This was written in two parts. The first is on Christmas Eve. The second (noted below) is on Christmas Day.
I have every intention of going to Florida for my holiday season. My wife is at home, packing late (because we think being an adult is overrated) and I’m at work right now. I’m in the middle of arguably one of the biggest transitions I’ve ever faced in my life (which will become evident soon) and until then, I have a solid finance job working 8 to 6 to just provide until the side hobbies become fruitful. It’s a normal hustle for most people.
Today is Christmas Eve, though. I was a bit annoyed that I have to work today, but coming from retail places like Gamestop, I’d much rather do a half day today.
I’m in the middle of my normal routine when out of nowhere in thrown into a costumer contact I had no idea about. Before threateni- I mean, complaining — to my coworker for the unfair assignment, I noticed the man walked extremely slow and calculated and I paused.
“Your doing okay today sir?” I asked him, honestly. My anger had faded and I was back in customer service mode.
He didn’t speak for a moment, then he said “Makes no sense to complain, I’m still here. I shouldn’t be. But God woke me up, so I’m still here.”
Dope answer. So I went to get his paperwork. I explained to him that I hadn’t had time to get things ready, so I’d need his information to format the contract. Somehow, the topic of work employment came up. He mentioned he had been driving semi-trucks for over thirty years.
Automatically grabbed me. My father had been doing the same thing literally all my life, off and on. I mentioned that to him, he knew where my dad’s company was based out of off memory and how to get there.
That brought a smile to my face. The man had a memory like an elephant, and by now he was smiling and talking with me genuinely. I guess we both had to size each other up. I’m cool with that.
One of the other coworkers asked him to tell a story.
“I’d rather not. It’s not as glamorous as you think.” They talked back and forth until she went to answer the phone, then I heard him mumble a bit more to the end of the sentence.
“… I’m just tired of it, you know.”
I looked up and he was looking dead at me. Completely different look in his face now… He seemed dejected, and I realize that he wasn’t mumbling to begin with. He was talking directly to me now.
“I was supposed to retire ten years ago. I was told that I could carry over my tenure to a different company. They lied to me. Kept my bonus. I can’t retire. I’m here… And sometimes I wonder if God is really looking out for me.”
My response came almost instantly.
“You know He is. You wouldn’t — we wouldn’t be here if He didn’t.”
He nodded. “It’s easy to get discouraged.”
He sat up. “You know, back then, any type of job life this wasn’t permitted for us,” he said while pointing to the darker backside of his hand. “You being here is a blessing.”
“My dad told me some things from experience.”
“You ever been called a nigger and couldn’t do anything but take it? Because you knew if you responded, you’d get killed? Lot of people haven’t been in a situation like that. It changes you. Seeing things like that.”
He proceeded to tell me several stories about it. About how cops would pull them over and basically do whatever with them. How once he tried to voice that opinion and got pinned with a magical felony count that technically got dismissed but still happens to pop up whenever he tries to do something besides driving trucks. How after a while, he was resigned to the fact he’s gonna have to drive his way into retirement, and how he was ripped out of that due to a “miscommunication”. It became easy to sympathize with him. His tone changed drastically. He was swearing and didn’t realize it out of frustration at the injustice. He was looking at me, but he wasn’t looking at me at all.
Out of nowhere, he stops. He started smiling again. He apologized to me (and then, “ I’m sorry Lord, help me “), but his eyes told on him.
“But all of that led to moments like this. Where I can see others being successful. Don’t squander it, young man. You not supposed to be here. System isn’t built for us, but you’re built to thrive in the system regardless. Your dad knows it, too.”
It’s Christmas morning now, but I feel like I should update this.
I remember four people specifically telling me that last thing. My dad, my auntie, my friend Juwan (we called him J in high school) and now, this man.
I finished with the papers, and after a quick handshake, he turned back and said “Don’t let anything ruin your holiday.”
And I told him I wouldn’t.
I guess I lied to him.
One of the reasons I go so hard of because I want the people I care about to be able to say that it was worth it. That they know LJ would be okay, regardless. I know it, but I want them to be able to see it for themselves and use that to inspire others. And, those four people specifically, I had extra things to prove since they believed in me.
But J died in high school in front of me. I’m still not over it. And about five hours after that conversation with the earlier gentleman, I’m alerted that my aunt — same aunt from earlier that told me out of nowhere “ LJ, you’re gonna be great. I’m gonna be here to see it “ — passed in her sleep on Christmas Eve as I’m traveling to Florida.
I cried the rest of the way here. My heart is heavy. Can’t shake it. I got my wife’s family around me, and I just keep thinking about how much I want to just ball up in a corner and be to myself. I’m so upset at myself for letting myself get distracted from my goals with my ventures…
That self -evaluation. It’s pain. It’s more grief than anything because that was one of my favorite aunties. That inexplicable dull pain in my heart… Just heavy.
… I actually don’t know what’s the point of this. I had a really concise climax, but I’m just trying to pick myself up on Christmas now. I feel like I’m on a timer, looking at those dumb hourglasses with the sand in it. Like, I know I’m going to be successful before I go, but the people around me… I don’t want to be successful without people I love being here to reap those benefits.
So that’s why I’m going so hard now. I can’t spend every Christmas in regret anymore.
…As soon as I stop crying, I’ll get right on that.
…. As soon as I stop crying, I’ll get right on that.