It’s my birthday.
I wish I could say that with a smile. I really do. Birthdays are supposed to be happy days, full of celebration, candles, cakes, family, and friends. But the truth is, I’m pretty sure I just don’t have it in me anymore. Birthdays are days of reflection, contemplating the simple fact that I’ve made another successful trip around the sun (and, by “successful,” I mean I’m still alive — low standards, I know).
But for a guy like me, reflecting on life isn’t exactly an enjoyable task. Today, I’m 38. And if you’ll pardon the language, that’s pretty fucking old (at least, from my perspective). But as I look back, the evil I’ve done in this world overshadows any good I’ve ever done, even in my own eyes.
I’m trying to do good, to be a good person, to make a positive difference; and perhaps not enough time and opportunity have been available for me to establish a solid track record of good rather than evil, but I can’t help but reflect on my life, and see it only as a life wasted.
I’ve been asked by numerous people, “Why are you giving speeches and writing books about the worst thing you’ve ever done?” And the simple answer is, because I want to make a positive difference, to balance-out the evil I’ve done. But the personal answer is, “To feel normal again.”
The coolest experience I’ve had in a long time happened recently: I had an hour-long video conference with Frank Meeink. He is literally my inspiration and (in some ways) my hero. He overcame his past and has now become an immeasurable source of good and hope for others — that is exactly what I want to do. Not many people get to meet the people who inspire them, but I have. I met Frank Meeink; he gave me his cell number and said, “Text me anytime.” He is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.
Twenty years ago, Frank Meeink was a white supremacist who went to prison for aggravated kidnapping. Today, Frank Meeink is the leading expert on the white supremacist movement, a voice against their rhetoric, and he makes speeches across the nation against racism and hate. Essentially, he is what I am hoping to be in my area of expertise, I’m just not there yet — but I’m getting there.
This week, my book After 3PM received the endorsement of Dr. Charol Shakeshaft, the leading academic expert on unlawful teacher/student relationships. To put that into perspective, that’s like someone who wrote a book about basketball getting the endorsement of Michael Jordan. I’ve also sent Frank Meeink a copy of the manuscript, hoping he will endorse it as well (considering he inspired pretty much the whole idea).
These are good things. This is progress. But I’m just getting started. I haven’t really accomplished anything yet. My first Indie Release, Life Noir, is officially released today. My first Mainstream Release, After 3PM, won’t be officially released until April 24, 2018 (though I will have copies before that date). Tomorrow, I will be at Wichita’s “Local Author Day” and on October 20th, I will be giving my first speech at a national education conference in Arizona.
So, I guess, what I’m hoping is this: This is just the beginning of the next phase of my life. But nothing has actually been achieved yet.
As I reflect on my life — this being my birthday and all — I am plagued by the fact that so much negative is in my past. Granted, I genuinely hope my future holds much more positive and I can make a positive impact, but right now, the only concrete reality is the past, and it’s nothing to be proud of — that’s for sure.
My past is factual — My future is hypothetical.
It’s my birthday, and too much of my life has been wasted.
Thank God for Grace. I’m saved by Grace, through Faith.
Have you ever read The Message translation of The Bible? I love it because it is artistically translated (which, as a writer, I genuinely appreciate). 1 Corinthians 13:13 says, in the MSG Translation, “But for right now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly. And the best of the three is love.”
I have the trust in God — something I’ve newly-discovered. | I have the extravagant love — my wife, as well as my remaining family and friends, have shown me unconditional love
But I struggle with Hope. It’s tough to look back, seeing my past, and have any hope for the future. This is where I struggle. Maybe in a few years, I’ll look back and see that I’ve used my mid-life to make a positive difference, since my early-life was used to do such incalculable evil.
Ask me again, after a few more birthdays.