Take Time To Realize


In thirty-plus years of existence I’ve traveled many roads, both physical and metaphorical, but Memory Lane is by far the hardest one to traverse. I speak often of reflection and its impact on my life, going into great detail about my ups and downs. These last few weeks I’ve been stuck in reflection, asked myself a million questions, and suffered through the longest emotional days of my life. I lost a relationship that meant more to me than I ever acknowledged or maybe believed it did and I’m no closer to healing today than I was when J* and I parted. The post I wrote a few weeks back hinted at how I’m feeling and pointed out that I sought therapy, but it failed to lay out my thoughts. Without reason or motive I’d like to lay them out now. I find that writing, especially when I’m hurting, helps me in some indescribable way. I realize I’ll be tethered to the words forever but this is a story I’d like to tell.

When Erin and I broke up in March of 2017 I moved back into my parents home for the short-term in order to sort my life out and build up a foundation for myself. Part of my rebuild was a barrier around my heart and emotions, designed to recalibrate my wants and needs and to allow me to focus on my work and my role as a father. I wanted to focus on the things that mattered most and failed relationships had plagued me for years so I wanted the distance from the thought of one. Over time I became more of a recluse. I’d wake up for work, work long hours and spend every minute at home that I wasn’t with my children or playing baseball. One night in the Fall of that year my brother Matt told me how his friend Justin and him had gone to this restaurant with a bar inside it located in Millerton and they’d just drank coffee. I had been longing for any semblance of a social life and I knew they always went on Thursdays, so I went. We ate dinner at the Chinese restaurant in town then headed over and drank coffee and watched Thursday Night Football. As small an event as it was, I felt good to be out in society and having a good time. The following Thursday I was up for going again but Justin had another commitment so he wasn’t going to attend. I asked Matt if he’d still like to go and offered to pay for his meal if he did. He agreed. When we got there most of the seats at the bar were taken so we elected to sit at a table instead and had dinner. As we ate my eyes kept peering over to a blond girl sitting on the far left side of the bar all alone. I pointed her out to Matt and wondered aloud if I should try to talk to her, but I was too shy. As she drank wine I kept basking in her beauty and when she got up to leave, our eyes met for a what seemed like a lifetime. I watched her put her black coat on, tell the bartender to have a good night, and walk out the door. As she disappeared into the cold night air I remember thinking to myself: “Damn, I’ll never see her again.” For years I told all of my friends that I’d “never meet my significant other in a bar.” I swore by that quote and it was fairly easy to uphold because I never went to bars. I just didn’t think the type of person I was looking for would be present in a bar. I was about to be wrong in the best way possible.

That night I went home and was laying in bed browsing Instagram, unable to fall asleep. I looked up the bar we had been at, 52 Main, and found their Instagram page. After scanning through their photos I wondered who else I knew that followed them so I clicked to view their “Followers” and I found J’s profile. I paused for about 20 minutes, wondering if I should message her or not. Her profile was private but judging by the profile image I was 95% certain it was her. After more contemplation I decided I had nothing to lose and I sent one message. It read: “Hello, were you the beautiful woman I saw sitting at the bar tonight at 52?” A few minutes later she replied that it was in fact her but that she was going to bed and so the conversation ended. The date was Thursday, October 11, 2017.

J and I began talking very slowly. We were very much the same person when it came to our beliefs and personalities. Both of us had come from long-term relationships that ended in hurt we didn’t want to experience again and we were both hesitant. We met and spoke for the first time weeks later in a little coffee shop and when we parted that morning she asked me if she could give me her phone number, as we had only been corresponding through Instagram messaging until that point. I don’t think my heart has ever pounded as heavily as it did on my drive to work that morning. I was smitten and left speechless with excitement. As the days rolled on we became closer and closer and soon began dating. I remember so vividly the night I looked J in the eyes later that fall and told her I loved her, my eyes welling up as I said the words. That love persists to this day.

As our relationship was blossoming in some of the best ways, J and I had grown tired of our living situations. We both lived with our parents and had both done so in order to get back on our feet. We felt it was time to branch out and we began looking for houses together. In February of 2018 we finally settled on one and began the process of escaping our individual situations and diving headfirst into a living environment we could share. The lease we signed began on March 1st but we had been given permission to move in a tad early as the house had been vacant. Jumping at that opportunity, J and I met at the house one night to clean the entire thing before moving any of our things into it. We were there extremely late that night, throwing away garbage that had been left behind, vacuuming all of the rooms, mopping all of the floors, and cleaning every fixture and appliance in the house. I left at 3:00 in the morning to go home to sleep for a few hours before heading to work. J stayed behind to clean some more. I drove home that night with such a sense of accomplishment.

As I sit here today, alone in our house counting down the days until I have to move out, I’ve never been so low. I spoke recently of being broken and that’s how I remain. I have good moments each day. I talk to my friends and we joke and laugh and have a good time. I attend baseball practice and I enjoy the company of my teammates. On the outset and for the most part, my life isn’t all that bad. No one I’m ever in the company of would ever be able to know what I struggle with internally each day and until now, only a few people knew any details at all. No one is ever around me when I struggle the most so how could they know? No one sees me sitting alone in my house staring blankly into space thinking about “what-ifs.” No one is with me when I’m driving in my car and listening to songs about loss, love, and those that got away. No one knows that when I shower I put a Rascal Flatts playlist on and let the songs overwhelm me with emotion as the words fill the room. The words I write are my best attempt at explaining how I feel and even then I don’t feel they do my emotions justice.

I remember the first time we visited our future home together. We were coming from different areas and I got to the house first. Realizing the road was a “dead zone” for cellular service and I couldn’t text or call J to ask if she was close, I decided to go in the house and explore while I waited. After looking around a little bit I walked back outside and stood in the driveway as a light snow started to fall. I remember J’s car approaching from my right and as I watched it pull into the driveway and I remember the butterflies of that moment. As my end in that same house approaches, I often spend time daydreaming about areas of the house and moments that took place in those areas. I picture J cooking in the kitchen every night for us. I can picture how she stood and where she organized things for her preparation. I look at the area of a bench in our living room where I sat after a long, stressful day and I can still see her walking over to me and hugging me, enveloping me in support. I look around my bedroom at all of the areas where her furniture used to sit. I look around the bathroom and notice the void where the shelf that held her belongings once sat and all of the shelves where she placed other items. The spare bedroom that once belonged to our children now belongings to only mine. I can still picture J tucking our children in every night and reading them a bedtime story without taking a night off and I’m reminded of how loving of a human being she is. I remember where we sat when we exchanged Christmas gifts. I notice the toaster sitting on my counter that J insisted on buying me because I kept burning my hand in the oven when I toasted bread in there. I’m reminded of good times when I notice the plate of sea shells that I picked up from a beach J had been dying to bring me to. I walk outside and look at a space on our patio where we sat one night after a period of unrest between us. We had nearly broken up and the relationship was fragile. J came home and after the children went to bed she asked if I wanted to sit outside and I agreed. We stared up at the moon and talked openly with her asking me: “If I wanted you to put your arms around me and just hold me, could you do that without any expectations?” to which I replied that I could not. In doing so anyway, we fixed our relationship that night, a memory that remains with me always.

While this house holds most of the physical memories of our relationship, it pales in comparison to the ones I hold dearly in my heart, my mind, and my soul. There are so many memories, big and small, that I cherish and relive often. The day I was at work and texted J how to prepare and start the wood stove and the accomplishment we both felt at achieving it. I relive our trip to New York City around Christmas time, the birthday she planned secretly for me at Troutbeck in Amenia, and our first night falling asleep together. I’ll remember always moving her car out of the driveway and into the road at 6:00 am in order to get mine out and put hers back. I’ll remember our shared annoyance at our new neighbor, our hundreds of laughs at silly things, and our shared judgmental views. I’ll remember the mirror she brought home from work one night that I secretly cleaned when she was at work the following day. I’m reminded of J on my way home every single day as I pass the bush in someone’s yard she accidentally crushed when her car slid off the road one winter day. I think often about one night sitting in the back of her car after we got back together and looking into her eyes with tears in mine and telling her I loved her, her responding with “Do you?” and telling her I did as she wiped my tears away with her hand. I’ve had a handful of long-term relationships in my life and I’ve never had this lingering feeling of overall defeat and longing after they ended before. This is the type of fall that there’s no parachute for. Being with J felt like I was on top of the world each and every day. Being without her feels like the weight of the world is pushing down on me.

For many years I’ve used the passing of my grandmother as my barometer for sadness but when I think about losing J I find a new standard. When my grandmother passed away, as much as I didn’t want to accept it, I knew she was gone and she wasn’t coming back. Being without J is a torture that recurs each and every day because she’s out there breathing the same air, driving the same roads, basking in the same sun, looking up at the same moon, and shopping at the same stores and she’s doing it without me. What a grand shame it is that missing someone doesn’t make them miss you, longing for someone doesn’t make them long for you, and being in love with someone doesn’t make them love you. No matter how many sad songs you listen to you know none of the words in those songs do a damn thing to bring the person back into your life. It doesn’t matter that every time I pick up my children they ask if we are going to spend time with J and her daughter and I’m sure her daughter asks about me periodically. As much as our children may long for the other, it does nothing to bring us any closer than we are today. My children using my iPad and finding photos of J and I together does nothing to actually bring us together. I spend much time sitting back and asking myself questions I’ll never be able to answer fully. How did we get here? The good times, the laughs, the moments that’ll live on forever feel as fresh as yesterday.

The downfall of our relationship rests mainly with me. After our first breakup, J moved out of our house. When we got back together she didn’t move back in and I had to adapt to a relationship where she wasn’t as accessible as I’d like. I had to rewire my mind to understand we had a different relationship. In the beginning it was easy to do but as time went on I began to embrace distance a little bit, from a physical standpoint, not an emotional one. I would couple this distance with being more closed-off. I would be dealing with life’s issues and instead of letting J in and telling her all about them, I tried to deal with them on my own. I’d have nights where I’d work late and instead of going over to J’s house after work I’d come home because I was too tired. These instances would occur about once a week and then once a week became three days a week and the distance mounted. After awhile the momentum of that distance and my failure to realize it set us down a path to an end. I think a flaw of mine is I’ve been a loner most of my life and when I’m given distance or space I embrace it and seek out a little more. In hindsight I realize that this could all have been avoided but how do I reconcile it now? J is gone and I’m left picking up pieces I don’t know how to put back together. In my head, “J” and “ex-girlfriend” will never be synonyms but in the real world they are just that. I have tons of photos, text messages, and emails from the woman I thought I’d be with forever, what am I to do with those? I have a photo of us and our children that we took around Thanksgiving of 2017 which means the world to me, do I bring myself to throw it in the garbage?

Life is easier when you’re happy and in love. Your cares, stresses, trials, and tribulations seem to melt away when you have someone in your corner each and every day. When J and I broke up I didn’t just lose my girlfriend, I lost my best and closest friend. J and I told each other everything we had going on in life and left nothing out. In October of 2018 I had my second scare with testicular cancer and as I was undergoing testing only J knew. I didn’t even tell my closest friends or family members. Before we met I swore I’d never plant my roots in any relationship or with anyone unless I was totally sure it was a “forever” thing and after doing so, I’m left hurting now that they’ve been ripped up. There is nothing worse than the person you love reaching a point where, to them, being with you is no longer fulfilling or worth it.

Each day we are alive we weave a quilt that eventually depicts our life. For the last year and a half, I weaved J all throughout that quilt, intertwining our relationship into every fiber and square inch of my lifes work. As I sit now looking at that quilt, I feel loss beyond words. How I wish I was still filling that quilt with new moments, new memories, new milestones. I go to bed every night on the side of the bed that used to be J’s and as the days roll on I miss her more, not less. Every week I do laundry or clean an area of my house I find blond hairs and I miss J more. Every day I leave my house for work and as I walk out the door and into the driveway I look at the space behind my car and expect J’s Toyota to be parked there and it isn’t and I miss her more. I wake up every morning and check my phone to see if she texted me, hoping her name pops up with the heart emoji that remains next to it and when it isn’t there, I miss her more. I go outside at night sometimes and I stand there in the dark, breathing in the cold air for a moment and I envision I’m waiting for J to come pick me up as she has so many times before. I see cars drive by at night and I look for the ones with two headlights and two fog lights like J’s had and I wish they’d pull into my driveway and pull me out of my emotional rut, but they drive right by and I miss J more. I picture us laying in bed together, her staring into my eyes as she runs her hand across my cheek and tells me that she loves me and I’m overcome with despair knowing I’ll only be able to experience that moment in a memory. I think about the engagement ring I had custom designed and purchased, a milestone I never thought I’d reach in life and one I certainly hadn’t gotten close to with anyone else, and instead of having the opportunity to be on one knee asking J to marry me, I’m brought to both knees with the emotion of missing someone I never thought I’d be without. Have you ever turned the hot water up just a bit too high in the shower and all of the steam makes it a little difficult to breathe? That’s how I feel when I think about my loss.

I remember, so vividly, the last time I saw J in person. I had spent the night at her house and I left in the morning for work. I would give anything to go back to that moment and kiss her just once more before leaving, hug her a little longer, squeeze just a little tighter. Knowing those moments are over for me is hard to deal with emotionally and I haven’t yet found a way to cope with that fact. For over a month I’ve been stricken with such a sadness that it penetrates my entire life and affects my every day habits. For weeks now I’ve lost my appetite because of my emotion. I wake up every morning and make a cup of coffee and head to work. I don’t eat breakfast, rarely eat lunch, and have a bowl of soup for dinner before going to bed and repeating the next day. I think about the hundreds and thousands of smiles J will have across her face for the rest of her life and it saddens me beyond words to know I won’t be responsible for any of them. If I had the chance I’d walk to the edge of the world barefoot if I could win J back and I feel helpless with the notion that I will not have such an opportunity.

Sometimes you don’t recognize the true effect of greatness until you’re staring at the void it leaves when it’s gone.

 

*I chose to withhold J’s full name to maintain the slightest bit of privacy and respect.

 

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The Learning 20’s


Very rarely am I sentimental and it’s even more rare that I celebrate. I describe myself to others as being “somewhere between two and eight on the emotion scale. Never too low, never too high.” I have always expressed reflection, however, and with an hour remaining before I turn 30 and my age ceases to begin with a 2, reflecting is what I’m doing. Every single important or monumental moment in my life except my birth, graduating high school, and learning what it means to love another person occurred in my twenties.

I didn’t celebrate turning 20 and saying goodbye to my teens. I didn’t celebrate turning 21 and being able to legally drink. I didn’t celebrate turning 25 and being “halfway to 30.” I aged, at least in my own head and heart, like nothing was different. I grew up in years but largely remained the same in belief and personality, with a few lessons learned with each passing year. I became legally licensed at 20, long after my friends and people I went to school with did. Growing up I never had the support of my parents and the ability to develop skills and have opportunities that others did. My household wasn’t one that promoted the flourishing of its young members. Only when I was able to get out into the world and have a family friend offer to teach me to drive on their time with their vehicle was I given such a chance.

I lost my grandmother in my twenties and although her memory is with me always and I carry it with me daily, I’d still give up most anything for one more cup of tea with her. My life had never been “rocked” at its core before, and with her passing a wrecking ball of emotion did major damage to my soul. Over time I’ve learned to accept her death and keep her memory and her words alive in all that I do, reciting back lines and lessons each day, but the hurt will never leave. It’s tough, to think of the person most important to you in life, one that molded you, protected you, and did their best to guide you and all of a sudden they’re gone. All you can do is put their teachings to use and be your best self. I’ve tried to do that and be the example for others that she was for me.

I became a father in my twenties and although not everything is the essence of a fairy tale, I wouldn’t trade my parenthood for anything. My children have always been a sanctuary for me and they are the only thing that makes me immune to bad moods. They make me laugh all the time, make me smile even when they’re not around, and they have no idea how thankful I am to be their father. They don’t know that when they fall asleep at night I kiss their foreheads and I smile to myself. I know that as they age they’ll encounter more and more of life’s problems, just as I have, and I hope I can guide them to the best of my abilities. If I’m lucky enough to live for another decade, they’ll be in their teenage years when I’m 40 and I’ll have ten more years of their impact on my life to look back on. I don’t describe many things with the word “blessing” but it seems fitting here that my children represent a blessing to me.

Ironically, I went to college to be a writer and after five years, I came home to a summer job in commercial construction and it’s been my career ever since. I’ve always been headstrong, passionate for the things I do, and had a do-it-myself attitude. At the age of 22 I became self-employed as a DBA and at 25 I opened my own LLC which remains in business to this day. The world of construction and building has always been around me. I remember being young, perhaps 13 or 14, and my father and uncle would bring me along as they set modular homes and would let me doing menial tasks such as hammering nails into deck boards. Even being around the trades all those years, I never developed a passion or an interest for construction. To me, it was something that my father and others did, but not me. That changed when I got that first commercial job, however, and I wanted to be the best I could be at it, in as many facets of it as I could. I was lucky enough to work for two companies early on whose owners were quality teachers and gave me opportunities to succeed and learn as much as I could handle. Construction has given me all that I have today and continues to provide a living for my family and for that I’m thankful as well.

After being alive for three full decades my focus now shifts to the next one. I am so very thankful to have lived for nearly 30 years and I think about that often. There are some that don’t get the opportunity to be alive for 30 minutes, 30 days, or 30 months and yet here I am and that brings me much gratitude. When I graduated high school I made one promise to myself: to be loyal to my health and fitness and to maintain it into my adult life and that I’ve done. Being able to join an adult baseball league and play against top players has been a dream come true, one that I didn’t get to pursue until I was 28. My twenties taught me patience, something I struggled with in my youth. They also taught me what’s important, what isn’t important, and how to live with accepting both.

Perhaps it’s my reflection or maybe I’m learning some sentiment, but I’ve been peeking over at the clock since I woke up this morning. I’ve been doing constant math in my head, counting how many hours I have remaining in my twenties. With each passing hour I’ve been reflecting, learning about myself, swimming in memories good and bad, and looking forward to what’s next. As the hour-glass runs out of sand on my third decade on this Earth I can’t help but imagine what the fourth will hold. Regardless, I’m happy with who I’ve been and who I’ve become the last 30 years. I hope I’m around for another 30.

 

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A Letter To My Teammates


Last Fall I typed a message in this very group detailing how I wanted to return to the Pirates for a 2nd season because we had “unfinished business” after losing a championship game. Tonight I type this message because I won’t be returning for a 3rd. While I have my reasons, I want to instead talk about the positives.

Years ago, maybe in 2012ish, I responded to an online post looking for baseball players and I met John Bates for the first time. From that season until last season I was unavailable to play for the Pirates. Landon and Savannah were born, my family expanded, and I didn’t have time for baseball. Before last season I reached out to John and told him I had time now and he welcomed me back with open arms. Without John I don’t throw a single pitch in the NABA and I don’t get to play competitive baseball in my late 20’s. John I’ll be grateful always for the opportunity.

Chris Federico: I’ve spent more time on a mound than I probably deserved to at times and that’s because of you. You’ve had faith in me from the beginning and gave me a longer leash than sometimes I deserved, and I’m forever thankful. All I’ve asked for is an opportunity and Chris gave me plenty of them.

Kevin Bohannon: The catcher I’ve always needed and my favorite Pirates catcher. Kevin caught some of my best games and I’ve always leaned on his ability to walk to the mound and calm me down, correct my issues, and get the best out of me. As a pitcher I couldn’t ask for more.

I’ll miss talking about score-keeping with Zachary Andrews, talking life with Al Christopher, Kyle Geysen, and Tommy Corcoran, thanking my lucky stars I’ve never had to face Abel Vargas on the mound, “doing it for the Robs” with Rob Blumenthal, and welcoming the constructive criticism from Abigail Canning.

I’m thankful for my time with the Pirates and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I got to throw the very first pitch of our baseball season and I got to throw the very last. I wasn’t always at my best, often underperformed to my standards, and wish I could have done so much more for us. I’m thankful for every catcher who called my games. I rarely shook off because I had confidence in the job you’d do. I’m thankful for every position player who played behind me and got outs for our team when I pitched and I’m sorry for the long innings you had to endure when I struggled. I take everything I do in life seriously. I joke around, sure, but when it comes time to “do a job,” as Victor Porro always says, I’m all business. I took that baseball every time I had to pitch and tried to do my best. I understood the magnitude of my job as your starting pitcher and I did my best for us every time out. There was never a game when I showed up and played half-assed or didn’t give my full effort. I’m thankful to have played on a team that had so much success because we all know most teams in our league don’t get such an opportunity. I’ve always been humble in life and I remain so as I type this. I’m thankful for the opportunity to put that #18 on every Sunday and play the game I’ve loved since I was very young.

To the returning players next season I wish you nothing but the best. To the young players on the team just know that you can’t fake effort. If you show up and give your all you’ll be rewarded with opportunities because someone will notice what you put in. I didn’t play baseball from age 20 to about 27-28 and I see some of you guys that have this chance at 19, 20, 21 and you’ve got so much time to play, make the most of that. If there’s anything I’ve learned from my time with the Pirates it’s this: There are opportunities to be found on this roster. Thank you to all of my past teammates for making this experience an important one for me.

-18

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28/M/NY: Behind the ASL


A few weekends ago I met a female friend I’ve known for probably 10+ years and we sat and talked over coffee for three hours. Not only do I think this girl is absolutely stunning, but so do other men who see her, some of whom I speak to. At times, I would’ve probably dated this girl in a heartbeat if she was interested but truthfully in all of the years I’ve known her, the topic has never come up. Neither has “hooking up” and neither has anything to do with us doing anything physical with one another. Zero kisses, zero hugs, nothing. You might wonder, then, what we sat and spoke about for three hours on a Friday night at 10:00? It was Ebay, you know the website you join to buy and sell things online? It was this talk and my thoughts after having this talk that are the basis for what I’m writing now: I’m not a normal guy.

This same friend, who I’m choosing not to name, runs a few businesses and one of them is setting up accounts for people on various dating based mobile apps. You send her information and she tells you which photos to use, what to write, how to fix communication issues you may have had with past “matches,” etc. It’s actually quite fascinating in a way and the market for such a thing is probably bare, so she may be on to something. I applied her skills and vision to my life in a way and pondered what my profile would say if I signed up for Tinder. What information would I include? Would I omit anything about my life? How many words would it let me type before cutting me off? Delving further, assuming I had unlimited words and someone would read them all, my profile might read like the words that follow. Additionally, after spending ~3,827 days of my life in relationships that all ended for one reason or another, maybe a display like this is the spring-board to eternal happiness that has evaded me. Imagine if we all had a pamphlet accurately describing our lives for people who meet us to read. This is mine.

Let’s start with the basics, the kindergarten-level introductions that maybe don’t mean anything but you sometimes ask people anyway. My favorite color is yellow, my favorite animals are birds, and my favorite season is Spring, for its beauty and cooler temperatures. My favorite sports teams are the Denver Broncos (football), San Francisco Giants (baseball, and yes there is a Giants baseball team too), Colorado Avalanche (hockey), and Boston Celtics (basketball). I am left-handed, I play amateur baseball where I’m a starting pitcher, and I played college-level basketball, baseball, and men’s volleyball. I went to college for 5 years and finished without a degree because I joined the workforce on a summer break and never returned to school. I opened my own business at 23 and I still run it today, switching to an LLC almost three years ago. I’m 6’3 1/4″ tall and weigh ~185 pounds with somewhere between 4-6% body fat, I go to the gym six days per week, and I take physical health very seriously. I don’t drink, smoke, or do drugs. I have tattoos on my arms and plan to get more. I listen to a wide array of music, whether it’s blasting Metallica or Avenged Sevenfold in the gym or listening to Jason Aldean as I day-dream while driving my truck.

Moving on, there are things that lie just below the surface that I might want to include, such as I have 2 children. I was diagnosed with depression 3 years ago with two caveats: I don’t take medication of any sort and I’ve never had a suicidal thought, something most people associate with depression. The truth is I value life too much to consider losing it or shortening it. I listen to music and think about the meaning of the song. What was the artist thinking? I’m the furthest thing from materialistic. I drive an old beat up Ford truck and I own 3 pairs of work jeans that I sometimes wear 3-4 days in a row before changing or washing them. Sometimes I come home from work late and I’m tired so I just eat and go to sleep and wake up in the morning and get dressed and go back to work without showering. I read a ton and when I’m at work I listen to audiobooks. I have always worked on all of my own vehicles. The number of sexual partners I have had in my lifetime is a single-digit number. I don’t really pay attention to what others think of me and I’m good at ignoring and tuning people out.

I read a book recently in which a group of researchers conducted a study. For the study they gathered random people and had them view college students’ dorm rooms in order to try to accurately describe things about the students, such as agreeableness, neatness, and intellect. Believe it or not, the random people were just as conclusive as people who had known the students for years. This idea is called “thin-slicing” and it states that you don’t need a ton of information all of the time in order to make a determination. The question the book poses is this: “If you were hiring a new employee and had one of these two choices, which would you choose: 1. Spend a year with the person in order to learn as much about them as possible or 2. Spend 30 minutes walking around their apartment or home.” Most people would choose #1, but statistics and studies like the one described above prove that sometimes more isn’t always better. By this same token, if you knew me or saw me out in public you might think I’m some dumb jock or some construction worker with no mind, but what if you could see my bedroom, what conclusions would you come to then? Imagine if as a bonus to the Tinder membership you got to view the person’s bedroom for 5 minutes.

Walking into my room you’d first notice the color of my walls, a darker gray that really resembles the majority of my life and interests: boring and ordinary. My cat, Stubby, might greet you and try to headbutt your face lightly, affirming he likes you and you may do as you please. You’d notice that besides the large mirror on my dresser, I also have 2 large bookshelves loaded with books of all sorts. Some historical books, some books on diet and working out, some books from my favorite fantasy series, Redwall, books by my favorite sports personalities whose radio shows I listen to daily, books on local crime, an entire set of encyclopedias, a Webster’s dictionary that is probably 6 inches thick that I got from some guy giving it away on Craigslist for free, and plenty of construction related texts. On top of those shelves sit historically important items to me: a set of ceramic dogs that my grandmother owned; one of the first 14 bottles of syrup that the largest facility in the world made which was given to me because I was part of the crew that built it; a massive collection of “heads-up” pennies that I’ve found throughout my life; the first walk-off home run ball I ever hit in co-ed softball; and an autographed Peyton Manning Denver Broncos helmet. You’d notice my computer sitting on my desk, its desktop filled with estimates for jobs of all sorts, some finished and some awaiting homeowners’ replies. A hamper tucked in the corner with dirty clothes, my baseball gear in my bag, and audio equipment would end the viewing. What you wouldn’t see, though, are clothes lying around because I put them all away as soon as they are done being washed. You wouldn’t see any dirty dishes or garbage scattered around, either. I may have partial OCD but I never leave a mess anywhere, whether it’s in my room or in my truck I try to keep my things neat and orderly. People used to walk into my college dorm room and notice its cleanliness and exclaim: “You’d never think a guy lived in here!” Like I said, boring and ordinary.

At this point you’ll have a basic understanding of my principles and hobbies and preferences, but you’ll assuredly need more material in order to paint the full picture. Perhaps you wonder if there are things I look for in others or things I don’t care about very much at all. You’d be right. I am not impressed by material items or things other people have in life, choosing to focus more on what makes up that person’s moral and emotional state. For instance, I’m not impressed if you can drive a standard vehicle. Unless my life is on the line and the only vehicle we have is a standard one and you knowing how to drive it determines if we live, who cares if you have the skill? When I see guys who get turned on by a girl “driving stick” I kind of chuckle. I don’t care about your belongings, car, house, etc. if your parents purchased them for you. If you have $1,200.00 per month in bills and your parents pay every dollar of them, how is that desirable to me? I like people who stand on their own feet with their own effort and when they get knocked down, they know how to pick themselves up. People who have sweat on their brow to show what they’ve earned are my kind of people. I’ve been helped in my life, sure, but I’ve never had a constant influx of family money to support my lifestyle nor do I ever see that happening. I don’t care about your scantily clad photos on social media or that you can get 50 “likes” on a photo on Instagram. Attention, to me, is a crutch. My father tells me that I’ve had abdominal muscles since I was “about 7 years old” and I once overheard his friend Mike saying to him, “Man, Rob is in good shape, when he gets older the girls will be all over him” and thinking to myself, “What does that mean?” I was about 10 and didn’t understand. Obviously, I know what he meant now and I also know I could post endless shirtless photographs all over social media and get all the “likes” and comments I could dream of, but I’m better than that. I don’t need the attention or want it. I’m confident in myself and my appearance, so much so that I don’t need reassurance from others to validate it. I don’t need to engineer popularity. I think people who do are secretly insecure and weak personality-wise. I don’t care about gossip, most of all. Let your friend wear her hair any way she wants and in any color she wants. Let your friend get cheated on by her boyfriend over and over and over and let her worry about it, why should you? Let some annoying person on social media be annoying. I hate complainers and the act of complaining. The example I give all the time is of this girl who used to be a waitress at the restaurant I worked at before going away to college. She would come in every day and complain about how crappy her boyfriend was and how much of a jerk he was. One day I finally lost my mind and told her to stop fretting about him or break up with him. Think about it. The reason you’re disgruntled is directly a result of your own actions. He’s YOUR boyfriend and he’s making YOUR life worse so much so that you complain every day at work, why not make the necessary changes so you can stop whining and move on? Solutions are sometimes so simple, at least to me.

I think if you could have a briefing of someone’s life before meeting or dating them, their relationship history should be a prerequisite. Maybe not the sexual aspects or all of the dark details, but their thoughts, actions, mentality towards others, and habits should be. This may be the first platform ever that I’m performing an autopsy of my past on, but what better example for my idea than to turn on the faucet of memories for my own life? I’ve dated many different females from all walks of life, from many different backgrounds, and with many different outcomes. I’ve dated girls who my parents loved, some my parents disliked, and some my parents never met. I’ve dated recovering drug addicts, girls who never used drugs, and girls who used drugs while we dated. I’ve dated girls who I had children with, girls who moved on and had children with their new loves, and girls who I spoke with about children but never had any. I’ve dated girls who had defined abdominal muscles, girls who had average builds, and an overweight girl. I’ve had relationships that lasted 3 days, 30 days, 300 days, and 1,300 days. I’ve dated a girl who drove a station wagon, a girl who drove a Porsche, and girls who had no car at all. I’ve dated a girl 12 years older than me, a girl 7 years younger than me, and plenty of girls within 3 years of my age. I’ve dated high school teachers with masters degrees, girls who worked desk jobs, and a girl who ran a company by day and went to college part-time at night. I’ve dated girls who liked my short hair, girls who were indifferent about my look, and plenty of girls who wanted me to grow my hair out (sorry never going to happen). I’ve dated virgins, girls who had a few sexual partners in their past, and girls who others whispered “whore” about behind their backs. I’ve dated girls who thought they belonged on the Victoria’s Secret runway but had mountains of insecurity that they kept hidden and girls who exuded confidence and didn’t necessarily make every head turn. I’ve dated girls who drove me crazy and girls I was crazy about.

There are regrets sprinkled in, however. No story is complete without the pitfalls that one suffers and mine is no exception. I’ve never been engaged or married and have only ever thought seriously about marrying one girlfriend. I’m part of two “broken families” and while I know the relationships ending was best, I often hope that my children see through it and can thrive in the environments they now inhabit. I’ve had great opportunities with some girls that I let slip away foolishly. I once walked 4-5 miles to meet a girl sometime in the summer of 2008-2009 and she expressed an interest in me and for some reason I declined to pursue it and we fell out of touch. Years later when I was single in the summer of 2015, I went on a 6 mile walk with her (lot of walking for this one) and couldn’t stop noticing the beautiful woman she had become and I kept kicking myself for my mistake all those years ago. Our walk ended with a hug and a text later that night expressing that the magic was still there and she couldn’t believe all the memories I had kept so many years later but I had 3 children, and her life wasn’t at a point where she could handle that. She later ended up getting back together with her ex-boyfriend and remains with him today. Another girl I actually did date was maybe the soul mate I didn’t know I had. Every morning she woke me up with a kiss and a cup of coffee and she always did the small things. Sometimes I look back on us and miss it because I haven’t had anything close to that type of treatment since. This girl once came to one of my flag football games that was played in pouring rain and she sat in the stands watching the entire game for two hours. Who does that? That is grounds to marry a girl right there, but instead I threw the relationship away for nothing and lost a good thing. Later in the summer of 2015 I met a girl and met up one Tuesday at a “country night” hosted at a local bar and we talked for hours. A friend of mine was there and texted me later that night and she said “Are you and that girl dating?” “No,” I said. “Well you should ask her out, you guys looked lost in each others’ eyes. I could see the connection.” This girl was gorgeous, I’m talking seeing-her-and-jaw-hitting-the-floor gorgeous. Some guys might pay to say two words to her and I spoke about 10,000 that night probably. She later stopped talking to me because I was a father. As God says in Bruce Almighty, “…you can’t affect free will.” And so it was, she was gone. I’ve had plenty of at-bats that ended up in strikeouts and many scars I can talk about.

I have days where memories take all of the air out of the room or the car. Other days I’m lonely and wonder if there’s someone for me out there, but I also know that sometimes being wanted means more than who is doing the asking, so I don’t make snap judgements. I’ve been in relationships where at times I’m setting myself on fire to keep the other person warm, a mistake I try to avoid. A girl came along once that changed the dynamic of my life. She took my hand, got me up off of my brother’s couch where I was living, and showed me that there are people in this world who can love a single father of 3 with their whole heart, so my hope doesn’t dwindle. I’m not actively searching for a mate and contrary to the thesis of this writing, I don’t have a Tinder profile. I go to work every day and spend my free time trying to be a better person, a better father, a better brother, a better son, and a better friend. I don’t have many people who are close to me but those who are I’m extremely loyal to and value their company more than I can express.

Everyone has a book about their life that is constantly being written with each passing day. I’m choosing to narrate mine up to this point. The next chapter hasn’t been written yet.

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There Goes My Hero


 

I don’t have many heroes and most of the ones I do have I have never met, and probably never will. I always tell people that there is no man on this planet that I would rather be than myself. My confidence in my choices, my beliefs, my abilities, my philosophies, and my lifestyle is extremely high and being Robert W. Bailey Jr. is pretty cool. I have, however, tried to emulate those whom I admire, trying to incorporate qualities of theirs that I treasure into my own life. After my late grandmother, I would say that I have mirrored Peyton Manning more than any other human being.

All day at work yesterday I knew that Peyton would hold a press conference to announce his retirement at 1:00 and I kept looking at the clock as time grew near. I reached a stopping point and brought up the live stream of the press conference on my cell phone and watched intently, allthewhile understanding the magnitude of what I was watching and listening to: my favorite football player would NEVER play football again. It is truly hard for me to deal with in the short term. As I watched that press conference I was genuinely sad and I’m not saying that to get attention or to be emotional, but to express my respect and reverence for a man who doesn’t even know who I am, but has impacted my life forever.

I grew up as a Broncos fan, and have loved them for  20+ years. My teams ran into Peyton’s Colts in the playoffs a few times, losing both games by a combined score of 90-34. Watching him play the quarterback position was something that intrigued me like nothing else in sports. The way he analyzed defenses play-by-play under a 40 second ticking play clock as time ran constantly, play after play after play. It always seemed like someone was wide open. He would audible to a run play when no one expected it and it would be as if the defensive line didn’t exist as the running back ran up the middle. His teams scored often and in bunches and won double digit games almost every season.

When franchises find their “guy” and establish a “franchise quarterback,” that guy rarely hits the open market. Franchise quarterbacks often extend their contracts and remain with their teams for 10-15 years, retiring with the team that drafted them. Needless to say I never expected Peyton to become a free agent but due to health issues and the Colts holding the number one selection in the upcoming NFL draft, they let him go. I remember texting Jim after hearing Peyton’s name linked to our Denver Broncos and saying “No way dude, this can’t be possible, we might sign him.” Days later, we had signed Peyton Manning to a 5 year, 96 million dollar deal. My favorite player, the guy I had admired for years, was the starting quarterback for my favorite football team.

For the next four years, Peyton took my Broncos to a new level, a level that no other team in the history of the game has reached offensively. He set personal, all-time, and team scoring, passing yards, and passing touchdown records. He threw for 55 touchdown passes and threw for 5,477 yards in 2013, both single season records. The Broncos scored 606 points as a team, also a record. We reached the Super Bowl twice, losing Super Bowl 48 and winning Super Bowl 50 as an underdog. The “Peyton Years” will go down as some of my best football memories as a fan.

I’ll remember Peyton as being second to none in preparation, my favorite attribute of his and the one I try to copy the most. Peyton taught me that with proper research and preparing, you can put yourself in a better position to be successful. I have spent countless nights up late drawing up playbooks and calling my teammates and going over routes, schemes, match-ups, and situations. Peyton taught me to be humble and not parade my own accomplishments. He taught me to remain in the moment and not get too far ahead of myself. He taught me to take my job seriously, but also enjoy doing it. I learned to stand out by watching him in action. Finally, Peyton taught me to be a leader. Anyone in a group or on a team can be the loudest, the cockiest, the biggest, the strongest, but only some can lead. It takes more to be a leader. You need to be able to collect multiple personalities and egos and put them together while trying to be successful as a unit. On all of my sports teams I have tried to do just that for my team, sometimes we have conquered, sometimes we haven’t, but leading is a quality that remains always, and I’ll have it forever because of Peyton.

The last piece of Peyton Manning that will remain with me is the number 18. I have worn #18 since I was in high school no matter the team or sport. Dodgeball, baseball, softball, etc., the number 18 has always been on the back of my jersey. I own two Peyton Manning Denver Broncos jerseys and wore both of them for this past playoff run, knowing it could be the last time I wore his jersey. Wearing that number is representative of all that Peyton stands for and I’ll value it and his individual qualities for the rest of my life. I’ll value the touchdown passes, the audibles, the smiles, the press conferences, the analysis, yelling and high-fiving my girlfriend’s father when the Broncos scored a defensive touchdown in Super Bowl 50, the “Omaha”‘s, the praise from his teammates, debating his legacy with friends and others, and so much more. I want to thank Peyton for choosing to play for my favorite team and giving me four wonderful years as a fan.

Next season will feel awkward for me, but even more sad. For the first time in 18+ years, Peyton Manning will not be on an NFL team. Fathom that.

 

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Happy Birthday


Dear Nan,

It’s your birthday today, and for the third year in a row, we can’t celebrate it in person together. I remember the last time we did, so clear that the moment will live on forever. I’m sad, I don’t show it nearly as much as I feel it, but it’s there. I did well today, only teared up twice at work and a few times pre and post-gym. I speak of you often, and remember you even more. I hope I make you proud sometimes. I know I’m not always my best, but I try to be. I falter, especially over the last year, and I’m sorry for that. You taught me to learn from mistakes, not repeat them, and I think I do a pretty good job of that. I’m going on 27 now, I feel young physically but old at heart, like I have this experience I’ve acquired decades early. I long for one more talk with you, one more cup of tea, one more laugh, one more smile, one more phone call, one more conversation about how the Yankees are being foolish, one more hug, one more minute. I try to keep the others in line, they are their own individuals, however, so I try to guide more than steer. You raised us well, and we know that. Once again, thank you for every moment you spent with me, and every piece of knowledge you bestowed upon me. I’ll write again soon. Goodnight. See you in the morning. I love you. Sweet dreams. 

Happy birthday. 

-Robert

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Dunkin Donuts


My love/hate relationship with Dunkin Donuts is well documented. It mirrors, in a way, my former relationship with Planet Fitness: I don’t really like your service or what you offer 100%, I don’t give you my full commitment, but you meet my basic day-to-day needs so I remain loyal for the most part.

I have far more negative experiences with Dunkin than positive ones, with the ratio falling somewhere around 5/2. For every two good experiences, I have five horrible ones, which usually result in one of the following things happening:

  1. I write the coffee off as bad immediately and discard it.
  2. My sandwich is made wrong (missing an ingredient, wrong bread type, not fully cooked) but I eat it anyway.
  3. My sandwich is made wrong (missing an ingredient, wrong bread type, not fully cooked) and I discard it.
  4. I wait so long for my order that I can finish a large coffee, sipped slowly, before my sandwich is made.
  5. I receive a “free donut” because a “higher-up” feels bad that I’ve been waiting so long.

Based on my experience yesterday morning, I finally decided that enough was enough, I had to vent about this establishment.
Every time I, or anyone for that matter, walks into a Dunkin Donuts and pays money for a product, we expect the product to be made our way, correct? My order yesterday couldn’t have been simpler: “Medium iced coffee, light and sweet, with liquid sugar please.” “Will that be all?” “Yes.” I received, after a literal 7 minute wait, a medium iced coffee with a splash of milk and no sugar whatsoever. So many things go through my head after a moment like this, and I’ll try to outline them all. I don’t mean to berate Dunkin Donuts employees, I really don’t, but your job is to make coffee and make sandwiches that involve no actual cooking skill and no meal prep or design. I feel compelled to do this, for their sake and mine, because every customer deserves a satisfactory experience.

My first problem with Dunkin Donuts is the number of employees on shift compared to the output in the place. Yesterday alone we had one person on cash register, one person tending to the drive-thru, one person making sandwiches, one person making coffees, and two people taking up space. Why do you have employees clogging up the back that are not contributing? Or perhaps they should be but they just aren’t? I guess that’s for “corporate” to decide. In any case, maybe the line wouldn’t be 12 people long with literally the first person in line being served and the other 11 waiting. Or in yesterday’s case, you wouldn’t have 4 of us standing at the sandwich area waiting for coffee and food because one person is making coffees and one person sandwiches. Common sense tells me, and should tell the two employees standing around, “Hey, one or both of them should make some of the coffees to get these people taken care of.” But I suppose browsing your cell phone or whispering to an employee who actually is working is far more important.

Next, I seriously question the “skill” of most of the employees. I’m telling you right now, hand me a cheap visor, apron, and custom name tag that reads “R*8” with some stickers on it, and I could make coffees exactly how they should be without any formal training. I’ve never worked in retail or in customer service, but I’ve been a cook at an Italian restaurant and I’m a business owner, plus I make my own coffee daily and let me tell you, I’m never disappointed.

Not only are the skills lacking, but the general ability to understand basic instructions is as well. As an employee of somewhere like this, your job is no simpler than this: Listen to what the customer asks for and provide them with exactly what they asked for, nothing more or less. If I ask for liquid sugar, why are you giving me granulated sugar? More importantly, anyone with any basic concept of chemistry knows that solids won’t dissolve in cold water very well, so why in the hell is granulated sugar in an iced coffee even an OPTION. You should offer liquid or melted sugar standard, without the customer even having to ask for it. I swear for every 10 times I ask for liquid sugar, except for when someone I know serves me, I get granulated 4-6 of those times. It’s amazing to me that something like that can happen.

When it comes to sandwiches, I always ask for croissants, I never change that. The reason I even like croissants is because Dunkin Donuts messed up an order of mine years ago. I asked for a bacon, egg, and cheese on a plain bagel and received the sandwich on a croissant. I liked the croissant so much that I always order them now, but you see my point. I’ve had sandwiches come out frozen all the way through the center. I’ve had the wrong bread, wrong meat, no cheese, even no egg once. It baffles me all the time, so much so that when I order from Dunkin now, I fully expect there to be something wrong. I purposely don’t order drinks with too much in them so that the order remains as simple as possible, thus reducing (in theory) the chance of a mistake. When placing my order, I’ll wait until the previous item was punched into the register before going onto the next thing for fear of them missing something or typing something that is wrong. It’s obvious that I shouldn’t have to do any of this.

Perhaps my dislike is towards most employees, because there are workers who know me and who make my coffee correctly 100% of the time, and I’m thankful for that. But should I really have to make sure I go into Dunkin when they are on shift? Should I be taking such advanced measures to ensure my order is correct? No, but it’s exactly what I do. As I’ve been writing, I decided “I’m going to send this complaint to Dunkin themselves and see what they say, if anything.”

You don’t need a 4 year degree to make coffee or toast a bagel and heat up an egg and meat and put them together, there shouldn’t be so many issues with my orders. And we are just talking about MY experiences. Dunkin serves probably millions a day, and I’m one person in Pleasant Valley, NY with these issues. Something tells me I’m not the only one.

In conclusion, my ultimate point is this: I don’t walk into Dunkin Donuts and pay my money as a charitable donation. I certainly don’t hand it to the cashier and give them carte blanche to make or serve me whatever they want. My money should directly translate to my order being 100% correct, every time, without an input or opinion from the person making it. I correct what I said before, you’re not MAKING coffee, you’re just pouring it and adding ingredients to it. Let’s try to make our relationship a better one, and if that isn’t possible, let me pay you and come behind the counter and make the coffee myself. If that isn’t possible either, I’ll just take my business on down the road, and you can serve one less person incorrectly.

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