I have the curse of memory. You may ask what that in tales. If we have spent any meaningful time together, I remember everything you said. I can go as far as remembering what you were wearing and the weather out. In the 90s that awesome memory wasn’t working as it is now. In 2003, while in Iraq, while on a patrol a terrorist changed my life and my memories with a perfectly executed grenade and rocket-propelled grenade shot. Memory problems are very common in veterans with moderate-to-severe TBI. TBI-related memory problems don’t work the way you might see “amnesia” portrayed on TV. You don’t forget everything from your past and remember what happens going forward. In fact, you’re more likely to remember things from the past.

Because of this incident and a lot of testing, the doctors realized that I had a special gift. Through my trauma to my head, I have mild hyperthymesia. Hyperthymesia, also known as piking or hyperthymestic syndrome. People with this type of memory recall events, images, dates — even conversations — in minute detail. And they’re able to summon these memories effortlessly.

This is actually the first time-sharing with anyone, but I figured why not? The problem with this hyperthymesia is that it can be a challenge. People with keen autobiographical memory skills remember the bad times in addition to the good times.

When I write and do a speech about an experience, I can visually see and feel the moment in great detail. Imagine remembering every detail and conversation from the first girl you kissed or the first heartbreak. We catalog the moments in our minds daily so we can go back when we want, but for me there just a there, rambling away.

If they diagnose you with HSAM, your doctor will work with you to develop a management plan.


Although HSAM doesn’t carry any physical side effects or complications, it can be mentally exhausting to absorb and store so much information. Your doctor can advise you on coping mechanisms.

Before I went to combat, I was in college and struggling. After combat and my injury, the college experience was a breeze. I found my passion in Philosophy and Journalism and used this power to propel me to earn awards and move up the later in my field.

I can tell you that having memories from when I was a kid is amazing. I remember how life was so easy and how the only thing I wanted to do was play basketball and hang out with my hot cheerleader girlfriend. I desire to talk to people from the past about things they may not remember but realize that some people have stored those memories away on purpose to avoid pain.

I have only met one other person who has Hyperthymesia. We both agree that being able to say “I remember that 20 years ago” is awesome. I carry direct memories for past girlfriends, friends and my life before the old David died in combat.

How to boost your memory
Your memory might not qualify for HSAM status, but there are things you can do to improve it. Here are a few tips:
Get enough sleep. Being sleep deprived directly impacts your ability to remember things.

Stay active. Moderate-intensity exercise can improve your memory and may even increase the size of the part of your brain involved in memory.

One recommendation is brisk walking for at least 2 1/2 hours each week.
Give your brain a workout, too. In addition to exercising your body, exercise your brain and sharpen your memory with activities like reading, doing crossword puzzles, playing cards, memorizing songs or poems, playing a musical instrument, or learning a foreign language.

Want to remember a specific event better? A recent study found that exercising four hours after the event may help you retain the memory better. Exercising immediately after the event had no effect.

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Through my tears, I looked up at her, and she was so angry, but the words hit home. I gave up a perfect girl in my life only to feel this. It was then the anger started to explode in my body, and it happened to be as my mom rolled up on Marie’s house. As I was getting out of the car, my mom grabbed my arm. “David, don’t you touch her, she not worth going to jail and ruining your life.” I responded, “I would never hurt her as she hurt me.”

Read Part one HERE

As I made my way up the sidewalk, my, whole body was shaking, and my legs felt weak. I gave this girl everything I had to give as a young boy — the purity of my life and moreover my enduring love. Marie made me feel confident and comfortable being who I was, an awkward, shy boy. She taught me to be sensitive and say things I felt. Marie taught me to love myself and love her without that youthful lust. Marie was a legit soul mate in my life, and she always will be, regardless of our lack of friendship currently. It’s a one-way road of appreciation and enduring affection. I still believe that we will talk one day and find harmony. Here I was walking up to confront someone that let me down in the most significant way a young boy could face. I walked up to the door and knocked.

I turned around and noticed my mother pulled out of the driveway and drove away. I had lost my getaway if things went wrong or her dad beat me to death for coming over later. Marie’s dad opened the door and looked straight at me. The look was intimating, but it didn’t shake. In the first year of the relationship, he was intimidating. I learned to like him, and he seemed to know how much I loved Marie. Fathers know who is real and who’s there to try to score or do what young people do.

I loved Marie, and it was pure and straightforward to see. “Good evening, David.” I knew he had an idea of what was going on. “May I speak to Marie?” He looked back at Marie, and she seemed upset, but she walked toward the door. Marie’s father walked away, and Marie came to the door. I looked into her beautiful brown eyes, and I could see her eye’s seemed red. “Why, Marie?” I loved you so much. How could you do this?” Marie put down her head and started crying. “Please don’t cry Marie, you know I hate when you cry, babe.” She looked at me, cleared her tears, and calmed down. “I am sorry, David, I am.” I got closer to her, and she looked down. “We did everything together Marie, now what?” She was quite. It was then my next action would forever change our lives.

I started yelling at her to answer me, and it scared her. I never touched her, but in a way, fighting between the anger and my tears, I wanted to hug her. That was how much I loved her. I faced two-sided of emotion. Her father came to the door, and I felt overwhelmed with emotion. In a moment of lost love, I animated a threating expression with hands. As she walked, she walked into her mother’s arms, and I shook head and hit the side of the door and walked away.

I walked back and forth on the lawn for what felt like 30 minutes. I sat on the curb demoralized. I sat there, and every moment we spent together went through my head. I reflected on the extraordinary personal life-changing moments that catapulted us into maturity. I was in denial that this situation between her and some Tennis jock name Mark occurred. I started to calm down enough to finally move into thinking about how I could bargain with her. If only I had tried to be a better person or boyfriend. I thought I was, did I miss something? My mom came to pick me up, and I didn’t want to talk about what had happened. 

I started my drift into a dark and depressive mindset that would challenge me. This would change everything in life and other relationship for years to come. You may ask, did this conclude our relationship? That’s for another blog post. When young people share life-changing experiences and growth paths often meet again. So, what did I learn from this experience? So much that I can’t cover it all here right now. Through this experience, I went through many emotional and stages. I didn’t know those stages, then, but as I grew up, I learned what it was.

It was clear I was facing the 5 stages of Grief and Loss.

1. Denial In this phase, our heart—rather than our head—rules our belief system as we try to adjust to the idea of life without the person we’re losing. Even though we know the relationship is over, we don’t believe it. Against the better judgment of everyone around us, we can’t help but entertain fantasies of things somehow working out. We see hidden glimmers of hope buried in clear indications that it’s over. (Unsurprisingly, this is the phase where we are most susceptible to hooking up again)

2. Anger can manifest in many different ways—anger at your ex. How could she/he do this to me? Why can’t she stop being selfish?”), anger at God or the universe (“Why can’t anything ever work out for me? Why am I cursed? This is the phase where people tell anyone and everyone how “crazy” or “psycho” our ex was. Marie was not crazy. She was intelligent and beautiful. I was lucky to have her in my life.

3. Bargaining often goes hand in hand with the denial. Looking for any possible way to make a relationship work through negotiations. Later I will share how I went after Mark and plotted his demise. If I would have followed through I wouldn’t be free to write this today, it was that serious. During this stage, you may take a new interest in, but trust me it won’t work.

4. Depression, like anger, also surfaces in many different forms. Feeling tired all the time, not wanting to do anything but lay in bed. feeling disconnected from people even when you’re with them. Trouble sleeping or sleeping too much, loss of appetite or overeating. The big one—hopelessness. Hopelessness is the most pervasive and debilitating. It is the thing that leads us to believe that nothing will ever be or feel different than it is right now. Hopelessness makes it feel like you will never move on and that nothing will ever work out for you in the future.

Miss and I are now friends after years of being a part, so it’s possible….

5. Acceptance Finally, this is the phase in which we can make peace with the loss. It doesn’t always come on suddenly; it often happens gradually. Bit by little bit, interspersed with some of the other phases. Acceptance doesn’t always involve harmony and flowers. There is almost certain to be lingering sadness. Acceptance entails making peace with the loss, letting go of the relationship. Slowly moving forward with your life is key. It feels like this phase will never come, which usually means you’re still struggling in an earlier phase. Knowing your phases of grief can help normalize your break-up experience. It’s also important to know that there are no time limits and no rushing the process. Grieving is like digestion: there is nothing you can do to hurry it along. It takes time, and the only thing you can do is try to get through it. But take heart in the fact that this, like everything else, will pass.

The question is… Does it ever pass from the heart and mind? Do we ever forget the one person that taught us to let down our guard and trust the love we felt and gave? That’s up to you. I will never forget Marie and her being a soul mate in my life. She will always be that girl that I loved and found the bridge from boyhood to manhood. Moreover, my first and only true teen Love in my life!

We have all had our fair share of heartbreaks in life. Some of those heartbreaks for me occurred early in childhood. From junior high to high school, I dated two girls. If you follow my reading or have been to one of my speeches, you will know a lot about two women in my life. Melissa is the g genesis of my early childhood authentic relationships. The physical and mental components involved were life-changing. Melissa and I, through all the ups and downs, have remained great friends and often talk about our kids growing up and how times have changed.

We are forever connected. Our relationship when young, was the epitome of pure love and friendship. That fundamental relationship lasted from 7th grade till 10th grade. We dated later in life, and it was magical, but my inability to forgive myself for how things ended affected me. She deserved someone who never hurt her. After coming back from my deployment from Iraq, I finally forgave myself. She forgave many years ago. She is one of the most critical soulmates in my life, and we both understand that importance.

For clarification, Melissa was a soulmate because she understood me like no one else. Our connection of minds and mutual respect and unconditional love was supreme. This love was enduring and magnetic.

The other relationship is not easy to write about, it never has. When I do speeches on topics about this teenage love, I find myself in deep sadness and absolute regret. You may ask why would you be sad and regretful about a relationship from high school. We all have that one relationship when we are young that takes you from one dimension of life into another. It’s a transcendent moment in a boy’s life that one will never forget.

To this day, we are not friends and have never talked. I felt the desire to bridge the gap in October of 2007 after coming back from combat. Combat changed me in so many ways. I thought about her while I was there as well as Melissa. These two amazing people meant so much to me 11 years after our lives crossed. I grew as a person and through actions went from boyhood to manhood in this other relationship.

I tried to fix things as did with Melissa, and we did it through a lot of tears and in-depth communication. Honesty, transparency, forgiveness, and love for each other bridged the gape.

It’s been 23 (1995) years since the day I set my eyes on Marie, but the story of is still essential. There other surprising stories and learning opportunities about our relationship, but this is not one of them.

1995

I was sitting at home in my room, writing in my personal journal. The journal that originated from my life with Melissa. I was writing about Marie and basketball experiences in Varsity Basketball. My mom came into my room and told me I had a phone call. I didn’t receive phone calls much, so I wasn’t sure who it was. Marie and I talked on the phone early in our relationship, but as it got more serious, we did most of our talking in person.

I asked my mom, “Who is it?” She replied, “It’s her” That voice was her telling me in her way she was still upset from Melissa and I parting ways. Melissa was her daughter and friend. In the eye’s of our parents, we were going to last and walk down the aisle. Truth is we both felt that way.

I picked up the phone “Hello” there was an odd pause, but I could hear breathing. “Marie, is that you?” “she replied, ” Yes, David; it’s me.” “Is everything okay babe?” “David, you know I love you, right?” her voice seemed tired. “Yes, babe I love you so much you know that” She seemed to gather her strength “I have to tell you something” “What’s up?” The pause was deafening. “David, I cheated on you with another guy?” “Say what?” “David, I am so sorry, I love you, I..” It was there at the moment that I had to dig deep to ask what kind of cheat. As if any cheating is terrible, but there was one cheating experience you can not coming back from.

“Okay, A kiss or something?” She started to cry, and I couldn’t stand her crying. It was my weakest vulnerability with Marie. Her pretty softy and beautiful eyes always showed emotion and truthfulness. “Meria, don’t cry, what happened.” I could tell that she was beside herself and whatever it was it was the worst possible cheat. Every man or boy knows it. I didn’t even ask who. I knew none of my boys would ever do me wrong and loved me like a brother, so it was someone outside our circle of trust.

I sat down the ground next to bed with tears coming down my face. I couldn’t even hold the phone. I finally got brave enough to ask a question no 16 or 17-year-old boy should. So many things raced through my head. I loved Marie more than anything, she was my direction and stability during tough times at home and on the team. She was the main reason I was doing so well in basketball. She motivated me to work harder then I had ever done on the court.

“Marie, please don’t tell me…did you…no way.” I couldn’t even say it right, because I didn’t want to bring it in reality. “David, I am so sorry.”

I broke down and started crying as I had never had before. Everything in my life was falling apart. I was dizzy and so confused. I put the phone down to gather myself. I could hear her small delicate voice on the phone. “David, are you there?” I wanted to explode with anger but remain calm. I picked up the phone and closed my eyes. “Can I come over Marie? “David, I don’t know..” “Don’t know what Marie?” She didn’t respond. “I am coming over, we need to talk now.” I hung up.

I walked out of the room and told my mother that I needed to go to Marie’s house. My mom didn’t hesitate a minute, and we jumped in the honda and made our way 5 minutes up the road.

My mother knew something was mad, so she did her best to get information out of me. “David is something wrong with Marie?” I started to cry and hit my leg on the floor of the car. “Did she cheat on you, David?” She knew what heartbreak looked like, and now her son was feeling this pain. ” Yes, mom Marie told me she kissed or did something to some guy” My mom in her amazing ways of added her thoughts.

“I knew from the start that girl would hurt you. She was with you because she’s a cheerleader and you are a Varsity basketball player. David, you should have never have left our Melissa, she loves you more than anything still. The only time you ever cried was when she went to Colorado to see her grandpa.”

Through my tears, I looked up at her, and she was so angry, but the words hit home. I gave up the most perfect girl in my life only to feel this. It was then the anger started to explode in my body, and it happened to be as my mom rolled up on Marie’s house.

Be continued.

Bullying is a big problem that affects lots of kids. Being bullied can make kids feel bad, and the stress of dealing with it can make them feel sick.

Bullying can make kids not want to play outside or go to school. It’s hard to keep your mind on schoolwork when you’re worried about how you’re going to deal with the bully near your locker.

Bullying bothers everyone — and not the kids who are getting picked on. Bullying can make school a place of fear and can lead to violence and more stress for everyone.

In elementary school, I was a victim of bullying, and it affected my childhood. I was a target for bullies. I was an introvert and often anxious. I lacked self-esteem in 5, and 6th grade and found most of my time talking to myself. I was in the people-pleasing business.

Bullies are often attracted to that personality because they feel they can manipulate.

The first bullying occurred on a bus trip home from school on a Friday afternoon. I knew I was prey to bigger kids, so I always sat in front of the bus so the driver could see me. On this day, we happened to have a full bus, and I ended up further back by the older kids. As I walked in the aisle to my seat, I locked eyes with the old boy, and they started to laugh. As I sat down, I sank into the green duck tap bus seat and pushed up against the window. I felt like I was waiting until the moment these kids would make their move.

Weirdly, I wasn’t nervous but instead resolved to it. The bus started rolling, and I could hear the kids talking out loud and laughing. Danny, who lived in the same mobile home park, was known as a bully and well known for smoking, drinking, and stealing. He had his own little gang, and they caused a lot of damage in the park and in the small community of Highland we lived in. Danny didn’t have a father figure. His mother was an alcoholic, and his brother Jeff was the leader of the house. Yet he still couldn’t get his brother under control.

Back on the Bus.

Danny and I didn’t have many personal engagements, but the ones we had didn’t involve violence. Danny made fun my thin body. I was so small you could see my heart beating. Yet, he never touched me, and I could live with that.

As I looked out the window and started to daydream and I let my guard down. I notice it was hushed and the bus driver didn’t instruct us to lower our voice. Those feelings of anxiety came back. I felt so overwhelmed it made me want to pee. My body started to get hot and started to perspire.

The bus came to a stop, and the kids started to get off. One of the girls who I really liked named Crystal walked by me and said, “David be careful they have my…” the boy Todd behind her pushed on her backpack to have her move along. As she was getting off the bus, she looked back to me and shook her head and shrugged her shoulders and mouthed “No.” She wasn’t talking to me, but to kids behind me.

With the two stops left, I was almost sure I was going to make it out unscathed. The bus stopped and pulled over. I looked out the window to see what was happening. The bus driver ran over a cat. She opened the bus door and walked off the bus. At the same time, I heard feet move, and then the back of seat moved.

The bus driver got on the bus, and we continued. I could hear the kid behind me breathing. It was belabored. I peaked back through the seat, and I noticed he was getting something out of his bag. We came to the next stop, and kids started getting off. The boy behind me got up, and at that moment, my body went numb.

The boy grabbed my hair and pulled me up and grabbed my chine. I looked right into his face, and I will never forget it. He looked poised and determined. He pulled out lipstick and started marking all over my face. The kids block the driver, so she noticed nothing. As he finished, he pushed me down and walked away, laughing.

I was silent and alone with lipstick on my face and my pants wet for me urinating from nervousness. I didn’t cry or ask for help, I wanted to handle this moment on my own. I got off on my stop and walked directly to the mobile home clubhouse to wash my face. I cleaned up and walked home.

It was hot enough that my pants air-dried to urine, but it smelled.

I got home and skipped passed my mom, who didn’t realize her son was assaulted on the bus. I went to my room and laid down. That evening I promised myself I would fight back and do whatever I could to defend myself.

Even though this experience was terrifying, it was a cold hard reminder of the world I was heading into. If I weren’t going to hold my ground, I would be pushed over. I wish I could say it stopped, but it didn’t. I put up a solid fight and the sharp pencil I carried taught these kids on some occasions I was going to put up a fight.

Preventing bullying is something I learned and now teach my kids. It will happen, but how you respond is all that matters. If you hid in the corner, it’s most likely going to happen over and over again.

I learned the most crucial lesson in my life, and that was to Stand tall and be brave. It’s easier to feel brave when you feel good about yourself. The good news is that kids who are bullies can learn to change their behavior, but this kid never did and ended up in jail for a long time for abuse of his girlfriend. So many lessons to share with my kids.To be honest writing this helped me relive it only to feel stronger and more intune with my mental thoughts of the passed. Truly rewarding. That’s a win for me and you.

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Sometimes the killer of relationships isn’t a lack of trust, a lack of communication, or arguing with your significant other. It’s pure indifference.

A relationship can survive most things if both people involved in it are committed to the other person and act with respect toward the other. It can survive the death of our parents or the birth of a child. It can sometimes even survive an indiscretion.

 It can survive layoffs and career changes, of going back to school or buying your first home together. It usually can even survive the wedding, one of the most stressful things adults go through in their lives.

A relationship can survive angry tirades and arguments that span endless lonely days and nights. Anger means you care, even though you are caring in such a way as to negatively affect your partner. Relationships can, with some difficulty, survive a lack of communication or communication problems.

Communication is one of the key ingredients to a successful relationship. Successful couples don’t always agree, but they let each other know what’s going on in their lives, and how they’re feeling (especially when their partner does something that sparks a particular emotional response in the other person). Relationships survive with poor communication, although they tend not to be happy ones.

What a relationship has real difficulty surviving is when two people have gone into “autopilot” mode and become indifferent toward one another. When you’ve given up on emotion entirely, when you feel nothing toward the other person, that’s a difficult thing to come back from. Communication appears to be taking place, but it’s just shallow talk — like two acquaintances might do who just met on a plane.

Think about it. Even when we argue, we communicate with the other person — we express our disappointment, hurt, or anger for some perceived slight or harm. When we distrust our significant other (for whatever reason), it hurts because we care enough to want to trust them in the first place.  

Cheating hurts most people not because of the act itself, but because of the fundamental violation of trust and respect in the relationship. The fact that it hurts, however, signals we care. If we didn’t care, it wouldn’t hurt us.

Indifference is not caring what the other person does in a relationship. There are no arguments, so everything may seem okay on the surface. Arguing stops because you don’t care if you were right or felt hurt by another person’s words or actions. Trust isn’t an issue, because you don’t care about earning or having the other person’s trust.

You interact every day in a vacuum where everything seems okay because neither of you cares, whether it is or not. It’s a perfect illusion that you both have silently agreed to live. But it’s not a relationship at that point anymore. And it’s hardly living.

Ideally, relationships help us not only love another human being but grow as a person. They teach us lessons about life that otherwise would be difficult to learn, lessons about communication, listening, compromise, and giving selflessly of yourself and expecting nothing in return. Of learning to live with another human being and all that entails.

When we’ve closed ourselves down in a relationship, we’ve shut off caring. We’ve shut off growth. We’ve shut off learning. And we’ve shut off life.

Indifference doesn’t have to be the end of a relationship, however. If caught early enough, it’s a warning sign that something has gone horribly awry with the link, with caring about the other person and your feelings for them. If both people in the relationship listen to that warning sign and seek help for it (for instance, with a couples counselor), there’s a good chance the relationship can survive if both people want it to.

Beware indifference in a relationship. If your automatic response to your significant other’s question always seems to be, “Whatever,” that may be a sign that it’s creeping up on you. If you still care about the other person in your life and the relationship’s future, you’ll listen to it.

The term “soulmate” is often misused because many think it merely refers to “the person you love” or “the person you’re marrying.”

But the truth is, and for those of you who have found or met your soulmate will know this, it is a totally different feeling and experience than just being with someone you love.

When you have met your soulmate, not only have you fallen head over heels in love, but you have this connection that you feel either on an intellectual, spiritual, or emotional level. This feeling is painful for many to describe. But your soulmate has your entire heart, and the relationship is much more intense than a regular one. This person is not only your full another half, but they’re the person that just gets you, the only person who feels like home and like you’ve known them through many lifetimes (which your soul has). 

You cannot imagine life without this person, but the saddest thing is when in this life, you and your soulmate are just not meant to be. At least not yet. Perhaps in the next life, you will be. But right now, you’ve tried everything, but the relationship has become toxic.

Saying goodbye to a soulmate is an almost unbearable pain. Like a regular break-up only a hundred times more intense and emotionally damaging – as if a part of you dies when that person leaves your life.

This is how life continues on after you and your soulmate realize you’re not meant to be together in this life:

1. You find love again, but it’ll never feel the same.

Yes, you will fall in love again, and you may even get married and move on to have a happy, fulfilling life. But, even then, something will always feel like it’s missing. You can’t really explain it, but you sometimes feel this void that isn’t being filled regardless of the amount of happiness in your life or a new relationship. It’s a part of you that’s out of reach. Like no matter how much time has passed since it ended between you and your soulmate, it never goes away. Love never truly feels the same way it did before. Whether you ever admit that or not, you feel it deep down in your heart.

2. No matter how many years go by, you still think about the memories.

The memories will always be challenging to let go of. Especially if you go through a rough time in your life, you’ll tend to replay those memories in your head a lot. It doesn’t matter how many years go by, your mind will always wander back to that place, back to that time you were together, and back to that life you once lived that no longer exists in the present. You’ll get random flashbacks, sometimes they’ll come out of absolutely nowhere. But whether it be good memories or bad, you’ll always carry them with you. It’s all you have left of them. 

3. You become an entirely different person.

A part of you dies when you and your soulmate part ways. You sincerely, never feel the same. You change a lot about yourself, especially the way you handle any matters of the heart when it comes to dating or love. It’s like the pain of the loss corrupted you to your inner core, and altered life as you once knew it.

A great example of this is in Sam Smith’s song “Palace,” when he says, “They will love the better you, but I still own the ghost of you.” You just take on this entirely different person, a mere ghost of yourself, living this utterly different life. But the thing is, most people find this version of you better because you’ve learned and grown so much since then, you see things more clearly now. Although getting this to this point caused you so much pain, and you may even miss some parts of your old self from time to time.

4. You might question all the “bad” that happened.

The thing is, if you’re not with your soulmate despite doing every damn thing to try and make it work, chances are it’s because things became toxic or unhealthy. The intensity of being with a soulmate can often lead to a lot of fights and arguments, which can, of course, become ugly and lead to destruction. But the more distance you get from all of this, and as more time passes, you tend to see all that “bad” in a different light. You start asking yourself if some of that “bad” were actually all your fault, or if you maybe would have handled things in a better way. You may question how bad things really were, or if perhaps you just overreacted at the time.

5. They still appear in your dreams.

Years and years could go by, but your soulmate will still make appearances in your dreams. It’s the way your subconscious mind and your soul cope with walking through this life with your soulmate no longer by your side. In everyday life, you may be totally okay with this fact, but subconsciously, the pain still lingers.

6. You will settle into your new life, but your soul will always carry this person with you.

You will move on, you will enjoy life, you will go on adventures and live. But, they will always be a part of you in some way. Their presence, the memories – you will carry all that with you, in your heart and in your soul. And in another life when it is all meant to be, you and your soulmate will reunite, and it’ll be magical. But until then, enjoy life to the fullest. Love with your entire heart. See the world. Strive for success. And become the best possible version of yourself. #soulmate

FIND THE ONE WHO LOVES YOU

In memory of those who lost their lives trying to save others.

Firefighter Joseph Agnello Ladder 118
Lieutenant Brian Ahearn Engine 230
Firefighter Eric Allen Squad 18
Firefighter Richard Allen Ladder 15
Captain James Amato Squad 1
Firefighter Calixto Anaya Jr. Engine 4
Firefighter Joseph Angelini Rescue 1
Firefighter Joseph Angelini Jr. Ladder 4
Firefighter Faustino Jr. Battalion 9
Firefighter David Arce Engine 33
Firefighter Louis Arena Ladder 5
Firefighter Carl Asaro Battalion 9
Lieutenant Gregg Atlas Engine 10
Firefighter Gerald Atwood Ladder 21
Firefighter Gerald Baptiste Ladder 9
Assistant Chief Gerard Barbara
Firefighter Matthew Barnes Ladder 25
Firefighter Arthur Barry Ladder 15
Lieutenant Steven Bates Engine 235
Lieutenant Carl Bedigian Engine 214

Firefighter Stephen Belson Ladder 24
Firefighter John Bergin Rescue 5
Firefighter Paul Beyer Engine 6
Firefighter Peter Bielfeld Ladder 42
Firefighter Brian Bilcher Squad 1
Firefighter Carl Bini Rescue 5
Firefighter Christopher Blackwell Rescue 3
Firefighter Michael Bocchino Battalion 48
Firefighter Frank Bonomo Engine 230
Firefighter Gary Box Squad 1
Firefighter Michael Boyle Engine 33
Firefighter Kevin Bracken Engine 40
Firefighter Michael Brennan Ladder 4
Firefighter Peter Brennan Rescue 4
Captain Daniel Brethel Ladder 24
Captain Patrick Brown Ladder 3
Firefighter Andrew Brunn Ladder 5
Captain Vincent Brunton Ladder 105
Fire Marshal Ronald Bucca
Firefighter Greg Buck Engine 201
Captain William Burke Jr. Engine 21
Assistant Chief Donald Burns
Firefighter John Burnside Ladder 20
Firefighter Thomas Butler Squad 1
Firefighter Patrick Byrne Ladder 101
FF Firefighter George Cain Ladder 7
Firefighter Salvatore Calabro Ladder 101
Captain. Frank Callahan Ladder 35
Firefighter Michael Cammarata Ladder 11
Firefighter Brian Cannizzaro Ladder 101
Firefighter Dennis Carey Haz-mat Co. 1
Firefighter Michael Carlo Engine 230
Firefighter Michael Carroll Ladder 3
Firefighter Peter Carroll Squad 1
Firefighter Thomas Casoria Engine 22
Firefighter Michael Cawley Ladder 136
Firefighter Vernon Cherry Ladder 118
Firefighter Nicholas Chiofalo Engine 235
Firefighter John Chipura Engine 219
Firefighter Michael Clarke L
adder 2
Firefighter Steven Coakley Engine 217
Firefighter Tarel Coleman Squad 252
Firefighter John Collins Ladder 25
Firefighter Robert Cordice Squad 1
Firefighter Ruben Correa Engine 74
Firefighter James Coyle Ladder 3
Firefighter Robert Crawford Safety Battalion 1
Lieutenant John Crisci Haz-Mat Co. 1
Battalion Chief Dennis Cross Battalion 57
Firefighter Thomas Cullen III Squad 41
Firefighter Robert Curatolo Ladder 16
Lieutenant Edward Datri Squad
Firefighter Michael D’Auria Engine 40
Firefighter Scott Davidson Ladder 118
Firefighter Edward Day Ladder 11
Battalion Chief Thomas DeAngelis Battalion 8
Firefighter Manuel Delvalle Engine 5
Firefighter Martin DeMeo Haz-Mat Co. 1
Firefighter David DeRubbio Engine 226
Lieutenant Andrew Desperito Engine 1
Battalion Chief Dennis Devlin Battalion 9
Firefighter Gerard Dewan Ladder 3
Firefighter George DiPasquale Ladder 2

Lieutenant Kevin Donnelly Ladder 3
Lieutenant Kevin Dowdell Rescue 4
Battalion Chief Raymond Downey Special Operations
Firefighter Gerard Duffy Ladder 21
Captain Martin Egan, Jr. Division 15
Firefighter Michael Elferis Engine 22
Firefighter Francis Esposito Engine 235
Lieutenant Michael Esposito Squad 1
Firefighter Robert Evans Engine 33
Battalion Chief John Fanning Haz-Mat Operations
Captain Thomas Farino Engine 26
Firefighter Terrence Farrell Rescue 4
Deputy Commissioner Chief. William Feehan
Firefighter Lee Fehling Engine 235
Firefighter Alan Feinberg Battalion 9
Firefighter Michael Fiore Rescue 5
Captain John Fischer Ladder
Firefighter Andre Fletcher Rescue 5
Firefighter John Florio Engine 214
Lieutenant Michael Fodor Squad 1
Firefighter Thomas Foley Rescue 3
Firefighter David Fontana Squad 1
Firefighter Robert Foti Ladder 7

Firefighter Andrew Fredericks Squad 18
Lieutenant Peter Freund Engine 55
Firefighter Thomas Gambino Jr. Rescue 3
Chief of Dept. Peter Ganci Jr.
Lieutenant Charles Garbarini Battalion 9
Firefighter Thomas Gardner Haz-Mat Co. 1
Firefighter Matthew Garvey Squad 1
Firefighter Bruce Gary Engine 40
Firefighter Gary Geidel Rescue 1
Battalion Chief Edward Geraghty Battalion 9
Firefighter Dennis Germain Ladder 2
Lieutenant Vincent Giammona Ladder 5
Firefighter James Giberson Ladder 35
Firefighter Ronnie Gies Squad 288
Firefighter Paul Gill Engine 54

Lieutenant John Ginley Engine 40
Firefighter Jeffrey Giordano Ladder 3
Firefighter John Giordano Engine 37
Firefighter Keith Glascoe Ladder 21
Firefighter James Gray Ladder 20
Battalion Chief Joseph Grzelak Battalion 48
Firefighter Jose Guadalupe Engine 54
Lieutenant Geoffrey Guja Battalion 43
Lieutenant Joseph Gullickson Ladder 101
Firefighter David Halderman Squad 18
Lieutenant Vincent Halloran Ladder 8
Firefighter Robert Hamilton Squad 41
Firefighter Sean Hanley Ladder 20
Firefighter Thomas Hannafin Ladder 5
Firefighter Dana Hannon Engine 26
Firefighter Daniel Harlin Ladder 2
Lieutenant Harvey Harrell Rescue 5
Lieutenant Stephen Harrell Battalion 7
Battalion Chief Thomas Haskell, Jr. Division 1
5
Firefighter Timothy Haskell Squad 18
Captain Terence Hatton Rescue 1
Firefighter Michael Haub Ladder 4
Firefighter Philp Hayes Retired- Engine 217
Lieutenant Michael Healey Squad 41
Firefighter John Hefferman Ladder 11
Firefighter Ronnie Henderson Engine 279
Firefighter Joseph Henry Ladder 21
Firefighter William Henry Rescue 1
Firefighter Thomas Hetzel Ladder 13
Captain Brian Hickey Rescue 4
Lieutenant Timothy Higgins Special Operations
Firefighter Jonathan Hohmann Haz-Mat Co. 1
Firefighter Thomas Holohan Engine 6
Firefighter Joseph Hunter Squad 288
Captain Walter Hynes Ladder 13
FF Jonathan Ielpi Squad 288
Captain Frederick Ill Jr. Ladder 2

Firefighter William Johnston Engine 6
Firefighter Andrew Jordan ladder 132
Firefighter Karl Joseph Engine 207
Lieutenant Anthony Jovic Battalion 47
Firefighter Angel Juarbe Jr. Ladder 12
Chaplain Mychal Judge
Firefighter Vincent Kane Engine 22
Battalion Chief Charles Kasper SOC Battalion
Firefighter Paul Keating Ladder 5
Firefighter Richard Kelly Jr. Ladder 11
Firefighter Thomas Kelly Ladder 15
Firefighter Thomas Kelly Ladder 105
Firefighter Thomas Kennedy Ladder 101
Lieutenant Ronald Kerwin Squad 288
Firefighter Michael Kiefer Ladder 132
Firefighter Robert King Jr. Engine 33
Firefighter Scott Kopytko Ladder 15
Firefighter William Krukowski Ladder 21
Firefighter Kenneth Kumpel Ladder 25

Firefighter Thomas Kuveikis Squad 252
Firefighter David LaForge Ladder 20
Firefighter William Lake Rescue 2
Firefighter Robert Lane Engine 55
Firefighter Peter Langone Squad 252
Firefighter Scott Larsen Ladder 15
Lieutenant Joseph Leavey Ladder 15
Firefighter Neil Leavy Engine 217
Firefighter Daniel Libretti Rescue 2
Paramedic Carlos Lillo Battalion 49
Firefighter Robert Linnane ladder 20
Firefighter Michael Lynch Engine 40
Firefighter Michael Lynch Ladder 4
Firefighter Michael Lyons Squad 4
1
Firefighter Patrick Lyons Squad 252
Firefighter Joseph Maffeo Ladder 101
Firefighter William Mahoney Rescue 4
Firefighter Joseph Maloney Ladder 3
Battalion Chief Joseph Marchbanks Jr. Battalion 57
Lieutenant Charles Margiotta Battalion 22
Firefighter Kenneth Marino Rescue 1
Firefighter John Marshall Ladder 27
Lieutenant Peter Martin Rescue 2
Lieutenant Paul Martini Engine 201
Firefighter Joseph Mascali Tactical Support 2
Firefighter Keithroy Maynard Engine 33
Firefighter Brian McAleese Engine 226
Firefighter John McAvoy Ladder 3
Firefighter Thomas McCann Battalio
n 8
Lieutenant William McGinn Squad 18
Battalion Chief William McGovern Battalion 2
Firefighter Dennis McHugh Ladder 13
Firefighter Robert McMahon Ladder 20
Firefighter Robert McPadden Engine 23
Firefighter Terence McShane Ladder 101
Firefighter Timothy McSweeney Ladder 3
Firefighter Martin McWilliams Engine 22
Firefighter Raymond Meisenheimer Rescue 3
Firefighter Charles Mendez Ladder 7
Firefighter Steve Mercado Engine 40
Firefighter Douglas Miller Rescue 5
Firefighter Henry Miller Jr. Ladder 105
Firefighter Robert Minara Ladder 25
Firefighter Thomas Mingione Ladder 132
Lieutenant Paul Mitchell Battalion 1
Captain Louis Modafferi Rescue 5

Lieutenant Dennis Mojica Rescue 1
Firefighter Manuel Mojica Squad 18
Firefighter Carl Molinaro Ladder 2
Firefighter Michael Montesi Rescue 1
Captain Thomas Moody Division 1
Battalion Chief John Moran Battalion 49
Firefighter Vincent Morello Ladder 35
Firefighter Christopher Mozzillo Engine 55
Firefighter Richard Muldowney Jr. Ladder 7
Firefighter Michael Mullan Ladder 12
Firefighter Dennis Mulligan Ladder 2
Lieutenant Raymond Murphy Ladder 16
Lieutenant Robert Nagel Engine 58
Firefighter John Napolitano Rescue 2
Firefighter Peter Nelson Rescue 4

Firefighter Gerard Nevins Rescue 1
Firefighter Dennis O’Berg Ladder 105
Lieutenant Daniel O’Callaghan Ladder 4
Firefighter Douglas Oelschlager Ladder 15
Firefighter Joseph Ogren Ladder 3
Lieutenant Thomas O’Hagan Battalion 4
Firefighter Samuel Oitice Ladder 4
Firefighter Patrick O’Keefe Rescue 1
Captain William O’Keefe Division 15
Firefighter Eric Olsen Ladder 15
Firefighter Jeffery Olsen Engine 10
Firefighter Steven Olson Ladder 3
Firefighter Kevin O’Rourke Rescue 2
Firefighter Michael Otten Ladder 35
Firefighter Jeffery Palazzo Rescue 5
Battalion Chief Orio Palmer Battalion 7
Firefighter Frank Palombo Ladder 105
Firefighter Paul Pansini Engine 10
Battalion Chief John Paolillo Battalion 11
Firefighter James Pappageorge Engine 23
Firefighter Robert Parro Engine 8
Firefighter Durrell Pearsall Rescue 4
Lieutenant Glenn Perry Ladder 25
Lieutenant Philip Petti Battalion 7
Lieutenant Kevin Pfeifer Engine 33
Lieutenant Kenneth Phelan Engine 217
Firefighter Christopher Pickford Engine 201
Firefighter Shawn Powell Engine 207

Firefighter Vincent Princiotta Ladder 7
Firefighter Kevin Prior Squad 252
Battalion Chief Richard Prunty Battalion 2
Firefighter Lincoln Quappe Rescue 2
Lieutenant Michael Quilty Ladder 11
Paramedic Ricardo Quinn Battalion 57
Firefighter Leonard Ragaglia Engine 54
Firefighter Michael Ragusa Engine 250
Firefighter Edward Rall Rescue 2
Firefighter Adam Rand Squad 288
Firefighter Donald Regan Rescue 3
Lieutenant Robert Regan Ladder 118
Firefighter Christian Regenhard Ladder 131
Firefighter Kevin Reilly Engine 207
Captain Vernon Richard Ladder 7
Firefighter James Riches Rescue 4
Firefighter Joseph Rivelli Jr. Ladder 25
Firefighter Michael Roberts Engine 214
Firefighter Michael Roberts Ladder 35
Firefighter Anthony Rodriguez Engine 279
Firefighter Matthew Rogan Ladder 11
Firefighter Nicholas Rossomando Rescue 5
Firefighter Paul Ruback Ladder 25
Firefighter Stephen Russell Engine 55
Lieutenant Michael Russo Special Operations
Battalion Chief Matthew Ryan Battalion 1
Firefighter Thomas Sabella Ladder 13
Firefighter Christopher Santora Engine 54
Firefighter John Santore Ladder 5
Firefighter Gregory Saucedo Ladder 5
Firefighter Dennis Scauso Haz-Mat Co. 1
Firefighter John Schardt Engine 201
Battalion Chief Fred Scheffold Battalion 12
Firefighter Thomas Schoales Engine 4
Firefighter Gerard Schrang Rescue 3
Firefighter Gregory Sikorsky Squad 41
Firefighter Stephen Siller Squad 1
Firefighter Stanley Smagala Jr. Engine 226
Firefighter Kevin Smith Haz-Mat Co. 1
Firefighter Leon Smith Jr. Ladder 118

Firefighter Robert Spear Jr. Engine 50
Firefighter Joseph Spor Ladder 38
Battalion Chief Lawrence Stack Battalion 50
Captain Timothy Stackpole Division 11
Firefighter Gregory Stajk Ladder 13
Firefighter Jeffery Stark Engine 230
Firefighter Benjamin Suarez Ladder 21
Firefighter Daniel Suhr Engine 216
Lieutenant Christopher Sullivan Ladder 111
Firefighter Brian Sweeney Rescue 1
Firefighter Sean Tallon Ladder 10
Firefighter Allan Tarasiewicz Rescue 5
Firefighter Paul Tegtmeier Engine 4
Firefighter John Tierney Ladder 9
Firefighter John Tipping II Ladder 4
Firefighter Hector Tirado Jr. Engine 23
Firefighter Richard VanHine Squad 41
Firefighter Peter Vega Ladder 118
Firefighter Lawrence Veling Engine 235
Firefighter John Vigiano II Ladder 132
Firefighter Sergio Villanueva Ladder 132
Firefighter Lawrence Virgilio Squad 18
Lieutenant Robert Wallace Engine 205
Firefighter Jeffery Walz Ladder 9
Lieutenant Michael Warchola Ladder 5
Captain Patrick Waters Special Operations
Firefighter Kenneth Watson Engine 214
Firefighter Michael Weinberg Engine 1

Firefighter David Weiss Rescue 1
Firefighter Timothy Welty Squad 288
Firefighter Eugene Whelan Engine 230
Firefighter Edward White Engine 230
Firefighter Mark Whitford Engine 23
Lieutenant Glenn Wilkinson Engine 238
Battalion Chief John Williamson Battalion 6
Captain David Wooley Ladder 4
Firefighter Raymond York Engine 285

NYPD
Sgt. Timothy A. Roy, Sr., 36
Sgt. John Gerard Coughlin, 43
Sgt. Rodney C. Gillis, 33
Sgt. Michael S. Curtin, 45
Det. Joseph V. Vigiano, 34
Det. Claude Daniel Richards, 46
Moira Ann Smith, 38
Ramon Suarez, 45
Paul Talty, 40
Santos Valentin, Jr., 39
Walter E. Weaver, 30
Ronald Philip Kloepfer, 39
Thomas M. Langone, 39
James Patrick Leahy, 38
Brian Grady McDonnell, 38
John William Perry, 38 – an actor on shows like NYPD Blue and One Life to Live who was filing his police force retirement papers on that morning[15]
Glen Kerrin Pettit, 30
John D’Allara, 47
Vincent Danz, 38
Jerome M. P. Dominguez, 37
Stephen P. Driscoll, 38
Mark Joseph Ellis, 26
Robert Fazio, Jr., 41

EMS
Keith Fairben, 24, – a paramedic who worked for the New York Presbyterian Hospital

Richard Pearlman, 18, – an EMT who worked for the Forest Hills Volunteer Ambulance

Mario Santoro, 28 – a paramedic who worked for the New York Presbyterian Medical Center

Yamel Merino, 24 – a single mother of an eight-year-old son who worked as an EMT for Metrocare/Montefiore Medical Center for three years

Mohammad Salman Hamdani, 23 – a Muslim-American man who worked as a part-time FDNY Certified EMT and also a member of the New York City Police Department Cadet Corps for three years

Marc Sullins, 30 – an EMT who worked with Cabrini Medical Center

Mark Schwartz, 50 – an EMT who worked for Hunter Ambulance

Jeff Simpson, 38 – an EMT who worked for the Dumfries-Triangle Rescue Squad, and also an employee for Oracle Corporation

Port Authority Police Department

Supt. Ferdinand V. Morrone, 63
Chief James A. Romito,51

Lt. Robert D. Cirri, 39

Insp. Anthony P. Infante, Jr., 47

Capt. Kathy Nancy Mazza, 46

Sgt. Robert M. Kaulfers, 49

Donald James McIntyre, 38

Walter Arthur McNeil, 53

Joseph Michael Navas, 44

James Nelson, 40

Alfonse J. Niedermeyer, 40

James Wendell Parham, 32

Dominick A. Pezzulo, 36

Antonio J. Rodrigues, 35

Richard Rodriguez, 31

Bruce Albert Reynolds, 41

Christopher C. Amoroso, 29

Maurice V. Barry, 48

Clinton Davis, Sr., 38

Donald A. Foreman, 53

Gregg J. Froehner, 46

Uhuru Gonga Houston, 32

George G. Howard, 44

Thomas E. Gorman, 41

Stephen Huczko, Jr., 44

Paul William Jurgens, 47

Liam Callahan, 44

Paul Laszczynski, 49

David Prudencio Lemagne, 27

John Joseph Lennon, Jr., 44

John Dennis Levi, 50

James Francis Lynch, 47

John P. Skala, 31

Walwyn W. Stuart, Jr., 28

Kenneth F. Tietjen, 31

Nathaniel Webb, 56

Michael T. Wholey, 34

Sirius, K-9

#neverforget

One of our Favorites

When I was young, I had an apprehension of writing anything on paper. It wasn’t that I couldn’t write because I had so many things to express. I felt overwhelmed by the process. As I shared in my first blog, my brain was active and always developing a story, movie, or a plot. I started to create a mindset that what I wrote was wrong and most likely unreadable and incorrect.

The desire to share things about what I thought about the world and things going on around me tugged at me. I wasn’t interested in the regular conversations young kids had at lunch. Yet, my thoughts were on why kids do what they do and act the way they do. I was an oddball and felt content in my separate world.

BAND

At the early age of 7, I could play drums by ear. The story goes like this. On August 10, 1983, I was sitting in the pews during song service at my Dads church in Muskegon, Michigan. I felt an overwhelming desire to walk up on stage and play the drums. The drums were there from the Spanish church earlier in the morning. I walked down the aisle, driven to the drums. My brother didn’t even stop me, or he tried, I never heard or felt anything.

As I made my way up to the drums, everything became very peaceful and almost quit. I glanced over at my dad, who was playing the piano, and my mom, who was singing. It seemed from my perspective everything was quit. I felt invisible because I was sure my parents would stop me in my track.

I walked up to the drums and sat down. I picked up the sticks looked over at my dad, and he looked at me and nodded. He proclaimed to the hundreds of people in standing up.”Well, my son David has joined us in worship.”

That was it. My dad didn’t tell me to get off the stage. My mom didn’t give me the evil eye of disdain like Mr. Munson did in my last blog. They continued song service.

I wasn’t sure what was next. I put one stick on the snare and the other on Zildjian crash cymbal. My foot started to find the rhythm of the music, and I began to hit the bass.
The sounds of the song service came alive, it almost hurt my ears. I could hear and feel an intense emotional feeling.

That was it, I in a single moment had become a drummer. This fantastic experience would impact my future.

Melissa and I song!

JUNIOR HIGH BAND

We moved from Michigan to California, so my dad could be a pastor at the local church. I continued to play drums, and when I entered junior high, I went right into the band. Playing drums was not the same as playing at church. We had to learn how to read music. It was challenging, and I still played by ear.

In-band is where I learned some huge lesson in life. One crucial lesson I learned was from a beautiful young girl named Melissa. She’s a massive part of life now and then.

This youthful story is so beautiful, and I know it can help others see through things, but that’s for later. I am continuing to write short stories called “Blind Sided.” I will fast forward to our relationship and the moment I found my passion.

November 4, 1989 (Saturday)
Saturday morning, I walked over to Melissa’s house. We planned to watch the Los Angeles Lakers play the San Antonio Spurs that afternoon. We both love the Lakers, and both sported the gear. As we sat and watched the game, I often looked over at her because she intrigued me. Who is this girl? And how did my silly self end up with her? At that time, I wasn’t outgoing and was, pathic. Yet, when she wasn’t with me, I always felt something was missing. She understood, believed in me and moreover loved me, as for me. It was the purest form of love on earth.

I will never be able to explain it. Melissa was my soul mate, no question.

After the basketball game in which the Lakers lost 98 to 106. It was a great game, but it was only their second game of the season, so Melissa and I knew they would get better. The relationships focal point centered around basketball, Magic Johnson and band. She wasn’t watching basketball for me, she loved the game. She knew so much about the game, it was scary, but I digress.

After the game, we went upstairs into her room. I know what you are thinking? You went to her room at 13? Well, the door was open, and her parents trusted us at this point in our relationship. That would change a tad later, but that’s another story. My fault, of course.

While we sat on the ground, we talked about the game and how we felt. After while we both stopped talking. I was always nervous when things went silent when I was with Melissa, but she calmed me completely. She was so smart and articulate (still is), and sometimes I felt compelled to talk about nothing. That feeling dissipated, and our talks became deep, passionate.

While sitting there, she pulled out a book from under her bed. It was purple and had Laker stickers on it. I asked what it was, and she said: “David, it’s my diary.” I replied, what do you write about Melissa?” She smiled and opened it. “You know, stuff.” I looked at the book and asked: “Do you write about us.” She laughed. ” I bet you would want to know.” I do want to know.”

She flipped through the pages and stopped at one. “This is where we start.” The looked on her face gave me a direct answer. “She was writing about us and our story. “Can you read something for me, a little.” I was so intrigued. “You promise not to laugh,” I moved closer to and put my head on her shoulder, and she leaned her head on mine. “Melissa, I love you, I would never.” Yea, we passed that whole uncomfortable I like you and how should I say it. She was my first real and defining love.

She smiled and started to read one page. You would think I would have read over her shoulder, but I didn’t. I closed my eyes and listened for once. Young boys always have something to say to break up the moment. I felt the moment, like going up to the drums.

She started to read, and the words “I met a boy named David, and he is silly, but I like him.” She continued to read, and I realized she was the one for me. After she finished, she closed the book “Well, I am a going to have to hide this book now.”
I looked at her and smiled and leaned in and kissed her passionately. It was a different kiss. This was a trusting kiss. From there, our relationship and daily engagements became mature.

After everything concluded, she asked me, |”Can you write?”
I replied. “I can write song lyrics?” I wrote Melissa a song called over the mountains. I had it produced by a local musician. Yea, I found money to make this Melissa a full-blown song. I know every lyric from it, but I that’s not for today.

Melissa told me to start writing, and I could share my writings with her. This love wasn’t like the regular 13-year-olds in junior high. The connection was extraordinary.

I went home that night, and my whole world of writing changed and expressing how I felt dripped through the pen. I wasn’t afraid to write, even though it may have been incorrect. It was about telling a story.

I shared some of my lyrics with Melissa, and through those words, she knew I loved her. Sometimes I would stay up all night writing. I kept every word from the journal, and that how I can share these stories in great detail. I never told her I was writing about us, but later while I was in Iraq in a conversation, I told her. She seemed to already know, but that was my Melissa, she knew things without me saying something.

Future

Melissa is the reason earned my degree in Journalism. I later became the Washington States feature writer of the year in 2010 and 2011. This experience is why I continue to write about life.

One beautiful, intelligent, and loving girl when I was 13 would forever be a part of me in every tap of the keyboard. I will always love her for that and so many other things. That’s straight from the heart.

I will never publish the content from those days in full. The reality, its something that is very connected to Melissa. And one other young lady, that to this day I have only spoken about in speeches.
Yet, I will share the stories in a way that heal my soul and help others.

Don’t be afraid to write…..right or wrong the words matter to you and someone else. It can relieve pain….as it does for me on so many levels. It also allows me to tell people a story of paths taking.

Year: 1989 (7th Grade)

Location: Serrano Middle School (Bathroom)

In my life, there has been a handful of people who have influenced my travels. Some of these individuals directly affected the way I went about relationship, careers, and friendship. Some of these people had no idea the effect they had on me. Some of these people’s hold on me took years to completely shed the negative impressions. However, many had a positive and influential impacts. I still face some issues, but I use these issues to help others, by giving speeches on hard life topics, such as growing up, love and insecurities

When I think of impact, I refer directly to emotional and physical properties. Early in life, I knew I was different from other kids. This is not to say I was better than those around me, but I stood out like a sore thumb in groups.

I spent a lot of time in my head, some would reference this to overthinking, creative introvert, however, sports changed me, but that’s for another story. I worked hard to solve my own problems without my parents or friends. Answering my own questions gave me power and resilience. 

The fact that in the first year or two of middle school looking back most kids went through times of feeling socially insecure and emotionally vulnerable. I was in-between those, but weirdly I could perceive things better and break down situations rapidly. I wasn’t always right at what I saw or analyzing information correctly, but my brain was working overtime and fast. This is very different from being smart in school because I had trouble in math and science and things that actually required brainpower.

Conforming


I was the worst at submitting to being one way or to hang out with a specific group. I knew that who I hung out with would come at a cost. I remember having a conversation with a young boy at lunch in junior high, and I really didn’t know him, but I thought he was entertaining. He was in a group of what one would refer to as a school gang, and I swear he was a recruiter.

At this time, I was very open to exploring new things and experiencing what I wouldn’t ordinarily do. I was inquisitive, so I asked this young boy to share with me what gang or group he was in and what they did. I wanted to understand his path or what made him so eager to recruit the worst dressed and the awkwardest kid in the school, I just wanted to know why I was unique and special for his group.

He quickly got up from the seat, and he told me to follow him. I remember looking over at the table across from me, and everyone was looking right us, it was extremely awkward, and the bells in my head went off, but I simply ignored them. I was so confused, but wholly enthralled in this adventure, I was inclined to find out what in the world was so awesome. As we walked up the stairs, I notice my P.E teacher and coach standing by the office. He locked eyes with me and with a destained look, shook his head no. I ignored the signs of this episode. 


I continued walking and quickly glanced back. Mr. Munson was still looking at me, I started to wonder if he was trying to tell me something. I kept walking with the mysterious boy, and we ended up in the bathroom. That would be the third ignoring signs of directional change or path.

As we all know nothing ever happens good in the bathroom, according to every teen movie. We stopped, and he turned around and looked at me in the eyes. In a shallow creepy voice said, “To be one of us, you have been like us, believe like us, behave like us, go along with us, look like us, like us best, and not do better than us.”

It was at the moment I started to feel uncomfortable and little weirded out. I stepped back to get my distance because I wasn’t sure what was happening or going to happen. The boy looked possed. His dispostion was intense.

As I was about to reply, Mr. Muson walked in the bathroom and with a deep and angry voice yelled, “Hardt, get out of here now!” I walked out quickly, but Mr. Munson stayed behind. I wasn’t sure if I was to stay or leave. I knew one thing that this situation wasn’t going to end well for the boy trapped in the bathroom with Mr. Munson or for me.

Mr. Munson later strolled out of the bathroom, grabbed both of my shoulders, and looked down at me from his 6’5 stature. And said the words that would forever stick with me.
“Hardt, this is not your path.” His angry eyes dimmed to slightly connected supportive engagement. He pointed out into the lunch crowd and said in a very stern and effective way. “Take this path back to where you came from, trust me Hardt.” I looked up at him, and internally I wanted to say, “Why, coach?” But something, possibly fear made me back up turn around and walk away. That young kid never spoke or even looked at me again. Later down the road, it was very clear what Coach Munson was keeping me away from. This young boy turned out heavy into drugs, drinking, and had an arrest record.

What I didn’t see my coach could foresee. I just wanted to understand and see this young boy’s perspective. The question is, would I have possibly gone down this road, most likely not, I had set my goals high, and everyone knew from elementary I was a kid-focused on being kind and always clean.

Influencing people can have enormous consequences or rewards. Mr. Munson, on that day, changed me and possibly my path. He encouraged me to stop or pause and think things out. This also taught me it’s okay to hit reverse and go back to where I was and do a redo. Sometimes we don’t get redo, but I did with some help!

Have you went down and path only to quickly find out that the road back is the best path forward.

More stories and experiences to come!

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