Whenever I come to Connecticut it brings out the usual feelings of nostalgia. Driving through the city looking at the same barber shops, liquor stores and bodegas on every corner that have been around since I was a boy. Listening to the sounds of salsa and rap echoing through the city. These streets bring back a flood of images from my childhood. Bringing me back to being that lost little boy, wandering, and searching for something to believe in. I can see who I was in every teenager that I see walking the same sidewalks I walked as a kid. Coming home always does something to me emotionally. Maybe I’m oversensitive, or maybe I have truly come to acknowledge moments of clarity. Whichever it is, I always find something new here. Last time it was regret. This time I found courage.
On this current trip I have been nursing a broken heart. I told everyone the reason I came here was for a family reunion, but the truth is I needed the time away. There was something in my spirit that wasn’t sitting well. I needed to know what it was. Growing up I made all the wrong choices, a habit that followed me even down to Florida. The thing about making bad choices is that once you’ve made enough they start to feel like the right ones. The longer I stay in Connecticut the clearer I see the future I would have had if I stayed. I would have barely made it out of high school, and definitely would not have gone off to college. I’d probably be working a trade job making enough money to support the two kids I would have had. I probably wouldn’t be married to the mother of my children. Going out to drink with my friends on the weekends I didn’t have my kids. Much like most of the men I see here. My life would have just been about getting by.
I don’t know how… I don’t know why… But, God decided to give me the strength the beat every last obstacle life has thrown at me. He took me out of a dead-end situation and gave me a new life. And, even when I failed, He gave me the determination to look at the darkest version of myself and walk away from it. With His help I have broken every last life exhausting addiction that has tried to suffocate me. I have beaten every odd. Every rumor. Every mistake. Every failure. I have seen my demons face to face. I have seen the repercussions of my shortcomings, and through all of it I stood my ground and walked every agonizing step forward. I scratched and clawed my way out of my pit to be who I am now. It was God who brought me here.
I said earlier that I was nursing a broken heart. If you follow this blog or know anything about my life it’s no secret that the break up I’m going through hasn’t been easy to get through. It’ll be six months soon and some days it still feels like it happened yesterday. Without getting into all the dirty little details, I hurt the person I loved most in the world. By hurt, I mean brutally ripped out her heart and crushed it. And there are no words to explain the amount of guilt and regret I felt after it all happened. Yet, out of complete grace she tried to forgive me, and I did my best to prove it was worth it. But, no matter how hard I tried nothing I did made her pain go away. I changed my entire life from habits to friends. I got rid of any ounce of pride I had because I wanted her to know how important she was to me. Still, it wasn’t enough. There are some hurts that human hands can’t fix no matter how hard a person may try. It’s been two years and until recently I carried that guilt with me. But I don’t anymore. Not because I don’t feel bad for hurting the person I loved. But, because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the boy who did those awful things is gone. For so long I cradled her pain. I took all the responsibility, as I should have. But, the one thing I never said out loud was that her pain is nothing compared to what I had to live through. I’m not trying to diminish what she went through. But the truth of the matter is that while she felt real pain I was the one who was deep into that dark cave. I am the one that has to live with those choices forever. I’m the one who was physically present when it all happened. I experienced it all first hand, with my own eyes and hands. It’s me that has to remember what I’ve done. This isn’t an attempt to play “who is the bigger victim” because pain is pain. But, those consequences will be with me far longer than her pain will be with her.
Which brings me to this. I also said before that I found courage. That courage was what I needed to let go of the person I was willing to wait for. I thought that if I could just be patient and understanding that in the end love would win out. If I could prove that I wasn’t going anywhere maybe she could count on me again. I was holding out for something that I still believed in. Something I could have held on to forever. But, I woke up one day and realized that the truth is that no matter how strong or committed my love might be it takes two. The harder pill to swallow was accepting that no matter who I become, the only person she’ll see is the boy who hurt her and not the man he grew into. When we hurt the people we love that guilt roots itself into our hearts. It plagues us. Making us feel that we’ll never get it right. I finally let go of my guilt, and when I did I finally stood in the light of who I am. Who I am is a man who has made mistakes and owned up to each one. A man who has fallen dozens of times, and has risen up each time to be better than before. A man who never gave up even when everyone gave up on him. Those acknowledgments brought clarity to what it is I deserve. To what everyone deserves. And that’s a person who can look at our past and not be afraid of it. Someone who can appreciate the strength and resilience it takes to break through what I broke through. Someone who can look into our eyes and truly recognize the redeeming power of God in a person’s life. The next girl I love won’t cringe at the mistakes of my past, but love me all the more for how they shaped who I am now. She will understand how drastically God can change a man because she will see it in me everyday. The next girl that I love won’t have to worry about me holding back out of fear, or ever keeping her a secret. Love should never be hidden or considered a weakness and she will know that. She will be proud to be with me. She won’t let what other people will think of her get in the way of me making her happy. She will understand that commitment and consistency will last a lot longer than any pain will. She won’t run when she gets scared. She will know that there is always at least one person in this world that will pray harder for her than anyone else. She will know all of this because I will prove it to her everyday. Because that is who I am.