When I was in my 20s, fresh out of college, my college roommate showed up on my doorstep touting her brand new handbag. My mouth dropped. She was carrying a Kate Spade bag.
She said it was a graduation present from her mom and grandmother.
To someone fresh out of college, barely able to afford rent, seeing a designer bag on the shoulder of a friend causes major bag envy. I could not afford a bag between $100-$400. And guess what? It would take another ten years before I could get my very first Kate Spade bag.
In my 20s, Kate was a dream. In my 30s, I didn’t get just one bag, I got five, because I could finally afford her. Don’t get me started on the stationary line! In my early 40s, I added clothes, shoes and jewelry. To have a wardrobe meant Kate Spade had a prominent right to a space in that closet.
But as time moves on, business plans change. Coach (a brand I refuse to buy) bought out the Kate Spade brand last year, tried to put an end to the online flash sales (the sales that allowed so many women the opportunity to buy a Kate Spade bag), and started pulling the bags from shelves at department stores. As a result of this takeover and how they treated the Kate Spade brand, Coach shares dropped 14% just one month after buying the brand out for $2.4 billion.
Just add that to one of those reasons why I refuse to buy Coach. With their acquisition, it meant my Kate Spade shopping days would come to an end.
[Since someone will ask what is wrong with Coach. I do not like to carry what everyone else is carrying. Everybody has a Coach bag. Even with Kate Spade, the majority of people usually choose to carry Coach over Kate Spade. So I’ll go with Kate Spade over Coach. It’s like Louis Vuitton in NYC. Everyone has a Louis (even I do). But I would rather carry my Fendi over my Louis any day, because everyone carries a Louis in NYC. Kind of goes along with the argument: If your friend jumps off a bridge… If everyone else is carrying it, am I going to be like everyone else or stand out on my own?]
Learning of Kate Spade’s death really made me sad. She was a brilliant designer. She really helped bring out the girly girl in me. I wanted to hug all of my Kate Spade at home and love them just a little bit more as my way of remembering her and the little bit of happiness she brought to me every single day. She was a dream to me for so many years.
I remember when I was in my 20s, standing in Saks Fifth Avenue staring at the Kate Spade bags on the shelves. I could not afford anything in that store. But during my lunch hours, I would walk around Saks and Neiman Marcus making a mental wish list of what my life would be like if I made more money. I would own a Kate Spade bag and a Fendi baguette.
I would ask the ladies behind the counters to let me see one of the bags up on the wall behind them. Sometimes all I wanted to do was just hold one, study it, before giving it back and saying to myself, “Someday.”
That bag my friend brought over…I found a similar bag with a dragonfly where the logo would go for $9 and carried that bag for years. It was like Kate Spade, but it wasn’t. The dragonfly represented the Kate Spade June Lane dishes I’ve been lusting over for the last 15 years. During those starvation years when I worked for the Attorney General, I liked to pretend it was my starter bag…the bag like Kate Spade’s bag that would one day lead me to a real authentic Kate Spade handbag.
It wasn’t until I moved to NYC that I could make all of those dreams come true of owning all of the fashion I dreamed of owning someday. That’s the crazy thing about New York. For the right dreamers, it is a place where you can make every single one of your dreams come true. Kate Spade was one of those dreamers. She made her dream come true here.
In 1998, Forbes released an article on Kate Spade’s beginnings. On the eve of her first trade show, she got this idea to put the label on the outside of the bag. So she spent all night sewing them on. The next day, Barneys ordered 18 bags, but told her to sew the labels back on the inside.
Incidentally, a Vogue editor saw the bags at the trade show too and decided to feature the bag in their magazine WITH the label on the outside. This is what making something go viral looked like back in the old days…before the internet and social media took over. So guess what Barneys had to do? They had to call her back and ask for more bags with the label on the OUTSIDE of the bag.
Her instincts paid off.
What Kate’s story tells us is that despite what the world tells you, listen to your instincts and follow your dreams. Stay true to yourself. Believe in your dream. That’s what she did. She took chances on her impulses and she created a whimsical and beautiful empire.
I will never understand the reasoning of selling her namesake, but for most of us, we were buying a piece of Kate Spade’s dream. Her dream brought so much happiness to so many of us. We were proud to wear her name. Every single thing that women are afraid to say they love, but they do (like glitter), she let us know that we are never too old to let our inner child shine. She gave us glitter, shine, pastels, sophistication, fun…but also that 1950s housewife vibe…even if we never become housewives.
Ms. Spade, thank you for the last 25+ years of your namesake. You brought so much happiness to so many women. That, right there, should have earned your wings. Your beauty and creativity will be greatly missed. If God decides you should continue to create up there in heaven, just make sure you stay true to who you are.
My prayers are with her family and friends as they grieve the loss of this beautiful visionary.
Have you ever noticed when you are living your dreams, things start to work out more magically than they ever did before? It is as if the universe is conspiring to help you along on your journey. It brings circumstances and people to you that help you benefit in your endeavors. They are all heavenly tools designed to help you along your journey in becoming your true self.
When you are living your dreams, you start to notice how your world is changing. You are becoming the person you always dreamed you would be.
But be careful, because you’ll feel a lot of self-doubt along the way. You’ll question yourself and if you’re doing the right thing. In religion, we say that’s the devil talking to you, trying to stop you from becoming the person that God set out for you to become. Don’t ever listen to the naysayers, the people that don’t believe in you, the dream killers, and that inner voice that seeks to sabotage you. They have no place in your future. To listen to them turns your dream into a nightmare. It turns your dream into a fear.
Listen to your heart. It is guiding you to become your own best self. Don’t let the negative forces out there stop you from becoming your true self, because God knows, the negative forces will try to stop you.
It’s similar to the Temptation of Christ. When the Devil tried to tempt Jesus, it was right before he set off to become God’s messenger that would commence a new global religion. The Devil tried again and again and again to tempt Jesus. It was by knocking the Devil to the curb that Jesus was able to focus on being true to himself. It was only when he told the Devil to go away that the angels came down to help him.
You have to push away all of the negative things that try to prevent you from seeking out your dreams. Once you’ve done that, everything is smooth sailing. It’s like the universe conspires to help you achieve your dreams, but that is only after you have decided to walk away from all of the negative influences surrounding you that are trying to say that you can’t be the person you know inside of you is the person you are meant to become.
Your Biggest Obstacle
Your biggest obstacle will always be yourself. We oftentimes have dreams of how we would like to live and then we tell ourselves that it can’t happen. We thwart our own progress and opportunities. We become afraid to become the person we want to become.
We create our own obstacles along the way. Instead of waking up early to write the next great novel, we sleep in. Instead of working out, we look for the first excuse we can find to get out of going to the gym. When we diet, we create temptations that make us succumb to cheating and then that leads us to completely failing our diets.
We can become our own greatest enemy. Instead of focusing on what could go wrong, focus on how you feel when you are making progress with your dream. Dreams don’t just come true overnight. It takes a lot of work, a lot of steps, a lot of misfires and a lot of setbacks. If you keep watching what works and follow that direction, you’ll find things work out magically. Everything becomes synchronistic. It’s the universe winking back at you saying that you are on your way.
Focus on that “I’m Doing It” Happy Feeling
There is nothing more amazing than that feeling you get while you are working away at your dream. You feel like you are accomplishing something magnificent when that feeling hits. You are actually doing something about that dream.
When you feel that “I’m Doing It” happy feeling, keep going. Remember every single time you step away from the dream to work on something else that you need to get right back to that happy feeling again. Let that happy feeling be your drive to seeing your dream to fruition.
The dream is about the journey you take, not the end result. Enjoy every single second of that dream. Become involved in every single aspect that goes into your dream, even the small stuff, because when the big stuff happens, it will mean so much more to you, but you’ll also remember what little stuff went into creating the big stuff. It’s the little stuff you’ll remember more.
Enjoy the Ride
The things you’ll love about following your dreams are the incredible moments that happen along the way. That song playing the right tune at the right moment, you’ll remember that always. That person you spent 10 minutes with that you’ll never see again, what they said in those moments will become a newfound direction. That person you meet that’s already living their dreams, shares a bit of their passion in life with you…that’s the move that inspires you to keep going.
There are incredible things that happen when you are living your dream. I’m living proof of that. One thing and then the next and then the next happens and you’re standing there thinking, “What does all this mean?” That’s just the universe winking at you, telling you…this is your life now…go forward and be prosperous.
Enjoy every moment of the ride. It’s about the journey, not the end result. The journey is what is so incredible. The end result is just a moment, and the sign of a journey’s end. You now have to go find another dream to live. It’s the journey to get there that is the incredible dream. After all, when we dream, it’s not the end result that makes the dream fantastic. It’s the story of what led up to that moment that we remember.
Living our dreams is about deciding to live in the story that we have created for ourselves. We become the author, the narrator, the actor and the director. We become the story we want to live. We stop letting everything else in the world dictate our story for us. Our story we have written for ourselves becomes our own reality.
What is stopping you from living your dreams? Go after them. Live each and every single dream. Don’t be afraid to live in the unknowing. You know this is what you want, so go for it. Never be afraid to be you.
For many years now, I’ve struggled with becoming the person I know that I am inside. I’ve spent many years doing the little things to prepare myself for the big things in life. I always felt like I was just biding my time. For what? I did not know.
My Moroccan friend, Driss, told me years ago that everything happening in my life is for a reason. If I were to look outside the situation, my journey would look like a map. There were markers showing one point to another to another. That map was leading me somewhere…my path to my own destiny.
This past year, I made a lot of major changes and decisions. If I was going to be honest with myself, I hated hockey. I’ve hated it since 2012. The lockout and what the players did on Twitter sealed how I felt. I tried after the lockout to fall back in love with the game again, but ended up hating it even more.
When I initially retired in 2012 from hockey writing, I really didn’t want to have anything more to do with it. When my editor asked me back a year later, I decided to let go of the dream of having a family of my own (which is why I retired) and go back to the career. I broke my own heart and told myself that the dream to have a family is no more.
Perhaps that heartbreak added to the hatred towards the sport and covering it. A few months after returning to hockey, I found out I had a tumor in my parathyroid gland. I spent the next two months preparing for the worst, like my doctor told me to do, making sure all of my affairs were in order for the ‘just in case’ I didn’t survive the surgery.
When I woke up in the recovery room, everything in my life had forever changed. The story of my life prior to that surgery was done. Who I was after the surgery…that was the person I had to discover.
For a lot of people, they have a before and an after in their life. Usually some major traumatic event occurs and the person’s life changes forever. They are no longer that person they were prior to that traumatic moment. They’ve changed.
That was what happened to me post-op. I struggled a lot that first year. I struggled with memories. I had to wait an entire year before all of my memories came back. When they did come back, the emotions attached to them were no longer there.
The sisters of the Meditation Center told me that losing my memories was a good thing. I’ve been carrying a lot of pain in my soul. To no longer have that pain, why would I want to remember it? It should be considered a blessing. God had his reasons for wiping those memories clean.
As a writer, I needed to know what that pain was in order to write about it.
Moving In a New Direction
Last year, knowing I was very unhappy with continuing to be a hockey writer, I asked myself, “What do you love?” The simple answer was books and movies. So I decided to do that. It started with a Film Festival. Next, I attended the Book Expo conference for writers, bloggers, etc. I attended another film festival. I started getting invitations to movie premieres, talks, parties, etc. It was like this world accepted me right from the start and welcomed me in.
My entire world changed.
Hockey season started up again and I just didn’t want to be there. The reason I stayed was because sometimes you just don’t know who you are when you have become a certain identity. People see you and know you as a hockey writer. So what would happen if I were to change that?
I quit in March after the girl that had been helping me cover the Devils revealed that she had to deal with some misogynistic crap and someone tried to kiss her…and these people were members of the press. After I read her account, I realized, you know…that really sickens me that this happened to her.
For years, I’ve had to listen to assholes say shit to me about being there. Old guys would tell me I didn’t know anything about hockey. I could be eating a carrot stick and they would stop and say something nasty about my weight. I’m sure if I was model thin, they’d say I was trying to get a hockey player husband (and yes, I have heard many people accuse me of that over the years).
I was there to be a writer. I was not there looking for a husband. Sure, there were players that had crushes on me, but I was adamant about not being that stereotype that the only reason why women get into sports is because they are trying to get with the player. I rejected every single player that showed an interest because I refused to be the person people wanted to accuse women in sports of.
The misogyny in sports is very real. I just brushed it off and buried myself in my work. But then I realized…wait…this is why I truly hate hockey. These assholes have been saying shit to me for years and I act like it never bothered me, but the truth is that it always did. To know this also happened to the other girl…oh, hell no. I refused to be part of that culture anymore.
I was set to take over the spot at the New York Rangers, the team I wanted to cover since day one. I decided that I didn’t want it anymore because those same jerks were over there, too.
Turning down covering the New York Rangers was a tough decision to make. The Rangers have always been incredible to me. The last time they went to Europe to play a few exhibition games, they invited me along (even though I was the NJ Devils beat reporter). I was the only US based reporter that went along with them and the NHL. The Rangers were also the only team to reach out after I released why I was leaving hockey. I will always love the NY Rangers. They were nothing but good to me.
I did feel like I was letting female hockey fans down. You can try to fight the good fight and represent women in a culture dominated by men, but are you really fighting for anything if you just stand there and let the harassment happen game after game after game? What are you actually accomplishing by saying nothing and remaining?
Leaving hockey was the best thing I could do for myself. I wasn’t passionate about hockey anymore. When you’re not passionate about something anymore, you really shouldn’t be doing it.
A New Beginning
When I quit, people asked me what I was going to do now, thinking that this was the end. No. It was a new beginning for me that had been unfolding for over a year.
When I met fashion designer Malan Breton at the NYCIFF, he told me that he used to be a sports commentator. I was in shock. This man who creates masterpieces was a former sports commentator, model, actor, journalist and so much more. He made me realize that we should do everything we dream of doing. One day, as we’re going along our path, we’ll finally find our true calling.
Looking at my map of life and comparing it to his, I could see that our lives were quite similar. We tried on so many hats, just looking for the right fit that would define us. He helped me open up my eyes to see that this was only the beginning of my journey.
After I quit hockey, authors started contacting me to review their books, willing to do interviews. Before that, I had to seek them out. I had to talk to publishers, meet with the authors, just to get the interviews. I don’t have to do that anymore. They are contacting me directly now.
I got more and more invites to movie premieres, special engagements (like the 25th anniversary of “Silence of the Lambs” with the cast and crew in attendance), invitations to fashion events, art events, etc. I kept getting free stuff from vendors in hopes that I would review them.
Leaving hockey opened up that world completely for me. People were always conflicted about approaching me about their stuff because I was doing hockey, which is not what they were doing. After leaving hockey, they felt more comfortable approaching me. Trust me when I say, leaving hockey was the best thing I ever did for myself. It was a wall that was preventing me from accessing the world that was more like me.
All of this leads to my present
That person I’ve been afraid to let out, well she is currently out. As in, I stopped ‘preparing’ myself to be a novelist. This last year, I met a lot of publishers from various publishing houses. At year end, two had approached me to ask if I had a novel to turn into them. I didn’t.
For some reason, I had this fear of becoming that person I wanted to be (like most people). I was always preparing, writing for other sites and my own blogs. I was writing what I thought people wanted, not what I wanted. What I truly wanted was to take these book ideas inside my head and actually commit to writing the entire story down.
It is time for me to switch to writing books.
Last year, Kim Thùy told me that I should be the one writing books, not her. She loved my writing. That said a lot to me because I think her work is a complete masterpiece and beautifully done. When someone whose work I love tells me this, you would think I should follow through, right?
It takes a dream arriving at the right moment to make me realize now is the time. A couple of weeks ago, I had this dream that was so intense, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The story it told was just so incredible. The elements in the story were so intense with emotion, I realized I had to write this story.
I sat down and started writing down my notes in a notebook, transcribing the dream. 18 pages later and on my third gel pen, I had only told the beginning of the story. I hadn’t even reached the part where the bad guy is introduced.
As I wrote down my notes, my playlist would start playing songs that related to exactly what I was writing in that very moment. It happened again and again and again. You know what that is? That’s the universe telling you that you are on your path. You are doing exactly what you should be doing. You are on your way to your destiny.
As I got lost in this dream, I started to see that map of my life Driss was telling me about. What happened in this dream included a person I’ve been dreaming a lot about these past three years. I never understood why. Each time I had an intense dream that pertained to the story of my life (i.e. the dreams I remembered), this person was in it. I had no clue why he was in it, but he was in it. I just thought he represented someone else, because the story is similar to the story between me and another person.
When I stepped away from writing down my notes for the day, I started thinking about how weird everything was falling into place. Then I realized the main character in this book…his presence in my life goes back to the late-1990s. He’s the reason why I got into hockey. He’s the reason why I wanted to see the New York Rangers play. I was like…this is so bizarre. Then I looked at that map of my life with this new element and had to smack myself in the head. I was reading the map all wrong. I’d been reading it wrong for years.
I was biding my time and I had no idea why. Well, everything is now understood. I now understand the map of my life. I was becoming the person I was meant to become…a novelist. By starting the work on the book, making myself live in each and every single moment I am discussing, telling myself that ‘you must write for yourself,’ my whole universe has shifted in the most incredible way.
When I got the invitation to see David Duchovny, I didn’t RSVP. But then they emailed me again and I finally relented. I’m glad I did. He wasn’t there to talk about acting. He was there to talk about writing. He inspired me to become the narrator of my story and not let anyone else tell my story. I have to remind myself to write for myself. I look at these words before I write:
This is my writing mantra. It helps me to understand that when I tell this story, I have to do this my way. I have to fully be present.
Come as You Are
COME AS YOU ARE. That is what I tell myself. That is what it means to be present in the process of writing. You are giving a piece of yourself, so you need to be brutally honest with yourself as you write.
“Come as You Are” is also a very spiritual song for me. When I was struggling with meditation, this song came on and I realized this was God’s way of saying just come as you are. Sometimes I strive to be the person I used to be and get frustrated that I’m not her anymore. That frustration was making it so difficult for me to meditate. “Come as You Are” made me realize that God already knows my struggle and doesn’t care. I should just show up and be present with him, no matter what state I’m in. I’ll get to where I need to be eventually.
I’ve come to realize that the dream I had a couple of years ago about walking away from someone I loved dearly and watching his heart break was a foreshadowing of my future. God was telling him to let me be. I’d come around when I was ready. There was something I was going through and I had to go through it alone.
My struggles with meditation are about those inner struggles that redefined me after the surgery. The heartaches I was carrying in my soul needed to be dealt with and the surgery triggered that need to wipe the slate clean before it is too late. Letting go of the frustration helped me to understand that I’ve changed. I have to accept that I’m not going to be that perfect soul anymore. I am broken.
Writing for Yourself
‘Write for yourself and no one else’ is about making sure that I’m the only person involved in this writing process. In this day and age of trying to do quick, mass sells in the marketplace, we oftentimes get so involved with trying to figure out what other people want to read, we lose our own authenticity. We lose sight of writing something brilliant…something that will withstand the test of time.
The reason why Anne Rice became so popular was because in 1976, she wrote a book that had never been done before. She wrote the classic “Interview With the Vampire.” She is and continues to be one of the most prolific writers because she is very much a part of each of her stories.
Her stories involve something that happened in her life at that very moment. The struggles she’s going through, the pain as she works through each loss, sickness, etc., her books are a reflection of how she was living at that time. As a result of being true to her very being, she is one of the most celebrated bestselling authors of our time. Every book she has written has been at the top of the bestsellers list.
These days, I oftentimes see her ask what people want. That’s the problem with social media. People get wound up in trying to figure out what their audience wants instead of just doing what they want to do. We all get messed up in wanting to be accepted by others, so we try to give people what they want instead of just creating what we want to create and sharing it with the world.
This novel I’m working on is about my life post-op. It’s about a man who has lost his wife he loved dearly, and then gets her back for a moment. It’s about a woman running away from the abuse, because she is dying. It’s about death and how he takes pity on her and gives her a second chance. He gives her borrowed time. It’s about helping people learn to let go of the person they love more than life itself.
I think, in a way, this book is for someone. It’s to help him let go. I don’t know if you’ve ever watched someone’s heart break because they know you no longer love them. I watched that happen and there was nothing I could do about it. Those memories of how I felt about him did not return after the surgery. They never did.
I think this book is my way of saying “I’m sorry I hurt you.” The true elements to what happened in the real story are hidden in this story in such a way that it is supposed to help him let me go.
This is not the first book I wanted to write, but something tells me that it is needed now, not later. The other two can wait.
Diving into this novel, I realized that a screenplay I’ve been going over in my head (I’m up to season 4 in my head, need to get to a season 7) is starting to become more realistic to me. Last summer, I headed into HBO Studios for a seminar they were hosting. I literally had no idea how any of this TV business stuff worked, especially for writers.
I had accepted the invitation to attend the screenwriter’s seminar, because I actually wanted to start writing for Hannibal. Imagine my surprise when it was the NBC Executive in charge of Hannibal that was giving the seminar. Synchronistic?
I got from that seminar that Hannibal was about to be canceled. It didn’t surprise me after seeing the first 3 episodes (it got too artsy, I couldn’t hear or see anything…it was driving me nuts). But the thing is, there is hope for Hannibal’s return in a few years, but not to NBC. That means they’ll need writers in the future.
Also synchronistic was getting the invitation to attend the 25th Anniversary of “Silence of the Lambs.” Jodie Foster spoke about why she wanted to do this film and it totally changed the way I viewed the movie. I ended up sitting behind Howard Shore, the composer for the film. I almost fan girled right there in my seat. He’s written the music for almost every major film. Most recently he wrote the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit trilogies. I’ve been listening to his works since I was a kid and now he’s sitting directly in front of me to watch “Silence of the Lambs?” I swear to you, my universe is very synchronistic.
My connection with the film industry over this last year has landed a lot of crazy opportunities. The whole point in these opportunities is to learn, because this is a whole new territory to me beyond just watching a film. I’m learning about the ins and outs to the film industry, especially as a writer. I’ve met directors, actors and screenwriters this past year. The funny thing is we are inspiring each other to do great things. That’s what is so amazing about living your dream. You surround yourself with people that are living their dreams, too. They become your support group. You help each other reach each other’s dreams by supporting each other in our own endeavors. A lot of times it’s just adding whatever your talent is to the mix and being a soundboard of support.
There is something to that energy of creative types getting together. We feed off of each other’s energy.
When I decided to write my novel and complete it when the publishing houses make their rounds at year end, I started down a whole new path to realizing I was making my dream come true. When you’re on your path in life, you start to see things magically falling into place, as if to confirm to you that you are on the right path.
It’s like the birds are singing just for you. That is what it means to be living your dream that was designed for no one else in this world, but you.
The opportunities that have arisen over this last year for me was all part of the universe opening the doors for me to see that following movies and books was the direction I was always supposed to follow. Getting my name out there and writing about hockey for a few years was what helped me get my foot in the door when I began meeting with publishers last year. I kept telling myself that writing about hockey was helping me to become a better writer so that one day, when I was ready to sell the novel, it would make me legitimate and not some no name writer no one has ever heard of.
No one is interested in what I wrote for hockey, but knowing I was a member of the credentialed media, it legitimizes the fact that I am a writer. That means that the publishing houses and their agents are willing to talk to me. I’ve seen people with novels in hand going from one publisher to the next to be rejected because they didn’t know who they were.
If a publishing house is going to take a gamble on you, they need to like you right from the start. If you’re a no name who hasn’t put yourself out there to legitimize yourself as a writer, you’ll receive a lot of slammed doors in your face.
One thing I’ve realized as I’ve met writers over the years, they know when they are in the presence of another writer. They can just tell.
When I met Brad Meltzer last year, he looked at me and asked if he knew me. I responded that I didn’t think so. He replied that he knows me from somewhere but can’t put his finger on it. I just shrugged my shoulders. I had a feeling that maybe he was right. Maybe we did know each other somehow, but couldn’t put our finger on it.
I met Kim Thùy. She signed her book and then gave me her personal email to do an interview for this site. I was so surprised she was willing to do that for me. Our correspondence with each other during the interview surprised me. What I learned from her is to try and learn to write with fewer words. There’s always a way to say what you mean in more eloquent ways.
When I met Amy Tan when I first moved to NYC, I asked her about her rock band and if they would be playing anytime soon. She looked at me and said that when I finish my first novel to bring it by and they would help me make it better. I was like…WHAT? “They” being Amy Tan, Stephen King and Scott Turow. Those three are in a rock band together with a few other major American authors (like Dave Barry, Mitch Albom, etc.).
The irony in this is that I wasn’t even a writer yet. At that point in my life, it was just some far off dream. It was the person I wanted to be when I grew up, but I was nowhere close to making that dream come true.
She looked at me like she knew for sure I was a writer and re-emphasized that they would help me make my work better and give me helpful insight to get my work published for the masses. This meant a lot to me because Amy Tan is one of my favorite authors. The fact that she could see right into my very soul and see that I was a writer, that meant something incredible at the time. She was the person that awakened that sleeping writer within. I became a writer after that moment.
Now, it’s time to become the novelist. I don’t want to write other people’s stories all of the time (sometimes, but not all of the time). I need to write my own story, because truthfully, the things that have happened in my life that have helped define me are the stories I want to share.
This site was always about sharing the stories of people making their dreams come true in an effort to inspire others to live their own dreams. I just haven’t been sharing mine with everyone. Now, I am.
Everyone has their own U2 story…that story when they first fell in love with the music.
For me, it was just one of those bucket list moments. I was living in Washington, DC, trying to find some direction in my 20-something life. Fresh out of college. Maybe I was working in politics or law during that time. I can’t remember. U2 came to town and I said to myself, “I have to see this band at least once in my lifetime.”
I wasn’t a huge die hard fan. I knew a few of their songs. I mean…who doesn’t? I still remember “Where the Streets Have No Name” being among the first music videos I had ever seen on MTV during those days when I would sneak out and go over to my neighbor’s house to watch the forbidden MTV with my friend.
When I went to see them play at MCI Center in DC, I had no idea what U2 would do to me that night. I went in expecting nothing, and U2 changed my entire existence.
It was like they were making love to their music. I could feel each note in every single cell of my body. The energy of each note vibrated within my very being. I became intoxicated with the rhythm and flow of the music. It was like I was riding the waves that they bring. [“Even Better Than The Real Thing” reference.] They literally blew my mind.
I walked away from that concert a changed person. It began a new adventure into discovering who I was.
From wanting to change the world, working with non-profit groups, to learning more about the issues around the world, I began to see who I was in the grander scheme of the universe. The music opened my mind to who I am and who I could be.
I was sitting in traffic on the way to work one day and “Stuck in a Moment (You Can’t Get Out of)” came on the radio. Bono was singing, “You’ve got to get yourself together, you got stuck in a moment and you can’t get out of it.” I listened to that over and over again and then said, “NO. I’m not stuck. Not anymore.” And that’s when I decided to leave DC and pursue a different path in life.
I was young, not dumb
Just wishing to be blinded by you
We were pilgrims on our way
“The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)”
Behind the Lens
In due time, I would end up in New York City. I never understood why I ended up here, all I knew was that this is where my path led. It was while I was here that I discovered who I am and the person I will become. I’m a writer first and foremost. When I first started out writing for Orato.com back in 2007, they asked that I start submitting my own photos with my work.
My editor pushed me in that direction, because she was also a photographer herself. That push ended up opening me up to understanding how I see the world. Photography is one of the best ways for me to visually see how I am improving spiritually in life. It’s not the quality of the camera that determines if the picture is a better picture. It’s the person behind the camera.
I read this story the other day:
A photographer went to a socialite party in New York. As he entered the front door, the host said ‘I love your pictures – they’re wonderful; you must have a fantastic camera.’ He said nothing until dinner was finished, then: ‘That was a wonderful dinner; you must have a terrific stove.’ – Sam Haskins
In other words, it’s the person using the device that creates wonder, not the device itself.
A friend once told me that I have the ability to capture the beauty in the moment. It’s how I look at the world. I look for the beauty in the moment. It’s in that moment that helps me to remember and connect to the things I’ve forgotten and will forget. To capture the beauty of that moment, I have a visual aid as I take the steps to remembering what happened in that exact moment.
I mention the importance of remembering things forgotten because after the last tumor, I lost a lot of my memories. I spent the next year trying to piece things back together again. I created a 4’x4′ collage of photos of the places I had been from all over the world. It was a collection of beautiful moments.
Each day, I would stand in front of that collage and focus on one photo trying to remember where I was, who was there with me, what I ate while I was there, the smells, and how I felt. Who was I in that moment? A simple photo is a beautiful memory to me and a key piece in remembering who I was. It became a training tool to help me focus. It was like playing a game of Memory, but matching the photo to the actual life event that had become lost in the river of forgetting.
Bono made a comment during the show about ‘photographs.’ He said we were missing the moment. We were missing the concert because we were glued to our devices. I beg to differ, Bono. The person behind the lens of my camera is documenting a moment that is going to be relived again and again and again. More importantly, any person who knows me can tell you, what you see in the final product is not just the subject. You’re seeing how I see you. I’m able to pull out the beauty of that moment so that I can share it with the world. Some people will see it, others won’t.
I can find a simple moment that may mean nothing at the moment to anyone and create a moment that means everything to everyone who sees the photo. It creates a symbolic gesture that will take your breath away every single time you see it. Yet, in that actual moment, it means nothing to the person being photographed.
The joy isn’t just in the music and seeing U2 on stage. For me, the joy is being able to finally photograph them and share just what I see. While some of these photos look distorted due to the lighting, etc., that’s not what I see. I see the energy. I see the soul. I see the life force. I see the beauty in the art. It’s how I see them.
U2 was formed the year I was born. It’s a bit synchronistic how their music would follow me throughout my journey in life. Joshua Tree. Achtung Baby. Rattle and Hum. Zooropa. All That You Can’t Leave Behind. How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb. Invisible. Big Girls Are the Best. What’s Going On?
There was even a time a musician was trying to get me to forgive him and come back to him. When he saw me walk into the club one night, he stopped right in the middle of a song he was playing, pointed to me and said, “This one is for you,” and started strumming out the chords to the song. He knew how much I loved U2. When I realized what he was doing, I walked right out of the club. I wouldn’t let him bastardize U2 or equate some memory of him to a U2 song.
I won’t let anyone I have come across in this lifetime connect themselves to a U2 song. To me, “One” is not about two lovers fighting. To me, “One” is about my relationship with God when I’m mad at him for breaking my heart. Some rockstar wants to make it about us? No. I can’t ever let him do that, because then I’d never listen to the song again.
To me, “One” is God asking me: “Is it getting better? Or do you feel the same? Will it make it easier on you now? You got someone to blame.” When I was really mad, that song would come on and it would make me really reflect deep within my soul about the relationship I have with God, the father. I would probably not have forgiven God for breaking me if it weren’t for that song.
Since that concert in DC, U2’s music has become my spiritual soundtrack in life. It’s not always just the lyrics to the songs. A lot of times it’s just the music. Desire is one of my favorite songs. I have no idea what it’s about. It’s one of the first (and only) songs I learned to play on the guitar. Who knew that what The Edge makes sound so complicated is actually just a few chords mixed in with his genius?! That’s what I call art. Or how about Larry Mullen, Jr. on the drums in “Sunday Bloody Sunday?” Or Adam Clayton on the bass in “Bullet the Blue Sky?”
If there was any song that explained my entire spiritual existence, it is “Running to Stand Still.” What the song is really about is not what it means to me. The song is my spiritual journey in life. “She said, I’ve gotta do something about where we’re going…” “I see seven towers, but I only see one way out.” “You got to cry without weeping, Talk without speaking, Scream without raising your voice,” “She’s running to stand still.”
This song probably has some of the most powerful words in it. To the band, it’s a song about a heroin-addict couple in Dublin. To me, it represents the internal spiritual journey filled with conflicts and choices that come along when deciding what to do. The feeling that you’re running through life only to be able to stand still…that’s the power in words. It explains who I am.
Words mean something different to everyone when they relate to what is being said. What one person says can mean something powerful in different ways to those who hear it. The author of the words may mean one thing, but how the audience relates to the words is something incredible in and of itself. They are the words that provide spiritual growth in a multitude of ways. That is how God speaks. He says a million things all at once. Our simple minds can’t register it all in one swoop, but the masses together can understand every single word, because we each understand the message in our own way.
U2 is the soundtrack of my life. When I’m writing spiritually and want to get to the core of how I feel and the message I’m trying to relate, only U2 plays in my ears. They provide the music to every soulful piece I write. Their music has been so much a part of my journey in life.
When I was in Fes, Morocco, my guide asked me if I knew who U2 was. I laughed and said, “Of course. They’re my favorite band.” He then told me that they spent a lot of time here working on their music. Who knew that the days that followed, I would end up connecting to Morocco in Mysterious Ways. It’s a very spiritual place, and a country I hold very dear to my heart.
As I started writing about my journey after the riad doors closed and I was locked in at sunset, I turned on my computer, put my earphones on and listened to U2 as I went through my photos and wrote about my journey through this desert land that made me feel God everywhere. He was in the broken smiles of the nomads, the sands that blew in the wind, and the mountains that called out my name. God was everywhere. I could feel him everywhere. That is why Morocco is so important to me. It changed my soul. It is one of the most magical places on the planet.
If there’s any album I’m closest to, it’s “Achtung Baby.” The song “Mysterious Ways” makes my soul dance. “Love is Blindness” is the song that explains the love of my life. The dark, eerie emotion you truly feel when you are still in love with someone who is six feet under and your heart refuses to move on. Some say the song is about committing the violent act of suicide. The love of my life put a bullet in his heart. Loving him has been like my “Love is drowning in a deep well.” Part of me knows that is how he felt as well.
This album defined those teenage years of my life.
Seeing U2 in concert in 2015 comes at the right moment. Post-op, I have felt lost and empty. Who I was prior to that surgery has been gone for some time now. Trying to figure out who I am after the surgery…that is the journey I am on. Just who is that person looking back at me in the mirror? What is she supposed to do with the rest of her life?
Every dream I had before the surgery died that day. I don’t dream anymore about being anyone or having a certain life. The things I wanted more than anything, I look at with disgust now. The question these last two years have been, “Just who are you now?”
That’s where filling that empty cup comes in. Seeing U2 in concert is like refilling that cup that had long gone dry. They’re not reminding me of who I was. They’re reminding me of who I am and who I can be. I am not my past. I am only my present. Who I choose to be in this moment is a writer and a photographer sharing a part of my life with you and what U2 means to me.
Using Fame to Better Humanity
One of the greatest lessons I ever learned from watching Bono was how he was using his fame to better humanity. Using his work as a model, when I’ve interviewed hockey players over these last seven years, I am always curious to hear what they are doing to give back to the world. How are they using their fame to better humanity?
The people I am most disappointed with are the ones who embraced their fame and fortune and gave back so little. A visit to the hospital or showing up at a kid’s hockey practice is such a huge thing for them. But they could do so much more.
Then you look at Bono. This guy worked towards getting AIDS patients the drugs they needed to help them. He’s working on getting water into homes so kids don’t risk their lives walking miles away to get clean water to bring home. Those kids risk being killed, kidnapped or raped just to get clean drinking water. While those of us complain about getting no 4G on their phone, there are people that don’t even have running water in their homes. When we don’t finish our meals and just throw it out, I’m always reminded of how there are people that would kill to have the scraps from our tables. There are kids out there that go through the dump just to find rotten food to eat.
There is so much we take for granted. We don’t know how lucky we are. That luck all depends upon where we were born on this planet.
If anything, the work Bono does is meant to not only educate the masses, but it is also designed to help inspire each and every single one of us to our own greatness.
When God gives you fame, you have a choice. Use it for good or use it for evil. Those who use it for good aim to change and inspire humanity to help them evolve into their own greatness. Those who use it for evil use it for their own selfish needs and concerns and give little or nothing back.
When I changed this site around, I wanted to focus on the needs of the many. What could I create that could help benefit humanity? That’s when I came up with the angle that I would share the stories of people out there who are living their dreams in order to inspire others to live their own dreams.
Choosing that path has led to some very incredible things and incredible moments. I’ve met people along the way who are not only just like me, but we are also inspiring each other to our own greatness. There are people I’ve met over these past few months who not only inspire me to work harder and to be wiser with the words I choose, but I am also inspiring them to do the same in their own field. Those are the people you keep close. Those are the people you support. They are part of your journey just as much as you are a part of their journey.
You don’t have to be a mega-rockstar to change the world. You can change the world by starting in your own world wherever you live. You can inspire others to their own greatness. I can tell you right now, there is no better gift you can give to someone than to help them on their journey in life. I’ve never met U2, but they have helped me in this lifetime in ways I can’t even explain or thank them enough for. They set the example of what it means to inspire the masses to be greater human beings. It should also inspire each and every person to do the same. Go out and inspire the people around you to be amazing.
Change begins within you. If you want to make this world a better place, you have to be the change you seek. Do what is right in your heart and follow it at all costs. That’s the journey you were always supposed to be on from the get go.
The photos in this post were all taken by me during the July 31, 2015 U2 concert at Madison Square Garden. These pictures join the Rockstar Collection I’ve been building up for the last few years. That series also includes photos of Constantine Maroulis and Pete Yorn. U2 was the final piece that was needed for the collection.
The collection will be released in the upcoming months, as well as the never before seen photos from the Pete Yorn concert.
Certain photographs in the series will be available for sale. Details will follow.