The band called Type O Negative has a song with the lyrics “if you love someone, there will be grief”. I never really paid attention to those words until I got a little bit older. I think the intended message was that loss is going to happen at some point in everyone’s life. And loss is just another stage of existence.
It’s ok for you to feel devastated because thats the first step towards perseverance.
It is like lifting weights. You tear muscle down with iron and with time, the trauma creates something stronger than what was there before.
My dad died when I was 14 years old and I loved that man more than words could ever express. He was without a doubt my best friend. I honestly don’t think any kid could ask for a better father.
He was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer the year before I was born. My parents weren’t planning on having a kid considering all the chemotherapy and drugs he had been taking. Needless to say, I was quite the surprise.
My mother has always told me that my existence gave my father a reason to fight. His mentality was that he was not going to give up and lose this battle because he wanted to make sure he was there for his son. My father doing this for me is the greatest honor that could ever be asked for. I will live my entire life proud that he gave everything he absolutely had for me.
The cancer ended up going into remission for 13 years. When it came back, it was much more aggressive. It was so hard watching such a strong man begin to whither away. A man who lived out all his passions, to be stripped of the ability to enjoy life. The situation kept getting worse. As a young teenager, I was in denial about what was getting ready to happen.
The very last time I got to speak to my father, he was on so much pain medication. None of what he talked about even made sense. I felt so deprived for such a long time that we never got to have that final moment together. For some reason, I thought it would have given me some small amount of closure.
When I got older I realized that even though I didn’t get to have that last conversation, I was gifted. I Had an entire childhood with plenty of conversations and beautiful memories that may otherwise never had taken place. Some of my best memories were with my dad and I wouldn’t trade them for the world. Regardless how things ended up playing out, I consider myself very fortunate. As many children do not have a father at all.
I got to a point where I decided that I was done being unhappy.
The first year of his passing was absolutely brutal. I was a very overweight and lonely kid that hadn’t the slightest clue what to do with himself. Honestly, I don’t really know what happened. But I got to a point where I decided that I was done being unhappy. I was going change everything that was in my control.
My dad started teaching me to play guitar when I was 11 years old. Eventually, I found myself immersing myself more into learning the instrument. As I got better, I felt like there was an almost spiritual connection with my dad when playing. I found one of two obsessions to consume my time.
My other obsession was a result of not wanting to feel like a worthless, shy, fat ass kid anymore.
You can probably assume that I didn’t know anything about how to get fit. The first thing that changed that happened during an October weekend when my mom and I cleaned out the garage. Behind dusty storage boxes and forgotten furniture, I found an old 1970’s Sears weight set along with an adjustable bench. I new that another piece of the puzzle had been unearthed.
I spent 3 cold winter months locked in my bedroom every night. Constantly trying to figure out how to transform myself from a fats to a badass. I wasn’t making much progress as information wasn’t as readily accessible back then as it is now.
My mom had a friend who’s son was a cop and an amateur bodybuilder. He found out thatI was struggling and was nice enough to give me a basic understanding of diet and exercise. After a couple of months I had lost 15 pounds. When he realized how dedicated I was, he gave me a book that would change my life. That book was Arnold Schwarzenegger’s New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. Even though I never really wanted to be a bodybuilder, it taught me how to eat for specific goals. Also, how to properly lift weights to shape my body and how to lose body fat. Within a year I went from 291 pounds to 185 pounds.
Through loss, I learned consistency
I consumed myself with accomplishing this goal by staying busy and tuning out the world. I convinced myself that surpassing the goals I set would be the best way to honor his memory. Determined to succeed, I was not going to let that traumatic experience hold me back anymore.
I woke up at 5:00am everyday and did an hour of cardio. I ate four meals a day and my diet was on point. Everyday after school I would go out to the garage, throw on some heavy metal, and lift for an hour. I practiced guitar for at least an hour every evening and often times ended up just doing it all night. I loved being fit and never wanted to be fat again. However, I knew that if I wasn’t consistent, I could loss it all.
I wanted to become a professional guitarist for a touring band. I knew that if I didn’t constantly learn more and continue to develop new techniques, it would never happen.
Through loss, I learned perseverance
I decided that wasn’t going to allow tragedy to define my existence. I realized there were going to be many things happen during my life that I’d have no control over. The only control that I had was how how I chose to deal with those situations. My conclusion was that life is made of the paths that we choose for ourselves, with many bridges to cross. Those bridges force us to adapt and overcome.
During my junior year of high school, I forming an original band with some older guys in their twenties. They were impressed with the level of my musical abilities for 17 year old. I put in the work and someone noticed. I channeled all of the hard emotions from my father’s passing into the music we created. This was the ultimate release for everything I had been feeling inside for so long. I created guitar melodies that expressed the feelings I struggled with and contributed lyrics that documented my experiences. Through a haunting and traumatic experience, I created something beautiful that instilled an overwhelming sense of pride.
I applied the perseverance from my father’s death again when I severely broke my hand during a car accident. I pushed myself to be able to play guitar again while battling nerve damage. This was just another bridge to cross.
Most importantly, I learned perseverance when the band stayed together another 2 years after our drummer had a seizure. The young man tragically died on stage during one of our shows. Man, that was tough. I viewed every one of those guys I played with as my family. You can imagine that Carl dying brought back the hard memories of losing my father. I was able use my past as a way to alleviate the pain from my struggling friends. We got though it and came out as stronger people who played in honor of our fallen friend.
Laid To Rest played and recorded for 6 tough years. To this day, I am proud of everything we accomplished.
You can let tragedy make you or let it break you.
Life took me on a different path than what I had intended. Even though I am no longer an active musician, I still cherish those formative years with admiration. There where a lot of great times I had, and many lessons learned. I think about my father everyday, but it doesn’t make me sad anymore. I try to give my daughter the kind of dad she will be proud of, like my father gave me. Not many people are able to gain a solid work ethic at an early age. However, I learned things about myself that I’ve carried though my entire life. I’ve acquired success through consistency, perseverance, and work ethic.
Most importantly, I learned to cherish everything in life that much more.
You are not your past
There has been plenty of research on something called false memory syndrome. These studies showed that many of our memories aren’t even accurate, especially in the case of a tragic event. People often let the memory of a bad experience hold them back from being happy. They end up conditioning themselves to look to their past as a way of foreshadowing the future. You have come to the conclusion that even though it was a bad thing that took place, you have choice to perceive your memories how ever you choose to. You can reference memories as tools to continuously push forward in life. Every experience you have is a resource to draw upon.
Your life is going to be filled with many paths to take and bridges to cross. But, it is your life and it’s your choice whether you will be the passenger or the driver.