Mar 28, 2013

A Bold Move

What will it take for you to make A Bold Move in your life?  I've been asking myself that a lot lately.  I've been asking myself that ever since Sandy.  Because Sandy was a push, a nudge.  It was a message.  It's a test, it still is.  But where is it nudging me towards?  What's the message?  What sort of test is this?

For me, the message has been clear:  Work Harder, Live Cleaner, Positive Vibes.  Keep fighting, don't give up.  Because if you do, you're doomed, you're dead.  Be strong but give yourself your time to recover from all this, to prepare for the tough days still ahead.  You can't do 2000 pushups in a day even if you'd like to sometimes.  Your house won't be rebuilt tomorrow.  Relax.  Breathe.  Be brave.  Speak your mind.  Take chances.

I talk A Big Game in this space.  I spout a lot of cliches.  Am I just drinking the Kool-Aid?  Isn't it easier to go back to being complacent, to set lower standards for myself, for others?  Sure.  It's easier.  It's always easier to settle.  There's less at stake.

I guess that's why I write this shit down, because it would be so much easier to give up if I didn't, so much simpler to settle for what would be - at best - quiet mediocrity.  I wouldn't feel as accountable for the words I typed, the things I said, the promises I made.  I could just endure this madness alone, quietly, or maybe back in therapy.  The couple hundred or so of you reading this - friends, family, fans, complete strangers - are waiting to see if I'll come back from all this or just shit the bed completely.  Things can't stay static in my story, there is too much that has happened, too much still happening in what has been an uphill battle since the storms came and changed my life forever.  In a strange way, I need that validation.

It's like when I run.  I always time myself.  Always.  Because I always want to beat the time before, I always want to do better.  I want it recorded so I can go back and look at it in a month, and say 'Look at you go, motherfucker.'  I need that.  I need to stay hungry.  I need my hunger to be documented, otherwise I'll sit on the couch and eat ice cream in the dark and no one will be the wiser.

The only way you can begin to Kick Ass is to believe that you can.  If I need to reaffirm those beliefs in My Stupid Blog - if that's one of the things that helps me achieve what I need to achieve - then so be it.  So be it.  I don't mind.  I like to write.  Whether I know what the hell I'm talking about is up to you, the loyal reader.  Either way, I believe what I'm spewing - whether you think I'm a noble warrior or Batshit Crazy Hopeless, I thank you for reading.  Truly I do.

You're welcome, Ron.  It's easy to talk A Big Game, but can you practice what you preach? 

I can either become the man I want to be or I can become A Disappointment, A Sad Case.  You can drive a nice car, you can live in a nice apartment, you can get married, you can start a family, but you can still be A Sad Case - as a parent, as a friend, as a lover, as part of a team.  You can conceal it well, you can fool people for awhile, maybe forever.  But you can't fool yourself.  You have to be real in order to truly be great.  This guy knows what I'm talking about.

Thanks to Sandy, it's easy to label me A Sad Case right now, to feel bad for me.  I turn on NY1 and it's five Sandy stories an hour - all day, every day.  It's my neighbors on Staten Island, my fellow victims across this big city - still rebuilding, still fighting, still in trouble.  The rest of the media has predictably eased itself back into generally ignorant normalcy.  After all, Kim Kardashian wore three separate outfits yesterday.  Priorities, people.

Me Today, me right now - the jerk writing this blog at this exact moment - this is the Best Adult Me that has ever been.  This is The Most Real Me that has ever been.  And I believe the best is still to come, that The Most Real Me has the best chance of becoming The Most Successful Me, the happiest me, the most fulfilled, the most fulfilling.  There is still work to do, still a path I need to stay on.  And I'm right on course.  My fate won't be revealed overnight, not with all the moving pieces in my world right now.

And that's the test - Sandy's gift and Sandy's curse.  Patience.  We're all in a rush, especially here in The Rat Race.  We all have our crystal ball, where we see ourselves further down the Yellow Brick Road.  All noble sentiments aside, you can bet your ass your Magic 8-Ball will be far from accurate.  Odds are you won't wind up in your dream city with the perfect job, the perfect mate, the perfect life.  And if that doesn't happen - and it rarely does - what does that leave you with?  Will where you actually land, will what you end up with be good enough?  Will you be able to live with your regrets?

That's why it's time for A Bold Move.  Not tomorrow.  But soon.  Soon.  You can't just wait for things to change, you have to make them happen yourself.  You have to wear your heart on your sleeve.  You have to emote.  You have to produce.  You have to recognize that no situation can be perfect until you position yourself in a way to make it so.

I lost another co-worker this week, another decade-younger-than-me radio junkie leaving the nest - doing what I never did, what I should have done.  They kicked me out 8 years ago and I still didn't leave.  I came back full-time for 5 more years.  I was getting married, so I needed to put responsibility before risky business.  I was secure, it was a comfortable place, a familiar one.  I needed them to support me and they needed me to fill a particular role.  Things were okay even if they weren't great.  I settled, and 5 years later, I'm still not where I want to be, where I need to be.  It's like being the 25th man on the roster of a championship baseball team.  You know your role, you do it right, you don't screw up.  You're at the end of the bench but you get to be part of a quality team.  Maybe you steal a base or make a great catch in the playoffs and you become Homer Bush or Endy Chavez.  You gain little notoriety, but you can still show up at your cousin's Little League awards dinner and wow the neighborhood kids.

That's not good enough for me.  And it wasn't good enough for my co-worker, Loren, either.  Loren had a similar role on the show.  A lot of grunt work, little glamor.  She was clawing for airtime the way I did when I was her age, and I give her credit.  She worked hard, she put the time in.  She had a passion for what she did even if she complained about it as much as I do.  In our sort of roles, complaining - frustration - can be a birthright.  Loren is driven.  And now she'll be driving up to Boston for a more hi-profile position as my friend TJ's co-host in a very competitive market during a very uncertain time in our industry.  Most radio pros would not forecast good things for my friends' new show.  They're unproven in the roles they're about to take on even if they're proven themselves ten times over in the roles they have been in.  It's risky.  They were comfortable.  It's stupid.  They had security.  It's A Bold Move.

And I think it's great.  Because they had peaked in the roles they were in.  More than likely, in their current positions, this was as good as it was gonna get.  And even tho that's not so bad, it's not good enough for TJ or for Loren, either.  There was still a better option even if it wasn't the more practical one.  Risky business was the way to go.  It's symbolic, in its small way, of what I'm going through.  Only two things can happen:

1) They'll try really hard, they'll make an impact, and they'll ultimately fail.  They'll prove the experts, the doubters right.  And they'll still be okay, they still have the passion and skill sets to land somewhere else.  Even if they sputter out, they're both about to connect to a whole new set of people in the industry they want to work and thrive in who can help send them on more adventures, perhaps even bigger ones.

2) They're gonna kick some ass, they're gonna be great, they're gonna be industry stars.  They're gonna make their dent.  They're gonna make their supporters proud and their naysayers envious.  They're gonna sit down with the ratings in two years and look at each other and say, "Holy Shit, We Did It." 

Isn't that what it's all about?  Defying the odds?  Isn't it all about "Holy Shit, We Did It"?

Either way, they're gonna learn a lot about what they're made of, and that's probably the most important thing.  You'll never grow if you don't take chances.  I didn't talk to Loren about her departure like I did with TJ because I knew I'd hear all of the same things I heard from him.  Cliche things.  Big Game things.  "I'd be a fool not to take this chance for someone who believed in me, for believing in who I can become." 

Go dream the dream, you maniacs.  I'm pulling for you.

Loren and I enjoying the spoils of radio victory.
Me, I'm still feeling shackled by my own post-Sandy responsibilities, by my confused heart, by my concern that Time Is Running Out.  But these are also the things that make me most want to break free, to fly higher.  I have to.  I have to.  I'm not satisfied.  I'm not ready for A Bold Move but I feel destined to make one.  Not today, but soon.

A year ago, I was given a gift.  An opportunity, a chance to Get It Right.  You don't get these gifts often, they're fleeting.  Sometimes they only happen once in a lifetime.  Often, people don't even recognize these gifts for what they are.  Most of us think we have something coming to us, that we're owed things just because we exist.  I used to be one of those people.

A year ago, I wasn't in a position to fight for what I believed in, to earn what was put before me.  I was Damaged Goods.  I wasn't ready, I was unworthy - and so opportunity fizzled out before it could turn into Something Special, something wonderful.  It was a false start.  And it was a lesson.  Better to have a false start and ultimately finish strong than to stay damaged, stay static.  You can keep things the same or you can make adjustments and try again, try harder.

When I lost the first girl I ever really loved over a decade ago, I prayed for her return.  I prayed and prayed and prayed.  I walked into random churches and prayed, I knelt before statues in my bedroom with my hands clasped and talked to no one in particular - begging, crying, pleading for another chance.  I wrote songs, I wrote love letters.  And nothing happened.  I never got my second chance.  

I'm not a religious person.  I was acting this way because I felt I had no other alternative.  I was desperate.  And it was all a big waste.  Not because my prayers weren't answered - because, whether God exists or not, they didn't deserve to be answered.  I hadn't learned anything.  I was being selfish even after I was being punished for being selfish.  I should have been trying harder right then and there, should have been doing the work instead of expecting someone else or God or The Easter Bunny or Batman to do it for me.  Some people take longer than others to finally figure it out.  And some people never learn.

Things are different now.  I am different now.  I'm awake.  And that's the most important difference.  Because The Same Ol' Me was going nowhere fast.  He wasn't a bad guy, he had some really good qualities - but he needed some tweaks.  The Same Ol' You might be going nowhere fast, too.  We all need tweaking.  But do we all want tweaking?  I do.

And with tweaking comes a resolution to find the truth - in yourself and in your expectations, and in others, for better or for worse.  No more excuses.  You're not obligated to live your life in accordance with others, only according to your own expectations.

So what do you want to be when you grow up?  The same little boy or girl you've always been?  Is Self-Realization enough?  Are these words enough?  Action.  You have to take action.  Your life can't be a cliche or a sneaker company's campaign slogan, it has to be pure and true and honest.  It has to be yours.  I'm on target towards A Bold Move - maybe the pieces in my life will move to make it easier, maybe they won't.  It doesn't matter.  I'm in charge now.  Not Sandy, not contractors or Uncle Sam or FEMA or my parents or the girls I loved.  Not the ghosts of my past and not the uncertainty of my future.  Just me, right now.  Stay on the path, dummy.  Stay on the path. 

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