Pursuit.

I remember those nights. 

They were filled with complete darkness. 

I lost mobility, my vision was impaired, my hearing nonexistent. 

There was life all around me, but I felt lifeless inside. 

You see I was lost within my own world, but not even a set of clear directions was going to help me find my way. 

Days kept passing me by. And whether or not the sun was shining, a dark cloud positioned itself over my world.

I wanted nothing more than to move forward, but my ankles were chained to the floor. I wanted so badly to reach out and grab someone to help me, but everyone was out of reach. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, but I knew nobody would hear me.

I was alone in a world filled with so many people. Lost and scared.

My mind … it painted this masterpiece of how my life was supposed to be. I kept imagining I would wake up from my nightmare and everything would be the way it once was.

I had a difficult time imagining spending my life with another woman. It’s not that I couldn’t love someone else, I just didn’t want to. Even coming home didn’t feel quite the same. It was lifeless, for lack of a better term. It no longer served it’s purpose, and that too would be something I’d eventually walk away from. 

I became so preoccupied thinking things would fall back into place that I lost sight of the world around me. 

I eventually tried dating, but that too felt forced. All were sweet, but I couldn't appreciate it.

I couldn't appreciate myself, let alone someone else. 

My struggles even became evident at work. I was the same Anthony, but my vision was blurred. I couldn’t think straight which ultimately led to a negative impact on my performance. 

It was unlike me. I was always an achiever, always a top performer. How was this all happening to me? Everything was falling apart at the seams and for the first time in my life, I didn’t know how to fix it. 

This was my destiny, though. God planned it this way. Somehow, I had to put my faith in Him.

I was ready to find my happiness. 

And so I had to get lost in my thoughts, I had to remember the reasons why I woke up every morning. I thought about my family, my career, my children whom I haven’t met yet, the future I envisioned for them, every dream I had for them.

Those thoughts became my strength. 

My strength gave me hope.

Hope that I'd fall in love again and get my opportunity to be a father. Hope that I'd rebuild my life that shattered before my eyes. 

That hope helped break me loose from those chains tied around my ankles, turned darkness into light, my cries into laughter.

With my arms reached out, God finally pulled me in and taught me a valuable lesson; I needed to love Anthony first.

I struggled with that. I didn’t think I could, honestly. I didn’t know how. 

For so long I only knew how to love someone else. How was I going to figure out how to love myself? 

You hear it everyday, "You have to love yourself before you can ever love someone else”. 

And I asked myself, “What the f)#k does that mean?

I'm no expert on love, but for me it was realizing I didn't need someone to complete me; I was already complete. I began giving attention to the one person who truly deserved it … myself. I did what I wanted to do, when I wanted to do it. 

I didn’t feel broken anymore. 

It changed my whole perception of love and what I wanted out of it in the future. 

I no longer wanted a relationship to suffice as a cure to my loneliness, I wanted a companionship. I wanted a woman who would dream with me, explore with me, conquer the world with me. I wanted to fall in love with the right person, not the next person. I knew I wouldn’t find that unless I was the best version of me. 

I wasn't willing to allow pain and suffering to ruin my one shot at life or love.

In teaching me how to love myself, God introduced me to my greatest gift … writing. Although it took some time to find, I soon realized this was His purpose for me in my life; a life more beautiful than I had ever imagined. One that would turn into words and help give strength to those who felt hopeless as I once did. 

We all face struggle at one point or another in our lives; it’s a part of living. But through those struggles are valuable lessons to be learned and strength to be gained.

We have to want to overcome. We have to glimpse into our future and stop at nothing until we get there. 

Let your scars be a constant reminder of the roads you wish to never travel again. Instead seek out roads that are foreign to you. Have fear in the unknown, but trust that God will lead you. For it’s down these roads where we find our purpose and our strength. These same roads hold the keys to our dreams and the future we dream of. 

Regardless of your obstacles, understand that you are the Author of your own destiny. Your story ends exactly how you wish it to, and when you finally realize that you’ll break free from those chains that consistently hold you down.

I at times think back to those nights filled with darkness, and I’m thankful I was exposed to it. 

I faced my biggest fear. And I won. 

Not because I’ve found peace, but more so because God has given me the opportunity to help others find theirs.  

This is my pursuit of happiness. 

Unfiltered.

I never imagined you and I, out of all the people in this world, would go through something so devastating as we did.

Throughout the years, we created the most beautiful memories. We climbed all the way to the top together, only to slip and fall as soon as we got there. And though I may have contributed to that fall, I tried so hard to hold on to you.

My heart shattered into a million pieces. Eventually, I realized I couldn’t save us.

I couldn’t undo what had been done, and I let you go to find your true happiness.

All I ever wanted was my own family. Every day, I dreamed of falling in love with a woman, getting married, buying a beautiful home and one day bringing our own little bundle of joy into the world.

I guess it goes without saying that you made all of that feel real for me; you helped make most of those dreams come true. I wanted nothing more than to be the best husband, a romantic lover, the most selfless provider, and one day, the world’s best dad.

All those things I wanted to be, I couldn’t imagine with anyone but you.

Our relationship wasn’t perfect, but I loved you so much.

Our life together — it was like Disney World. We ran carefree in this theme park we call life. Holding each others’ hands, we laughed, cried, loved, and we were in awe of everything we experienced. We were children with dreams, and together, we thought about the day when all of ours would come true. 

Eventually, though, those roller coasters stopped.

The music died down, the lights shut off, and our magical journey came to an abrupt halt.

You were gone.

Suddenly, everything that was so familiar about life felt so foreign. I was lost without you. All I had left were my memories and dreams of us that I knew would never come true.

There are a few things, though, that I’ve never had the opportunity to tell you  …

Every time I called you, I looked forward to hearing you answer the phone. You would say “hey” in this voice that sound so innocent and so loving. And it never changed. It always reminded me of the beginning of our relationship and all of the reasons I fell in love with you. Who would have thought something so simple could be so powerful? It’s what made you unique.

Remember all the times you yelled at me when I was looking at you? You’d ask me why, and I would either laugh or get angry because you had this “sass” about you. You know what? I looked at you because I thought you were the most beautiful thing in the world. I didn’t care what you were wearing — whether you had makeup on. I’d look at you and get lost in your laugh and your smile. Whatever flaws you believed you had, I loved — How you’d look in the mirror and always suck in your stomach; How you always analyzed every picture we took together and made me delete them, nine times out of ten; how you’d pace around on the phone when you were nervous. Or how about how you hated to be on video? I noticed everything. But I loved it.

How about Valentine’s Day in Atlantic City, when we arrived at the hotel and got the keys to our suite, only to find out it was disgusting. You wouldn’t even sit on the bed! We both laughed until we got our room switched. Once we got there, you started jumping up and down like a maniac (I have it on video), and then eventually, you crashed and took a nap, like you always did. I sat there on that cloudy afternoon, lights off in the room, and just watched you sleep. I kept thinking about getting to marry you one day and having the opportunity to enjoy that moment over and over again. You looked so peaceful, and it reminded me of the responsibility I had to protect you, always.

Then there was that warm summer afternoon in June. The commute home from work that day was the most exciting drive of my life (and the longest, too). I will never forget picking up the phone and calling you, asking you to get ready and meet me at the house so we could grab dinner. It was spontaneous, I know, and in hindsight, not very well planned. I didn’t care, though.

I wanted to ask you to spend the rest of your life with me, and I guess I just couldn’t wait anymore.

Your ring had been sitting in my room for three weeks in its blue Tiffany box, wrapped with a white ribbon. Every time I looked at it, I would think back to that night in May 2004 when I first laid eyes on you.

I thought about us being kids, not having anything but each other. I thought about the dreams we shared, and how I was so ready to spend the rest of my life with you. You helped shaped me into the man I was becoming, and this was a representation of my love and appreciation for you.

I was so nervous walking onto that beach in Long Branch — my hands were sweating, my heart racing. When I got down on one knee in the sand, I remember the look on your face. The sun was beating down, your hair was blowing in the wind. I could hear the waves crashing behind me. I’ll never forget you putting your hands over your mouth, saying “YES!”

It was one of the happiest moments of my life. When I slipped that ring onto your finger, I was certain it would never come off.

That leaves me with our wedding day.

June 10, 2012, the greatest day of my life. I looked forward to that for 27 years, but I never imagined it to be as beautiful as it was.

I was in awe of everything — the cameras, the flowers, the people, the church, the venue. Everything was beyond my wildest imagination, but nothing could compare to the excitement I felt about becoming your husband.

I couldn't wait to make you Mrs. D’Ambrosio.

Here we were, two teenagers who met on the Seaside boardwalk eight years prior, with no idea about life, love, and where it would take us. We finally created this day. We had built our lives, our careers, our home, and now it was time to build our family.

I stepped out to the altar and waited for you. My heart was filled with so many emotions, but I just wanted to hold your hand for the rest of my life.

When those doors opened, every dream, wish and prayer I ever had came marching right toward me, more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.

You were my best friend. I wanted so much more for the both of us.

Sometimes, though, we have to accept the unexpected.

Our worlds need to fall apart, so we can put them back together the way they were meant to be.

There’s nothing more important to me than your happiness, and knowing you have that means the world to me. Our lives took different paths, but that can never take away from the memories we shared.

As for me? I’m happy. I’ve found peace. I am busier than ever with work, I found a new passion with writing, and I’ve been rebuilding a life that was once in a million pieces. I still dream of having a family. I still dream of holding my own child. Of course, I still dream of falling in love and finding my true happiness. 

I’m much of the same Anthony you knew, but so much different.

You see, too many people live with hate in this world. Those same people live with anger and fear.

I’m not one of those people.

I’m disappointed we never got to finish writing our happily ever after, but I’ll never be angry. I’ll never hate you, and I’ll never be dishonest about my emotions. God gave me this amazing opportunity to love. It brought me to so many beautiful places, taught me so much about life and gave me memories I’ll cherish forever. How can I ever be angry about that?

To your parents, sister, grandparents, aunt and uncle — tell them I always loved them as if they were my own, and I’m sorry if I never lived up to their expectations. I knew how much they loved you. I knew what kind of man they wanted for you, and God knows, I did everything I could to make sure I was just that. 

And finally, to you — I’m sorry for anything I may have ever done to hurt you. More than anything, I wanted to spend forever with you by my side, and to one day add our own little peanut who would join us for the ride. That’s what I lived for. Everything I did in my life was to ensure yours would be all you dreamed it to be. I was willing to do anything to give you both the world. 

Unfortunately, I fell short.

If I knew then what I know now, I would have held you tighter during our first dance and picked a song that never ended.

I’m not perfect, and I never want people to think that I am. I’ve made mistakes. I’ve done things I’m not proud to admit, and I’ve made decisions I wish I could take back. But I loved someone with every bone in my body, with every beat of my heart and every inch of my soul. It wasn’t perfect, but I know for sure I loved with everything I had; I loved in such a way that your happiness was always mine. And I’m thankful for that.

I once told you I wish I could put into words how much I loved you and share it with the world; here’s my best shot at that promise.

Losing you may have been most painful experience of my life, but it made me stronger than ever. It somehow made life feel real.

While on paper I lost my wife, in reality I lost so much more.

I lost a piece of me that I will never get back.

Take good care of it.

All the best,

Anthony

Misconception.

Monday. The beginning of another long work week. 

So many tasks to complete. Just the thought of it is gives me a headache. 

I love my career, as I can only hope most people do. It’s rewarding to achieve and make progress towards your goals. But in truthfulness, it’s a lot of work. It requires a significant amount of patience, energy and mental strength every single day. 

I reserve all of that patience, energy and mental agility for my profession; solely. Every hour of my days are scheduled out, sometimes even weeks in advance. It’s only natural that I allow every other aspect of my life to be free from any type of structure. 

Strikingly similar, our professions and relationships exploit a slew of different skill sets, push our patience to the limit and require a tremendous level of mental agility for us to grow. Both should bring out the very best in who we are, push us to our limits and transform us into students, learning something new with every single experience. 

But there’s a distinctive difference. 

Our professions finance our life. Our relationships? They define our life. 

Let’s be honest, we work because we have to. We love because we desire to. 

It’s important not to mistake the two. 

And so I’m strongly opposed to the expression, “Relationships are work”. They’re not. 

You’re just in the wrong relationship. 

You see, when you’re in love with someone, there’s no task list to refer to to ensure things are going right. You’re just free. 

Don’t believe me? Think back to when you first started dating your partner. You would do things sporadically, go wherever the sun took you, stay up until the wee hours of the morning. You’d surprise her after work, plan dates on the whim, talk for hours on end (stop me when I’m wrong). None of this felt like work did it? Because it wasn’t. It was natural. You wanted to do it; nobody was forcing your hand. 

One day, though, things just didn't come as natural. You somehow didn't find time in your busy day to remember your anniversary, so an argument pursued. For whatever reason, you were angry you had to make reservations for dinner before your meeting, and that caused a downward spiral to your day. Someone forgot to take the garbage out in the morning, and well you guessed it, another fight. Comfort just rolled right on in. Why though? 

Let’s look at this from two different perspectives. 

Men have a strong desire to impress, especially in the beginning. You name, we’ll do it. It’s a game, really. You have to be everything someone else can’t be. If it means winning over Mrs. Right, well then you better bet your ass we will find a way. Sold out concert tickets? Call my ticket broker. Flowers? Get me a few dozen. Dinner? Some Five-Star place in the City. She’s beautiful, so let’s remind her constantly. Man, we can’t even focus on work because we just want to get off to see her. Our barber loves us because we're getting cleaned up every week. We even have an unlimited pass to the car wash down the road. She’s everything we want, let’s pull out all stops. 

How about women? He’s handsome, intelligent, hard working, and has a successful career. Everything you could want in a man, right? You’re quick to respond to his requests to see you. You laugh at all of his jokes, even if you don't think they’re funny. Every outing with him is a reason to buy a new outfit and look your best. Oh, and let’s post everything about our night out so we can show the world how happy we are together. And passion? You can’t keep your hands off of him. He's like a drug you can't get enough of. And for a while you're addicted. 

But then it just stops. 

Men don’t see their barber so often, trips to the city happen every couple months if your lucky, and all of those cute things she used to do just start to annoy you. Forget impressing her anymore, you already won her over. And women? Don’t think you don’t play a part in all of this. You begin sharing every detail of your relationship with your girlfriends, and of course they draw conclusions. He quickly goes from prince charming to lowlife of the month. Whether it be from jealousy or solid facts, your friend’s opinions begin to matter whether you believe so or not. All of this is the beginning of the end. 

It’s funny how when the passion fades, we point the blame on everything else. Our desires shift, and keeping our relationships afloat start to require this effort we speak of. But that’s not all it is. It’s something deeper than that. 

It’s our loss of interest. Our desire for something new. But for some reason, we’ll place blame on each other. 

We’ve got what we wanted; it’s old and boring now. We’re too insecure to walk away, so we stay. We stay because it’s easier to fix things than to start all over. But nothing ever gets fixed; instead we place a temporary band aid over it. Rest assured, that wound exposes itself eventually. And it worsens. 

And so that work that we refer to, it’s self inflicted. We’re putting the roadblocks in our way, barriers between one another …  all out of selfishness. 

We need to start recognizing the reasons we fell in love and stop finding ways to fall out. 

Love isn't a full-time job, it’s a gift. It’s rewards are far greater than any paycheck deposited into your checking account.

Rebuild.

I think the thought of starting over cripples our minds and brainwashes our thoughts.

I’ve come across so many people who stay in these abusive, lifeless relationships and I am baffled as to why. I get it, everyone is fighting their own battles and life is far from perfect, but what is it about this emotional roller coaster that brings joy to our lives? Why is everyone okay with a good week, or a good month?

Too often I hear, “Oh, things have been better”. Better? What does that mean? 

Last month he was hitting you and throwing you out of his home, she was telling you what a lowlife she thought you were and how much she hated you. Miraculously though, things are just better …. I guess? Those hurtful words and violent outbreaks brushed under the rug as if they had no meaning. 

You’re lying to yourself if you say they don’t resonate within you and replay in your head. 

But we stay. in fact, we never even considered leaving. Why? 

Rebuilding scares the shit out of us, thats why. 

It requires time and effort. It requires us dealing with loss. It requires us dealing with pain. It requires us to deal with suffering. More importantly, it requires us having strength; something the majority of us lack. 

And so we shy away from it. Nobody wants to lose it all. It’s much easier to fix something than to start from scratch. We place a temporary band-aid over it in exchange for temporary happiness. We’ll take that good day, or good week. 

Band-aids fall off after a while though, and that wound exposes itself once again. Somehow we already know things will never change, though. 

You see, we chase comfort, not happiness. How many people do you know stay with their partner due to some financial implication? Exactly. That's comfort. We chase appearance, not passion. Has one of your girlfriends ever talked to you about how much she hates having sex with her boyfriend? Ok, you get my point now? 

We have this obsession to be wanted, to be desired, to be loved so we tolerate everything else. We want that perfect family life and will sacrifice everything out of fear of never having it. 

Ask yourself how genuinely happy you are in your current relationship.

Now ask yourself how long you've tried fooling everyone into believing you are. 

We’ll never reach our full potential if we fear letting go of what holds us down. It’s not easy. In fact, it’s extremely difficult. You can bet your ass it hurts, but who doesn’t want the best for themselves? I’m not naive; no relationship is perfect. And I'm sure none will ever be. There’s a difference, however, between a couple who’s genuinely in love and a couple who’s trying desperately to find ways not to fall out. Lately I just see too much of the latter. 

The saddest part? There’s people out there who want to love you. People who want to make you smile. People who want to make you happy. But you're blind to them. Hell, they could be standing right in front of your face begging for your attention but you just don’t see it. Why?

Because you're fooled into believing that love has to hurt.

You're fooled into believing that people change and that fairytale they promised you is going to come true. 

It’s not. Don’t let your world fall apart waiting for it. 

Communication.

Imagine if someone told you that you’d never be able to say “I love you” to your soul mate again. What if every important word you wanted to tell them could only be written on some piece of paper, its meaning up for interpretation?

Imagine you could never again feel the passion of your lover’s kiss.

How crazy would that be? Everything that makes us feel alive — gone, in an instant.

Imagine navigating through life with your most intimate feelings and emotions stripped from you completely.

Unfortunately, millions of people face this reality every day. They would give anything to call their lover’s name or feel their touch, but they can’t. Accidents and illnesses rip some of life’s most precious gifts away from us.

Then there’s the flip side.

Some of us live this half-dead existence by choice, taking what’s real for granted.

So many people immerse themselves in everything besides the love of their life.

Think about that for a minute.

Double-tapping or liking a photo has become the universal sign of interest. Text bubbles have replaced spoken words. Emojis define our moods. Meeting up at a bar has become people’s idea of an interesting date. Sending flowers has become so generic, that it’s just a click away.

And our relationships? Just another person in our inbox, with a higher rank on our favorites list.

We text them more frequently, reserving our favorite emoticons just for their conversation. Holding hands? How can we do that when we have our key fob in one hand and our smartphone in the other? Conversations? We’re too busy checking our news feed or scrolling through Instagram to pay much attention to what our significant other is saying.

Oh, and sex? We can do that over text, too: #sexting

We’ve lost our ability to connect, and everyone seems okay with it. We’ve forgotten how to say I love you, we’ve lost the romance and passion. Hell, most people have even forgotten how to socialize.

Think about the last time you said I love you — I almost guarantee it was through some form of technology, not words.

I’ve seen people put more thought and effort into selecting a filter for their selfie than they devote to their relationship. Why? Because as much as we hate to admit it, we actually do care about what others think. Why else would it consume our time?

We thrive off the comments, likes and positive reinforcement. 

You know what’s sad? Those people don’t really care.

What’s even worse is that we’re building the foundation of our relationships on the very premise in which they are being destroyed — online dating, Facebook, etc.

How we can expect our relationships to be filled with consistent verbal communication when they were born from the polar opposite? How can we expect someone to love our values and vision for life when they are “selecting” us by swiping right solely on looks and a short bio?

Society has made us believe it’s easier this way.

Why have courage to approach someone when I can just log on to some website?

Why call someone when I can just send a quick text? 

Why go to a florist and hand deliver her flowers when I can have them shipped to her door?

Letters and notes? We’re lucky if we have a pen in our homes. 

We’ve hidden behind pieces of glass, yet we want something so genuine, so overwhelming — old fashioned, so to speak.

News flash: That’s not happening. 

That type of love has long escaped our generation, and there’s no sign of its return.

Remember that saying, “What comes easy doesn’t last?” Apply that to your relationships.

We are so much more than texts and symbols that appear on some screen.

The human touch can never be replicated. The spoken words “I love you” can’t be felt through a display.

That connection you feel holding your lover’s hand can never be emulated.

Those things absolutely can’t be transferred over Wi-Fi. 

We’re human — our strongest desires can only be filled by the power of another person.

We’ve been convinced, though, that there’s an alternative.

The result? Lifeless relationships.

I’m not ready to kill real love.

Cheating.

It’s 5:30 a.m., and your alarm goes off.

You open your eyes, and your mind starts racing — meetings, conference calls, and  project deadlines all loom.

Why is there always so much to do, and never enough time to get it done?

You grab your phone and scroll through your notifications as you walk into the shower, half awake.

Knowing she’s not up, you send her a text message. 

“Good morning, baby. I hope you have a wonderful day.”

This text serves as two reminders: You want her to know she’s the first thing on your mind, but more importantly, she needs to realize that, regardless of how stressful or busy your days are, she’s the priority.

Sounds so perfect — but that’s not reality.

Instead, you’ll log into Instagram or Facebook, nosing into everyone else’s life, and maybe, just maybe, you’ll send that text to your girl on the way to work.

Relationships these days lack direction. People “date,” but the hell does that even mean anymore? Is it hanging out twice a month? Texting all day? Kissing here and there? 

Something is missing. What’s causing relationships to falter at the rate they are? Something’s definitely lacking.

Relationships thrive on communication. Our most intimate emotions are reserved for the person we love, so how is it acceptable to never show them?

We’ve accepted so many unacceptable things — sitting at the dinner table with our phones out, arguing over text, publishing every minute of our lives on social media.

Do you know what trumps all that? 

Society has accepted relationships in which we are being cheated on everyday.

When you think of cheating in the traditional sense, having sex with another person comes to mind. It’s an intimate situation in which the person you love is connecting with another while you are going about your life, loving and caring for said person.

Once you find out, all trust is lost. But think about the concept for a minute.

Websters Dictionary defines cheating as the deprivation of “something valuable by the use of deceit or fraud.”

Sure, sex is cheating, and maybe the most hurtful cause, but have you ever stopped to think that you’re being cheated out of your relationship everyday? Lack of communication, attention, passion, intimacy — even lack of love. Why are we OK with this, and all the communication shortcuts that have become so common?

This type of cheating brings damage much greater than that of any sexual affair. You’ve given your heart to someone, you love them with every bone in your body, but yet, you have to beg for their attention. You sit back and watch them post status updates about useless things or post pictures just so people can comment. 

Take a minute to tell her she’s beautiful. 

Call her after work to say, “Get dressed in 30 minutes. I'm picking you up and taking you somewhere special.”

Make an effort.

Old-fashioned love needs to make another round. 

The type that is so exclusive, people can notice a mile away. 

The days of holding hands, opening the car door, taking her out “just because,” sending flowers just to get a smile and leaving her notes on her car.

We have to be children when it comes to love. 

We have to be vulnerable and free. That can’t happen when we’re preoccupied with the details of everyone else’s lives. 

Focus on each other. When it’s all said and done, that’s all you really have. 

Appreciate her. Show her how much she means to you, but more importantly, put your phone down, and dial into what’s in front of you.

 

 

Family.

Maybe I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to be surrounded by the most loving, caring and selfless people in the world. For me, my family has been everything and then some in my twenty-nine years of existence. How could I ever forget my childhood spending summer weekends running up and down the stairs of my grandmother’s apartment complex in Brooklyn or even swimming in the pool for hours on end with my cousins at my home in New Jersey? Or how about the long walks in the neighborhood with my mom after school, playing on the playground with my sisters or those picnics at McKinley Park. They were some of the best days of my life. Not only were they days filled with unforgettable memories, they instilled the meaning of family within me. We laughed and we cried, we watched the sun come up on those warm summer mornings, but most importantly we loved each other and together we grew.

I thank my parents for raising me in such a way that has allowed me to feel comfortable sharing anything with other members of my family. There is this sense of openness that is difficult to replicate elsewhere. Sometimes I actually feel bad for my sisters because I usually chew their ear off about anything that goes in my life. Same goes for my mom, and even my dad. But no matter what happens, good or bad, they’ve always had a keen interest in listening to me. Beyond listening they’ve done nothing but offer me up the best advice and support I could ever ask for. Over the years I’ve found my deepest comfort in just talking to them. It puts my mind at ease. And believe me, I’ve talked to them about everything. It could be about work, women, finances, life; there’s no topic left behind. They’ve never judged me and while their advice and opinions aren’t always what I want to hear, I know for certain they have my best interest at heart.

I’ll never forget the day I packed up the last of my belongings at my home a week before it was set to close and I would turn over the keys to the new owners. That was going to be it, I had no intention to return at any point that week or ever again for that matter. I was okay with that, I had finally come to terms with letting go and starting a new chapter in my life. Of course my family was there to help me with the move like they always have been in the past. We were wrapping up after about eight hours of packing and my sister says to me, “Anthony, order pizza.” I laughed and said “I guess this is the last supper? Aren’t you all tired?” For starters, she knows pizza is my favorite but beyond that I knew she wanted me to have that one last memory with my family in my home. And so we ordered pizza and ate on the island in the kitchen on last time.

We laughed and joked about some of the memories we had but as with anything in life, time was winding down. I started to look around at my home thinking about every moment I shared there. Some were amazing and some I hope to forget. For those who don’t know me I’m a very strong person. Internally, I let my emotions flow but on the exterior I don’t portray much. I guess you can say I have a good poker face. It was hard for me to say goodbye but I was ready. I was ready to close the book on a chapter of my life that brought me to the highest and lowest points of my life. I looked at my sister and she started to cry. I asked her why she was crying and she said “Because I know how hurt you are inside and my heart breaks for you.” She was right, as only my family could be. I don’t know if I will ever be able to describe the pain I felt that day. I was devastated but I held it together because I knew God had a better plan for me. As they walked out I smiled and said, “One day, soon, I’ll have a new home and we will create new memories”. Everyone else walked out and I said one final goodbye. I walked around to every room taking one last glance and I will admit, I shed a tear or two. This was supposed to be the home I built my family in, not the one I would walk out of alone. I said a prayer to God and I thanked him for blessing me with something so beautiful, something beyond my wildest dreams. I walked out the door and shut it behind me for the final time. I don’t know how I did it, I just know I wouldn’t have been able to without my family.

My family has been my strength throughout my life. They’ve picked me up at my darkest moments and they’ve celebrated with me at my brightest. I was lost, broken, confused, hurt … you name it and I was it. But they taught me to be honest with myself and fearless with my emotions. They continuously encouraged me to look forward and never behind. Whenever I ventured off track they were right there to put me back on. Everything they’ve done for me has been with the most sincere and genuine love. I wouldn’t be where I am today without them in my life and I thank God every day for that. There is something to be said for that bond you share with people you love. Your fear of betrayal disappears, your fear of rejection becomes nonexistent, but most of all you never have to fear being alone because you know they will always be there.

My heart goes out to those who are unable to say the same about their family. It’s such a gift to love, and family is the foundation for that. I’ve spent my entire life always trying to do the right thing so that I never disappoint them. I always have and always will share my life and the stories that come along with it with my family. They deserve to be a part of every aspect of my life. I’ve been criticized for saying that, for sharing too much with them and what’s funny is that those who criticized me are the ones betrayed me. My family never has and I am certain they never will.

All I have ever wanted to do was make them proud, to make them realize that all of the hard work and effort they put into me to ensure I would live my life the right way has paid off. Bringing them joy is the greatest gift I could ever ask for. As we’ve gotten older I have been blessed to share that love with all of my nieces and nephews. I absolutely adore them and they make it evident that they love me just as much. To me that’s what life is all about. I get to watch them grow and instill in them the same values that were instilled in me. What my entire family has given me I can only hope to instill in my own children one day. I hope that one day my son or daughter feel that same level of comfort with my wife and I that I do with my mother and father. I hope that they have the opportunity to play with their cousins and realize what family means and how important it is. And so I will continue to work hard so that one day I can build my family on the same foundation my family built for me; love. It’s the only thing that truly matters.I can only hope to find someone who feels that exact same way.

Passion.

I’ve always believed that we should only invest our time into things that we are overwhelming passionate about. In life so many opportunities will present themselves, the majority of them being mediocre. It can be a job that offers to pay more, or even a relationship that offers more promise. But there are only a few great things in life that will make your heart scream for more, that’ll make you want to jump out of bed in the morning eager to get going. If it doesn’t make you feel that way, stay away. If it does …. pursue it, aggressively and have no fear.

Think about your life for a moment. Do you love what you do for a living or do you dread waking up everyday? Your relationship … do you feel it growing stronger or are you working effortlessly to keep it from breaking apart? If you’ve chosen the latter of either one of these questions then you’re investing the majority of your time into something that will never help you reach your full potential. And so my question to you is why? Life is filled with such amazing people and amazing opportunities to ever settle for anything that makes you feel mediocre.

I guess we invest out of fear? Ambiguity plays a huge part in our decision process; we’re unsure of what’s on that other side so we become reluctant to make a change. In most circumstances it keeps us from what we are passionate about. Whether it’s your passion to wake up everyday and do something you love or its your passion to love freely and openly, fearless of pain and suffering, knowing that who you are is everything someone will want … we hold back out of fear. For those of you who do, I want to share a quote with you by Steve Jobs that sheds light on life and our fears. He states, “Remembering that you’re going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose …”. Pretty deep, but true. This life is short, there’s no reason to ever feel you have anything to lose or stay with something or someone that doesn’t bring you the utmost joy. Follow your heart and don’t stop until you find exactly what you’re looking for.

I remember a conversation with my father shortly after joining Apple in 2007. I was young; 22 years old. I wasn’t sure if I had made the right decision. We sat that night at the dinner table and he asked me if I enjoyed walking into work everyday. I did, I loved it. The people were amazing, the products, well they spoke for themselves. He then said something to me I will never forget. He said, “Anthony, in life do something because you love it. Never chase money, instead chase your dreams. You won’t get there overnight, but if you work hard one day you will”  Seven years later I move on my father’s words; I absolutely love what I do and I’ve found success because of it. Sure I’ve had my ups and downs. Some days aren’t just a walk in the park, but I know that Apple invests into me what I’ve invested into it. As with any great relationship it only gets better with time.

For millions of people around the world Apple is recognized as an amazing consumer electronics company; a company that makes products which become a significant part of your life. For me Apple has been something completely different. It’s a network of amazing individuals, both extremely intelligent and incredibly passionate, that have helped change the landscape of the world we live in. Everyday I am fortunate enough to wake up, go to work and be inspired by each and every one of them. And not only am I inspired, I am humbled and most importantly I am valued. And so my passion is for a company that’s filled with people on one particular mission; to enrich the lives of others. It’s never been about how much money I can make. Money could never buy the joy I feel in my heart knowing I’m a part of something special; something that will last for a long long time.

I’ve brought that same concept to my relationships; I invest in people that give me that burning feeling inside. I spent nearly one third of my life with one woman. I invested my heart, my soul and anything else you can think of into being a good man and an even better companion. Although it didn’t work out the way I had planned, I look back in peace knowing that the both of us gave it everything we had. Sometimes in life things just don’t work, and that’s okay. By design I’ve spent the last couple of years ensuring that I select the right woman for my life and my future. I’m in no rush and I intend to be very selective. Why wouldn’t I be? I want to be able to have the same level of passion that I have for my career for her. I want to wake up everyday and be eager to hear her voice, see her face and journey through life together. I want to feel that same excitement when I kiss her as I did on day one. I want to know that the woman I’m investing in is investing just as much into me. I’m a firm believer that there is that one person out there that is meant for you; someone who will change your life and how you will forever live it. You can’t allow that to be just anyone.

So the question becomes, what does passion look like in a relationship? I think for starters it’s a fire that burns all day everyday. I can be walking down the streets of Manhattan or even be waiting in a line at Starbucks and I see couples so disconnected from one another. Whether their heads are buried into their smartphones, or they lack any type of affection the disconnect is evident a mile away. In stark contrast you can recognize couples who thrive off of passion immediately. Their hands seem to clench together tighter, their eyes look into each other’s that much deeper, and moreover they have this joy about them; it’s appealing. Being in love is one thing, being passionate is another. When your passionate with someone you can’t seem to get enough. Everything just feels euphoric.

You know I feel bad for women today because most men have lost that romanticism, and passion along with it. By default I believe woman are more affectionate beings than men. I feel that’s largely in part due to a mans defensive nature; they have an image to uphold. What’s happened to just randomly pulling your girl close to you, placing your hand on her face and kissing her like you’ll never get that opportunity again? It happens in the beginning so why does it just stop? Forgive me for what I am about to say but in the first few months of a relationship you typically can’t keep your hands off of her, but then it all fades. Even sexually (let’s be adults here), you can’t get enough in the beginning and then it becomes a choir; no more of those sporadic moments. Maybe it’s just me, but when I hear of couples, especially my age, never wanting to have sex I just shake my head. How can you be in a relationship and not want to sleep with your significant other? Sexual attraction is an important part of any relationship, so once that fire burns out you should probably reconsider investing your time into that person. The old adage is true, what you’re not getting at home you’re going to find somewhere else. It should never get to that point. A note to all men out there … make her feel as beautiful as you did on day one every single day, regardless of the time you’ve been together. Even sexually women want to know that nobody compares to them in your eyes. Telling her how hot some girl is isn’t going to help. In fact, your eyes should be nowhere but on her. If you think they don’t notice when you discretely check out another woman, think again. When you’re with the right one, you won’t even want to look at anyone else.

To my point pure passion never fades. It grows over time, making you want more and more. That’s why I’ve recommended investing your time into things that make you feel as such. Love coupled with passion creates an amazing experience that lasts forever. If you at any point have to force your feelings, or feel as someone is forcing theirs, let go. If you walk into work everyday, hate what you do and have to force a smile on your face, be brave, walk away. There is someone and something out there that is bound to bring you all of the joy you have ever imagined.

Abuse.

In the recent weeks, domestic violence cases have been more and more prominent in the news. The media, as it does so very well, dissects every aspect of these stories with a fine tooth comb. In one particular story an NFL franchise cut one of its players off of their roster and the league suspended him indefinitely a mere hour later. Critics have weighed in calling it too harsh, while others have demanded this player never have a chance to play in the NFL again.

Lets think about this for a minute …. a man was fired from his job for striking a woman, knocking her unconscious, and dragging her outside of an elevator. In my eyes this was the right punishment, but what about all of the other woman in the world who are getting abused every single day either verbally or physically? I don’t see men losing their job because of it. In fact I don’t see any repercussion from that type of behavior. It goes unnoticed and it persists because when you continue to allow that type of behavior you’ve only empowered that individual.

I’m a strong opponent to any type of abuse, especially physical. As a man, I’ve always believed it is your job to love, honor and respect a woman. For starters, she’s someones daughter. She has a mother and a father who want the best for her, who raised her with the hopes she would find a man to protect her as they have. Moreover, if she’s chosen to devote her time and life to you, she deserves your utmost respect, everyday. Threatening, manipulating or harming her only relinquishes your ability to considered a real man. In fact, it makes you a coward. What’s sad though is that these days it seems that these types of abuse are becoming more prominent in relationships.

You see, a man who loves you doesn’t hurt you and he definitely does’t make you cry. Will people disagree? Absolutely. Will people argue? Of course. But there should never be a place for someone to belittle you or ever inflict harm on you. It’s become an acceptable form of behavior that always seems to be healed by the words “I love you”. They weren’t thinking about how much they loved you when they were making you feel worthless or putting your safety at risk. When you walk away, all of a sudden their insecurities scream they need you. Immediately they realize how amazing you are. It’s always the afterthought, the romantic dinner, the flowers, the card saying I’m sorry that seems to hold more meaning than true actions. Anyone can put on a good show, but it’s the consistency of your actions that define your inner emotions for an another being. In fact, when someone’s love is so pure, you’ll never have to hear them tell you. You’ll just feel it.

Have you ever noticed that abusive individuals are often selfish individuals? They tend to be insecure. They only seem to care about themselves. It’s all about what makes them happy, or what’s on their agenda. They crave attention, but never from you. They give attention, but never to you. They are too busy figuring out what’s next for them to concern themselves about the emotions of the people they love. They often blame you for their abusiveness, saying you caused them to act in outrage. They become extremely apologetic after the fact. But the vicious cycle continues. The end? There is none. It only gets worse.

I’ve heard all different reasons for why people stay and to be honest with you, I don’t agree with any of them. Be it financial, heartfelt emotions, fear, etc., none have a more harmful impact on your life than condoning the physical or verbal abuse of yourself. Nobody’s words of physical strength should make you succumb to fear. Realize your worth, get up and walk out. They don’t deserve you. Not now, not never. Everyone deserves the chance to be happy, but the only way that ever happens is when you want it bad enough.

I may not have a woman in my life right now, but I’ve promised myself that the day I do I will make certain she knows that she’s the priority in my life. The woman I end up sharing my heart with will eventually be the mother of my children, thus making her the most important person in my world. Knowing that one day she will give me my best gift, my child, is reason enough to love her and respect her. I am certain I will find a million other reasons to fall in love with her over and over again. There is no money, no home, no career …. nothing, that can ever be more important to me than her happiness. And more importantly, she will never have to fear being abused. My love will never hurt nor should anyone else’s.

I encourage all women to stand up to domestic violence. Sure, there may not be closed circuit cameras recording every altercation you may have, or some national cable channel broadcasting your pain, but your outlet is your voice. When you finally say enough is enough, it stops … forever.

Strength.

As an adolescent it’s easy to associate strength with one’s physical ability. As you grow and mature in your life, you soon realize that strength has less to do with more and everything to do with less. 

I’ve made no secret about my obstacles in life. My journey led me down a road that promised to be beautiful. Everywhere I looked I felt the blessings from above. I was recently promoted at work, just purchased a brand new home, and preparing for a gorgeous wedding with my beautiful bride. There wasn’t a single moment that ever led me to believe that this beautiful road would turn into a road of destruction and road blocks. It wasn’t long before I was fighting to keep my job, putting my house up for sale and finalizing my divorce … all within a twelve month span. It’s only when I lost everything did I realize how strong I was; it was all I had left. 

For me strength has always been a mindset. Let’s face it, life can be difficult and everyone has their own battles to fight. Mental strength can assist with overcoming problematic situations, finding peace through struggles, and navigate us to a more pleasant life. You see, being mentally strong helps remove clutter from your mind, and gets your thinking to be clean. Once you’re able to remove unnecessary evils from your thought process, you can focus on what’s truly important.

Mental strength begins with prioritizing your life and what truly matters. Too often people get caught up with who has the bigger house, who makes the most money, who has the nicest car, etc. It’s a competition and it plays into their thought process everyday. All of that has been elevated in our day and age with the introduction of social media. The more elegant house you have, the more likes your photo gets and so on and so forth. I know a number of people who have everything and are extremely miserable; nothing is ever enough. None of that stuff matters though, at all. What matters is that you’re alive, and God wiling, have your health. Forget about what everyone else has, instead focus on what brings you happiness. That can be walks on the beach, sitting in Starbucks drinking your favorite drink, working out, reading a book, going for a run or even writing to name just a few. All of these are simplicities of life that set your mind free.

The next step is ridding yourself individuals who offer no contribution to your life. We focus our energies on others opinions and how they treat us, and we tend to get angry when it’s not the way we had hoped for. Remember, nobody can hurt you without your permission. Time is too valuable to waste on part time friends who only associate with you when it’s convenient for them. Or relationships that are filled with broken promises or selfish intents. Grant people your time who rather act than speak. The less people in your circle, the better. Associate with those who share the same vision as you and desire much of the same out of life. Discuss your goals and dreams together, often. It’ll make for more interesting conversations and an even better friendship or relationship. 

Soon you’ll begin to notice how quickly you’ve removed stress from your life by focusing on less. Outside of your mind, strength is everywhere around you. Walk outside and look up at the sky, the trees swaying in the wind, the ocean waves crashing on the shore, the birds chirping on a summer morning, the sunset on a fall evening, the children playing outside. Hug your mother, hug your father, laugh together, cry together. Let all of this make you feel alive. You’re never alone regardless of the battles you may face. There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel and it’s strength that will help you get there. 

Stay strong.