The Escape to D.R

I don’t really know how to summarize the totality that is the year 2018, mainly because: 1) it’s not finished yet and 2) where do you even begin? 12 months ago, I was working the job of my dreams, progressing in my career, and happily living life with Syd (whom I would propose to in December). Things were going as good as you could have imagined, and this isn’t new information that I’ve shared, but just to reiterate the point of how much your life can change in a year. I’m reflective in that way, and it helps me gain perspective. It’s therapeutic in a way – everyone has their own thing.

Fast forward a year later. 2018 has been so up and down with all the headaches, joy, turbulence, and eye-openers that I don’t think I’ve experienced in a single calendar year quite like this. Losing my job, not being able to properly open my mouth for damn near 2 months, joining the gym, getting an upgrade of a job with people I liked, and going through the stressful initial stages of wedding planning. That’s just a microcosm of the year that I can share, but essentially it was a helluva year, and that’s just on my end. Syd easily can write 5000 words with little to no difficulty about the challenges she’s experienced this year, but have seemed to just rollover from the last. She’s resilient, and a fighter. She’s growing each and every day and striving to better herself while going through a grand transition that is 3 years removed from being a teenager, to sharing a home, running it with a partner and about to be a wife (all before the age of 23). Her story is one you wouldn’t believe if it came from my mouth, so the truth through her own admission is the best way to go for true understanding.

Because of the rough patch that is 2018 was putting such a strain on our lives, the plan was to do a getaway for a week, just to decompress, relax, rejuvenate, and come back refreshed. The goal was for July. An island. Somewhere hot & tropic. Somewhere we didn’t have to think about what we were gonna do every day. That was the plan. Life had others. At the end of June, my Aunt in New York let my mother and I know that my uncle was given 4-6 weeks to live. Now I was conflicted – do I go vacation with Syd, or do I go to see my Uncle Ray one last time? I hadn’t seen him since a quick trip to New York with a friend to watch an Giants-Eagles game. My last physical memory of him alive was spending the day at Central Park with my Aunt (Ann) and my friend before driving us to LaGuardia Airport and him saying “I love you.” That’s a memory that certainly holds its weight in emotions, and is a lasting memory you would want if it did happen to be the last one of them. I’m sad that that had to be the last one, but I made peace with the fact that it was a happy one.

One thing that he told me on that visit was an important line with regards to travel. “Just go. Worry about (paying for) it later.” I can be a spontaneous person from time to time, but because I’ve been broke longer than I’ve been ‘comfortable,’ before I really started to make money, I didn’t want to feel like I would go back to that place. It’s a genuine fear that I have sat with, but I couldn’t let that stop me from living life. Going to Barbados in 2017 was something that I mustered up the strength (and money) to go for because I thought of myself and the experience that I wanted. Los Angeles came about because Philly in December was too cold to cost as much as it did and the experience of proposing to Syd made it worth every penny and then some. Priceless really. This was different because I chose to escape the city just to getaway. Not for any reason besides relaxing and taking a much needed break. You have to think of yourself in those moments and thankfully (along with the encouragement of Syd), it happened. Booked the trip a week prior to departure after an interview at a production company soured my mood (but we won’t get into that). We decided on the Riu Bambu ‘5 star’ Hotel, and because of the travel experience that Syd had already gained from her many excursions with her family to the Dominican, it was all in the cards for a good vacation.

With all of the emotional ups and downs that befell upon us, it’s safe to say that this was a necessary trip. Now, the Dominican Republic was only the 3rd country I’ve ever travelled to in my life, and although we were staying on a resort, I was still enamoured by the culture of Dominicans damn near on a daily basis, both positive and negative. From the food & bed situation (which was really hilarious that Syd and I actively made light of), those were really the only blips for the overall 8 days and 7 nights which we enjoyed. The sun, the beach (and angry Ocean), the free drinks, and entertainment (mainly us roasting other residents and taking in the ridiculousness of the Riu Bambu staff taking advantage of White People in every way possible), there was much to enjoy with as little thought process as possible.

The universe has a great at way of connecting people and that’s what we did, which heightened our experience beyond measure. We met a hilarious and lovely Muslim couple by the names of Shay & Guled. She from Scarborough and he from Rexdale. In a lot of ways, they’re similar to Syd and I, and that only became more evident the more we hung out with them. They were on our flight and bus, and conveniently enough, in the same Villa just a room over from us (we were 715, they were 711). Their energy was a great relief for us. As much as this trip served as a time for Syd and I to just getaway and connect, to be able to connect with a great couple such as them, it only added to our experience, and we ended up gaining new friendships as we flew back to Toronto (to quote Kendrick, “I wrote this verse while I was 30’000 feet in the air/stewardess complimenting me on my nappy hair” – Hol Up.

I’ve learned that life is long and it’s especially long based on the decisions you make in life. Chris Rock said that, and I truly believe it. Yes your life can end sooner than you’d like it to, but for the most part, it’s a long journey. There’s never a rush to do any and everything in every moment, because when you really just sit down and allow yourself to shut off your brain for a bit, there’s a lot to soak in and appreciate. On our last night (Sept 16), Shay, Guled, Sydney and I were going to go to one of the 7 restaurants the resort had to offer (that’s a story onto itself but moreso in person), and after threatening to rain for damn near the whole week including that day, there was a thunderstorm that came down as we were getting ready. That delayed us a bit, but we didn’t know when it was going to pass on. It was a lot. Syd was playing music in the background (at the time, I believe it was A Sunday Kind of Love, by Etta James) and I just stood over the balcony railing and eventually sat, as I just took in the environment and appreciated the moment as the rain poured. It was therapy. It was truly a peaceful moment, and I allowed myself to really collect my thoughts and just be one with time. I had a similar moment (minus the rain) in Barbados when Syd and I were at Dover Beach Hotel, and the view of the Ocean with the kissing moonlight just prompted me to get my iPod and Headphones and put on Siegfried by Frank Ocean. I soaked it in first, then I brought Syd over to the balcony and let her listen. You could just feel the wave of emotions rush through, and that was a moment that I’ll cherish forever. After momentarily getting our hearts vaccumed into our stomachs at the restaurant (bruh) we had our dinner, and made our way back to our rooms to complete what was a perfect day, despite whatever hiccups came along the way (nothing is truly perfect right?).

What did I learn the most about this trip? I really love Sydney and I can’t wait for her to be my wife and partner in all things for as long as time allows us to (with work by us required as well). Although we live together, for the longest time, it felt as though we were distant, just due to life doing its thing. We’re each going through things and together we’re going through a transitional period that has been pretty complex and has required a lot of patience, but day by day we’re getting through, and really I want nothing more than to grow and be the best version of me, not only for myself, but for Syd. Because that’s what she deserves and I want to be able to provide her with that.

I realized that it’s okay to leave life behind sometimes for the betterment of your own sanity. It’s okay to think for yourself and do things for you because you want to. Not because it’s some kind of prerequisite in life’s blueprint. There is none. Diving into an excursion or activity plays right into what Uncle Ray said, “Just go.” And go we went, and with rejuvenated minds, we’re gonna push through to the end of year and understand that although life won’t always go our ways, we got each other to hold down, and we’ll always be in good hands. Here’s to more memories. Thank you Uncle Ray. I love you, and I miss you.

That’s My Word & It STiXX

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