I woke up this morning thinking about my brother’s aversion to wet bread. Perhaps it’s because I was dreaming of Thanksgiving dinner and the amazing stuffing my mother makes. My brother hates the stuffing because, as I mentioned earlier, he hates wet bread.
I’ve always admired his resolve. When he makes his mind up about something, there’s no changing it. He makes no apologies; offers no explanations other than, I don’t eat wet bread.I like that. I don’t have that. If I don’t like a food, I make myself like it. I smother it in cheese, drown it in gravy, dip in in ranch, deep fry it or wrap it in bacon (or any combination of the five). I compromise and wiggle my way around obstacles rather than simply saying, I don’t eat wet bread.But one thing I will not waver on is cheesecake on my birthday. Cheesecake and The Weight. I eat cheesecake on my birthday and I listen to the song The Weight by The Band on repeat … for maybe an hour or two. This has been a staple in my life for as long as I can remember.Robbie Robertson, who wrote The Weight, once said about the meaning behind the song:Someone says, ‘Listen, will you do me this favor? When you get there will you say ‘hello’ to somebody or will you pick up one of these for me?’ ‘Oh, you’re going to Nazareth, do me a favor when you’re there.’ So the guy goes and one thing leads to another and it’s like, ‘Holy shit, what has this turned into? I’ve only come here to say ‘hello’ for somebody and I’ve got myself in this incredible predicament.’
Aside from being a damn good tune that has the power to make a bar full of any demographic simultaneously bob their heads, it’s such a fantastic metaphor for so much in our lives. We go into various situations with certain expectations. And seldom are those expectations precisely matched. Some people hate that. Hate it when things don’t go the way they expect them to. I used to be that way.Now I’m the opposite.After graduating college, I went to work in Florida. I hopped around a bit. I worked at a couple different publications.Then a couple years ago, a close friend of mine died rather tragically. He was 23. He was doing exactly what he wanted to be doing (working, at the time, at the same magazine where I was working). He was living exactly where he wanted to be living and appreciated the place we were (Sarasota, Fla.) for what it was. I definitely couldn’t say the same. I felt like I went there as somewhat of a favor and instead of making it a temporary thing, I got sucked in. I stayed there way too long doing things I was only mildly into.In other words, in my mind, I only went to Sarasota to say ‘hello’ for somebody and I got myself into an incredible predicament because I couldn’t leave.Don’t get me wrong. I made great friends there that I love dearly to this day. But it wasn’t where I wanted to be and it certainly wasn’t what I wanted to be doing. My heart will always be Chicago.So when Troy died, I made a pact with myself: I will always make every effort to be doing what I want to be doing in the exact place I want to be doing it.I’m headed to the grocery store now to buy a cheesecake. “The Weight” has been on repeat as I’ve been typing this.I’m 29 today. And I’m exactly where I want to be. And I do what I love every day.For all the friends, family, co-workers and teachers who helped make that possible, thanks.