Sometimes, if you keep your eyes and ears open, the universe will gladly send you useful information in the most subtle and unobtrusive ways; and sometimes it stands on rooftops screaming into a megaphone.
This past week, for me, has undoubtedly been the latter. I am not sure there has ever been a time when the message was louder and soaked in more clarity.
I have unapologetically been in the pursuit of my dreams for the better part of a year: maxing out credit cards to hire an editor and consultant, getting a life coach, attending seminars, sending out query letters and book proposals—one endless stream of drive and perseverance. Things were beginning to take shape for me. There was an agent in Manhattan who showed an interest in my work and suggested I write two more sample chapters and get back to her.
So, of course, there was only one thing to do: sign up for another credit card, call my editor to help me whip these two new chapters into publishing quality, and ring this agent up again as soon as I was ready. A few days after I submitted this work to her, she emailed me to let me know that she didn’t think she was going to be able to do anything for me.
I’m a reasonable guy and I have been engaged in this business of pursuing dreams for as long as I can remember, so intellectually speaking, I was ready for an outcome like this. I knew we didn’t sign anything and I hadn’t posted anything about it on social media; but it’s one thing to know in your mind that something could fall through, and it is another thing entirely to feel it emotionally when it happens. It hurts.
It wasn’t more than an hour after I received that fateful email that news of Kate Spade’s death began circulating over social media. It changed the way I was digesting my situation rather quickly. I became silent and continued through my arduous workday wondering if I was missing something about this thing we call “success.”
I vowed, in both a solemn and automatic way, to wake up the next morning and send my query letter to as many agents and publishers as I could. Part of me made the decision to just do what I planned all along, and part of me began to feel a certain trepidation.
A couple of days went by in that cloudy manner, and the next thing I knew, the internet was lighting up all over again with an almost-identical suicide—this time by Anthony Bourdain.
Now it was impossible to ignore the overall theme. I began to consider, in a visceral way, what it was that I was chasing. It was one thing to find out about a fashion designer committing suicide; that woke me up a bit and made me a little suspicious of this life I am running toward with reckless abandon. But with Anthony Bourdain, it took on a whole new and more meaningful definition. We are talking about a man who sent in his first article to The New Yorker on a whim and had a publishing deal days later. While I may not be able to totally identify with that, the fact that he would wake up early, write 1,000 words, and head to his restaurant was familiar to me—substitute tractor trailer for restaurant and there’s the story of my own life.
The odds are pretty long that I’ll write a best seller, but that is the intention I have put out to the universe; and intention coupled with massive action can be very powerful. That, however, is not the point. I would not be ridiculous enough to think that these lovely people passed this week to provide me with a cautionary tale, but I’d have to be pretty dull-headed not to see a message in their deaths.
I spent the better part of the weekend wondering earnestly what it was that I really thought I was going to get once I accomplished my dreams. Sure, my book is rooted entirely in substance abuse recovery and self-help. It is meant to help other people learn to pull themselves out of lack and begin to live with a little self-respect and dignity. If I earned nothing more than the knowledge of having been a force for good, that would be enough, I suppose, but I’d be lying if I said altruism was my only motive. I want nice things. I want to see Europe—preferably with a beautiful woman—wearing nice clothes and eating magnificent food.
I want what most people have always wanted for generations: to live happily ever after.
As the sun rose on Sunday morning, I poured a cup of strong coffee and walked out on the porch of my little apartment in the Hudson Valley. I ran a quick inventory of what I have to be grateful for right then—in that moment. My little girls, my health, my sobriety, I thought, and my torrential will to live.
And that’s when the realization shook me: there is a really good chance that in this moment, I am living happily ever after.