An inspiration (every four years); Kind of.

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Dear, Eric Shanteau:

“I am pretty sure this is the right Olympic swimmer! I just read your story on ESPN.com. I wanted to let you now that I too am a testicular cancer survivor. I was a high school athletic director four years ago when I discovered it. I too put off surgery in order to complete a basketball season. After surgery I had a month of radiation. Not fun, but as you said yourself, a life changing experience. I have not taken my Livestrong bracelet off in four years now. I will never forget the moment that my doctors told me it was cancer, nor would I ever change a minute of it. It will define who you have become- a stronger and more devoted person who no longer takes the little things for granted. Your story inspires millions! Best wishes and feel free to contact me with any questions. Good luck in the Olympics and best wishes for a speedy recovery from surgery.”

– (Hiding the name)
Assistant Athletic Director
(Ivy League School)

Like the more relevant Eric Shanteau, I too willingly acknowledge my overly enthusiastic effort to play the underdog role in life. Regardless of the fact that I’m not an Olympic athlete, cancer survivor, and role model to thousands, I desperately want to follow my dreams and aspirations in succeeding in everything I wish to achieve. I love falling down and bottling up the dirt as motivation that will help me to surpass my initial goal. To only have one loss in life is far less valuable than one single win. The effort and joy I can capture are vital ingredients towards filling my heart with passion that can not be taken for granted when the appreciation remains vividly powerful. How can we ever measure another individuals success when our goals are so personal? Hearing others stories of bravery and willingness to overcome fear due to false identity has been an eye opening experience to say the least. Interview requests, emails to promote events, friend requests from ex girlfriends and letters inquiring hosting functions have been relevant during the summer every other four years. How can I find the tools to be as prominent and important to others on such a minuscule platform?

In my life, I’d rather closely lose than ever convincingly win. The effort is far more important than any results and the term for success is measured within my heart and not within the eyes of another. We go through life being graded, judged and evaluated. From head to toe, actions and reactions, or by a stopwatch. The decisions we tend to make are often calculated in great detail by another from afar. What they fail to realize, is what you do when no one is watching is the greatest measuring tool in determining the validity of your soul and the measurement of your value in this life. The greatest of all deeds are the gestures you are willing to give without receiving any accolades. Deeds that are never accountable, except in your own heart and by someone who calculates them when your time has passed. If my heart is full when that time comes and I still do not have enough to cash in, I will gladly accept my fate.

Please allow me to introduce myself: I’m the Eric Shanteau from Ohio – not Georgia. I have no idea how to swim and I have yet to break a single bone in my body, let alone be diagnosed with cancer. I’ve ran in two full marathons and a handful of half’s – I struggle every day with finding enough energy to even stand. Sometimes I do not move for days and have been diagnosed with something I do not entirely agree with. I’d love to find the perfect wife and soul mate – I love women with as many tattoos as possible and who have a free spirit and the ability to make irrational decisions on a dime. The careless, the better. I want to have kids. I think procreation is very important towards leaving a lasting impression on the world after I pass – I’m not entirely sure I like children. I’m shy – However, if you know me, I have a ton to say and perhaps too much. I contradict myself a lot in life and I have been very hypocritical of my own decisions. I try to justify everything with an explanation and to be quite frank, I’ve ran out of answers.

Lately, the silence in my life has been deafening. Sometimes, I have to talk to myself to see if my voice still exists. I chose this path in order to find one that is more suited for me and sometimes a misguided direction can right the ship. I feel emotions throughout my entire body that I know others do not. I have a belief that life is too short, that every day we roll dice from the cup of life that helplessly scatter across the floor. Although I know Maumee is and will always be home for me, sometimes I feel as though I can’t relate. It’s a settle down, raise your kids, retire, and without a doubt; an “if it aint broke, don’t fix it community.” I do not want this to detour my good will intentions in the city that I fell in love with. Every day I encourage myself to be a better person for others around me, and not myself. I’m erratically looking for the direction I need and for a helping hand to assist me in changing the world; because that is what I believe to be possible. I wont allow myself to contradict that choice. It’s a promise to myself that I will hold on the highest of all pedestals and although I can’t be awarded any medal, I justify my actions only by the effort and not the rewards.

I am my own sweetest downfall and until I can figure out a direction that seems to now be on a timed schedule, I can’t allow myself to bring anyone else down with me. More importantly, I can’t help anyone else if I can’t help myself. I promise you that this is being worked upon and in life, the only downfall will be for the lack of trying to be the best I can be for myself in order to become judged in my own eyes. I will vow to be my harshest critic and that will guarantee me an opportunity to climb to heights I once found unattainable. For myself, and everyone that allows me to maintain a prominent part in their lives. This is my promise to you and I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Eric Shanteau
Silk Screener
Maumee, Ohio

Living With Sand In My Shoes.

An old girlfriend was happily wed this past weekend, as I was gracefully updated from afar via social media. There were absolutely no objections on my behalf, as we became friends and gradually moved on in separate directions. However, this was something that needed to be noted in my heart because it was becoming nearly extinct. In one form or another, almost everyone I once admired and extended the notion of a future with, to this point, has found that with another. I can envision standing motionless off to the side of an airport walking escalator as, one by one, each former girlfriend passes by; wearing a veil passed down from their grandmother and ultimately whisked away at the end by someone better. I’ve wished to live forever and in return, everything I once loved has passed away. This trend is nearly at its end and regardless of any emotions that unwillingly have carried over, it’s still always a tiny dagger in my heart. I’m a rusted out nickel in a bag of shiny quarters, patiently awaiting someone that needs exact change.

I want to take this opportunity to apologize to anyone that was willing to give me the chance to share my life with theirs. I wasn’t ready and may never be. Admitting that, is downright excruciating. I write about marriage a lot because I think the notion of “till death do us part” is remarkably fascinating. It’s become a concept that I cant fathom but desperately want. Unexplainably, at the very least, I ponder this as if it were something I need solely based on the concept of “this is what you do in life” as opposed to this is what I want in life. God bless homosexuals, cross dressers, and anything else that still isn’t quite up to par in our judgmental world, because they may have chose the purest of happiness. If I can figure out how to be happy with what I have rather than want, and especially what society suggests, I may actually grasp or release the opportunity to welcome this delusional perception of marriage.

I grew to love the feeling of having someone on the ground to catch me as I lived my life alone on the fourth story. When that’s gone, I’m frantically afraid of heights. To work, run, shower, eat, relax, sleep, and know someone loved me from afar was a comfort I grew addicted to. This is all an extreme exaggerated example of what ticks within my heart, because I do enjoy company. I’m just not ready to be unselfish enough to do it on a regular basis in an unconditional, you come first demeanor. I’m so sorry. It’s beyond difficult living a life that you want but wont allow. Every morning, I’m flipping a two headed quarter and wont admit that tails just isn’t a possibility until I figure out how to be the preeminent person for someone other than myself. Abandonment has been the focal point of my life and I can’t exactly figure out where this fear formulated in my life. I covet someone being brutally honest with me. Telling me that I’m selfish, I’m an asshole, but they love me and that won’t change unless I allow it to. I can’t willingly grant myself the chance to become afraid of heights any longer. My heart can not take it.

I crave sharing my life and not feeling guilty for any choice I make within it. To not have to apologize for any decision I make that I wouldn’t allow you to make as well. I can’t argue and live with duffle bags full of mistakes that you’re willing to take out only when you deem it appropriate. Life is too god damn short for any of us to discredit anyone’s intentions with the person whom you willingly share your life with. I can’t ever promise you that I wont make any mistakes because I make them every day. What I will promise you is that my intentions are as good as gold. Unintentional mistakes are learning curves that we experience to grow as humans and exert to not have to live a life that has to be accountable for them. Life is hard enough to be comfortable in your own skin, and its extremely difficult when you feel as though it’s necessary to cover it up with makeup. Even the best relationships take work and compromise, but this is quickly becoming entangled in misconception of how we perceive our significant other to be and not who they are.

Last weekend, I complained that I had sand in my shoes. Sand from the dunes in the most beautiful place in America. Sand that was sun soaked and comforted my steps. Sand that I drove over five hours to see. As I sit at work, or lay in my bed, I could only wish to have these grains of sand back in my shoes. Without this brief annoyance, I wouldn’t be where I was. Where I desired to be. Relationships are not the sand within my shoes, they are the sands that surround me. It’s compromise without compromising who you are. Knowing that you take the bad with the good and that everything in life has displeasure within gratification. It’s a metaphor that elaborates my delusional interpretation of marriage. We can not expect our journey to be without barriers, as long as we are willing to accept their unintentional premise as to how we can live our lives without the worry of getting sand in our shoes.

900 Seconds In Your Bucket.

Imagine that you can’t jump out of an airplane, run a marathon, learn to play an instrument, or set foot on every continent. You can’t drive thirty miles, listen to an entire cd, or even take a three mile walk. There are no buckets and absolutely no pencils for any list. Time starts immediately and if you thought about grabbing your keys and jumping into your car, you’re more than likely down to at least thirteen minutes. Almost every night, I lie in bed and torture myself with one hypothetical question. I ask myself one every night and I attempt to give the most honest answer possible-even if I hate to admit it. In life, we are both blessed and cursed with the unknown; until now.

You have fifteen minutes to live. What do you do?

Do you call someone, write a note, lay in the grass, admit the truth, give a hug, or say a prayer? This question intrigues me more than any other. Probably a contribution to some restless nights where my mind races to find the perfect answer. However, no matter the answer, or where you are, it’s more than likely something rather simple, or daring, but importantly, an act that would make you happy. It’s probably a comfort feeling that could make you feel just for deciding that this could very well be the final notion in your now expected passing. Whatever the case may be, it’s something you may not have put much thought in or realized its true importance in your life; until now. This is an importance than needs to become more recognizable and attempted on a daily basis. Think about what that is and why it is something you may not do on a regular basis. Sometimes, we are cursed by taking these events for granted because we are not aware or willing to admit that our fifteen minutes could start at any given moment. Although, if we treat each day as our fifteen minutes, we will be able to take giant strides in limiting our last minute life regrets. The simplest things in life that make us happy are often the most rewarding. So, imagine how many buckets filled with 900 seconds you could empty if you honor your final wish once a day for the rest of your life.

What would you do? Do it- for yourself.

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R.A.K it.

I truly love what I do on a daily basis at work (for the most part). Well, the part that allows me to be creative. Sometimes I burst at the seams when I am passionate about an idea that allows me to freely express myself. It’s somewhat limited where I work, but I am grateful for any moment that allows me to expand on what I honestly consider a hobby. Someday, I hope to be able to continue it on a daily basis. I took the graphic art program home so I could practice and experiment on a few things, outside the box. In return, on my free time, I sold a few designs. Not for much, but just enough for me to make tonight possible. It has contributed to my true passion and that is a full circle that I will gladly embrace.

Instagram has become a passion for me. Unlike Facebook, it’s a way to connect with people you do not know and to see the world through their eyes. I find it unbelievably powerful and yet it’s currently no where near it’s full potential. My true passion is to make a difference. Small differences each and every day. I had this idea of R.A.K (Random Acts of Kindness) for awhile. I also wish to expand and use donations through the use of Instagram. The greatest and by far the ultimate gift I can give myself is to give to others. I want to do that and feel just as happy knowing that even a thanks is not necessary. I do not need anything in return and in fact, I feel selfish for doing this because it is somewhat intended to put a smile upon my own face. That’s the guilt I wish to endure.

I bought dozens of thank you cards, gift cards, lotto tickets, and utilized several dollar bills; thanks to the few designs that I sold. I placed them on balloons, in envelopes, and in my backpack to randomly place in mailboxes, windshields, sidewalks, and over rainbows as I gladly walked throughout town at dusk. I know very well that some of the greatest acts of kindness are smiles, hugs, and lending an ear. Without a doubt, I plan to elaborate on that every day as a goal to myself. Life isn’t always happy go lucky and I am well aware of this and I unfortunately contribute my part to the world’s sorrows. However, it’s all about making an effort to limit these now and throughout the rest of my lifetime.

I hope to continue R.A.K, and perhaps hear or see about these results on Instagram. Nonetheless, that is the least important aspect regarding tonight’s objective. Being passionate to do something and be creative sparks a smile on my face that is greater than any gift I could ever receive in return. I feel truly blessed to have been given this desire to make others happy. It without a doubt can be contributed to my family and my belief in Karma. What an amazing night – I am beyond thankful..

Digging holes for the ashes that were tucked safely in my bed.

A week ago I was positive that life’s parallels had taken abrupt turns that led me to a place I chose, but could no longer escape. I set fire to my past and in return, it has left my future with questions and hazy interpretations of my choices in life thus far. There are moments all throughout my life that stick with me. Seeming less irrelevant moments, at the time, that I can vividly remember as if they were yesterday. Not a birthday, death in the family, or even joining the military; my memories spawn from my senses and an all too common realization of déjà vu. I can smell or feel the air and it will bring me back to a specific moment with utter intensity. It could be a Wednesday in 1986, outside my childhood home just laying in the grass looking eagerly at the sky, and that, will always be yesterday to me. My life is surrounded by yesterdays that sometimes forbid me from concentrating on the present, let alone the future. I grew up an explorer. I loved what if’s and had a passion for possibility. I grew up near an open field, where, like me, had so much room for growth. I would dig holes. Tons and tons of holes. I’m not exactly sure why, but I know I still have the same passion I did as a child just in different fashions. I was looking for something that I was not sure existed, but knew I would greatly appreciate it when found. This has been the premise for my life.

I remember being at a “boy/girl” party in middle school and we were in a “no parents allowed” basement. Hearts and Teen Beat plastered the walls, as rock ballads and conversations of last weeks couple skates transpired throughout the evening. I felt fortunate to have been invited, to have friends, but I never really felt comfortable in my own skin. I’m hesitant to declare middle school as a “tough time” in my life, but I was reluctant to step out of my own shell and become the person that I was capable of becoming. As my friends and their steadies were scattered throughout the basement in dark shadowed corners, I was playing an arcade game with my friend who unfortunately, was probably racially profiled by tween aged girls. I would like to think that touching tongue tips in hopes of scratching French kissing off the early bucket list wasn’t a priority, but it was. Perhaps it played more of a part in my life years later than it did at that exact moment. Confidence is gained at such an early age and I still have very little at all. I’m awkward and clammy, not to mention speechless. However, I can accept that I stayed in my shell and be grateful for how that has helped shaped me as an unexplainable human mystery.

As I drove up the west coast of Michigan, I promised my heart that I can no longer burn bridges. Family is my top priority, but that is unconditional love and we are all aware that right or wrong, beginning or end, we are loved by one another. Friends and relationships are very conditional. There is a quote by Charles Schulz that says the following: “Why can’t we get all the people together in the world that we really like and then just stay together? I guess that wouldn’t work. Someone would leave. Someone always leaves. Then we would have to say good-bye. I hate good-byes. I know what I need. I need more hellos.” I love that. I have this brutal honesty in my heart that struggles with separation that it often insists upon. It’s a fight within myself to figure out the best decision for my future well being that often leaves me empty handed. I had severe attacks when I would fly back to Ft. Stewart from being back home. Still to this day, I can feel the emotions I felt every time I stepped into an airport. To me, airports are an emotional whirlwind. Going, coming, leaving, or arriving. Sad, happy, content, or distressed. Emotions that are all mixed together in one single building and emotions that I can still smell, feel and fear.

I laid in the backseat of my car in a giant rainstorm, in the pitch dark of the center of nowhere last evening. Thankfully, the sound of rain often puts me at ease, so my emotions were even keel. I thought a lot about the past and my bridges. I wondered how someone that struggles with separation desperately reaches out for his independence and security of being all alone. I’m not a down on my luck, woe is me kind of a guy as I used to be in the past. I’ve made my bed, and I am willing to raise my hand and admit my mistakes. I’m far from perfect, in fact, I’m downright as difficult as it gets. My desire for the perfect life (for me) obstructs my opportunity to find it. I am on an island full of bridges. Some sturdy, some rebuilt, and some held together by selfishness. I realized that its hard to build new bridges with a great foundation if you are so concerned with maintaining the ones that still exist. The majority are unused and are no longer healthy for me. Nonetheless, I cherish everyone that has crossed my path. I chuckled on the way up north that I loved road trips because my bladder allowed me to meet people I have never previously, nor will ever see again. I think about that. I wonder what life Barb at Speedway will live. And in a bizarre way of thinking, I wonder if they are just figments of my imagination guiding me to discover what it is that I attempt to dig up in my life.

Having relationships end and saying goodbyes is an impossibility for me. Even the worst of relations are honored and cherished by me for what they were to me at that time. For what they have done for me to learn, experience and better myself to be the best person for myself as well as another. The quote it’s better to have loved and lost, than to have never loved at all” is something I can’t relate to if a friendship is destroyed. I’d rather have unconditional love from that friendship that lasts a lifetime over any conditional love. I put my relationships in jeopardy in hopes to be assured of unconditional love. I believe this with all my might, but it’s just something I have not been able to find and a method I should relinquish.

I need to burn bridges. Although, it’s even more difficult in the social network world in which we live and breathe in. My heart and soul can’t take defriending another girlfriend, and her mother. I can’t burn my past, nor do I want to burn every bridge but I need to construct new ones that will guide me forward rather than in these circles of despair. I have made a few new friends, and that has begun to fill my empty heart with joy and hope. These are the pillars that will support me unconditionally in life and I shall never overlook that ever again. Looking behind me, wondering if I should circle back, or feeling guilty for something I can no longer control must no longer be an option. As I came to this conclusion, in the center of nowhere, I felt somewhere. I smiled and realized that at the very least, I am trying to better myself and provide opportunities that I can give to myself every day.

Tonight, I lay in the bed I made, filled with the ashes of the bridges to nowhere. I welcome all tomorrows and gladly accept the tools that are supplied to me to make it sturdy, supportive, and most importantly, everlasting. I will brush myself off and hope that my actions will speak louder than my words. Grasping on to this opportunity and head up, to the top of what this life has offered to me. Gladly knowing that goodbyes occur but the hellos are endless.

Black Fences and Rhubarb Pie

Happy. Grateful. Fortunate.

I’ve realized that I have created a misconception as to how I am perceived. Writing about heartbreak and sorrow is something that comes natural. It’s easy to express emotions for me that hide on the inside. In fact, it’s the best way to release these burdens and allow myself the opportunity to shine within. Sadly enough, hearing about others misfortunes has been granted as an antidote to making others feel better; about themselves. Like the news and country singers, its far too easy to relate to sadness then happiness. Happiness is very hard to measure, it’s full of shades of grey and sadness is far more black and white. I’m a definitive person that functions on specifics. Relationships, to me, are the definition of every grey that exists in this world. I can’t assume, or guess any longer and specifically not at this age. Trying to relate to others, whether its co-workers or friends, or something far more serious, was a tremendous blueprint towards building my own character. Hardships are our foundation towards happiness. We would crumble without knowing that heartbreak, sadness, and even death has the capacity to enter and leave our lives at any given moment. Nothing can ever prepare us for them, but it allows us to overcome them with time and the knowledge that life is worthy of failures if we are willing to acknowledge that laughter will always be around the corner.

Apple pies and picket fences. Baseball and puppy dogs. Kids and marriage. Every day I am very slowly learning to realize that happiness does not have any guidelines. Sometimes, society horse blinds us to what or where we should be in life. And to boot, at what age. It’s never too late to break the mold and understand that in others eyes you are classified as different because what makes you happy isn’t something they relate to; and that is why you are your own individual. Happiness is a state of mind and for me, I am usually searching for the ultimate sense of the word. Along my journey, I discover and encounter happiness everyday. What often separates myself from others is my uncontrollable quest to find all kinds of happiness in everyone or everything my life path crosses. Being content is a lazy excuse to not take the chance of discovering yourself. That’s a reason divorce has become probable and no longer possible. You can’t accept your fate because you’re scared life will pass you by. Am I scared to die? No. Am I scared that when I die I may not have achieved everything I had hoped to? Yes. It’s a rampant search for me that scares me when I take any day for granted.

Lately, I have found this amazing ability to see something different and become astonished in a new way when I see or do something I have previously. The park, running, or better yet; people. “Same thing, different day” no longer applies unless you want it to. Every day I am given the chance to achieve my happiness. To love my black fence and rhubarb pie and understand that someone else out there does as well. Until then, I shall try to spotlight what I am currently capable of grasping. Use these as tools of happiness to better my life and others along the way. I’ve been told that I should be a writer, or photographer, but I want to creatively raise funds for people in need so they no longer have to worry about hardships if happiness is achievable with my assistance. Anything else is a hobby or sadly enough, an unwelcomed necessity. I can and will find a way to express my joys in the same capacity as my sorrows. However, it will not be from pen to paper. It will be from my actions that initiate from my smile and self pride that I know I have and always will.

I can mistakenly contribute to your undeserving assessment on who I am and how I feel. Publicly opening up my emotions and wearing my heart upon my sleeve is my choice. However, let it be known that your contentment is just my starting line. If that means that our paths may never cross, then that is something I have to be willing to compromise in order to secure my own self fulfilment. To the people in my life, you allow me to fall down and assist me in getting back up. That is why you remain a vital asset to me. I can never repay any of you for your non judgmental assessment on how I’ve handled my life to this point. That is happiness. Unbelievable happiness. Thank you. In the mean time, you’re more than welcome to a piece of my rhubarb pie. Hell, you may never even eat apple again.

(love and value all comments)

Emotional Sleeves

For the first time in my life, I struggled wondering why I feel so much passion inside me-desire for a better life. Not by career or money, but by living each day how I want. Knowing that I will never truly be judged by those who want me in their lives. Knowing that wearing my emotions on my sleeves is just who I am. That in life, you can’t always be right -however, you shouldn’t fear being wrong. You can control how your own emotions transpire instead of placing them upon another. It’s a scary feeling knowing that what you say or do or write or yes, “Facebook”, is always being judged. I’m not sure how I can cope with that, especially when it comes from people I respect.

I realized today, that I may have always been that weird kid in the back of art class. I’m just not ashamed of it.

There is something I truly believe in, in the world and I want to find it. I want to give hope to others. I want to be the first to step forward. To make the jump. I can’t live this life knowing what I am capable of and yet, do nothing in return. I can not, not say no to someone. I look forward to helping if I can/when I can. I live to make someone smile. This can be a burden.

As I struggled today, with what I could do to light up the world in less than 24hrs..it was a task that I found impossible. If given a weekend, or week- I could come up with something. I had nothing but ideas that required too much time. After I got pulled over by a cop today for expired license plates, I pulled into the store. I sat here last night debating. (How ridiculous this idea was). How I am probably “missing the point”. Regardless, I grabbed the markers, and what ended up looking like a four minute job by a third grader, ended up hours, by a grown man. Double sided, I may add.

Today, I decided to walk the 8 miles to the Maumee DMV (Perrysburg was too close) carrying this sign at 7am. I am not only renewing my license plates, but I am setting out to “light up the world” and to better myself. I just can’t explain why..

So go ahead, judge me. (“Here’s my sign”..)

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