When I logged in to Facebook this morning, one of the first posts I saw was the following, posted by a fellow author, who also happens to be the muse for one of my favorite characters. His name is Dr. Ivan Rusilko, and he's one of the authors of The Winemaker's Dinner novels. He's a truly inspirational person, but this morning's post was particular moving. This is his post:
Why I Am ... Where I Am!
Three years ago I was dragged from a burning truck that had been wrapped around one of the many palm trees that line the causeway leading from Miami to Miami Beach. At the time I was in, what I thought was, the best part of my young 26 year old life. Established international fitness model, second year as Mr USA and all the "craziness" that accompanied the title, beautiful Latin girlfriend, and the transition from a lowly medical student into full fledged physician... all while beginning a brand new life in an exotic unknown city that was far far from the backwood, beer chugging, cow milking, camp fire indulging lifestyle of Northwestern Pennsylvania. Little did I know at the time that titles and image and partying are privileges the universe affords to those on a trial bases which can be greedily repossessed in a tormented instant regardless of race, religion, personality, good looks, popularity, or amount of Facebook friends and Twitter followers.
The morning after nearly losing my life I stood staring, bathed in nothing but the suns early morning rays, at a battered face decorated with discolored bruises, tightly drawn stitches, and freshly burnt skin. As I studied in awe the rapidly negative transformation my appearance had undergone in less than 24 hours, the even more rapid melancholy realization, which ripped through my mind faster than the airbag had exploded across my face hours before, came to light.
Life is sturdy, life is fickle, life is educating, life is stupid, life is beautiful, life is ugly, life is trusting, life is two faced, life is amazing, life is cruel, life is reliable, life is unreliable, life is ordinary, life is mysterious, life is benign, life is malignant...
But when it is all said and done ... Life is Nothing but a Game... A game that only a few unfortunately get to truly play... This game isn't played on sand, or clay, or turf, or ice... Its outcome doesn't depend on how tall, fast, strong or focused you are... It boils down to simply how you play it... Those without the fear of regret are the ones that can make the smartest most calculated random stupid decisions resulting in game changing plays that dictate a truly well lived existence... A successful life... When you overthink and try to decipher the secrets of this games playbook to plan ahead -> you've already lost because there is no special formula, no magic bullet.
With the type of medicine I practice I could have easily fixed the three lingering scares that still stretch across my face from the accident but I chose to wear them as flesh colored tattooed reminders of my answer to every decision I have been faced with from the day inspiration stared back at me through swollen eyes...
~ Buy the Ticket... Take the Ride... And Play the Game... Because Waking Up Every Morning is FUCKING AMAZING So Don't Waste It!
If your life was a movie would people watch it? More importantly would you?
A picture accompanied Ivan's post, and it showed the truck, his bruised face, and how he looks today, scars and all.
After reading his post, I broke down in tears. Not because I was saddened by his ordeal, but because I was both moved by his words as well as by the reminder of what got me where I am today.
My story is that all my life, I lived in fear. I was afraid to take chances, to be myself, to say no when I wanted to say no and yes when I wanted to say yes. I was afraid of what people thought of me. I was afraid if people knew the real me, they wouldn't like me. I was afraid of disappointing my friends for fear they would abandon me. I was afraid of hurting my father by following my own path instead of the one he wanted me to follow. I feared failure in every facet of my life, and that fear crippled me.
My parents divorced when I was in second grade, and my dad gave up so much to stay close by to be the father he knew we needed while my mom indulged her inner child and pretty much left my brother and me to fend for ourselves. I had no childhood because of this. At a young age, I became the mental adult in the household, since my mom got custody. I learned by third grade not to expect much, because my mom had very little to give after she satisfied her own desires. While my friends' parents drove them back and forth to school events, mine made me find rides or I couldn't go, because she didn't have time to take me. So, from a young age, I experienced abandonment, and this scared me, whether I want to admit it or not. I started trying to be everything to everybody else, but left myself behind in the process.
Every other weekend, I got to see my dad...until my mom decided she preferred to spend her weekends with her boyfriend, and then my dad took my brother and me every weekend. He loved having us, but he suffered from the divorce, too. And I was daddy's little girl, so he took a particular interest in raising me not to be a "silly girl" or "like my mother." I wanted to please my dad, so I did everything he wanted. As an adult, I can look back now and see how a part of me did this so he wouldn't leave me. I wanted to make my dad happy, because he deserved happiness. He, my brother, and I had all been hurt so much by what Mom did to us all, and I took all the responsibility on my shoulders to make everyone happy again.
I learned to fear upsetting the status quo. I became afraid of showing myself, because deep down I feared I wasn't good enough...that I wasn't worthy of love. As I got older, this fear manifested everywhere. I had taken on my dad's dreams for me and had lost sight of what I wanted. My dad wanted me to be a scientist, like him. So I took all the heavy duty academic classes. But now I look back and see that from birth, I was meant to be a writer. I was always writing. Always reading. I was a prodigy with the written word, writing intensely mature poetry before I was even out of grade school. The following is a poem I wrote around first grade:
Together we can conquer the unconquerable
Tall buildings, mountains, and skyscrapers will fall to our mercy
But why destroy such beauty?
As long as we have each other, that is all that matters.
I mean, really? A seven-year-old wrote that? Me? This was the kind of writing I did when I was in my single digits age-wise. But what did I do? I made myself miserable following a dream my dad wanted me to follow. I surged into my higher education loaded with science and math when what I really wanted was to take more art, music, and English. But fear stayed my hand and I let me dad dictate my life all through school, only to drop the dream when I failed Calculus my senior year.
For the next twenty years, I drifted from one unsatisfying job to another, afraid to take a chance on my writing until one of my employers fired me for being "different."
To be honest, my chronic fear is what made me "different." Deep down, I wanted to throw up barriers to prevent anyone from getting too close to me and to prevent me from getting too close to them, because all my life, those I got close to ultimately left in one way or another. If I didn't get too close, I wouldn't be hurt when they left, so these barriers were "good," right? No. They were fear manifesting to keep me safe.
And I suffered for years because of this.
I firmly believe that when we're not following the path we were meant to follow, life will force us in directions so that we can find that path. By the time I was fired from that job (unjustifiably, I might add), I had been laid off from previous jobs twice and left three other jobs because I saw the layoff coming and got out before I was unemployed. My woes in my work life were just one way that the universe had been trying to tell me that I wasn't doing what I was meant to do. But thank God I was "different," because if I hadn't been, I might still be working for that company now and still wouldn't be published. As it stands, being different eventually led me to my dream of becoming a published author.
I've begun to address my fear issues, and even though the past few years have held some struggle, I'm finally on the right track to take my life back. But I'm all about silver linings. And the silver lining from my lifetime of fear is that it has made my writing better. Readers seem to love the angst, emotion, and passion in my books, and I know it's my own experiences that created those elements.
I see a therapist who's helping me address my inner demons and painful past, and she says that every book reveals something about the author. As such, each one of my books reveals a piece of me.
That's why my characters endure such pain, because I have. Through my experiences, I've become the black sheep of my family and almost every social circle I've been in, and many of my characters find themselves in similar situations. In Rise of the Fallen, Micah and I shared a journey together. I wrote Rise after I was fired. I was severely depressed and struggling to find my place in the world. Micah went through the same struggles in his book. In Heart of the Warrior, Severin feared showing his true self to those around him, as did Arion, because they both feared what others would think of them if they did. Sound familiar? In Rebel Obsession, Miriam had to overcome an overbearing father to find her own happiness, and Io wrestled with letting go of old beliefs to embrace new ones. Yep...that's me. In Return of the Assassin, both Malek and Gina wrestle with letting go of the past so they can progress into the future, which is what I'm going through now.
Each of my characters represents a part of me. Each story I write symbolizes a piece of my heart or soul. And readers seem to love it. My characters' lives aren't easy, but I'm living testimony that anything worth achieving is never easy. So while my books aren't an autobiography of my life, they do represent it, and readers seem to find resonance within the pages, based on the passionate comments I receive from them.
They say to write what you know. I know pain. I know suffering. I know what it means to be different. I also know what it means to rise above the negativity and find wholeness. So that's what I write.
This is why I'm here.
No more fear. I need to LIVE life, not just merely exist within it. And living means getting out of my own way and kicking fear to the curb so I can be truly inspired and inspiring...without regret. Thank you for reminding me of this, Dr. Ivan. :)