The Top Six Punk Rock Songs Still Relevant Today

The Top Six Punk Rock Songs Still Relevant Today

Punk Rock

 

Where would the world be without the rise, silence, and re-rise, and re-silence of punk rock? I don’t know but I can guarantee it wouldn’t be nearly as effin cool as it is now. Punk  has had a deep place in my heart since my more tumultuous high school years, and beyond. When my mental illness was kicking my ass? Punk rock helped me through. When I was cleaning up my act and figuring out what to do next with my life? Punk was there for me. When I was diagnosed with cancer, and afterwards getting my life back, punk rock lifted me up.

Punk is one of those genres that never really goes away. It’s always there, whether at the forefront of music or not. And a lot of great bands today would not be around if it weren’t for the earlier punk pioneers like Minor Threat, The Buzzcocks, Dead Kennedys, and more. The world owes a lot to punk rock. A major part of punk is rooted in addressing problems with society, politics, class warfare, and the state of the world in general. There are few situations related to those subjects that you can’t find a punk rock song for.

Looking at the state of the world we live in now, it’s not hard to see that punk rock still has a place. And a lot of songs from the past still ring true today. For my next list post, today I am bringing you the top six punk rock songs that are still relevant today.

Franco Un-american – NOFX

A classic from NOFX from 2003 that gives us a great description of the way people tend to have a sudo care for different things in the world. And how the problems of the world are nothing more than disturbances that we don’t care about. My favorite line from this song:

I want to move north and be a Canadian. Or hang down low with the nice Australians. I don’t want to be another “I-don’t-care”-ican. What are we gonna do Franco, Franco Un-American.

911 for Peace – Anti-Flag

Anti-Flag has way too many songs for me to be able to list on this post. I could write 10,000 words on them. 911 for peace came to us in 2002 as a response to the 9/11 attacks the prior September. But the lyrics are raw and powerful. Lines like “We are all human. It’s time to prove it.” It was a message to the world that enough is enough. Things have to change. Unfortunately, 15 years later, I’m afraid things are much worse. My favorite lyrics from this song:

This is a plea for peace (world peace). To the oppressors of the world and to the leaders of nations, corporate profit takers,
to the everyday citizen. Greed, envy, fear, hate– the competition has to stop. When you see someone down, now’s the time to pick them up. Set our differences aside and never look back, no

You are the Government – Bad Religion

In true punk rock style, Bad Religion delivers this great anthem in only a minute and a half. “You are the Government” was released in 1988, in the earlier days of the band’s success. Though this particular tune is not a direct anti-establishment song as one would think. This brief yet powerful song more deals with the concept that the people wield the power and with that power and voice, the government will not be able to ignore their cries. Best line in this quick ballad:

And as the people bend the moral fabric dies. Then the country can’t pretend to ignore its people’s cries.

 

Rise Above – Black Flag

Henry balls to the wall Rollins. Pioneer of punk and hardcore… General badass as well. Him along with his friends of Black Flag are some of the most notable voices in early punk rock. They had a number of power hits that put their names on the tongue of everyone with a mohawk in the 90’s. Rise Above is perhaps one of the most popular of their hard hitting ballads. In typical blaring fashion, Black Flag delivers line after line in this memorable song. The top line from this power anthem:

Laugh at us behind our backs. I find satisfaction in what they lack. We are tired of your abuse. Try to stop us. It’s no use.

If the Kids are United – Sham 69

Let’s go way back to 1987 with Sham 69. Th originators of one of the greatest (in my opinion) punk anthems of all time. This song would go on to be covered by punk greats like Rancid, where it appeared on the “Give Em The Boot” compilation in 1999. But this, this is the original, and a great throwback to the roots of punk rock. True back in the 80’s and true now:

They can lie to my face, but not to my heart. If we all stand together it will just be the start.

 

God Save The USA – Pennywise

This song of course contains a strong language warning. For those who love the outrageous use of the F bomb, this song is for you. Pennywise is another staple of the punk rock community, widely known for fast paced melodic punk, and great punk covers of old songs. But this is an upright obituary for the United States written back in 2003 during the Bush presidency, and now we can see this same need for rage and sadness for our country. Last verse says it all:

Government hypocrisy – American Idolatry – Corporate philosophy. Nightly news of tragedies – Where no one cares what’s right or wrong Our heroes now are all long gone – The freedoms that we all abuse. The obituaries front page news.

And there you have it. My pick for the top 6 punk rock songs still relevant today. What would you add to this list? Is there one that shouldn’t be one here? Spill your piece in the comments below.

I am Not Your Hero

I am Not Your Hero

Hero

I wrote the first version of this post a long time ago. Prompted by my then neighbor remarking something along the line of “You’re a ***damn hero to me. You’ve beat something that should have killed you.” It was something along those lines. Anyway, he meant it. I know this because this is a guy that doesn’t mince words. When he says something, he means it with heart. And I went to bed that night, a little drunk, but a lot in thought.

Hero. What does that mean? What makes one a hero? The dictionary defines a hero as such:

A person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.

I’ve been called a lot of things in my lifetime. The majority of these things was nothing good, so I won’t go into the trouble of listing it out here. Just use your imagination. But until that conversation, I had never been called a hero, and I didn’t know how it was supposed to make me feel. On the one hand, it did inflate my ego for a bit. It felt good. On the other hand, it wasn’t really a label that I wanted.

There are some people who shun the label, and those that seek it. They do things that are heroic in nature, and decline the praise, or they intentionally do things to seem like they are worthy of that praise. Me? I don’t do either of those. I say thank you to the good-natured comments I receive, and I never intentionally seek those comments. The more I thought about it, the more I started to stew.

I do not want to be…

I am not, your hero.

People like to talk about how strong you are when you beat cancer. That you are a winner of battles. And I’ve never felt okay with that. As though somehow, those who lost their lives to this bastard beast were somehow weaker, and not winners. When I’ve found that most of the time, those people were a hell of a lot stronger than I can ever dream of being. Those people won life by fighting till the end, by inspiring others with their last breath. By always thinking about others before themselves.

Scott's Card
This is a card I received from a dear online friend named Scott. Sent to me during his battle with glioblastoma that would claim his life a few months later.

Scott was the very definition of a warrior. Going through this hellish Crossfit WOD after leaving the hospital receiving radiation treatment. I mean, a true badass. Am I to believe that somehow I am a winner and he is not? I can’t even make it through 10 pushups now without my lungs reminding me that I’m really that weak. Let alone a whole WOD. After Scott’s passing I did a set number of burpees as it was a part of the Serene WOD in his honor. No words can describe the pain I felt. I was sad, mourning, hurting physically, and there was no way I could give up. That is how Scott still wins. By still reminding me what real courage and heart looks like.

Scott, to me, is the definition of a hero.

But me? I am no hero. I have no noble qualities. I’ve been a liar, and a cheat in my life. I have failed others just as much as I’ve failed myself. I have gotten lucky a few times in the fact that I am still here. I’m not the greatest of husbands, or greatest of fathers. Not the greatest son, or brother, or friend, or coworker. I know this. I try, but I know deep down I could be much better.

No, I am no hero. I am but a simple dude. I wake in the morning grumpy like everyone else. I go to bed grumpy like most. I have fun when I can, and I get bored very easily. Sometimes I stay up late playing Mario with my son, some nights I just tell him I’m tired in crawl in bed at 8:30. No, I am no hero.

Save your heroes for those who truly deserve it. Like my great-grandfather. Started working in the mills to support his family at an elementary school age. And did well raising his family, watching them raise their own, and fighting his own battle. Loving his wife who had forgotten who he was, and making sure she still felt his love. Save heroes for men like Scott, who was selfless in every sense of the word and gave so much to this world that we could never give back.

Save your heroes for the people who lay down their lives for others without even being asked to do so. Save your heroes for those who expand our ability to treat disease with their efforts. Save your heroes for those working 48 hours to provide life saving care to people they will never know past a last name and a patient chart.

I….

I am not your hero. I am merely me. And a hero? Well, a hero is so much more than I will ever even dream to be.

 

 

A Eulogy for the Drive In Theater

A Eulogy for the Drive In Theater

Drive In Theater
Moonlite Theater Drive In Abingdon, VA

We hardly knew ya, oh humble drive in theater. Those of my generation and the ones to comes will only hear the tales of your greatness. Sitting around photo albums of Polaroids from the 70’s, we will hear of your magnificence. The old timers well talk about romance, and silver screen dreams of the stars of the past. We will listen closely while each part of the experience is talked out in detail.

This would be how I would start a eulogy for the fading drive in movie theater. That is, if I cared that it was a dying relic of the past. But the truth is, I don’t. The drive in theater has been irrelevant for decades now, and will only continue to be so. I understand that they are making a bit of a comeback right now. I get that. But only for the same reason that Polaroids, fancy mustaches, and big wheel bicycles are coming back: hipster culture.

Let’s be honest, anything old that is popular right now is just part of a fad where everyone thinks the relics from our past are suddenly awesome again. Truth is, most of these things are not awesome. And that includes the drive in theater. Besides the ridiculous amount of money it takes to have a relevant drive in, nostalgia is not enough to keep the industry afloat. If I wanted to pay that much for a movie, I would do so for a movie inside with air conditioning and protection from any sudden weather.

Cost and Cars Killing the Drive In Theater

There are a number of reasons for the demise of the drive in theater. First is the rising cost of maintaining and upgrading the automotive movie havens. New projectors to keep up with the standards of filming can costs tens of thousands of dollars. Maintaining the display surface at the drive in can also come at a hefty cost. Then there is concession equipment costs, keeping the lots paved (unless you like parking on mud puddles).

Then there’s the sound system. Most modern drive in theaters now use FM transmission for the movie sound. Which is cool because you can have your windows rolled up and still hear it. But it requires battery power. That leaves you with a choice: Run the battery down or run your gas down keeping the alternator working. Leaving the motor running in idle for 2.5 hours is not a good idea. I could go on and on, but you see where I’m going.

Mother Nature Doesn’t Care About Your Movie

This is another thing about drive in theaters. Mother nature doesn’t give a damn if you had made these plans 2 weeks ago. If she feels like pissing on your parade, she’s going to. Don’t anger a mother. It’s not a pretty site. No, mother nature has zero fucks to give about our plans. That’s why the drive in theater is a nightmare to plan. “Hey, we’re going to show a double feature”. Then the actual night of the showing it’s pouring rain and hail stones the size of the peanut M&M’s you just paid six dollars for.

Sure, I would rather be at a drive in if the power went out, but then again, I wouldn’t be near a drive in if I thought that was even a chance to begin with. I don’t even like getting my mail when it’s raining, let alone go to a movie theater that requires me to have to possibly get soaked, or have the chance of my car blowing up.

Filth and Fornication

The last reason for why drive in theaters should not be around anymore. As generations get raunchier, it naturally goes that they will be raunchier in different places. Coupled with drug use, dirty diapers thrown on the ground, and god knows what else, it’s unsanitary to say the least. Seriously, the only squishing I want to hear under my feet at the movies is a piece of gum spit out on the ground. Not a used condom.

Drive In Theater

What is Better than the Drive In

A regular movie theater. Duh. What I like about a regular movie theater is being in a crowd of people who, when a big blockbuster is first released, experience the wonder together. Everyone jumps at the same times, sees and hears things at the same time. We collectively experience the same movie. That and, oh yeah, no mud to drive in, busted up speakers, running the car, possible getting soaked by rain. No birds crapping through the windows as they look for dropped popcorn.

Even watching movies at home is better. Hulu, Netflix, Putlocker (I’m not judging anyone). An environment that you can control, with snacks that you want, and if you are lucky, nobody else has their little brats there to shout over the best lines. Enjoy your movie your way. That’s something you can’t beat.

Now imagine the future. Virtual reality is sure to have a role in movies eventually. Imagine a first person movie where you are literally in the action. Hear something to your right? Look right and see what it was. Think the monster is behind you? Turn around and find out. Want to talk about messing your pants when watching a movie? Because that’s how it happens.

Let’s take the VR concept one step further. What if, and this is a big what if, you could choose the movie based on the character you wanted to be? Imagine having your friends over, strapping on the VR and everyone is a different character of the movie. How sweet would that be? It would definitely give a whole new set of experiences to talk about after the movie.

So, to finish, farewell to the drive in theater. A remnant of a past when things were different and experiences were new. We here in 2017 enjoy the experiences we have now and the ones that have yet to come. May your broken down signs and degrading screen surfaces be a reminder to us all that nothing is forever. And that better things will always come. Catch ya on the flip side… That is, if I feel like looking for you.

Johnny T’s Guide to Resourceful Home Improvement

Johnny T’s Guide to Resourceful Home Improvement

Home Improvement

Home improvement projects are a staple of spring and early summer. The last few weeks I could be found out in my yard. Turning over flower beds and replanting them, framing up the new driveway with gravel, and painting the porch columns. I’ve never been really good at home improvement or gardening projects in the past. Mainly because I’ve never had a place that I could do this kind of work at. But after living here for a year, I decided to get to work this spring.

Home improvement can cost an arm and a leg sometimes, and for us, paying someone else to do it is out of the question. Nor can I afford the high end supplies that would make my home worthy of Better Homes and Gardens. But that doesn’t mean I don’t try. And over the last few weeks I’ve learned a lot of little tips for sprucing up the home, that won’t run your wallet to death.

Pictures used from here on down are tall taken by me of the home improvement projects I’ve been doing the last couple of weeks. I’m not a master at this, I’m not a gardener, painter, or landscaper. But these are just to illustrate how resourceful home improvement can make any yard look better.

Gardens and Flower Boxes

An easy way to spruce up the home in spring is the addition of flower gardens and flower boxes. If you have rich soil in your area, then most plants you buy will do very well. Same thing if using the same soil in a flower box. And creating a good looking flower bed and box does not require spending a fortune. I maybe have $100 total in everything I’ve done with my yard so far this year, and only half of that is in gardening.

The goal here isn’t looking for Better Homes and Gardens quality, rather, go by individual taste and how it can make the area around the house look better. As you can see in the photos below, I went with sprucing up the area around the tall bush out front, a small area on the front of the porch, and the two side areas of the porch. The wood used to create the borders around the beds was recycled from something else lying around the house. Any wood will work as long as it is treated. Flea markets are a great place to shop for wood that can be re-purposed.

For flowers, sometimes less is more when it comes to cost. You can look here for a guide on what can grow best in your area. We literally just went to Wal-Mart and got all of our flowers. Lowes will sometimes have a great sale on plants that just need some TLC. You can get a whole cart of plants and flowers for next to nothing. To top it all off after planting, a good layer of mulch can provide an even layer of visual goodness. I get bags of mulch of different colors from Wal-Mart for about $2.50 a bag.

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Now that the flowers have been growing for some time, the gardens have filled in nicely with color, and we’ve even add more since then that came from family members and friends.

Cleaning Siding, Stone, and Brick

Did you know vinegar is best used as a household cleaner instead of a cooking ingredient? Seriously, I never use vinegar for cooking. Every bottle of white vinegar I buy is for cleaning purposes. Maybe I should write about the many uses of vinegar. I digress. Anyway, we’re talking about cleaning vinyl siding, stone and brick. While this won’t give you the quality you could get out of a good professional power washing, it will clean things up noticeably.

Home Improvement Siding Cleaner
Before Cleaner
Home Improvement Siding Cleaner
After Cleaner

The mix that I use is 1/2 warm water and 1/2 vinegar. Sometimes I’ll put a small splash of dish soap in with it. Spray a liberal coating on siding, stone or brick, and let sit for a little bit. For extra tough spots, a little scrubbing with a bristle brush may be required. Then, simply rinse with water. Repeat as necessary. You’ll be surprised at how well vinegar will break up stains, mold, mildew, and other deposits.

 

 

New Paint Means New Life

Our front porch columns are a mess. They have cracks running up them and until recently, most of the paint was missing from them. What used to be beautiful white had become weather worn wood color. Of course, we are in no position to be able to replace a porch, or even just the columns. Column wraps are available but that requires precise measurements and cutting. That’s something else I’m not so good at. What did we use instead? Some patching putty, gallon of paint, brush, and small roller.

The same could apply for just about any kind of outdoor wood fixture that needs a touch up. Filling in cracks in the wood with a good sealer putty, and giving it a couple of coats of fresh color. Our columns don’t look perfect, but they do look much better than they did, and it makes a noticeable improvement to the front view of the house. Mail box posts, window shutters, painted wood furniture, all of these can be improved with minimal effort, time and money.

 

Framing Sidewalks and Driveways

Edging is pain in the ass. Admit it. Trying to perfectly trim up weeds and grass down sidewalks, pathways, and driveways can drive even the most seasoned yard veteran crazy. So why not make sure you don’t have to do that? Sounds like a plan right? Not only can you cut down on yard work time, but adding a nice border around sidewalks and driveways can bring an inviting look to your dwelling grounds.

Plastic flower bed edging is cheap and when installed correctly, it can create a variety of shapes and borders for your sidewalks and driveways. Filling in the area between the edging and the pathway with gravels, or mulch and small bushes can turn any plain area of concrete into a lovely area of yard to look at.

Home Improvement Driveway Border

Cleaning and Staining Outdoor Wood Furniture

Everyone knows that there’s only so much cleaning you can do to outdoor wood furniture before you rub the finish off and it starts to fade. Sun is very good at fading the color of wooden furniture too. Luckily, there are plenty of household goods that can be used to bring out the best in your wooden furniture again, and it can be resealed for longer lasting visual pleasure.

The same vinegar and water mix used above for siding and stone can be used to clean up wood furniture. Wood is especially good at trapping mildew and mold in its porous surface, and scrubbing is often required to get the wood clean. Black tea bags and instant coffee can be used well to bring a little color back to your outdoor wood furniture. Keep in mind, these won’t be as dark and rich as something you can buy at Sherwin Williams, but we’re looking for resourceful and low cost. Using the methods 2 or three times after a good cleaning can bring a natural looking stain finish to wood furniture, then for around $2.99 a can of all weather clear coat can seal in that finish to last longer than the original.

And there you have it. Johnny T’s guide to resourceful home improvement. Do you have any DIY home improvement projects that you’re doing? Any other tips on how to do things with a low budget? Drop your projects and tips down in the comments below!

Five Tips for Being a Dance Dad of a Competitive Dancer

Five Tips for Being a Dance Dad of a Competitive Dancer

Dance

The smell of hairspray fills the hotel room as I sit here planning what to do between dances. Little Dude is already griping about having to go, and it’s going to be a long day. Solos at 7:30am but the group dances aren’t until 3pm. That’s a long time to hear “Tutus and Tennis Shoes” more than 3 times. We grab the big black box that contains all of the outfits and accessories and makeup for the day, load up the car, and hit the road. Dance competition days can be the longest days of your life.

I am a dance dad. Little Girl has been in dance for going on 4 years now (shout out to Studio 413). She started out taking normal classes and doing your typical recitals. It then progressed into competitive dance, hip hop, lyrical, and starting this past season, a solo performance. She has to get it from my wife who can move to the music. She sure doesn’t get it from me. I can play guitar, drums, piano, almost any instrument you put in front of me. But I cannot dance. Just ask my junior prom date.

This is one excited girl right here.

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LG loves it though. It’s her thing, her passion, so three weekends each spring we hit the road for various dance competitions. Charlotte, Roanoke, Knoxville. We head all over the three states to spend 10+ hours, hoping to watch the dancers from Little Girl’s studio take home the top honors. Over the last few years I’ve learned a lot of little tricks to being a dance dad. So today, I share with you my top five tips for being a dance dad. Let’s get started!

Dance Dad Tip #1: The High Ponytail

I’m bald. I have been for quite some time. So hair isn’t exactly my thing. I can sculpt a beard, but I don’t know anything about having long hair. The high ponytail is a standard hair look for dance practices and recital rehearsals. If you learn any hairstyle for your dancing queen, it should be this. Trust me on this one. It will be known if you do it incorrectly. I’ve never had another dance parent point it out, but my daughter is happy to do so very quickly when I do it wrong. Check the video below for a quick how-to.

 

Dance Dad Tip #2: Snack Packs

A dance competition is a terrible place to get hungry. The ones we have been to allow food in the auditoriums, which is good. But if you don’t bring your own, be prepared to shell out some serious cash to keep your hunger down. I once spent $15 on a nacho and cheese, plain hotdog, and bottle of water. You’re already spending enough just to go to competitions, so don’t let them hit you with the snack bar too. Save the money for photos and videos.

We take an insulated lunch box to every competition. We keep sweet snacks, cracker packs, fruits, nuts, and bottled water. Most of the time, they won’t have a problem with you bringing it in. And if they do, you just say it’s for the dancer and there are no more questions asked. So save that dough for something else. Pack some snacks. If nothing else, it keeps you from losing the perfect viewing seat because you just had to have a pretzel.

 

Dance Dad Tip #3: Learn Your Makeup Colors

Makeup Pallet

The image above is intimidating if you don’t know your makeup. Even though I spent my years as a poser goth and emo kid, I don’t know much outside of the color black. Like, rose and red are two different colors. Salmon and pink are two different colors. At our dance studio (shout out to Studio 413) there are often specific brands and colors that are to be used for dance competitions. Make no mistake. Brands really can have different shades of the exact same color name. Red from L’Oréal may be a slightly different shade than red from NYX.

If it is at all possible, get exactly what is requested by dance instructors. If you can’t find it at your local Ulta, you can almost always find it online and have it arrive before competition time. Also, YouTube can be your best friend when it comes to the best ways to apply different types of makeup. Get to know the different brushes, and always remember that if you don’t know what foundation to use, Cosmo has you covered.

 

Dance Dad Tip #4: Learn the Routines

Remember up top when I said that I can’t dance? Well, that’s still true, but I always try to learn parts of Little Girl’s routines. As the one that is home the most, it’s up to me to make sure she practices and help her remember when she forgets moves. Three dances for one competition create a lot of steps to have to learn. So I try to learn parts of it too. And LG loves it.

She will often create dances for me and her and tune it to some ridiculous pop song. Like I said, she loves to dance. It’s her thing. So when we are goofing off while she practices her dances, I have her teach me the steps. It helps her to remember and helps me to know what she is doing. So don’t be afraid to dance. Learn the steps, do the routines, and then YOU can be the parent in the audience that does the routine in your chair while your child is on stage. Hey, at least it helps to pass the time.

 

Dance Dad Tip #5: Remember the Good Old Days

Very proud of my baby girl today.

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The days are long and tiring. The music can be repetitive, and it’s easy to become annoyed on such long days. The kids who are dancing and the siblings that come to support know this as well. But the most important thing to remember is that these days don’t last forever. And I’m not just talking about the time in between leaving the hotel and getting back to sleep. Kids grow up so fast it’s insane. Little League turns into varsity. Dance turns into cheerleading, color guard, career.

These are days that make memories of a lifetime. Years from now you won’t remember how long you spent at that competition, but your dancer will remember you being there. You’re not going to remember how much you paid for food, but your dancer will remember how many times she heard you say “I’m proud of you.” Never will you think about the miles you put on your car, but often she will think of the trophies, and the friends, and the music.

And there you have it. Based on experience, my top five tips for being a dance dad to a competitive dancer. What do you think? Are you a dance dad? What tips would you give? Leave your comments below!

To the Graduating Class of 2017 or What I Know about Survival

To the Graduating Class of 2017 or What I Know about Survival

 

This year, you are graduating. Be it from high school, community college, four-year university, law school… You have reached some kind of pinnacle of your academic career and you are soon going to be celebrating this achievement. As someone who has recently celebrated this same milestone, I congratulate you. It is not an easy task to whisk through two, four, or even more years of life under the watchful eye of your GPA and exam scores.

One of the most common things I hear from graduates is the phrase “I survived.” Sometimes it’s “We survived the hardest part of our lives.” This focus seems to be on the word survival and comparing the educational pathway to other life events seems to suggest that life will be more easy from here on. The years of studying and stressing have paid their dividends and now it is time to reap the rewards.

I know quite a bit about survival. You might even say I’m a bit of a survivalist. I am an addiction survivor, overdose survivor, suicide survivor, cancer survivor, and even a hurricane survivor (shout out to all those who went through Hugo in 1989). I am living proof of a man who probably should have seen the end of the tunnel many times. Yet, here I am. I am still kicking, still going, still living. I am surviving. And with my track record for bouncing back and always moving forward, I want to share with you, the graduates of 2017, what I know about surviving.

 

Survival Tip Number 1: It Gets Harder

Graduating is not the hardest thing you are ever going to have to do. Often times I have found that survival welcomes hardship. It’s never as easy as you think it will be. Things don’t just get automatically better because you crossed one finish line. All of life is a series of races. Not one race, a series of races. You finish one and barely have time to finish your Gatorade before it’s time to start the next. You have to learn to pace yourself and not get into the trap of thinking that things get easier as you go.

The truth is, it doesn’t. I don’t say this to try to scare you. It is actually quite the opposite. I want you to be prepared for that. There is always something new that comes next. And when you can recognize that and be as prepared as you can be, the sky is the limit. Face what is coming with. Sure, you can be scared, and you can worry. You can check your email a thousand times a day hoping for the one that says you got the job. But be ready for when that inbox reads 0, when you ask the landlord if late rent is okay, and when you pay that three dollar late fee on your water bill. You will thank yourself for preparedness in the end.

Survival Tip Number 2: Thriving Means Risk

Survival is an act. It is a process. Surviving begins before it happens. It can be instant, or it can be a long drawn out fight. Surviving means making it through some bad hand that you have been dealt by life. Thriving means something quite different. It means doing things and accomplishing things that bring you true happiness, fulfillment, and acceptance. Thriving is something that a lot of people never experience. Some people fail to meet goals. I’ve done this more times than I have succeeded. Some people will work a miserable job the rest of their lives because they have to in order to provide the basics. Some people go through a mundane routine day in and day out. They may be satisfied, but they are not thriving. But thriving means more than being happy. Thriving, also means taking risks.

You won’t accomplish anything glorious in life without first taking a risk. That’s a scary thing to think about. Without risk, there is no advancement. Whether you risk reputation, or life, or limb, or friendships. There is no thriving without risk. Be a risk taker. Don’t be afraid to fail. Because you will. Many times. But for all of your failure, there will come a time where being the one to take the risk means being the one to thrive, and find yourself truly enjoying life. I’m not done failing yet, but I’m not done taking risks and trying to thrive.

Survival Tip Number 3: You Won’t Be Remembered for Surviving

This might be the most important thing I say in this whole concoction of words and phrases. When you die, when you have moved away after retirement, when you have faded into a memory someone has at the 30th high school reunion you decided not to go to, nobody will remember you for being a survivor. Hell, it’s only been 4 years since I was deemed cancer free, and except for family, nobody really remembers that. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. When my time is at an end, that’s not what I will be remembered for. So don’t focus on surviving.

Focus on the things that will get you remembered. A kind spirit, a giving heart, and perseverance. People will remember you for the times that you fell, but more for the times you got back up and kept going. You don’t want to be remembered for merely surviving. Be remembered because you aspired to be something great, but became something admirable. Be remembered for the quality of the company you kept, not the quantity. When your time is up, lay your head to rest on the memories of a life that had purpose over prosperity.

Graduating class of 2017, remember these things as you move forward onto the next part of your life’s journey. Make it your purpose now to not just be a survivor. Drive yourself. Take risks, make mistakes, fall down, lay it all on the line. Then push yourself some more, take more risks, learn from your mistakes, get back up, and take it all in. You have already made it this far. Imagine how much farther you can make it. After all, you survived up to this point. What happens next, is up to you.

Cancer, College, and Continuation

Cancer, College, and Continuation

Cancer Cells

It was in the fall of 2012 that my life that cancer would turn my life upside down. At the age of 29, with two kids just five and three at the time, I would come face to face with my mortality, fight for my life, and watch the world around me evolve at a time when my life was at a standstill. 5 years later, I am a college graduate, and on to another new journey in life.

Cancer

Nobody sits around saying “I better start thinking about what I’ll do if I get cancer.” Especially when you are 29 years old. But as they say, testicular cancer is a young man’s disease, and if left untreated, it can get bad. I mean really bad. Like, it spread from my nuts to my lungs bad. My oncologist said I had probably had it for a while, but having ignored the symptoms I let it spread. I’ll never forget the ER doctor telling me that I had cancer. I was numb, defeated, and scared.

That fall we learned what it really meant to fight as a family. My parents made several trips from SC to VA to help out, my wife was breaking her back and her spirit working, handling the kids, and handling my disease. I was learning how to be a patient, a father, and a husband at the same time. It was hard. I won’t lie. In February of 2013 however, we would receive the most overwhelmingly relieving news: I had beaten it. I beat cancer, and was officially in remission.

Two years is what it took to get myself back on track. Handling the side effects from the cancer and the treatment that went with it was tougher than I had imagined it would be. It beat me up mentally and physically. I didn’t get better immediately like I thought I would. Physical symptoms left me exhausted and hurting quite often. I sat through deep depression, major anxiety issues, and sought counseling and medication for both.

College

College Garb

As I was recovering more and more, I started to feel a better sense of purpose, and more of a sense that I can do more with my life than work in the food service industry for the rest of my life. And in the spring of 2015, I decided to add another title to my profile and I become a college student. Prior to that, the last time I had sat in a classroom was the fall of 2001. 14 years before I would return to a classroom. The time in between had been spent mostly working 50+ hours a week. I was nervous. Can I do this again at 32 years old? Will chemo-brain affect my ability to retain information? Can I do well on tests?

Nonetheless, I challenged myself and I knew the subject matter. I was an IT major who grew up with a dad who has been a project manager, programmer, analyst, and just about every other IT employee position and know my way around hardware and software. So as I started, I challenged myself to graduate with a 3.5 GPA or higher. Magna Cum Laude.

I struggled to begin with. I had to take math courses again. Anyone who knows me will tell you I am terrible at math, especially algebra. I struggled with non-core courses. But I was doing it. I was back in college, determined to do something better for myself with this new life I had found after cancer. I had my struggles and a letdown here and there throughout the course of my studies. There’s no doubt of that. Failed tests, bad project grades, difficult presentations. I ran through the college experience with determination.

That brings us to May 11, 2017. Less than one month ago, when I put on the gown, honor chord, and stole, I walked across the stage in a humid, hot gymnasium on the college campus, and I received a cover that will soon hold an associate degree. 2 years of doubts and uncertainties, accomplishments and failures, and I still made it through along with 500+ fellow classmates.

A few days later, I would login to my college account, and check my transcripts. Scrolling down to the very bottom to view my cumulative GPA for my academic career, there sat the numbers: 3.507. I had reached my self-imposed goal. Sure, in college it’s easy to say “C’s get degrees” but I wasn’t going to settle for that. It brought up a pride in myself that I had not felt in a long time, and it was a good way to cap off that part of my life’s journey and move on to the next.

Continuation

What does the next part of my journey have in store? That’s the next part I will be figuring out in the very near future. I’ve never been a college graduate before so this is new territory for me. The goal is something new as well. I’m not just looking for jobs, but I’m looking for a career. I’m looking to provide better for my family, to advance us forward into the next phase of our lives together, and to advance myself as a person and as a professional. It’s not exactly a lighthearted undertaking.

It’s another scenario of being in unknown territory. A familiar unfamiliarity if you will. This is a place I’ve found myself many times in the past. Worried? A little bit. Scared? Just a tad. Trying to avoid it? Nope. This is the cycle of life that we all go through. My path is different from yours which is different from the person next to you.

What I do know is this: I will continue. I’ve continued for the last 34 years of my life despite the many times I probably shouldn’t have. I have adapted, and carried on, and always try to move forward. Moving backwards is not an option. Not anymore. Continuation of life. Continuation of spirit and of soul and of climbing upwards from what once seemed to be insurmountable odds. And who knows where this journey will take me next? I can’t wait to see how it turns out!