Failure is the seven-letter word that no one wants to experience. Unless, of course, you’re playing the game Scrabble, then it is a welcomed guest being worth 10 points, not too shabby. However, if one stops and thinks about the other positives that come from failure, maybe it wouldn’t be considered so bad after all.
A recurring theme throughout my debut novel revolves around overcoming fears and failure. It is, without a doubt, a horror novel at heart but not your typical horror. The writing style I implemented comes from the same vein as Rod Serling’s The Twilight Zone (Original Series). His writing style and thoughts, timeless to this day. His inspiration is why I decided to finally write my novel. I wasn’t afraid to fail. I knew that it would be a lot of work putting a functional story together, but I did not let it deter me from reaching my goal.
There is that word again, fail/failure—life’s natural antagonist. We cling to aspirations for success in everything we do constantly cutting our minds on the jagged skies of hope. The wounds heal with time but leave mental scars that serve as a roadmap of our life experiences. The lines that crack our faces also tell a similar story. The life experiences offered with age makes us tried and true. Hardened by past failures and now of sound minds, we did not let our minds unfurl because we persevered. We’ve learned something along our journey, we now know not to fear failure.
How did we get to this point, though? It is a simple question, so there is a simple answer.
The next question one can ask is, “if I did fail, then what served as the impetus for my return?”
The answer is motivation and inspiration.
The motivation and inspiration that we feel are derived from our past failures. One cannot be afraid to fail. We often build failure up into a monster when it is just a mouse pecking at our toes. We make failure the summit of our fears way too often. We stand and look at this summit and say, “maybe one day I’ll climb to the top,” and then return to our complacent ways. If we have that mentality of sitting in the muck and mire that is complacency, then one will never get to stand atop the mountain of slain adversities.
So at this point, the next question may sound something like, “well, this sounds like a decent thought process, but how do I overcome failure? What if I keep failing? What if failure is my comeuppance? What if? What if?”
The main ingredient in overcoming failure is trying.
Trying shows a willingness that one does not want to sit in failure. Confidence and the belief in something gives one the strength to try. In the event of failure, we should learn from the experience and continue to try, as it is imperative that we not let failure reign supreme. No matter what the failure is, whether mental or physical, we strengthen ourselves and come back to face it again. A light in the darkness represents the efforts of trying. As the light gets brighter with every attempt, it shows us that failure can be conquered. To those who try, know this; the light that is getting brighter in the darkness is not always an oncoming freight train of failure.
The bottom line is everyone fails. It doesn’t matter how often we fail. What matters is if we get back up to try again. We should all take a step back when we experience failure, take a deep breath, and try again, understanding that it is just the natural ebb and flow of life.
My oldest son is an autistic nine-year-old who is primarily non-vocal. He did something not too long ago that tugged on the heartstrings. He is considered highly functioning but still struggles to articulate his wants and needs. While we can get the occasional one-word responses from him, full sentences are far and few.
A few months back, he wrote on his bedroom wall. At first glance, I remember saying, “ah, he wrote on the wall, unbelievable!” I dismissed his behavior initially, thinking it was him scribbling on the wall, making a mess. However, later that night, as I made his bed, I realized that he has never impulsively scribbled on the wall before; why would he do it all of a sudden? What pushed him to do it? I took a step back and kept repeating the same question over and over, “why would he do this?” My mind started dancing, trying to put myself in his shoes and understand his motives, and then I realized what it was that he had drawn.
He drew our family!
Starting on the left: our two dogs (Max and Tyson), our cat (Chunk), me, his little brother, mom, and my son, the artist.
Needless to say, I was washed over with emotion, and tears welled up in my eyes as I called my wife into his room to tell her.
I share this because it now makes me think twice about everything he is doing, knowing that there are a point and purpose for his motives, and his intentions are pure; he loves his family. I told my wife that this is why we do what we do for him. This is why we create a happy home for him and stand by him every step of the way. It is a signal and reminder from him that our tireless efforts do not go unnoticed. I remember, after saying this to my wife, I teared up and finished by saying, “we must be doing something right!”
I am so proud of him, and he always finds a way to melt my heart! I’ll wrap up this blog by sharing something that came to mind that I feel sums up the experience quite well, “the voiceless, trying feverishly to project their love find a way to convey the whispers of the heart.”
Over the years, I’ve always bounced certain decisions off close friends or relatives of mine for insight and feedback. They all offered good advice, ultimately similar advice such as “what does your gut tell you to do?” and “just listen to the little person on your shoulder.” The one question I never asked them that I wish I had was, “what do you do if the little person on your shoulder is a jester?”
Every decision I have made, I battle with the jester of levity. It doesn’t matter what type of situation it is either. It isn’t due to the lack of empathy towards a given situation; it is just my nervous tick of sorts to dismiss things with levity. I’ve spent my earlier adult years taking life way too seriously, and it caused me to not enjoy it the way it was meant to be enjoyed. Needless to say, the little person, my gut instinct, turned into a jester, which I am fine with so long as I can control it. However, I do have to mention this, the inner monologue of my life being narrated by a jester, it does keep things mentally in check. You think of daily stressful decisions being put on a pedestal, they are so mentally draining for one to endure. The little jester on my shoulder helps me by reminding me to not sweat the small stuff.
“The world will bark back at you, Elias. Do you cower in fear, fall in-line, or do you bark back and maybe take a bite out of the world? What makes you is how you react to that bark.”
This is the advice given by an older character trying to motivate another character to continue his objective from my upcoming novel, The Creature of Humanity.
I chose this quote because it speaks the truth on so many levels. Every day we wake, we set our feet outside of our homes and fend for ourselves (excluding 2020, of course). We go out into the world, into the daily grind, and face adversities and other forms of strife. Some days are little wins for ourselves, while others, we collapse into bed after a long day, unsure of how to face the unknowns of tomorrow. It is easier for one to fall in-line and be complacent, but like the old adage goes, “if something in life is worth having, then it is worth fighting for,” aka taking a bite of the world and reacting to the bark of the world.
Although it is the more challenging path, it is the correct path to “bark back.” What type of life would we be living if we all fell into line with the modus operandi and just wallowed in the mire? Not a fulfilling life at all.
Borrowing another quote from one of my novels because it fits this topic:
“Lies and manipulation are truth and normalcy to the ones that follow you sheepishly. The wolf among sheep approaches as an ally, just to get close to its prey. One by one, it takes, using lies and manipulation as its staple,”
This goes hand in hand with the reaction to the bark. The above quote is from a character that has exited a life of following sheepishly and is now confronting “the wolf among sheep,” as he calls it.
For a long time, I’d take a passive approach to certain situations and regret the stance later. I still sometimes struggle with flipping the switch to being assertive, but I have to admit I am getting much better. I chose this topic because it was something I struggled with earlier in my life. Call it a weakness, I suppose. I found that it stemmed from a lack of confidence and belief in myself. I just had to find the confidence within myself. I did this by going out of my element and comfort zone. It is a tough transition facing the world’s unknowns, but it is important not to fear them. Offer respect towards whatever unknown you are planning to face head-on, but never fear it.
2020 was such a crazy and yet interesting year for me. I have mentioned in previous blogs that I wrote my first novel. It took a lot of mental preparedness to finally push myself to achieve this goal, but it has been well worth it. One of the most exciting parts of creating my novel was coming up with the characters’ blueprints. When I created each character, I tried to make them so dynamic when it comes to characteristics. In this blog, I will focus on Jeffrey Riley’s (protagonist) better half/love interest, Genevieve.
Jeffrey Riley is a man who sits complacently. I found it interesting to write the main character in such a way because it is in touch with reality. Many people are stuck in the same vicious cycle daily, doing what they must to survive. Sometimes it takes something life-changing to force one to make an effort to change. It is no fault of our own it’s just the daily grind we created for ourselves. His love interest, Genevieve, is literally a prisoner of the moment. She gets wrapped up in Jeffrey’s world without choice. When she is first introduced, you quickly learn that she is an independent woman and a person of action that continually flirts with potential greatness. Jeffrey is ignorant of this information and her way of life and has no knowledge of how she survived in such a ruthless environment.
One of the main styles that I had written the female characters with was the thought that the journey will bring out their “true person” or “potential.” I’m a huge fan of strong female roles, so I wanted to make the moments memorable and meaningful. When I was writing this story, I sat for a few hours making lists of qualities that made up a strong female character and hid them under guises throughout the story.
While I was writing the above character blueprints, a question someone asked me years ago came to mind. The question was, “what makes a woman so special to you?”
I realized it was a serious question, and I answered it honestly. “I believe women are truly a gift of God. What makes me say this is their ability to give life. Yes, a man plays a part in the role. However, the possession and responsibilities of giving birth are placed on the woman. This role was chosen on purpose; there is no doubt about it. To have the ability to bring life into this world proves just how important and great a woman truly is. Their strength, will, and the innate ability to bend but not break are truly remarkable and should be greatly appreciated.”
In my upcoming novel Curse of The Walking Man: The Jester, a female character is tired of flirting with her potential greatness and finally grabs it by the horns. She is sick of being considered an afterthought and is ready to stand front and center against the ruthless world.
With that, I’ll segue into a snippet of dialogue/visual graphic detailing the beginning of her rise. Also, to put the snippet into context, the year is 1901, with the story centering around a remote cursed town. The cursed town is virtually non-existent to the outside world as they have learned to avoid it at all costs. Genevieve travels into a neighboring town filled with marauders and finally breaks mentally, bringing forth a more assertive version of herself:
The above dialogue from Genevieve and the intensity of the moment is so pivotal for this character. It was the part of the story where you either step up or step aside.
Later on in the story, you get a taste of how her mindset has continued to change. Previously, the characters would question their next moves and take calculated risks. However, she is more proactive than reactive and more than willing to set a tone. Here is a snippet of dialogue with a visual:
When I started writing this character, I had an idea of the type of woman I wanted to emulate and really hoped to articulate it well into my novels. At this stage of the stories, I feel as though she has blossomed beyond my expectations. We have these ideas stored in our minds so well, we know how we want our characters to be portrayed. That’s the easy part. However, the characters’ actual manifestation and materialization into words is a whole different experience, which was a concern when I began writing this character. The female character mentioned in this blog means a lot to me on so many levels, and that fact is on full display throughout the story. Obviously, all of the characters mean a lot to me, but this one has a special spot in my heart. She is the manifestation of all of the great females I have ever encountered in my life bundled into one person.
Something that was always on my list of things to do finally came to fruition this year. I published my very first novel. There was such a range of emotions when the release date approached. The best way to sum it up was a rollercoaster of emotions. I would go from being nervous and muttering to myself that “it’s not too late to back out yet” to “it’s time, I am ready for this!”
My biggest inspiration is my family; there is no denying that fact at all. I am the father of an amazing autistic little boy that absolutely loves life and motivates me with every milestone he crushes. When he was born prematurely, the way he fought to survive made me realize that I could do more with my life. I guess I can sum it up to, I was an adult suffering through so many stresses that made me think, “eh, life isn’t all that great.” However, I watched my son cling to life and persevere through a mountain of adversities that made my troubles look like an anthill.
It really changes one’s perspective seeing a life so young accomplish so much in such a short amount of time. It made me think, “wow, he is trying so hard to survive. Meanwhile, I am coasting through a mediocre life and not making the most of it.” So, needless to say, I became feverish with my motivation to improve my family’s quality of life. I almost became obsessed with wanting to be the best provider.
Another inspiration is my wife. She doesn’t believe me when I tell her that she is, but it is true. Behind every good man is an even better woman. This, to me, rings true. When we first met, she questioned the decisions that I had made but in a constructive way.
“Why are you going for a Business Administration degree when you are a techy person who loves to work with computers?” That doesn’t make sense.” That was an exact quote from her when we first started dating. I pondered over the question for a few days and ultimately switched my degree to Information Technology. Needless to say, I am more than happy in the career path, knowing that it was the correct decision. The work/life balance that my field allows made me available to help my son achieve his goals by guiding him and transporting him to all of his therapies.
My youngest son is quite the inspiration as well. He is just three years old, and he wears his heart on his sleeve. He loves to help his brother with any task. If he sees him struggling with something, he is the first one to investigate to see if he could resolve the issue. What made me realize that he will always be there for his big brother is when he started grabbing two of everything. If he went to the pantry to get a snack, he’d grab two, one for him and one for his b-bro (big brother). If he ran to the toy box to get a car to play with, he’d grab two, one for him and one for b-bro.
Inspiration can be enigmatic in its nature, spawning from almost anywhere at anytime. In my published novel and my upcoming novel, inspiration, hope, and motivation are recurring themes. I touch on the importance of planting the seeds of hope in a pivotal moment for one of the main characters. Despite being in a fictional work, I still believe it correlates to reality. So I figured I’d share that piece of dialogue from an omniscient character who lived an incredible life to the fullest to a young man trying to figure life out.
Inspiring just a spark of hope can lead to a burning fire of inspiration.
I always loved coming up with poems on the fly. One night, the below poem came to mind. I call it “Do you remember our first night together?” Little did I know that this poem served as a foreshadowing of sorts for the love that two characters shared in a novel that I wrote.
The moon dances on the rippling waters as we gaze up at the stars.
We look upon each other for words to perfect this moment but cannot speak.
The ripples of the water know the tales that our hearts are trying to tell as they have seen these times before but not with such passion.
At this time, we need not pass words; we need to feel this moment.
Our lips touch, to the delight of both, not wanting this to end we extend our embrace.
The woman with brown eyes so captivating to look at and so intriguing to converse with.
The moon reflects so brightly in her eyes as if it were trying to experience her majesty.
The waters ripple towards the shores, with great attempts to touch her feet as if it were jealous of the moon’s position in her eyes.
The man, so entranced by her presence, doesn’t notice nature’s offering as the only true beauty to him is standing beside him.
The year was 2011, when our lives changed forever. Within a blink of an eye, my wife was escorted to a helicopter to deliver our son, Travis Jr. The moment the doctor told us that we were going to be parents that my wife and I were in utter disbelief and shock. We laughed when he delivered the news, and he looked at us and said, “Oh no, I’m serious. You are going to be parents. We have to deliver your son tonight. A helicopter is en route.”
I had to travel to the hospital in my own car due to the helicopter being at capacity with my wife and medical personnel. I will never forget that long drive and the jog through the hospital looking for my wife’s room. I rushed into the room, and it was empty. On a whiteboard in her room, it read, “congratulations Travis James McRoy Jr., born at 7:16 pm 2lb 2oz. My initial reaction was excitement, but that feeling immediately washed away, shifting to concern for my wife’s well being. I walked up and down the hall, trying to find her. I decided to return to her room a few minutes later and was greeted by her parents. They reassured me she was all right and would be coming into the room very soon. It turned out my wife had pregnancy complications due to preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome. She remained in the hospital for seven days due to fears of seizures.
My son’s fight had just begun. He was admitted to the neonatal intensive care unit, where he would remain for ninety-one days. Every day was a battle for him. From day one, we were told that with him being born so premature at just twenty-seven weeks, his survival rate is a 50/50 shot. He went through a total of five surgeries. He had three major surgeries.
For the first issue, my wife and I actually made it known to the staff that he had not pooped yet. After a day, the doctors began to get concerned that something internally was failing with him. With our consent, they did an exploratory surgery to examine his bowel area. We were sitting in the family waiting room when the phone rang, and it was the surgeon letting us know they had found the perforation in his bowel but no signs of waste at all. He mentioned that he was not satisfied with the findings. He asked for our permission to continue the exploratory surgery.
I remember fighting with this decision. I stammered and said, “well, you found the issue. That’s a good thing, right?”
He paused for a moment thinking over the question, and said, “well, yes, it is a good thing, but I also feel something isn’t right.”
So I discussed it briefly with my wife and said to the surgeon, “I need you to guide our decision here. You mentioned you had kids. If it was one of your kids, would you do it? Would you continue looking or be happy that nothing was found thus far?
He paused for a moment pondering over the question, and with confidence, said, “I’d do it, for sure.”
“Okay, we agree too. You have our consent to continue.”
About thirty minutes had passed, and the phone rang again. It was an excited surgeon, “we got it! It was waste. It was sitting behind the liver, and we cleared it out. The liver is in perfect shape, no damage at all to it!”
I could barely get any words out, being overcome with such emotions. I just said something to the effect of “good, good job. Thank you so much!”
I honestly don’t even know if it came out like that; it was almost unintelligible.
My son was diagnosed with a perforated bowel. To temporarily mitigate his bowel issue, they rerouted his bowel through his abdomen and connected a colostomy bag.
His next major surgery involved his lungs. A newborn will breathe through a ductus for a short time before activating the lungs. My son was doing the opposite. Instead of his ductus closing to activate the lungs, his ductus was strengthening. It needed to be closed to get his lungs working properly. It came to the point where time was of the essence, so he was scheduled for emergency surgery to manually close the ductus. I remember my wife and I were sitting in the family waiting room, waiting next to the phone once again. It rang and, despite anticipating the ring, still made us jump. Anxiety washed over me as I picked up the phone. The surgeon said just a few words confidently, “all good, everything is fine.”
I sighed in relief and gave my wife a thumbs up to let her know all was good.
His final major surgery involved his bowel once again. This surgery was to reconnect the bowel. The doctors had let the disconnected portion heal for a few weeks and felt it was time for reconnection. The surgery went off without a hitch. I remember shortly after the surgery, a nurse said to my wife and me, “why don’t you go home, get some rest, spend some time with your family.” While I was holding my little son, I looked up at her and said, “this is our family, though.”
I didn’t mean for it to come off so dramatic, but she started to tear up and told me to “stop” with a smile. The empathy and support from the staff were way beyond the call of duty. We felt like family for the ninety-one days. My wife and I would spend thirteen plus hours in the NICU doing kangaroo care and being there for our son. The below pic gives an idea of just how little he was, my wedding ring around his wrist.
There were so many scary moments. One such moment that comes to mind was walking into the NICU to see a group of doctors and nurses gathered around my son’s incubator with a sheet drawn. We rushed over towards the group and were stopped by a nurse who reassured us he was fine, just routine to see if he could breathe on his own yet. I looked at my wife, and our fright was palpable, having just witnessed a week prior, another baby my son’s age, unfortunately, pass away. We left the NICU and had to compose ourselves. We thought the worst day of our life was coming to fruition.
A month later, my son made incredible strides graduating to a different part of the NICU. He was on the home stretch. He gained the weight he needed to and arrived home one day after his original due date of July 26th.
Fast forward almost three years, and we have an interesting little toddler. He walked at nine months and briefly spoke around the one year mark but then went quiet. At this point, I tracked his milestones very closely, and thoughts started dancing around in my head. When the surgery was done to close his ductus, the right vocal cord was severed in the process. We were reassured that the vocal cord being severed would not impede his speaking, “he’ll maybe have a little deeper voice.” they said. So I was beginning to wonder if something was wrong. I gave it a few more months, and he was still mostly silent. He’d make a few words here and there, but it was very far and few in between. We reached out to the pediatric autism center to have my son tested for autism because he displayed some traits similar to being on the spectrum.
My son was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder at age three. Naturally, as new parents, this was all uncharted territory for us. We were emotional, not knowing what laid ahead for my son and us as parents. We made a few phone calls and got connected with the right support system in our local area. The next six years were so challenging for my family. My son would go through eating habits that forced us to nearly admit him to the hospital due to his refusal. I still remember buying all of the strawberry and chocolate Yoplait whips from the surrounding supermarkets because one night, he decided to start eating again, but just that particular food.
He is now nine years old. He is perfectly healthy and still has challenges to overcome. He is delayed in speaking, but we can effectively communicate with him. He is the most innocent, fun-loving child a parent could ever hope for who loves life and loves to laugh. The gateway to unlocking him in terms of communicating came in the form of technology. It was via an iPad Mini using a program called Proloquo2go. Once he realized that he could communicate with us, he began to flourish. We were so grateful for the support given to us by the local autism clinic through the years that we donated five brand new iPads to them this year adorned with their company logo.
I felt motivated to write this for any abruptly new parents who may be going through the same situation. I have to reiterate that it is an emotional rollercoaster but remain strong and rest assure that you are not alone in this situation. If I could offer any advice, I’d say any chance you get, I recommend kangaroo care. I had no idea what kangaroo care was before having my son. I read articles and research on it to understand why it was recommended. Apparently, skin-to-skin contact with the newborn helps him/her out when it comes to heart rate, heart patterns, and oxygen saturation levels. Also, trust the medical personnel. They were put in that part of the hospital for a reason. They are there to help and be supportive of you and your family. Lastly, never lose faith. In such a trying time, prayers go a very long way to keep a person in the right frame of mind. God is good!
As I write this blog, I am also working concurrently on a blog detailing quarantined life with an autistic child that I will be releasing in the next few weeks.