The Boy from Virginia leaves London (Chronicles of a Return Home)

February 12, 2012 around 4:00am

I crept into my shared Brixton flat still damp from the night out I’d had with my friends, a group I’d lovingly dubbed the BBoyz (which stands for both “Barcelona” boys and “Brown” boys). Somehow-as always-I’d allowed them to persuade me to spend “one more hour” out on the town and seeing as it was my final night in the United Kingdom, I obliged. I tossed my vintage London Fog trench onto my bed and tried to heat myself up. My tuxedo shirt was soaked though with my dance-sweat and my H&M combat boots needed to be peeled from me and packed into the suitcase I’d finished pre-loading only days before. It had been 2 years and one month that I’d spent in London, and the memories, trials and the overall tribulations had swarmed my mind in a rush of images. I blinked them away as I desperately tried to make sure I’d packed every single thing I needed and had all my alarms set so that I could hop on my one-way flight back to Virginia, a place I’d hadn’t lived consistently since I was 14 years old. Was home an accurate term for America anymore?

            I had so many thoughts (a trait that has seriously become my downfall), and as I tried to filter them and make sense of the flurry of emotions I only thought I’d prepared myself for, my mind kept going back and forth between two things: the death of Whitney Houston only 2 hours prior, and what would soon be the end of the life I’d created across seas. Between my grieving for Brandy Norwood (yes, I thought of her heavily at the time because Whitney was her mentor) and trying to process how such a legend could be snatched away from this earth, I only kept thinking that if I were to die, I’d need to leave behind something of which I could be ultimately proud. I didn’t know what that would be back then, and even today, I’m not sure if what I have to give to this world is as significant as my voice. Yet, maybe the idea is merely to give freely of oneself in the best way you know how. Even in love; give. The taking is easy. The giving is courageous.

            I’d given so much of myself to a country that had given me the worst exit process ever. Getting out of college wasn’t as difficult as leaving the United Kingdom (Thanks UK Border Control…), though even that was hard too, if I recall correctly. But unlike other places I’d given myself to, I felt like things were actually reciprocated in London. When I laid a foundation, my English universe around me helped me build a house. And I felt that in my journey to the past (England is five hours ahead of Virginia), I’d be demolishing the house that Tommy built. So I did the only thing I knew how to do in my mind: Deny.  I denied that I was leaving for good and vowed to return if it was the last thing I did. So, with prayers for Whitney Houston and her family on my heart, prayers for my safe return home in about 6 hours, and a body that had finally got some heat from my duvet, I warmed up to the idea that a return home was not permanent and would ultimately be for the best.

 

February 12, 2012 around 9:00am

If I dreamed at all that night, I’m sure it was about something fun because I awoke prepared and with no fear.

My best friend -an Italian gent and former RSAMD classmate who I considered family-called my phone to tell me he was ready to accompany me to the airport. It was time. The leaving was real and I couldn’t deny it any further. So he’d come to flat early in the morning to help me schlep my luggage to the airport via the Tube system.. I said goodbye to my lovely roommate, who had become like a big brother to me, gave him my keys and he locked the door behind me. I walked confidently out of and away from my Brixton flat, luggage in tow, my best friend at my side. With each step I pressed into the pavement, the ground soaked up the despair I’d swallowed deep into the pit of my stomach. I felt the wind try its best to blow away at the thick skin I’d managed to wear that day. But the silly banter and conversation between my Italian brother and me served as a barrier to its breezy attempts.

As far as I was concerned, I was going to make it to the airport with no tears, no regrets, no sadness, because as I’d said the night before, I was going to return home to London. Period.

My friend seemed to have the same thoughts. He treated me as if we’d be hanging out at his house the next day, talking all things theatrical and gorging ourselves on homemade casserole. He was in denial too. And I appreciated him so much more for it.

An hour’s train ride later, I arrived at London Heathrow Airport and my brother and I looked at one another and basically gave each other hugs and both said, “This isn’t the end.” There were no tears (thank goodness, because I would’ve looked at him like he was crazy) and it was the simplest “see you later” I’d ever experienced with him. He watched me step through the door into the departure gate and if he did shed tears upon my leaving, at least he had the decency to wait until I disappeared behind the double doors.

I had two hours to kill until take off. So what better way to spend that time than to send goodbye texts to everyone? I decided if I was going to be schmaltzy, I would at least do it along the lines of of a high school yearbook (you know, “You’re an awesome friend.” “Never change”. “K.I.T *happy face*”)…but with my signature honest/ loving style. I’m very sure I sent all of the BBoyz a text thanking them for their contributions to my London life and for being my family when I felt I had none. I thanked every single person, teacher, mentor, coworker, friend I could via text. And the most important person I thanked was the last person I texted: a friend of mine who I credit with helping me discover the true meaning of “adventure.” He was a person I swore I would write a novel or a series about someday as his presence in my life gave me a confidence I’m certain I’d never have if I’d never encountered him two years prior (um…that was along sentence). So I told him all of this in the sappiest text message I have ever sent to him. And fortunately, I got a sappy text back. (But not a seriously sappy text as Brits still manage to keep a certain awkward, stoic, aloofness about themselves.)

“Now boarding…” began the announcement and I knew that after a flash of my ticket/ passport and after a walk down a long cold corridor, I’d be terminating everything. “Hasta la vista, London.” With departure imminent, I began to think…

“I’ve managed to perform a multitude of shows while I was here…I just performed a lead in a phenomenal workshop with a well known playwright…I have been well reviewed twice in this country by The Globe….I’ve been on a set with both Dev Patel and Ed Westwick…I’ve met one of the coolest British celebs I’ve ever come across and have been privy to see him multiple times in London…my agent has been the most phenomenal agent I could’ve asked for…my friends love me…I’ve done so many things that I’d never have done in America…I’ve been to SPAIN and spoke Spanish with the natives!!!… I’ve loved…have I made a difference here?…did I leave anyone behind who may have loved me enough to try and keep me here? (That last question is definitely going to remain unanswered in this lifetime I’m sure).”

I felt the plane pull away from the gate, and like the best move I’ve ever watched, I replayed the entire duration of my two years in five minutes. I saw myself getting on a plane in Virginia and leaving my family behind to start my graduate career and eventually my theatrical career in Scotland. I saw my first day at grad school. I saw myself graduate with my Masters at the age of 24. I saw me performing and being both happy and sad at some of my experiences. I saw loads of successful and rather unsuccessful auditions and conversations with my agents after all of them. I could hear myself singing at Cellar Door in Covent Garden and I could see how many times I’d hung out with the people who had become my family. And as the pressure inside the cabin increased, and I felt the plane begin its ascent into the sky, I descended involuntarily into tears.

Window seats can be blessings. I didn’t have to face the other passengers who were prepping the seven hour flight home by watching in flight films. So I looked out the window as the clouds began to blanket my view, and the city that had once appeared huge to me became a net of streets and tiny cars driving on the wrong side of the road. Had it been a dream? These past two years? Had I truly lived away in another country and gained love, respect and ultimately freedom for myself?

It felt like I’d gone over the rainbow, overstayed my welcome, and was being forced back into the world of sepia, black and white. And true…I guess there is no place like home…but what if you couldn’t discern which home was the right one?

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The Boy From Virginia Chips the Coal

I entered 2013 asking myself the following question: “Where the HELL have I been?

Since the devastating event of last May where I lost my cousin to gun violence, I feel I have been wandering this planet with a piece of my soul sucked out from me. I’ve not been zombie-fied, but I’ve lived a very zombie-like existence where I have been fueled by one thing: fear. I’ve allowed this entity to consume my cerebral and emotional core. I gave fear power over even the miniscule part of my life. Not once in about five months have I placed dominion on my own actions or feelings. I relinquished my whole self away to fear. I guess it’s understandable for that to happen, however. Once you bear witness to the fragile nature of life firsthand, and when you see how fast a spirit can be snatch away from its vessel, it’s quite easy to comprehend how fear can overwhelm one’s soul.

My fear caused a pit of confusion and silence within me. I only broke that silence once, last year, in order to pay tribute to my cousin’s life. All other attempts to express myself were muffled by life and the journey that I was taking. (Trust and believe, this isn’t the first time I’ve written a blog since July. It’s just the first one that I’ve completed and published on here until I can make sense of the other ones) Part of me wants to go into full detail about why I left Virginia to come to New York. Part of me feels it’s a part of myself that might remain blank. Many of my readers have been privy to so much of the good, bad and ugly of my life, yet I still am on the fence about how much more to reveal. You see…since July, life has thrown me into the deep end and my ass has been constantly gasping for air, and choking a bit on the super salty water.

Still, my limbs stil work, so as long as I can kick my feet, my journey ain’t done. And if I’m reminded, salt water can be used to heal wounds. And if only you knew how many different types of scars/scab I now have…

But my pain will be used to bring me back to life.

Most of you thrive off of other people’s pain. Some of you learn from other people’s mistakes. Few of you face your own pain. And only you can heal you.

My healing will take place over the next few weeks…before I return to London to retrieve the piece of my heart that I left there…

 

This boy is about to shine brighter than he ever has. And I’m chipping away at the coal that’s been blocking my illumination. By the time my truths are told…you won’t be able to see for all the brilliance. Project Illumination starts now…

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The Boy from Virginia Expresses Support

I stopped praying the day after my cousin, Carlos, was buried. It’s not that I stopped believing in God, nor because I stopped believing in the power of prayer. To be honest, I can’t really give a specific reason as to why I’d stopped. Could it have been that for almost two weeks straight I’d been talking to Him non-stop? Maybe I felt like I’d been bothering God too much. Maybe I stopped praying because I couldn’t deal with the intensity of events that had occurred during those surreal two weeks. Maybe it was because I was so emotionally drained by the time that everything was over that my first thought was not to pray but, instead, to rest.

So I did. And have been resting ever since, it seems. Somehow during this “rest” period, I seem to be losing my motivation, my hopes, and my will to keep on a happy face when the air around me is so desolate and at times suffocating. I’m ready to breathe again. But what will it take for me to breathe more easily?

When I first returned to America on February 12th, I had so many dreams, goals, aspirations. I brought them across the Atlantic with me when I left London. I figured that the relative success I’d experienced over in the UK would accompany me through Customs and sit with me and my family at dinnertime. But I should’ve known that leaving London, I was leaving the future. (Literally…Brits live 5 hours in advance of those of us living on the East Coast). So after taking my journey into the past, it would become evident in the months to come, that focusing on my future would prove even more difficult. Here’s the crux of why:

In London, I created a family out of friends. They may not have been blood, but damn if they didn’t contribute to and help change my life. More or less they made my life more amazing. In Virginia, I have my family, and very little people I can call my friends…well…just a couple from my childhood. They haven’t been as privy to my life as (per se) my mother has been. Through hearsay, they’ve soaked in my triumphs…but I’m sure they’ve never heard of my failings. Then again…there was always one family member who knew what I was going through and made the effort to get to know me and accept my journey in this world. You see…it’s one thing to be proud of your family. It’s another to love them unconditionally and be present for their ups and downs. My cousin, Carlos did the latter…and it hurts me to my soul to no longer have him on this earth…It was just over month ago I was watching him in action, being the king that most men only wish they could be.

I can’t believe it was just over one month ago…

The fight, the commotion, the gunshots, my fear. Blood. Sirens. Tears. God, the tears. The montage would occur every single night for two week before allowing me a less chaotic sleep. And each night, I unashamedly made the ugly “trying-to-stop-your-tears-from-falling-out-your-eyes” face because I just couldn’t understand why this situation had to occur in the first place. In my life, I’ve only heard about confrontations that “spiraled out of control” as cliché as it all sounds. To witness such spiraling up close and personal is something I never want to experience ever again (and I know I’m not alone in that desire).

What I got to see, firsthand, was the aftermath of gun violence. This was not my first time losing a family member to gun violence. When I was eight, a cousin of mind was killed by a gun. He lived about three more days afterwards and then he died. I was too young to understand the circumstances or situation that lead up to his shooting, but I did understand that my cousin was gone for good.

From a young age I was exposed to death more than a kid should’ve been. That exposure showed me that life eventually ends, and the world keeps going. But then again…so does grief. At this point in my life, I’m certain that grief never dies.

Nor does shock.

I could be wrong, but I have a feeling that pure shock may’ve been the emotion that hit the surface first. I mean…how else does one respond to his first time of seeing someone draw a gun with clear intentions to shoot a person?

It was just an argument, initially; something that you might see on some VH1 reality show where females, who don’t know how to handle themselves with words, decide that each other’s faces would look better on each other’s knuckles. Well, once that skirmish turned into all out war at my Aunt and Uncle’s 30th wedding anniversary dinner, a deadly threat came out of nowhere. Fearing that the threat would become a promise, loads of us ended up outside. I, among many, pleaded for peace. Nearby a struggle to keep a hand down was lost and that same hand possessed the instrument which would spark fear into a group of people dressed in formal wear who were, only moments ago, celebrating a milestone of love. The hand holding the gun fired into the air.

PopPopPop. They sounded like fireworks, but there was no glittery cascade. Only the crescendo of screams. Then the scattering.

I remember vividly seeing the gun. And upon hearing the first shot, I turned away from what would be the scene of the crime because 1) I knew that if I stayed, I’d be in the line of fire. 2) my mother and her bestie were nearby and all I wanted to do was protect the two women I came to the function with. 3) If I were to be hit by a stray bullet, I at least wanted to make sure I knew my mother was alright. I kept thinking to myself (while I was running back into the venue shouting from the top of my lungs for people to “GET DOWN” and “GET BACK INSIDE THE BUILDING) ‘I don’t care if I die as long as my mom is alright.’ Who knew that nobility would be a quality both me and Carlos also shared.

Gunshots continued behind me, along with the screams and the clacking of heels and dress shoes, as I ran into the building, mother in tow. We were safe. But bullets can come through walls, so I tried to get as many people to go into the main dining room as possible. I became frazzled. What do I do next? How do I remain calm? Is anyone hurt? Tommy, stay calm. Has anyone called the police? Tommy, fucking calm down? I’m calling the police!

I turned around and saw one of my first cousins: the daughter of the bride and groom. And I’ll never ever forget hearing her say:

“I’ve been shot”

My mind went blank, but my body didn’t. I breathed and couldn’t believe I was seeing blood trickle doen her leg. When my synapses decided to work, I thought…she’s been shot in the leg. She’s alive.

“Someone get me a cloth or something to tie her leg up with. I need to stop the bleeding!!!” The voice was from a woman who had already started some first aid on my cousin.

I grabbed the first thing I could see: the ribbon from the back of one of the chairs in the venue. Another man donated the shirt off of his back. “I don’t need it,” he said.

I think I muttered the word “shit” so much that night that it became ineffective. I muttered it as I called the police. I muttered it as the phone rang. I segued into a quick interlude of “why the fuck am I on hold” when the police dispatch didn’t pick up. My refrain of “shit’s” picked up once more when I went outside and was informed that Carlos had been shot. All cursing ceased when I saw him lying motionless on the ground; his lovely wife with him, devastated. His parents, my Uncle and Aunt, torn up with emotion. No one thought that a night that had been dedicated to love and celebration would end with casualties and an arrest (Yes, the shooter was caught).

I could spend pages elaborating on the hospital visits and the doctor & surgeon updates…but I won’t. Each day was like being on a see-saw. Emotions went up, then dropped. Patience was tested. Tears came and went. Faith was strong. Sometimes…it was barely there. Life went on.

I filmed an episode of a TV show to days into the hospital period. In it, I played a young gang member who robbed people at gunpoint…and also shot people at point blank range. I’d played men who used guns before, but as an actor I could at least justify why the character felt the need to use one. In this series, I played a person who showed a blatant disregard for human life. A cold-blooded killer who saw nothing wrong in what he was doing.  I felt strange (absurd even) to be playing a killer, having witnessed two days prior what guns actually do to a human life; how a tiny metal bullet can cripple and utterly destroy internal organs, shortening the duration of time one has left on this Earth. Still, like a professional (who gives a flying fuck about professionalism at a moment like that?) I powered through, occasionally finding moments to smile.

I spent the hospital period thinking heavily about the myriad of people affected by my cousin. (Hell, they were showing up in hoards at the hospital.) My Aunt and Uncle were always on my mind. So were my other cousins, his siblings. I mean, his oldest sister understood his pain. She would eventually walk again, warrior that she is, but she understood. I next thought about his wife, the woman who I only heard about before returning to the states. And I thought about his son: his contribution to this world. And that’s when the pain hit hardest.

Let me tell you something. I may not believe in true love for myself, but I will say that my cousin chose wisely and very well. His wife is one of the most graceful queens I’ve seen walk on this earth. I knew from the top of my head to the bottom of my feet that he chose the love of his life so watching her deal with this situation really touched my spirit. And my little cousin, his son…to lose his father? I never understand it when God decides to take a parent away from his child. That more hurtful than anything.

Eventually, I would think about my mother’s relationship with him. It was a special one. He loved being around my mother and would visit sporadically and call all the time. He loved my mom and he stood in place for me when I couldn’t be there for my siblings. He was a mentor to my older brother and truth-teller to my sister. But what did he mean to me? Well…

My history with Carlos is both long and brief, it seems. I feel that during childhood, I only remember my cousin from important events: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Birthdays, family reunions, maybe a theme park trip? We weren’t necessarily the closest growing up….but who’s really to blame for that?

Then something happened. I went away to private school. And while my relationship with my oldest cousin (his older brother) began to decline, Carlos made himself more present. I would hear word -through my mother- that he was asking about me and wanting to check up on me. We eventually exchanged email addresses and phone numbers.

When I went to college, he came to Philly to see me perform. Not only that, he also hung out with me and got a chance to participate in my “actor’s life.” We had drinks. We chilled. He met the people in my life who made me happy: my college friends. I was merely happy to have a family member in my age range hang out with me and be privy to what my life what about. Yet, nothing tops him giving me a hand when I didn’t know where to turn.

I was in Scotland, and I’d just signed with my agent and I viewed my first and only flat in East London. I knew it was where I wanted to live, but I had to make a decision fast. Even before moving down, I was booking castings left and right and remaining in Scotland would’ve been counteractive if I didn’t act soon. But I would never have afforded my security deposit or rent on my retail salary. My mom gave Carlos a call and no questions asked…he helped invest in my future. I don’t even think that he knew how much he was contributing to my life experience by doing that. Indebted to him? Yes. I am. Forever.

“Cuz” he would say. “You are doing a good thing with your life and I’ma support it. Besides I know once you get big, you got me!” He would express his support for me all the time. Still, anybody can express support. My cousin showed it.

I was fortunate enough to support him on the very day I returned home from London, February 12th. That was the day of his wedding dinner. He married his lovely wife the next day. People who know me know that I’m in a conflicted place about love. I don’t truly believe it’s an exclusive emotion, but in m€y life, I am randomly shown that it does exist exclusively for some people. Additionally, when love is genuine and it truly works, it shines. Both Carlos and his wife lit up a room when they entered together. Their union was one of the most perfect matches I’ve seen in a long time and to top things off, they have a wonderful son. I was very proud of my cousin for having it all and for handling his duties as a husband, father, brother, cousin, and friend.

The moment in which I was most proud of my cousin happened about 30 minutes before the chaos that ensued. We were on the dance floor at the wedding anniversary, me trying my best to dance but not sweat out my rented tuxedo. A younger cousin of ours was also on the dance floor and my cousin spoke to her in front of me. A sort of apology was occurring, it seemed. Some misunderstanding had occurred and my two cousins were making amends. But one of his statements to her was “You are too good for him. You are too much of a Queen for me to allow anyone else to treat you like that. You gotta know that about yourself. I don’t want nobody treating you less than the Queen you are.”

And just like that…my heart was warm and I knew that Carlos and I were of similar ilk. What a poignant thing to say to a young woman who needed to hear it. To be honest, what woman doesn’t need positive encouragement from someone who believes in her? That was the last time I had the privilege of seeing his light shine so brightly. But his final act of leaping in front of a bullet to save a life was when his light was at its most brilliant. The Warrior I had come to know had become a Hero. Just like that.

My thanks and gratitude should be extended to every single person who showed support during that time. My family wasn’t aware that I had the world praying for my cousin, but I did. What was most endearing was the outpour of love from friends near and far, strangers, and even Twitter/ Instagram randoms (yes, I asked for prayers wherever I could get them). Still, though the power of prayer was both electric and palpable, it didn’t have the energy to keep my cousin alive. I. however,  have never been so proud of the love and humanity shown by others. I have been fortunate enough in my life to experience the kindness of strangers. My hope was that that kindness would extend itself to others who also deserved it. Luckily, I’ve not burned too many bridges in my life. I think that’s a quality I shared with my cousin, whose death has left a bit of an empty space in me.

But I’m being selfish.

I didn’t lose a son. I didn’t lose the love of my life. I didn’t lose a father, or a mentor. I lost my cousin. So why do I grieve? I lost one of the few family members to have ever been privy to the artistic side of my life. To have been privy to what made me happy in this world: my dream. I lost a family-friend, someone that I do feel is truly difficult to find. And I feel selfish for speaking about how much he meant to me when he was clearly many things to numerous people.  Those who know me know that among the things I value most in this world are my friends and family. When you are my friend, my loyalty to you is unmatched. I’m sure it was the same with Carlos. Also, Carlos was a young black male who actually loved me. Not saying that other male members of my family don’t, but I can honestly say that I felt it from him. That makes a difference to me. In a world where people do not tell each other how much they mean to them, I had a cousin who always let me know “ I love you, Cuz” and “Whatever you wanna do, I’m with it. Just let me know so I can support you.”

Nothing can prepare you for the loss of a loved one. No matter how many losses you may have experienced beforehand. Each death is the end of a specific chapter. And it’s an ending that it completely out of our hands. But whatever lesson it is I’m supposed to learn from this situation…I just don’t know. All deaths make people want to love more. I try to do that every day. But it is hard to accept that an innocent life was snatched from this world. Not a day will go by that my family and I won’t yearn to see Carlos once again. He’s left bit of himself behind, though. Through his son, he lives on. Through pictures, he lives on. Through memories, he lives on!

I have a confession, before I close this entry: I’ve not deleted his phone number from my iPhone, nor his final text messages. We discussed his son and how inspiring his innocence was to us as adults. We discussed plans for a summer trip to Busch Gardens. I told him I’d just booked the lead in an episode of a crime-drama show called Wicked Attraction.  His final reply to me was “ I’m proud of you cuz.”

To a Hero (and now Angel), I say, as I’ve said many times before: “Thank You, Cuz. I’m proud of your entire life.”

Your birthday was one month ago today. You would be 26. We all miss you down here…and like I’ve said before, Carlo, I’ll never ever forget the King you are. Love you, Cuz!

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The Boy From Virginia Takes a Leap

“Success” means a myriad of things to many people. For some it means living out the mythical “American Dream” of having a big house, picket fence, 2.5 (I still don’t get that .5) kids, and some sort of pet. For others it can mean riches. For some it means living another day. And so on and so on.  I found myself wondering late last night what does being successful mean to me now, in this very moment?

            If you asked me what success meant to me about three years ago, I wouldn’t have had a clear answer, but I would’ve expressed that it meant changing lives and social perceptions via the artistic medium. Today, I am certain that my success still has its foundations in remaining artistically relevant. Achieving fame and fortune, however, has ended up on my list of undesirables. Being financially stable is one thing (and necessary), but if there is anything I’ve learned from my experience in a failed/ unprofessional shows, it’s that selling one’s soul to make a buck is about the most draining thing one can do to his/her spirit.

            Some people have made soul-selling into an art. And I guess it furthers what we perceive as their success. An unfortunate example: The Kardashians, who are now being paid forty million dollars for a “reality” show (which I am happy to say I STILL haven’t seen), when as a family their contributions to American society are the equivalent of what a hangnail is to a digit on the hand: unnecessary, lingering pain. And I won’t begin to mention any “real” housewives or “bachelors” or anything else that suggest “reality” at the expense of actual realism. My reality at the moment isn’t eventuful, nor is it lucrative, but it works for me.

            I know that there are many who would ask me, “So if you got a chance to make millions of dollars for acting a fool on screen, you mean you wouldn’t do it?” Let me just say this: There are loads of people “acting a fool” on screen and the internet at the moment so joining their company isn’t going to make me feel like I’ve broken new ground. One of my favorite artists (who I can admit, I’m a HUGE fan of), Brandy, just did a VH1 Behind the Music special in which she said, referencing her time has a young artist in the entertainment industry, “For me to have had it all, I was the most unhappy teenager in the world.” If having it all means feeling like that, then someone else can have it.

            But Brandy also said something else that was very interesting. She said that she knew she would be a star and she never ever doubted it. Then she went on to joke about wishing she still had that courageousness she once had as a youth. I understand wanting that feeling of invincibility to return all too well. When you’re young you feel you can take on the world. And every door seems to be opened to you until its closed, and even then, you think that you have the power to re-open those doors. As of late, I’ve been feeling as if I’ve hit some sort of plateau. But did I reach this place because of outside forces or because I stopped believing that I could be on my Michael Jackson status someday?  I can only attribute my feeling of paralysis to one thing: fear.

            Many people who read my blogs in the past have probably given up on waiting for me to write anything new, as it’s been so long. It’s not as if I haven’t had some fantastic topics to sift through. On the contrary, I would begin to write and then stop because I felt like I didn’t have enough, or because I was afraid that no one would really give a damn that I was writing anything, despite me having a readership (albeit a small one). Also, I had some crazy obstacles to overcome as well and when I was figuring out my priorities, writing always came in last place. I needed to deal with the tangible before dealing with the technological. If I am completely honest, I was much more fearful that nothing I would write would be as great as my “Breaking the Silence” entry which was so in depth and so full of me that I felt I’d given all I could give. (I guess I did put an invisible ceiling on my artistic life, just a bit.)

            Two days ago, however while I was putting final touches on a cover letter that I was sending out to start my process of self-promotion, I felt a surge of energy…no…I felt a surge of power. It was a feeling of such surety that I became overwhelmed. I found myself happy and fearful simultaneously to the point where I was sure I would combust. It was like seeing something glow and knowing that glow you saw was actually coming from within. The exact thought I had at that moment was ‘Something spectacular is coming my way and I’m going to be so blessed’ and immediately after I thought, ‘Am I ready for the responsibility that comes with these impending blessings?’ I then thought one last thought: ‘Have I been working hard enough to deserve whatever it is I’m about to receive?

            There are some people who’ve been on this journey with me from the start and they will vouchsafe and say that I’ve never stopped working. I will say that I’ve been working as hard as my circumstances will allow me to. Every single day, I’m pissed at the fact that I’m not enrolled in some sort of class somewhere, but I also know that given the right situation, I’ll go out and get what I need and God will make a way, somehow. I will learn as many monologues as my mind can hold and I will practice songs for as long as my voice can tirelessly carry a tune.  But I’m also not going to overwork myself either. Up until February 12th, I was in a country without any family, except the friends I adopted over the years, and I had to survive on my own. I worked every day to the best of my abilities and was fortunate enough to work in my chosen field and meet loads of significant people who have influenced my life in a positive way. Keeping myself afloat as a foreigner in another country was definitely hard work so if I give myself enough credit, then yes, I’ve not stopped working.

            But after a fun yet tumultuous end to my London adventure (I had an emergency surgery during my final show in Scotland, had to fight with the UK Border agency to return to America, and ended up spending all of the money I’d just earned in a desperate need to come home), a holiday was in order…even if it was just an excuse to reintegrate myself into the life that I’ve been absent from for many years. Still, people who know me also know that I don’t know how to rest for too long.

After two weeks of just breathing and being with the family, I searched for local representation and got it, as well as some on-screen work which, so far, has been pretty rewarding. I even worked on my very first union film and I couldn’t have been more pleased. You see, a goal of mine when I returned, was to do my best to break into television and film as I’ve spent the past 13 years of my life gaining stage experience. I need a new challenge and I am ready to embrace it, if the opportunities come my way. Of course, I have to encourage the universe to work with me. How is anyone going to know what I want to do if I don’t put it out there, right?

            After returning home and being privy to the success of many actors/ actresses who I’ve worked with or met in passing, I’m starting to feel like there is room for me to excel in this industry as well. Before I left London, I had the chance to witness my former classmate, Da’Vine Joy Randolph electrify the West End Stage with her original portrayal of Oda Mae Brown in GHOST the Musical. Having been Hamlet to her Gertrude in college, I felt triumphant knowing that someone with tremendous talent was getting to exhibit it in a phenomenal way! She is currently on Broadway showing the world, or at least NYC, her capabilities. Also, in late 2007, I was fortunate enough to meet and be inspired by Leslie Odom, Jr., who I discovered is a fan of my blog series! If you are not familiar with this gentle spirit, all you have to do is tune into NBC’s SMASH or go see him play Isaiah in Leap of Faith on Broadway. His skills shine! And I can’t even begin to mention all of my London, Philadelphia, or Temple University connections that continue to make me proud each day. Their successes have prompted me to take action.

            In the past, I’ve been quite blessed in the way that good things did seem to just come my way. I was a chosen child, I guess. Or so I thought. If I took a microscope to all of the situations where it seemed like I was being “given” a wonderful opportunity, I’d realize that I’d already put in the work somewhere else. Rewards don’t come to those who don’t work. Nothing is luck. I’m of the school of thought that if you meet God halfway, then he’ll do the same. So two weeks ago, I began drafting out a cover letter to send to any casting director who is willing to read what I have to say about my overall experience as a performer. I intend to send about 150-200 letters because someone is bound to believe in what I have to offer. Someone is going to trust my talent enough to hire me and not be disappointed. Someone is going to care enough to give me feedback. Someone will hear how eager I am to stay in this business that I love, for all of its thrilling ups and dismal downs.

            Funny enough, when I sat down to write the letter, I couldn’t think of a way to talk about me (which is odd because I write a blog that’s ALL about me). I fought with how I would be perceived, whether or not I was including enough information or too much. But mostly, I thought to myself…There are thousands of people in the U.S. trying to be actors and working at a high professional level. What makes me standout? Then I thought to myself…someone will think I’m perfect. To some casting director, myself will be enough. So yesterday, I sent out 11 letters (my first wave of them) in hopes that someone will say, “This Tommy guy is interesting enough to employ. Let’s give him a chance”

            There are 139-189 more letters to send, but I’m sure this is going to be my biggest lesson in stepping out on faith. In the past, I left home at 14 only because I knew I’d be stepping into a great experience. I ended up at Milton Academy and subsequently Temple University.  I left the country in September 2008 for the same exact reason: I knew greatness would come of going abroad. So far I’ve been lucky enough o continue working in my field since my return. Coming home may have not been my goal, and yes, my work will never be done as an actor, but there is a future here that has been waiting for me. (“We’ve had this date from the beginning.”) So in sending out the cover letters, I’m hoping I’m stepping into a future that I can handle. That’s all I can hope for when I step out on faith: A future that I can handle…and one in which I can thrive and showcase the best me that there is to show!

The Boy from Virginia and the Heart Episode

I remember feeling like I was being pulled in a multitude of different directions. There was meeting after meeting to attend, and a very important business party that I needed to get to ASAP. All the while, my family had been repeatedly trying to contact me. I figured they could wait since I was in town for once and not a million miles away in London as I had been for the previous three years. So I made a mental note to call them back as soon as possible. Until then, I would handle the business that would move my career in the next direction. It was finally all happening!

I remember being all smiles as I managed to achieve all of my goals for the day, so I was going to bring a bottle of the best champagne home to my family to show them how much I loved them and to show them that I’d finally advanced to the next level. But when I’d arrived home, it wasn’t quite the welcome I’d expected. Faces that usually uplifted me were cast downward. Every eye was red and puffy and when these eyes clocked me, they became daggers. My family -comprised of a sobbing, heavily pregnant sister, a boiling brother, and many disappointed cousins (their children in tow)- gave me a look so disapproving that it pierced my spirit to its deepest depths. I caught my breath.

The reason for their anger at me: my mother’s death. And it was my absence that killed her. I’d avoided every call from my family members when I should’ve taken time out to address the real issue. But no, I was so selfish and so absorbed in trying to succeed, that I only managed failure. I dropped the champagne onto the driveway, and as I parted my lips to speak –knowing that no words would form- I felt tremendous guilt. I felt so much guilt that when the bottle smashed onto the ground, I felt that I should’ve reached into my chest cavity and thrown my heart down there to shatter alongside it. Instead of ripping myself to shreds in front of my grieving family, I did something else. I woke up…

September 21st

…and I glanced at the clock. The time read 4:blurry a.m. I turned over in my double bed and faced the person who’d run over at the first sign of distress; a friend. A true friend who’d literally dropped everything to come over and just be present. I turned back over and tried to replay the events of my life that brought on that awful dream. It didn’t take me long to recall what had kicked off my nightmare.

September 20th

Only 6 hours prior, I’d received a call from home. I’d been at the cinema but the voicemail I’ve received told me that my mother had been admitted into the hospital. Hospital news always worries me, so I called my mother asap to figure out what the hell was going on. I ended up on a 3-way call between my mother and my sister.

“Hey Ma,” I said. Then sprinting to the point. “Why in the world are you in the hospital?”

“Go ahead and tell him,” My mom told my sister. She sighed. Her tone of voice was of someone’s who’s jig was up. Like she was throwing her hands up and saying “I’ve been caught.”

“Mommy had a heart attack,” my sister sniffled. At sixteen years old and with a baby on the way, my sister still managed to make me see the seven year old version of herself. Of course a myriad of questions bubbled onto the forefront of my mind, but all I could think of was how to remain practical and level headed.

“Well…(Say something that show’s you’re in control) Do we have a history of heart problems in the family?” I figured that was an adult enough question to ask. It made me sound official instead of panicky.

“Tom, I don’t know.” My mother was clearly exasperated with me. Maybe that wasn’t the most productive question to ask, but I damn for sure didn’t want to ask ‘Are you feeling ok?’

But then, as my mother tried her best to explain to me what was going on, she cried out. I could hear how sharp her pains were in her voice.

“Oh. Oh.” I envisioned her wincing and clutching her chest. Her following sentences were rushed. “My heart rate is dropping again. (To her husband, I assume) Ring the nurse. Tom, I gotta go.” The monitors crescendoed to a dramatic level as the phone went dead. I heard sobbing and remembered that my sister was still on the line. She’d done her best to informed me of what had happened, yet it seemed all she could produce now was tears. I attributed her emotionalism to her pregnancy, all while wondering why I wasn’t freaking out a bit more. I guess because I wanted my sister to remain calm. So I did my best to reassure her that everything would be alright (clearly unsure of that fact myself), and then when I hung up the phone, I stood in my kitchen stunned.

At that moment, my mind was a cluttered attic of thought. Practically, I thought ‘Tommy, you are in a different continent. You can’t do anything but hope and pray that she’ll be fine. Go pack your bags.’ Another part of my brain was concerned about how I would managed to pack up my entire room in one night and move to a new flat the next day (as I was coming to the end of my lease). Another part of me wanted someone to talk to so I did what any sane person does: I hurriedly logged onto Facebook and posted a status asking all of my close friends for help, or a phone call, or anything. I needed to round up the troops and my crappy, cracked-screen Nokia wasn’t the quickest way to do so. However, I only received three responses from the 1,400 something friends on my list (proof that Facebook is a load of crap). And one phone call came immediately.

“What’s happened?” I told my mate the details as I knew them. “I’m coming over.” It was a declarative sentence, which mean I couldn’t dispute it. So I didn’t. I just needed to wait for him to arrive so that I could talk to someone about it.

Until then, I spent time thinking (which is really bad for me if you know me personally), and I came to the conclusion that the universe was sending me a message to love my mother more than I already do. Goodness, I thought I loved her enough. I definitely appreciate her to the fullest extent of appreciation. But I knew for a fact that I didn’t want to lose her.

Earlier that evening, I’d gone to see the critically slammed film “I Don’t Know How She Does It” (judge me at your own will), and I found it very ironic that after seeing a film about a woman who managed to do it all, that I would be in danger of losing my very own ‘woman-who-does-it-all” and has been doing so since I was born. I remember watching the film and thinking, ‘yeah, my mother isn’t some high end business woman, but I tell you one thing, she gets stuff done, and manages to make it look simple.’ And she didn’t need to have Sarah Jessica Parker’s wit and bewilderedness to do it.

Then my mind flashed back to the previous week, when my mother called me to say that she’d sent me a card, just because she was thinking about me. When I got the card, I cried because it was so perfect. It was such a perfect expression of love that it couldn’t be topped. The text of the card is as follows:

“I love you my son…

Forever, for Always and No Matter What

 

From the moment I first held you in my arms,

I knew you were special.

As I cuddled you, I was overwhelmed with love…

But suddenly anxiety swept over me.

With all the potential I felt

Radiating from your little body,

How in the world was I going to raise you to be the man I knew you could be?

 

Now, so many years later, I stand in awe before

The extraordinary man you have become.

Your compassion and generosity

Are a testament to your greatness.

I wonder what I ever did to deserve you.

 

You are my son…and I will forever love you”

            My mother did not pen those words (someone at Blue Mountain Arts did) but she somehow found the appropriate text to display her feelings, and she was so proud of the card she’d sent me. I heard pride illuminate her voice when she told me it was on its way. All I could hear now was the doubts accumulating in my cerebral attic as well as the beating of my own, healthy heart. ‘Why was I blessed with such a healthy heart? Maybe we’d had heart issues in my family that I knew nothing about? My grandmother kept going into cardiac arrest before she’s passed away and we all knew it was a heart attack that took her out of the world. Or maybe my mother’s heart was too big. She was always doing for others instead of herself. Was it possible that having such a huge heart could cause a heart attack? No, of course not…Stress from caring too much about others can cause a heart attack.’ I was thinking too much. I had to do something…so I started boxing up the items I’d accumulated whilst living in Scotland and London.

I was in the middle of packing when my friend called me to let him into the flat that I would soon be leaving; the flat I’d spent the last year turning into my home, the only place I could ever call home besides Virginia.

My mate came upstairs and I immediately became aware of the kind of person I am when I’m in trouble: a domestic OCD nutcase. I started washing dishes, offering drinks and a bite to eat, trying my best to stay active as I was incredibly fearful of what would occur if I stopped and just allowed myself to feel what I was feeling: dread, fear, and most of all, panic.

While my friend kept saying what I already knew (that I couldn’t do anything from London, all I could do was live my life, I was probably imagining things worse than what they actually were, etc) I just kept thanking him for being kind enough to drop whatever he was doing to come over and listen to me talk, of which I did a great deal.

As I spewed forth details of my life, he became aware that this wasn’t the first incident where I’d almost lost my mother. I told him that she’s almost died when I was about nine or ten years old. She went in to outpatient surgery to have a bowel obstruction procedure and ended up in a coma for weeks. The procedure left me with a mother I could only visit in the hospital, while I lived with my grandparents.

I can remember praying to God every single night asking him to keep my mother alive because I needed her. I asked him to watch over my entire family, and I promised to always be good if only he’d keep her alive. I needed her to get well so that my cousin , who lived with my grandparents as well could stop bullying me (at one point, after chasing me around the house with a butcher knife, he’d locked me in the basement and when he finally let me out, I sprayed air freshener in his eyes. Clean Linen Glade was my revenge). People at church kept saying that prayer worked and I wanted to make sure it did. I was relentless in my praying. I didn’t want to live with my grandparents forever, not because I didn’t love them, but because they weren’t my mom. And my everyday routine was supposed to include the woman who birthed me. I remembered going to school every day and loving it because school was where I was the happiest. School was an emotional necessity, not just a mental one. Learning distracted me from what was soon to become my evening routine; sitting in a hospital from about 6pm until 9pm reading library books, old copies of Reader’s Digest and basically learning how to make the perfect cup of Folgers instant coffee (despite rumors that it would stunt my growth).

Of course, my mother, the fighter she is, pulled through. She emerged from her coma after 2 weeks and was eventually sent home. However, the wound she had from her surgery left her with a hole in her stomach that the family had to watch heal gradually on its own. It healed nastily and was a constant reminder that she was on the threshold of death at one point in her life.

My friend listened intently and kept the head nods and the reassuring smiles coming. Then I told him something that I’d only just realized:

“If I lost my mother, then I’d lose what love is.” She’s the only woman, my goodness, the only person in the world who loves me unconditionally, and if she left this earth, I would never know what that feels like again. Because she’s truly loved me, flaws and all, and she and I have truly grown together. There were times when I was growing up where we had nothing. I didn’t realize it until I got older because my mother didn’t allow me to live knowing that we weren’t privileged. But that’s what a mother does right? She always kept hope alive in me.

Some weeks prior to the card she sent, I’d showed her my previous blog entry. And we’d had a very candid conversation about its content and what it would mean if I published it and the truths that emerged from that session between us was immense. She and I had crossed yet another bridge which pushed our relationship as son and mother even closer. We ended that conversation filled with new information and filled with understanding of one another. So when news of the heart attack interrupted my life, I was feeling that we’d only scraped the surface of what’s yet to come of learning from each other.

During my talk with my friend, I suddenly found it harder to breathe as another epiphany hit me.

“Before my grandmother passed away,” I told him. I could feel my throat tightening up and the involuntary tears begin. I tried to swallow it all away. “…Before my grandmother passed away, she said to my mother ‘I can go now because you are in good hands. You have everything you need. You have a husband who loves you, wonderful children, and a home to call your own. You don’t need me anymore.’” And then tears gushed forth as I said the following:

“I can’t lose my mother because she needs to say those same words to me. I need to be in good hands before she goes and I’m not.” I cried into my shirtsleeves and turned away. Then I caught enough breath to say what was at the root of losing my mother. “If I lost my mother, I will never find anyone else who will love me as unconditionally as she does. And that fucking sucks. Because this kind of love will never exist for me again” I let the tears warp my vision as I was wrapped in a bear-hug.

During the embrace, the following came to me: if the doors on my mother’s mortality closed before my heart opened itself to actual, true love…then I’d know for sure that I’d never find someone to love me with the same fervor; someone who’d never give up on me even when I gave up on myself, someone who’d understand and excuse all of my idiosyncracies.3

Never in all my life has a truth hit me so hard about myself. I can’t fall in love unless it’s with my mother’s blessing. And I don’t want her to die without me being successful to the degree of having found love, whatever that means to me. But I’m hoping that whatever love I find will be as genuine, as diligent, as long-lasting as the love I have for the woman who birthed me. More importantly, despite the struggles, and the fights, and the losses and the gains we’ve made in our lives, she has managed to transform me into a prince. I’ve always known where I stood with her. And I’m lucky to be able to still have her in my life. It was in October that I found out that my mother’s heart episode might have been a one-off. She doesn’t have any signs of heart problems or anything and she is in the best of health. God hears prayers, and God knows that her work isn’t done. She still has lives to impact and she still needs to see her son grow up and thrive in his career and maybe…in love.

If I’m honest with myself, I want to eventually end up with someone who will take me from prince to king status. But now that I’m a lot older and I look back on my life so far; past all of the failed attempts at dating, the constant rejection from those who I hoped were worthy of my heart, and my general confusion about the emotion I thought I knew so well; I find myself wondering big time ‘When does real love begin? How does one spot its origins?’ I see a lot or people who are in it, and I recognize the genuine lovers from the superficial ones, but it seems I’m entering that stage of life where I’m constantly asking “How do people end up with one another? Why is someone willing to take a risk on just one person and hope that they will be their everything, when there are so many people in this world to choose from? More or less, will it take the death of a person for me to find love in another?

One of my best friends in the world recently called me out on something. His words were as follows:

“Tommy, I know that you hate the idea of falling in love. But I’m just going to say this to you and don’t take offense. You know what I think? I think that underneath all that ‘I’m never getting married, never falling in love’ bravado…you are actually desperate for love. You need it more than anything. I just wish you felt that you deserved it.”

Real friends stab you in the front and my best mate definitely did that with his words. He was the only person I’d told that I didn’t feel I deserved to be loved. Well, that’s not true. I told him I didn’t deserve to be in a relationship with anyone. When I think about it…if I think I deserve to have friends (which is a type of relationship), why do I think I’m not entitled to deserve love? Maybe because I still, somehow, feel that to give your all to one person means eventual disappointment. I’m bound to fuck-up and I can’t stomach the repercussions of fucking-up (as a former perfectionist). I can’t afford to disappoint others because then I feel guilt and I feel like I’m failing myself. And if the faces in my bad dream were any indication of what letdown looks like, I don’t want to be responsible for those faces, ever.

But then I think I look at love in a different way than a lot of people. I love my friends to death. I feel that I’d never fall out of love with them. Even those who aren’t around me all the time or even in the same country as me still find ways to bring a smile to my face! I have loads of memories with people who have touched my life and vice versa that show me that love exists in more than one way. I’m still in love with my friends. With one-on-one love, there is the danger of falling out of it…and if that occurred, I’d see myself as a time waster. Romantic love is a bridge I may have to cross one day, but when I do, it’ll be with the blessing of my mother and the friends who have loved me even before I found “the one” who might potentially love me unconditionally. But right now, romantic love will remain an uncrossed bridge and I will focus on making sure that my new niece has all the love she needs in this world. The last thing she needs is to grow up looking for it elsewhere, when she’ll have it at home all along.

December 19, 2011

I remember when I said that I would never write about love. Then I made history. And I did.

The most important person in this world to me!

The Boy from Virginia Criticizes the Best (Session 1)

There are times when I wish that artists like Beyoncé didn’t exist. Not because I don’t admire her commercial appeal, work ethic or overall packaging, because Ido. I just wish she didn’t exist because then I wouldn’t find myself pondering the many contradictions she represents to me. Yes, there is the whole, “country bumpkin” who is actually probably “the smartest-business-woman-we-know” thing she has going on. There is also the, singer/ actress thing (side-eye to that one…) And then there are songs like “1+1” and “Best Thing I Never Had.” Drum roll for my conundrum, please.

Beyoncé’s newest album has only been out for a couple of weeks. I’m not particularly sold on the new material, but I have a feeling that her songs (whether great or mediocre) will soon be trumpeting from iPods or the modest speakers of a trendy retail store near you. Unfortunately, I’m also certain that her “Put yo hand in his face” type lyrics will be blasting from thousands of mouths of women, and even men who feel that she is singing their lives. I am one of those people, normally. But why am I one of those people? It has more to do with the woman’s artistry  and singing rather than what she, herself, has to say about an issue.

As I mentioned earlier, Beyoncé is a package. She does write her own material, sometimes…but there is a huge part of me that feels she doesn’t truly feel what she is singing about. Oh, yes, she sings hard. Harder than any singer I’ve heard to be honest. At day’s end, however, singing hard is hardly the same as having empathy for another person’s suffering. I guess at this moment, I’m speaking about the current single “Best Thing I Never Had.” How do I analyze this track?….Hmmm.

From the cutesy tinkling of the piano-intro, and her growling the words, “What goes around comes back around,” I’m already thinking…uh-oh, another “Irreplaceable.”  But I surrender myself to listening to the lyrics and melody (coupled with Bey’s infamous vocal acrobatics). The more and more I listen to the song, I realize it is a revenge song, or shall I say a song to “teach you a lesson.” It’s an “I-did-better-than-you” song, so Ha! In other words, it’s juvenile. It’s playground fodder for young girls to stomp on their ex-boyfriend’s sandcastles so they can say “I win, you lose.” (Bey would quickly say that men can relate to her lyrics as well, so they are universal…Okey doke then!)

My issues with this song are many. Firstly, I think that the song gives a false sense of security to people who have been broken up with. Let’s be honest, Beyonce is in a position to sing a song where she is the best thing someone never had because…well look at her! She is the best thing someone never had! She has the right to go, “look how far I’ve come since you.” But if that new music video is any indication, her high school sweetheart was clearly not the one she was going to end up with. And if this new love and the high school love was all she had to compare, then great. The song fits her situation perfectly.

I feel that this song is dangerous because it will be a fall-back song to rely upon after a break up. Irreplaceable was a “warning” song which inspired confidence. Women (and men too, I guess) could say…”wait a minute, I know what you’re up to and if you think I’m stupid, think again.” With this song (“Best Thing…”), it’s implies that you should be a guaranteed success since your last lover. In other words, if you are not THE best thing someone has NEVER had, this song should not be sung by you…

Let’s  be honest: in the real world, what goes around does not necessarily come back around (“Hey, my baby,” my ass). Real people who’ve been hurt (and who are observant enough to not allow naïveté to cloud their lives) know that you can still be “alone and looking” while your ex is living it up with someone new and living successfully not thinking about you. Since this is the case, sometimes more often than not for a lot of people, the question becomes, NOW whose the best? Is that person the best thing you never had? If they aren’t, their circumstances surely exhibit otherwise.

Also, how many times will this song be sung by the same person who has “moved on to the next?” The average person tends to date more than one person. Therefore, my question becomes, how many times will this song be used as a response to a break up? I swear, I would get so sick and tired of hearing a friend say, “oh well, that just means that I am the best thing they never had.” Wrong. It just means you’re not good at relationships, or that you don’t know what you want. (I’m generalizing here, but it’s a pop song…I’m talking about. How much more general can we get?)

I think my key problem with the song actually has nothing to do with people using the lyrics as leverage, or as some sort of empowerment anthem. My issue hits a bit closer to home. For me this song implies that the person who you are singing about holds some sort of regret for having left you in the first place. You both need to have been through the mill a couple of times, but you will need to seemingly come out on top as the successor. If you have been successful at becoming the “best” over a period of time, while the other person is deteriorating in some fashion, then that would be reason enough to shout the lyrics of this song to the top of your lungs, especially if that person treated you sub-par. But what if that’s not the case?

For me, I don’t have anyone to sing this song to. I don’t think there is anyone I’ve ever dated who regrets leaving me behind in any shape way or form. Every single person seems to be so content in their own lives that I don’t cross their minds. I would love to love this song and be one of the many people saying “It sucks to be you right now” with a smug face, but that’s not how I feel. To be honest, when it comes to love, many days, I feel like it sucks to be me right now.

But what is interesting is that I’m sure what goes around will come back around again. However, when it does, I don’t think it would be beneficial for me to rub someone’s face in my personal triumph. Victory usually speaks for itself. Instead, I’d rather forgive a person for having mistreated me. Why? Because that’s the best way of saying “I Win.”  There is no dwelling, nor sleep lost over someone. Instead, it’s all given away to a higher power to deal with while you thrive. My belief is that you can only be your true best when you let go of unnecessary baggage. What’s more unnecessary than hate?

I guess once you let go of the hate, it allows more space in the heart for songs about love and a positive future. If I were a guest at Beyoncé’s Wedding in her video, I’d say “Here’s to the happy ones who know the power of forgiveness.” Then I’d clink my champagne glass, and down my drink for all of those who believe that “what goes around eventually goes away leaving you with a clean slate!”

Best Thing I Ever Had (Video)

The Boy from Virginia Discusses the New Monarchy

Last week, Beyoncé released a single asking what she must think is the most important question ever: Who Runs the World? “Girls” was her answer. But today, it was quite evident that Love was running the world as everyone around the globe tuned into the royal wedding. It still amazes me how people can become so swept up in the lives of people they don’t know. Why should we care about Kate and William? They are just like anyone else, right? If this was any other wedding, it wouldn’t get this much hype, so why them? Well, simply put, they are royalty. What’s more important is that they are young royalty. With that being said, their youth represents so much. Then again, so does their obvious love and affection for one another.

            Up until today I was dreading the idea of a royal wedding. I was sure I was not going to be able to get to work on time (luckily, I didn’t get called in to work),that there’d be loads of sappy, teary-eyed, hand-holding couples dressed up as the royals (if that happened, I was lucky not to see it), and the people-congestion would just make me grumpy. But, after waking up around 11am and realizing (thanks to Twitter and Facebook) that I wasn’t going to be able to avoid the royal wedding at all, I gave in. The coverage was live on YouTube, so I was able to watch from the vows being made up until they got in the horse-drawn carriage to begin their royal waves. Then I left the house to do my anti-royal wedding day activities which I’d planned earlier this week. Only, as I walked along the Southbank and eventually to St. Pauls Catherdral (friend in tow), I was no longer feeling anti-anything. I was feeling as if I’d witnessed one of the greatest moments in history. And I was very much pro- love, for once.

            Tradition is the word that sprang to my mind today. It is also something that highly intrigues me when it comes to weddings. I think so many people try to out-do or not-do tradition when it comes to the matrimonial ceremony, but as the world has seen, a traditional wedding can be beautiful, classy, and enough. Watching the expensive simplicity of everything kept me enthralled, yet curious as well. No doubt Kate was prepared for all this, but now that it was actually happening, what was she thinking about her life before “I Will” and after “I Will?” She is, as they say, representative of the common woman marrying the Disney Prince, but judging from what has been said about her relationship history, there was nothing fairytale about how they met. To be honest, it just seemed like “down-to-earth Will” met “down-to-earth Kate,” they developed a relationship, fought, made up, made it work (a key factor), and made the big decision to unite as one. Why is this so inspiring? Isn’t that what a relationship is supposed to be before marriage? I guess I’m so inspired because I do know many relationships that have such sustainability.

            I now, sit here, exhausted from a day of walking around London (and having stumbled into a very awesome street party) asking myself all these questions about love and marriage and about my romantic future because I fear, unlike others in my life, that I will not be granted the same privilege of marriage. I’m not trying to be negative or throw a pity party (because I’m sure no one would attend). But it baffles me how the art of romantic selection (i.e Love) works. God (or whichever deity you worship) brought two people together, gave them free will to flesh out a life and 8-year history together, and now they’ve sealed the deal. I can’t even find someone to make 4-week history with, let alone 8-years. But it’s a clandestine desire I’ve had for a long time: to meet someone, grow immensely, and then…well…who knows…live together forever? I never imagined getting married, but having had one of my best friends recently jump the broom made me look at things differently.

            My theory: if you marry for love, then your marriage (no matter what it looks, sounds like, or costs) will be perfect because it’s everything you both want. Or at least this is the assumption.

            When it comes to me, and living in this world, I am slowly accepting that I am becoming more and more cynical by the day. Earlier this year, I was all too ready to embrace whatever came my way. And I was also willing to water it, fertilize it, and make it grow so that my love could blossom with somebody else. After making that pledge to myself, I got a taste of what it would be like to feel bliss with someone. Everything about the development was organic and natural. Things progressed in a very friendly, orderly, and fun manner…

            …And then a week (5 days to be exact) after my birthday, I received an e-mail saying that we were incompatible and “could we be friends?” Hmm…I immediately thought to myself, This is the equivalent of a post-it note.

            Clearly, love was NOT dating someone for a month. Nor was it sharing time together and phone calls and texts. Nor was it, it seems, being honest up front. I only wish I’d have known beforehand that there would be no future for us or I’d have not wasted so much time. Investing in someone is not a process to be taken lightly and when it comes to me, I’m the first to say when you fuck up my heart, you ruin it for the next one.

            I, now, do. Not. Want. Love. But if it comes…and it’s genuine…I might change my mind.

            But people promise all the time, “ I’m not like anyone else.” Great. I know that. No two people are ever exactly the same…but it would be foolish to say that we don’t all, to some degree function the same.

            Firstly, as a rule, we must SEE someone we like (Attraction), we must have something IN-COMMON, we must know that, at some point, sex needs to be on the menu (Lust), and that TIME must be invested to make it work. Ideally, that someone will also ACCEPT you for who you are.

            Having recently been rejected, I’ve discovered that I’m not the right type for a lot of people. People see me and have a lot of misconstrued notions of who I am. People think I’m not supposed to have a deep voice. People have told me “ You’d be so much better if you had muscles.” People expect me to be shallow. People expect soooo much from me and I just want to tell them all… “I’m skinny, deal with it. I will always invest more time into my career than someone else as it’s my true passion. More importantly, a normal person would love me to death.” The question is…who or what is normal these days?

            I despise the fact that I have so many issues with love. I despise the fact that I understand love is what we all need. I hate the fact that I love making other people feel loved, but yet, I can’t manage to make one single person love me back. When it comes to love, I am powerless at creating it or taking it away, it seems. So when that awful, repetitive, kintergarden-esque tune comes onto the radio, “Who Runs the World”… I have to reiterate: the answer is LOVE. And that’s the true monarchy in this world that we should all recognize.