Dear Michael,

You asked me to define my goals, “Where do you see yourself in ten years?” Amazingly, nothing specific jumped out to me when I attempted to answer that question for you -and for myself. My aspirations were hardly outside of what I could reasonably expect to accomplish without any real change to my disposition or daily efforts. What I really said was that I would like to remain in my comfort zone for the next ten years of my life. I have already reached outside of the limitations that I had previously set forth for myself having grown from poverty and adversity up until this point. What I really said was that I quit dreaming a long time ago. I’ve been surviving for so long, I forgot to stay hungry. 

Michael, in ten years what I see for myself is moments that I can’t wait to live for. I don’t see a large house or particular vehicle. I don’t see trendy clothes or a large bank account. I see love in my life that when expressed in moments of clarity, can’t be bought even with the air that I breathe. 

In ten years, I see myself sitting on the subway with my 16 year old son. Teaching him to survive without, before providing him with a used car. Laughing at his memorable moments of the day at school, where he quite possibly struggles to fit in. I see his height and strength gained from a life of being different. I see his open heart because I never taught him to withhold love. Never taught him to hate. 

In ten years, my son will have spent summers traveling with me to different national forests and historical sites throughout the United States. Each time we visited a new scenery, we stopped for a picnic, and talked about our favorite parts. Internally, I checked off another box on my list…you know – the list of experiences you never had growing up, that list that says you’ve done more for your child than your parents did for you. In my elderly years, I will reminisce about the beauty of my son’s wanderlust eyes as he breathed in the fresh air of the Yellowstone national forest, or took in the depths of the Mammoth caves. 

In ten years I see myself standing at the beginning of the ledge that is the peak of McAfee’s Knob hiking trail. I chose to take this well known trail on my own while my son spends quality time with family. The day is warm and the air thin, with a breeze the loosens my hair from the braid down my back. The sun isn’t as high in the sky as it was when I started though my view is still spectacular.  I look out at the ledge that begins at my feet and notice that my knees may never get used to heights, no matter what I’ve conquered. I breathe in, with the profound realization that even I didn’t manage to get in the way of myself. I breathe in knowing that I have raised my son against all odds, to be a genuine authentic human whose integrity matches mine. I breathe in knowing that I’ve been physically and mentally knocked down by several men in my life, and yet they are all behind me as I stand in front of true beauty. I breathe in, knowing that with my first step towards the edge of this ledge, I am literally staring down my final fear…knowing that at the edge, my view can only be that much more beautiful. I take that step knowing that I’ve learned to be humble just so that I could truly appreciate this moment. I take in the scene with an open heart and I can finally exhale.

In ten years, I am proud. I am free. 

And I am still hungry.

Forever,

James

2 thoughts on “Dear Michael,

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