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Friday, January 31, 2014

Why Hope May Not Be So Important After All...

Hope is a confusing word, and one that I am very mindful about using only in certain instances. What I mean is that I do not apply the word "hope" when making reference to any situation I am going through on my own, but instead am sure to only apply it to the situations of others.  This means if a friend is going through a rough time, I may say something to the effect of:
"I hope it gets better for you."
Which directs a bit of my own aspiration for their success to them.  Concerning myself, though?  I hope nothing for myself and I have no sense of "hope" for anything to work out.  
Let me explain a little.

Within my own experience, we live in a world of excuses and open-ended expectations for not just each other, but practically everything around us and even ourselves.  As people we are essentially taught to shift blame to others for whatever may be working against us, or that we need to figure out how we are supposed to have someone else fix our issues for us.  What?  No way.  Actually, if you have never worked in a business that is structured so a group of people converse together in obtaining the same goal, you may not understand this process, but it is very much true.  Whenever a problem arises in such an environment, the issue usually bounces around until someone who is only marginally at fault owns up to it or someone just sacrifices themselves to make it go away.  Welcome to business and welcome to our unstable world as a whole.

In the same way we make excuses to curb judgments placed upon us, we often try to avoid these instances in our own heads as well.  The terminology I find used in this situation is often "hope".  The problem with taking the time to hope something happens in our lives is that doing so is generally just a way to avoid the issue and begin our fall into becoming stagnant.  

I remember when I lost my job and career out of the blue.  The first thing I wanted to do was go out and push until I found something else - something better - something which proved a point to those who had foolishly cut ties with me.  After about two months within the process of determination, my leads were beginning to dry and with that I started "hoping" something would come along.  
What is wrong with that?
Do we not all need to have confidence?
The thing is, "hope" tends to not be confidence at all, even though we may think it to be true.  Hope in the way we use it in this generation means we have nearly given up on what we are chasing.  The moment I started hoping for better was the exact moment I stopped my pursuit of something better and something that can and would make a big impact on my life.  The term of "hope" for me was that moment of shifting the blame on the people who put me into the place I was in at the time and when I began convincing myself that something would happen even if I let my efforts slip.  
Bad things happen to bad people, right? I am a good person.  This should be easier.
Not hardly.

You see, I allowed myself to sink down into a place I never should have been.  The rejection and hardships I was going through during the time I started "hoping" for something better should have fueled me to be stronger and fight a little bit harder, but I let myself tire of fighting instead.  I allowed myself to become distracted with other things and other people when I had one goal during that time. One damn goal.  Even though that was the only thing I should have been chasing, I slipped more and more into failure because I started "hoping" instead of taking action.  

Have things become better since then?
Yeah, when I stepped up and took responsibility, cut out all of my distractions, and decided it was time to move on and rebuild my life, things did get better.  
Is everything perfect?
Not at all.  I still have plenty of struggles and I am not exactly where I want to be anywhere in my life, but I have learned to cut out the less important and focus on growth.
I am in such a better place right now.
Growing means taking action in every little bit you can until you gain enough traction to actually step out and make an internal change in yourself.  When you grow as a person, you have to keep your entire being and mentality in line with what you are chasing after.  Pushing off something for a day only pushes us a few days backward and hinders progress until one day becomes two, then a week, then a month, all the while "hoping" something will change on its own.

Hoping to obtain something within our own lives serves as nothing more than a placeholder for the empty promises we make to ourselves.  
Action creates purpose.
Focus feeds our passions.
Never lose either.

Grace and Peace,

 -Add me.  Stalk me.  Tweet me.  I really don't mind.-
Personal Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/drew.silvers
Blog Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/drewcoustic
Email:  drewcoustic@gmail.com
Twitter:  @JDrewSilvers
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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Say That Again? I Couldn't Hear You Over My Ego...

We have enough negatives in the world, right?
I guess I see certain downfalls in myself that everyone else can also see and depending on whatever relationship we are talking about at the time.  I can think of at least three people who do not like me for misconceptions they have in their own head about what they have heard from a third party.  Spending time to debunk their feelings is something I am not at all interested in, but saying this carries no effect upon me would be a lie.  This is just something I deal with and accept.  
Acceptance, what a thought.

People read the things I write and more people talk to me on a regular basis than most would probably assume and are often led to the conclusion that I am one to ignore the negatives and only push the positive aspects of life, but within that notion, I wholly disagree.  

There is not a fine line, but a very thick, long, and broad division between always being positive unrealistically and looking for the better interests within an individual's more daft life situations.  I see people out there who have been coddled their entire life and see a struggle being something as mundane as not making enough money to fuel their kombucha habit, or having to buy non-organic parsnips at a boutique grocery store. These are also the same people who have then mentality of world peace somehow becoming a reality because of their skewed vision of an actual struggle.  

You see, there is a very big difference between seeking out the best of the situations we go through in life to keep ourselves on a motivated path and completely ignoring the problems around us to focus on the unattainable.  Some things look better on paper and some things actually work when made tangible.  One of these factors comes down to our own growth and a reluctance to explore our actual growth potential.

I guess my whole idea is to not be so quick to write off the positive aspects of a negative situation.  Something I learned fairly recently is that most people really do not like to be held on a pedestal because even if doing so does not carry an expectation on the one looking up to them, there is such placed on the person who is standing upon it.  As a person who has been looked up to and been put under significant pressure to have a certain level of composure, I can identify with this and understand how even minor failures have a strong personal impact - but I still placed this burden on other people.  Oops...

What I am saying is that we should not be biased in the way we look at people, me especially for not practicing the same life lessons I push on the world.  Within the same right, we should probably be sure we do not read too far into things and know when people are trying to be encouraging to us by identifying the positives within situations without going completely over the top. 

-Speak, only if asked. 
-Be available.

I need to apply this more in my on life.
I have some work to do.

Grace and Peace,

 -Add me.  Stalk me.  Tweet me.  I really don't mind.-
Personal Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/drew.silvers
Blog Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/drewcoustic
Email:  drewcoustic@gmail.com
Twitter:  @JDrewSilvers
Instagram:  http://www.instagram.com/jdrewsilvers 

Sunday, January 19, 2014

The Key To Your Own Success. Shut Up!

Narcissism is something looked down upon by most of first-world society in conversation, but has also become one of the most socially practiced and socially accepted actions in recent years.  
Wait, it is ridiculed and also accepted?
Why are we so self important?
We accept it because of the entertainment value, but we denounce it because more often than not we see a projection of someone attempting to be something they are not - even if they think they can pull it off or believe it for themselves. 
Let me tell you a story.

Volvo is a Scandinavian car marque which has been around just shy of one-hundred years as of this post.  Their cars sold fairly well in various European countries from their inception, but while selling in sparse number overseas, they wanted to go a bit farther and create something more oriented to the world market.  When 1974 came about, they released the 200-series of cars to accomplish just this.  Known as "bricks" within the automotive circle, this is most likely the image you have in your head when someone says "Volvo".  

The 200-series of Volvos were pretty simple in design and had very utilitarian features which changed little throughout its life. The engine was simple to work on, cheap to fix and economical, the options offered on the car were few, and they sold incredibly well all over the world.  This model was manufactured on three continents and given final assembly in six different countries, selling just under 3,000,000 cars over nineteen years of production.  Volvo actually released the 700-series in 1982, but the 200-series still outsold it and lived an entire model year longer than the car designed to replace it.  Brand loyalty is a precious commodity in business, and Volvo had gone from a small Swedish car maker to a worldwide force of reliability and practicality.  Their 200-series of coupes, sedans, and wagons is easily one of the most indestructible cars ever built, many logging over half a million miles with only regular maintenance.  Volvo had found their niche and were doing well, but then dropped the ball.

With the life of the 200-series coming to a close, Volvo probably should have been planning a new successor to their landmark vehicle which shared a similar philosophy of what it was known for, but instead decided to use their capital to move more upmarket.  The company wanted to position itself as a safety-conscious premium brand rather than a safety-conscious practical brand.  Walking onto any Volvo dealership's lot in the early 1990's would have shown you the majority of their offerings trimmed in leather, with full power options, turbocharged engines, electronically controlled transmissions, loads of buttons and dials across the dashboard, packaged in a rather bland, softly squared body.  The company was wanting to compete with the higher-end luxury market instead of staying true to their economical reliability of the past. Due to this investment action, the company took a hit in reliability, which led to falling sales percentages with occasional spikes, but nothing exceptional to the growth they should have been enduring.  Ford Motor Company bought them in 1999 as a means of attempting restoration in the marketplace and still could not turn a profit, selling them to a Chinese investor in 2010.
Volvo thought they were bigger than they actually were, and with that, lost sight of the big picture and pursuing endeavors which were actually promising for them.
What does this have to do with society?
Hang on...

Everyone has a skill set of some sort and anyone who has spent any amount of time developing their skills should have a pretty well-rounded idea of their abilities after living in the real world for a few years.  The problem is, we would often rather take the time to prove our perceived greatness to the world than to actually make an effort to improve ourselves naturally.  We thrive on having a title and we love having recognition, but taking the easiest route to achieve a title of little substance is often more important to us than achieving something that sticks for our lifetime.  

Creating your own destiny is a concept that is lost in the current generation because we thrive on instant gratification so much.  When I was learning to play guitar over a dozen years ago, I spent hours and hours in my room, by myself, learning everything I could on my own and being my own biggest encouragement.  During the first few years I only played in front of people very sparingly, but every time I did, the improvements I had been making in the skill were obvious to the people who had heard me play a few months or even a year prior to that point - this is how I gained encouragement from the world.  Taking it upon myself to be my own worst critic pushed me more and more to improve.  Surrounding myself with friends and family to tell me how great I was constantly would not have led to me try harder, because of that connection of bias.  Those outside of your circle are the people to pay attention to, not the people who will always support your efforts.
This is not centered on music either. I have not played music for income in a very long time.  
This works in everything.

We, as a generation seem pretty well unprepared for what is ahead of us because of the encouragement we seek through more narcissistic outlets.  Unfortunately, the distance we make it through life (in practically anything) successfully depends upon what other people see in us who are generally connected to us in a singular capacity.  
If you sell an inconsistent product, your buyers notice.
If you do not keep your word or commitments, your backers notice.
If your focus on business dwindles, your employers notice.
If your focus on friendships stray, your friends notice.
If you do not continually develop your skills and education, your talent becomes stagnant.

Most of us thrive on this idea of greatness or the acquisition of a title being the ultimate goal for whatever we have worked towards.  We have this idea that once we arrive at this place in time, everything will be great and we will no longer have to put in the effort to sustain what we have.  Looking for a "big break" or a magical moment of epiphany is a great thought, but takes continual effort to achieve the fruit and reap those rewards.  This is not saying we should all be pigeon-holed and stuck where ever we happen to be in life, because there is always an improvement to be made as well as an opportunity to further educate ourselves.  The idea behind all of this is to not be afraid to take a risk in life, but never go into any situation blindly without doing every bit of research and making every effort to know whether or not the risk is worth taking.  Improper execution of a risk can have a direct impact on the way those who back you up the most maintain their perception, belief, and support in your efforts, which is always a key element in anything.  Look at what happened to Volvo when they took a risk because of how great they thought they were before paying attention to what their most important audience was asking of them.

Never allow yourself to permanently fail and never put yourself in a position of not being taken seriously.
Failure is part of life, but making improvements to be sure you never run into the same failure again is the only way to grow.  
Growing requires continual education to obtain continual improvement.

Always value your importance, but be very conscious of exactly where you stand in life and always try to do better without attempting to convince anyone you are anything other than yourself.

You are your best critic.
Make sure your ego stays in check.

Grace and Peace,

 -Add me.  Stalk me.  Tweet me.  I really don't mind.-
Personal Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/drew.silvers
Blog Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/drewcoustic
Email:  drewcoustic@gmail.com
Twitter:  @JDrewSilvers
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Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Pity Gets Us Nowhere. Make Another Arrangement.

Me?  No, you don't want to be like me.

Life is always capable of throwing us in a direction we never intended to go.  We can either take pity for ourselves, push pity on other people, or actually step forward to correct our paths.

Last spring I started writing this blog, and that summer I started writing a book.  I was approached with an opportunity to put my collective thoughts into more than random smatterings of intertwined blogs and create something with actual structure.  Through my adviser (hi, Rachael) I signed on to a conditional publishing deal, meaning I had a deadline and a set of expectations to hold up on my end of the creative process.  The original set deadline was December of 2013, which was later pushed to February of 2014.  My book was due to go out for editing by a group of my peers this week and my "final" for professional editing was to go out two weeks from today.  The process of life threw me out of balance today.  My backers in this process?  They backed out.  I sent my adviser an email today and she responded with news of the publishing project supported by those investors being cancelled, leaving a small group of people, including myself in a state of unpublished limbo.  

Business ventures sometimes do not work out for reasons that can only be controlled by a select few.  I have spent enough time in the world of business and monetary relationships to understand where this principal actually comes from, so while initial shock was followed by momentary frustration, my own logic did come forward.

Anyone who follows me on Facebook knows that I have been writing for another blog here and there as of recently.  DrewCoustic is still and always will be my independent blog where everything that lives or develops in my head comes out as strands of text, broken into awkwardly centered paragraphs.  A few thousand people have found this blog and read it regularly because that is what they want.  The things I write here are my own thoughts and apparently some people find them interesting for reasons I could spend far too much time wondering about - but the people who read this blog do not want to read about cars.

I am a car guy and essentially always have been.  Most "car guys" I know pay someone to bolt shiny new parts onto their vehicles, but not me.  The other side of me that this blog does not see involves the part that wants to get greasy, troubleshoot and problem solve, or create something new to enhance a machine, but most of all to learn and share that knowledge.  Four years ago, I got together with three of my friends and we decided to build a race car in my garage one summer - a fully built endurance racer to run over a span of three days on a road course.  We did just that.  Around this time was when I started reading the world's biggest car enthusiast blog, Jalopnik, because they covered our racing series during the season.  The writers who posted on that site were more relevant to me than any print magazine out there and their articles were read by more people in one day than Motor Trend could hope for in an entire week.  I met one of the writers at the race track when our car was going through tech inspection that day, and it was really cool to see an actual person who lived on the other side of the computer screen.

Going back to right now and how I cannot write about my car adventures and opinions on this blog or lose my subscribers, I made a choice two Sundays ago to message one of the moderators on the Jalopnik feeder blog called "OppositeLock".  He and I talked back and forth for a bit and he decided to give me authorship rights for the submission of articles, which really is not that big of a deal at all, but it meant a little something to me.  I came back to my computer a few hours later and started typing an article about one of my car-related experiences.  Thirty minutes later, I had posted that article online, only to have OppositeLock's site manager/editor pull it offline.  He contacted me and said he pulled it because he wanted to be sure it was seen by the people at the Jalopnik headquarters on Monday morning.  At 10:30AM, my article showed back up on the feeder blog, and by 2:30PM had been read nearly one-thousand times.  However, at 3:30PM, one of the writers at Jalopnik saw that article, read it, and posted it on their front page.  My first car article stayed as the top story on the Jalopnik front page for nearly two days and has gained over 77,000 reads as of the posting of this blog, one week later.  
Does this mean I will ever be a career automotive journalist?  Probably not, but I also do not care because it is so much fun.  I saw an opportunity and went for it.

I have been working on my book day and night for about eight months now and have allowed it to take up the vast majority of my free time in that process.  I am sure quite a few people  would be in a state of sickened outrage had something similar to losing a publishing deal happened to them.  
Not me.
I see it as a part of the adventure.
My best friend told me today that even if I have to move on to another opportunity and shop my book around other places, it will always be worth the effort and will pay off eventually.
I believe her and I write because I want to anyway - no other reason.

The thing is, I spent too many years letting things have an effect on me when I should have let them go and I missed opportunities because of my reaction.   Between one of my closest friends committing suicide, developing an alcohol dependency, being diagnosed with depression, losing my career, witnessing people die, and losing my publishing deal, it sounds like I should be pretty messed up or at least angry by now.  But I refuse to take pity on myself and I try really hard not to complain because I know that nothing, not one single thing I have gone through in these twenty-seven years is new to the world.  Someone else has been in my exact place in every one of those moments and the painful fight is what makes you aware of your existence. 
Somebody else in the world is worse off than you.
Life. Is. Not. Easy.

Within any of this, I am now happy and have a more clear mind than I have ever had.  My clarity comes from knowing that I will probably live the rest of my life in this exact place.  The "fun" factor of being intoxicated and unable to comprehend certain things for a period of time is not appealing to me at all anymore.  I do not need to take any drug or substance to find that either.
In other words, I will never allow myself to live even the smallest moment of my life in a chemical or psychological fog.  Not anymore.  It is not worth my time.

So, back to my book.  
Maybe I should take some time to read it now because I have not actually done that yet, but it seems like the right thing to do.  I mean, I did write the book myself, but I have not read it from beginning to end yet.  Yeah, I will do just that and figure the rest out later.  Soon, but not right now. 

I have a new sense of drive and have spent the past few years also creating a new sense of myself and am fairly certain I am right where I need to be - finally.

Just remember to pay attention to your blessings instead of being a product of your own pity.
Honesty is confidence.

Grace and Peace,

 -Add me.  Stalk me.  Tweet me.  I really don't mind.-
Personal Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/drew.silvers
Blog Facebook:  http://www.facebook.com/drewcoustic
Email:  drewcoustic@gmail.com
Twitter:  @JDrewSilvers

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Creekside Lullabies - A Short Story

Most of us spend a lifetime thinking, but take very few moments to actually remember.  This is how I was for the majority of my life and at the age of twenty-nine, I felt as if it were time for me to be making a more steadfast effort at having something important to look back upon fondly in an older age.  You see, I always grew up with my grandparents telling stories which were no big deal to them in the instance they were happening, but were entirely fascinating to my juvenile self.  Growing older, my grandparents had all passed away and I began paying attention to the similar stories my aunts, uncles, and parents began telling.  Some things come naturally with age, and I really believe a good story can be told by most who are from generations before my own.  Still, I questioned if anything worth telling would ever cross my path.

I hate water, and I hate being wet.  When I was a child, going to the pool was the “greatest” thing ever during the summer, but I later realized the only reason this was implanted in my head was because of my friends who enjoyed it, considering I actually didn't.  After a day of swimming in a pool or at the beach, my desires often faded and I cared not to return for at least a year.  Apparently I am not completely alone in this, but there are few who have such an aversion to water as I do.  
At least once a month I would be running on the paved “Greenway” near my house and become caught in a sporadic, undetected downpour.  The only solace on the path I tended to run was underneath a highway overpass about halfway through my thrice weekly jaunt of four miles.  Luckily, the summer rains in Georgia tend to be spotty at best and as long as I could push a little harder to make it to that overpass a bit more quickly, I could cut down my rain exposure by at least half the distance.  

Then it happened.
My runs were always a time of reflection and thought, and even though I had music blaring in my ears, my mind tended to overlook it as ambiance and go to places it had never before ventured.  During these soundtrack-inspired Greenway runs were when I first began thinking about what stories I would have of interest to the next generation; regardless of whether or not I were to marry and have children to pass on said stories.  Being caught in my fourth, and expected, pop-up shower of the summer, with my brain and thought process in tow, I picked up my pace knowing I was only a quarter of a mile from a temporary weather barrier.  When I arrived, there was a beautiful woman standing there with the same idea as I.  She had apparently come from the opposite direction at a much farther distance because she was much more drenched than myself at the time.  Her old softball jersey looked as if it weighed ten pounds and she was wringing the water out of her shoulder-length hair.  She looked up and noticed me standing there on the other side of the path.

“You know, it seems like this happens to me every other time I come out here.”  she said.  I replied “That's funny, because I was about to say the same thing.  I'm surprised I haven't drowned yet.”  After the initial stupid joke she did not laugh at, we did actually hold a conversation as we waited for the rain to move out.  Bethan was her name, she was three years younger than me, an assistant manager at a bank, but studying for her Master's Degree in her spare time.  I was fairly set in my career but for some reason she seemed more interesting than myself and most others I knew yet I couldn't seem to pin down why exactly.  The rain passed over a few minutes later and we parted ways but as she was putting her left ear bud in place said “I'll see you here soon, I'm sure of it.”  then smiled and ran away.
I spent the next three weeks thinking about her on occasion, wondering if I should have asked for contact information because she seemed so much more interesting than anyone else I had met in recent time.  Making a new friend is always a good thing, if nothing else and I wanted to see her at least one more time; then I was finally able to make that happen after those long weeks.

The Greenway that Bethan and I ran on follows beside a creek and there are benches set up at random intervals for the entire length of the trail, with one being right beside that very highway overpass where she and I had met three weeks prior.  A Sunday afternoon in July had sent me on my usual run, but this time I stopped and sat at the bench I had mentioned previously.  I needed to write something down that had crossed my mind because I was sort of a freelance writer at the time for a secular, motivational blog.  I took out my phone to jot down a few notes as not to forget anything when I saw a shadow on the ground in front of me stop and turn in my direction.  Looking up and putting my phone down on the bench, Bethan was standing there, smiling at me, “I thought you had died or something.  Where have you been?”.  I replied “I was hoping to run into you again soon, but its been nearly a month and at least one downpour since then.  Trust me though, I've been looking for you every time I have come out here.”  “Well, we can fix that!” she said, picking my phone from its resting place.  Have you ever seen one of those stupid romance movies where the sun radiates behind an image of a beautiful woman as if she is glowing?  Had there ever been an actual point in reality of such a thing happening, it was in that very instance and I was there, living it.  When we were both drenched and under the overpass at our first meeting I did not pick up on how beautiful she really was.  She had these little freckles on her cheeks that I could barely make out and her hair had the most incredible color of brown and blond bits staggered about.  Still smiling, she handed my phone back to me:  “Now, don't let this happen again!” and she quickly scurried off before I could say another word.
I made this agreement with myself long before I met Bethan that any new woman I was interested in would be contacted by me with actual, spoken phone calls – no email, no text messages, no social media ties, but with real,  tangible conversation.  That night, I called her and we talked for about an hour.  Apparently she had taken a job as a nanny and left her temporary banking career behind for a more flexible schedule which allowed her to focus more on school.  This was the reason for the big gap between our first and second meetings.  Because of this, the only days we had been on the Greenway at the same time were the random Sundays tied to the even more random hours we had decided to add onto our weekly routines.  We ended up talking on and off for a few days when she finally spoke up and said “This Sunday, meet me at the bench at two o'clock.”.  “What bench?”  I said, but was immediately hung up on.  This is something which had drawn me into Bethan's world since the first time we met.  She said what she needed to, never batted an eye to explain herself, and then walked off with me having a few unanswered questions to ponder.  There was always a bit of mystery to her because we never actually said “goodbye”, even when we met in person again the next time at the bench beside the overpass.  This was as if the both of us knew when the time was right to stop speaking and part ways, so as not to spoil anything growing us together.  

We began building a relationship which was not at all within the typical expectation of most our age.  The more I saw her, the more I became infatuated, but also the more I became aware that both of us were completely comfortable the way we were.  Oddly enough,  after a considerable amount of time, we never quite passed the point of holding hands, even as a few months had ticked by – we didn't need to.  This was different, and somehow worked for both of us perfectly because neither her nor I expected anything from the other since we were happy to just be there, only having the company of one another.  She had no expectation of fancy dinners or expensive trips and neither did I.  She wasn't interested in any sort of night life or living in excess like most of our generation, nor was I.  We spent hours on my couch as the cooler, fall air crept into season, just watching the flames dance in my fireplace while talking about life, family, and experiences we had both been through.  To me, it seemed as though I was finally recognizing those stories I had heard from previous generations, exemplifying within the experiences I had lived, even if I originally thought my own would never exist.  I was beginning to understand that sometimes we have to really pay attention to little moments in order to put together a bigger picture.

Mid-fall, on my couch, again listening to the faint crackle of the kindling engulfed in a steady blaze before us, my life felt as if it were coming together for the better.  Those few months had made me step away from the overactive thoughts during my runs and instead lead to thoughts about how to better myself and keep a more relevant outlook on my own life.  I wasn't changing for Bethan, actually, I wasn't changing for anyone, but Bethan was helping me to realize who I really was while building something of an incredible bond with me in the process.

A few days later as I was driving home from work a bit later than usual, the temperature had dropped considerably to the point of freezing, which is very unusual for that time of year in the south.  I was in my car, on the highway and had just hung up the phone with Bethan after figuring out our plans for a late dinner, even though she had to be up early to take a final exam.  Every day when I left home in the morning and returned at night, I drove on the very same overpass she and I had met under, beside that very bench where our relationship had first began.  And every single day, I crossed that spot, I was completely thankful for something which only held significance to the two of us.  

The next thing I remember was a sharp pain on the right side of my body and the feeling of blood rushing to my head, almost like you feel when hanging upside down off the monkey bars as a child, but not entirely.  When the blood rushed to my head and created that familiar, dull throbbing, it immediately stopped for a fraction of a second, resumed, and then stopped again, as if in a sequence or rhythm.  I couldn't see anything and I wasn't sure what was going on until my eyes finally focused ever so faintly and for a split second saw nothing but my own blood and shattered glass all around me – I was also upside down.  I could move my right arm a little, enough to realize there was something not quite right about what was happening in my ribs, like something was forced into them.  It was getting difficult to breathe and the pain had become much more severe, though my head had stopped throbbing as my heartbeat was beginning to slow.  That time my grandfather told me “Sometimes you have to bleed to know you're alive.”  had suddenly began making sense to me, even if nothing else in that moment did.  I could smell something burning as I drifted in and out of consciousness; a mixture of plastic and gasoline with a flame reflecting off the blood-stained glass before me.  This was not the same fire Bethan and I had spent so many nights watching while cuddled under a blanket.  This flame was intense and frightening before being extinguished and everything, including myself becoming drenched in stagnant water. 

The weird thing about death is that it seems to begin with pain, which gets worse and worse, until it finally peaks and you can no longer feel it at all.  When the pain subsides, the chill comes, and you have this feeling rush over you as if you have never been more alone.  Some people say your life flashes before your eyes in a moment on instant clarity, but I will tell you that isn't true.  Regardless of how quickly and unexpectedly your time happens to come, you do get a chance to remember, not just a few things, but everything.  Instead of death coming quickly, it tends to cling to you and your reality slows down as if to say “You get one more chance to think it all over.  Make it count.” and you have a sense of realization you will only ever have right then, at that very time.  

The last thing I remember was a scream.  I had never heard Bethan scream because there had never been a reason for me to hear it – until that day, when I knew it was her.  That was when I cried for the last time.  Someone had their hand on my shoulder and I felt one tear roll from my eye and down my forehead.  After that moment, I have no idea what happened.  I was obviously in some sort of accident somewhere near the very spot where Bethan and I had met and I know I didn't survive.  Part of me wishes I knew what she was doing now - if she has finished her degree yet, met another man who has replaced me, or maybe even married and had children.  Actually, I don't even know how long it has been since that day as I lost all track of time when I awoke upside down, bleeding, and soaking wet in my car that night.  I hate being wet and I hate being alone.  I can't tell you what exists once your life is over anymore than I can tell you what has happened to Bethan since the day my own life ended, but remember this and keep it close to your heart:
Never take life for granted, not yours or anyone else's.  Everyone has a story to tell, so tell it.  Learn to love those who love you with everything you have.  Leave a legacy behind because you are not guaranteed to make it through another day.  Appreciate everything.

Grace and Peace,

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Twitter:  @JDrewSilvers