Category Archives: Life

2012 In Retrospect – Thank You

2012 has undoubtedly, unequivocally been the hardest year I’ve had to endure.  I saw loved ones pass away, lost a girlfriend that meant everything to me, and worked nonstop in order to make a new business venture pan out.  Through this entire year of struggle, and through all my ratchetness (because admittedly I’ve been pretty ratchet this year) I am blessed to have family and friends that held me down through it all.  I cannot express enough how grateful I am for these people.   I don’t know how or if I’ll even be able to repay y’all for how you’ve helped me out this year, so at the very least I wanted to say thank you in a very public manner to let you know how much I appreciate it and how much y’all mean to me.

To my parents, who have loved me unconditionally and believed in me and my dream, and supported me spiritually, emotionally, and financially all year.  It’s not always the case that parents support their children in risky business ventures, but my parents have been unwavering in their support, and their genuine excitement for what the future may hold for The Class Room leaves me humbled and determined to make them proud.

To my sister, who was there to listen and chat with me, give me perspective when I needed it, and treat me to foodie meals I can no longer afford on a regular basis.  You’re wiser than your years, but you already knew that, so I’m not going to gas you any further.

To J Modes, it’s good having you back man.  The little time you’ve been back has really shown how much you can get done if you were here.  Thanks for entrusting us with our vision while you’re half a world away, asking the questions that need to be asked, and for just being the People’s Champ.

To Asif, I’ve asked a bunch of random favors of you this year, and you’ve always come through.  Thanks also for spotting me all those meals, and for letting me use your vacuum for the majority of 2012 haha.

To Alan, thanks for all your hard work this year.  I know you’ve had a tough year too, with a new marriage, newborn son, new career, and  I know it doesn’t help that I’m picky and I’m always complaining about something.  But The Class Room wouldn’t be where it’s at without its Budding Fashion Icon.  Thank you for all that you do, and keep doing what you do young playa.

To Hazel, thanks for being an awesome cook and letting me come over to eat.  Moreover, thanks for all your prayers and guidance you shower on me.  I know it seems like I don’t listen, but I do.

And last but certainly not least, to my BFF Paolo, and by extension his fiancee Sarah PQ.  Paolo, ever since college you’ve always came through when I needed a favor, but cot damn you held me down like no other this year.  From spotting me so many meals, to the work outs, to letting me use all of your accounts to stream TV over the internet, to all the photog and graphic design work you do for TCR, to covering the store when we needed someone, to listening to me through all my dating misadventures, the list goes on and on.  Sarah you’ve been there for much of it all also, and you two have taken care of me not unlike a parent takes care of a child.  Thanks for letting me #threewheelasalifestyle – I will be forever grateful for the two of y’all.

Thank you again to all of y’all for holding me down during my struggle.  Things are already getting better, and I truly feel like I/we are about to be on top.  My dreams are coming true and none of it would’ve been possible without y’all.  Thank you.  And for 2013…#LETSGETIT.

Priorities, Part 2

I am surprised and blessed by the reaction garnered by my last post.  I wasn’t expecting it to resonate with people the way it did, and it’s just a testament to how God is working in my life.

Thus I felt compelled once more to go deeper into the circumstances that caused me to lose faith in the first place, and what caused me to turn back to God, to put things in better context.  There are some things I left out in the last post in order to make things concise, and it’s easy to oversimplify my situation by saying I was struggling through a breakup so I started praying more since I was lonely, and now I feel better.  It goes deeper than that.

Going back to when I was in college, I’ve been pretty fortunate in regards to my job opportunities.  After my first internship I got a job offer, then while I was working I survived the rounds of layoffs at the consulting firm I was at, then I got a new job that paid better, so on and so forth.  My parents would tell me that God was truly blessing me.  But the whole time God was just an afterthought for me.  During college I barely went to church, a trend that continued for most of my life after graduation until recently.  Nothing in my daily life was centered around God.  Nevertheless, I still felt like I was on a path to eventual “success”,  and when I looked around I would see other people doing big things without God’s help.  So over time I started to formulate that my success did not have to come from God.  The more I was able to “succeed” without him, and the more I saw other people “succeed” without him, the more I started to doubt his impact and existence altogether.

Then last year I decided to hop out the Matrix and open The Class Room.  Opening a boutique was always a big life goal of mine, and the fact that I was able to do it without seeking God’s help was further evidence against his existence.  I didn’t need a god, I just needed my business partners and hard work.

Long story short, I felt I had accomplished much and was on the path to accomplishing so much more without the help of a god, therefore he probably wasn’t real.  With the foundation of my faith already shook, add on all the family issues that’s been going on this past year, and it reinforced the thought in my head that God was not in control, and the universe is just a mysterious place that works at random.

It is at this junction we arrive at my turning point.  I had almost given up on the thought of God altogether, and it got to the point where when I did go to church the sermons started sounding like a bunch of hodge-podge for people who didn’t believe in making stuff happen for themselves.  But everything else I was trying in life wasn’t working.  I don’t think I was ever depressed or anything, I just felt so unfulfilled by the temporary solutions I was indulging myself in.  So, even though there was still doubt in my heart, I started to seek God.

But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul. – Deuteronomy 4:29 English Standard Version

See, I still had doubts, but once I took that first step forward, God started to reveal himself.  And like I said before, I started to find peace.

What’s more, I’m beginning to understand why God allowed me to “succeed” even though my heart wasn’t in the right place.  So many people have commended me on following my passion to open the store.  Those who’ve seen my different hustles have said, “Cabby, I respect what you’re doing.”  The point is, because of the store and my different hustles, I have an audience now.   I’m not trying to brag and say I’m a hero to a lot of people, but it would be foolish to deny that people aren’t watching what I’m doing, and how I live my life.  He allowed my success, and I’m discovering my purpose is to use the platform he’s given me for his glory, and help people find their way.  God’s perfect plan, indeed.

…Everyone to whom much was given, of him much will be required, and from him to whom they entrusted much, they will demand the more.  – Luke 12:48

Priorities

2012 has been a very trying year for me.  This past year I lost my godfather to cancer, 3 weeks later I lost my grandmother, I have another aunt that’s been diagnosed with cancer, my mom found a tumor in her breast (thankfully it was benign, but this was the second growth she’s found in less than 10 years), I have yet another aunt who just had an aneurysm in her neck which will require surgery, and my younger cousin just got sentenced to 5 years for violating his probation.  Add to that being a new business owner while working late nights at the bar just to barely make enough money to cover rent and bills.

Despite all of this going on, I was barely phased.  Except for when my girlfriend broke up with me.  That break up MESSED. ME. UP.  Anyone close to me will tell you they have NEVER seen me so DAMN SAD.  It’s something I still struggle with at times.

As fate would have it, 2012 has also been the furthest I’ve been from God.  Sure, when I as at my godfather’s and grandmother’s funerals at the beginning of the year, my heart may have had a mini-revival.  But since then I had returned to my old ways, living however I wanted.  What’s worse is I started to doubt God’s existence.  I would look at my family’s problems, and wonder how all this could fit into a loving God’s plan.  No matter how strong my family’s faith was, no matter how much we prayed, the outcome always seemed “random”.  We prayed for my uncle, but he lost his battle with cancer.  We pray for my mom, and her tumor is benign.  We pray for my aunt with cancer, and her health is still iffy.  My other aunt is a humble, God-fearing woman, but she gets hit with an aneurysm out of nowhere.  How can God have a “perfect plan” when everything seems so sporadic and random.

With this doubt in my heart, I would look at other people and see their happiness (mostly from Facebook updates).  Non-Christians living life, and being happy.  New jobs, new relationships, new marriages, new kids, traveling to new cities, new cars, new homes…and everybody seemed happy.  Happiness seemed obtainable without God, we just had to go out and get it.

So with this in my heart I continued to live my way, indulging in whatever I saw fit.  Everybody else seemed to be doing whatever they wanted with no repercussions from a “so-called God,” so why shouldn’t I do whatever I wanted while I was alive?  #YOLO, right?

Except I’ve never felt so empty.  There has been a nagging in my heart that has been growing the more I try to ignore it.  Maybe non-Christians can be happy without God, but as one of his chosen children, I can’t ignore him forever.  For so long I’ve been putting my faith in other things, hoping eventually things would work out in the end.  I’ve put my faith in my career and my store, hoping once I started to make money everything would be ok.  Before we broke up I put my faith in my relationship and my ex-girlfriend, believing I had finally found love after so many years of disappointing relationships.  Since the breakup I’ve consumed myself with work and trying to find another girlfriend, hoping to take my mind off of missing the ex.

Nothing’s been working though.  At some point I had to take a deep look in my heart, and ask myself, “Do I really believe God doesn’t exist anymore?  Do I really believe I can do this on my own?”

And finally I gave in.  I’ve been praying that God reveal himself to me.  I’ve seeked him in reading his Word.  I’ve confessed my shortcomings in placing my will over his.

And recently, I’ve had a peace in my heart I haven’t had in a very long time.

The problems haven’t gone away.  My family still has health issues, my cousin is still locked up, I’m still broke, and I still miss my ex.  But there is peace. It’s like the Holy Spirit has wrapped his arms around me and said, “Yo…you know I got you, right?  I am ALL that you need.”

God has to be my priority.  He has to be #1.  “Our God is a jealous God,” and “You cannot serve two masters.”  So on and so forth – I’ve heard it so many times in so many sermons.  But I am experiencing it now in my life.  

And so here I am, sharing my testimony because I felt compelled to do so.  It’s for me as much as it is for anyone else out there.  In the same way I wrote the “Hop Out the Matrix” post to hold myself accountable for sticking to the plan, I am writing this to hold myself accountable for this change of heart.  Countless times I’ve rededicated myself to God, and so many times I’ve returned to a worldly lifestyle.  I pray this won’t happen again.  And the fact that I’m going through this struggle once more lets me know God hasn’t given up on me yet.

He told them this parable. “Which of you men, if you had one hundred sheep, and lost one of them, wouldn’t leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one that was lost, until he found it? When he has found it, he carries it on his shoulders, rejoicing. When he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!’ I tell you that even so there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents, than over ninety-nine righteous people who need no repentance.  – Luke 15:3-7, World English Bible

Things Bartenders Hate

A lot of people do really annoying things when trying to order drinks, and I think ignorance is to blame.  So peep game.  Understanding what not to do at a bar will lead to better, faster, and friendlier service.

1.  Above everything else, BARTENDERS HATE WHEN YOU DON’T TIP.  In most high-volume bars and clubs, essentially everything bartenders earn come from tips. We DO NOT have an hourly wage.  Or if the bar does pay hourly it’s some bullshit like $2/hour.  So when you don’t tip, that means we’re working for you for free.  What’s more annoying is when you say “thank you” and don’t leave a tip.  Your “thank you” can’t pay my rent.

2.  In my eyes, if you’re paying cash, $1 tip per drink is a good starting point if you’re ordering something simple like a beer or a high ball (a “high ball” is one liquor plus a mixer, e.g. vodka and tonic).  But if you’re ordering something that takes more time like a Mojito, or if you’re ordering 15 drinks for you and all your friends, I’mma gonna need at least 20%.

(2a. DON’T order drinks like Mojitos in a crowded bar or club.  Bartenders hate that person.  Order that shit at a restaurant.)

3.  If you have a tab the tip should be at least 20%.  And don’t make multiple trips to the bar, pay with card, and close out each time.  Leave your tab open or bring cash with you.  Bartenders remember that person that closes out each time, and we call you bad names and curse your family each time you want to close out.

4.  Know your ENTIRE order when you come to the bar.  Don’t start ordering drinks and then turn around to your friends to ask them what they want. I need you to quickly list your order in a succinct fashion (e.g. “I need a vodka soda, 2 Jack and cokes, and 3 Vegas bombs”).  Otherwise you’re wasting my time.

5.  Closely related to #4, don’t raise your hand to get my attention because you’re impatient, and then not have your order ready.  That’s annoying as hell.

(5a.  NEVER reach over the bar and/or yell “Hey!”  That shit’s rude.)

6.  Also related to #4, don’t order one drink, and after I go get it and come back to you, add another drink to the order, and after I walk off and come back, order another drink, etc.

7.  Don’t try to haggle prices.  This isn’t a freaking yard sale, and I don’t know you, so why the hell would I try to hook you up?  When you ask for a hook up that tells me you’re cheap and probably a shitty tipper, so there’s even less incentive to hook it up.

8.  Don’t tell me to “make it strong.”  I have to keep my pours consistent to keep my job, so if you’re not happy with the strength of your drink, either order a double or go to a different bar.

Keep these things in mind next time you go out.  If the bartenders are happy, they’ll definitely make sure YOU are happy.

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What will they say when I die?

I think about death.  Not often, but not infrequently.  I think most people are afraid of the subject, but it’s real, yo.  We are going to die. 

So when I think about my death, I think about what will be said at my funeral.  At every funeral they always say a bunch of nice things about the deceased.  They say how nice he was, how great of a family man he was, how he’s now walking in the presence of God, etc. etc. etc.

But how much of it is ACTUALLY true?  A lot of people have secrets, and sometimes those secrets never come to light.  I can’t help but think a lot of times things are being said at a funeral because they are supposed to be said.  Especially when they say stuff like “God’s watching over him now.”  Truth be told, most of the people I know do not live life in a way that exemplifies their faith (including myself).  So do we really believe the deceased is in God’s presence when God wasn’t present during life?

When I die, I want everything that is said at my funeral to be the ABSOLUTE TRUTH.  I want them to say I lived a good life, that I loved my family and friends and took care of them as much as I could, and that I influenced the world in a positive manner.  Most importantly, though, when they say I’m walking in God’s presence in the afterlife, I want the way I lived to leave no doubt that this is indeed true.  I want them to say I did God’s work.  I want people to say they saw the God in me.  I want to walk in His footsteps.

But let’s be real – if you know me you know this isn’t the case.  I admit I indulge in ungodly things.  I drink to excess, I have a foul mouth, I lust after women, I’m not necessarily humble (but it’s hard to be when you’re good looking and good at life).  At the end of the day, I seek to fulfill my wants and desires before fulfilling what God wants for me. 

This is something I’ve always struggled with and will continue to struggle with, because at this present moment in my heart of hearts I really do enjoy the ungodly things I indulge in.  But if I’m going to live the life I want to live and be remembered for what really counts, then I need to make some changes.  I need to put God first, not me.  Now, I’m not trying to be a Bible thumper and be like “You’re going to heeeellllll!!!!” to everyone who doesn’t share my Christian beliefs.  But if I can bless people’s lives just by living by example, then I think I’ve done His work.

Methodist Willowbrook Hospital – The best first job

My friend recently graduated nursing school and just landed a job working in the Labor and Delivery department at Methodist Willowbrook Hospital(congrats!).  Coincidentally, MWH is where I had my first job almost a decade ago. When I was a junior in high school one of my best friends got me a job working in the Materials Management department giving out supplies, and even after I graduated I would return during the summers to work.  Hearing news of my friend’s new job brought back all the great memories from that joint. 

Me and the fellas used to sit in the cafeteria/atrium and just watch all the cute women that walked by.  There were soooo many attractive females that would just pass through the hospital on a daily basis.  But there was one lady in particular that we all wish we could see everyday.  She was a doctor (dermatology) and she was FINE.  And she had a naked ring finger.  Wonder if that’s still the case.

I think Labor and Delivery and Post-Partum had the cutest nurses overall.  I remember I used to jock this one Vietnamese nurse that worked in Med/Surg though.  For the first 3 years I worked there, I had a legitimate crush on her.  Then one summer I ran into her at a club and she was getting kinda ratchet because she was going through a divorce.  I ended up pulling her number but I never made anything happen.  I think a big part of it was that when I saw her at the club, she couldn’t really dance, and it ruined it for me.  Looking back at it I should’ve made it happen anyways.  I think I was barely 20 at the time, and to hook up with an older chick with an actual career would’ve been a great story.  *Sigh*

I used to slap box my homeboy “E” in the warehouse (which was more of a supply room, really) and I got my ass kicked every time for the most part.  E was faster and a smarter fighter.  One time, though, ONE TIME I got his ass GOOD.  But then he got crunk and instead of slapping he kind of stabbed at me with an open hand, so when he caught me he stabbed me with his nail.  He even drew blood.

Our boss was rather tall for a female (5’9” ish) and had red hair, so we used to call her Big Red.  She didn’t like that for some reason.

In the warehouse we had rolling shelves, and one time I hid on top of them from our boss.  When she saw me up there she wasn’t too happy…we were laughing our asses off though.

We used to ride the pallet jack down the loading ramp.  That mug went pretty fast.

One time we turned off all the lights in the warehouse and played flashlight tag.

We invented a game called Bandy Ball.  It changed our lives….and killed our productivity.

There was this one physical therapist that was always wired and seemed like she was on something.  We called her Crazy Crack Lady, and every time she needed something she would tell you why she needed it.  “Hey can you bring some 4×4 gauze to PT, I looked and there’s none there, and we need some for this patient, yeah he just checked in yesterday, and today I have to re-dress his wound, he was in a motorcycle accident, and now I have to re-dress the wound on his arm, and I just checked and there’s no gauze in the cabinet, so if you could bring some to PT as soon as you could that’d be grreeeaat.  Thanks!”

One of the guys I worked with….you know what?  I’m not going to put that story out in the public forum.  But if he reads this he’ll know I’m talking about him hahahHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Man I could go on for days.  But I’ll stop now.

The Simple Things

Today we biked from my apartment to Fleming Park to say hello to friends playing tennis.  Then we biked to Bellaire/Holcombe to eat at Bernie’s Burger Bus.  Our burgers had bacon and were topped with a fried egg.  Our fries were sprinkled with parmesan cheese and truffle oil.  We ate while observing the sunset (no homo), discussed the philosophy of what is cool, and talked about how blessed we are and how we can help others.  My friend took a moment to call his girlfriend just to let her know how awesome things were at that exact moment.  We then rode through the city of Bellaire and admired all the nice homes.  We came across the Bellaire neighborhood pool aka neighborhood Splashtown.  We continued along through Rice Village aided by a cool breeze as dusk turned to night.  As we passed through the Rice University campus we got semi-lost, somehow ending up in the Medical Center, but you can’t really get lost if you have nowhere to be.  Eventually we ended up back at my apartment, more than happy with how the evening unfolded.

Motivation

Some people are motivated by money.  Some by love.  Some people are motivated by their need for validation.  Some people aren’t motivated at all.  When I really think about it, my motivation for success boils down to two things: my friends and my ego.

I have an immense respect for so many of my friends, and there are a bunch of people I know doing amazing things with their lives.  I’m reminded of this every time I check Facebook and Twitter.  I have friends that own their own dance studio, another who travels around the world making videos for a living, another who’s probably one of the youngest energy traders in the industry, another who just moved to Australia for a great opportunity, another going to school at Columbia, friends living it up NYC/Chicago/LA, etc. etc.  I see pictures from all over the world of my friends’ travels – Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Hawaii, London, Rio, Chile, etc.  These are my peers, and I’m proud of what they’re doing for themselves.  It’s impossible to settle for mediocrity when you see all of these great things on a regular basis.

Which leads me to my ego.   Deep down, if I’m really being honest, I don’t want to be average.  When I leave this world, I want to have left my imprint.  This is one reason why I want to hop out the Matrix.  If I never existed, someone else would be doing this desk job, and the world would never notice.  In the Matrix, I am replaceable.  I want to do more, because I feel like I’m capable of more.  To use an exaggerated example to make my point, imagine how different the world would be if Diddy never existed.  Think about that statement for a second and let it sink in, because it is entirely true – the world would be different without Diddy.  No Sean Jean, no “take that take that remix”, no Bad Boy, no Biggie

How different would the world be without you?  Would it even matter?  I want to matter.  Maybe not to the extent Diddy or Elvis or MLK matters, but I still want to influence the world around me.  This is my motivation.  What’s yours?

Bonus:

[Update] Hopping out the Matrix pt. 2

It’s been almost three months since the last post, and looking back I am encouraged with the progress that’s been made.  I finished bartending school and got a job at Lucky Strike Lanes downtown. Finding a bartending gig was a bigger challenge than I anticipated.  No one wanted to hire me because I had no bartending or waiting experience, but I was persistent and kept applying everywhere.  Thankfully, I landed a job at a pretty cool venue, so things worked out.  We’ve established the store name and formerly filed the LLC for our company.  I don’t want to put the store name out there just yet, but you’ll soon find out (probably as soon as we get the logo designed).

We’re currently looking at real estate listings for the store location and there are some pretty exciting prospects available.  We’re also in the process of finding/hiring an architect.  All this will be determined in a month’s time.  Soon as that’s done, all there’s that’s really left to do is build the store, order the product, launch the website, and……..open our doors for business.

We’re getting closer.  Much has been accomplished in three months, but there is still much to do in the next three months in order to get this popping by the scheduled start date.  But we doing it…..yeah, we doing it.

Hopping out the Matrix

Really this blog post is for myself more than anybody.  Things are always more official in writing, and documenting these thoughts will give me something to look back and hold myself accountable against.  Accountable for what, you may ask?  Doing what I need to do to get out [of] the Matrix.

“The Matrix” is a term we use to refer to the corporate world or a “normal” job, and I credit my friend Will Brannon  for coining it in this sense.  The Matrix provides a steady paycheck and security.  Often it provides health benefits and a retirement plan.  As long as you’re not an idiot with your money you don’t have to worry about anything.  The Matrix also sucks big, hairy monkey balls.  All of my friends who work a corporate job complain about it, even if they like what they do.  We’re all tired after we get off of work, even though all we do is sit on our asses all day.  The Matrix sucks the life out of you.

The sad truth is the overwhelming majority of people do NOT like their job.  Most tolerate it, many even hate it.  Why do we CHOOSE to live like this?  Why do we CHOOSE to spend the majority of our lives doing something we don’t really care about?

I can’t accept this way of life any longer.  Truth be told I was getting comfortable in the Matrix.  I have decent hours and don’t work much overtime, good pay (especially considering how much effort I actually put in), and I can pretty much afford to do most of the things I want to right now.  But for 8-10 hours each day I am sitting in a place I don’t want to be at, doing something I don’t really want to do, when I could be doing so much more with my life.  It’s time to hop up out the Matrix.

Last Monday I got the wake up call (i.e. email).  Investor relations at the company I work for sent out a notice that we are being bought out in a merger.  Although the deal won’t be done for several months, I am fairly certain I will lose my job.  So a decision had to be made.  I could choose the Blue Pill, get my resume ready, look for another IT audit job, and stay in the Matrix.  Or I could pick the Red Pill and open up my own business like I’ve been wanting to for the past 3 years.  I choose the Red Pill.

Hopping out the Matrix isn’t easy, and that’s probably a big reason why most people don’t do it.  Even Neyo got his ass kicked during training when he first stepped out.  Starting a business takes planning and money, but more importantly it takes discipline and commitment to stick to the plan that’ll make the business possible.  Setting goals are easy – doing the dirty work to achieve goals isn’t.  I am, however, ready to put in work.  The initial cost estimate and business plan has been drafted.  I cut off my cable to save money.  I’ll be taking bartending classes next month because I’ll need a night gig while the store gets off the ground, and if I start bartending while I’m still working the corporate J.O. the extra cash will be helpful.  I ain’t just bloggin’ about it, I’m bein’ about it.

I know being a store owner does not necessarily translate into a lucrative profession.  Best case scenario the shop pops off and we open stores in Austin, LA, Chicago, NY, etc.  Worst case scenario I work the shop everyday, but at least I’m working for myself.  If the shop fails, at least I’ve developed the experience and know-how to be self-employed so that I don’t have to resort to the Matrix ever again.

Like I said, this blog is really going to serve as a reminder to myself of what I’m working for.  The work is already underway, I just have to stay committed.  However, if you’ve read this far, I hope this post also inspires and encourages you to do whatever it is you fucking want with your life.  This is your life.  LIVE IT.