If I laid my life out as a detailed book of the unfortunate events that have happened to me, most people would see me as cursed.
But from every unfortunate thing that has ever happened to me I have been more fortunate on the path ahead. Life is fair in this way if you allow it to be.
You become cursed when you believe you can be, and you become blessed when you believe that you are.
For example, because of an injury that at the time altered my present in a way most saw negatively at the time, I instantly gained my entire future by seeing it differently.
The instant I tore my ACL, In a way I became an artist. Because that injury is why I began to paint.
For me adversity has always been my greatest blessing, because adversity is what gives a man perspective.
Adversity is what has created me, but that is the way it is for everyone.
Adversity always makes us who we are, because adversity forces recreation of self. It forces everyone to either become better or worse because of it. And no one can ever be the same person they were before an adverse situation. It is impossible to do so. Adversity is the judge that is never wrong.
Because of this, adversity can be a blessing or a curse depending on ones perspective.
We are the ones who ultimately must save ourselves. We create our own triumph and we create our own misery.
With every difficult situation you begin to live another life. And I have lived many now.
On August 8th 2011, during the last play of the last practice before my first NFL game I tore my ACL.
It was a non-contact injury meaning that the odds simply were not in my favor that day, as most would see it as another stroke of bad luck for me.
My foot got caught in the perfect position in the turf, moving exactly in a certain direction causing what most would see as a freak injury.
It all happened so perfectly.
I sat in my tiny dorm room that night alone with my thoughts, fighting to not let the doubt and self pity set in.
During a situation of adversity the minute you let doubt win you immediately lose a certain future that is always better, replacing it with another certain one that is always not. If negativity wins during adversity you change your future outcome becoming cursed by being blinded to the other reality that is always present, that is always locked within your own decision to choose which perspective you proceed in life with.
In this way I see life as fair.
I drifted off to sleep in my tiny dorm room at training camp with my leg propped up with ice.
I began to dream vividly.
It was a dream that gave me perspective, so it was a dream that changed everything for me.
Upon waking up I felt at peace with what had occurred the day prior. Upon waking up I felt in control of my thoughts for the first time, and quickly learned that is all that matters.
And this is what I wrote.
August 9th 2011
On a deserted island my thoughts and I sit, with a small coffee table in the middle of a forked trail with two paths. There is a kettle of coffee in the middle of the rickety warped wooden table where 3 coffee mugs sit in front of 3 old wooden chairs.
Above the skies are filled with dark clouds. The smell of rain fills my nostrils and I can taste the saltiness of the air. A beach is near. I can hear the distant crashing of the waves and the wind is beginning to whip across my face. I can see the brilliant flashes of lightning jumping from earth to sky, dancing across the clouds while speaking in a thunderous voice that I cannot understand. But I know what it says.
From the skies the lightning speaks with thunder distantly proclaiming.
“A storm is coming”
My thoughts and I sit at the rickety coffee table, just the three of us with only a kettle of coffee for separation. Across from me sit two beautiful women; actually the word beautiful doesn’t suffice, beautiful is an understatement. These women are mesmerizing, they are radiant, and they are hypnotic. They begin to introduce themselves to me. As the first begins to speak and extend her hand for an introduction she is interrupted by the second woman who shows a gleaming perfect smile and says, “ Hi Baron, my name is Doubt.”
Doubt is stunning. She has long red hair, and wears heavy makeup. Her eyes draw me in immediately almost as if she can peer into my soul and see my thoughts and fears. My heart begins to race as I can feel all of my anxieties and fears being drawn from my deepest depths to my surface. I begin to panic but can’t look away. She is too enticing.
I feel a gentle touch on my forearm and immediately my fears, worries and anxieties subside. I break away from Doubts gaze and look to my right to see an outstretched hand. I grab hold and another woman introduces herself to me. “Hello Baron, I’m Faith.”
Faith looks much different than Doubt but is just as gorgeous. Faith has long dark hair that flows over her shoulders. She wears a white dress and cowboy boots. She has glasses and doesn’t wear makeup because she has nothing to hide; her skin is flawless. Her eyes are calming but her touch is what is indescribable. There is nothing like touching Faith.
As I sit with Doubt, and Faith at the tiny wooden, rickety, and warped table with only a coffee kettle in between us I ask, “Why am I here?”
Doubt sits down her coffee mug with her thick red lipstick stuck to it and swallows before speaking.
“Look around you. Can’t you see that a storm is coming?” She says.
“Yes I can see that”
“Well you have to choose who you are going to set sail with.” Doubt hastily replied.
“Set sail?” I ask?
“Yes set sail! The storm is coming and we have to hurry. If we set sail quick enough we can maneuver around the storm and escape this island, the path behind me leads to a safe place to depart and we can avoid the storm, but we have to hurry. You must decide quickly.”
Doubt says with panic in her voice.
I begin to get nervous as I can see the colossal storm clouds moving closer to shore. I hear the increasing thunder and my heart begins to race.
I turn to Faith and ask, “Where does your path lead? Is it safe? Can we avoid the storm?”
Faith calmly replies “I cant tell you that, all I can assure you is that I can get you through the storm and to the beach on the other side”
As I sit at the rickety coffee table just my thoughts and I, the storm clouds begin to surround me. I can feel the rain starting to fall gently on my skin. I can hear the thunderclouds billowing their warning.
“A storm is coming.”
I know I must make a decision and make one quickly if I want to survive this storm. I look across the table at Doubt and Faith and both of them reach out their hands. I close my eyes and grab onto Faiths hand. She holds mine tight as we get up from the tiny wooden table and walk down the path that was behind her chair.
As Faith calmly leads me down her path that leads to the ocean the rain begins to pour, and the thunder begins to roar crying out,
“A storm is coming, a storm is coming!”
While Faith and I walk hand in hand to the beach I ask, “Where did Doubts path lead?”
“You’ll see.” She replied
Soon we emerge at the end of the path and I can see the ocean. I can also see the enormity of the storm. The storm stretches as far as I can see and I am terrified.
In fear I turn back and run to Doubt.
“She said that knew how to avoid the storm. She said she knew a safe way of crossing.” I thought with panic.
As I turn to go back I see the exit to another path that was not the one I came out of. On the exit of that path I see Doubt standing. Her makeup has washed off and she looked nothing like she did before. I call out to her over the roaring winds “You said you had a safer way! You said that we could avoid this storm.”
Doubt says nothing. She only glares while standing at the exit.
I turn back to Faith and cry out with tears in my eyes,
“What do I do? I can’t face this storm.”
Faith says nothing.
She only extends her hand.
I run towards the ocean where she is standing by a small canoe. I look down with fear at the small canoe thinking, “there is no way this will make it through this storm.”
The waves crash at our feet as Faith calmly says, “Get in and row, don’t stop.”
I’m terrified but I crawl into the tiny canoe with Faith. We begin to row. The waves toss us from left to right, and up and down but we keep rowing.
The rain and wind slaps our bodies but we keep rowing.
The thunder proclaims from the clouds, “the storm is here!” as we keep rowing.
My arms begin to tire, but we keep rowing.
We row for what seems like eternity and finally the rain slows, the waves calm and the thunder echoes behind us whispering, “The storm has passed.”
I turn to Faith exhausted from the journey and ask, “Why did Doubts path lead to the same place on the beach? I thought she said she could avoid the storm”
Faith simply shook her head and said “Storms aren’t sent so that we can avoid them or run from them.”
“Then why was that storm sent for me?” I asked.
“You’ll see.” Faith said.
As we keep rowing the storm calms more and more and we begin to approach another beach. On this beach I can see thousands of tiny dots. At first I can’t make out what they are but as we row closer I can see that they are people; thousands and thousands of people standing at the waters edge.
As we get closer to shore I can see the seemingly endless amount of people standing in amazement watching us row out of the storm in the tiny canoe, just Faith and I.
I look at Faith and she smiles and says, “That’s why the storm was sent.”
“I don’t get it.” I tell her.
She says, “Do you see all those people? That storm was sent for them, but you are the one who had to sail through it.
You are an overcomer.
Because you are an overcomer your waters will rarely be calm. Because you are an overcomer your life will not be easy. Because you are an overcomer you will have to sail through storms simply so people can see that it’s possible. Because you are an overcomer you have no choice but to overcome. Your storms are not for you. Your storms are not your own.”
My storms are not for me. My storms are not my own.
I am an overcomer.
Adversity is the judge that is never wrong. By our own choices we are blessed or cursed by the adversity that life gives to us.
Fast-forward four years, and I am who adversity made me to be.
Fast-forward four years, and I am who I choose to be.
I have made it to shore now and more than thousands have watched me do it, and because of this each person that sees my art sees my adversity.
And each person that enjoys my art, is thankful for my adversity just as I am.
The odds that I am where I currently am are very improbable, but then again life as a whole is very improbable.
However, I find beauty in the improbable. My improbabilities make me feel special, and to ever want something great for yourself you must first see yourself as special. Self-love is a romance that lasts a lifetime.
I am an anomaly. I am an outlier. I am different. I am destined. I am blessed.
But so are you, if you bring yourself to believe that to be so.
I am the mathematical inconsistency of what studies say I should be, and where I should be.
But right now, I am who I am and I am here.