It is that most wonderful time of year friends and sporadic, casual readers. You know the one: That time of year when, after three or four months of silence, I return to the Interwebs and this blog to ruminate on all the things that I am thankful for. If you’ve been following this site and me in all its/my incarnations over the years–specifically Random Musings 1.0 and in print? My post-college Mental Flatulence and my pre-college/college era Dissertations–thank you. All 20-30 of you (winky emoticon; smiley face). This has been a yearly tradition for as far back as I can remember. Some years it has been tougher to verbalize my thanks than others and this year? Well, I guess we’ll see what happens in the next few paragraphs but for now? As my once-alter ego, El Autoro stated circa 1993-1997, “let’s get schazzy.”
2022 has been… Interesting. And not always in a good way. Unexpected is probably a better way to describe it. Challenging is an even better one. Looking back over the last half decade to decade of my life, it hasn’t been the toughest–2018 and 2019 still take the proverbial top slots, and likely will for quite some time–but it is up there. Yet there is solace to be taken in the fact that regardless of the obstacles I and others around me have faced, I’m/we’re still here. We may be a bit bruised and battered (not always physically; mentally, as well) but in the immortal words of Sir Elton John, I’m/we’re “still standing.” Maybe not better than we ever did, and definitely not feeling like little kids. I have jokingly mused over the years that certain epochs of my life have caused me to age prematurely. I added about five additional years in 2018-2019 (the bulk of which were in the former) and this year? At least one or two. Which technically means (if you believe this kind of timey wimey, wibbly wobley BS) that I am mentally, if not physically north of the big 5-0 this cold, November day. But is that a bad thing? The Magic 8-Ball says? Outcome uncertain.
Rather than dive deeply into the bad (as I am so apt to do), for once I’d like to focus on the good. This is, after all, my yearly “what I am thankful for” post. Challenge breeds maturity. You’d think after 47+ years on this proverbial side of the wormhole of experience that I’ve matured enough. And mayhap in many ways I have. But mentally? Something has changed this year. Whether the byproduct of all that I and others have gone through or simply another stage in the evolution of Frank Marsh/El Autoro/The Lunatic Lover/The Madchronicler, my mind is tired, but my focus is sharper than it has been in some time. Why? I can think of a number of reasons:
- I have come to terms with an aspect of my past that I never thought I’d come to terms with back in 2018-2019. There is still sadness, but rarely anger, and acceptance outweighs both.
- I have come to terms with myself. The dreamer that I once was, dreaming seemingly unattainable dreams remains, but the pragmatist and realist that I fought against for years now has an equal share of my heart, mind and soul. And for the most part? I am grateful.
- I have seen, for the first time in a long time that there is more to this world than I ever considered. More beauty. And despite the chaos that seemingly engulfs us 24/7/365–as partisans jockey for position in a 50/50 society–and engulfs me–deadlines and expectations–I have learned, perhaps for the first time ever to pause, and appreciate what surrounds me. There is a certain peace beneath the din. I speculated on this once (anyone remember “there is a key that unlocks a secret?”), but never saw or experienced it. And now? I can. I do.
This is not to say that I am satisfied, or 100% content with what I am and where I am in my evolution–you should never be so; you should always strive to be more than you currently are–but if how I feel today is any indication? This is going to be the best version of Frank Marsh yet. It is still early, and I have learned over the course of my life that the unexpected has a way of f*cking up any and all predilections. So? We’ll see. Though regardless of what happens, I am not sure that I can do away with my Madchronicler moniker. NotSoMadchronicler Doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. I think for now, I’ll stick with what’s been working. Besides: notsomadchronicler@__. is even tougher to remember than madchronicler@__, and I wouldn’t do that to you. Winky emoticon, smiley face X2.
How did I get here? What was my roadmap? For that you need to reference back to the three reasons I mentioned above. In reverse order:
I have seen, for the first time in a long time that there is more to this world than I ever considered. I’ve spent so much time in and around Swarthmore, PA (with the occasional weekend trip to the mountains or the shore) these last, four plus years that I forgot that other places existed. This year (and at the tail end of last), I travelled to Atlanta, Tampa, Denver, Alexandria (VA) and Palm Springs. Mainly for business–Tampa being the exception. In two/four cases it was my first time visiting a State, specifically Colorado and California. With the exclusion of Alexandria (which I am sure is picturesque, but the specter of Hurricane Ian cast a damp, and dreary pall over my time there), each place was more incredible than the last. While travel has, for many been a way of life for them for as long as they can remember, travel, for me–even within these 50 United States–has been limited to say the least. And many times, the product of a long and laborious drive from Point A to Point B. In late 2021 and this year, I experienced snow-capped mountains (real mountains, not the Poconos or Alleghenies, which is in no way, shape or form a knock on either), a desert oasis and palm trees X2. I stood upon a beach before clear, blue waters in 80-degree weather on New Year’s Eve, snapped a selfie grinning from ear-to-ear in front of the Rockies, and I relaxed in a hot tub beneath a crystalline, blue sky at the beginning of November. These moments, while trivial for some, were life-altering for me for in each case, I took a moment to simply stop. Close my eyes. Exist. And marvel at how small I am against the backdrop of the larger world that I forgot existed more than four hours away from where I write these words presently.
I have come to terms with myself. I will always be a dreamer and, to some extent, a hopeful romantic. I will always dream of penning the next, great American novel. I will always strive to find and embrace an ideal that many have considered far-fetched over the years. These aspects… They are a part of who I am regardless of where I am in my evolution. But the days of me allowing them to run my life and drive me have passed me by. Perhaps this is age, rearing its ugly head, or mayhap it is simply a long-awaited conclusion to so many times attaining a “dream” that was, in actuality nothing more than a romanticized version of a life, not less extraordinary as I have thought and written so many times in the past, but simply a Life with a capital “L,” responsibilities and all. I spend a lot of time on LinkedIn these days–way more than I spend on any other site in the Social Mediaverse–and this morning? The following pic caught my eye. Cue the visual aid I promised in my title:
To say that this resonated with me (and may or may not have caused me to write this blog post today) is an understatement. May it resonate with you, as much as it resonated with me. And may you too find joy, not necessarily in the story you dreamt of, but the one that you are writing.
I have come to terms with an aspect of my past that I never thought I’d come to terms with back in 2018-2019. A few months ago, I ran into someone I hadn’t seen in a bit, and we got to talking. I was a bit shocked to hear that they are going through something similar to what I went through almost a half a decade ago (my God, has it been that long?). In hindsight? I likely did more talking than I should have. As someone who has been there/done that I can attest to the fact that the last thing you want when you are going through the early part of a significant life change is to have someone that has been through it advising you on what you should/should not do. Because every circumstance is different. If that person is reading this right now? I apologize. Mayhap my “evolution” has changed me from a listening ear to an at-times preachy old fart. 47+ years, a spot of Type 2 Diabeetus (as my good friend Matt says) and a pre-arthritic, right knee will do that to a person, or maybe just to me. But? I distinctly remember saying that the key to surviving and still standing is focus. Specifically, how you focus, and what you focus on. Priority One is you/your minions (if any and if not? You) and establishing, despite the inevitable chaos, a place of physical and mental stability for you and them to reside within. Priority Two through infinity is all the other sh*t. This is something I, admittedly did not consider to its fullest extent when all manner of things went sideways for me. I was angry. Upset. Neurotic and paranoid. I spent many sleepless nights trying to figure out where I f*cked up. And even now, there are still times when I replay something in my mind and wonder why the hell it happened, or how I could have prevented it. Those moments? They are inevitable. But like any, dark memory that you retain you cannot let them define you. Always dial it back to Priority One. Once you get to that place of relative stability, everything else becomes a metric ton of a lot easier to deal with. Been there/done that. Own the t-shirt. Winky emoticon, smiley face X3.
So? In summation? This is what Thanksgiving means to me in the year of our Lord, 2022. This year, I didn’t write a book. I didn’t publish anything save for a couple of blog entries. But I travelled. I met and networked with colleagues and prospects that became or are in the process of becoming partners. I embraced my 9-5 moniker of Business Development Manager and guess what? I enjoyed it. I was successful. I spent time with my kids and loved every minute of it. I’ve been a Dance and Cheerleading Dad, a Theater Dad, a Volleyball Dad and a Basketball Dad. And despite the exhaustion and wear and tear on my car? I wouldn’t trade it. Not one breath. I’ve got two little minions that have grown into little ladies. Smart. Sweet. Occasionally sarcastic. Oft times fantastical and others pragmatic. But most importantly? Happy. Family? Friends? Amazing as before and always. I have a roof over my head, heat, water, food in my belly and a 9-1/8-2 football team (not to mention a baseball team that won the pennant; we won’t talk about the Sixers and the Flyers). And perhaps most importantly? For the first time in almost a half-decade, I feel… Free. When I sit back and weigh the positives against the negatives? The result is overwhelmingly the former. What am I thankful for?
This is your old buddy, the NotSoMadchronicler saying Happy Thanksgiving to you, and to yours.
Winky emoticon, smiley face X4.