“The First Half” by Francesc West
After finding out that the restaurant kitchen wasnt for me, and having already done Personal Training, I was in search of something new. I have always been looking for something that would complete me as a person. Except I didn’t know what it was. Another adventure maybe, another trait, a new experience. From the beginning of 2012 until the summer of 2014, I went from one place to another in search of who I was. It was almost as if I was running away from something. Perhaps myself. I bounced around a lot and didn’t know what it is i was looking for. Something that would make me “happy” I suppose. But what was that?
I tried living in Istanbul for a while. I had got into modeling and wanted to pursue a career with acting. Why? Because I was lost and didn’t know what else to do. I started working with a couple of agencies who would send me out for photo shoots and fashion weeks. For a while I thought this was exactly what I wanted to do. Having my pictures taken, meeting model girls, appearing on magazines, making easy money. Hypothetically speaking; Isn’t that what you all want? I started making the right contacts to help me get to where I wanted to be. However once again I hated living in Turkey. I absolutely fucking hated it. I would get into a different argument every day with random people. Not only that, but the world of that business is, unique. Unique to character I suppose. You’ll meet many people who ask something of you in return for their gestures. They can ask you for anything. Anything! It’s a character thing. I looked at my life and realized I didn’t want to model, act or live in Turkey. So I quit everything. Looking back, I’m glad I did. Because I was doing it for all the wrong reasons. It was about the money, the girls, the fame, the popularity. Childish, superficial reasons. I’m not that guy. Never was, never will be. Just like that, I turned my back on it.
To understand the future stories to come, you must first know something about me that not a lot of people know. I am bipolar. Not that I’m ashamed or whatever, it’s just not something I yell out. “I’M BIPOLAR!” Anyway more on that later, that’s all you need to know for now. One day I was smoking some weed and it all came to me. That life was the gift. That I had everything I ever needed. All of a sudden I felt this incredible rush. An enlightenment! Everything became clear. Suddenly I realized what an incredibly lucky person I was. I felt so lucky to be alive as me. I started being incredibly thankful for everything. And I mean, everything. I thought I was just high at first. But then the feeling was still there when the high came down. I felt as if I stumbled upon something incredibly rare. Something not everyone gets to experience, feel, think or believe. There would be moments where I would drink a glass of water and be thankful because I have water to drink. I would take a deep breath and think “wow” what an incredible feeling to be alive. I would look at my hands, fingers and feel the blood rushing down my veins, my heart pumping and my body becoming one with my soul. Nothing negative mattered. Nothing could hurt me. Things that used to bother me, all of a sudden didn’t matter. I kept thanking God for bestowing this enlightenment upon my soul. I wanted everyone, and I mean everyone to feel the same thing! I could swear on everything I love, that this feeling was rare.
While living in Stockholm and working as a Personal Trainer, one of my clients was a girl called Malin. At the time we started training together she had a boyfriend. She was a cool girl and we would friendly flirt. (whatever that means) While I was doing the modeling thing in Europe, she told me that she had moved to New York. I knew I was moving back there at some point, so I told her I’d see her there soon. Once I returned we met up. She was there on a student visa and after a few months it was due to expire. Malin and I were not in love. However we liked each other as friends. I wanted to be able to go back to Sweden without the hassle of obtaining work visa. She wanted to be in the states without having to worry about going back to Sweden. A fixed marriage would solve both our problems and get us what we wanted. And on the 30th of November, 2012 that’s exactly what we did. We went to city hall and got married. (Biggest mistake ever)
At that time I didn’t have a job and zero direction. My dad and uncle are in the carpet business and they run an established local store right on Queens Blvd. They’ve been there for 20+ years. My family is not rich off it, but it has put bread on the table for all of us. My family and I, come from humble social classes. Before the economy crashed in the US, we were considered “middle class”. However after George W. Bush, the middle class died and there was a big gap between the rich and poor. We weren’t poor, but for a long time we would just get by. Through the good times and the bad, “ABC Grand Carpet” has put food on our tables, paid our mortgages and continues to be our backbone today. That’s all thanks to my uncle Nick and my dad Bill. Open 7 days a week from morning to-night.
My parents have worked really hard and continue to do so, to make sure that my future is bright. I owe them everything in regards of who I am, what I’ve done and where I am. Without them I’d be nobody, nowhere, nothing. They are truly the greatest parents any child could ever ask for. I don’t know what they think of their son. I don’t know if they are proud of what I am or who I’ve become. I believe they can be. I sure am. I thank God and life everyday for shaping me into the guy I am today. My parents and I don’t agree on everything. But then again we don’t have to. I know regardless, it’s all love. I know my parents love me more than anything in the whole wide world. They have never, ever made me feel any less than that.
Anyway, I thought why not try to learn the family business and learn carpet. Believe me, it’s not for me, and growing up I couldn’t stand being in that store for more than 10 minutes. But I felt at the time had no choice. I had no job, and just like with everything else I thought this was what I was meant to do. I started going to work with my dad and uncle. They would teach me all about.. carpet. I wanted to get a hold of the nearest gun and shoot myself in the ear. But I was very keen on learning the trait. The only problem is, people don’t line up to buy carpet. A customer would walk in once in a while and when they did it was either my dad or my uncle dealing with them. My presence was redundant. My dad would make me vacuum the store every 3 hours just for me to get off my ass and move. It was the least I could do since I demanded wages of $50 a day. At that time they were thinking about opening up a second carpet store. My dad would run one and my uncle on the other. Figured I’d be middle man working in both. I didn’t mind, as long as I had an identity. Whether it was Francis the chef, the personal trainer, the actor, the model, the footballer, or the carpenter. I just wanted to stop moving around the world with no direction.The carpet business wasn’t for me. After one week of going to work with my dad and becoming a master in vacuuming, I decided not to continue. Needless to say that everything has an ending. That was also the case for me and Malin. We aren’t together anymore, but we are still married. We are going through the divorce stage now. I’m never getting married again! Just the paperwork is enough for me to shy away. Besides, I don’t believe in the institution of marriage. You don’t need to sign a piece of paper to prove your love for someone. Holy matrimony isn’t for everyone. And it really makes me wonder how people can sign a prenuptial agreement when they promise to love and spend the rest of their lives together. Don’t even get me started on kids. Not for me. Couple of hours later I’d either want the kid to leave or like to leave myself. Get a dog! Dogs are SO much better. They love you unconditionally. Isn’t that the only example of love? I’m happy with my life, no need to complicate things. But I will get a couple of dogs when I settled down and ready. I can’t believe I was “ready” to get married and have kids with my ex girlfriend in Denmark. I certainly dodged a bullet there. After marrying Malin, I tried moving back to Sweden to start-up my own personal training company. I stayed with Ingela during that time. I’d never forget our nights of whiskey and dark chocolate. While in Stockholm, I had a big brother figure in Henrik. Henrik was an ex-professional goalkeeper who worked as a pt at SATS. He played in the top Division of Sweden and from what I’d imagine, he was a beast. I would have benched his ass though. Just saying, Henke. To this day I consider him a big bro. I spoke to him one night about wanting to get back into football. I was having these feelings that I was only meant to play football and nothing else. That this was always my destiny and that this was the reason nothing else was working out. I felt mentally ready, physically stronger than ever with nothing to lose. I would absolutely dominate that goal. Specially with this new profound feeling that I had about life.
The conversation with Henke was very frank. He told me that I had to stop being a spoilt child and take control of my life. Yes, I completely agreed. He put me in touch with an old coach of his, and told me if this guy thought I was any good then I had a chance. I took the bus to the training facilities and met up with Janne the coach. He put me in-goal and said “Let’s see what you got”. I hadn’t touched a ball in 2 years. I hadn’t worn gloves in 2 years. Two years is, a long time in football. I felt like a kid again. Like a kid who’s just got his football back after 2 years. Even though I felt I could do it, I didn’t know if I’d ever be given a real chance. I started training with Janne and he told me that I was much, much better than he expected. Considering I hadn’t played for 2 years, I was very surprised too. I thought I’d have lost way more. I was still the same great keeper, just out of touch. I started training everyday, and getting back in shape slowly. My mechanics and muscles were remembering old techniques. I was very much on my way back. I felt terrible for letting 2 years pass me by. But then I would tell myself that these two years made me more experienced about life and in return that would only help me in goal.
There was something wrong though. Something was missing from my game. All of a sudden I realized that the passion I once had, the burning fire inside was gone. There was nothing left but ashes. I was trying to reignite a fire that wasn’t there anymore. I thought this was what I wanted. Above all things, this was what made sense the most. Going back to my roots. Becoming the goalkeeper I once was. Fulfilling my destiny. Physically there was nothing missing. Mentally I was strong. But to be successful in whatever you set out to be, you need passion. Without passion, you’re worth nothing. My entire footballing life, my biggest strength wasn’t my abilities, or my talent. It was my passion.When I found out that the passion wasn’t there anymore I had to let it go. I spoke to Henrik and asked him why he quit when he was at the top of his game. He told me that he didn’t feel it anymore. That the passion was gone. He would just go to training and play the games for the paycheck. He said “Football didn’t fulfill me anymore”. His words made me realize that maybe my destiny lied elsewhere. I thought it would be a fairytale comeback. Maybe that’s what I was chasing. A fairytale. But life doesn’t work this way. I’m glad it came to me before long. There were many reasons behind my decision to quit again. I kept thinking, what if I never get a decent contract? What if I get an injury? The thought of never having a stable life drew me away from football. The thought of looking back after 5 years and being in the same exact place I am now. That really scared me. Football wasn’t an option anymore.
I was at a point in my life where I felt I had done almost everything I wanted to do. Went and lived almost everywhere I wanted to live. That scared me because I was very young. I didn’t want this feeling at the age of 23. I kept thinking, what now!? I was always repeating myself through different scenarios with the same lame ending. My disadvantage was also my biggest advantage. At the age of 23 I had done more things, seen more places, learned more things than any one of my friends that were the same age. Everyone around me kept saying how lucky I was and how happy they would be if they had my life. I knew I was more privileged than most, but I didn’t necessarily feel that it was the answer to “happiness”. Everyone is different in the struggles and challenges they face. Through those experiences we shape into the people we are today Happiness is something people talk about and chase their entire lives. They think it’s a feeling. Happiness is not a feeling. It’s a state of mind. A state of mind that is based on the perception and idea that you already have everything you ever need and that anything else is just extra. People often think once they get a better job, dream car, or more money that they will be happy. No! Unless you learn to appreciate what you already have, learn to be content with less you will keep chasing “happiness”. Learn to want less. Less is, more.That’s the key to being truly happy. Perhaps maybe it’s the “Pursuit of Happiness” that makes people happiest. It’s about the journey, not the destination. Many people also confuse the word “happy” with the word “content”. It’s like going to the mall to buy a pair of jeans. You find one you really, really like. But there is none left. Just when all hope is gone, they find one pair and it’s your size. THAT is a happy feeling. Content is wearing those same pants and not wondering about if they have them in other colors. Maybe that’s terrible analogy but if you get it, you get it! And if you get it, and I mean actually get it, you are enlightened. If not, keep chasing “happiness” on your own terms and see where that gets you.