Life Below 14th Street

Hi there...

So this is a story about a guy in NYC. Some parts of the story are amazing, some hilarious, others confusing, some interesting, but always honest. Like any good story it has a lot of characters. It usually involves a lot of different passions. That means this story involves you as much as it does me.

Welcome to life below 14th street.

Ask me anything  

My Journey: The Road To Marriage

I had what could be only described as the most defining moment of my life just a few weeks ago. I got married!! I married my best friend (literally) and it was the most amazing night of my life. The night was a great way to close 2011 and celebrate what’s ahead for 2012. We danced the night away (again…literally) with some of our closest friends in NYC. You can get more detail here about the night here: EmilyAndChad

The real beauty to this story however, is what lead to that beautiful night on December 30th. You see if I was honest and if my friends were honest we would probably both agree I was one of the last people that would have seen themselves getting married. It’s not that I didn’t want too (I absolutely did). It was in many ways because of my personal journey that help keep me committed to a life of bachelorhood.

The Background: The Mess of Life

It first helps if we kind of set the backdrop. Movies often “flashback” to the past to help set up the present events, so consider this my “flashback”. Also I want you guys to know I’m sharing this not because I’m looking for sympathy. I think honesty often helps others become honest. Then, just maybe after reading this it’ll make you a little less scared of some of the messy places of your life. 

Now, not every story needs a tragic life defining moment, but in my story that thread does exist. You see, when I was 8 years old I was molested (it’s okay) by a female babysitter who was about 16 years old. My recollection of the event is completely hazy even to this day (which is odd because I could vividly recall my life at 3yrs old in CT). I only know of what happend because my mother reminded me of the event at 16, which upon hearing the news I laughed it off saying to myself “NICE! I scored young”. You see by 16 I was already “unafraid” of girls. Quite the opposite I was pretty good at getting them to like me, and for the most part do what I want. By 16 I had already let a hurt form a deeply held belief in my life. Why you ask?

Well, rewind to middle school and you found a terribly frightened guy around girls (most guys are at that age). Difference was I was physically terrified if I received any type of physical contact from a girl (again not knowing what really happened to me at 8). If a girl so much as laid a hand on me I would have a physical response that got me teased pretty badly. I remember one time I was at a pool party and a girl came in sat in my lap and well I freaked out. I pushed her off rather aggressively to which she hit the patio butt first quite hard. It was a really awkward moment, especially when every guy and girl there was asking “Whats wrong with you? Are you gay?” I would hear that phrase a lot in middle school as people begin to discover that if a girl tried to get “close” to me, I’d freak out. Guys would dare girls to mess with me and girls would dare their fellow girlfriends to do the same. It was extremely frustrating when people are constantly exploiting and exposing your weaknesses. 

I faced a massive identity issue in middle school “Am I gay?”. I heard that phrase a lot and to be honest the thought never even crossed my mine. I knew what being gay was, and the thought of making out or doing anything with another guy made no sense to me (sorry just not my thing). However, what is a guy to do though when he finds himself TERRIFIED of women though. I merely went on with my life hoping one day I would be less scared.

The Shift: An Extreme Jump

At 14 it all changed. I was in Las Vegas (I’m not lying). I was with my family, because my father often went there for work. We were at the pool just hanging out and I had left to use the bathroom. Upon my return my father said, “Hey chad, that girl over there came over and asked about you.” Now, I didn’t believe him. For one he was always trying to get me to ask out girls, he himself even asked me if I was gay (don’t judge him he actually did it in total sincerity) because my lack of interest in them was so obvious. I just figured this was another one of his attempts to “help his boy become a man”. Naturally I looked to my mother for confirmation of my dads story, and she agreed that the girl had come over while I was gone. So I said to myself, “What the hell” and walked over to her. Now I can’t remember a thing about her other than she was from Boston (I remember cause I made fun of her accent), claimed to be 16 (older chic!) and she smoked (I was an asthmatic). We made small talk and agreed to hang out the next day, since both of our dads were there for work. Now by 14 I was fine being around girls but the touching/intimacy/flirtatious side still freaked me out. We spent the whole next day just wandering from casino to casino, riding the roller coaster at the New York, New York going to the aquarium at Mandalay Bay and hitting up all the malls. You’d be surprise just how much there is to do in Vegas besides gamble. 

Then the moment came….

She said, “Hey want to go swimming?” To which I responded “sure”. She said we would go to hers so she could change then we would go go to mine for me to change. So there I am sitting on her hotel room bed (don’t worry this won’t get graphic) while she is changing in the bathroom and all I can keep thinking is “What if she comes out naked? WHAT IF SHE COMES OUT NAKED?!!!!” Thankfully, that didn’t happen but she did come out in her bathing suit and proceeded to push me on the bed to make out. Obviously I got uncomfortable and it was REALLY obvious. Then the words came out of her mouth, “What’s wrong with you…ARE YOU GAY?!” It was the final straw that broke this camels back. I remember in my head saying, “I’m going to show you just how “ungay” I am.” and we proceeded to make out for the next 20 minutes. 

That moment set a line of thinking in place for me that defined me for the next decade (yes from 15-25) of my life. My thought was “Well it’s clear girls just want to use me, so I’ll use them”. It’s not a thought I’m proud of but like most things in life when they go unchecked they just become bigger and bigger. I spent this next season of life just doing my thing, now don’t get me wrong I didn’t turn into a total “man-whore” but lets just say my “scared” days were over. I had broken a spell over my life, only problem was I casted a newer spell that was just as unhealthy…

Finally: The Journey Begins

This first post was to paint the background. I apologize for the length but the story only makes sense if you know the WHOLE story. I do want to say that if you’re someone currently who is struggling with “identity” don’t be afraid to talk it out. I wish I did. I think often we are forced into things we don’t want because we’re afraid to address the confused or hurt places of our lives. This isn’t just about being gay or straight. It could be anything in our lives that shape the way we think.

Do you think experiences shape us? What are you afraid to hide? 

I’m surprised at how many people are good at hiding their hurts but their lives only act it out far to clearly. I wasn’t a Christian when all this was happening to me nor was I raised in a Christian home. That journey didn’t begin till I was 18. The next post will be the journey that lead me out of my life of extremes into one where God could ultimately get the glory for doing what He does best…redeeming falling people. So keep an eye out for the post..Walking Through The Mess: 25 and Beyond. 

Till Death Do Us Part…

Have you ever wondered why people make such a big deal of marriage?  I mean, regardless of your political or religious view points on it, it’s something everyone really seems to take seriously, and I think I know why.

Marriage is one of the last things in a world that requires and is, at its’ core, 100% about commitment.  Everyone can find joy in this; it’s mostly why I think people love a good wedding.  They like the idea of two people saying, “till death do us part”.  That’s a big deal nowadays. It’s rare for anyone to say, “till death do us part” for anything.  

This notion of marriage has made me think about how companies interact with customers. They seem to only want the “good” moments, but as soon as a customer/client experiences a problem, the business is nowhere to be found.  Or if they are, they are more of a passive husband who occasionally smiles and nods, but all the while his eyes are fixed on the football game.  He’s present, but not engaged.  

Here are some thoughts:

Deciding To Engage In Social Media Is Making A Commitment

I’ve had a few recent interactions with businesses (who shall remain nameless).  One is an internet service provider, and the other a bike lock company.  Both of these companies actively engage in social media.  They have Twitter accounts, blogs, & FB pages, all to help them feel “connected” to their client.  They love posting cool things their business is up to, or things customers praise them about in regards to their product or service.  Let me say this though, social media is not just to showcase the good.  Social media gives you the chance to build community, and community isn’t always pretty. For a business, social media should exists to give you the opportunity to engage your customer… in every respect.

When you stand at the “altar”, making the commitment to social media, you are saying, “for better or for worse, through great service and bad service”.  

Deciding To Engage In Social Media Is Committing To Communication 

This is the oldest trick in the book, but it’s also the most simple.  Don’t be afraid to talk to your customers.  Not every customer is an angry person.  People just want to know “what went wrong”; they want to know why the product or service didn’t work.  They aren’t demanding much more than just for someone to give them an answer.  The worse thing you can do is to be silent.  Hear that, business? Don’t be scared to communicate. Communicating helps, it lets the customer know that you are engaged.  You get angry customers when you don’t communicate, not necessarily when your product or service fails.  In a world where everyone is interconnected through their media platforms, you can’t afford to have a vocal enemy.  Sweeping their comments and cries for help under the rug will only come back to bite you.  

Just Because It Starts Rocky It Doesn’t Mean It Needs To End Rocky

There is a light at the end of the tunnel, business.  Just because you as a business may have started off by dropping the ball, saying the wrong thing, or saying nothing at all, doesn’t mean you’re doomed.  It’s never too late to do the right thing (usually).  You have to understand, business, that people aren’t dumb anymore; the world now presents so many options that it should behoove you to do what it takes (within reason) to really build good “customer evangelists”. 

side note: a customer evangelist is a customer who from their love of a particular product or service takes it upon themselves to share the “good news” about the brand they’ve discovered.  There can also be a bad customer evangelist.  

My interaction with the internet company never changed, and to this day, I still complain about them to my friends and I guarantee you no one is signing up for their services.  The bike lock company took this last point to heart.  They saw that, even though they started off rough (because with any marriage it takes work), they didn’t have to finish that way. Now they still have a customer, one who is even more passionate about their product. Why?  Because they decided to engage in the conversation.  

ps….the internet company is Clear Wireless ;-)