37 Thoughts I Had About Life This Past Year

 

I turn 37 this week.

To my surprise, I don’t mind getting older. Seriously.

I would much rather be 37 then 27. Sure 10 years ago I was a few pounds lighter and strapped with a few less responsibilities but at 37, I feel like I’m finally starting to really learn some things.

I finally have enough maturity to admit my weaknesses and I’m finally have the courage to ask myself difficult questions. Questions I refused to ask 10 years ago.

(*Please note– I’m 37 and carry a Spiderman lunchbox to work everyday, so please take all of this “maturity” stuff with a grain of salt).

But seriously, I’ve recently come to learn, that I have so much more to learn.

For the past calendar year,  I have explored a variety of subjects on this blog. My weekly writing practice has reinvigorated my love of learning, my desire to explore new ideas and thoughts and questions.

Below you will find a collection of 37 thoughts I had over the last year. Some thoughts materialized into a blog post. Others remain handwritten scribbles in my notebook while others simply linger on my Twitter feed waiting to be retweeted.

Either way, here are 37 thoughts I wouldn’t have had the insight or perspective to have 10 years ago.

1. The easiest way to ruin your life is to allow other people’s opinions of you become your reality. (The Easiest Way to Ruin Your Life)

2. Listening is the best way to honor any relationship. (5 Simple Things My Life has Taught Me)

3. The real key to parenting is knowing when to get the hell out of your child’s way. (The Awkward Dance of Parenting)

4. Soulless work will kill you. The trick is to find work you would happily do in the last hours of your life.

5. If you choose to evaluate yourself justly you’ll find flaws, but you’ll also find all the motivation you’ll ever need.

6. When mothers ask their sons to do something it’s a chore. When fathers ask their sons to do something it’s a challenge.

7. Life is a beautiful mess. If you spend your days trying to make sense of it you will miss an awful lot.

8. When your doubts become truths you’re destined for mediocrity.

9. Life is daring me not to write. That’s why I treat every writing session like a snarling act of defiance. (What I Learned from My Year of Writing)

10. I can only equate that living your ideal life in the privacy of your mind instead of living it out loud is equivalent to hell on earth.

11. Your character is either strengthened or weakened the moment your plan is compromised.

12. One of the most honest moments in a person’s life is when they realize their potential talent just became wasted talent.

13. If you find the courage to entertain uncertainty you will find the courage to change.

14. It’s not where you are but who you are that matters.

15. Hope without action is a meaningless exercise. (What I Learned from My Year of Writing)

16. True happiness only occurs when you have the courage to put others needs above your own.

17. We can say we understand another’s pain but no matter how accurately we articulate, our words fall tragically short of what is swirling in our heart and head– further exposing the flawed nature of the human design. (To Robbinsville, New Jersey)

18. It takes a daily courage to roll up your sleeves and work through the unhappiness of your life. (The Only Way to Happiness)

19. We often forget we’re just animals in fancy clothes and funny hats. When we sense fear, our primal instincts kick in and we run. But as the smartest animal in the schoolyard, we know that avoiding fear will only compound fear. And we also know that those who avoid risks will spend their entire lives just dangling from the monkey bars. ( What I Learned from My Stand-Up Comedy Career)

20. Life becomes a lot less stressful and a lot more fun when you realize that everyone, yourself included, is a walking contradiction.

21.Children are champions of momentary living. I shudder to think of all the adult hours of happiness I’ve forfeited to the pills of anxiety, worry and regret. (Dad, What’s a Championship?)

22. The courage to question is often the only difference between good and great, between success and failure.

23. When I grow up I still want to see the world through childish eyes. (Bowling with God)

24. Because most of my pain (and probably your’s) is caused when we try, with all our human strength, to control the uncontrollable.

25. It takes more courage and less energy to say, “I don’t know” than pretend you do.

26. The moment you start complaining is the moment people stop listening.

27. Maybe you become an adult when you truly understand that your choices have consequences. (So When Do We Become Adults…?)

28. If we condition children to think they are entitled to victory and trophies every time they compete for something they will become uncoachable players, grade-grubbing students and disillusioned adults. (Winning and Losing in our Instant Oatmeal World)

29. Despite what you may think, your private disaster is not your end–it’s your turning point.

30. To avoid the eternal hells of complacency you must be courageous enough, everyday, to stoke the fires of passion.

31. Hang around long enough and you’ll learn that living is tough business. It’s a punch-you-in-the-gut, kick-you-in-the-teeth, steal-your-lunch-money, insult-your-momma, spit-on-your-grave kind of business. Yet there is so much for to be grateful for. (Why I Decided to Start a Gratitude Jar)

32. As parents, our fundamental job is to care for others. And even though it’s necessary and healthy and humbling to put others needs first I’ve learned that devoting time to yourself gives you more energy to devote yourself to others. It’s a beautiful reciprocal.(How I Avoided Parental Burnout the Summer)

33. It’s only when you fully accept your tragic, inevitable death that you begin to understand the purpose of your life. (5 Simple Things My Life Has Taught Me)

34. For some, a diploma is earned, for others it’s a reward for loitering.

35. When we let fear dictate our decisions we fail to make progress. We move in every direction except forward. When we let intuition navigate, when we have the courage to trust ourselves–we are guaranteed to move forward. (Standing at the Intersection of Fear and Intuition)

36. I never knew kindness could be a painkiller. (The Healing Power of Donuts)

37. Sometimes the best cure, for any aliment, is a pint of beer and an old friend eager to listen.

Be well,

Jay

 

WoFo’s Teacher Spotlight is on Kellye Statz

WoFo’s Teacher Spotlight features awesome educators who are dedicated to teaching and inspiring young people everyday.

In this edition, WoFo features English teacher, coach and one of my former students Kellye Statz. I would like to thank Kellye for her interview and for her dedication to the teaching profession.

Students are highly intuitive and if you’re not feeling confident and energized, they’ll feed off that.


Besides being a teacher Kellye Statz is….

an assistant field hockey and girls lacrosse coach, an occasional tutor and curriculum writer, a passionate Harry Potter fan, and a proud, new homeowner.

Where do you currently teach, what do you teach and for how long?

I currently am in my third year of teaching English at Montgomery High School in Skillman, NJ. This year, I teach college prep 11th grade and AP Language and Composition, but I have taught all grades throughout my tenure.

What is your favorite lesson to teach and why?

My favorite lesson to teach is any lesson in which I notice that students are “getting” it and I can tell that they are invested in what they are learning. For example, I just did a lesson with my students about fake news and digital literacy and it was great to see them engage in passionate discussion about matters that directly affect them. One of my other favorite lessons is anytime I get to “discover” a plot twist or surprise ending or a great pun in a story with my students (an example is in the play, The Crucible, when John Proctor forgets that “thou shalt not commit adultery” is one of the ten commandments and his wife needs to help him remember…ahhhh!).

If for one day you where in charge of your school what would you do?

If I was in charge for one day, I would let teachers co-teach with colleagues from other departments to complete large multidisciplinary projects with the students. I would want to spend time speaking with more teachers outside of my department so that we could talk about potential issues or things that we notice with students. I would then schedule a school-wide floor hockey tournament and a mid-day mandatory nap break.

If you could write one quote on the board for your students what would it be?

“Please take responsibility for the energy you bring into this space” or “keep it classy, not sassy”

If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be?

If I wasn’t a teacher, I would be a part-time gardener or an astronaut. I would also become Ted Allen’s co-host on “Chopped” (I have been working on my cloche-lifting skills).

What advice would you give to all new teachers?

I am still a new teacher myself. Some of the things that I need to remind myself is that as arduous and straining teaching can be, it is still one of the most beautiful professions and that I have a passion for it; I have to consistently remind myself that my students are future voters and citizens and engineers and poets and the potential impact I have in their lives is a huge gift.
Additionally, I would tell a new teacher that it is okay to have fear and uncertainty. The doubts you have on day one eventually turn into strengths and get replaced by new doubts and uncertainties, which ultimately molds you into an amazing educator.
Also, some of the best advice I have ever gotten is “you can’t win an argument with a teenager” and it is true (which is why having good rubrics and a positive attitude will take you far). Finally, I would say that new teachers (and also veterans) need to make time for themselves. Students are highly intuitive and if you’re not feeling confident and energized, they’ll feed off that.
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If the best thing about teaching is the students, what’s the second best thing?
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The second-best thing about being a teacher is the relationship that you form with colleagues. They are the ones who listen to you and give you advice. The friendships I have gained in my profession are invaluable. Good colleagues inevitably lead to strong teaching because this is not a career in which you can thrive in solitude. Another great perk is that I get to embrace my inner (and outer) nerd everyday. It is fun when your quirks impact your students in some way; there is no better feeling when a student tells you about a book he or she read…for fun!

Who inspires you?

My students and my family inspire me. They push me and challenge me. The beautiful diversity of my students inspires me and makes me work harder. I love to teach because I learn from my students everyday. The constant support of my family makes the long days even more worthwhile. Also, my former teachers inspire me. My good and bad memories as a student serve as a reminder of why I teach.

My classroom superpower is…

being able to hear and see all things that go on in the classroom (even when I am across the room). The concept of having “eyes in the back of my head” seemed silly to me until I became a teacher, but now I realize that I have a real gift. It is a great feeling when you can tell Student A to stop kicking Student B’s backpack while helping Student C with his thesis statement. I would say that a close second superpower is how amazing my handwriting looks when I write with a black, chisel-tip Expo marker on a clean whiteboard.


Do you know an awesome educator dedicated to inspiring and teaching others? If so, please consider nominating them to be featured on WoFo’s  Teacher Spotlight Series. You can send their contact information to writeonfighton@gmail.com.

The Awkward Dance of Parenting

Maybe the key to good parenting is knowing when to get the hell out of your child’s way.

I bought her flowers.

I complimented the elegance of her dress, the loose curls in her hair.

I made her laugh and held her hand as we posed for pictures.

I escorted her to the car, opened the door and ushered her into the backseat.

We walked hand-in-hand into the gymnasium, through the wake of thumping music to our table. I helped her slip off her coat and hung it on the back of the chair for her.

I was, by all definitions, a gentlemen.

Then she flashed that big jack-o-lantern smile, said, “Thanks dad”, spun toward her waiting friends then skipped away without even saying goodbye.

Damn you, Bob Carlisle

A few weeks ago Haley and I attended her school’s father-daughter dance.

She is 8 now, on the verge of 9. She rarely plays with toys. She talks to her friends on her iPad. She spins cartwheels around the house, she’s a picky eater, thinks her brothers are gross and likes a good pedicure.

My daughter is growing up. And it’s both astounding and downright terrifying.

For majority of the dance I stood with my hands in my pockets talking to the other dads about football and summer vacation plans.

Every so often Haley and her friends would buzz by. She would flash that smile, a wave and be gone.

When the DJ announced we had come to the last song of the night, Haley rushed over and asked, “Dad, would you like to dance with me?”

Of course, the last song was Bob Carlisle’s melter of men–“Butterfly Kisses”.

The 3 1/2 minute song is a musical microcosm of parenthood. It’s message is simple: Parenting is an awkward dance, a painful paradox of holding on while simultaneously letting go.

The Painful Paradox

As a high school teacher, I’ve witnessed the damage that occurs when parents hold onto their child too long.

A too-involved-parent often equates to an entitled, dependent and confused child. (Especially, when I explain I’m there to make them think– not to sharpen their pencils, hand them high marks, entertain their egos or celebrate their existence.)

Understand, I’m not here to throw stones.

Parenting is a terribly hard business managed by terribly flawed people.

But as a parent, I’m learning that holding on to your child for too long, is not only stifling for the child but it’s pure parental selfishness.

I want my children to be independent and self-aware. I want them to embrace self-efficacy and learn the power of perseverance. I want them to learn the kind of guts it takes to say “no”.

For this to happen, I have to let them go adventuring without me. I have to let them face danger. I have to let them endure embarrassment. I have to let them enter the ring, alone, and wrestle with the monsters of moral terror.

Of course, children need watchful parents.

Children need parents who impart structure and love and joy and disciple and chores. But children also need parents who know when to get the hell out of the way.

Meanwhile, back at the dance…

Bob Carlisle, is still singing and I’ve got to believe I’m not the only father feeling the tickle of tears.

I pull Haley a little tighter and we dance until the song fades away and the house lights come on.

I look down and her, she up at me, “I love you, Haley.”

“I love you too daddy.”

“Daddy?”

“Yes?”

“Can I talk to my friends before they leave?”

And before I could answer she dashes off, sprinting into her young life leaving me behind with nothing to do but thrust my hands into my pockets and wait.

Despite showering Haley with flowers and praise and attention I was, like many more nights to come, left behind.

And though I want to call my daughter back, hold her, tell her how much I love, I know right now, the right thing to do is let her go.

Be well,

Jay

WoFo’s Teacher Spotlight is on Jasmine Hawkins

WoFo’s Teacher Spotlight features awesome educators who are dedicated to teaching and inspiring young people everyday.

In this edition, WoFo features English teacher, writer and spoken word artist Jasmine Hawkins. I would like to thank Jasmine for her interview and for her dedication to the teaching profession.

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You have to love your students and be willing to build relationships with them so that you can push them beyond their expectations. Be firm with your expectations; they will thank you later.



Besides being a teacher Jasmine Hawkins is… 

a passionate, inspirational, and ambitious spoken word artist, writer, sports lover, and frequent traveler who loves visiting new places and learning her way around new cities.

 Where do you currently teach, what do you teach and for how long?

I currently teach at Simon Gratz High School (the alma mater of my father and grandfather). I have been teaching high school English (and various related electives) for the past eight years mostly in Philadelphia aside from one year in Pittsburgh where I attended college and graduate school.

What is your favorite lesson to teach and why?

I love when the school year is coming to an end and I get to incorporate topics that are of high interest to my students, usually a music artist who has an empowering message with historical context. The past few years, I’ve taught Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” album which is a spin off the famous novel To Kill a Mockingbird. This year, throughout African American Political Thought Unit, I’ve also been able to teach using songs from Solange and J. Cole. Lessons like this are always fun for me because they are high in engagement as well as critical thinking take-aways about ongoing social issues.

If for one day you were in charge of your school what would you do?

If I were in charge of the school for a day, we would take a school-wide trip. Often times trips are limited to the students who “qualify” with grades and good behavior, but I think everyone (both students and teachers) could benefit from a change of environment. With my current school, I’d take a trip to D.C. with a stop in Baltimore at the Wax Museum which is full of powerful historic images. Once in D.C. we would stop at a few monuments, the White House, and end with the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial which has thought-provoking quotes which students would write about for English class.

For lunch, I’d love for the students to eat at the Eatonville Restaurant inspired by Zora Neal Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, however, if that is still closed, we could eat at Busboys and Poets which is an empowering bookstore and restaurant that also hosts events throughout the week. Before returning home, I’d want the students to see the Newseum in Washington D.C. which highlights major journalistic and historic stories of all kinds over the past century. There, students could see the power of observing and reporting. With a day full of that much history and empowerment, I would hope everyone would return home with an additional ray of hope and inspiration for the future and their own possibilities.

If you could write one quote on the board for your students what would it be?

“Whether you think you can or you can’t you’re right.”

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If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be?

For the longest time, my secret dream job has been to be an ESPN analyst or anchor. Now, I just want to be a travel writer.

What advice would you give to all new teachers?

There are levels of advice I would give. General advice: Real teaching cannot be taught in school. You have to love your students and be willing to build relationships with them so that you can push them beyond their expectations. Be firm with your expectations; they will thank you later. It will be challenging at times, but it’s always worth it.

There’s also classroom management advice, instructional advice, school involvement advice, and work life balance advice. Maybe I’ll write a book for all of this. ☺

If the best thing about teaching is the students, what’s the second best thing?

The success stories. I love when students come back and tell me how “real” the world is or simply say “thank you.” This is especially priceless when you hear it from the ones who challenged you every day. Knowing that your work is paying off is definitely one of the best feelings in the world.

Who inspires you?

My parents. One of the biggest reasons I became a teacher is because my parents worked hard to provide me with opportunities they weren’t always given, and I want to be able to do the same for my students. Plus, my father was a teacher who was and is a strong believer in the power of discipline. Students often have a love-hate relationship with my class during the year, they love that they are learning, but they hate that they can’t get away with much because of all of my “protocols” which push them to be independent. In the end, they usually get it. The older I get, the more I find I am just like my father in many ways.

My classroom superpower is…

This is a hard one. I believe my super power is my ability to empower and inspire. According to my students, I push them to do things, they don’t think they are able to do. By pushing them beyond these limitations, they leave empowered enough to take on life and all of its challenges. Being able to help someone see his or her own ability is definitely a superpower because sometimes I look back and wonder how I was able to do it.

Connect with Jasmine on Instagram @mizzjasz


Do you know an awesome educator dedicated to inspiring and teaching others? If so, please consider nominating them to be featured on WoFo’s  Teacher Spotlight Series. You can send their contact information to writeonfighton@gmail.com.

The Plan (or why I dropped out of grad school and started my own business)

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We enter adulthood with a plan. Maybe it’s hashed out over a cup of coffee or maybe a shot or two of tequila but nonetheless we were once pie-eyed dreamers standing at our threshold, staring out into the future, sketching a map that appeared direct and seamless and promised us the life we thought we desired.

Four years ago I rolled up my sleeves and went to work on my plan.

A plan that made professional and financial sense. A plan that was, in my opinion, neat and uniformed and albeit a bit boring–it was a plan that made sense.

When I shared the plan people smiled, nodded, raised a glass and congratulated me on my initiative.

The praise and support felt good. It was seductive and reassuring. Yet underneath my smile, my thin, freckled topography there brewed fear and uncertainty.

I could feel myself falling into a professional life I didn’t want.

I was allowing money and the silvery thoughts of a mahogany desk and a gold-plated plaque with my name engraved on it guide my compass.

And in my pursuit of such frivolous things, I ignored the pull of passion.

I ignored that internal voice, the one we all have, but the voice we’re quick to dismiss, as I turned toward the thing I despised the most: inauthentc

The plan

In January 2013, I enrolled in grad school to earn a master’s degree in educational administration, a move that would score a principal job, and an office with a bathroom and a secretary to field my phone calls and fetch my coffee.

Now, I should have halted the plan when my two main objectives were:

  1. enroll in the cheapest grad school program possible
  2. complete the course as quick as possible

I should have known when I was willing to invest money but not time, not energy that I was chasing down someone else’s dream. 

I should have known when I wanted the rewards without the work.

I should have known when the voice inside was screaming, “NO!”

The lie

Have you ever told a lie, then convinced yourself it was the truth?

I have.

That’s what grad school was like for me. I told people it was what I wanted when I didn’t.

I was living a lie and it was awful.

Like being wedged in a relationship you no longer believed in. I stayed committed because it was safe. It was never a matter of love or passion. It was a matter of uniformity.

It was the most inauthentic stretch of time in my life.

The moment of truth

I consider myself lucky.

My moment of truth was blunt, like a hammer strike to the forehead.

It came in the form of an MRI. An MRI that revealed a hole in my brain. A rare autoimmune disorder had attacked my brain, killed a bunch of cells and left me with a hole in my brain.

(If you haven’t heard this story check this out)

I often think if my brain remained intact how I probably would have earned my degree, became a principal, and how I probably would have never written this sentence.

Yes, my bank account would be bigger but would I honor and celebrate the fleeting paradigms of time and energy the way I do now?

And yes, I would have my health but what about self-respect? What about passion? What about authenticity?

The new plan (AKA Do You)

I can only equate that living your ideal life in the privacy of your own mind instead of living it out loud is equivalent to hell on earth.

Three years ago I dropped out of grad school. I’m only 3 classes, 9 credits from earning a degree in educational administration.

And I don’t care.

A few weeks ago I signed the paperwork and made Write on Fight on a limited liability company.  A company dedicated to helping people of all ages and levels not only improve their writing skills but to embrace the power of writing. A company committed to helping people tell their stories.

Right now, Write on Fight on LLC. is a just little company with big dreams.

And, admittedly, I’ve got a lot to learn about managing, operating, advertising and sustaining my own business. But I’m on the verge of turning  37 and I’m very, really, super… I’m fucking excited to get started.

A few weeks ago I told someone that I was 9 credits away from earning a masters degree. They were shocked and told me I should go back to school immediately. When I tried to rationalize they pressed. They said how it was a financial and professional mistake not going back. So close, why not finish?

I smiled and let them have their opinions.

Because sometimes that’s all you can do.

Because the facts remain– I woke up this morning with a hole in my brain. I will wake up tomorrow with a hole in my brain. And wasting money and, more importantly, time and energy on something I’m not passionate about will not fill the hole in my brain.

So it’s only fitting, on St. Patrick’s Day, to let Ireland’s greatest writer say what I’ve been feeling since my moment of truth three years ago…

Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.–James Joyce

Be well,

Jay

WoFo’s Teacher Spotlight is on Bryan Fisher

WoFo’s Teacher Spotlight features awesome educators who are dedicated to teaching and inspiring young people everyday.

In this edition, WoFo features history teacher, coach, and New York Jets fan Byran Fisher. I would like to thank Bryan for his interview and for his dedication to the teaching profession.

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Relationships are the foundation of great teaching.


Besides being a teacher Bryan Fisher is…. 

a father, a soccer and lacrosse coach and a New York Jets fan.

Where do you currently teach, what do you teach and for how long?

I currently teach World History and Multicultural Studies at West Windsor Plainsboro High School South. I am in my 16th year in education. I am also the Head Boys Varsity Soccer coach at South and the Head Girls Lacrosse coach at Notre Dame High School.

What is your favorite lesson to teach and why? 

I think my favorite lesson to teach every day is about teamwork. The time when “teammate” is needed is always now. I try and encourage my students and athletes to be teammates every second of the day.

Additionally, my favorite lesson in the classroom involves the beauty of Renaissance Art. There is no better way to start a new school year in September than with Michelangelo’s “David” and Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus.”

If for one day you were in charge of your school what would you do? 

I would make it a point to stop in every classroom and simply smile and say thank you to the entire staff.  There is a real power in a gesture of thanks!

If you could write one quote on the board for your students what would it be? 

“I believe that we are here for each other, not against each other.”

If you weren’t a teacher, what would you be? 

I love talking with people. Maybe a bartender or a politician.

What advice would you give to all new teachers? 

To not be afraid to build relationships with their colleagues, administrators and students. Relationships are the foundation of great teaching.

If the best thing about teaching is the students, what’s the second best thing?

The students!

Who inspires you? 

I’m inspired by my family every day. My Grandmother, Mother, Sister, Brother and Wife are all educators.

My classroom superpower is…

the Power of Inclusion because I try and make everyone feel valued and seen.

Bryan can be found…

@CoachFisherWWP

@CoachFishND

Brian D. Fisher on Facebook


Do you know an awesome educator dedicated to inspiring and teaching others? If so, please consider nominating them to be featured on WoFo’s  Teacher Spotlight Series. You can send their contact information to writeonfighton@gmail.com.


What I Learned from My Year of Writing

This week marks one full year of writing and publishing at least one original blog post a week.

I’m proud to announce that this act of showing up and writing stands as a personal milestone.

See, for years I wanted to be a writer but convinced myself that the time wasn’t right to undertake such an endeavor. So I found often frivolous ways to busy myself, to lie to myself.

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Call it maturity, call it a fear of living an unfulfilled life but for the past year I have shown up and wrote almost everyday.

Now please understand these sessions were not carnivals of creativity where I tore through sentences with wild, Shakepearean abandonment. No. Often these sessions were slow, painful exercises. Equivalent to a literary Tough Mudder or shoe shopping with the wife.

Sometimes it took cups of coffee, bowls of Fruity Pebbles and every ounce of energy to grind out a few terrible, ill-fated sentences that never came close to sniffing the sweet air of a final draft.

However, sometimes with the proper balance of caffeine and high fructose corn syrup cartwheeling through my veins, I found a groove. And in these groovy moments the writing came easy, naturally. And writing was well, fun.

Either way, a year of consistent writing has been a tremendous teacher. A teacher of both powerful writing and life lessons.

Lesson# 1-  “Too busy” is simply too convenient of an excuse.

When I was 18 I told a friend I wanted to be a writer. Then I blinked and I was 33. For 15 years I was always “too busy” to write. For 15 years I was hoping “writing” would just magically happen. It saddens me to think how many ideas, how many stories were ultimately lost and will remain forever unwritten because I was “too busy”. Commitment to writing required me to quell my excuses and take ownership of my life.

Hope without action is a meaningless exercise.

Lesson #2- Even in our desensitized world, people still like to feel things.

The internet is saturated with nonsense (Clearly, any knucklehead can start a blog). And sometimes I like reading nonsense. But over the year my most read posts were To Robbinsville, New Jersey, The Day I Learned I Could No Longer Jump, and Bowling with God.  All three posts were described as a “tough reads”. All three explore death and the fragility of life. Not that I necessarily like the gloom (hell, a bowl of Fruity Pebbles is one of go to writing fuels) but I learned that people want to be moved. They want to be entertained and informed yes, but people want their emotions stirred. I believe people secretly enjoy entertaining the big, scary, unanswerable questions about life and death for awhile.

We can say we understand another’s pain but no matter how accurately we articulate, our words fall tragically short of what is swirling in our heart and head– further exposing the flawed nature of the human design.

Lesson #3- Writing allows me to better understand myself.

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Here I am looking pensive, slightly pretentious as I try to understand myself.

There’s something about turning intangible thoughts into tangible words that deepens your understanding of yourself and the world at large. A few months ago I wrote a piece called, “In Good Company” and explained how, when I write, I imagine that I’m sitting down with an old friend in a local bar and how the magical mix of alcohol, dim lighting and a familiar songs rolling out the jukebox coax me to let my guard down, strip away layers of pretentiousness, question my core and gain a deeper perspective of myself.

It takes more courage and less energy to say “I don’t know” than pretend you do.

Lesson #4- Writing can be done anywhere, under any condition.

As I’m writing this sentence my two sons are speeding around the kitchen table dribbling basketballs. For years I thought I needed optimal conditions to write. A big mahogany desk sitting quietly in a quiet room. Turns out this “perfect condition” was just another excuse. I’ve learned that the conditions for writing (or for anything else) will never be optimal, there will always be chaos and distractions and waiting for the “perfect” time to start anything is our way of procrastinating everything. Part of the challenge and excitement now is finding the focus to work through those imperfect conditions.

It’s as if life is daring me to write. That’s why I treat every writing session like a snarling act of defiance.

Lesson #5-Do you.

For years I was concerned about what “they” will say about me and my writing. This is destructive thinking. It’s guarded and soul-sucking and cowardly. This year of writing has taught me that to write authentically I have be willing to expose and expound upon my fears and insecurities. I have to invest in myself. I have to be me.

The easiest way to ruin your life is to allow other people’s opinions of you become your reality.

I’m truly humbled and honored by all the support I’ve received over this year. I simply hope that my writing, my story has improved your day, your life in some way.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening.

Be well,

Jay