Fuck you, 2016. Fuck me, 2017.
I survived 2016. 2016 died. I’m alive. I won.
2016 was hell. I spent the greater half of it homeless after being evicted last summer (2015), learning how to survive on the streets of Manhattan most nights: how to get by on a few dollars a day (I subsisted on countless dollar pizza slices on West 4th and 6th Avenue and countless dollar bottles of Arizona cancer juice), how to not smell (antimicrobial soap is an excellent substitute for deodorant, not so much for antiperspirant), and how to sleep as comfortably as possible on empathetic friends and strangers’ couches, carpets, and bare floors, park benches, train car corner seats, and eventually the sidewalks of 31st Street and 5th Avenue [in case you were wondering, the sidewalk is loud as all fuck, vibrates with all the hatred of the universe, because how dare you sleep for free, instead of paying some bedbug palace Chinatown hotel/hovel/hostel $49 before tax and a $50 or $100 deposit?Sometimes you see rats, sometimes you see yourself in the puddles and wonder at which moment your life took a wrong turn, and if you’re me, you can never fall asleep while laying on it… you get up after a few restless moments or a few insomniac hours and walk up and down your concrete jungle until you find a slightly better place to crash, usually around 59th], and how to drop past “settling” (LOL) and shout FUCK IT to everything.
Wear the same clothes a week straight? Fuck it. Hungry? Fuck it. It’ll go away. Tired? Fuck it. You can sleep adequately when you’re dead. Get kicked out, extorted, blackmailed, slandered and character assassinated by your roommate? Fuck it. “Work as a silent shadow. Your success will speak for you and debut as deafening spectacle.” (Like that? It’s a SF Ali original.) Or as some coach dude said, “the score always takes care of itself”.
I read a lot. I wrote a lot. I recommended a lot. I broke Medium in the process. I was invited and accepted as a writer in several publications: The Startup, The Coffeelicious, Bullshitist, Extra Newsfeed, Hacker Noon, etc. I starred as the unwilling albeit unbelievably handsome protagonist (I will never use the term “victim”, and you shouldn’t, either) in not one, but several hate crimes (plural!) especially after November 9th. I witnessed the end and walked out of several relationships, intimate and otherwise, signed a lease at the twelfth hour (literally, 1 Dec 2016), regained meaningful self-employment, have a roof and shelter from which I’m writing this, re-learned to budget, forced my beloved darling angel father to retire despite his every protest and insistence to drive the same cab he’s been hustling from for the past 18 years, and tried to support my parents for the second time (and the first since being let go from a plum consulting gig in 2014 due to lack of work), experienced the loss of many, many, many loved ones young and old, and revisited that familiar place called rock bottom, 2017 better be better.
I have made it my tireless mission in life to defeat death. Preventable death can be vanquished: diarrhea, malaria and poliovirus in the developing world. 16,165 children under the age of five years old die from preventable causes every single day. One dies every five seconds. Suicide in America and abroad. Another mission is to talk about my demons and that rabid mangy dog pinning down so many of us: mental illness. Anxiety. Depression. Schizoaffective. Bipolar. PTSD. OCD. ADHD. Fear. Self-loathing. To make people around me awkward and uncomfortable with my lived experience, and maybe the stories of others, through the weight of the pen, or rather the blinking, taunting, inviting keyboard cursor which God has blessed me with.
I believe in a God after all. The same God who created you and me. The same God we all believe in. Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, agnostics, people of all ages, faces, places. Homelessness showed me the indefatigable power and audacious wonder that is the human spirit, both through seeing myself survive, thrive, and indeed shine despite losing everything (I mean *everything* besides the contents of my backpack: my laptop, my diplomas and yearbooks, a few clothes, toothbrush, and prescription bottles whenever I had health insurance) and listening, speaking and learning from others.
The will to live that defies household cleaners, overdoses and crushing, caustic, crippling pain you would never suspect a fellow human being — your dearest loved one or a perfect stranger — to sojourn with along the often-deserted, winding wasteland of life upon their shoulders. The world needs to hear it. So many people have reached out to me offline and echoed what I always suspected. Life is tough. It’s no cookie. And if it is one, then it’s a fucking stale shit-blob nobody asked for. But you play the cards. You master them. You say fuck you to the universe, the same universe which truly, madly, deeply doesn’t give a single fuck back about your royal, wretched existence. President Trump is and will be proof of that. Fuck me, right?
Fuck that. Here’s to cheers. Here’s to life, love and laughter. Here’s to living. Boldly. Daringly. Passionately. Like the planet is a burning, smoldering clusterfuck shitstorm (#climatechange) headed into absolute and eternal oblivion, where the only thing that counts is this, THIS moment, and the only ones aboard this fleeting ship are you and me. Join me. Join us. Let’s make it count.
I love you. All of you. Thank you for the support. Seriously. I went from a total nobody writer having a readership of exactly zero people here, to being Medium’s resident cheerleader and having 6900+ followers and so many more kind souls who read, respond, and share my work. I mean this without any cliche, hyperbole or pretense: you must believe me when I say, words can, and will never, adequately articulate how much this all means to me.
Especially while I was homeless: I always reminded myself, “At least I have my online family. Someday, when I’m on my feet again, it will all have been worth it. Til then, I’ll keep reading, keep writing, and keep hustling”.
And guess what? That’s the only thing which got me through hell this year. Again, thank you for believing in me, my lofty visions, and for believing in yourselves. Make this year yours folks. Your mind is both your best friend (confidence) and worst enemy (self-doubt). The work awaits. We’ll toil.
Maybe we’ll deserve rest in that great beyond, the garden of souls our departed forebears must be cheering us on from. If there’s one thing this past year showed us, besides the rise of fake news, echo chambers, fuckboys, and Cinderalla runs (Cavs, Cubs, and Trump, oh my!) 2016 proved there’s a LOT of departed forebears, most of whom coming to mind being famous. RIP to them all.
Let’s seize the day, the year, and our lives. Let’s live like we’re dying. Because we are. Because this cliche bullshit is spilling after midnight, after the ball has dropped and the confetti has congested the air and the clock won’t stop for anybody and there will be a new president in three weeks and a net addition of two and a half people in the world every second this year and I can go on and on but fuck it, I am sure you got the message loud and clear by now. We have arrived. Let’s have some fun with this life business.
May the best of your todays be the worst of your tomorrows. May you lose the fat, split the signal from the noise, cut the jokers from your decks, and surround yourselves with the abundance, health and love that bathes and drowns our spirits each and every second. May you achieve and dream and achieve and dream and achieve and dream yet again. May your breaths be deep, your laughter hearty, and your smiles contagious. May your hopes, prayers and goals be accepted and come to fruition. May we celebrate every day like it’s a new year, a new beginning, a new us. Cheers. Happy New Year, Medium family. Stay blessed, peace and love, and to all a good night.
CALLS TO ACTION
1. Recommend this story. It helps others see the story, lets me know my work is worth writing, reading and recommending and makes me feel validated and fuzzy, because honestly, whose cold, dead heart isn’t instantly thawed and revived by the dizzying dopamine of notifications? Like, share, retweet, lather, rinse, repeat. Also, the doctors say if I don’t feel fuzzy, I’ll die, due to a rare deficiency in social currency triggered whenever my Klout score drops below 70. It’s 67 right now. Not a good look. Do you want me to die?! Didn’t think so.
2. Share this story: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, email, etc.
3. Connect with me: Medium, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Snapchat, Product Hunt, AngelList, Quora and Quibb. (I think that’s all of them!) Write me via email too! Call or text if you want. (917) 982–3849. I’m always happy to make new friends, listen, support, and be helpful in any way I can. That’s why I’m Medium’s resident cheerleader, duh! :)