For calling me the nite Melissa dumped me for the last time, and when I was on the edge, the brink of losing it all… When there was nothing between me and the fall that so many wicked forces were salivating over seeing… When I felt at my most alone ever in the life I’ve lead so far… You told me that I was part of your family. You, and Megan, and Nicky, and Smithy. It’s an overwhelmingly powerful and positive memory, and it’s an honor I do not take lightly.
9. Jay– Did I ever tell you that you were the 2001-2002 ReyLand MVP? When you and I found ourselves in the exact same place, at the exact same time in our lives, I think it was more than just coincidence. I don’t know how I would’ve made it thru the breakup with Maya, or the Becky stuff without you. That ’01-’02 campaign, just driving around in the mystique, listening to rap and philosophizing… It meant the world to me, still does. Picking out Sean John, and trying to figure out just what in the hell post-High School, didn’t-go-away-to-college life was all about. We were in the shit together, and 8 years later, after everything we went through (a great deal of it I owe you an apology for), we’re still riding together. Next up: Picking up Sean John for your baby boy (or girl) and trying to figure out just what in the hell marriage’n’kids life is all about.
10. Ziggy– My gentle giant. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: When it’s my time to be judged, I will point to my friendship with you and say that I have done well in my life. Getting to visit with you and Belynda and get a visual on what I ultimately want in my life–marriage, house, kids–is a blessing. You represent what our group was at its most innocent, it’s most pure. Brotherhood, loyalty, fun, and a confidence in who you are and what you are about. I love that I have “my own” room in your house. I love the calm feeling that I get when I’m around you. I love that you have let me share in your life. I also completely and totally love that your son calls me Uncle RT. It… makes me aware of how much world is out there.
11. Bob Smith– The world knows “Tony”, the profane beer aficionado with a no-nonsense attitude and a gift for storytelling. I know Bob Smith. I know the sensitive, sweet guy whose heart beats with love for the groups that he has left an unmistakable impression on. I know the guy who said he’d walk with me thru the tough times, and when I got too tired to walk would sit there and wait ’til I was ready to go. I know the guy who embraces the old school values of Us Against The World. I am lucky to know this man, and I am lucky that our lives are intertwined.
12. Irving– Here’s what you guys need to know about Irving: In 1999, and again in 2000, Irv loaned my family and I thousands–literally–of dollars so we could get, and then keep our house. In spring of 2001, after a hellacious bout where the only thing we could do to keep our home was to declare bankruptcy, he absolved us of our debt. He doesn’t tell that story because it’s nobody’s fucking business. I am telling that story because it is the best example I can give of the kind of friend Irving has been in my life. He could’ve used that money. He could’ve taken vacations or bought a new car or spent it on friggin’ legos. He gave it to us–not loaned, gave–because he knew we needed it, and he knew if the roles were reversed, we’d do the same exact thing. That is the kind of man he is, a man I’d go to war with every second of every day, no questions asked, the odds be damned.
13. Jeff– I’ve told the story before… but I’ll tell it again. In that fucked up 2001, it was Jeff that kept Papa and I afloat. It was Jeff that bore the burden of keeping my spirits up. It was Jeff that stole McNuggets to make it so that we’d have dinner. It was Jeff with me at the welfare office. It was Jeff who tried to get me to see thru my own fog of self-sabotage, that I should cut the shit and dedicate myself to my relationship. It was Jeff who encouraged me to rap. It was Jeff who encouraged me to push myself, to believe in myself. It was Jeff who gave me the good beats on Crazy Rey Party, and helped me accomplish what is, to date, the premier accomplishment of my life. It’s Jeff (and his wife, Tiffany), whose wedding helped me experience spending time with my Mom one day, then the guys the next day, and then my Mom & big brother the day after that, in Florida.
14. Jon– When 2002 happened, and the world was upside down, and I had friends leave in droves, it was Jon’s friendship that anchored me. It was Jon that taught me about fairness, and sacrifice, and that foxhole “We’re in this together” mentality. In ’03, Jon put his own workplace reputation on the line by getting me my job back. Jon and I worked crazy hours together, enjoyed being off the grid (E-Time!) together, and took in “Garfield” together. In ’04, when I didn’t have a place to live, Jon let me stay with him. Jon is a good man, and his little girl has, in her father, an amazing human being.
15. Maya– God, I have no idea what to say here. I’ve already written and erased twice (so far). Everything that we went thru, we went thru for a reason. I don’t know if it was to toughen us up for even more difficult days ahead, or if it was to give us a few scars along the way, or if it was all unplanned arbitrary circumstance. What I do know is that you have shaped who I am. Your opinion of me carries so much weight, because the only thing I can think of, the only way I can “make it up to you”, is to show you that the pain that we went thru was not in vain, that I did learn from it, that it did make an impact. I absolutely love who you are, and how our friendship has taken flight. Our relationship was not easy, but I’m happy that we were given a second chance at knowing each other, and appreciating each other.
(wow… this is taking a bit, huh?)
Okay, I’m gonna stop the speeches there. Too many people.
Vanessa, a friend for literally half my life. Someone who always makes me smile and makes me feel good about myself. 2 proms, Crazy Rey Parties, Grizzly’s, Eh, Steve! parties… Our friendship has alligator blood and no matter what happens, we always persevere, we always endure, we always evolve. You are amazing!
Briana, a loyal friend who I’ve been in the shit with. Someone who has taken up the unenviable task of making sure that when those sad or alone nites happen, I’m not sad or alone. Someone who I have absolutely pledged to do the same for!
Meechelle, 12 years deep, gets none of the publicity, but someone who I’ve shared countless fun times with. Movies, board game nites, foodage, italian techno at 4am, karaoke, rides to Joe, city trips, six flags, and “Fuck that mexican and his little guitar.”
Jay Money, my little brother, my co-champion. The kind of friend that you can spend time with just being in each other’s presence without saying a word, just knowing that there’s love and mutual respect.
James aka Jimmy Sno, crazy road we took to get where we are, but your loyalty has never been in question. Always up for a good time, be it conversation or a ridiculously overpriced trip to the beach.
Stacie, so interesting, so fun, so intelligent… Driving to DDS and talking, different movie adventures, and getting to hear about your adventures always makes me smile.
Kristin, the love of my life. Always armed with hugs and hope.
Aimee, friends for 15 years. We can not talk for months and then pick up right where we left off and talk for hours.
Missy, my oldest day-to-day friend, friends for almost 17 years. I’m so happy you’ve moved back home. I know our schedules are ridiculous, but just knowing that you’re so close makes me happy.
Lia, if someone would’ve told me at the start of my 20s that, by the end, you would be one of my most cherished friendships, I wouldn’t have believed them. I love how the universe works.
Peggy, my heartbeat, my sunshine, the air that fills my lungs. I love you with every bit of me, everything that I’ve ever been and everything I’ll ever be.
Eh, Steve!, the best kept secret and adrenaline needle into the chest of the Wuss-Side/Yahoo Collabo. You are invaluable.
Michelle O., amazing girl, always have fun talking to you. So smart, so fun, such a good person.
Jacki, great friend, huge heart, and someone who helped shape “29” and its comeback season status.
Fish, I might not keep up, but I will always be a fan and always wish the absolute best for you. You’ve put in your time, and when the awesome days start rolling in for you, I will be beaming!
Mike L., my apprentice, my chance to impart the wisdom I was blessed with. NEVER SETTLE FOR LESS THAN YOU KNOW YOU DESERVE! #RKObe
Katie, my boo, whose friendship and support helped the gym thing go from “Ehh, why not?” to the game-changer it became.
Aly, from loathed ex-GF to appreciated friend and invaluable source of knowledge and insight.
Jennie, early candidate for 2010 ReyLand MVP! My gym buddy, my philosophizing friend, and non-judger of me watching iCarly!
Miss Heather, who definitely deserved her own paragraph. My platonic GF, wrestling’n’philosophizing buddy. We’ve come such a long way from when we first resumed our friendship, and I’m so happy to have you in my life. We deserve the better days that are here!!
7, siete zapatos! My first producer who let me get 3 years of venting off my chest with the Ready To Live project!
Johnny & Matt, the geniuses that helped make Crazy Rey Party into more than just an album, but a movie and a time capsule!
Danielle V., Jennifer C., Pam F., Stacey L., and everyone else on Facebook–thank you for the support and the encouragement and the motivation to keep working hard and going for the positive things that make me happy. I will never take a shortcut and I will never mistreat or take your faith for granted!
Thurston, truly a blessing in my life! Our FADV friendship means the world to me. Such a light during what was a dark time. Congrats on your successes, professional and at home!
Danielle M., always and forever my boss! The best person I’ve ever had the pleasure of working for. I know it was never easy, but you stood by me and still do ’til this very day.
All you crazy bastards at NahRight.com– My E-Fam, day after day, in the sh*t together, talking crap, making tasteless jokes, kicking knowledge, sharing triumphs and setbacks.
Webbito, one of these friggin’ days, we’re gonna own all this nonsense. And “Glow” and the God’s Favorites Intro keep me going at the gym!
Megan, mother of my happiest of happy thoughts, always an amazing friend to me. From discovering DDS with you to just getting to talk and plot out the future to letting me be a part of your son’s life… Such a blessing that came along in a dark time, a walking silver lining that encourages me to be better and do better.
Drop Dead Sexy, for bringing my group together time and time and time again, for making “Don’t Stop Believing” the happiest time ever, for helping us make memories that I’ll have for as long as I live.
Tiffany, whose positivity and encouragement always come when I need it most!
Jessica, such a good heart and a good soul who deserves nothing but the very best, who makes me feel appreciated!
DJ Bill, I will never forget the times you were there with encouraging words during the darker days. Our nites rockin’ the Griz. I can’t wait ’til Thursday!
Robyn, without whom I wouldn’t know the joy of Dirty Dancing, Grizzlys, or have ever had Danny or Jay in my life. A friend that’s been around since before we ever threw up the dub and pointed at our junk!
So… Many… People…
Noel, Amanda, Christian, Nelson, Jay’s Michelle, Pete, Melissa, Ann Marie, Keri, Liliana, Theo, Josh C., Stephanie M., Stephanie Y.-M., Kim, Sam, Miss Box, Connie, April, JenDawg, Krista, Hale, Yvette, Jared, Gladys, Lynnward, Lauren, Susie, Tina, The Rosenthal Brothers, Tank, Meka, Amanda B., everyone at Pulse Wrestling, Jennifer S., Grace, Suzanne…
Everyone that’s played a role, everyone that’s been a part of these last 10 years. Anyone that shared a smile, or a cry, or a nite that I won’t ever forget.
The last 10 years, every bit of it, has been worth it.