“The First Half” by Francesc West
All my life people have given me advice on what I should do. Pointing out my faults, telling how to live my life. People that fall into that category are friends, family and other insignificant people. There were two people I always listened to though. It was different with my parents. I knew they always had the best of intentions in their heart. I remember they were pushing me to become a pilot. Just imagining myself at the helm of an airplane. Poor passengers. I would always take my parents words to heart. At the end of it all though i’d just follow my own advice. I can live with my own mistakes and regrets. What I can’t live with is not following my heart and do what I wanted to do. Whether it was the right decision or a wrong one was irrelevant. What mattered most is I do what I thought was best because I never wanted to say “I should have taken my own advice”. Later in life when I look back, I wanna know that I determined my own path through my own actions and decisions. I don’t wanna blame anybody or have any regrets. If there is anyone to blame it will be me and I can live with that. There is a saying in Turkish, “Kendi dusen aglamaz”. I just can’t live with the idea of knowing I followed someone else’s advice when at heart I wanted the opposite. I always have and always will wanna say; I did it my way.
I always looked for shortcuts in life. I can tell you now that there absolutely no such thing in life as shortcuts. If something was too tough or too hard i’d think of ways of getting around it. That worked for the short term. In the long term it always seemed to come back to haunt me. Yes, there are no shortcuts in life but I was reluctant to take the long way. I feel too many people abide by the system. In a crowd of people walking in the same direction i’m that guy walking my own way. In a room full of people thinking about saying something, i’m the guy who actually says it. Im that guy who would tell you get the fuck off your seat if a handicapped or an old person came on the train. It’s just how I am. I like calling people out on their shit. I Just am the way I am. I’m not better than anyone, but if everyone was more like me I think there’d be less bullshit in this world.
At this point in my life we are up to the time where I had just dropped out of community college, depressed, diagnosed (myself) with bipolar, family relationships broken, and thoughts of suicide. Oh what happy days they were. I was at the point where I needed guidance and help from up above. I was never really a religious person but I always kept faith in God. I believe in a higher power in which I like to refer to as “God”. Religion is a bullshit, manmade entity with the sole purpose of controlling people. Religion divides people, teaches us to be ashamed of our bodies and orders us to follow upon ludicrous virtues and rules on a book that was supposably written by God. If you look at all the wars in the world, they are all caused by religion. Imagine a world where there was only one religion. Imagine.
I am nobody to tell people what to believe and what not to believe in. How people live their lives is up to them. “Live and let live”. At the end of the day we all are a bunch of nobody’s. We may like to think that we are important and that we matter, but in truth we don’t. People are often miserable because they put too much value on their lives and their desires. They put themselves on a pedestal. When all we ever really need is a roof over our heads and a full belly. We forget sometimes that we live in a world where clean food and water is a luxury to 75% of humanity. Everyone has their own way of life and their own relationship to a higher power. I have a special bond with my God, Allah, Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, Cow, Monkey, or whatever you wanna call it. I have established that sense of connection with that energy that people often never find through all the religions in the world. I took the morals of what religion is supposed to teach you. Don’t kill, rob, steal, blah blah blah. DUH! I didn’t exactly need a book to tell me that. As long as you can accept others, keep an open mind without judgments then you’re good. It’s also important not to possess an ego that makes you think you’re better than anyone else. Religion often preaches to it’s believers into taking the “righteous path”. I never believed that the “righteous path” was believing in a religion. I always believe it has to do with the way we go about our lives. How much love and positive energy we put out to the world. It doesn’t matter where you come from, what you believe in or who you like to fuck. What matters is your character and your morals.
Anyway now we are now up to the part where I am rock bottom. Even the depression I had after football wasn’t anything like this one. This was different. I never wanna go back there ever again. (But I did). I had nothing. No direction, no purpose, no reason, no hope, no dreams. I was stuck in a very vivid nightmare and I couldn’t seem to wake up. If you’ve ever experienced depression you know what i’m talking about. It’s not something you can just stop. I kept thinking back to my old life. The one I had in Denmark. Living with my girlfriend and playing soccer. I’d think; “Man, I had it all”. That was probably the problem. I was still living in the past. Then i’d think back and realize how I rejected the chance to play football again. I’d look deep down and remember the fact that I wasn’t still in love with my ex girlfriend. I had lived through so many exciting things after all that. When one door shuts another one opens. Though I wasn’t very hopeful about the prospect of new doors opening.
I’m the type of person where if my relationships break down with the ones I love then my whole mood turns to shit. I’d have a bad day if I argued with my parents, a friend or a girlfriend. I can never feel good until we patch things up. On top of all the things I was going through in my inner world, my parents were dragging me even lower. That’s what scared me the most, because they were the only reason I kept from hurting myself. I was afraid they would let me go and i’d have nothing left to hold me from myself. My parents started approaching me more delicately In my worst of times I will never forget the support of my uncle Nick. Even when my parents were against me my uncle was there for me. He made me feel not so alone and was by my side through my bad days. He was a friend, when my “real friends” weren’t there.
I had to do something and get my shit together. I needed something, anything. I got in touch with the Chef I worked with in Bodrum. He was moving to Fort Lauderdale to take over a new kitchen. A sheik restaurant right on Las Olas boulevard. Russian cuisine at it’s finest. Him and I were close friends, so he told me i’d have a job waiting for me if I ever came down there. Even though I hated the kitchen, I felt as if this was my only option. I packed my bags, took my knife set and loaded my Malibu. It was a Tuesday and I was planning to hit the road and drive down to Florida on Sunday morning. One of my concerns was my 1981 model Chevy Malibu. She wasn’t ready for no two thousand mile journey. I also had a little money saved that was only enough to get me down there. Once I was there, I would have nothing left for food or an apartment. Luckily my car was big enough. On some days when I was sick of my room and needed to get out of the house I would often take a drive. I’d park the car and practice sleeping in the back seat. Not as bad as I originally thought it would be. I felt I could do it until I got on my feet there. Though nothing compares to a warm bed.
I’ve never really been afraid of death. I always felt that there was no point in fearing something inevitable. The way I perceive it is that “life” and being alive is the outlandish mystery. You’ve spend most of eternity “dead”. People who put too much thought into what happens after death are wasting their time being alive. You can of course wonder, question, have theories, but what I find insane is people who follow strict religious beliefs for acceptance into “heaven”. I’ve heard people say “I rather believe in God just in case there is one”. What the fuck? Most people say they believe, but in truth they are just afraid of the unknown. Tomorrow is unknown. Death is unknown. The future is unknown. I’ve always told people that have strong religious beliefs to believe for the right reasons. Don’t believe because you are afraid you’re gonna burn in hell if you don’t. Believe because deep down it endows you with self comfort and inner peace.
I live my life according to what I believe is right or wrong. When we die we’ll see what happens. Because who knows! Who the fuck knows!? Let me tell you; Nobody fucking knows! I’m not ruling out anything. Maybe there is a heaven, maybe there is a hell. (Doubt it) Maybe there is reincarnation? (Could be) Maybe we come back as different species? (Oh shit) Maybe there’s another world? Because frankly we cannot be the only ones in this infinite universe. I believe in other planets where there is life. Perhaps somewhere many light years away. A parallel universe maybe. I don’t know but I just feel deep down that I need to believe in the power of God. I look around and I see the world for what it really is and I deeply feel the urge to put my faith in a higher power. I hope that justice will find it’s way. I don’t wanna end up in the same place as Hitler when I die. Then again, “justice” is a man made entity. There is no justice in nature. There is no such thing as justice when a Lion attacks a gazelle. The lion will die if it doesn’t kill.
My biggest question has always been, “Why me?” Why do I have this amazing life and other living humans and creatures don’t. What did I do to deserve it? That’s why everyday I count my blessings and know how incredibly lucky and privileged I am to be living the life I live, to think the way I do, to be the way I am. I’m in the process of learning not to question anymore and just live. Fuck it. I’m only human. It’s not for me to figure out. I wasn’t created to save the world or figure out what happens after we die. I was born, i’m alive and I will die. Some things should be left unknown. Like the day you die. People overthink everything and I for sure am one who falls under that category. Everyday i’m learning more about myself, the world I live in and everyday I feel more ready to live what the rest of my life holds. If my depression has changed me in any way, it’s that now I feel life is less significant. I kinda stopped caring as much as I did about what happens to me because death is always right around the corner. I have zero ego now. If I feel you have an ego, I will bring you down and put you in your place. My depression, my rock bottom, my worst days have made me a better person. I look back now and realize the bad days i’m writing about in this book have been my best. I would never be the man I am today. I thank God for the good times, and the bad. I’m slowly trying to learn to turn my bad days into some what of a positive thing. I appreciate the good times more which in return makes me appreciate the bad.
Seeing my bags packed and car loaded my parents broke down and didn’t wanna let me go. I’m the type of guy, if my mind is set on something there isn’t much you can say or do to change it. I remember taking a drive with my dad and having a conversation sitting in the car. That was one of the most honest, loving, father and son conversation we’ve ever had. He told me he was ready to support me in whatever I wanted to do as long as I was okay. Writing about it now is bringing tears to my eyes. I remember him breaking down, crying, sobbing before my eyes begging me not to go to Florida. Even that didn’t change my mind.
In March 2014, just around Spring Break time, I moved to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. I knew for every minute I was in New York, I was delaying the inevitable. I was sick of it all. Living in the same city I grew up, seeing the same people, living with my parents, the shitty ass freezing cold winter days, everything about New York, I hated. I still hate it. I haven’t been back since I moved out and I wouldn’t go back if it wasn’t for visiting my family. Even if I do, it would be for a very brief visit. Seeing the sights, the people, the house would only remind me of the days I wanted to hang myself. Miami was warm, and full of people that were laid back. Just living the beach life, smoking weed, working hard and partying even harder. I loved it from the minute I landed.
I went to see the Chef and he showed me the restaurant. He gave me a job right then and there. He knew I was relatively new to the kitchen and wasn’t that experienced. He said he would teach me everything from scratch. I was determined to learn and work my way up. Even though I hated the kitchen, I thought maybe this was my destiny and that maybe I would grow to like it one day. After all, I was dealing with something I was very passionate about. The restaurant was called “Voodka”. It was owned by a bored French/Russian millionaire who didn’t know what to do with all that money and decided to open up a restaurant in the heart of Las Olas boulevard. I started from the bottom. Peeling carrots and chopping herbs for hours. After I was done with that, I would peel potatoes and prawns. I would sit there thinking, is this really what my life has come to? Is this what my life was going to be?
Even though they didn’t like the idea of me going to Florida, my parents supported me. Just like they always have with everything i’ve ever done in life. I found a small place near my work place on an island. Even though the change felt better and optimistic, I was still not where I needed to be mentally nor emotionally. I was just glad to be out of New York and having some sort of life of my own. I knew eventually one day I would be back to normal. Well maybe it was just wishful thinking.