“The First Half” by Francesc West
After finding out that the restaurant kitchen wasn’t for me, and having already mastered Personal Training, I was in search of something new. Another skill to add to my armory of traits. 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 really wanted to be in the coming years. It was almost as if I was running away from something I didn’t know and chasing something that didn’t exist. 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. Something that would give me that sense of fulfillment. Easier said than done.
I tried living in Istanbul for a while. I got into modeling and wanted to pursue a career in Acting. I was lost and didn’t know what I wanted to do. Acting has always been a passion of mine since the age of 10. I used to be in theater as a young boy and needless to say I was pretty damn good. So I started working with a couple of agencies who would send me out for jobs and auditions. For a while I thought this was exactly what I wanted to do. Having my pictures taken, meeting model chicks, appearing on magazines, making easy money. Isn’t that what we all want?
I started making contacts to help me get where I wanted. However once again I was having trouble adapting to life in Turkey. I would get into a different argument every day in traffic with random people. I had a tough time adjusting to the culture. Also, the world of show business was a bitch. You’ll meet many people who ask something in return for their “gestures”. They can ask you for anything including sexual activities. The final straw for me was when a faggot ass producer wanted to have sex with me in order to make me the star of a TV series. Obviously I could never do something like that. It’s a character. But the ones that did, are actually very very famous and have a lot of money now. Most of them household names in Turkey. I’ll get more into that in the chapters to come. Anyway, I looked at my life and realized I didn’t want to be in this fucked up business surrounded by these cocksuckers. So I quit everything and travelled the world for the next 8 months. Looking back i’m glad I did, because no matter what I would never fuck anyone to get to where I want to be. That’s shameless. If you don’t have anything in this world, then at least have some fucking character.
I left Turkey and travelled the globe. One sunny day in the midst of my travels, it dawned upon me. That life itself was the gift. That I had everything I ever needed. All of a sudden I felt this incredible rush. An enlightenment if you will. Everything became clearer than ever. I realized what an incredibly lucky person I was. I felt so lucky to be alive as the person I am. I started being incredibly thankful for everything. And I mean, everything. I thought I was just high at first. Then the feeling was still there when the high came down. It was like being on ecstasy on the daily. I felt as if I stumbled upon a feeling that was 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 so thankful that I have clean water to drink. Considering 75% of the world don’t have access to clean water. I would take a deep breath and think “wow” what an incredible feeling to be ALIVE. I would look at my hands, my fingers and feel the blood rushing down my veins. Feel my heart pumping and my body becoming one with my soul. Nothing negative mattered. Nothing could hurt me. Things that used to bother me didn’t matter anymore. I kept thanking God for bestowing this enlightenment upon my soul. I wanted everyone, and I mean everyone to feel what I was feeling. 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 with a bunch of tattoos. 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. When I eventually 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. In my future plans, I wanted to be able to go back to Sweden or anywhere in Europe without the hassle of obtaining work visa. I didn’t want the same scenario of Denmark repeating itself. She wanted to be in the United States without having to worry about going back to Sweden. She needed a green card, and I need a European one. A fixed marriage would solve both our problems and get us what we wanted. 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 in my life. My dad and uncle were in the carpet business and they ran an established local store right on Queens Blvd. They’ve been there for 25+ years. My family was never rich but my parents worked hard to put bread on the table for us all. My family and I come from humble social classes. Before the economy crashed in the US we were considered “middle class”. However after George f**king Bush, there was no more middle class. There was a big gap between the rich and the 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. It was all they’ve ever knew. Their life’s work.
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 in life. 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 me. My parents and I don’t agree on everything. Then again we don’t always have to see eye to eye. I know it’s all love. I know my parents love me more than anything in the whole world. They have never ever made me feel anything less than that.
Anyway, I thought why not try to learn the family business and get into 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 head 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. Just sitting there waiting for my dad to order Chinese take out. My uncle would make me vacuum the store every 3 hours just for me to get off my ass and move. “I’m paying you, you have to earn your money.” he says. It was the least I could do since I demanded wages of $50 a day for literally doing nothing! 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 Francesc the chef, Francesc 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. (DUH!) 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. 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. It really makes me wonder how people can promise to love each other “Til death do us part”, then sign a prenuptial agreement so they can spend the “rest of their lives together”. Hell, don’t even get me started on kids. Not for me. Get a dog, or a cat! Animals are so much better humans. They love you unconditionally. Isn’t that the only true example of love? I will get a couple of dogs when i’m settled down and ready. I can’t believe I thought I was “ready” to get married and have kids with my girlfriend in Denmark. As young souls we tend to think we are invincible. That we know best.
After getting my work permit in Europe, I tried moving back to Sweden to start-up my own personal training business. 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 can only see in the gym he was a beast. 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 spoiled 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. Once I put my gear back on, I felt like a kid again. 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. After all, there were other reasons for me quitting football. 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 my abilities. I was still the same great keeper, just needed a polish. I started training everyday, and getting back in shape slowly. My mechanics and muscles were remembering techniques. Techniques encoded in my DNA since 5. I was very much on my way back. I felt terrible for letting 2 years go to waste. 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.
I was training everyday and developing back into the goalkeeper I was. However, there was something not quite right. Something was missing from my game. All of a sudden I realized that the passion I once had, that burning fire inside was gone. There was nothing left of that young boy who cared for nothing in life but football . 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 to me the most. Going back to my roots. Realizing my potential as a goalkeeper. 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 to be passionate. Without passion, you’re worth nothing. My entire footballing life, my biggest strength wasn’t my abilities or talent. It was my passion.
When I found out that the passion wasn’t there anymore I had to let it go. Again. I spoke to Henrik and asked him why he quit when he was at the top of his game. He told me the same thing. 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 is most certainly no fucking fairytale. 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? (Like before) What if I get an injury? (Like before) The thought of never having a stable life drew me away from football. The thought of looking back after 5 years and seeing i’ve done nothing but play football really scared me. Football wasn’t an option for me 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, 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 privileged than most, but I didn’t necessarily feel that it was the answer to “happiness”. Everyone’s life is different in the struggles and challenges they face. Through those experiences we take shape. Happiness is something people talk about and chase their entire lives. People think “happiness” is 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 you get 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 more and more “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’ just so happens to be YOUR size. THAT is a happy feeling. Content is wearing those same pants when you know they had a bunch in your size. Maybe that’s terrible analogy but you get it. If you get it, and I mean actually get it then you are one enlightened individual. If not keep chasing “happiness” on your own terms.