Going Full-On

I’ve written before about moments in my writing “career” where I’ve felt dejected and full of self-doubt. This is not one of those posts.

I have a strong tendency once I get past my initial doubts where I go full-on confident.

man-1902765_960_720You see, there are times when I don’t give a damn what someone else thinks. I know I will succeed. I have no doubt. I believe in myself when no one else will.

I’ve never been given anything. If I wanted it, I had to work hard for it. My family didn’t have money. I started working when i was 13 or 14 as a newspaper carrier for the Plain Dealer in Cleveland, OH. I got up every morning before the sun and delivered the daily paper all along my street.

Not having money taught me to work hard, learn from my mistakes, and suck it up. I didn’t always enjoy the jobs I had, but I dealt with it and gained strength from it. Everything I gained is because of determination.

I can’t tell you how many times my stories have been rejected (Well, actually I can. My stories have accumulated 74 rejections since 2014 with only 4 acceptances). Many for good reasons. It’s ok. I know they’re good. I know they belong somewhere. So I continue sending them out.

The thing is, I can’t let those get to me. What’s the saying, “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure?” I feel that way about my stories. They weren’t right for some places but a perfect fit for others. I gotta find that fit.

So for those who reject my stories just know, you’re gonna be part of my success. You will push me to prove you wrong. It might not be the most healthy attitude, but it keeps me focused.

Advertisements

Youthful Dreaming

When I was younger, I wanted so badly to be a superhero.

I recall when I seriously considered how hard it would be to become Spider Man. I thought through what it would take to cross myself with radioactive spiders so I’d obtain the traits of the spider while still human. I wanted that possibility to be so real.

SpidermanI imagined myself running through the streets of Cleveland, jumping from building to building, in search of criminals and making the city a safer place. It felt so real and so possible that when it dawned on me it wouldn’t happen, I was crushed.

Then as I thought on it further, I realized the chances of that happening were slim. There was no way I’d find a spider like that and no way to tell if the desired effects would actually occur.

With those hopes dashed, I turned to a more realistic hero in Batman. I figured if I could create or obtain enough gadgets like him, I’d be a force to be reckoned with. Having no money or technical skill to create those devices, I soon found myself distraught once again with the realization it would never happen.

BatmanThe thing is, I wanted these to be real possibilities in life. I wanted to be a hero, to save others, and do good. I felt an ache inside when I couldn’t make it happen. I blurred fantasy with reality and when reality won, I had a difficult time reconciling that harsh truth.

I suppose reading comic books and being aware of bad things around me made me want to do something about it. As a young pre-teen, I had no control over evil. Murderers, kidnappers, drug dealers-I could do nothing to stop them. Visualizing myself as a superhero was my way of trying to contribute to a positive outcome in an otherwise difficult world.

I’ve yet to find a radioactive spider or create an arsenal of cool gadgets, but I have tried to do good as much as possible in all situations. I fail, but my mindset is always to do what’s right. It’s not the same as jumping between buildings with the strength and dexterity of an oversized spider, but I do what I can.

 

Cleveland Rocks: The Same, But Different

A couple months ago, my wife, son, and I took a quick trip back to my hometown of Cleveland, OH to attend a Cavaliers game. I really wanted to see LeBron, Kyrie, and Kevin Love while the team was still intact and I’d never been to an NBA game before. We decided on a game against a sub-par opponent (in order to get reasonably priced seats!), bought tickets, and made plans.

I also wanted to give my almost sixteen year-old son a family history lesson. He’d been to Cleveland before, but it was about ten to twelve years ago and he doesn’t remember much from that trip. I wanted him to see where I grew up–to see my old neighborhood, my old house, and where I was “formed” into the person I am today. So much of where we grew up plays a pivotal role in who we become. We can change for the better (or worse) but our lens to the the world is created in part by our surroundings in our early years.

img_3299

View of Downtown Cleveland from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

I wanted him to see and appreciate what made me – “me.” It will be years before the lesson sinks in. He’s a teenager, my expectations aren’t too high yet. (I know what I was like back then!)

But something else happened on this trip. My city–the city I claim with every chance, the city I root for in the darkest moments, the city I identify with–isn’t mine anymore. Not like it used to be anyway.

Forever my lens to the world will be dominated by my upbringing in that city, but I’ve been gone so long, it doesn’t feel mine anymore.

So many things have changed. New office buildings downtown, Public Square closing off to traffic, and buildings torn down and replaced with new stores and offices. As a drive-thru worker where I used to work so eloquently stated, “It’s the same but different.” It’s still the city of my childhood, it’s still the city of close sports championship opportunities (still hate you MJ and Elway!) but the city doesn’t exactly feel like mine anymore.

We ate lunch in Terminal Tower sitting at a window overlooking the Cuyahoga River and I remember feeling like a stranger. I felt like an outsider. I’d been gone so long my Cleveland existed in my memories. It existed as a series of moments forever branded in my mind, but it wasn’t the city as it is today.

I guess that happens to everyone that moves away from the town or city they grew up in. We move on hoping for a brighter future with awesome opportunities while always leaning on our past for strength and identity.

I hadn’t expected to feel that way. I hoped to reconnect with the city and in some ways I did, but a sense of strangeness overwhelmed me.

It’s still my city. But now it’s different. It’s dynamic, it’s changing, it’s the same, but different.

Cleveland Lenses

I’ve talked about this before but it needs addressing bit more in depth. I think I have more explaining to do.  

My worldview is seen through the eyes of Cleveland. Better yet, I frame things as though I’ve got a great big glob of Cleveland covering my eyes. I know it sounds gross, but it’s not that bad.

If you aren’t from there, I don’t expect you to understand. Just…nod your head and let us go by. We’re harmless.

Cleveland is a great city full of vibrant culture and economy. It’s a port city and full of ethnic diversity. And yet there seems to me to be a certain way of viewing the world.

Using my Cleveland lenses, I see things as potential disasters all the time. I see the world as one step away from ridicule and shame. Paranoia is around every corner, creeping and ready to sink in. It’s real folks.

We’ve got good reason to think that. You tell me what other city had their river catch on fire. The river. On fire…yeah, that’s right. But at least it spawned the EPA.

Then there are so many sports close calls it’s painful. The Drive. The Fumble. The Move. The seventh inning against the freaking Marlins. The Decision. 

Every moment is seen through eyes that await the shoe to fall, that expect that shoe to come crushing down and destroying all hopes and dreams. 

But…that hope it tries to crush is real man. That hope, which at times feels like it’s about to lose, always keeps going. It’s what spurs us on. It’s what continues to fuel us even though the end might be gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, and always elusive victory. 

That’s the lense I use. That’s how I see the world. Always paranoid with a touch of hope. 

So what’s your lense? How do you view the world?