42 years I’ve breathed air and struggled to understand life. The last few years of my existence have been absolutely gut wren things to times. My 40th birthday was spent in Harrisburg, visiting because I had a two months earlier left after my marriage failed. It was a hard visit, my divorce was actually final on my birthday.

The next few months I spent depressed and anxious in Cleveland. Living with my parents and licking my wounds. I was completely lost, in enormous pain and feeling like I was losing light. I had little friends to lean on, so my lonely heart was squeezed to the point of exhaustion. I made some valuable connections online that to this day are some of my most cherished friends.

That January I decided to set out on an adventure. I set out to find something on the road in the American south. The romance of it all didn’t play out as much as the realization that I needed healing bad, from my divorce, but also from my addictions, mental illness and my loss of faith.

I stayed with friends in Nashville, Atlanta and Memphis. I saw a lot of cool things, met amazing people and reconnected with dear friends. I was broken but they helped keep me going, my online community was there too, holding me up when I wanted to end it all. My poetry become much more intensive and my support of my craft became even greater.

That spring I found myself back in Harrisburg. I a different person than when I left. I felt alienated and anxious about returning but I was desperate for some normalcy and to see people I knew. My friends took me in and got me on my feet, but my shoes were never tied. I tripped and stumbled my way through a few months of trials and errors that ended up with me disappearing one afternoon and in a few hours I was back in Cleveland.

I moved home after losing my Grandpa, then my little brother moved in too, after losing his home. I found a job doing security with the Cleveland Browns. It was a tough job and very inconsistent plus it paid terribly but it gave me a place to start. In October of 2016 I got hired at the Cleveland Museum of Art, not much better pay but it was a steady schedule. I spent my 41st birthday back in Harrisburg but it wasn’t really worth it, just seemed too bitter sweet.

I got back to Cleveland and went right into my job. I had few friends in the area so I hoped my job would provide me some. It took awhile but I met a few good ones. I worked hard to work my way into their lives but it turns out they are some of the best I’ve ever known.

The winter was hard and long, just a mental, emotional and physical toll. By spring I needed a break so I went to Austin Texas to stay with a friend and her roommate, who has become a dear friend as well. That trip really gave me a lot of inspiration to press on and create. Austin is forever in my heart.

Shortly after that I would meet a girl, Melanie. She was not a complete stranger as my new work friend had put her name in my ear and was convinced if I new this girl, a former guard at the museum, we would be friends. I wondered who she was and then one day she was at an open mic. I briefly met her, thought she was cool but when I went to find her after, she was gone. The next day she came to the museum and I literally ran into her like 3-4 times. Then a few weeks later I ran into her again on the street outside an art exhibit. Soon we would exchange numbers and one day I was feeling crazed Melanie called and left me a sweet message. A few days later we hung out and had coffee. Since that day we have hung out a lot, at first it was just casual dating, then it was intense friendship, as we both were falling apart, and eventually it turned into something much more real.

I hit a milestone, 5 years sober in June, and having Melanie there was huge. She’s also sober, longer than me, and fully aware of the struggle. She even gave me my five year chip. That was huge, our struggles and issues are similar but most of all we both just needed a person to understand but also just laugh with in the midst of the darkness.

Now I’m here, I’m 42, and I’m about to move into a house with my girlfriend. We are both excited and freaking out because it’s more than we could ask for. Life is weird and so are we, therefore everything is a wild ride. I’m in a good place, but I’m still healing and finding my way. Im creating more than I have in years, both writing and painting. I’m grateful for the ones who stayed around to support me and help me grow.