Half of My Life: 17 Years

Although I spent today waking up at 5am for work like any other day, in a way, today is probably one of the most significant days of my life. 17 years ago I lost one of the most important people in my life, or rather, not in my life.

Growing up my family had its share of struggles and by the time I reached my teenage years I felt the pressure to be the man of the house. My parents divorced when I was young and I lived most of my life with my mom, stepdad, 2 brothers and a sister. My siblings and I share the same mother but I am my father’s only child. I knew my real dad growing up and he was always a phone call away but when the family moved away from my hometown of Sacramento, my visits with my dad became few and far between. They also became more of a “how much fun can we pack into a weekend visit” type of thing.

When we moved, I was not even to double digits in age but with my stepdad working graveyard shifts and sometimes working out of town for weeks at a time, my love for my mother wouldn’t allow me to be anything less than the man of the house. Maybe the Leo in me had something to do with that prideful nature, as well. My stepdad never once let any of us kids go hungry but we at times found living space a challenge. For a time, a local campground became our home, which when you’re a kid seems like a vacation. I can’t imagine the stress as a parent. Not can I imagine the stress of moving your family of 6 into the house of a couple from the local church. Though, I am forever grateful that we had a roof over our head, no matter how much I didn’t appreciate it at the time.

These experiences led my stepdad to working harder than he probably ever expected. Eventually he got moving forward in a career that allowed us to live more comfortably but it required him to travel quite frequently. As I moved into my teenage years, my stepdad’s work seemed to take him from home more frequently, leaving me, the oldest of the children by about 4 years, as the man of the house.

My father and stepfather are both incredible men. They’re both worthy role models of how to be a decent human being. But as a teenager taking on responsibilities of a household, I was searching for someone else to figure out how to grow up and be a man. Part of it is my defiant nature but part of it was just me trying to figure out life.

My parents were strict so I wasn’t allowed to listen to music with cussing in it. Of course, had they known about my taste for Newport cigarettes and alcohol, that would have been the least of their concerns for my 14 year old rebellious nature. Nonetheless, even the Beastie boys were off limits when I was in the house. I can only imagine had my stepdad been home when I would listen to “gangster rap.” I mean, my grandparents thought I was in a gang because I began wearing my hats backwards. Which goes to show how fearful and conservative the family was.

In the summer before my first year of high school I remember hearing “Brenda’s Got a Baby.” It made me want to listen closer to the words of the music I was listening to. I didn’t understand how someone who was dressed “like a thug” could write a song that so vulnerable. In fact i had pretty much given up on writing, which prior to that i had successfully competed in a number of state writing competitions. When high school came around I was too busy hanging with the cool kids and skipping class to be writing so I kept it to myself from that point on. But that was just the beginning.

As I grew older and tried to figure out my path, I connected more and more with Tupac’s music. To the point where I would listen to songs over and over again, studying them. When Me Against the World came out I was 15 years old. It was like nothing I had ever heard. It was the struggles I was feeling and experiencing. The love and hate I felt towards everyone and everything as a teen. And the feeling of being trapped. I wanted to write. I wanted to be a thug. I wanted to have all sorts of girls. I wanted to have a relationship with my dad, my mom. I wanted everything to be different and I truly felt the entire world was against me most of the time.

I listened to that cassette so much that it eventually stretched and became distorted sounding for many of the songs. That album made me realize it was ok to be me. It was ok to say “fuck the world” and “I love you, mom.” And that it even the hardest struggles, there will always be a way though them.

That summer I played Dear Mama for my mom. She cried. I cried. It was a very powerful moment in my life. I’ll spare the details but that song probably brought me closer to my mom than anything. It was the first time I think my mom understood “even though I act crazy, I gotta thank The Lord that you made me.” I was just kid that was trying to find my way and still be the man I needed to be to help raise my siblings.

Still to this day, I send my mom a text message to tell her I love her every time I hear Dear Mama. Thank you, Tupac.

I’ll never forget coming home from school that day. We weren’t allowed to watch MTV but since he had been shot I had been trying to sneak to watch everyday when I got home from school. When I heard the news he had died, tears welled up as I tried to fight back the tears. But there wasn’t a chance and that was ok because through his music, I learned that shedding tears didn’t make me less of a man. It’s a part of being a man.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been 17 years since Tupac Shakur passed away. Exactly half of my life. I miss his poetry and his music. I miss what he might have become.

I believe that angels come in all shapes, sizes, colors and even beings. They lead us in ways we may never have the cognizance to understand but sometimes, we are lucky enough to recognize them and acknowledge them. I’m blessed to have had the music and poetry of Tupac to guide me in my life.

For me Tupac is exactly that, an angel, and every year on September 12th and June 16th I write to show my gratitude for the guidance from a man I never knew but understood as much as I could understand myself. To be able to understand that T.H.U.G.L.I.F.E. (The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone) isn’t about being a thug. It’s about loving children and being that guiding light. It’s about standing for what you believe in. And most importantly it’s about expressing yourself, connecting with people in a language they understand and making a difference in this crazy world that takes great people before they’ve made the miracles that are destined for all of us to create.

Rest In Peace.

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Life, Liberty and The Pursuit of What the F@&%!

It’s been a while since I rambled about absolutely nothing relevant to any of the couple thousand of you that somehow end up here every week, so now is the time. The 49ers just lost the Super Bowl (or Superbowl for you creative SEO types) and I’m about as frustrated as a man can be. Except for maybe that last month I spent with my ex, that was definitely rough. I never thought I’d be living in New York right now, and a very tiny part of me is relieved that the 49ers didn’t win. Because I don’t think I could have handled missing another parade down Market Street while I am stuck living the dream in Brooklyn.

6 months ago I spent most of my days working from the beach in Santa Monica or one of the countless Coffee Beans in the area, blogging, tweeting, Facebooking and fixing the screwed up SEO practices of big companies as a freelancer. Now I spend 11-12 hours a day in an 8 foot by 8 foot cubicle that’s filled with sneakers, writing about sneakers and reaching seemingly unattainable goals. There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t question what I am doing, especially considering I go into the office every weekend and still can’t seem to catch up. My knowledge and skill set is grossly overlooked and I am paid about 40% less than what I think I should be getting. Yet still, this new “real job” has been one of the most enjoyable and as fulfilling, for my own personal goals in life, as a job can get.

Jesus Face Palm

I’ve never really been cutout for working for someone else. It challenges everything I am as a person to be a part of something that is just a job for the people around me. It’s also nearly impossible to bite my tongue when people say things just to appease people, knowing that the truth is convoluted in the fast talking. These uncomfortable things are exactly why I am here. To see them, to learn from them, and to make sure they don’t happen in my business, is an education that shits on any piece of paper a college can give you. How do you put a value on the invaluable lessons?

Before I took this job, I made some changes in my own business to compensate for me being removed from the equation. Unfortunately, the changes didn’t work out the way I had hoped and it undoubtedly hurt people that I care for. Thankfully, in my own world, I surround myself with people that are understanding and caring, about people, more so than the almighty dollar. I am very blessed to be surrounded by such great people, even if not in the geographical sense, at least in my heart I know. Though, I should probably tell them all more often.

Aside from my personal goals and shortcomings, I’ve met some great people being in New York (as well as some really stupid ones). I find it most entertaining the people that think they know what they are doing when clearly they don’t. The ‘I read this on the Internet and have clearly never applied it to see if it works’ approach is always a nice reminder as to why I have a business helping businesses. The other thing I can’t figure out, which is completely random other than the stupidity connection, is why people lean out over the subway tracks to see if there is a train coming. Like looking down the tracks is going to help it get there quicker? It’s perplexing to me. I’ve wanted to ask so many people but I know the question itself would just confuse them and probably kill my brain cells in the process of explaining.

Anyway, now that I sound like a complete asshole, the new responsibilities at the job are nothing short of interesting and will probably keep my attention for a short while. At least until I remember that even though it was less creative, I was living a better life. NYC has always been on the bucket list for me, I’ve now scratched that off and am proud of it. I’ve made some really good friends, some people that push me to be better and played the game on the level with some of the people I respect most in the industry.

If life is in 7 year cycles, I’d like to think the next two years will establish a few things that I thought I’d already have set in stone by this age. I never imagined that I’d be single at this age. I also never imagined that I’d still be roaming around experiencing all the things most people are too afraid to experience, ie. new people and new places. But the funny thing is, I always thought by the time I hit 35, I’d be home in San Francisco, ready to embark on the next chapter. Maybe 34 is more accurate and maybe the 49ers and Giants will both win titles next year. After all as fucked up as today was, and as some of my time here has been, life is pretty fucking awesome.

 

3 Months of My Life in 33 Pictures

My life has been nothing short of f*cking amazing lately!!! With that amazing comes a lack of sleep and loads of stress, not to mention a lack of time and lack of blog updates. I pushed myself beyond my limit today and decided that I’d take some time to slow down and ramble a bit because for some reason that always seems to help. Ironically, I’m kind of incapable of words. Yes, for the first time in my 33 years on this earth, I can’t really get anything moving. Hopefully, pictures from my phone from over the past 3 months will suffice.

Thank you to all of you that support me, from the bottom of my heart, I appreciate it.

 

I
I <3 My Honda…actually this one looks like the one my parents had when I was munchkin.
There is such a thing as a free lunch! Thanks Arnette!
There is such a thing as a free lunch! Thanks Arnette!
My parents got a new puppy! Except she's a 4 year old American Bully and puppy-sized, not a real puppy.
My parents got a new puppy! Except she’s a 4 year old American Bully and puppy-sized, not a real puppy.
I have awesome friends. That's a maple bacon cupcake. MAPLE. BACON.
I have awesome friends. That’s a maple bacon cupcake. MAPLE. BACON.
California shaped skateboard. Rad.
California shaped skateboard. Rad.
I have awesome friends. They too, like awesome coffee.
I have awesome friends. They too, like awesome coffee.
I have awesome friends. They have good taste.
I have awesome friends. They have good taste.
I seem to keep losing pieces of these.
I seem to keep losing pieces of these.
San Francisco. Obviously I avoided this place and went to Philz and got some coffee instead.
San Francisco. Obviously I avoided this place and went to Philz and got some coffee instead.
I gave a stranger a ride. You never know when you might need one yourself.
I gave a stranger a ride. You never know when you might need one yourself.
Freedom. Freedom to complain. Freedom to plug your ears. Freedom to ignore. Freedom to smile. Freedom to create your heaven on earth.
Freedom. Freedom to complain. Freedom to plug your ears. Freedom to ignore. Freedom to smile. Freedom to create your heaven on earth.
No place I'd rather be than AT&T.
No place I’d rather be than AT&T.
Lenin. La Brea. Los Angeles.
Lenin. La Brea. Los Angeles.
There's no I in team and there's no I in Jerry's, they're on my team.
There’s no I in team and there’s no I in Jerry’s, they’re on my team.
No matter where I roam, this bridge leads me home.
No matter where I roam, this bridge leads me home.
I'm seein' nothin' but my dreams comin' true while I'm staring at the world through my rearview.
I’m seein’ nothin’ but my dreams comin’ true while I’m staring at the world through my rearview.
"We're all entrepreneurs." - Rick Ross
“We’re all entrepreneurs.” – Rick Ross
Desert Oasis.
Desert Oasis.
White water parking garaging.
White water parking garaging.
Concrete Jungle.
Concrete Jungle.
More parking challenges.
More parking challenges.
Laundromat rockstar.
Laundromat rockstar.
Goodbye, my love.
Goodbye, my love.
Longest cab ride, ever.
Longest cab ride, ever.
Hello, Brooklyn.
Hello, Brooklyn.
Big city of dreams.
Big city of dreams.
Neighbor, hood.
Neighbor, hood.
Deceiving skies.
Deceiving skies.
Dream Big. Dream Beautiful.
Dream Big. Dream Beautiful.
California Love.
California Love.
California Love.
California Love, too.
Sneakers, stored.
Sneakers, stored.
Family.
Family.