LETTER TO MY UNBORN CHILD
I’m often asked what brought about the decision to write about my recent experiences. Was it done out of spite to get back at those I felt had done me wrong? Not at all. For anyone who thinks this, humble yourself. And get over yourself. The casino, the characters, and the situations surrounding my recent experience have all given an injection for the premise of this book. These experiences are the wrapper to the artistic gift contained within the box from which this book comes about. Though it is true that some of these experiences inspired the book, it is much more than a tell-all book. Nothing has been written to bring shame or grief to any company or person. The choice to write about my experience, with an emphasis on the word my, was made for a much larger purpose.
The book was written for me. The book was written for my parents. The book was written for my unborn child. When we feel pained—so pained by someone or something—we carry that scar with us for the rest of our lives. At some point, we need closure; we need some sort of healing. It’s easy to try and ignore these pains and to conceal them from friends, family, and from ourselves. But all this does is leave the wound open and further infect our perspective of life.
So I decided to sit at my desk, look at my monitor, and imagine that this medium would allow me to talk it out and find the cause and solutions to the wounds that have brought me to my knees. My brick wall of internal reservations was torn down so that I could find solace from the feeling of hopelessness. Otherwise, my past days and future days would be lived feeling spiteful, angry, and with the inability to trust. What kind of life is this for one to live?
Even on this day today, I don’t feel anger or resentment toward any of the situations described in this book. Instead, I feel empowered, as if a new breath of life has swept through my internal being for me to see the simplicity and beauty in the life I have journeyed half blind.
The feelings I had while writing this book could be compared to the feelings we have when we find ourselves singing loudly in the shower. In that moment, we are our own superstar, comfortable and undistracted by the many pressures of life. I write about my experiences for the same reason a person decides to run, fish, paint, cry, or whatever else one does to channel their pains from the wounds of life. Doing this distracts us from becoming fixated on the grimness of our lives.
The second reason I took this creative approach was to allow my parents to see my intent, my dreams, my desires, and my everyday struggles that I have fought so hard for, so that one day I can feel as if I have given to them what they have given to me. My parents are great parents. They are my gravity and gauge of love. In all my years of being a child of theirs, I have brought many trying times to them. Still, no matter how large or how stupid my mistake was, my parents still cradled me with the same love given to a newborn.
It’s because of this grand exchange of life’s greatest gift of love that I made it a point to—when I had full control of my life—spend every waking day pushing the boundaries that this universe and genetic coding of mine have drawn before me as my limits. I would keep pushing until I reached a place where I could bring the same love that I had felt to them. Where they would know with absolute certainty that they never need regret the way they chose to raise me. They provided me with a love that was unconditionally magnificent.
At jobs, I would stay later than others and learn as much as I could so that eventually my achievements would rival those of my peers who from their births enjoyed the paths of good fortune already laid before them. In school, I may not have had all the colorful ribbons and tassels around my neck, but I found my way to stand out so that I wouldn’t become lost among the sea of normalcy, lost in the crowd. After the military, all I knew life to be was what was outlined on a syllabus. I was in school for the fall and spring semesters, as well as the summer and winter break semesters. And so when the time came to graduate, my name was called by the announcer four different times. While in graduate school, I did everything I could to make sure I would be part of the first class of my school’s new Executive MBA program. I did it. The Executive MBA class of 2010 was composed of Franklin Degraw and myself.
With each level-up I achieved in life, I still found myself on life’s icy hill. Each time I heard of a death, I was reminded that tomorrow is not a promise to anyone, and that I should not take the breath of my parents’ lives for granted. So each night I would lay my head down and contemplate how I could relieve myself from the feelings of defeat and failure. I am far from the envisioned future I held as a pendant across my chest as a child. It is for this reason that I have emerged from the rubble of the wall I used to protect myself and my ambitions. Instead of being reserved, I now try to act and say everything in a transparent manner. And so, it is in this book that I drop the cloak of conformity and allow my family to see my decade-long battle for success.
Mom and Dad, take my hand and let me guide you through the doors of what I have always envisioned, so that you can see the preparation, the decoration, the delicacies, and the gifts of the future I have been waiting to surprise you with—to be able to tell you that you no longer have to worry about your mortgage or any other bill. I wanted the last years of your life to be free of stress. I wanted you to see the lonely trees of the highest mountains and hear the chanting of the monks from the furthest land seen in the horizon. We’re almost there. Bear with me, my parents. I’m still pushing past the daggers of my constrained life. For now, understand that everything I do is in honor of and love for you.
Before I write about my third reason for writing this book, let me thank all the people that have motivated me and purchased the previous editions of I Deal to Plunder. Thank you. In my times of doubt and loss, to see that a stranger invested their time and money in something as intimate and personal as a written thought by me has continued to fascinate me to this day. I again kneel before you to say thank you.
There was a delay between Part II and the final completion of the book, but that is because I wanted to perfect the language, imagery, and thoughts. Just as I felt extreme delight in the many books sold, and even jumped in joy as I saw my book rise up the ranks of bestseller, I began to feel that I had cheated those same people by releasing an inferior product. I am sorry. I invite you to please restart at page one. I have spent many nights crumbling pages, marking through paragraphs, and searching for the right words.
This book, now in its completion, is something I hand to you with moist eyes. Hopefully through my twists and twirls, you’ll see something similar to a situation of yours. I hope my willingness to overcome these many hurdles shed light on any doubts or uncertainties that tug at your conscience. Remember, never doubt yourself. Come to see yourself as a person of a pure beauty and greatness. Now bring this internal being outward and expose it to the world. You will then be able to see the beauty in life, and how incredible you really are.
My last reason for writing this book is for the benefit of my unborn child. Since this is for him (or her), I will change the tone, so that it is a father’s letter to his child:
My child, I understand the pains that life will offer you. I know of the internal demons that will come to fertilize doubt and uncertainty. But you have to understand that it is this pain that will be the fuel to motivate you to go the extra mile when others have long given up.
You will be afraid, as I have been all of my life. We see life conceptually and in a way that all is seen before experienced. It’s because of this that we nod our heads at those who go headfirst into a situation without a plan. You won’t understand the rush to settle down, to marry, to call every smiling female (or male) your love; you won’t understand why people do things when the outcome of their poor choices is already known. This is where you will come to feel estranged from the rest of the world. You will feel out of place. You will feel lost. You will feel lonely. And with a young, developing mind, your body will convulse in confusion at finding a way to relate with others and receiving their acceptance and validation.
But my sweet loving child, take a deep breath. Your life is your own portrait. Learn about the brushes that feel natural in your hand. Learn about the strokes and the colors. Learn about the mixtures and how each stroke, mixed color, and learned style all add to the grand scheme of the life you will strive to make your own.
But you’ll want everything to happen at once. This is no different than putting a monkey in an art studio with paints and brushes. The result is chaos. This will lead to frustration and anger. I warn you now, so that this will be something you can avoid. Take that pent-up confusion and study life’s movement and the lessons from the great minds of the past. Transfer this lost vocabulary and inability of natural expression to some kind of art form like music. If it is music . . . I know, I know—don’t try to learn the musical notes. I failed at learning the hieroglyphics notes of sound. Instead, close your eyes and let your soul play the instrument while enjoying the comfort and the stillness that is felt within. Match the tunes to the wavy pains that pulsate inside you. Find the tune that numbs your stresses so that you are instead relaxed and calmed.
My last word of advice, my child, is to be yourself; as awkward and odd as it may be, be yourself. While others go through fads of long hair, short skirts, goth to punk, you too will transition through your own stages. But these stages are signs of growth. A growth that will continuously compound the pureness of your heart—one that steers the lost souls and minds who will find their way to you by laying a hand on your shoulder for guidance. Don’t turn your back on them; don’t expect anything from them. Help them . . . guide them. That is what we do. That is our grand purpose. And from this, you will learn about yourself and find enjoyment in others’ joys.
We all contribute to the flutters and ripples of life that allow us to feel love, joy, appreciation, tranquility, and compassion. And though I imagine it will be some five years before I see your eyes sparkling at me as I hold you in my hands for the first time, I promise you, my child, that I will be there for you every difficult step—in the same way your grandparents were there for me. And I promise you, my child, I will never let you see a day of misery or pain that is beyond what is needed for your growth or which you cannot handle.
I’ve had many disappointments, pains, and, abandonments in my life, but I took them on at an early stage of life so that I alone can experience them. When you enter this world, you’ll always know—during every step you take—that I am here at your side. I will be there for you. I won’t be distracted by divorce, money, or a mid-life crisis. I promise. My main purpose in life will be to hold your hand as we wander through life’s many paths together. And through this hike through life, I will give to you all the insight, experiences, and education I have accumulated to this point for the sole reason that your life may be enriched. So that you can know the shortcuts.
My child, know that I love you, and I am still fighting the struggles interwoven within the gravities of this planet so that I can become a stronger and better person, so that I can guide you and be at your side. This is my promise. This is the portrait I am now finishing at the age of twenty-nine. The world and your father will be ready when you beckon. I can’t wait to hold your hand and see my greatest joy and creation bring the littering of good to the many streets of lost compassion.
My, my, my, I can see now that each day that I wake greeted by your presence, I know I will openly weep with a joy that no other has felt. I love you, my child. Never forget this. You will never be able to do any wrong that would cause me to abandon you.
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Excerpt from I Deal to Plunder
Copyright © 2011-2012 by John-Talmage Mathis