I was saddened to hear of the recent passing of Kirk Douglas (1916-2020), who was my favorite childhood Hollywood hero; staring as the infamous Ned Land in 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, Disney’s first live-action film, inspired by the Jules Verne masterpiece.

For most of my life, I’ve only known Kirk through Ned Land; a brazen harpooner with a penchant for adventure, lust for life, and eye for trouble.

In 2019, I began to explore his other films, which included Champion – a film about a champion fighter – and Lust For Life, where he breathed personality and life into the portrayal of Vincent Van Gogh. 

Following two brother’s journey to California, with dreams of living a better life, Champion resonated in my heart. It reminded me of my own journey to Los Angeles (with Steve).

It’s a difficult film to watch, as you see the fighter take the hits, claw his way to the top, and face his inner demons while the crowd cheered for him. His face, beaten and bloody, as he relentlessly met each round’s bell to face his opponent – fearlessly.

As the final fight commenced, the champion found his way to the locker room, eagerly shouting at his coach:

“For the first time in my life, people were cheering for me. Were you deaf? Did you hear ‘em? We’re not hitchhiking any anymore. We’re riding!”

Moments later, the champion collapsed with his last breath as a brain aneurism from the fight claimed his life.

Hot tears fell down my face as the credits rolled. 

His fight. His eyes. His last breath. His final victory.

We’re not hitchhiking anymore.

As 2020 rolls into the picture, I find myself in the middle of my own fights; counting the licks on my own chin, while meeting the bell for more.

Only one person leaves the ring with their arm in the air.

There’s one thing the years have taught me; which is the lesson to keep moving forward. 

No matter the cost, you have to keep moving, fighting, and adapting to the circumstances life throws your way.

It wouldn’t be authentic for me to paint on a pretty smile and portray everything in life as peachy and rosy – not now, not ever. The last few years have had their highs, lows, and spontaneous moments clarity.

The ambitious young man who drove to California in 39 hours was now begging to come back into the body of the man who now seemed more interested in alcohol and drugs than in accomplishing a bigger purpose in life.

Those years took their toll as time ticked by. However, life began to look a lot different as my 30’s came into the picture, with a desire to transform the wild times into a life that was alive, healthy, and abundant.

Recently, I found myself skiing down the side of a mountain for the very first time. “Lean in” I thought, as I found myself skiing faster and faster. “Let go.”

For all of the years Steve has told me to ‘lean in’ to my life, I now understood what he meant, as I found myself shooting down a mountain faster than I thought possible.

The ski’s began to tremble as my speed increased, and it began to occur to me that an accident at this speed could incur serious injuries.

Lean in. Let go. Fly.

It was on the edge of losing control that the breakthrough moment happened; I let go. I was free to fly.

Today, I reflected back on those moments while I ran in the park. Step by step, I reminded myself to just keep moving forward. 

11 nonstop miles and 5 days without a cigarette later, I returned home and looked into the mirror at my reflection, while an email notification popped up on my phone; alerting me of the no-go status of a pending contract.

Before my heart had time to sink, I looked back into the mirror at my eyes and saw him – off in the distance…

He was down, out, and lost his vision for a while, but…he was back. The Champion.

Meet the bell, kid.

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