Someday I'm gonna write a memoir.
That's the path that most people take, right? Everyone who's anyone has a book about their life, the lessons they learned, the trials and tribulations they had to overcome. I'll probably title it something like "My Life in Retrospective" or something lame like that. No reason to go overboard on naming the thing, I'm not famous enough for anyone to actually read it.
So, what's the point?
Everybody wants their moment in the spotlight, right? That's why reality TV took off like it did. Not only was it fun to watch other people make idiots of themselves to make ourselves feel better, but there was no shortage of people willing to make idiots of themselves. You could go down the list of shows, "Survivor", "Big Brother", "17/18/19 Kids and Counting", "Dancing with the Stars", "American Idol", etc. and on and on.
If you want to look stupid, there's no shortage of ways to get a minute of fame (it used to be 5 minutes, but our attention spans died circa 2016). Do a dumb dance on TikTok, or something insane on YouTube's knockoff - "Shorts". Make a Reel on Instagram where you fall off your skateboard and slam your groin into a railing.
Try to make content that is actually good or valuable to society and you find yourself buried at the bottom of a deep well, with no Lassie to come bail you out.
Maybe that's why the big movie/TV studios stopped making original content? Disney is on their hundredth live action remake at this point, milking that nostalgia from us 90's kids. If live action remakes aren't your thing, there's a million Star Wars spinoffs and even things like Indiana Jones and Rocky have been revived more times that necessary. After all, why do something original when you know people will pay money to relive their youth, if only for a couple hours?
Maybe that's the real problem we face in the modern day?
What if attention spans aren't the issue after all? Perhaps we are so accustomed to the nostalgia bug biting that we fail to see anything new or original as quality? Sure, there are some out there who actively search out new things, looking for the diamond in the rough, but most of society is more focused on just finding ways to disconnect from reality (and who can really blame them) to bother looking farther than the suggested page on Netflix.
As I continue down this road I've been on for over a year now, I constantly wonder what it's gonna take to break through. I've found a groove with writing, and I love telling stories, but at some point that venture has to make some money or I have to find another path. I'm lucky enough to have the greatest partner anyone could hope for, allowing me to keep driving for now, but it has to pay off at some point, right?
It isn't as though people don't enjoy my stories. For the most part, I get some amazing feedback from everyone who listens to/reads them. That encouragement has kept me going through even the slowest days. The times when I feel the lowest, I see a comment from someone saying they enjoyed a story and I feel like flying again. I guess the issue is more about feeling buried.
More times than I can count I have been told, "be patient" or "it'll take some time", but the reality is that it shouldn't take as long as it has. At least, that's what my brain tells me over and over. I've paid my dues, taken the punches, climbed the mountain, and I look up to see only more mountain ahead. And that isn't just in relation to a writing career.
To lend some perspective, I'm gonna share a bit about me that only a very small number of people know. I honestly doubt anyone is still reading this blog at this point, so it's not like I'm losing any of you here.
I was 13 years old in late 1999 when my mother became sick. It was shortly after my sister was born, and it was something that should have been preventable. See, she was born with 1 kidney instead of 2. For those who don't know, the kidneys are basically the bodies filtration system. They clean out the blood, removing toxins and things that aren't really meant to be absorbed and filter the waste back out of the body.
Having only 1 kidney, the doctors didn't really think she would survive into adulthood. There wasn't much they could do at the time, with a transplant being too risky and potentially doing more harm than good. Not only did she make it beyond childhood and into adulthood, she went through 5 pregnancies (me, my 2 brothers, and 2 sisters, one of whom died before being born) when she was warned 1 pregnancy could kill her.
One of the things they had to do after she gave birth was to manually remove the fluid buildup in her body to prevent her kidney from being overworked. She went through this for the first 4 pregnancies, but the hospital staff failed to read the note for the last one. It was days after she had given birth to my sister, who was born way too early and still beat the odds, when a routine follow-up appointment turned into an emergency dialysis treatment.
It turned out that by not draining the fluids, her kidney had been forced to try and filter everything out. It did its best, but in the end it couldn't keep up and it shut down. Her appointment was on a Friday and the doctor told her that if the appointment had been the following Monday, she probably would have been dead over the weekend.
I can't even begin to truly imagine what she was going through mentally. She put on a strong face, did what needed to be done and pretended like nothing had changed. They put a shunt in her arm (a big, flexible tube that made it easier to put needles in 3 times a week) and she started routine dialysis treatments.
As the oldest child, I took it upon myself to help her in any way I could. I would babysit my siblings, clean the house, feed and help take care of my sister, stay up late with her and be her ear when things were rough (and things were very rough at times). I voluntarily gave up what should have been some of the most fun years of my life as a teenager to help my mom hold on.
As I got into high school, things didn't really get a whole lot better. I missed a lot of school (I'm surprised I didn't get called out as truant) to go with her to dialysis treatments and help in any way I could. It was to the point where I was actually suffering physically from early signs of ulcers from the stress.
My dad was there the best he could be, but I know now that he was going through his own hell with the whole situation. He is the kind of person that works with his hands and fixes everything, and he was faced with something he couldn't fix. When the doctor said I needed to relax and be given some room to breath away from the stress I had been going through, mom and dad sat down with me and explained that I didn't have to do the things I had been doing anymore. That was supposed to fix everything.
But I've never been able to just sit back and let things happen. That comes from both of my parents. I tried to just relax, but I still stressed and worried constantly about mom's health and my brothers and sister. I made strides over the last couple years of high school, to the point where I was a full-on rebel the second half of my senior year, but there are times now that I regret that.
I graduated high school in June of 2005, albeit barely. I figured I had plenty of time to figure out what to do with my life and I would work out the next steps when I was ready. Life doesn't really wait for you to be ready though.
I was working on the morning of July 4th, 2005 at a gas station near my home. I had pulled an all-nighter, planning to pull a double and go home that afternoon (time and a half for holidays was amazing), until a phone call came for me.
One of my brothers was on the line, frantically telling me that I needed to get home. He said something was wrong with mom and dad had called an ambulance because he couldn't wake her up. Without a word to my boss, who was staring at what I assume was the blood draining from my face, I dropped the phone, ran into the back office to grab my jacket and booked it out the door. I don't remember much about the drive home, I might've been speeding, I might've run a red light, but I do remember the look I saw on my dad's face as I passed the ambulance on its way to the hospital.
Getting home, I got the rundown from my brothers and waited by the phone. I have no idea how much time passed before the phone rang, my dad's voice on the other end telling me to get my siblings in the car and get to the hospital.
It was a beautiful, sunny, morning. I probably had my window rolled down and I know my brothers were crying their eyes out. Not my sister though. She was 5 years old and the true reality of what was happening wasn't there for her. Over the sound of Tim McGraw singing "Live Like You Were Dyin'" on the radio, she tried to comfort our brothers by telling them it was OK, mommy had "gone to be with Jesus".
The hospital was such a surreal scene to be in. We got to see her one last time before they took her off life support. My grandmother and uncle arrived soon after, grandma yelling about how she blamed my dad. Looking back, I don't know that any of us really knew what was actually happening. It was like watching a movie where a main character had died, but it still felt like things would go back to normal when the movie ended.
Calls to family and friends were made, some close friends drove down from a couple hours away to spend time with us as we started to work through what was going to be a long road. I brought out my guitar and played some songs, singing some Garth Brooks to try and make everyone smile. I felt weird because I didn't cry. All day long, I smiled and made jokes, talked about mom and her life. We relived memories that I hadn't really thought about in a while.
That evening, one of our very close family friends arrived. She had been unable to make it earlier, but she still wanted to be there and see what we needed. I was sitting on a bench in the dining nook we had and she came over to sit next to me. Putting her arm around my shoulder, she asked if there was anything she could do for me. The only thing I could think to ask for was to have the day before back, breaking down in tears for the first time. I don't know how long I cried for, but I know it ended in a restless sleep.
The following week, and months would be more or less a blur. My girlfriend (future wife) and I moved into an apartment together near the end of 2005, had our first child in 2006 and second in 2007. I made some mistakes along the way and was an overall irresponsible young father. In 2008, things reached a breaking point and I needed to do something to get my life back on track. I joined the army late in 2008, going through basic training and AIT before being stationed in Fort Hood. We had our 3rd baby in 2010 and I went to Iraq in 2011.
I've been in situations where bombs were falling within 100 meters of where I stood. I've sat in the top hatch gunner seat of vehicles, knowing full well that if we hit an IED I would lose my legs and most likely my life. Each experience gave me a new perspective and let me see more of who I was.
After Iraq, I finished my active duty contract and moved back to Ohio with my family. I worked as a scale technician for a while, going into some dirty places to test and install scales for companies. I spent many days below truck scales in knee deep water in freezing temperatures to grind out a living.
I finally got into IT, building a career in an office setting over years leading me to the present.
This thing I'm doing now is harder in a lot of ways than anything I've done before. I'm at the mercy of people not only seeing what I create, but then deciding to partake in it and hopefully enjoy it enough to interact and share it. I'm an optimistic realist at heart. I know the odds are long, but aren't they always? The fact that any of us are even alive today is a miracle in and of itself. Even someone in a stable job, who dedicates years to a company could wake up tomorrow to find that job gone with no reason. So how is the chance I'm taking any worse than that?
All I need is people to believe in me enough to share what I create. People who don't just scroll past and leave the occasional reaction. People who see the heart that lays below everything I do and want to be a part of making someone's dream come true.
I'll be honest, I've been writing for about an hour, maybe a bit more (had to take a few minutes around the mid-point to breath), and I'm well aware that most likely these words right now are maybe gonna be read by like 1-2 people at most. I'm not a celebrity, or someone who was born into riches and I've never been lucky enough to have some news agency lift me up as their "feel good" story on the evening news. I'm like millions of other people out there who have lived (or will live) a life that is extraordinary only to them and a small number of people close to them.
That's one of the reasons I've spent so much time in cemeteries in my life. I've walked past thousands of headstones that list names and dates, telling the basic info about the people below. But something that I always wonder is what happened in that little dash? I think we are all extraordinary in our own way, and we all deserve to be lifted up. I'm not alone in that sentiment.
Maybe someday I'll write a memoir.