Growing Out of Judgmental

Funny how at the beginning of a new year, our minds seem to always float back to the previous year, recapping all that you’ve gone through.

As I was getting ready for work this morning I began to reminisce about my time last year in Fort Lauderdale, specifically the last 8 months that I was there. The apartment where I was living and its neighborhood, the neighbor’s I had, the job I worked. Being as though your job is pretty much your second home, where you spend most of your time if not all of it, my thoughts swam here for a bit. I began to remember those I worked with and worked for, and I just couldn’t help but laugh. It was mainly made up of overly wealthy investors that had never worked a day in the restaurant industry, and young 20 year olds with barely any employment history. I pictured my manager friend, Dolly, who would have a mini melt-down when her managing status wasn’t being fully recognized or even slightly respected. I thought about the girls I got along with but truly only due to default. They were basically the “mean girls” of the establishment. Young fashionistas, that had no problem shunning others , never allowing for new people to really enter into their clique. Why they accepted me into their circle? I have no idea. Could have been the age difference? Could have been the tattoos or the way I carried myself? Maybe it was due to the fact that I could care less about whether or not I’d be accepted. Regardless, whether we shot the shit at work or not, I still wasn’t immune from their gossip. The grapevine didn’t take long to reach me, and like water off a duck’s back, I always kept it moving.

Those few months were spent with people close to 10 years younger than me in age and although I wasn’t ecstatic about it (I always assumed that by the age of 30 I would have been long out of the server life), it was fun for me to observe. Now, I know I’m going to sound like some middle-aged know it all, but I do remember back when I was their age, early 20’s, and thinking I had life by the balls. I thought of myself as a mature young lady, wise for her years, a hard worker who knew how to deal with life. Though, some of that may be true, most of it was way off key. I didn’t know diddly squat about life. I had no idea that although you could take steps towards always doing the “right thing”, that life could still come around and knock you on your ass. Back then it was almost a feeling of entitlement, a feeling that you could judge others for their “stupid” mistakes, even sometimes feel like you had the right to look down on them because of those mistakes. This is all before learning how most of the time you’re basing what is “right” and “acceptable” by standards placed on us by society, aka: other human beings. As I lived my life, I was humbled by the experiences I had gone through, and quickly outgrew my judgmental phase.

Not taking life too seriously was something that took me a while to learn but once I did, it was like I released my self from self imposed chains. You start to realize all the stress and anxiety you placed upon yourself by caring too much about the things you cannot change, and caring too little about the things that truly matter. I would watch and listen to my young co-workers and internally wonder when this realization would flick them on their forehead, a necessary wake up call.

I have since then moved and have fallen out of contact with many of these people, but still, I can’t help but wonder if they’ve humbled up some and have grown out of being judgmental of others. I can only hope that they’re currently on that journey, and that someday they look back to their early years and have that moment of realization. I hope that when entering their 30’s they do so with humble new hearts.

Summer Breeze

I’ve always said that I’m more of a “go with the flow” kind of girl. I don’t typically have much planned, at least not every little detail. I’ve usually got a general idea of what I’d like to do, but to say I’ve got my entire life mapped out down to the tiniest detail is completely untrue. Yet, having your whole life mapped out and having goals are two different things.

When I was younger I had my life totally mapped out. I knew what career I wanted, where I wanted to travel to, the type of husband I wanted to have, the style of family we were going to be (yes, I said style) and the home we would be creating in. All of this before I even knew who I was. As I got older and learned a couple of hard but meaningful lessons, I realized I was trying to live a highly contradictory life. Not contradictory because I wouldnt be able to live it, but because none of it was me. I went from a detailed plan to scratching all of it from my to-do list keeping only the traveling part.

I quit school and solely focused on working so that I could get from one place to the next. Finding love was importnant but there lied the problem. I was trying to find it, therefore I was constantly pointing myself in the wrong direction instead of letting it find me.

I also came to discover that I, in fact, was in no hurry at all to have children. As one does when on the road to self discovery, I asked myself Why? Why was I trying to find romantic love so hard but not with the end result of a child? The answer was the most honest and direct as I could be with myself.

I had a necessity in finding my best friend and partner so that I could enjoy all of life’s magic and splendor with someone. I would feel fulfilled with being able to share the journey of life and constructing memories of that journey with someone else. Having kids for me wasn’t a need. I feel as though for many, having children is a desire that most people have for they have a need to leave behind a footprint or legacy. I don’t have such desires.

So here I was, now in my late 20s. Only now I am beginning to differentiate what was important to me and what wasn’t. I lost most of my blueprint and only had one thing on my mind and that was to live life! During this time is when I lost my dear cousin in a tragic and unexpected accident which pushed me even harder towards living life for the now, fuck the later. The problem to this thinking? You begin to not set goals for yourself. You literally begin to live your days moment to moment with no thought to your future.

This is where I’ve been fort the last 4 years, floating.

Ok…. maybe “floating” is being a bit dramatic… or maybe… I’m trying to not be so hard on myself? I don’t know. What I do know is, after an immense break-down, I’ve begun to take my life back instead of letting it drift around with the breeze. I’ve started to make solid goals for my immediate future, because of course although “Summer breeze makes me feel fine…” to continuously allow yourself to drift along with it will most certainly be the death of you and your purpose.

Like Chocolate Covered Orange Peels

My first job ever was on the boardwalk of Atlantic City. Located directly across from the Tropicana casino was a huge pier designed to look like a ship and it was called the Ocean One Mall. Within this boat mall were dozens of shops, a huge food court, and the entire first level of this three story tier was a dedicated arcade center for the kids. I worked for a Greek family who owned two businesses located within this mall. One was a smoothie shop and the other was a candy store called Kandyland. The candy shop was what would be my home every weekend throughout the school year and for the entire summer. The store was huge. It was three levels of sugary goodness. Any kind of candy you could possibly crave you would be able to find there. Candy cigarettes, candy buttons, gummies, ring pops, over-sized lollipops too big for kids to ever finish, fudge. You named it, we had it. There were even candies I had never before heard of. Things like chocolate covered orange peels, raspberry jelly rings, marzipan. I was mind blown. Not only did they sell sweets, but they also had a walk up window conveniently accessible to those walking by on the boardwalk which sold your typical boardwalk treats. There were soft pretzels, popcorn, soft serve ice cream, hot dogs, and beverages. Could there have been a better job for a 13 year old? No fucking way.

During the months of May through September the boardwalk was consistently packed from sun up till sun down. Peak season is what it was for the Jersey shore. From an areal view it looked as though an army of ants were crawling all over the place. A dark black mass of people who had chosen to come to the Jersey for a nice vacation. I had started working for Niko and Marinela in May, right at the beginning of season, and this first job definitely provided me with many other firsts. This was the first time I had ever had bosses. This was where I earned my first paycheck, and my first reprimand (I almost got fired within my first week!). This is where I had also met my first ever boyfriend.

His name was Luis Velasquez , a 14 year old Colombian native who had just recently moved to the city with his family for a better life. I’m not sure how moving to Atlantic City would constitute for a better life. I guess that at the time, any place would have been better than dealing with the craziness of living in Colombia.

Luis was dark, tall, and SO handsome. He had a head of hair that the ladies would die for. His eyes were as dark and as deep as the bottom of the ocean. He was an entire head taller than me and ridiculously lean. His lips were the prettiest, yet manliest color of pink ¬†you could imagine and looked as soft as flower petals. He was the first boy I ever wanted to swap sloppy kisses with. Luis was hired to work next door at the smoothie shop. The only times I would ever get to see him was if I decided to have a smoothie on my break (which was just about everyday) or when he was bringing the cash over from the shop after closing up. As any teenage girl with a crush would do, whenever Luis came around I was there readily available. For what? I don’t know but at least I was there ūüôā It wasn’t too long before we became friendly and then moved up to dating. Though as quickly as things developed, that’s how quick they was over. My first break up. The relationship hadn’t lasted long so the “heartbreak” wasn’t as bad as most first breakups would be. I had quickly discovered that he was a liar, gang banger wanna be, douche bag. The kind of guy moms and dads warn their daughters about. He had even gotten fired from the smoothie shop for pocketing a few dollars. ¬†He was caught on camera red handed, and immediately fired without a chance to explain. The was the last I saw or heard of Mr. Velasquez.

I had come to really love my job at Kandyland. My bosses and I had gotten close. I considered them like my parents away from home. I had come to learn so much in my time spent working there with them, not just business related but about life in general. So you can imagine my surprise when I left for a week to visit family in Boston for the holidays and came back to find the store completely shut down and gutted. This had been my first experience with betrayal committed in the first degree by adults. They had allowed me to leave on a family vacation without telling me that I would return unemployed.

I will never forget the day. It was a cold Saturday morning in December. It was in between Christmas and New Year’s and I had just returned from visiting my aunt and uncle up north. I had woken up that morning and did my usual routine to get ready for work. I left my grandparents apartment and walked the 15 blocks to work. I always walked instead of taking the jitney because minus the bums, the walk was always beautiful and peaceful, especially that early in the morning. I arrived at the shop cold but excited to be getting back to work. The excitement hadn’t lasted long. Once I set foot through the front doors I was frozen in place. Displays and candies were all gone. Drywall dust covered everything and there were cans of paint placed throughout the lobby. ¬†There were people walking around, none of whom I hadn’t recognized.

“Can I help you hun?” An old, bald headed man with thick, black rimmed glasses had asked. I hated that he had called me “hun”.

“Yeah. I work here. What’s going on?” I asked back, pulling the gloves off my now sweaty hands. We stare at each other for a few beats. I wonder who looked more confused, him or me? Just then, Niko walks out of what used to be the employee area and stops dead in his tracks.

“Nata!” It was their nickname for me. “What are you doing here?” He asked in his heavy accent. He was equally as confused as the old man and I were.

“What do you mean? I always open on Saturdays! What’s going on?” I questioned a second. At this point worry was starting to really set in. Niko looks at me and I can’t tell if it’s frustration, embarrassment, or pity that flickers across his face. Maybe it was all three.

“Mari didn’t tell you? Kandyland is closed for a bit. We’re relocating a couple blocks down from here.” He was starting to fidget. Funny, one always knew when Niko was stressed out when you’d see him pull at the tiny, frosted curls that topped his head, which was exactly what he was doing now. Between Marinela and him, his wife had all the balls in the relationship. Both hers and his.

“No, no one said anything to me about this. So….” I looked around. There seemed to be so much to do. “Should I help you guys? Or did you want me to come back in a couple of days?” I mean just because they were relocating didn’t mean that I was out of a job, right?

“Sorry honey, no. We won’t be reopening until the spring and there isn’t much that you could help us with around here. You’d be a liability.” He seriously couldn’t have looked anymore uncomfortable. I was in shock and once that shock passed just a few short seconds later, I got pissed. I mean, who¬†does¬†this?

“So you’re telling me that a week ago, when I was clocking out, you couldn’t tell me that I’d be coming back unemployed? That totally just slipped everybody’s mind to tell me that there would be no Kandyland when I returned?” I began freaking out. I could no longer stay calm, cool, and collected. Not when I had felt so betrayed. “I dedicated my weekends to you guys. My entire summer was spent working here and not one person could tell me that this place was closing down? I’m sure everyone else got the memo! Is it because I’m just a “kid” that I couldn’t get the same respect?” My eyes began to water but not because I was sad. Oh no. It was because I was angry. Niko looked defeated and understood that there was no winning this argument. I had been right even if I was just a “kid”. We stared at each other for what seemed like a second too long.

“We’ll help you find another job.” I had completely forgotten about the strange an that had initially greeted me when I walked in. He was still standing in the same spot when he broke the awkward silence. “I have a brother who runs a pizza place in one of the casinos. Niko can give me your number and I can call you once I speak with him.” He spoke with sincerity so without saying a word, I dove into my purse, fishing out a piece of paper and a pen. I quickly jotted down my number as well as my name, then handed it over to him.

“Niko seems to be forgetful so here’s my information. I appreciate you helping me out and I’ll be looking forward to your phone call.” I then turned to Niko and thanked him. “It was nice working with you. Have a Happy New Year.” I said dryly and with that I walked out.

It was a long walk home. I was irritated and angry that they had done this to me. I had worked just as hard, if not harder, than most of the people that came and went from that place. This entire scene would have never happened if I had been older. It had been the first time that I realized that it didn’t really matter how great of an employee you were, or how loyal, if you’re a “kid”, adults didn’t have to respect you.

I ended up getting the phone call that very night. The strange man had kept his promise and within just a few short days, I had a new job. I had been surprised by the kindness and generosity of this stranger. I later learned when having a conversation with this man that he had been very moved by my situation and said that no person, child or not, should be treated that way.

“We all deserve to be treated fairly. We all deserve a proper explanation, even children.”

Even though my employment at Kandyland ended so abruptly, leaving a slightly sour taste in my mouth, I can’t deny some of the sweet memories I made while there. I guess one could say that this was a bitter sweet chapter of my life. Slightly similar to the taste of chocolate covered orange peels.

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Photo Credit: Natal Galvan

Life Isn’t Hallmark

I was insane to believe that by reintroducing him back into my life that it would change anything. I believed, that at that moment, my life would end like a Hallmark movie.

It was during Christmas week, while my boyfriend and I vacationed back home to meet each other’s family, that I would see my father again after almost ten years.

The unconditional love a child has for her parent, no matter how angry they can be at them amazes me. When I saw him sitting there, his back towards me, the surge of love that filled my heart left me frozen in my place for a few beats. Once I snapped out of it, I walked towards him, and sneaking up behind him on his left side I whispered,

“Well look at who is out and about late night on a Thursday?” He turned around in his seat and I instantly found myself in his arms. It was a strange embrace, but it felt warm and kind.

Our reunion that night would have probably been a bit happier, catching up, telling stories, if only my mother’s boyfriend wouldn’t have made the evening be about himself and his insecurities. That’s neither here nor there. That I will leave for another story.

I ended up drunk and emotional that night. After closing down the bar, before heading home, I repeated, “I missed you…. You should let me take care of you.. I hate knowing you live alone…” I unsteadily hung on his shoulder slurring as I spoke I’m sure. Now that I think about it, I don’t even remember him actually leaving. All the sudden he just wasn’t even there anymore.

I haven’t heard a word from him since then.

Christmas has passed. New Year’s came and went. Next up, my birthday.

Should I be surprised? Hell no. I should have expected it, and honestly, I’m surprised I hadn’t.

Life isn’t like a movie. Life is real life. In life you will achieve great things but you will also face low and hard times. In life you’ll be happy and you will too experience great sadness. You will be lifted up by strangers and be left in the dust by loved ones. Expect it.

Now, let’s try to accompany that realistic thought with one of a happy silver lining. By embracing the fact that life will have both good and rough times in store for each and every one of us, we can face facts, deal with them, and either cherish them for their beauty, or move through it, learning as much as we can in order to move on.

I took a risk by meeting my father that night. I do not regret it because I experienced a quick moment of satisfaction and love with him, probably the last one we’ll ever share. Yes, maybe I built up an image in my mind that hadn’t been realistic and yes, maybe I had set myself up for the let down I experienced afterwards. Yet, I’m still glad I put myself out there. The unknown is much more punishing than knowing, and now I know where it is that my relationship with him stands. There are no regrets and if someday something were to happen to either one of us, I am satisfied with knowing that at least I tried, because in life, that’s what ultimately matters, is that we try.

img_20160707_171557-2 Photo Credit: Natal Galvan, Author: Natal Galvan

To The Myself of The Past

I look back on the last ten years of my life and it amazes me how much I have changed. When I turned 20 I felt like I had been through enough to know so much about life. Maybe compared to others my age I did. I felt like an adult and believed I had known all I needed to know in order to be a productive member of society. I worked very hard, 5-6 days a week between two jobs, and eventually had enrolled in school. I knew how to save and budget my money and did so successfully. I kept up with the bills, paying them all early, never skipping a payment. I made sure I stayed on top of everything, micromanaging every aspect of my life to the point that I had begun to try to micromanage everything and everyone at work. I wanted to always make sure I went above and beyond my responsibilities. I wanted to make sure I always said and did the right thing, even if that meant sacrificing my own happiness. Reading my journals from back then, I relive the stress and the unhappiness I was living day to day. There was always something to be done. There was always someone to please. I read and relive the frustrations and as I do I come to a realization. Back then I used to blame the world. I would get angry and upset if someone didn’t acknowledge the hard work I had put into something or if the sacrifices I was making was being over looked. I blamed the world for being so hard on me and not giving me the easy life that I felt so many others had. The funny thing was, most of my hardships and frustrations were purely self inflicted. I would take upon all these responsibilities, I would go above and beyond, and instead of doing all of that because it was something I wanted to do for myself, I was doing it because I wanted to shine in other people’s eyes. I was looking for that reassurance. I was seeking that approval. I was getting mad at everyone else for not being proud of me, for not appreciating the things ¬†I was doing, when all along I should have been my own biggest cheerleader. I should have been proud of myself.

Today I am way more relaxed. Sometimes I giggle because I believe my mom thinks I may be feeling a little too relaxed, haha. Living life is now much more important to me than spending my time micromanaging it. I began going with the Universal flow of life and haven’t stopped since. This new plan of not really having a plan has been truly working for me. I know it because I’m actually happy. Sure, I took a break from school. Once I started to think differently, things within me changed, and what I was once so set on doing with the rest of my life is no longer something I want to pursue, so it’s back to the drawing board on that one. Sure, I may not have a lot of money like I once did. Yet, it isn’t something that I’m upset about. Money comes and it’ll go. I still get to do many of the things I want to do and the things I haven’t been able to do are just things I look forward to one day doing. That one will come. I breath easier. I laugh louder. I enjoy the days of boredom when I have nothing to do. I enjoy the stillness of those quiet times. More often than not I am able to stop and take in all that is around me and give gratitude for it all.

My 20’s was a period of learning. As I slowly creep into my 30’s I will take all that I learned and apply it, while still accepting all that I will learn as I continue to evolve into the woman I will someday become. If I could give the myself of the past some advice, I’d simply tell her this,

“Stop. Take time to look at the vastness of the world around you. Take time for yourself. Learn yourself. Listen to yourself. Feel what it is that makes you happy. Follow that feeling and never let go. Stay true to your good heart, but most importantly stay true to yourself.”

******

¬†I don’t fear death because of the act of dying. Death is nothing but a rebirth. I fear death because I don’t want to ever stop learning, even if only for a little while. -natal galvan

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Hindsight

Nov. 27, 2015

Amazing how quickly life changes. A continuous evolution. A cycle of happiness and sadness. Moments of triumph mixed with moments of failure tainted in despair. I find my shelter in the bubbles of the Witch’s Brew. I find comfort only within these pages. I’ve got no home. My home are the few possessions I carry within my soul. Those no one can take from me. I will no longer stand for the material, not that I ever truly did before, but now I firmly believe that NONE of that shit ever really matters. All of it is impermanent bullshit. What lasts forever no one can touch, an intangible of sorts. All the best things in life no one can touch.

 

Dec. 15, 2015

Sensitivity is drowning me today. Prickly behind the eyes. A throat full of lumps too hard to swallow. I go throughout my day frolicking in wonderment, picking flowers full of thorns and berries coated in poison. Today I’ll listen to every sad song and relate to its every heartbreaking lyric. Not every day is meant to be lived in bliss. Not every emotion ever felt will be a positive one. Cheers to the days that exemplifies balance. Here’s to living through today in hopes of experiencing a better tomorrow.

 

Dec. 16, 2015

“I think everyone is looking for something they already have.” -Jim Carrey

What is it that I already have? For I feel as though I have nothing.

 

************

 

The very next day after this last journal entry I was arrested for Driving Under the Influence. I died that day and was born a new person. It has not been the first bottom I hit. Nor will it be my last. If I look back on it today, I knew a storm was brewing within me. I hid everything behind a smile and with a sip of the Witch’s Brew. I lost myself and instead of setting out to find myself again, I unknowingly decided to allow myself to self destruct. ¬†Hindsight is an amazing thing, but what is even more precious than that is the ability to be present. If I would have been present and acknowledged all that was going on within me I could have avoided so much.

Yet, by not doing so, I opened up the doors to a rebirth.

I look back and read the journal entries of what I feel like have been some of my darkness hours and I don’t feel sorrow or pain. I feel joy. I feel elated. I can see the strength I hold within, the very strength that has gotten me through so much. At the time, I felt weak and alone, when in reality I was everything BUT that. The tough times have shown me how strong I am. They were there to remind me of the warrior I have within. I appreciate every harsh moment because they have built me into who I am at this very moment.

I post this because I know. I have felt what many of you are going through right this very moment. It may seem like you’re alone. It may seem as though you rather get lost in a world of chaos and substance, but you don’t have to. You can be present and avoid the hard road that otherwise lies ahead of you. Your rebirth could go a lot smoother than mine. You’ve just got to slow down and take the time… Take the time to feel, To analyze. Stop and smell the rotting roses because those rotting roses are helping you to see that you need to go and find some light. Listen, truly listen, to that inner self. It is crying out to save you. There is too much pain and sadness inflicted by the world. Be at least that one who listens.

Give yourself a listen.

925268_1424359037835933_790425651_n Photo credit: Natal Galvan

Missed Opportunity

**He spent his whole life waiting for her to arrive in order to fulfill many of the dreams he had envisioned for himself…

and then he died.

Once he arrived to heaven he was given the chance to speak to God. He frustratingly asked him,

“Why did you have me return home without allowing me the experience of finding true love and being able to live out my goals and dreams? What had been then the purpose of this experience?” With an air of peace and love God answers him,

“My son, I laid before you many chances to accomplish the dreams and goals you had set for yourself. Each time you allowed them to slip from reach simply because you didn’t want to go through the journey alone, not knowing that you had the strength of me in you to do so successfully. If you would have followed any one of the leads the Universe had arranged for you, not only would you have accomplished goals and turned dreams into reality, but in the course of doing so you would have met who would have been the love of your life in physical form as well as finding the love of life in every form”**

Someone I know inspired this mini story. A soul who lives life sitting on a couch waiting for love to find them in order to finally live out the life they have always dreamed. I see nothing good come of it. All I see is a precious journey being wasted simply out of fear or dislike of having to go through it alone.

Sometimes it is taking the step of venturing out of your comfort zone that allows for grander things to come into your life. Sometimes it is stepping off of that ledge and diving head first into life that saves you from a tragic fall, that saves you from the death of spirit.

Don’t wait to do the things you love. You may never have the chance to do them again. Don’t weaken at the thought of solitude. Be strong and marvel in it. By doing so you will gain strength in yourself, and love and appreciation for yourself. You’ll discover that all your finest treasures have been with you this whole time and the desires you seek will manifest in ways that you never thought possible.

The message is simple: LIVE.

072-2  Photo Credit: Natal Galvan, Location: Santa Monica, CA

 

Just a Thought, Thank You FB

Just recently I was scrolling through my news feed on FB. As I scrolled through, I noticed a range of emotions flowing through me with each swipe. There were moments of uncontrollable laughter. There were times I was enraged. I felt sadness, and at certain¬†points, I felt extreme joy. I read the names of the people posting just to place a face to the things I was reading. It wasn’t long before I came to a sweet conclusion. No matter where we live, whether near or far from one another, no matter how uniquely different or original we each¬†are, each and every single one of us has something in common with one another. It could be just one similarity, and maybe it’s small, yet still it makes no difference. That’s all that is needed when making a connection, is one single commonality, one small spark.

I then decided to scroll through the names of all of my friends and I chose a name at random. I chose a person that I had not spoken to in years, a person who doesn’t ever even pop up on my feed anymore. I did this to see how true this thought would prove. I clicked on their name and surfed their page. This one took me a second but then there it was. A commonality between her and myself. We both shared a like for Maya Angelou quotes.

This person, like I said, has been out of my life for quite a long time now. Not a falling out, but more of time and distance making it’s way between our friendship. Oddly enough it hadn’t caused such a rift between us that it would terminate our FB friendship. After seeing her quotes listed in her about me I¬†felt a bit more connected to her and that triggered another thought…

Why aren’t we trying to classify¬†individuals in this manner? What I mean is, why not look at people and try to find a¬†commonality instead of always trying to find each other’s differences? It felt like I was grasping onto the thread of common sense, common sense that was long ago forgotten. A common sense simply put, no longer common, such as many.

I chose again at random, but this time instead of choosing a friend, I looked up a complete stranger. Literally made up a name, typed it in the search engine, and picked randomly from the names provided. This time this person and I had multiple things in common the major one that stood out to me being our like for Spirit Science. ¬†Pretty cool for two strangers who have never met to have something in common, especially something so rare as an affinity for learning about Spirit Science (If you haven’t yet, look it up on YouTube. It’s pretty amazing.)

So why is it so hard for us to meet a soul and not prejudge? We know not to judge a book by its cover. We know we should to treat others as we would want for someone to treat us. Yet, what we do is the complete and total opposite. Instead of singling out the differences between each other, we should zero in on the things we all share, and unite because of them. We instead get all sorts of crazy pissed off, or depressed, or irritated if people don’t think like we think. If we don’t see eye to eye on everything than that’s it, we make it difficult to be around others, or worse yet, we make it difficult for others¬†to be around us with our one-way views and our purposely directed indirect comments. We instead of accepting others we shun them and make them feel as if they don’t belong. They’re just not apart of the group.

We should understand how much we can learn from others and their differences. Once we begin to take a step in the direction of trying to accept people for who they are and what they can teach us, we can begin to discover that maybe deep down we are more alike than we are different. The door then opens to a new way of appreciating all life around you. Every soul then becomes important. You begin to treasure the life that each of these bodily shells hold because that it what this body holds, we are a chest full of treasures. By understanding that we are all more alike than we are different, you begin to look past the person and begin to simply see their soul.

There is such a beauty in that. In this little bit of knowledge we can find a little bit of comfort and so much love. Now all we need to do it just apply it to our everyday and then we can begin to watch life on this planet, in this realm of experience, blossom into something more magical than what we could have ever imagined.

10693544_1526854184197010_1415924896_n-2  Photo Credit: Natal Galvan

Hank and the Pineapples

First off, a Message to Mom:

Mom…. I’m not sure if you read my blogs or not. I think you do and just don’t tell me.

That’s totally fine because I love that you do…

Just a fair warning, This one may disappoint you. Just remember this, I turned out totally fine.

Ok.. Well maybe not totally, but this had very little to do with it ūüėČ

I Love You Woman!

Ok, Now with that said, let’s get back to business.¬†

The first time I smoked pot is as vivid in my mind as if it were happening right here, right now. One of those childhood memories you never forget but don’t often tell. I was with my friend Harold, who I had met at a school mate’s Barmitzvha in June right before school let out for the summer.

This was the summer before I was to start high school and at this point in my life I wasn’t really into doing much but reading, writing, and what I like to call “nerding” out. Harold was a cool kid for his time. Halfway through high school already, he had his own pick-up truck but since he lived close to my neck of the woods he would always ride his bike to my neighborhood, which for some reason I thought was super cool. We’d hang out with the kids from my hood and either play ball (football) or just shoot the shit until it was time to go home for dinner.

During this phase of my life, my grandparents were living with us to help my mother out with my sister and I. Momma bear was a single parent and so life wouldn’t be so overwhelming for her, my grandparents helped with the responsibilities of taking care of us as best they could. The rule when it came to hanging out with friends, no one was allowed inside the house unless Momma bear was home. We could go outside but had to stay where you could be seen unless you had permission to do otherwise.It was one random day during this summer break that Harold, who everybody but me called Hank, came over a bit earlier than normal. Hank never came by the house early. Like most boys his age, he usually slept in until at least noon. On this day, I remember thinking how odd it was that he had been over to my place so soon. I don’t remember the exact time but I do remember thinking there were still a few hours before mom got home.

My mom and my grandparents liked Hank. He was a nice kid who always showed them respect anytime he was around. Sometimes I think it was because although his parents were together there was not much love in that home and so secretly he liked to pretend our home was his home away from home.

We sat on my porch for a bit talking. I asked him why he was out and about so early. As he pulled out a pack of cigarettes from his pocket I noticed he was shaking a little. He went on to tell me about how his father and mother had gotten into a really bad fight. One he had to step into to protect his mother and instead got the brunt of his father’s aggression, so he decided to leave the house for the day. He opened the pack of cigarettes as he spoke and inside was a ¬†lighter, a few cigarettes, and another little baggie but I couldn’t tell what was inside of it. He took out a cigarette and sparked it. It was only then that I noticed the bruising around his throat.

We spent some time talking. He did most of the talking and I most of the listening. Sometimes you just know when it’s best to be silent and so I was.

We had been sitting there in silence when my grandmother poked her head out and asked if I could do her a favor. She was going to be making some fresh cheese (that’s right!!! CHEESE.. mmm) and needed a few gallons of milk from the store.

“Since you’re with the Incredible Hulk, you both can go and he can help you carry them.” she giggled in Spanish. I found her comment funny too. Hank was thinner than any guy I had ever seen. If he stood sideways he literally who disappear. She handed me a few dollars and off we went, on foot, to buy us some milk.

As we walked, Hank pulled out another cigarette. He never smoked so many in a row so I chalked it up to him being stressed from the earlier altercation. This time when he opened the pack, the little baggie that was stored inside had fallen to his feet. He quickly picked it up and stuffed it back in the pack.

“What is that? I noticed it earlier.” I was inquisitive, I’ll admit to that. Most of you by this point would have already known what it was are at least had an idea. I was what you would call a late bloomer with a lot of stuff growing up. I literally had no clue.

“Nothing. It’s just a bag of pot I got earlier before I came here. I was gonna smoke it before I headed home tonight.” He said very matter-of-factly.

“As in¬†weed??” I was stunned. Up until that point I had heard of weed but never had I really¬†seen¬†it before. Not in person anyways. “Let me seeeee!” I demanded. ¬†He took the pack back out of his pocket, opened it up, and pulled out the baggie. Initially I laughed. I had never seen such a small zip lock bag before. I was astonished once I saw all the little Batman’s printed all over the bag. I fiddled with the zip lock, my fingers seeming to be too chubby to open it. Chubby or inexperienced, one of the two. He took the baggie from my hands, “You’re going to bust it open.” he laughed at me and then proceeded to open it up. The smell punched me hard in the face. I didn’t like it, but I did. It was a weird smell and yet I couldn’t stop taking in its scent.

By this point we had just come on the grocery store. It wasn’t far from where I lived and there was a trail in the back of the neighborhood that lead directly there without having to be anywhere close to the road. The trail led right up to the back of the store. Suddenly the idea struck me.

“I wanna smoke it!!!” I jumped, like literally jumped with enthusiasm. In my mind, why not?? It’s not like it was dangerous, or not that I had heard, and trust me, I had already been told many stories from friends who had already tried it (Yep imagine that… BEFORE entering high school kids were already smoking). The summer was in mid-swing. No classes therefore no homework. Mom wouldn’t be home for hours. It was now or never.

“What??!! No WAY!!! Are you kidding me?? We’re supossed to go and get milk and you want to get back high??! Are you crazy??….” He stared at me in bewilderment maybe waiting for an answer that I didn’t give him. “Yea you must be nuts. That or you are already high from the scent.” He must have forgotten that I was still holding the bag. I smirked.

“If you don’t let me smoke some with you…” He cut me off ¬†by snatching the bag back from me. Damn it. He laughs.

“Listen, you wanna smoke some? Fine. But just one hit. That’s it. Then we go in, grab the milk, and head back. Ok?” Maybe it was the fact that he wanted to smoke too that he gave in so easily. Maybe it was because I have never looked so disappointed to have been told no. Either way it didn’t matter. I was getting to try the stuff all the cool kids talked about.

We found the perfect spot to smoke. Behind the grocery store, there was a set of stairs that sat right next to the loading ramp. Unless you were a store employee throwing out cardboard boxes out or there was a truck delivery to the store, no one would be out there to see us.

Hank and I sat ourselves at the very tippy top of the steps that lead to some random door. An emergency exit I’m sure. He pulled out a folded up piece of paper that he had in his back pocket. He opened the baggie that was still in his hands, and dumped the contents of it out on the paper. It was slightly breezy so I made sure to sit in a way to block the breeze from hitting him. He began breaking up the little nuggets and once he was finished, he took a cigarette from the pack, dumped out the tobacco and replaced it with the magical herb. Not all of it fit in the cigarette so he made sure to put the left overs back in the mini zip lock, then tucked that away into the cigarette pack. All of this took absolutely no time. I was so stunned at how little time it took for him to do all of that. It had been one of the coolest things I’d seen.

He sparked the spiked cigarette and inhaled an enormous hit, letting some of the smoke float out of his mouth and then taking it in through his nostrils before it slithered away. That had been the second coolest thing I had seen. I remember thinking he looked like a music video, but I kept that to myself.

He passed it to me. It was now my turn.

I had NEVER ever inhaled smoke before. Not purposely anyways. Sometimes when my family had holiday get togethers, the amount of cigarette smoke that lingered in the air was too much to not inhale. I remember I would always complain about my eyes getting too itchy and watery, but the grown ups were too busy partying that it didn’t matter. Eventually my eyes grew accustomed to it.

As he handed me the cigarette he makes sure to give me a run down on how to inhale.

“Go really slow. Your lungs aren’t used to this yet. And you’re going to cough, hard. It’s normal.” he almost looked worried.

I stared at the stick for a second. Then as the ash built into a long stick of its own, I took a slow drag.

Nothing. I exhaled and a little bit of smoke came out. There was no coughing and there was definitely no buzzing effect. He had said one hit, but who ever does one of anything honestly?? I took another drag. This time deeper and for longer. I felt a burning sensation deep within my chest and as soon as I felt it a HUGE cough escaped me, like flames bursting within a furnace. I thought I was going to suffocate. My eyes watered and my nose started to run. It took me a while to catch my breath and it was only then that I realized Hank was rubbing my back in an attempt to comfort me.

“I told you to only take one!” He said semi-authoritative, semi-jokingly.

“I *cough cough* know but…” I couldn’t even talk. It still felt like my eyes were rolling in the back of my head for some reason. Was this normal? Was that supposed to happen? What if I was that one case of overdosing on Mary Jane?? How tragic. I could see it now:

“Teen dies during summer break when trying Marijuana for the first time!” Fuck watching Reefer Madness. I was living it!

I would be that kid. The example. The one to ruin it for everybody.

“Dude, seriously are you even listening to me?” I came back. Hank had been saying something while I was busy freaking out over my death that hadn’t happened yet. “We need to ¬†put this out and get to buying that milk. Your grandmother is probably wondering what is taking so long.” He was right. She probably was. But how was I supposed to go in the store and buy milk high like this? Was I even high?? I was sure I was. I hadn’t spoken a single word for what had seemed like forever and that was NOT normal. He took in one more big hit before putting it out. He tucked it back into the pack of cigarettes, which now I knew held contraband, and as soon as he placed it in his pocket and we stood up, a delivery truck appeared. He pulled i=onto the ramp towards the unloading area and looked up at us as we headed down the stairs. I was sure he was going to yell at us for being up there, it was just a matter of time. We descended the stairs quickly and as we walked past the truck I noticed huge pineapples on the side of it. Really it was one huge ad of produce. Fruits and veggies were all over this truck but the pineapples were what took a hold of my brain.

The truck driver continued to look at us but had said nothing. His eyes said it all, “You stupid kids shouldn’t be up there..” We just kept walking. I couldn’t take my gaze off of the pineapples. They were so big. They looked like they would have been nice and juicy too. I wanted to cut the tops off, take out the core, and crawl right in. I hadn’t noticed but I had started walking towards the truck. Towards the pineapples.

“Can I help you?” It wasn’t so much a question as it was a statement. A statement as to how weird I was acting, and of course, I couldn’t just respond with something normal. No. That would have been too smooth for my first experience of being high. I responded,

“Your pineapples look juicy.” in the weirdest voice I had ever heard my self speak in. In the background I heard Hank utter something but I couldn’t determine what. I steered away from the truck and away from its driver. I smiled to myself as I replayed in my mind what had just happened. At that moment I looked up and over to Hank and instantly we burst into laughter.

From that point until we reached the house, everything seems like a comical blur. I remember laughing at everything. At the store clerks and their customers, at the way I fumbled with my money when trying to pay for 6 gallons of milk. I mean seriously, who buys that much milk, especially two young kids such as ourselves?? I suspected, that everybody else suspected, that we were up to no good. That was fine with me. It just made everything else seem that much funnier. If only they knew granny was just making some cheese..

We eventually got back to the house with the milk delivered safe and sound.

No one ever suspected a thing. Hank left to deal with his hectic family life. My grandmother got to making her cheese without even a question as to what had taken so long. Maybe we actually hadn’t taken long. Or maybe my grandmother was now on old people time and had lost track. Who knows. My mother came home later on that day. By then I had taken a nap and was feeling only a little cloudy. To my disbelief my mother had stopped at the grocery store before coming home and within her bags of goodies? I am not lying to you, there were two pineapples in one of the bags. Scouts honor.

It would be YEARS before I touched the stuff again. This one time was enough for me. After some time Hank and I lost touch. It was maybe a year out of high school that I ran into him at a friend’s party. He looked awful, as in life had not been very good to him. It broke my heart. He was barely coherent and after just a few minuets of slurred chatter (mainly from his end) he disappeared. I found out later that night that he ended up driving home that night which angered me because anyone that was a true friend wouldn’t have let him drive under those conditions. Apparently he had gotten himself heavy into drugs which really explained his physical deterioration. I never heard of him since.

I think back to this memory and write about it with a big smile on my face. It was something I had gotten away with as a kid. Something that was innocently fun yet if found out about, would have gotten me into so much trouble. My first time smoking pot was a funny experience and I’m glad it happened with Hank. To this very day whenever I eat, see, or even smell pineapples, I think of this time. To me, that day, deep down inside it helped Hank to forget about home for a little bit, while also taking the chance to help me to break me out of my shell and experiencing something totally new in a non-malicious manner. It does make wonder though, how do some kids let themselves get so deep in to drugs of the heavy sort, while others can dab a little in the fun without falling in to the deep end.

This post is dedicated to you Hank ūüôā Hope all is good in the hood ūüėČ

dscf0395-2  Photo Credit: Natal Galvan

 

 

Headed South

I cannot say that the day I made the decision to move to Florida I remember in full detail. Actually, that part of my journey here I don’t remember at all. I can’t pin point that exact moment when the decision was made, but I know it happened because here I am. The parts I do remember are as vivid as if it were happening right now. For instance I remember the difficulty I had in making a decision. Choosing between everything I had ever known in life and something so foreign and unknown to me was not at all easy to do. There is something about familiarity that can hold a person hostage. Even if you may not like the current situation, the fact is, that it’s something you know in a world full of unknowns and that reason alone can keep you there. Fear can stop a person dead in their tracks, keeping them from living life. Keeping them from uncovering new opportunities and new ways to grow. I eventually decided to go against that fear. Intuition had no part in it and those “gut feelings” that people always talk about were more feelings of being ill. All I know is that one day, about a year after the idea was first sowed in to my brain, my Maxima was crammed to capacity with boxes and trash bags, full of ¬†what used to be my simple life. ¬†Hitting the road at 3 am I left my protective bubble of New Jersey behind and off I was to the great, yet totally scary, sunshine state.

The feeling was like no other I’ve ever experienced before. It was late February and although it was ice cold, I had my driver side window rolled all the way down. Thinking to myself that I was finally free, all I wanted to feel was the freedom and with that window down and the breeze brushing against my face, I felt what it was like. In that moment all ill feelings I had before, all melted away. Similar to a bird soaring in the sky, I was at peace. I was free and I felt it.

My decision to leave home wasn’t because of any tragedy. I wasn’t running away from a crazy home life nor was I in the search of fame or fortune. It wasn’t because I was trying to get away from Mom and her “rules”. I had had a pretty good life, good friends, good everything really. Once I confronted a few issues from my early teenage years, I was good, or at least in a better place. My reason was simple. I needed change.

I remember waking up one wintry morning, and after sitting snuggled in my bed for a few hours reading, I put the book down and thought to myself, “there is so much to see out there..” Seeing only what I had seen up until that moment in my life, I wanted, no, needed, to see more. I wanted to experience more than the dead end casino life, the old and ghostly boardwalk of Atlantic City, and its over priced salt water taffy. I had to set out and see what this unpredictable world had in store for this vibrant and nomadic Jersey girl. I got out, settled in a small town on the gulf side of the state, and that was all she wrote..

Well, for that stage of my life anyways, hehe.

Yes, there were a couple frustrating hiccups along the road (those I’ll save for a later post) but I know that the choice of coming here was a good one. The flow of life was just too smooth for it to not have been. Life since then has totally been worth it.

I’ve had countless friends ask me how I did it? How did I just pick up and decide to leave one day and not ever really look back? I would have to say that my choice to finally take the step towards moving was small part rational thinking and majority on impulse. You have to just one day stop thinking and just¬†do it.

Could things go wrong? Of course they can!! But hey, guess what?? Things can also go wrong in that familiar yet boring and unsatisfying situation you’re in. Would you rather run a risk of finding yourself in a maybe painful situation by pursuing the things you love, or by enduring the things you hardly even like?

Since moving here I have taken other risks in this journey of my life. Some worked out. Some didn’t. The good part of all this is, this one chance I took to move 1,300 miles away from home gave me enough confidence and strength to allow me to always go after the things I love without doubting myself. I realized that it’s through ¬†experiencing that we will find the true rewards in life.

I’m almost thirty and I’m getting to that point where soon the youth will take my advice with a grain of salt. Still, I will never tire of telling people no matter their age or mine, move away from home for a bit. Get away from the comforts of what you have always known. Dive into the depths of those uncharted waters that have always appealed to you for they have for a reason. Pursue your dreams and make them reality. Look around and you’ll see that you are never too young, nor too old to make things happen for yourself.¬†You can do it. You really can. If things don’t go as planned, it’s not a failure or a loss. It’s a lesson and from that you’ll learn to accept the things you maybe cannot change and tweak the things you can. Living. Learning. Improvement. Evolution.

 10012488_475753932608580_1627322358_n-2 Photo Credit: Natal Galvan Location: Sanibel Island, FL