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Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The Homeless Graduate...My Journey to Liberty U Class of 2012: 24 days to go

It's 5:15 AM. I have already been up for 45 minutes. I went to bed at 11:30PM. Five hours of sleep last night. That's actually a lot. Coffee made...vitamins taken...Meclazine (double dose). Glass of water. I'm not a breakfast eater so I don't do that. dear, sweet friend. Here's the secret to coffee as I make it. The greatest coffee on earth is Dunkin Donuts. You fru-fru Starbucks drinkers can keep it. America runs on Dunkin'...with a touch of Italy. Let me explain...
I have a Bunn coffee maker. Bunn is what restaurants use. I have the home model of course, but it works the same way. I buy Dunkin Donuts coffee at Sam's Club. $19.98 for a big 3 pound bag. Before this is over I may just tie it to my face like a feedbag and eat it to keep going.
Anyway...I drink two 16 oz cups in the morning. (Not a drop the rest of the day) so it converts to 6 cups on the line on the pot. Coffee makers still work from the assumption that people are drinking those little 6 oz china cups of coffee...who does that anymore? Anyway that takes 6 TBSP's of coffee to make my 2 cups. The secret is...I add one scoop of Medaglia D'Oro Espresso to the mix. Poppa John used to drink that stuff. Only he brewed it straight, like coffee. You could start a car with that. At a 3:1 ratio it's a nice subtle little kick to the medium strength of DD. To this I add about a TBSP of Vanilla Extract. Just enough to give it a hint of vanilla. If I didn't tell you it was there you'd never know. That's my trick. Oh...use filtered water.
So I'm up at 4:30 and making coffee and taking vitamins and Meclazine. Meclazine sounds so chemical! So clandestine. It sounds like a headline from a drug bust. "Man leaps from window after bad trip on Meclazine". Meclazine is prescription strength Dramamine. It just makes you drowsy. It will hit me in about two hours. On top of my crushing schedule, I do not need to be drowsy.
If there was ever a morning where I didn't want to go to work it was this one. If there ever was a time when I was tempted to drop a class or two and just put off graduation until May 2013 it would be today. I'm not tired...I'm weary. I'm worn out. In a lot of ways.
This is not where I start whining...okay? I'm excited every day I wake up. I'm happier than I've been in 14 years. For the first time in my life I have a future and I am happy with it...and I believe it's going to happen. But I am weary. And on top of that, for about a month now I have been battling some memories.
Let me explain...
I titled this blog series "The Homeless Graduate" and most everyone who reads me knows it's because I was homeless from May 2008 until January 1 of this year. In January of 2007 I lost my home when the mortgage industry I worked in began it's collapse. I know the papers say it was 2008, but the slide started in 2006. It took me along in 2007. I rented for a year but in May of 2008 I was out of work and couldn't renew my lease. By May of 2008 I was sleeping in my car. The first six months I hid it behind a church in Nashville. After a while a friend of mine with a large piece of land let me park there.
I guess I haven't been thinking too much about all I lost while I was still homeless. I hate to compare myself to a soldier, but I imagine it's like the men who are in a fierce firefight and the bullets are whizzing by, and the bombs are exploding and men are dying all around them. When they are fighting for their lives they aren't grieving the battle, or the loss of life. They don't think about what's happening when they are running on adrenaline. They don't stop in the middle of it and think how heroic they are and what an inspiring story they have to tell...John Kerry notwithstanding. But when it's over...and the guns fall silent and the smoke clears and the smell of death is lifting and the sun pokes through the clouds, and the adrenaline wears off...that's when they realize what they just endured and that's when they take time to count their losses. And that's when they have the breakdown.
I've been having my breakdowns lately. For three years I didn't let myself drive past the house I used to own. It hurt just seeing it. Even soon as I wrote that the tears began. I loved my house. It wasn't fancy. I paid $175,000 for it. But it was mine. I had 5 acres and a sweet little 750 square foot detached garage / workshop. My daughter had a pony named Willy and we had two Springer Spaniels we had raised from puppies and a cat named Giacomo. We would sit under the stars at night, my daughter and me, and we'd talk about stuff.
5 years have gone by. Willy couldn't follow us to the rental house so he was gone in 07. The other pets in 08. I miss them terribly. My daughter misses them and I feel like a horrible dad because of it.
The other thing I miss is the 3 1/2 years of weekends with her. We have gotten back on the schedule since January but it's not the same. She will be 14 next month and the wonder years are already gone. I am grieving that too.
I wouldn't reverse it if I could. At least I don't think so. Had I not lost everything and been homeless for so long I wouldn't have made the decision to finish my degree. I wouldn't have written any of my four books or probably not even these blogs.
Rich Mullins said it perfectly in his song "Calling out Your Name"...

                                                From the place where morning gathers
                                                You can look sometimes forever 'til you see
                                                What time may never know
                                                What time may never know
                                                How the Lord takes by its corners this old world
                                                And shakes us forward and shakes us free
                                                To run wild with the hope
                                                To run wild with the hope

                                                The hope that this thirst will not last long
                                                That it will soon drown in the song
                                                Not sung in vain
                                                And I feel thunder in the sky
                                                I see the sky about to rain
                                                And I hear the prairies calling out Your name.


The Lord takes by it's corners this old world and shakes us forward and shakes us free...
I suppose that's what God did by allowing the events of the last 5 years to unfold. My world has been shaken. I've lost so much. It's not the possessions I miss. I miss having a home. I miss the time spent in my garden with my daughter. I miss those pets. I miss walking in my woods at midnight in the middle of winter and seeing the Milky Way overhead. I don't miss the mortgage industry. I don't miss the endless feeling that there was something else out there I was supposed to be doing and that sure wasn't it.
I am only beginning to "Run wild with the hope" I do feel thunder in the sky and see a sky about to rain. I do see my future and it is finally bright and exciting. But the toll for this road was terribly high. I paid it as I went and while the losses mounted and the bullets cracked the air around me I never stopped to count the cost or grieve the loss. But with the finish line in sight, and with a bed to sleep in instead of a piece of foam in the back of a car, I have begun remembering. And I have grieved. I have wept loudly and bitterly over all that has come and gone. In the strangest places sometimes it will hit me. I fought valiantly to remain in my daughter's life and so I chose homelessness when leaving Nashville and finding work in another town would have solved that problem. Only now have I begun talking about it to classmates in school. I spent 6 semesters finishing this degree. 5 of them I was living in the car but I didn't tell anyone in my classes or my professors. I didn't want it to be an excuse. This semester I opened up about it because I wasn't homeless anymore and I wanted to encourage others not to quit. It's the first time I've seen this whole thing as an inspiration. It's the first time I've seen myself as being heroic. And coupled with the excitement of graduation and the realization that my story is, in fact, pretty darned remarkable, is the final release of all the bottled up hurt and grief and shame and embarrassment and loss. And along with the weight of this schedule I am keeping, and this exciting, almost Christmas-Eve feeling I have about graduating, I have five years of tears that have decided that this was a good time to make their escape.
This morning I sat here a long time before writing and I was thinking about this stuff. I am dizzy every day now from this vertigo. I am sleep deprived. I took a quiz in Math on Monday night and literally fell asleep between questions. It was almost comical. I want this to end. But I want it to be finished.  There is a difference.
Today would be a good day to drop something and delay graduation. I could convince myself to do it. Take extra classes next year and graduate with a double major...
But I will not. This is my year. I will see this through.
If you have happened upon this blog for the first time and maybe you are considering going back to school or trying your hand at something else that's daunting and a bit larger than you'd expected...I hope this doesn't frighten you off. I hope instead you look at my journey and say "If he can I can". That's really what I want to happen.
I feel like quitting today but I won't. If I don't you can't. Go for it. Live with High Hopes!
Run wild...

Until Tomorrow
LU 2012

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