As I look back on things I just cant help to think how drastically it could have changed if it wasn’t for the people in my life. These last two years have opened my eyes to the world and I just can’t believe how I’m in the position I am today. Today I turn 20 years old and I’m proud to say I’m fully independent and support myself. I work hard for what I have and I’m grateful to be in the position I’m in but it wasn’t always this way. I remember back to being that young 17 year old kid full of excitement and arrogance to everyone around him, feeling invincible with the 100$ I was making a week working at Giant Eagle and being unable to think why people thought I was an asshole. This all changed though on the afternoon of New Years Day 2015 when I got that phone call… I just remember my mother crying unable to utter the words I feared most, something happened to Nana. Later that night in the hospital I stood by her bedside, she had machines keeping her alive and to see her like that caused me to feel something I never had before. When you see the person you love in that condition it rips your heart out, she was everything to me. I told her everything and she is the only person to ever understand and accept me for who I was. To see her go was the changing point in my life, everything had changed so quickly and I was just blindsided by it. I lost the only person I truly loved and whom I feel loved me more than anyone else had ever did. She raised me when my mom couldn’t and when my father left us, she made me into the man I am today and taught me how to life a full and successful life. I will never forget the times we had together and everything you’ve done for me. I love you Nana and I think about you everyday, from seeing a Hersey’s Almond bar in the checkout line to seeing #68 light it up on the ice you’re always with me and I wish I could of told you how much I appreciate everything you’ve ever done for me.
When you go through something like this it doesn’t hurt physically it hurts mentally. I remember for weeks after just dragging myself day to day slipping into a deep depression I let know one know about. I find myself doing that a lot, just feeling so empty inside while having a smile on my face. I remember countless nights of crying myself to sleep and asking why me? Why did this have to happen and why now? Right before I graduated high school on the cusp of entering the real world my own world shattered before me with no warning. When you feel so hollow it’s hard to give a fuck about anything, it seemed like I was stuck in an endless loop of shit that wasn’t getting better. I graduated with no plans to further my education, working a shit job as a cashier having old ladies yelling in my face about a coupon that wasn’t accepted. I always knew I could do better for myself I just didn’t know how. I was about to turn 18 with no license, car, money or mental stability to achieve anything. But as time went on more opportunities arose, I got a new job with my friend Connor being a bus aide and things started looking up. I started driving around the parking lot of my old high school and eventually paid for a driver’s instructor to teach me because my mom wouldn’t let me out on the road. I got my license that April and in August bought my first car, Fred the Ford. Also that August I went back to school and started classes at CCAC. That first semester I got a 3.5 and couldn’t have been more proud of myself! I was excelling in school, work was good and my photography kept improving and then it all came to a halt.
Just two weeks after my first semester of college had ended I found myself leaving home. Years of verbal from my stepfather towards my mother boiled over and I didn’t hold back. Every punch was years of anger and frustration delivered with merciless execution to his shit grin wearing face and after all that while consoling my nephew and sister apologizing for acting recklessly in front of him wouldn’t you know the poor bastard tried stabbing me? High off pills he lunged towards me at a snail’s speed, which I easily moved away from. After the police arrived my mother who witnessed everything blatantly lied to protect him. After 18 years of verbal abuse, slandering, stealing, and just put simply being a piece of shit she promptly defended him. At this moment she lost me for good, things between her and I weren’t always good even before Nana had passed but after she did we just grew further and further away. She had chosen a drunk who had manipulated her for years over her own son, a man who moments before tried to kill me with a dull blade. Mom if you’re reading this I still love you but I can’t forgive you. What you did is inexcusable and nothing you do will ever let me forget what you did. At this moment I didn’t know what to do. I felt like that 17 year old kid again, lost in the world of which he thought he’d never figure out. Things stabilized somewhat as I moved into my aunts for 3 months, even then I felt out of place and unappreciated. Those three months went by fast and with school and my options coming to an end I made one of the most important decisions of my life. I got my own apartment. Instead of banking on others to pull through I took the bull by the horns and crunched the numbers and figured I could do this all by myself. At 19 years old I was a full time college student putting in 10+ hour days with two jobs and doing photography on the side. With all of that family issues arose and I got “kicked out” of my aunts by a 25 year old child as she threatened to punch me while holding my nephew. Poor kid has been involved in some shit situations and he just turned 2. But with all this I moved into my own place and finished the semester with a 3.7 GPA all while maintaining two jobs, photography and somewhat of a social life.
Some time has passed since then and as I look back there’s one thing that is evident. If you want something done you have to do it yourself. I wasn’t given everything in life but I was given more than most, I didn’t have the most stable home life but I always had Nana to keep me in check. I remember we used to get a check from my father every month that my mother wasted on pointless shit but when you’re 13 and getting the new Call of Duty or a new hockey stick you don’t really care how she spends it. She never knew how to manage her money and that’s part of the reason why we lived with Nana, her and my step-father used to steal money out of my wallet. I was 7 years old and they would take the 20$ they gave me as a gift out of my Yu-Gi-Oh wallet to buy some smokes and a pint. When I look back at my childhood I really could of went in the wrong direction, with a mother who never stuck to her word and ran to a pint of vodka to solve her problems to a step-father who would pop pills, lie, cheat and steal his way to get anything I could have been a disaster. The son of a blind man who ran away from his responsibilities and a mother who accepted the mediocre, miserable life presented to her I shouldn’t be the way I am. It was because of Nana I am the person you see today; she guided me away from the wrong paths in life and taught me how to live a long, happy life. I really owe everything to her, from raising me to keeping me out of trouble and dealing with my bullshit she was the only thing I had and was there from the beginning. After my father left she took on the responsibility of raising me and being there when no one else was. My father left when my mother was 8 months pregnant with me, she walked in on him cheating on her and after that he ran off on us. He’d show up every once n awhile to visit but that was about it; the state paid his part of the child support because he went blind. Yep a year and a half after I was born the poor bastard woke up and couldn’t see colors, it progressively got worse to the point now where he can only see shadows. Karma is a bitch isn’t it? Nana taught me to be the gentleman he could never be, I know I’ve already said it about three times but she literally is the reason I am today and saved me from the shitty life I was supposed to have.
Speaking of that shitty life lets talk about it. As long I can remember I was always bullied and picked on, granted it was sometimes my fault because I’d start the shit talk but regardless I always felt like I wasn’t appreciated. No matter how much I tried I was always shot down by people, even when I would be the most genuine I could be I’d always be turned away. When I was younger I just wanted to be accepted, you know be apart of the cool kids and be popular. This lead to me doing shit I knew that was wrong and being as fake as they come. As time went on though I discovered something so simple but so hard to execute, being different. Don’t flow right in with what everyone else is doing, if you see an issue don’t be hesitant to point it out and if people are being shitty to you then they don’t deserve you. It took me so long to accept this because apart of me still wanted to be cool and popular but sometimes a different opinion isn’t the popular one. I still struggle with this today, we’re all older now but I still see the bullshit some people try and pull like they’re still in high school. You see this in the photography game; if you’re not in the clique of the “cool kids” then your work isn’t put into the spotlight. Old habits stick around I guess and it feels like high school all over again from the cliques to people thinking they’re too good for you they wont even respond. Sometimes I wonder why I deal with it all but photography is what I love doing and I’m trying to make it a career! So throw your bullshit towards me, sling it like a Randy Johnson fastball but I’ll never stop working and my work will speak for itself.
In a nutshell these last two and a half years of my life have been an emotional rollercoaster of highs and lows. Some days I feel like I am ready to conquer the world others I feel like the world resents me and I have nothing worthy to show for my life. Through everything that has happened one thing stayed consistent, never give up. Life has throw all it can and even more at me and through it all I’ve persevered, standing strong and always giving it all I got. I spit in the face of adversity and grin at any challenge. This goes back further than these two years all my life I was told I wasn’t shit. From growing up and told I was nothing but a fat loser to even now having my own family look me in the face and say how proud they are of me to turning around and telling me I’m worthless. I’ve had friends switch up and pray on my downfall and I’ve had everything that could go wrong happen. My father leaving a month before I was born and not being able to see the man I’ve become, losing my whole world at 17 and to now at 19 leaving home after you see your own mother lie and defend a man who just tried killing you. I could of given up at any point and be like my father and run away from my problems or be like my mother who just took the shit given to her and slams down a pint a day with a few pills to cope with her shit life. I want better for myself, I want to see those I love prosper and to help in anyway I can. I want to see my nephew grow up happy and successful and push him in the right direction as Nana did for me. I just want be happy. Looking around at everything I’ve done these past two years has really made me appreciate the life I was given. It is by no means the worst but through all the challenges I’ve become a better man. Every bridge burned has laid the foundation for a new one to be built. Every mistake made was a valuable lesson that helped me improve myself. I am 20 years old and I’m proud to say I’m fully independent with every bill in my name, working two jobs and going to school full time. My photography continues to improve and I’ve met such great people doing it that I’m happy to consider good friends. The son of a blind man who makes stunning visuals, kind of ironic huh? At the end of the day I just hope this piece helps you better understand me, this is 20 years of built up emotion brought to you in a long ass article that I hope you’ve read this far. I’ll never stop trying and I’ll never give up, through it all I’ve weathered the storm so far and I know not everyday will be sunshine and rainbows especially in this shitty Pittsburgh weather. You can achieve anything you want in life and a big part of that is just not giving a fuck about what others think. You just gotta say fuck it and shoot for your dreams no matter what it takes no matter the circumstances. Just go for it and if you fail fuck it, get up and try again. Take it from me nothing comes easy ad it never will but whatever you do never give up.