My blog started off as a place to vent, and quickly grew into a lifestyle. At times, I’ll admit I got off track in hopes that I could get closer to my dreams – dreams that were never defined to begin with. I was never the type of girl who knew what she wanted to become. I didn’t know where to start, how to get there, or what was best for me. I just knew that I wanted to express myself in any medium I knew how – art, music, photography, dance, fashion. I’ll be the first one to admit that I’m not the best at everything, but expression is wonderful. It’s therapeutic, and I always encourage people to do the same.I started off using this space to share my opinions, aspirations, inspirations, style, life events and talents. My blog has grown to represent the many facets of my life, from the not so wonderful to the coveted. The opportunities I’ve received from this little old web space has far surpassed my expectations when I first started. It’s become a portfolio – professional and personal, as well as an amazing wingman. Many of the people I’ve met through blogging have become very close friends and respected mentors.
There is, however, a realness that I feel I’ve excluded from this online diary, and I’ve decided to open up about it because much of it has enlightened me to see life with a different perspective.
My parents split up when I was seven. From my first birthday to my seventh, my hair was done, my outfits matched, and I probably had more shoes than I needed. After my mom left, the majority of the time I spent was with my pops. That meant, no more matching ridiculous outfits, less-than-perfect hair (he tried), and certainly no makeup or nailpolish. Fashion was the last thing on my mind, and I had no sense of personal style. I didn’t get to experiment some of the more feminine processes as much because I wasn’t as exposed to it when I was younger. I suppose that’s why I grew up to blog about it. :)
I don’t regret it – I’m pretty sure everyone was a bit awkward when they were younger. We’ve all had clueless moments in our past – it just so happened that my father was the one to be both my dad and my mom. I still remember my dad’s face the first time I got my period. The process of him trying to explain what a maxi pad was and did? Makes me laugh to this day.
His charm, sense of humor and willingness to teach – all qualities I love about him so dearly. Those, along with his business acumen, entrepreneurial spirit and his selflessness.
My father moved to America with his parents at 17. You’ve heard it before – you come to America for a better life. His parents went broke after a bad business deal, and America looked like a shiny, princess-cut symbol of hope.
Once they landed, odd jobs and stereotypical small businesses awaited. A grocery store, Pizza Hut, dry cleaners, food trucks – all sources of income laden with stress. My father wanted more, and the American Dream was about opportunity that didn’t come knocking – you had to go out and get it.
He spent a year in high school in Springfield, Virginia – just enough time to ace all of his classes and get a full scholarship to West Virginia University. I still get teased about my S.A.T. score – my dad’s score was higher than mine, and his English was far from perfect. How does that happen?
Fast forward. I’m born. Mom and dad decide it’s best for her to move out. Brother’s four. I’m an awkward middle school kid. Dad’s a PGA certified pro golfer but can’t find the time to go on tour because he has to raise me and my brother.
To this day, my father heads into his Dry cleaners – Elegance Fabricare in Norfolk, Virginia. It’s the reason we have bread and butter. My grandfather, grandmother and father had to go into work at 7am, and didn’t leave til 7pm. Imagine this 6 days a week for over 20 years.
The only reason I work to follow my dreams is because I know that they have worked their asses off to give me this opportunity. My father is one of the most selfless people I know, and to have him in my life is my greatest motivation. I can’t help but feel, though, that this revelation didn’t come soon enough. It feels like I’m running out of time, and if only I had stopped being such a selfish, mercurial teenager, I’d have buckled down to get my sh-t together a bit sooner.
My father was diagnosed with Stomach Cancer almost a year ago. He’s 52. He’s never been to Europe or Africa. California. Florida. He never got to chase his dream of touring the world as a pro PGA golfer. This news came only a year after my grandfather passed from Stage 4 Colon Cancer. Since that year, he has fought through two surgeries and three chemotherapy treatments that have not worked. Cancer to the human body is like a lonely bed bug to a New York City mattress. It’s hungry, fueled by stress, and a merciless son of a bitch.
Let’s call cancer.. Bob. Bob is lonely so he likes to invite all his friends to party with him. He’s fat, ugly and has a lot of bad habits. He likes to latch onto things and fuck them up, like mischief from the Allstate commercials. He’s strong and popular, so his buddies come through before you realize he’s having a party in your backyard. He wasn’t even invited over, that bastard.
Bob’s in the tummy, in over 70 lymphnodes, your spine and your rib. You kicked Bob out of your tummy but he came back, then had his aunt and uncle move into your back.. and your ribs.. and your spine. You kicked him out twice, and you got so pissed you even called the exterminators.
Someone put a pump right underneath the skin that covers your chest. It’s got two ports. Every Wednesday, you go to the doctor to have him stick a huge needle into your chest to create a hole big enough to fit into one of the ports of the pump to deliver a Bob-killing cocktail into your body. There are two ports because your skin heals and thickens. It makes it hard to keep puncturing your skin when it’s hardened and scarred, so the other port helps the doctor switch it up. And the cocktail isn’t guaranteed, but you do it anyway ’cause Bob’s an asshole. He won’t leave.
The cocktail makes you sick, like most cocktails do. You’ll feel like you drank too much Aristocrat tequila last night, every morning, noon and night. Then you’ll go back to the doctor two months later to hear the good news.
Except it’s not good news – it’s bad news. It didn’t work. Bob didn’t leave. He had a fucking concert in your backyard, kitchen and living room – and he invited a shit load of people. There are empty beer bottles everywhere, and he doesn’t want to clean. Lazy.
But it’s okay. The doctor/bartender creates a new cocktail for you. Like the one before, there’s no guarantee that it’ll get Bob out. But you do it anyway. Because you’re a fucking fighter.
So in the morning you might get sick, you might feel pain all over your entire body, but you’ll still go back to your Cleaners to press pants in the middle of the summer. You’ll still ride a bike to stay fit. You had to give up Cheetos and ramen noodles, but you’ll still smile like you are genuinely happy. Because you are. Because you’re fucking awesome. You’ll still believe in God, and thank him for Bob coming into your life. Because even though everyone else thinks he’s ruining it, your faith is so strong that you refuse to cast him out. You accept Bob into your life, and carry on like you would. You smile, laugh, have hope and you’re still fucking amazing.
Bob still hasn’t left. And he still has house parties. The cancer is not gone, but my father is a survivor in every sense of the word.
I’ve held this reality deep down inside of me, and locked it in so that I could pretend like nothing is wrong. I haven’t opened up to some of my closest friends because I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to face the reality of the situation. I’ve realized, though, that forgetting or dwelling on a problem does not make it go away. Everything must be viewed as a blessing – all things happen for a reason, and whatever happens in our lives will be for the best.
I just know that I will try to live every single day like it is my absolute last. I will try new foods, take new courses, travel new roads and befriend new people. I will cherish the time, the people, the opportunities that we have in front of us. He’s inspired me to take chances and has motivated me to keep pushing, especially when things get tough. My main focus in life right now is to work my ass off to attempt to give back even half of what my father has given me.
I just hope that time is on my side.
I know Father’s Day was on Sunday, and although this post is a bit belated, I hope that my father’s story will inspire you to truly cherish the time we have in this life. Good or bad, it’s worth every second.
So go tell that girl you can’t live without her. Tell your mom that she’s still hot. Take that trip to Hawaii. Quit your ridiculous, miserable cubicle job and start that business you’ve dreamed of starting. Go home to your wife and kids. Wake up and smell the coffee. Life is too. fucking. short.
UPDATE: I WROTE THIS POST DURING MY FATHER’S BATTLE WITH CANCER. HE PASSED AWAY ON AUGUST 24TH, 2012, JUST TWO SHORT YEARS AFTER HIS FATHER, MY GRANDFATHER, PASSED AWAY FROM CANCER ON AUGUST 21ST, 2010. HE WILL BE MISSED AND REMEMBERED ALWAYS. VIEW HIS OBITUARY & MEMORIAL HERE. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING.