One of my earliest childhood memories still haunts me to this day. I was just a three-and-a-half-year-old boy living with my mother, stepfather, and newborn sister in an old house in the middle of the desert in Lancaster, California. My mother was preoccupied with taking care of my baby sister, so I was often left to my own devices.
One day, I stumbled upon an ant mound in the open area behind our house. Intrigued, I decided to befriend the ants by sitting down next to their mound. Little did I know, these were not your ordinary ants - they were large, red and black ones with powerful jaws. As soon as I sat down, the ants swarmed me, biting me all over my body.
The pain was excruciating, and I panicked. I tried to brush the ants off, but they kept coming. In a frenzy, I stripped off my clothes and ran naked towards the house, screaming for my mother. When I burst into the room where she was nursing my sister, she was shocked to see her little boy covered in red welts, crying uncontrollably.
My mother quickly tended to my wounds, squishing the remaining ants in my hair and applying ointment to soothe the bites. Her care helped calm me down, but the experience left a lasting impression on me. My mother found the whole ordeal hilarious, but for me, it was a traumatic lesson learned.
Since that day, I’ve developed a fear of ants. Even the smallest ones make me jittery, and I can’t shake off the feeling of panic when I see them crawling on me. I’ve never sat on an ant mound again, knowing the consequences all too well. My mother and I reminisced about that incident many times over the years, and it’s a memory that still lingers with me, half a century later.
Almost fifty years have passed, and I can still vividly recall the first time I lit a cigarette. I was just a seven-year-old boy, living on a farm in rural Colorado with my mother, step-father (if you could call him that), and half-sister. There were no kids my age nearby to play with, so I often found myself engaging in activities that little boys should not be doing. I had stolen a pack of my mother’s Kool Menthol 100s and a pack of matches, and I thought I could smoke just like the adults in my life.
I sneaked outside and hid behind the juniper trees, feeling a sense of rebellion and curiosity. I opened the pack, took out one of the long cigarettes, put it between my lips, struck a match, and lit up, taking a puff just like I had seen the grown-ups do. To my surprise, I didn’t find the taste repulsive. In fact, I kind of liked it. I remember the sensation of menthol on my tongue, the slight burn in my throat, and feeling strangely grown up.
As I grew older, I experimented with smoking occasionally, but it never really stuck. I would smoke here and there but would eventually lose interest. That changed when I met Tracy, a boy my age who had just moved into the neighborhood. He was already a pack-a-day smoker, and one summer evening, he offered me a Marlboro Red from his hard pack box, explaining that soft packs were not cool. I started taking him up on his offers and before I knew it, I was smoking every day, even bumming cigarettes from friends whenever I could.
Then came the moment I realized I was hooked: I wanted to smoke even when I was alone. My mother, in her unique parenting style, decided to buy cigarettes for me openly rather than have me hide my habit. She hoped I would come to hate smoking and quit, but that didn’t quite go as planned. By the time I was sixteen, I was a confirmed pack-a-day smoker. It wasn’t about being cool like other kids; it was about feeding my nicotine addiction. Twelve years passed in a blur of cigarettes, until I met Pam.
I remember our first date like it was yesterday. We were running across a busy street in Santa Monica, heading to a club to see a band. In the middle of the street, my hard pack of Marlboro Lights fell from my shirt pocket with a loud thud. I quickly picked them up, but when we reached the sidewalk, Pam told me, “I don’t date people who smoke.” It felt like a punch to the face, but it was a wake-up call I needed.
From that moment on, I didn’t light up on any of our dates or any day after that. Pam became my best friend, and we’ve been married for 25 years now. I made the choice to quit smoking because of her, and I’m proud to say that I haven’t touched a cigarette since before we were engaged. I remember many cigarettes I smoked throughout my life, but thanks to someone special, I can’t recall the very last one. And for that, I’m eternally grateful.
Do you ever find yourself using up every excuse in the book to avoid doing something you’ve been putting off? I know I do. I’ve been running this blog for nearly 14 years, yet I only have 11 posts to show for it. That’s less than one post per year, and the newest one is over a year old. I used to write more frequently, but like many artists, I ended up trashing most of my work because I felt like it wasn’t good enough. Looking back, I regret that decision.
Writing has always been a passion of mine. I love the process of putting words down, then rearranging them to communicate my ideas. When I’m in the flow, the words just come out effortlessly, and I feel like I’ve created something that has a life of its own.
However, a few years back, I made a fatal mistake. I started modeling my writing after what other people were doing, trying to find my own voice. But because it wasn’t truly my voice, I began to doubt the value of what I had to say. This led to a severe case of writer’s block that lasted for years. It was painful to even think about writing, and I only managed to publish three posts in 2018, and they were a struggle.
To fill the void of creativity, I found myself procrastinating by endlessly tweaking my WordPress theme. I became obsessed with making it pixel perfect and starting over from scratch multiple times. I’ve written and tweaked more CSS code than I care to admit, and my site theme is now practically everything I’ve ever imagined in my head. There’s not much more room for improvement, if any.
So, what do I do now?
I’ve realized that it’s time to stop procrastinating and just write. It doesn’t have to be perfect, and my writing will improve with practice. It doesn’t have to be profound or impart deep wisdom to the reader. I simply need to start getting the thoughts in my head onto the page.
The best place to start is here and now, so I’ve decided to begin again.
What about you? What have you been putting off? Is now the time for you to start afresh too? Remember, perfection isn’t necessary, just taking that first step towards your goal can make all the difference.