When I was younger, I felt like I had an unlimited supply of energy. I’d work tirelessly, exercise like a rockstar, travel the world and seemed to think it was my oyster. There wasn’t a lot I was afraid of, except for sharks.

Looking back at those years, I think that I had the advantage of not having many hard memories. I hadn’t yet experienced things like loss, death, failure, heartbreak or even physical pain.

When I see pictures of my younger self, there are a lot of things I wish I could tell him. I’d tell him to stretch more, take better care of his health, guard his heart, set better boundaries and not to extend his trust without verifying who he wanted to give it to.

There’s a scene from a Rocky film, where Rocky tells his son:

“It ain’t about how hard you hit – it’s about how hard you can GET hit and keep moving forward. How much you can TAKE and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. Now if you know what you’re worth, then go and get what you’re worth. But stop pointing fingers, saying you ain’t where you want to be because of him, her or anybody else. COWARDS do that, and that ain’t you! You’re BETTER than that!”

As a Dad, I feel like part of my journey has been to take the hits that I don’t want Atlas to someday take; to learn from my own experiences so that he can have a living model of what to do – as well as what not to do.

While I’ll never be able to protect Atlas from his first heartbreak, there are things I hope he never experiences – like drugs, getting cheated on, physical/verbal abuse and the pain of being a single parent.

There are some bullets in life that you can’t dodge – like loss of a loved one. Yet, there are small ways where you can equip a child to prepare for those things – like getting them pets, because it teaches them a small part about the cycle of life.

In my 20’s, I was annoyingly optimistic and positive. Now well into my 30’s, I feel like I carry the ‘thousand yard stare’ that soldiers came home from wars with; the look in their eyes that came from seeing the unthinkable.

There are scars I carry inside from the memories I carry, and the times I’ve witnessed instances of Hell on earth. I’ve lost family members, friends to drugs, the family I hoped would stand together forever and even countless opportunities and possessions that meant something to me.

It’s hard for me to write these things. Yet, I feel some sense of reprieve by putting them out there on this blog because it’s a reflection of how I feel inside; what hides behind the smile.

I think all of us go on a roller coaster of a journey in our lives. There’s no sunshine without the rain, or so they say. Even on the days where things feel like they do now, I know there’s a purpose and a reason for the climb; to go up, higher than where I was yesterday.

This afternoon, I took a nap with Atlas and fell into the deepest dream. In it, I spoke to a man who offered me life advise, guidance for the road I’m on and who seemed to know things about my life that only I could know. It was a profound dream, and I woke up feeling like I got a much-needed source of wisdom, understanding and light at the end of what’s been a very dark tunnel.

Upward. Onward. Forward.

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