“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” – Theodor Seuss Geisel

A Few Good Men

DIARY 71

The goal of a good man should be to unlock himself. The admiration of a man should be found in the quality of his mind, and true competitiveness is not chasing money, it is chasing ideas.

I played in the NFL for a few years and am not ashamed to admit that I was a mediocre player the entire time. That wasn’t because I was lazy or didn’t work hard, but at the end of the day other players were simply more talented. Looking back I’m actually glad that was the case. It allowed me to escape with my soul intact.

Please understand that this post is not being written out of a jaded spirit but a fulfilled one. I am writing this because I feel like it is my responsibility to do so before another child looks at an athlete in a helmet blindly thinking, “There is my hero. I want to be like him.”

To the child looking to the NFL athlete as a hero please let me assure you that you can be so much more. To my former teammates, current friends, and other athletes, you can be so much more as well.

This is my NFL experience. These are my honest words.

“Money is meant to be wasted.”

“It’s not technically cheating because I never kissed her on the mouth. We just had sex.”

“They can’t cut me, they pay me too much.”

“I’ll show up when I want.”

“It’s not my job to be a role model, it’s my job to play well.”

Real men don’t say things like that, nor do heroes. But those are a few of the things I heard daily while not only playing in college but in the NFL as well.

At times all the madness began to sound normal to me and often even appealing, and that began to scare me. To be honest it was terrifying to see my soul changing into something that I knew was not correct, and soon I began to hate myself. I became disgusted at what I was becoming. I became condescending and arrogant, and didn’t give a shit about anyone other than myself and me keeping my job.

Deep down I knew I was a good person, but it quickly became quite obvious to me that being a good person doesn’t matter in a den of wolves, so I became a good wolf, but a wolf nonetheless.

Art helped me keep my soul intact during all of this, so it became my escape. Art became my freedom, and that is why all of my art is signed with “free”.

It saved me.

This is not me bashing the NFL either. I’m thankful for what the league taught me, and I’m thankful for the opportunity that it provided. This is me telling the truth about what many people worship on Sundays, and what many athletes strive to become. The purpose of a man is to become a good man, not an NFL player, and sadly most NFL players are not good men, or men at all.

With that being said, there are players I do admire and stay in contact with to this day and probably will the rest of my life.

They are the family men, and good husbands. They are the real heroes, but very rarely are they the superstars. Typically they are the ones who lose their jobs over a missed block or dropped pass, while players who should be on jail blocks get a free pass.

Since walking away from football I have seen first hand how hard it is to break away from the three letters “N”, “F” and, ”L”. Not because I couldn’t walk away but because it’s been hard for people who worship it to understand why someone actually would.

Simply put, I was never cut out to be an NFL player and that should have never been my goal to begin with because honestly it never was.

When I was young a teacher asked me what I wanted to be and I said that I wanted to be an artist. She looked me in the eyes and told me to pick something more realistic, so I said I wanted to be a football player.

She told me to pick something else because both were unrealistic. So I made both my goals, and I have done both.

What I have learned is that most people worship things that they shouldn’t simply because they are not chasing something that they should.

Don’t worship unless you are in the process of chasing. And once you begin to tirelessly chase, your life becomes worship.

I want to chase. I want to worship. I want to be unlocked.

In my eyes that is what heroes do, and in my eyes that is what good men do.

Take the NFL off the pedestal.

Stop worshipping it.

It is just three letters filled with a den of wolves chasing a dollar, and a few good men.

Baron

I Live For You

DIARY 70

I am an artist that once played football, but I was an artist first.

We all were.

Art cannot be art unless it demands remembrance. Unless a thing can create a memory it is not art, but a thing. Even in the instance that a thing is remembered, the painting, the food, the song, the words, whatever it is someone makes is still not the art, but the fact that it was remembered. Without you, art is not real, and without others your art can never be born. Your art is you, but not for you.

Leave beautiful memories and you have left glorious art, and of this we are all capable, but only when we make art for others. The things made only for the artist’s pleasure will be forgotten and die when they do, and once the last memory of that person fades, then they never even existed. But immortality is being remembered, and in remembrance you can still work to inspire beyond the veil of death.

That is art. That is legacy. And that is what we all are capable of. To work so hard that even when we are gone our work still works.

People make things, but artists make art. People are able to call the things they make true, but artists have the ability to make things that are true. We all are artists, wrapped in suits of flesh that vary in size, shape, gender and color. Even the way we are assorted as a species is how a painting is created. A painting is simply various shapes, sizes, colors, and materials that together create something worthy of remembrance. A painting that only consists of one shape, size, color, and material it simply a thing, and Art is the difference.

“Human” is our species, and what we are but that is not who we are, we are more than that. We are art, and we are artists. Simply being human makes you no better than a rock. Rocks exist and so do you. But strive to be an artist that leaves art, and you are a diamond. It is not what you do, or who you are that is valuable, it is if those things are remembered.

It’s approaching a year since I’ve been away from the game of football, and I have grown more in this year than I have my entire life. I think that’s because I stopped focusing on growing my own life, and simply to grow life.

An ego is a dangerous thing when left untamed.

Football created my ego, and Art has tamed it. Football made me competitive so now I competitively work to tame my ego while learning how to do so from my art. Tame your ego and whatever you touch becomes art, because it is done for others to remember you by. The quickest way to sabotage your destiny is to pack your ego along for the journey.

Right now I’m on a jet headed to Dallas to have an art show and wouldn’t want to be any other place in the universe. But 5 years ago I would have wanted to be a pro bowl NFL player, and if you would have put both on a scale and asked me to choose one my ego would have not picked Art.

As I was flying out of Latrobe PA where I took part in three NFL training camps with the Steelers I couldn’t help but smile. It was fitting because the most glorious thing that has ever happened to me was my plan being altered in the form of an injury when I tore my ACL. It was the last play of the last practice before my first NFL game. As I was being carted off the field I made a decision instead of a plan, because there is a big difference between decisions and plans. You can make decisions to formulate a plan, but it’s a dangerous thing to start with the plan and negate decisions. My decision was to force a metamorphosis of my adversity, and allow it to become something beautiful even if I didn’t know what it would transform into at the time. Decisions make time irrelevant while plans are bound by time. Time is not meant to enslave people to their plans, but motivate and push people to make correct decisions so they don’t have to plan life out and can live it. You do not have to be bound by time if your decisions are pure. Egos make plans, but art is a decision.

As I flew over Saint Vincent I looked down over my past, present, and future. Because in one perfect magical moment when I shredded my ACL, everything I would become, became and because of that injury Art found me. When I was a kid all I wanted to be was an artist. I’m thankful art chased me down in Latrobe and tore my ACL.

So don’t praise my paintings or my words or anything else I make for that matter. Praise what adversity can do for a man. My life has been full of it, and through it I am able to leave an existence that matters. Be encouraged if your life is not normal, it means that you are equipped to never have to live a normal one. People who live normal lives typically wish for an unusual one, but if your life is already unusual do not wish for a normal life, simply strive to make pure decisions.

Love adversity, and make good decisions because that is what the staircase to forever consists of.

I look at things a lot differently now. I’ve realized that my goals were never goals but Gods. They were the pinnacles of achievement that motivated me with the idea of being able to say I ‘made’ it. Ironically now I would rather help someone else reach their destiny, because if I can do that their destiny is also mine.

Art has showed me there is no pinnacle to anything, only improvement. Competition is not the ability to become a certain thing with a title. Competition is the skill of becoming simply to become more.

Set a pinnacle and you are a slave to it. Walk the steps and you are boundless.

I want to be boundless.

So my goal is not to reach anything, my goal is to walk the steps that lead up, and that go on forever. There is no pinnacle for me. Where you die on the steps, is where you die on the steps, and it is your final say in how you lived life. Setting goals without the ability to make pure decisions is like worshipping a God that is as lazy as you are, because that’s exactly what you’ve created.

We are not meant to worship a pinnacle, we are meant to walk steps. Art taught me this.

I think the greatest responsibility an artist has is to use their time in silence to sit, think, learn and then share what they learn. Because that is art.

My paintings need me to make them, but my art needs you to remember them. Because of this I’ve learned the greatest power is serving those that will remember you. I am the product of other people’s art, and my art is you. Everything I learn I want you to know, everything I make I want you to see, and everything I become I want you to remember. My name is Baron Batch and I used to play football for your enjoyment, but I was an artist first.

Now I am boundless and my life is yours to enjoy.

I live for you.

Baron

A Profession is calling

DIARY 69

Failure and losing are not the same. Fear is found in the ability to lose, and because of this Men are always hesitant to start, even when they know their current state can only be improved upon. Men fear what they are unsure of. Because without starting losing does not exist and the dead heart cannot be broken. Because of this a man would rather sit in shackles with a dead heart, while in his mind exists the thought to simply get up and leave.

But with his first step comes uncertainty.

With the first step also comes the ability to fall.

Failure is proof that we are in motion. What we learn from failing dictates what direction the motion moves.

Failure always cause some form pain or discomfort if you were committed to what you failed.

Being committed to what you fail allows failure to be one of the most powerful things our species has. It allows a man to see that it wasn’t the thing that failed him, but he that failed the thing. Because he didn’t reach the goal, didn’t lessen the goal. The goal is still spotless and perfect, but he simply failed to touch it. Not the other way around.

It is easy to blame the goal for failing us, when that goal is our elder.

A doctor’s ability to heal. An artists to create. A musician to play music, a chef to cook and provide.

Those are a few of many Professions, and because of professions we have goals.

We name the Profession with a title, but the nature of a Profession is much older than both. And the nature of a Professions is what beckons a man to chase, so for every job title that is created there will always be a man to fill it that is groomed perfectly. But the moment a man stops chasing the nature of a Profession and instead the title of it, a Profession is no longer welcome, and a Job is born.

Man was created and employed by Profession, and was never meant to chase a job, but simply know his Profession, because this is what called him to do his job, but more importantly to know it.

Jobs do not control the power to call a man to risk it all and possibly fail. Only a Profession does. A job can tell a man it can pay him more money so that he can use the money to feed his family, but a Profession simply tells the man he is to feed his family, because money truly does nothing for a Profession, only the employee. Because of this the Profession is made to be older than currency. So a purpose will always supersede a job.

Failure is a clear sign you have what it takes to succeed. By staking your attack at freedom and going to battle, you have what it takes. By truly and deeply committing to something and failing it, you are reminded that your heart was involved.

Because you failed, you can succeed. Your heart is not dead, and while it hurts it is reminding you of something.

It is reminding you that your profession is calling.

 BARON

The Thinking Cap

DIARY 68

The most selfless thing a person can do for another is to remove his or her own ego in order to allow an individual to think and decide upon a truth.

In a dark forest a soldier frantically swings his sword at the blackness in self-defense.  Because of the uncomfortable feeling of what he cannot see he creates an invisible enemy.

In the midst of his uncertainty, the soldier creates fear. Because the soldier knows the military advantage of having visual superiority. He knows how dangerous it is to be at the mercy of someone else’s superior vision, only because he knows what he too is capable of, but more importantly what he would be thinking in the position of strategic advantage.

The soldier’s nature makes him powerful, but he fears his nature, so he creates an enemy.

He cannot see anything around him. In the deep black that engulfs him he can only hear one other thing besides his frantic heavy breathing. His ears twitch with fearful panic. Detecting every movement he crouches in defense.

With every thought of what he is capable of doing for survival his invisible enemy grows closer.

His nature makes him powerful, his power makes him fearful, and his fear creates his enemy.

His enemy is now real. It is breathing and has hands and feet. It is willing to kill to survive.

It too is fearful, but only of the soldier because it is his offspring.

Elders are made to be respected in reverence. Because out of their existence ours is validated, and from their knowledge ours is tested, because they came before us.

Like a child respects their parents, our fear bows in reverence to us because we are its originator.

In the dark forest sweat drips from the soldiers brow. He jumps and lashes out at the darkness when he hears a sound.

An owl hoots two words through the dark.

Thinking cap, thinking cap, thinking cap, hoots the owl. But those words are foreign to the soldier; he has never heard them before.

He does not know what the owl is telling him.

Thinking cap, the owl hoots louder. “Thinking cap!”

Seeing that the soldier can’t understand him, the owl flies down from his lofty perch. Into the darkness the owl flies. He realizes his words don’t matter without the soldier so he comes down.

The owl is made to watch over the soldier; his job is to direct him not to his sword but to his helmet, a helmet that the soldier took off because he did not see any other enemies, he was his only company.

But the helmet was never meant to defend the soldier from being attacked by the creatures in the dark; the helmets purpose was to protect the soldier from himself.

Once he lost his mind, he found his nature.

The owl circles around the fearful soldier hooting the only two words that the soldier has never heard.

Thinking cap.

The owl is persistent because he sees the current state of the soldier based upon his lack of equipment, and his only purpose is to guide. The owl can see his lost helmet. He sees that while fighting his fear the soldier is blinded.

For the soldier to stop fighting his invisible enemy he must realize that he is at war with himself, and to see this he must have on his thinking cap.

The owl knows that the soldier defeating the enemy is all that matters, because that is the only way the soldier can ever truly live without fear, to conquer himself.

So the owl comes down.

It perches on the top of the soldier’s helmet. Atop the thinking cap he sits.

And then he hoots, knowing what is coming to him. He knows that death is on the way. And with a swift blow the owl is dead.

The soldier’s sword strikes his own helmet, sending a reverberation through his hands and as if awoken from death itself he is able to see clearly, He quickly puts his helmet back on and the darkness is lifted. Then he takes his first breath as a free man, able to leave his sword and pick up his helmet, a helmet simply to protect him from himself.

As he stares down at the tiny dead owl he feels a surge of power. He feels strong. He feels bold and he feels courageous. He does not weep for the owl. He rejoices for it. He falls to his knees and says thank you, but not because the owl had simply given his life, but because the owl died for the truth.

And because of the Truth, the soldier was freed.

Blessings,
Baron

 

The Beauty of Ignorance

DIARY 67

Why are we so quick to silence the ignorant?

In all reality, a democracy needs them. Being offended can set in so quickly sometimes that many of us miss the amazing learning opportunity from the ignorant.

Before wisdom can thrive, ignorance is required.

No one starts off being wise. A democracy is built on the intelligence of the people, so ignorance is the most proper judge of the current state of one.

Ignorance is not lack of intelligence, it is being misinformed. Honestly some of the most intelligent people I have ever met have been ignorant.

So who validates what is intelligent? That particular individual does.  Who validates what is ignorant? The majority does.

So to an ignorant man, it is he who is intelligent, and the world around him ignorant. And any man who makes up their mind on their own is an intelligent one. What he makes his mind up on makes him good or evil. Both are necessary for growth of a democracy. Once the ignorant are silenced the entire world goes quiet, because we are all of the same nature.

We all are broken. We all have judged prematurely. We all have looked at someone who is homeless and attributed that individual’s situation to work ethic or lack of ambition, or seen an obese person and done the same. How is that any different than a man who sees someone’s skin color and casts judgment?

So should we all be silenced?

The only way to become wise is to hear, appreciate, and learn from ignorance, not to silence it. By silencing what we deem as ignorant, we immediately limit our own wisdom.

The ignorant are necessary, and are a proper judge of the current state of a democracy. Silence is a shadow that we all will wither and die under.

Free speech is necessary.

To silence the voice of the ignorant is to lethally inject the democracy. There will always be ignorant people in this planet. Always.

Honestly if we weren’t taught better all of us would be racists, bigots, thieves, murderers and anything else our nature cultivates.

Our world is a petri dish for what we allow our souls to grow, and what is nurtured quickly becomes reality.

Without the interjection of wisdom, human nature is the most dangerous drug one can indulge in.

Ignorance is a human condition, not a political one. Why do we preach tolerance while living in opposition? There can never be progress, until people standing in the face of ignorance accept their fellow broken ones, and disagree respectfully without returning ignorance with ignorance of their own.

Truth be told, we all suck. A whole lot.

Instead of trying to fix everybody else around me I’ve realized that by fixing myself first, I can begin to help others fix themselves. I respect those who stand and say, “yes I’m racist.” Do I agree?

No.

But I would rather hang out with one hundred outspoken racists than a thousand who conceal it. I would rather dance with snakes than tango with chameleons. Snakes attract snakes. And chameleons attract chameleons.  The bad end up with the bad, but the camouflaged cause the most havoc because these creatures walk between both intelligence and ignorance, casting a shadow over truth. They are the most dangerous because they will change into whatever form best fits their chances of survival. But a snake is a snake, and a snake will die a snake.

A snake will not change color.

So I respect the snakes, and avoid the chameleons.

That’s why tolerance is important. Not so that the intelligent or the ignorant can prevail, but simply to allow people to know a truth that they decide upon and improve upon their flawed condition.

Good and evil are very real, and both a necessity. And the truth is, we are all the same. We are all flawed. We are all broken. My goal isn’t to silence an ignorant man; my goal is to change his mind, not by words but by actions. Not by fixing him, but by fixing myself.

Blessings,
Baron

The B Code

DIARY 66

I think one of the most important things in life, especially for those my age, is to know what you know and why you know it.

The more I think about that, the more I realize that my entire life journey is one based around finding out what is most true and living by it, while sharing that with anyone who will listen to me speak, read what I write, or appreciate the things that I make with my hands. Some of these things I have been taught by a pastor, sometimes friends or family, and in many cases life circumstances. However, some of the most important things that I learn are through prayer. They come when I just sit in silence with no distractions and think about the clockwork of the world.

And if you sit long enough, stay quiet enough, and think hard enough, you can hear the world tick. I’m frequently asked to speak to others essentially about things that I have learned, and I’ve just realized that I have never necessarily spoken about some of these things. So I want to share a few. I guess you could call this my order of operations.

Now, this is not me telling you how to live. That is your journey. This is a list of some of the things that I have learned that have helped me to.  I believe everyone has their own code that they operate by, and this is mine.

It’s something like…. “The B Code.”

1.) Search. No matter how much humans know, we will always search. Our minds will always wander for what is more, for what is bigger. We will always be thirsty for the unknown. Acknowledging this as human nature is the beginning to chasing anything worthwhile. Once you quit searching, you quit living.

2.) Believe in something bigger than yourself.  No one can deny that everyone wants to find his or her purpose in life. Maybe it’s to be the President, or possibly to be a father. Both are equally as important. Humans need a purpose. This is why we are what we are. We are relational beings that need communion with one another. But more importantly, we need the intangible thing that sparks our souls.  To believe in “Purpose” is to believe in something bigger than yourself.

3.) Be tough. We are stronger than we give ourselves credit for. You have no idea what you can sustain until you are required to. Then you have the option to do one of two things: you win, or you lose. And typically toughness is the judge. I have stopped using the phrase, “I could never go through that” because of this reason.

4.) Compete. No one can ever be their best self if they aren’t competitive. Competition is the most beautiful thing on this earth. I don’t believe in the, “I’m just not competitive” phrase, because if that were the case you wouldn’t exist. Everyone had to beat quite a few other little speed racers to their mother’s egg.  Before any of us even took a breath, we had already won our first race. Everyone is competitive. Everyone needs to compete with others. But the most important thing of all is competing with yourself. To know more, to be more, and to live more.  And at the end of the day by competing relentlessly at life, you make it impossible to lose.

5.) Know who you are and what you are capable of. The truth is that you are the best person to ever walk the earth and the worst, and because you are human, you are capable. I try and remember that truly I am awful and capable of the worst of things. And knowing this is true keeps me from them. Knowing that I am bad makes me good. Knowing my worst is never far off propels me to be my best.

6.) You can and will lose. No one likes saying this in today’s world where everyone gets a medal.  But I do. I love being a winner. I love victory, but only because I love to compete. The secret to it all is learning to love when you lose just as much. It’s knowing that losses are really what created victory in the first place. If you cant learn from losses, you cannot truly compete. And if you can’t compete, you probably aren’t tough. And chances are that if you aren’t tough, you probably don’t believe in your purpose as much as you think you do. Because the truth is that “Purpose” can be the heaviest thing that anyone can carry.

7.) Condition. Train your mind daily. Think of the things that no one does that are beneficial to success, and do them. Condition and prepare a successful mind. Make your norm the abnormal, and make the abnormal successful. You will stand out to everyone as a conditioned traveler, while onlookers will acknowledge that they would have grown weary and never made it to where you stand.

8.) Diversify. Surround yourself with people who are different from you. Most of my friends are much older than I. Some of my peers find that strange, but in reality I have learned more by simply surrounding myself with people who have lived longer, than from anything else. I have also avoided pitfalls from listening to those who fell. Learn to see both sides of an argument instead of bickering, then find out what you believe based on what you have deduced from either side’s perspective. Know what you know and why you know it.

9.) Converse. Talk with others about what they think and believe. Put the cell phones down at the dinner table and talk. Enjoy other people’s company while you have it. Use conversations as a learning experience, not a filler.

10.) Test everything. I try never to blindly believe anything. I think that is foolish. At the end of the day you are the captain of your ship, responsible for its safekeeping. No one else should steer it. In the end you leave alone, believing what only you believe and knowing what only you know to be true.

11.) Zero ego.  I learned this from one of my coaches. He would tell me that to be my best I have to throw my ego out of the door. Once I began to live by this, a few things changed. First I began seeing everything that previously offended me as an opportunity to see my own faults and flaws.  No one should ever feel offended, only disrespected. Being offended is like a mirror. There is always a reason that lies within you that makes you weak enough to allow someone to control your emotions. Taking offense is revealing a crack in your armor. Don’t be foolish enough to think that others won’t abuse it once they see it. This is something that I work on daily and at which I can never be good enough. Have zero ego. Become less, and then you can become more.

I hope that a few of these things can be used by those who read this. Before any of you take any of my words and put them into action, I implore you to doubt it all, test it, try it, and if anything proves worthy, please take it.

Blessings,
Baron

Ideas that knock

DIARY 65

Lately I have developed a different relationship with my Ideas. They have become more personable, more attractive, and more real.
And they speak.

Our conversations are always beneficial, and they happen quite often. But lately… lately it has been different.

Lately I try and stay quiet when my Ideas present themselves to me. I try not to converse with them as much. Maybe because I’m too scared that the Idea is actually too good of one, and I would be crazy not to pursue it. And I know that by speaking to it at all, I will only dismiss it as illogical or just a crazy thought.

So I just try to just listen and hear them out.

And what I have learned has quickly changed the way I perceive my own ideas; especially the ones that I know are good.

Being an entrepreneur is awesome, but it’s a strange thought that my value comes in the form of my ideas. They come in the form of art concepts or marketing strategies or dreams while I’m sleeping. They knock during the day, gaining my attention through the things I see.

They can be dressed as trees along the side of the road, or disguised as a weird shape in the clouds. They have been the intricacy of butterfly wings, and they have been conversations with friends over coffee.

Before recently, my interactions with my ideas were much different. I saw myself as bigger and better than them. I looked down on them. I deemed them as either good or not.

But what if it was the other way around? What if your Ideas chose you based on the level of skill or work ethic you had at that particular moment in time? What if they chose a person based on their likeliness to bring them to fruition?

What if Ideas could speak audibly to the masses and recruit the best candidates to work for them?

Would you be worthy of your own ideas? Or would you doubt your own work ethic, skill or devotion, and dismiss an opportunity because you actually don’t think you are worthy?

But that idea knocked on your door. Not your neighbor’s. Not the kid down the street who wrapped your house in toilet paper last Halloween.

It came to your door.

If a billionaire came to your home and asked you to work for them, it would be easy to accept. It would be a no brainer. You would weigh the risk versus the reward and come to the conclusion that the reward is greater.

When the risk of failure is low, it is quite likely because you are operating under someone else’s Idea. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all. There’s nothing wrong with working for a great company or helping others build their ideas.

But what if your own Idea knocked on the door and recruited you to work for it. Not only work for it, but be the CEO.

To own it.
To grow it.
To nurture it.
To love it.

And then at the very end, leave it to care for others once you are gone.

Never neglect the power of your own Ideas.
They are realities that only you can construct.

They are precious, and they are a direct indicator of our own level of readiness. They are hooked into the flesh of Courage itself, and that is why the biggest of ideas takes the most.

So lately I try and stay quiet when my Ideas come knocking. I open the door and invite them in, and try and learn as much from them as possible.

I can’t help but wonder how many Ideas have I have aborted because deep down I thought I wasn’t adequate.

But they knocked on my door.

They recruited me.

Because they knew I was ready, and they pulled on my courage.

If you value your ideas for what they really are, you will never be unemployed.

Blessings,
Baron

The Blame Game

DIARY 64

People really like to talk about what they are going to do. Hang on. Let me say that again.

People really like to talk about what they are going to do.

My friend Chad brought up a great point the other day while we were heading to lunch.

“People really love to talk about things they are going to do. It’s almost like they get as much satisfaction from talking about it as they do actually doing it. It’s almost like they convince themselves they actually have done whatever it is before they have even started,” he said.

Pretty profound statement by Chad, huh?

But guys! Who is to blame? Why do people do this?

“Maybe it’s social media that is to blame?”

“Maybe it’s bad parenting?”

“Maybe it’s the school system?”

“Oh, no, wait, it’s for sure Obama.”

“Oh, never mind, I heard it’s the global warming!”

“No, no, no, it’s because people club the baby seals.”

“Yeah, right! Everyone knows it’s the oil prices.”

“No, it’s the liberals. Wait … I think I meant conservatives? Hang on, which one is the color blue? I’m on their side! I love blue.”

“Yeah, me too! The blue goes well with my new Jordans.”

“No. Like y’all are all so just, umm, like dumb, like it’s common scientifical knowledge. I read the facts on Buzzfeed from a Facebook link to a column written by like this really cute college boy who writes about stuff, like, online. And he said that the price of yoga pants is rising because … and guys … this is like a direct quote, OK. He said, the price of yoga pants is rising because … girls … like … yoga pants. Gawww, I just love Buzzfeed.”

Hang on … what? What were we even talking about?

And that’s how it happens.

Blame.

Blame is the ultimate smokescreen. It is the veil that all con artists, liars, manipulators, thieves, crooks and goons use to become successful.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Blame can make you successful. There’s no doubt about that.

But blame will keep you from being your best person.

Blame will keep you from happiness.

Blame will blacken your soul.

The very instant you blame someone for something, you lose power because you are willingly giving another person the power to control you.

Control you how?

By keeping you stationary, of course. By distracting you from progress.

Imagine it like this.

Blame is a two-way mirror in an interrogation room the size of eternity. The person who is blaming stands behind the thick glass like a detective with a room full of witnesses to crimes. This room is enormous and stretches back until the eyes fade to black.

On the other side of the glass there is a sea of suspects. They clamor over each other like ants to get in front of the mirror so they can be cleared, exonerated and released from the prison. And upon being blamed, they exit the prison and return proudly as either a witness or prosecutor.

This causes the prosecutors and witnesses to stay put forever. Because blame never ends.

It’s forever.

As long as there are people, there will be blame. If blame keeps you stationary and keeps you from being your best person, then why do it?

Maybe it’s because many of us have misconstrued the difference in meaning and purpose behind “blame” and “responsibility.”

For example: “I blame that man right there for stealing my Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone.”

“The man right there is responsible for stealing my Samsung Galaxy Note smartphone.”

The difference is that blame is mutually binding. It is not a one-way street. It’s a two-way mirror that binds you to the accused.

Now, let’s be real for a minute and agree that no one is going to steal a Samsung Galaxy Note.

I think our society is so ingrained in the blame game we don’t even recognize it anymore. And even worse, we don’t see it as something that can hold us back and keep us from progressing.

Blame is everywhere. It is branded and fed to us to sell products. It is wrapped in commercials we see daily. It is the poisonous lie that tells little boys and girls they are not good enough and they should be fixed.

Blame is the gigantic seventh-grader who has flunked multiple grades and loves to bully, but cries to his mother once he has eaten the last of his Twinkies, and then blames it on his little brother.

Blame is less than a coward. Even a coward or someone who is afraid can own their actions.

It’s not the wolf in sheep’s clothing. Blame is the sheep’s old clothes that they outgrew.

It’s useless thread that stitches together useless pockets that hold useless things that make us heavy and cumbersome, and eventually useless.

Blame is politically correct.

Truth is responsible.

What if everyone was simply responsible?

No, no, no. Not like responsible responsible.

Just simply responsible. Accountable.

Hands tattooed with glowing ink that stated one’s works.

What if our actions were all that spoke to others, and we had no voices to blame?

What if by your actions you were admired or prosecuted accordingly?

And by your mistakes others made you responsible so you could repair your flaws quickly and continue to progress to success, instead of blaming so that they themselves can take a shortcut and reach success before you do.

I’m confident there is enough success in the world to go around, and then some, for those who responsibly work toward it.

Then again, I guess blame is just part of life. But it shouldn’t be.

Ha! No, I got it. Maybe it’s blame’s fault?

Blaming blame — the ironic paradox.

Crazy to think blame is the solution to most problems as well as the cause. Like a wheel that never stops, but never rolls with progress.

To me, it’s how I imagine hell.

Being in a place you don’t desire, all the while blaming everyone else for making you be there.

Blame never moves. Not because it can’t, but because blame does not think movement is its responsibility.

And sadly the responsible sit back and watch from a distance because it isn’t their problem, they aren’t the ones to blame.

You see, blame steals a hero’s cape. The very presence of it robs a human of his or her power, and places it in someone else’s hands. Blaming is admitting defeat while you believe you have won a war.

But truth moves, because truth knows that blame is not real.

Because truth can only be responsible.

People really like talking about what they are going to do, and there’s nothing wrong with that.

Being excited about what you have going on is awesome!

But if you’re just going to talk about it, you better not have to blame something or someone as to why you haven’t done it yet.

I know it’s tempting to blame something. It’s human nature to find fault in everything else before we look in the mirror. Things like timing, finances, mistakes of others, etc.

Don’t.

Just don’t. Make up your mind you are bigger than that.

Words are important because they allow us to describe our world.
Actions are important because they allow us to build that world.
Talk is cheap, and actions are loud.

But more importantly, the price of yoga pants is rising.

“I read that on a link I saw on Facebook that sent me to this Buzzfeed column. This really cute girl writes this column for them, and it’s really awesome because it’s on the Internet, and I hear when she writes, she wears her yoga pants. She also writes about how women should feel empowered and not be looked at as pieces of meat. I totally agree with that, too. I don’t think women should be looked at in such a negative manner.”

“But dang, these girls do look good in some yoga pants! It’s not my fault that they wear ’em though. Seriously guys I could sit around and look at girls in yoga pants all day long without moving, and that’s not my fault. So yeah, yoga pants are crazy expensive these days. That stinks for the girls who wear them I guess.”

“And this interrogation room is pretty nice. I think I like it here. And on the other side of that two-way mirror, girls in yoga pants are just fighting for my attention!”

“And I guess my cape can wait. Someone else can be responsible for once.”

“It’s not my job. My hands are clean! I’m really not responsible!”

Clean hands can hold the most blame. And filthy paws can eat at the king’s table.

And truth is responsible.

 

Blessings,
Baron

Answering the Call

BY: KRISTIE STUTLER

Hey Y’all! Kristie is a friend of mine who inquired about guest blogging. She works with at risk youth, and I think thats pretty awesome being that the children she works with daily are just like I was as a child. I hope that y’all enjoy her words as much as I did!
Baron

‘Answering the Call’
By: Kristie Stutler

Before the day I walked through those doors, the only experience I had working with kids was parenting my own children who were 10 and 8.  Oh yes, and coaching Pee-Wee Cheerleaders.  So, working with severely emotionally disturbed boys who had been removed from their homes for abuse and neglect, was not something I knew I could do.  It wasn’t even something I wanted to do.

What happens to kids who are removed from their homes by Child Protective Services who have no family willing to take them in?  What happens to kids who hit, bite, spit, cuss, refuse to follow rules, and throw things at others?  What happens to kids who are adopted and then returned like animals to the shelter when their behavior becomes too difficult to manage?. I guess if I ever thought of it before, I would have assumed there was some magical place they went when they couldn’t stay where they were.  Kind of like the fictional farm we tell children we are sending pets to when they die.  (If there is a child reading this, that farm is totally real.  That IS where your pet went.) I guess, truth be told, like most everyone else, I never considered it enough before to worry about where they went.

That was long ago, before I walked through those doors.

I learned in my interview that this facility served boys, adolescents, who had severe behavior problems.  I learned that they lived there all the time in kind of dorm like settings. I learned that I would be trained in behavior management.  I learned that I would be trained to physically restrain them when they got out of control.  It did not escape me that my interviewer said WHEN they got out of control not IF they got out of control.  Wow, I remember thinking, I am not sure I can do this.

After I passed the initial “sizing up” session, the man who did my interview walked me through one of the “units” where the boys lived.  I say “sizing up” session because I truly believe that is what it was.  He was telling me all of these bad things to see if I thought I could handle it.  I wasn’t sure I could but I would never tell him that.

When you see a padded room with a large latch on the exterior for the first time, the image stays with you for awhile.  This room was used for boys who got so out of control that they weren’t safe to be around others.  It scared me.  The sight of it was enough to run me off.  I wasn’t sure I could handle this challenge, but I needed a job.  No harm accepting it until I found something else.

I walked in nervous the first day with the boys.  All of the boys who I was assigned to work with were much larger than me.  I’m sassy so I could easily overcome the size difference but these boys were sad.  As bad as their behavior was, their stories were ten times sadder.  Stories of being hit, abandoned, not fed, and worst of all “returned to the state.”   I learned that people could do that if the kid they adopted was too much for them to handle.   My interviewer failed to tell me that I would hear all these sad stories.  I left work that day doubting I could do the work.  I would repeat that experience numerous times during the first three months.  I would come in with enough hope to share and leave drained of every drop.  Despite my growing attachment to the boys, I had made up my mind that I needed to find something else.  This work was too heartbreaking for me to do.

I don’t remember how many days I repeated that ritual.  I do remember that this eleven year old boy had gotten kicked out of the on campus school.  He was yelling and cussing, threatening to hurt others.   He was larger than me by at least 5 inches and outweighed me by 50 pounds.  I took him to the padded room so he could calm down. Instead of calming down, he began jumping up and down screaming at the top of his lungs.  He was angry at the teacher and was clearly shouting words, but because he was jumping up and down, the words were less than clear.  I watched him for a few minutes wondering what the best possible intervention for this behavior was.  They failed to discuss this in behavior management training or even in all of those psychology classes I took in college.  I approached him and he began yelling louder.  At a loss, I joined him.  I began jumping up and down, making crazy noises back at him.  He stopped and stood still, staring at me like I had gone mad. I continued.  I began yelling words at him the way he had done at me.  Call it desperation.  Call it crazy.  I had a point to prove.

He looked at me quizzically and said “I can’t understand you.”

I stopped and stared at him the way I would my own children to let them know I was disapproving of their behavior.  “Right,” I said, “Just like I can’t understand you.  If you want people to listen, then you sit down and talk, you don’t yell at them like a crazy person.”

He laughed at me and sat down on the floor.  I joined him.

For the first time since I walked through those doors, I thought, perhaps, I CAN do this.

Somewhere along the way, CAN turned to MUST.

Fifteen years and thousands of boys after that first day, I got a call.

I picked up.

The voice on the other end of the phone said, “You have stories to tell.”

The voice wasn’t wrong.

We all have stories.

And we shouldn’t be afraid to jump up and down to get people to hear them.

www.hopefulsnail.com

The Internal Champion

BY: WILL ALLEN

What’s up guys! It’s always fun to break it up sometimes and have a guest blogger. Will Allen is a good friend of mine. I played with Will for 2 years while with the Steelers. He played at Ohio State, and is an all around good dude. He’s managed to stick around and play in the NFL for a decade, and that is not easy at all. Even the best players that are extremely lucky don’t achieve that. That’s just a quick little introduction. The other day while he and I were hanging out we got to talking, and I suggested he should guest blog for me at some point. He took me up on the offer, and I really dig what he had to say and I think y’all will as well.
Blessings,
Baron

The Internal Champion
By: Will Allen

Often in deep contemplation or in simple conversation pondering the thought of the significance of panic and fearfulness in adverse times, when confronted in time of panic, confusion, stagnation and fear what will one do?

Many cave into the circumstance.

Many succumb to the experiences crippling effect.

Some fall short on a consistent basis.

In attempt to save face or embarrassment one will experiment almost anything in order not look at adversity as it stands. Think of situations in time when these moments occurred. What were the responses or reactions? How did the adversity affect you? How did the adversity affect those impacted by your decision?

I apologize if I’m too serious but its important that we thoroughly understand that in moments of panic, confusion and fear that an appropriate response is crucial.

The response of the ‘Internal Champion’.

So what is the Internal Champion?

The Internal Champion is not some gung-ho, rah-rah cheerleader type.

It is the type of person that when challenged, tried and tested, embraces it and knows how to make a wise yet timely decision. When on the fringe of destruction and destiny the Champion doesn’t think of failure. The Champion carries out all duties to the very best capabilities.

From an unselfish place that the Champion flourishes.

The result of the adversity is to make you and others around you complete. Internal Champions understand that the measure of the circumstance merely is to make them more equipped for the next challenge. You see, it is a perspective on how we view the adversity. Is the adversity an atrocity or does it stimulate the inner Champion?

Adversity is a sneaky beast that comes at the most inopportune times in different forms. It is inevitably around us.

Recognize the beast!

Don’t be dismayed by its appearance or structure. Know that this beast is there; to tame is the only remedy.

Are you to jump over a building in a single bound, dodge bullets, or be the leader of your neighborhood crime watch?

Of course not.

The task of becoming an Internal Champion simply requires that you derive from the moments in which you have only experienced and how you’ve handled them. Learn from the experiences. Learn your behaviors and reactions. Take an honest note and inventory.

Now envision yourself responding like a Champion.

Whatever the internal or external battle may be, do the very opposite you have done your entire life. The results are astounding. This is the development of your Internal Champion. It takes faith of the unseen and courage to discover that you are capable, one step at time, one adversity at time, one decision at time to respond knowing that confusion, panic and adversity are in place to pull out the Internal Champion.

Will

12 Hours part 2

DIARY 63

So what is 12 hours?

Ticks on a clock?

A really good night of sleep?

Yes, it is all of those things and so much more. When I started painting, the idea of someone owning or purchasing my art always kind of aggravated me.

“I like that painting. Can I buy it?”

A few years back I would get the question quite frequently, and it always resurrected the same ghoulish feeling. A feeling that I can’t quite describe but could possibly be a long lost cousin of stinginess.

This feeling has razor sharp claws and the demeanor of a fat mean cat. The fat cats that only let their owners pet them, and as soon as another hand comes… you guys know what happens.

BOOM!

Like a dadgum ninja.

The fat cat strikes and then immediately goes back to comfortably purring in its owners lap.

And as much as I dislike cats, I guess I’m not so much different when I feel my time being infringed upon.

But what I have realized is that I am doing it all wrong. I always say that being an artist is special because each day I get to create something that will outlive me. It’s a great feeling. But I have been too focused on the actual painting that I will leave. My art is more than just paint and canvas. That’s what makes art, well…art.

Because art is time.

And time fills the treasury.

It is someone’s existence wrapped and packaged for purchase in the form of something tangible.

And Scrooge McDuck doesn’t like his pile of time being fooled with. Each and every coin matters, because it is his.

Recently, someone inquired about a commissioned piece of artwork that they wanted done. I told them the price, to which they replied, “That is a lot of money for a canvas and 12 hours of time.”

And then it happened. Like the Snickers commercials where the guys turn into divas. I transformed into a fat cat, then hissed and swiped.

“Ma’am you aren’t just buying art. You are paying for the years I spent to learn and acquire my skills, to learn how to create the product that you want. You are paying for my ideas. You are paying for a part of my existence. My art is part of my existence in the form of a clock that resets each time you, or anyone else, looks at it or enjoys it.”

That was the thought that shot through my mind. And it got me thinking.

Why am I so stingy with my time?

Don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong with being selective over your time.

But if I want to truly leave my best here when I am gone, I have to give. My art is my time. But, in a way, the minute someone purchases it or I price it, it is no longer as valuable to me.

For the consumer, art only appreciates with time.

For the artist, it deprecates the instant they put a price on it.

Because their art is their time.

And time is priceless.

That is why time fills the treasury.

And I want to leave my best.

So my best has to be for free.

It has to be given.

Because only the best things you have, will you ever view as priceless.

This is why I feel most fulfilled when volunteering my time. In that moment, I am giving my time away in its purest form, I am giving the best I can offer in the only way it can ever be given.

Freely.

So back to 12 hours. It is so much more than just 12 hours when given for free.

It is a memory. It is a feeling. It is a legacy. It is a hot meal for someone less fortunate. It is helping pick up trash. It is giving someone a ride who doesn’t have a car. It is going to a nursing home to converse with the elderly just because. It is giving away your most valuable skills because they are yours to give.

Simply because you can. And that’s it.

Within your most valuable skills, lies your Treasury.

And that is what must be emptied to leave anything worthwhile. Because everything else will fade away. But the contents that once filled a now empty Treasury will always help people realize that they too have one. And when the time comes, it will prompt them to empty theirs as well.

And that is lasting.

Spend 12 hours. It is 43,200 clicks on a clock. It is waiting in traffic. It is heating up a TV dinner. It is boring. It is mundane. It fades.

But give 12 hours, and part of you will get to live forever.

The simplest concepts are often the most ironic.

If time fills the treasury, then the richest of us all have nothing. And the bum on the street with an empty vault is King.

For 2014 I wanted to challenge myself. Well, let me rephrase that. I have been convicted of the very thing I just explained, and have decided to act on it.

So I am giving away 12 hours.

Once a month for the entire year, I am going to give away a piece of art that I spend exactly one hour on. I’m giving it away randomly and completely free of charge. There is no rhyme or reason. It is simply me giving my best.

My challenge to all of you that read this is to find a way to give 12 hours.

12 precious and priceless hours of existence.

The series of art I will be doing is simply called 12 hours. The paintings are not planned. I don’t have any idea what I will paint. I’ll just sit down and make the very best art that I can in 1 hour, and then give that away for free.

Doesn’t the phrase, “Always give your best” mean something entirely different now.

I’ve been trying to “spend my best,” and vintage bubble gum machines don’t take debit.

Blessings,
Baron

12 Hours Part 1

DIARY 62

How long is 12 hours?

Simply 43,200 seconds.

It is measured in Time.

But what is that?

Something that, at some point, we have all claimed we didn’t have enough of?

Possibly something that we are all protective over?

The currency that we spend to buy meaningful stock in life?

So maybe 12 hours is much more than 12 hours.

Maybe it is much more than 43,200 ticks of a second hand.

It is much more.

It is a moment on the hand of a clock, a kiss, the turning of a book page, a blink of an eye, the space between a hummingbirds wings, the ripening of an orange or falling leaves, it is life and it is death, a scheduled UPS mail delivery, a little digital number showing when a Facebook post was created, the click to hit enter on a keyboard, the slightest twitches in your eyes as you read these words, and the electrical synaptic flicker that allowed your brain to process what that even means.

Forever in a lightning bolt.

Eternity hidden in hummingbird wings.

The Sun burning within our chests.

The birth of a million stars, within a million heartbeats.

And all at once.

Synchronized.

It is much more than a number.

The most important things always are.

I guess it’s easy to give something away freely when it isn’t what’s most important to you. It’s easy to dump stock that you have invested little to nothing in, and yields small returns.

It’s easy to give away used socks, and throw a handful of change into a rusty can.

It’s easy to write a check.

Now don’t get me wrong, none of those things are bad. They aren’t bad at all.

… but…

They are easy.

And as long as the Treasury is safe, they will always be that way.

Easy.

But even ‘Easy’ is bound by Time.

It is the lack of Time used to attain something to which we give value.

‘Easy’ is a salvaged ship with no sails, acquired for free. Steered but never moving, by a lazy captain who barks orders to his crew of ghosts that have yet to realize their Life walked the plank years before.

And with It, their Purpose submerged into the dark water. Left to drown, crying out like sirens to the sailors above, as water rushes into their tired lungs.

‘Easy’ is a doomed ship. It is the mirage of movement and the illusion of progress.

But hard things are good things.

Things that bring you to the gate of Selfishness, where a decision must be made.

Because hard things take Time.

And Time is Value.

Difficulty is the doorbell to the Treasury. It alerts the priceless Time within when something of value may be worth giving itself away to. Something worth leaving the Treasury for.

Time sees value in difficulty, and acknowledgment through Selfishness.

Because without our own selfishness, we could never use any of our Time.

And whenever Time leaves the treasury, it has to acknowledge the Gatekeeper.

And this Gatekeeper has a name. We have all met him.

We know him as Selfish, the Gatekeeper between the Treasury and what we perceive as Time.

He is neither good nor bad, but simply necessary.

He has a job and does it well.

He is the thought of, ‘should I?’ He inhales the air of, ‘this is mine,’ and exhales the breath of, ‘is this a good investment?’ His heartbeat thumps to the rhythm of the 5 words.

“What. Is. Worth. My. Time.”

He is the thin veil that all of our thoughts pass through.

He is the spark of thought that nods adieu to our most valuable asset as it leaves the treasury, becoming something that we can understand, weigh, number and value.

Currency.

But Time is not a currency.

Time can only be given. Not spent.

A billionaire could fill a collection plate with hundred dollar bills, but would not be so inclined to open his Treasury and give One Hour.

He could buy his family the biggest house, best clothes and vehicles.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

But that’s easy.

And the best of what he has to offer is not.

Would the Billionaire open the Treasury and allow One Hour to humbly leave, holding its briefcase and acknowledging the Treasury’s Selfish Gatekeeper with a nod while proceeding to his daughter’s recital?

Maybe. But maybe not.

If it helps to think of time as currency, then imagine Time as the only currency that makes its own decision as to what it should be spent on, how long it stays in the Treasury, when it wants to leave, and what is worth leaving for.

The Treasury door unlocks from the inside, and Time holds the keys.

Time leaves the Treasury freely, and at its own discretion.

Passing the Selfish Gatekeeper, who nods in acknowledgement as it transforms into terms that we understand. Terms of hours, days, and years. Terms that we can measure and time. Currency that we think we can spend.

But we can’t. We simply cannot spend Time.

Because trying to is most certainly a dangerous mirage.

The instant we believe we are spending Time like currency, our ship loses its sails, while raising the flag that the fleet of ‘Easy’ flies. A fleet that believes it is guarding something valuable.

Trying to spend time makes the Priceless meaningless.

Giving Time freely however, makes the Priceless live forever.

Because Time is value.

And that is why it is the hardest thing to give away for free. But freely is the only way it can be spent.

And that is why Time fills the Treasury.

It comes in the form of coins that are neither gold nor platinum. Diamonds, rubies and emeralds cannot compare.

Money fills the banks.

But Time fills the treasury.

Filled with coins that cannot be weighed on any earthly scale, and so beautiful that they shouldn’t have a value.

Because a value does not deserve to be tied to it.

It is above that.

If Priceless had a face, it surely would be stamped onto the currency of Time that fills the Treasury.

Where Priceless is the President, and in his wallet he holds his currency of no value.

Time.

Currency stamped with his image.

Currency that we are unable to spend.

Only give.

And I have been Scrooge McDuck.

Blessings,
Baron

 

Goodbye Weekend

DIARY 61

Earlier this week, I was texting my editor because I had no idea what I wanted to write about for this week’s column.

I was having a terrible case of writer’s block. I forgot how difficult it is to write this thing each week. But honestly, that’s why I agreed to resume doing it again, because it challenges me as a writer.

As I sat down at the coffee shop and opened my computer, nothing came to mind.

I glanced through some of the texts that Terry and I had exchanged earlier in the week about ideas, as I did my best to brainstorm for what I wanted to write about.

But nothing.

No good ideas.

No cool stories.

Just like the blinking line at the beginning of the empty Word document.

And just like it appeared and disappeared, ideas would come but were quickly dismissed into the trash bucket located in my mind, where all of my terrible ideas wait in thought purgatory, plotting their escape at a later date.

Ideas slipped through my fingers as if I were grabbing at smoke.

And on top of that, the dadgum hipsters next to me were talking so loud that I could barely hear my own internal dialogue with myself, which I lean heavily upon when brainstorming.

All I could hear were the two hipsters.

Clutching their tiny little espresso cups angrily, they were engaged in what seemed a heated conversation.

So doing what I do best when I cant think any useful thoughts of my own, I began to people watch, taking in my surroundings while listening in on the conversation of the two skinny-jeaned heroes, wielding their tiny espresso shots of power.

Hipster 1:

“I know, dude. I don’t get it. Do they not like understand that we have families too? I mean its not like I’d be going home for the holidays anyway, but like who wants to have to work during the holidays? I hate my fu***** job.  Total bull****.”

Hipster 2:

“I know, right.  You know to these companies we will always just be employees. They don’t care about us having to work on the holidays. They could care less.”

I chuckled to myself upon hearing the improper use of the phrase, “They could care less.” Because I am pretty sure that their bosses did care quite a bit less than even they imagined.

A whole lot less actually.

“All about the money, dude. They are just trying to make as much money as they can. It’s fu**** up, bro.”

Hipster 1:

“I didn’t go to school to do sh** like this. If I owned a company, I would definitely give employees off during the holidays.”

Hipster 2:

“One day, man. One day.”

I’m not sure what my facial expression was at that exact moment after hearing their dialogue, but I think it would explain what I was feeling better than words ever could.

Thoughts began to flood my mind about the ridiculousness of the two angry hipsters whose work ethic was probably filled less than the tiny cups that held their espresso.

And then it hit me. I knew what I was going to write about.

Thank you, lazy hipsters.

This is my letter of apology for my generation.

Dear Generations Before Us,

I issue my sincerest apologies. I am sorry that we lack work ethic. I am sorry that we do not know the difference between having equal rights and having equal things.

I am sorry that we feel entitled to be entitled.

I am sorry that we see hard things as bad things.

I apologize for the bubbles of narcissism that so many of us aimlessly float around in, comfortably complaining.

I’m sorry that when many of us hear the word ‘capitalism,’ we become offended and think it is a political stance.

I am sorry that most of us don’t even know what capitalism is. But it’s not surprising because, granted, it is a hard concept to grasp if you don’t know what ‘work’ is either.

I am sorry that we have attached a negative meaning to the word ‘work,’ while complaining that there are no jobs.

I am sorry that we see a problem and collectively find community in complaining about it instead of fixing it.

I am sorry that we do not understand the beauty and fulfillment of what work should actually be.

I am sorry that we strive to retire as soon as possible instead of pursuing jobs that we never want to stop working.

I am sorry that we have big goals, dreams, and ideas, but we think those will just happen over time. I am sorry that we waste so much time on meaningless things, yet complain that no one invests their time into things that matter.

I’m sorry that we think college or job title validates our worth.

I am sorry that we think college is a shortcut to higher income, and turn away jobs that we view as lesser.

I’m sorry we ignore that the bosses worked their way up to their title. I’m sorry that we think we are qualified for a position based upon a sheet of paper rather than applicable job skills.

I am sorry that we all want to be bosses and not have to work for it.

I am sorry that we do not know the difference between disagreement and discrimination. I am sorry that we do not know how to argue respectfully, and disagree with intelligence.

I am sorry that we do not question things we hear, and cannot explain why we believe what we know without a statistic, article or information that we read without questioning.

I am sorry that we are the most connected yet disconnected generation ever. I am sorry that most of us cannot maintain a face-to-face conversation anymore.

I am sorry that some of us do not know the proper way to shake hands, and have never looked another human in the eyes and said, “You have my word.”

I am sorry we do not know or value history like we should.

I am sorry that we use the constitution as a safety harness to repel down cliffs of ignorance to get as close as possible to delinquency while still being protected.

I am sorry that we think that just because we have the right to speak we always should.

I am sorry that many of us do good to be good, but don’t do good because it is good.

I am sorry that we do not know the difference between needs and wants.

I am sorry that if something doesn’t instantly gratify us, we dislike it.

I am sorry that we do not appreciate time, and misconstrue busyness with productivity.

I am sorry that we hold information to just about anything we want to learn on our cell phones, yet we use lack of education as an excuse for shortcomings.

I am sorry that we struggle to know the difference between information, knowledge, intelligence and wisdom, and struggle even more with knowing when to apply any of the four.

I am sorry that we cannot recognize or appreciate quality things over quick things.

I am sorry that we do not know how to get punched in the mouth, spit out some blood, punch back, then shake hands and move on regardless of victory.

I am sorry that we camouflage our softness in a cozy blanket of political correctness.

I am sorry that we reciprocate fear caused from being misinformed with hate.

I am sorry that we simply are misinformed. There is no excuse for that.

I’m sorry that we don’t acknowledge that there are, have been, and always will be bullies in the world. I’m sorry that we are not preparing ourselves for that truth instead we waste energy on changing the bullies that ultimately don’t, or may never care.

I am sorry that ‘sticks and stones’ no longer applies.

I am sorry that our skin is not tough, and we do not appreciate scars.

I am sorry that we want a utopia, but only as long as it is within our direct breadth of contact confined to the bubble of narcissism in which we live.

I am sorry that we strive to change others more than we do ourselves.

I’m sorry that we cry out for morality, while joking about deaths of others on social media.

I am sorry that we are so sensitive yet desensitized.

I am sorry that we are rocks protected by eggshells.

I’m sorry that we take more pictures of ourselves, than we do of our families and loved ones.

I am sorry we buy gifts instead of giving time.

I am sorry that yes sir, no sir, yes ma’am, no ma’am, please and thank you are slowly fading away.

I’m sorry that the phrase YOLO was ever created.

I am sorry that we don’t live lives that will be enjoyed more by others once we are gone, than they are by us right now.

I am sorry that we think more about life than we do death, but live lives that cause us to die more than we live.

I am sorry that we simply live for the weekend while letting everyone know how much we hate Mondays, instead of doing something that makes it easy to say goodbye to the weekend for good.

I am sorry that we complain about not having more days off.

We truly have done nothing to earn them.

For all these things I apologize.

I will do my part to help change them.

Sincerely,
A concerned Millennial

To my fellow occupants of this world and life travelers, we must work to do better.

To my fellow Millennials of this generation, let’s do better.

Work is a gift from God, and work ethic gives us strong enough hands to unwrap our legacy to give away once we are gone.

A new year is quickly approaching and many resolutions will be made.

But for me, I just want to say goodbye to the weekend for good.

I don’t want days off.

I don’t deserve them, but it feels good to know that I don’t really need them either.

Blessings,
Baron

 

 

Time is all I have part 2

DIARY 60

The Packers wanted to fly me out for a workout to potentially sign me for the remainder of the season.

And just like that, I was reminded why Compromise and Opportunity are brothers.

They look so much alike. But they are so different.

When I took the call, I was busy prepping for a 300-jar run of salsa. No not like the dance. I’m not a very good dancer, and yes I know that’s surprising.

Mind boggling to think that a black guy can’t dance, I know. But, well…. I can’t.

I guess God knew that I’d use that skill with bad intent or something like that.

So instead of giving me the gift of rhythm and movement he gave me something even better. He gave me the knowledge and skill to make salsa.

I mean like SALSA salsa. The essence of life in Texas.

That kind of salsa.

It’s pretty good salsa too. Actually… it’s the best in the world. And no, that was not a typo. I meant to say world. Like the entire planet earth.

The conversation I had with Compromise was pretty awkward.

“Ok, we will fly you out later today for the workout. What airport will you be flying out of?”

Ironically, Compromise assumes quite a bit. It speaks first because its wordplay is so seductive.

“Well… uh… have you spoken with my agent?” I awkwardly stuttered, simply because I had already explained to my agent, Jordan, my decision to pursue other things.

Jordan did what any good agent would do, though. He passed the call in my direction instead of speaking for me on such a decision.

“Well… no. We got your number from him, and we can fly you out later today. What airport will you be flying out of?” Compromise stated once again.

“Well, I appreciate you guys reaching out but I’m sorry to inform you that I have hung up the cleats and am using my time to pursue other things.”

And this is where the conversation between Compromise and I got awesomely awkward.

“Oh… well… ok. Ummm…. what kind of other things are you going to do now may I ask?” Compromise asked, his tone a bit taken aback.

“Well, I’m an artist. I really love doing that, and its going really well. And also I run this, ummm… limited exclusive salsa company.”

After I said those words, I realized how funny they sounded and couldn’t help but chuckle a bit at the explanation.

“Well, uhhh… good luck with all of that! Hope that all works out. Appreciate your time,” Compromise said.

And just like that, I realized something.

When you tell Compromise about the things that bring you joy and are most important to you, it has no choice but to respect that and politely move on.

Sometimes Opportunity will be viewed as the crazy choice to pursue. And from an outsider’s perspective, Compromise will seem the most logical.

So yes. I am an odd bird.

I am the man who turned down the NFL to make salsa and paint.

An odd bird indeed.

But the normal birds are never remembered.

Last week I finally got around to having business cards made. It had been kind of a conundrum, deciding what I should put on them to describe my profession. I ended up simply putting,

“I do things I love, and I do them well.”

I hope and pray that this inspires at least one person to value their time a little bit more.

If that is the case, then writing this was time well spent and Opportunity used.

Because quite simply put, my time is all I have.

Blessings,
Baron

 

Time is all I have

DIARY 59

“I can’t do that, I don’t have the time.”

“That’s not worth my time.”

“That is a waste of time.”

“My time is too important for something like that.”

People say those things all the time. But oddly enough I’m not sure that most people actually mean them, or even believe them to be true.

I know for a long time I didn’t.

For quite some time I threw around the most important thing that everyone could ever have as a simple figure of speech.

Time.

What a concept.

What a precious irreplaceable thing.

Over the past few months I have come to believe something that previously I had been guilty of lying about. And that thing was this.

My time is important. My time is all I have.

When I retired from the game of football it wasn’t because I didn’t like playing anymore. It wasn’t because I couldn’t still potentially play either. Yes, I know what some of you are thinking.

“But dude you got fired.”

I know, I know.  Don’t remind me.

I remember.

Come on guys, remember the story of me tearing down my house with my superhuman strength out of anger I told a few weeks ago?

You remember that right? The story that didn’t actually happen?

Ok but seriously.

The reason I decided to hang up the cleats was simply because I finally believed that my time was more important.

I finally realized and put in action the fact that my time is all I have. And because of that I prioritized the things that brought me joy in life and decided I would spend my most precious resource of all pursuing those things without compromise.

My time.

And after the prioritization I quickly realized that Football was not even in my top 5 things that bring me joy. In fact, after this analysis I quickly realized that actually football was the root of 90% of the things that stole my joy.

A year ago I made a ‘T’ chart for this. Third grade served me well I guess, thanks Mrs. Lusby.

You are appreciated.

Strangely I wasn’t sure how it got to that, but it did.  I guess I liked playing still, but it no longer brought me joy.

It was my Joy Thief.

And Joy Thieves should not reside in anyone’s life, or at least anyone who wants to be happy.

So the decision was made at that point. I decided to use my time to focus on the things that brought me joy and eliminate the things that didn’t, and not compromise that no matter what.

But typically with well thought out decisions in life, and commonly in my own life, Compromise is always lurking around the corner.

Waiting.

Watching.

Slowly moving closer.

Hands clasped tightly, and eyes focused on its prey with bad intentions.

Compromise is a skillful hunter that can only strike its deadly blow at a close distance to its prey.

So Compromise wears camouflage. It hunts while draped in a glimmering shiny disguise.

Compromise in my life most often camouflages itself as its brother.

Opportunity.

But the two are not the same.

However, truly believing your time is all you have, gives you vision to see the two for what they really are.

For those that don’t truly value their time, Compromise will always catch.

Compromise will feed on what it needs the most to survive.

Time and joy.

That’s why I believe those things to be precious.

Because Opportunity feeds from the same source.

Both are very hungry. The tricky part is distinguishing the two.

What I’ve learned is that Compromise can potentially bring momentary fleeting amounts of joy, but in the end it will always be a waste of time. It will eat as much time from a person’s life as possible resulting in lack of value for the most precious resource anyone can have.

Compromise is the reason people do not value their time as important.

Opportunity on the other hand will bring sustainable and renewable joy reach day. Opportunity takes a tremendous amount of work.

More work than most are okay with doing.

However, Opportunity devours time as well, but at the end of the day the joy it reaps always justifies the time it takes to feed it.

Last Monday Compromise hit me on the cellular.

Thats a cell phone.

I was busy feeding Opportunity.

It came handsomely dressed in a gleaming yellow and green suit. It looked like a Greenbay Packer suit.

Because it was.

Come back next week to read more.

Blessings,
Baron

I think I knew your mother part 2

DIARY 58

“Baron, My name is Emily and I am from Crane Texas.

I have been trying to find the children of a woman I knew very well when I was young that was at the Crane Nursing and Rehabilitation Center. This woman made a big impact on my life and I would love to share some of my memories of her. I can only remember one of her children’s names, a daughter named Bridgette, and I was trying to get a hold of her email address and stumbled across your blog! I am sure this is a bizarre email to receive, but I wanted to check and see if you might be her son before I started telling you my connection with her. Her name was Joyce and I knew her from around 1999-2001ish? Anyway, if you are not related to her I’m sorry to bother you. But if you are I would love to share what an impact she had on my life.

In Christ, Emily”

This is the email that I received from Joyce’s messenger. I eagerly responded to Emily’s email, explaining that I would love for her to email me back and tell me how Joyce impacted her.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the response was the most loving discipline that a mother could ever give her son.

And this is what she had to say in the form of Emily, her messenger.

“Baron,

Getting your email literally brought tears to my eyes.  Your mother meant so much to me and so often I have wondered about you and your siblings.  So why don’t I tell you about how I knew your mother, and how she impacted me?

I believe you and I are about the same age.  I am 26. When I was in the 6th grade I joined the student council (I know, what a nerd, haha).  Part of the requirements of being a member was doing community service hours.  I signed up to volunteer at the Crane Nursing and Rehabilitation Center.  The first few times I went I was extremely nervous.  I had no idea what I was doing, but very soon I met your mother Joyce and she was like a breath of fresh air! I didn’t know who to talk to when I was there until she came along and she and I became instant friends.  Soon, I started going just to visit her!

I visited your mother on a regular basis for about three years and just fell in love with her.  We would spend hours talking.  She would patiently listen to me tell her my hopes and dreams, as well as whatever silly problems a middle school girl has.  But when she would begin to talk our conversation almost always centered on her children back in Midland.  She loved you all so much.  She also worried about y’all so much!  I remember numerous times we would sit and pray for y’all.  She so desperately wanted to go back home to you.   She knew that life was hard for y’all but she also knew that the most important thing she could do was pray over you, and pray we did!

One thing I specifically will never forget about your mom is how she would call me a silly goose.  I don’t know if she called you all that growing up, but often when I would try to cheer her up and make her laugh that is what she would call me and it made me feel so special.  Now every time I hear someone say that I think of her. I also remember one time you all were coming to visit her, so that morning I helped her brush her hair and put on her make up. I had just started wearing makeup myself and remember us both having a good laugh as I tried to put it on her.

Your mother taught me some wonderful life lessons that I have and will always carry with me.  She taught me the power of hope.  She knew that she would probably never get better or get out of her wheelchair, however; she kept on praying and she kept hoping that things would get better and that you all would be ok.  She also taught me it was ok to be sad.  Your mother showed me it was ok to cry when you are sad, and it is ok to be honest with God about how you are feeling.  Your mom also taught me how to listen.  Your mom showed me that sometimes the best thing I can do for a person is simply be there with them in their pain and walk alongside them in it and not necessarily try to “fix it”.

Your mom was an incredible woman.  I cannot even begin to imagine how difficult that time was for you and your siblings, but I did want you to know your mother had a friend in Crane even when you all could not be there and that God was watching over her.  I also wanted you to know how much she loved each of you.  Although I was just in middle school I still remember so much about her.  Through the years I have prayed for all of you.  I could only remember Bridget’s name, but I still would pray for you all because I knew your mother no longer could.  The last time I went to visit your mother she couldn’t remember who I was anymore and I remember how hard that was for me.  But, when I mentioned you all she lit up and would begin to talk.  You and your siblings were a huge source of joy for her.

I now have my nursing degree and am back in school to become a nurse practitioner.  Your mother played a big role in that.  The way I treat many patients is rooted in what your mother taught me at a young age about caring for others.  Every once in a while a patient will remind me of your mom and I will just simply smile to myself, blink back some tears, and say a little prayer for y’all.

I’m sorry if this email is all over the place, I can’t quite put into words how I feel about Joyce.  Your mother meant so much to me and continues to impact my life on a daily biases as I interact with my patient’s.  I just wanted you and your siblings to know what an incredible woman I thought she was and that she is not forgotten and that she loved you all more than you know.  I will continue to pray for you all every time I think of her because I know that is what she would have wanted.

In Christ-

Emily

“Silly Goose! Baron, don’t be gross, clean that up. You know better than that. Come on son.”

Over a decade later I received my mom’s message from her very special messenger.

Emily showed up with perfect timing. She delivered the only message from the only person that I would possibly listen to. The only thing strong enough to crack the immense wall that I will have to tear down. It won’t be easy. I’ve been building it for decades. But this is the first time ever that I have admitted to myself that it needs to come down.

It has to.

And seemingly in an instant, I realized that the way I have survived up until this point has to change. My life is no longer about survival. That changed a long time ago. However, I’ve been foolishly clutching the survival guide that helped me get to this point.

But that is no longer needed, or is it applicable.

Because I am no longer simply surviving.

I am living.

Not only will my survival guide destroy me, but it will kill my messengers. At this point in my life I am sure that I am responsible for the death of some. And in front of my own two eyes in the form of a seemingly random email, I have seen the importance of a messenger.

The only reason Emily found me is because Joyce did everything that I don’t.

She listened to a stranger’s problems. She didn’t put her in a box. She didn’t delete her. She laughed with her. She gave her hope. She let her roam free. She didn’t tag her as beneficial or non-beneficial. She let her in. She impacted her life.

Because she cared.

And then she sent her with a message.

A message that Emily carried for 15 years.

A message from a mom who needed to speak to her son.

And a message that the son needed to hear.

“I think I knew your mother.”

That’s what Emily said.

And she  was right. Emily knew Joyce.

And my mother changed her life, and because of that 15 years later she continues to change mine as well.

I’m thankful that my mom was better than me. I’m thankful that she didn’t kill the messenger. I’m thankful that she cared.

Because now I can begin to.

Blessings,
Baron

I think I knew your mother part 1

DIARY 57

I was planning on writing about something completely different this week. I was actually halfway done with my column when something happened.

I received an email.

It was from a woman named Emily, and in the subject line it read,

“I think I knew your mother.”

Now, I have plenty of moms that claim me as their son who played a large part in helping raise me. It’s pretty awesome actually.

But Emily said she knew Joyce.

She wanted to know if I happened to be her son.

She wanted to tell me how my mom changed her life.

Every so often, moments of self-evaluation occur for me. They always happen right at the perfect moment. Usually it’s during the times when things are going great and I feel like I have it all together. When I feel like my house is pretty clean.

Then boom.

What the heck is that smell?

Like the Batman signal calling a savior to assist with the problem, a light is shined on the dirty laundry that I’ve hidden in my closet and forgotten all about.

And conviction speaks loudly to me, saying,

“Silly Goose! Baron, don’t be gross, clean that up. You know better than that. Come on.”

Just like the voice of a mother disciplining her son out of love.

I remember my mom used to say, “silly goose.”

Then, embarrassed that I’ve allowed the smelly pile of filthy clothes to secretly accumulate, I begin to clean.

I have always hated cleaning. I despise it. Especially dirty dishes, but I like a clean house. I guess that in itself is symbolic of why dirty piles of hidden things accumulate in my life.

Honestly a large part of me hates these moments. And even more so, I hate sharing them.

It’s not easy.

It’s strange that the things I talk about with no one, not even myself;

I end up sharing with everyone.

And even more strange is that typically the first time I put my thoughts into words they are in the form of a blog post or column for all to read. And the most ironic thing of all is that I learn the most from the things that I write.

Writing is my therapy, and many times it takes me reading my own words to listen to anyone. Sometimes the stories I tell impact me the most.

I need it.

So now it’s time to clean. Time to strip down and share some things about me that I’ve only said to a handful of people …

Ever.

Mainly because when I put these feelings or lack thereof into words, they even make me cringe. Because I know they are absolutely true, and absolutely messed up, and the worst part of all is that I don’t care.

Well…. until recently, but we will get to that later.

This is my dirty laundry.

And it smells really bad.

I lack empathy, and grace is often non-existent on my list of character traits.

I feel that loved ones will always care about me more than I care about them. I can walk away from any relationship and not feel bad.

My friend Cecily always jokes and says that I have a heart of stone. I just laugh, but it is impossible for me to ever disagree.

I store feelings, emotions, and relationships in carefully stacked and neatly organized boxes, ready for deletion when they become what I view as no longer beneficial or can be categorized as baggage.

I don’t have one relationship that I feel is not expendable to a point. Some of you who know me are reading this and might be thinking,

“Well obviously he doesn’t mean me. Baron likes me! We’re friends.  I’m not one of the expendable ones.”

No. You are.

You are expendable. You can be deleted.

And yeah that’s messed up. I know that, and I hate it.  But I don’t care really.

And yeah, that’s even more messed up. And with everything I don’t have, I wish I cared more.

But I don’t.

This is the smell that has my house foul. This is my pile of filth.

I view people as beneficial or non-beneficial. And non-beneficial individuals, I view as baggage. Simply dead weight that will only hold me back. So I keep them at a distance and, if needed, delete the little box in which they are stored.

And just like that.

Poof.

Problem solved.

I call this “Giving ‘em the axe.”

It’s actually been a very useful skill at times. It’s allowed me to surround myself with only people that are beneficial to my goals.

Like trimming the fat.

I know this isn’t a good thing. I know it’s selfish.  But I haven’t really cared. It’s been a formula and way of operating that largely has allowed me to succeed in life.

Deep down I really don’t care if people’s feelings are hurt by me. I don’t care if I offend them. I don’t care about their problems, unless I can help fix them. I don’t care about their opinions.

And I wish I cared more.

But I don’t.

When people who care about me tell me that they miss me, I either simply say, “Thank you,” or I work up the power to lie and tell them that I miss them too. Because that’s the normal thing to say right? I think so.

But truthfully I don’t.

I simply don’t miss things.

And very rarely do I miss people.

I don’t even know how to explain that, other than the fact that I am so selfishly focused on my own life that I don’t let thoughts of others’ absence occupy my thoughts.

The only person I can truly say I consistently miss is Joyce Batch, my mom.

So yeah, for those of you who read that and thought, “But Baron said he missed me before.

I don’t.

I’m sorry. I lied. That’s the truth.

To counteract and balance the knowledge that the way I operate is not ok, I’ve developed a brutal honesty when dealing with people. I do my best not ever to lie, even at the destruction of someone’s emotions.  This allows me to be ok with who I am and how I operate, while at the same time giving individuals fair warning that they will always end up being emotionally hurt more than I ever will. It’s almost like a courtesy warning.

Like caution tape.

In my mind I feel like it makes it a little bit ok if I don’t lie when asked by others if I miss them. But what I’ve learned is that people aren’t very welcoming to the truth when it deals in matters like this, because most people handle emotions emotionally.

Because that’s normal I think.

But I can only process them logically most of the time, so this always becomes an issue, resulting in unwanted baggage that is not mine.

And this results in deletion.

For everything I have an exit strategy.

Gosh that sounds awful. I hate it. But I don’t care.

This is the reason I suck at relationships. Because deep down they are never as important to me as they are to the other person. This is the reason I have very few close friends, because the ones I do have must believe that all of what I have explained is true, and then be ok with it …

Even though it’s really messed up and selfish of me.

That’s why I believe I have the best friends in the world. Because deep down I know I am the worst.

And yet they stick around.

Honestly lately, I’ve actually desired the feeling of absence, or the true feeling of missing someone or something. I’ve wished that I had something worth not walking away from, even though that thing isn’t necessarily beneficial, and could possibly classify as baggage.

Just something that on its own is worth it, even if logically it is not.

Something worth not deleting.

Something that is not stored in a box and stacked neatly, with a tag on it that indicates whether it’s beneficial or not.

Something or someone that I trust enough to allow to roam free uncontained.

I’d really like to ditch my exit strategy that I keep for everything and everyone.

But the truth is, I can’t do any of that right now.

Because I have to do my laundry first.

And yeah I know, that’s all messed up. It was hard for me to read these words as soon as I typed them. But my fingers keep moving.

I’ve known it for a long time. I know it needs to be fixed.

Largely, it’s one of the reasons I’m happier when I’m single and most peaceful when I am alone.  It’s one of the reasons I am an introvert and enjoy my own company so much. Because when I’m by myself I don’t have to worry about someone else being baggage.

It is the reason I love to write and paint, because both of those things are not constrained to a box.

Those are the things that have escaped.

They are the only things that roam free.

And both are their own exit strategy. They are my therapy.

I need them.

They are the few ways that I have ever shown my true feelings and emotions, and the way I am most honest with others and myself.

They are what my soul looks like. And reassurance at times that it is alive and well, when sometimes I become doubtful.

The reason this all needs to be addressed is this.

I will simply end up being unhappy when it’s all said and done.

I’m not unhappy right now, but it will happen.

I will be successfully unhappy and alone, surrounded by neatly arranged stacks of boxes.

And I don’t want that.

The issue has been the willingness to acknowledge any of this as a problem, because it has helped me survive up until this point.

And just like that, right when I think I have my house in order; I get an awful whiff of my hidden filth.

Fifteen years ago my mom sent me a message. It was carried with care by a special messenger for over a decade, and delivered with perfect timing.

Her name is Emily.

And she knew Joyce.

And Joyce changed her life.

Come back next week to read how.

Blessings,
Baron

It all falls down part 2

DIARY 56

Sorry to disappoint, but no, I did not tear down my home with my bare hands.

No, I did not shed any tears over getting cut.

Actually, everyone else was much more disappointed upon hearing the news than I was.

I wasn’t disappointed at all.

And this is why.

Actually after leaving the Steelers facility for the last time, I went straight to my art studio located on the third floor of my house and began to paint.

And at that moment an awesome feeling washed over me. I remember thinking,

“This is my job now. I’m my boss.”

Pretty cool thought.

And as I moved forward from football that day, the swaying tower crumbled.

And just like that, the least interesting thing about my life was gone.

I learned the dangers of only having one swaying tower a long time ago, and since then I have stayed busy building multiple towers with more stable foundations than athletics.

Because unlike some, I’ve been blessed to understand and believe the truth that football has been a swaying tower ready to collapse for quite some time. In fact, that tower began to sway the moment I first began to play way back in 7th grade at Goddard Junior High School in Midland, Texas.

The reality is that from the moment I ever began playing football, the clock began to tick as to when it would end for me, and over the last 5 years I have done everything in my power to ensure that it would not be my only option.

I refused to ever become crushed under the weight of the rubble of my own creation, entrapped in a tomb of crumbled time, work, emotion, dedication and love, wondering what exactly happened and surprised at the fact that the tall swaying structure eventually collapsed.

Because when you stack and stack and stack.

Eventually.

If all falls down.

“What are you going to do when you’re done playing football?”

I was asked that question frequently while I was still playing, and my response was always, “Continue to do everything that I am doing now.”

And because of that, I have not missed football for a second, because of that I am fulfilled, and because of that I am very happy.

Since I’ve decided to move onto other challenges and goals in life and leave the game of football, I have realized one gigantic truth as to what football did for me that I’m more thankful for than anything.

Because of football I am competitive.

Because of football I appreciate and accept hard work as part of life.

Because of football I began to write.

Because of football I began to speak.

Because of football I began to paint.

Because of football I began to make salsa.

Because of football I moved to Pittsburgh, a city that I love.

Because of football I have friendships that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Many athletes identify with the game so much that when it is gone they are stripped of their identity.

Strangely enough it was the other way around for me, and I thank God for allowing me to see this.

Football did give me my identity in a strange way. But it was never that of a football player. It was as a writer, traveler, photographer, artist, chef, speaker and many other things.

And that’s because I was blessed to see that when you stack, and stack, and stack all you have into one swaying tower, eventually…

It all falls down.

But my towers are many.

Out of all the touchdowns and plays that I made, and things I got to do and see because of football, I am thankful for one thing more than anything else that it did for me.

Football allowed me to walk away proudly from it, and into a life that is better than only being a football player could ever be.

Football and I had a beautiful love affair and an even lovelier divorce.

We have parted ways on good terms appreciating the time we had together, and understanding that our time was limited all along.

From the moment we met, we began to part ways.

From the day we fell in love on the football fields of Goddard Junior High School all those years ago back in Midland, Texas, until our separation; it has been quite the adventure.

Football my dearest, thank you.

Without you I am everything I was meant and made to be, but meeting you helped me get here.

Thank you for the injuries and scars. Thank you for the memories.

You will not be missed or mourned; no tears will be shed for you.

Football my dearest, you are only appreciated.

You were a big chapter in my life with so many stories.

Stories of both triumph and failure.

But at the end of the day, you were just that; only a chapter in my book. And in a strange way deep down I always knew you wouldn’t be the most important one.

Strangely enough my fingers are not sticking to the pages when closing this chapter. It’s quite easy actually.

All the words have been written, and I’m proud of the pages before me.

I am who I want to be, but not who I can be. I am where I want to be, but have many places left to go. I am who I am.

And I am happy.

My old chapter is done. A new chapter starts now.

Blessings,
Baron

It all falls down part 1

DIARY 55

When you build a single earthly thing into all you have, by stacking time, effort, emotions, work, dedication, and love into a swaying tower. That thing will become weak.

And at some point …

It all falls down.

Getting cut from the Pittsburgh Steelers was the hardest thing that I have ever had to go through in my life. It was awful. I didn’t think that it would hit me like it did. I haven’t cried in years but that day I bawled my eyes out like a little baby.

Big heavy crocodile tears.

Tears so big that they had tears of their own.

They streamed down my cheeks and pooled into the corners of my mouth where hopeless emotions canoed without direction.

When I got the call to come meet with Coach T and Kevin Colbert the general manager because I was getting released, I punched a hole in the brick wall of my house, straight through to the outside.  I didn’t even feel any pain because my emotions were running so high.

I think it gave me super human strength or something like that.

Dang it.

If only I could have tapped into these powers throughout the pre-season maybe I would have done enough to make the team!

“I hate you Baron! I hate you. You let me down.”

“But I gave it my all man! I really did, we both know that.”

“Just shut up. Be quiet. You’re a failure. You squandered such an opportunity. You wasted the only good thing you had. Good luck with life now ya bum!”

With the growing intensity of this internal dialogue also came increased superhuman strength. As I stormed out of my house I didn’t even bother opening the heavy wooden door to exit, I simply reared back and kicked that thing straight off the hinges.

I still couldn’t believe this was happening. I was getting fired. I was losing my job.

Again …

And on my day off on top of that!

I was having the one good thing that I had going taken from me. I had put all I had into football and nothing else. And now it was ending.

As I stormed out of my house to my car, I punched the two brick pillars that held the entire weight of my front awning that cover my porch.

With these two powerful anger filled blows, the two pillars disintegrated into dust.  And as I began to walk away from the home that I had just remodeled and finally felt comfortable in, behind me it began to crumble into pieces.

My entire home began to fall apart and collapse.

I knew that my football career, my life, and all my talents were doomed to follow.

Gone.

All the things that I cared about and built were crumbling before me.

And just like the dust cloud that was once my home that sat in rubbles behind me.

All was lost.

I had built a swaying tower. Stacking all I had on top of something with a fairly uncertain base and even more so unstable.

And the thing that I had feared of happening all along, played out in the matter of seconds in the form of one dreaded phone call.

And just like that.

When you stack, and stack, and stack…

It all falls down.

Wait.

Hold on.

That’s just how most people that don’t know me well assumed I would have reacted.

That isn’t what happened at all.

But come on guys! You all should know better. You know me.

Come back next week to hear the rest.