HOW IT ALL BEGAN
I was born on January 15th 1974 to an African American father and Caucasian mother. My father was active duty Marines at the time but discharged sometime after my 4th birthday. I don’t have many memories of my adolescent years however; I do know we were homeless during most of it. We lived in a car for a bit, with friends, and even a few churches took us in on occasion. I don’t have too many fond memories of birthdays or holidays. There is one memory that comes to mind; receiving gifts wrapped in newspaper sticks out the most. My father left when I was around five years old and when I say left, I mean went to jail. He and my mother separated shortly thereafter and he didn’t reemerge until I was around 10 years old. One day he magically appeared at school to pick me up. You can imagine my surprise and happiness to see my long lost father for whom I’ve missed all these years. Apparently back then if you said you were a relative, you were given a free pass to scoop up your supposed child.
My father and I went on a camping trip (so I thought). A few days later, the authorities found us and arrested him for kidnapping. I spent the better part of a day in Juvenile Hall awaiting the mother’s arrival. Although I can’t recall many of the details, I do remember a mixture of emotions stemming from watching my father being wrestled to the ground and handcuffed with the realization of being alone in a facility built to incarcerate itself. My mother did arrive later that night and we began the journey up north to a friend’s “safe” house with my brother and me. This was to serve as a pseudo-witness protection location. Eventually we found an apartment and life returned to normal (so I thought). My father found us, my mother let him back in, and the madness ensued. Little did any of us know, he was mentally unstable (the reason for his Marine Corps discharge) which manifested itself with bouts of paranoia and accusations of whispering behind his back. On again, he was arrested and we ran even farther up north to live with my grandparents in a little town on the coast called Fort Bragg.
A NEW BEGINNING
Fort Bragg, CA was different from anywhere that we had lived. It was literally in the woods steeped in Redwoods and a variety of coniferous trees. I had never seen trees this tall and massive. It was like a scene out of the Lord of the Rings (although not released yet). I enrolled in school and for the first time in my life I noticed that I was different from everyone else. I was bi-racial/African American and the only one in town from what I was able to deduce. I quickly assimilated but not without losing a part whom I was. I wore a hat 24/7 because my hair was different and a source of embarrassment. My friends were an eclectic and accepting group of skate boarders a bit older than my schoolmates. Thank god for my grandmother who pushed me to read encyclopedias front to back because they would have been my only family. Most of those guys are either dead, in prison, or drugged out of their minds today.
I too almost followed that path with a stent in Juvenile Hall at the age of 17. I was one of 5 teenagers out on a joy ride in a vehicle belonging to the aunt of on of the occupants. having never driven before, I decided it was my turn to navigate the twists and turns of the back-country road. worst and best decision of my life! we decided to abandoned the vehicle and sworn to secrecy not to divulge who the driver was. that lasted about 24 hours and the knock at my door by the County Sheriff’s Department validated that sentiment. There i was, in lockup like my father probably started. I was sentenced to 45 days with and option for a reduced (30 day) sentence with good behavior. Unfortunately this Juvenile Hall was located closer to the city and plenty of want to be gang members within its walls. I wanted no part of any of the shenanigans and vowed to use this time to reflect on my life.
We attended school daily and I found the literature to be at best, wanting. my grandmother taught me well and planted a seed for knowledge. One day I approached the staff counselor and explained to her that the classroom curriculum didn’t challenge me at all and asked if I could visit the library to broaden my horizons. She agreed and my journey began. in a 30 day period, I read over 40 books on a variety of subjects ranging from Constitutional Law to blood borne pathogenesis. The icing on the cake was the motivational tapes (tape recorder provided due to good behavior) by Tony Robins. At the ripe age of 17, he changed my life, cognitive processes, attitude, and personality. It was that taught me it was in fact possible to change one’s personality and paradigm design. I became a man in that 10×10 room and vowed to myself that I would make something of my life and one day run for elected office.
Tony Robbins would always say, “Write down your goals”. Two days prior to my release I decided to do just that. I spent hours trying to ascertain my own goals without much success. I realized that after everything I went through, all I wanted was to live a happy life one way or another. I figured if I strive to do the best, be the best, and want the best, good things would follow. I could work out the the particulars/goals later. After everything I had studied, a narrative emerged. I need to apply those attributes which lend themselves to success. I can still remember them today:
- Treat everyone fairly (from the janitor to the CEO)
- Read and learn everything (I would read a Spanish newspaper thinking, maybe there’s something to be learned even if I don’t understand the language)
- Maintain a positive attitude no matter what
- Exercise equals energy and energy equals production
- Never grant anyone access to your emotions. You control your thoughts and the minute you allow someone to upset you, you lose and they win (something I’m constantly driving home to my daughters)
- Communication is the key. Being able to convey a though in a way interpretable by all will open doors
- Let no person convince you that they know everything; it’s just not possible and extremely liberating once you adopt that philosophy.
LIFE BEGINS AGAIN
I returned home an adult with an unwavering agenda. My girlfriend (now my wife) and I decided to move in together and remove ourselves from our current circle of friends. I managed to land a job working with my uncle at Plumbing Escondido which didn’t last long because I had a hard time dealing with poop lol. Then I got a job at the local lumber mill (Georgia Pacific) were I began learning about forestry. I started on the green chain manually pulling and stacking 2x4s, 4x4s off the line. Then, laterally transitioning to the band saw operator which took a lot of skill and quickness. From there, the chipper. Here’s where I spent many a night reading science textbooks (this was my passion). I graduated to the chop saw where you sat in a boot and electronically controlled a massive skill saw. My grandmother bought me the “Word Smart” audio vocabulary tapes and I would listen to them over and over during my 12 hour shifts. This satisfied attribute #6 above and equipped me with an arsenal of words that one day would prove providential.