Sunday, November 18, 2012


Dear Temple,
I hope this note finds you well and happy. I'm feeling a little discouraged today. My literary agent and I have harmoniously parted ways. I don't want to really bore you with the details, but this pretty much brings me back to square one with my writing. Oh well, Kurt Vonnegut became famous at 47 so I plan on slugging away for at least another fifteen years before I think about hanging it up.
The only problem is I'm not Kurt Vonnegut.
Anyway, I would like to talk to you a bit about failure. I would like to tell you a bit of a grown up story. Hopefully we'll both learn something.
I left college without finishing a degree and went into the workforce. College was someplace I always knew I was going to do, but when I got there I didn't apply myself and felt very lost. If I could offer you a bit of advice, even if you feel lost at college (if you decide to go) I would buckle down and complete you degree. Life is easier when you have one. There are millions of people who don't have degrees that are successful and lead happy and productive lives. I don't want you do get me wrong. But people who have advanced schooling degrees tend to obtain better jobs and make more money. For awhile after I left school I was underemployed - and let me tell you that's a tough place to be.
I was living in Milwaukee when I left a job at a bank for another job that promised more money and better hours. That job fell through and I ended up working at a liquor store. Even though I was working full time I wasn't making nearly enough money to live. I'm not talking about having to switch to a generic brand of caviar - I mean not enough money to pay rent and eat.
I needed another job and I prayed hard to find one. I applyed for several and couldn't find employment that would work with the hours at my other job and was very much at a loss of what to do. Then on a whim I opened up a copy of the Riverfront times and saw an ad to work as a bouncer/doorman for a new nightclub.
I walked in and applyed for the job and got it. I found it pretty funny that God blessed my prayers by making me a bouncer. The Lord works in mysterious ways.
Now, I was working two jobs totaling around seventy hours a week and was still having trouble paying my meager bills. I was living in a bad neighborhood in Milwaukee. I could paint you a little picture of where I was living by telling you that once I was pulled over and cuffed by the police who thought I was in the neighborhood to buy drugs. It took a litte convincing to make them belive that I, in fact, lived there. Anyway, I really didn't have much going for me except my beautiful, smart, talented girlfriend who was dilligently working her way through school at Concordia. You would know her as your Aunt Crystal.
I needed to make money and I didn't have any more hours a week that I could give to earn it. So I turned to fighting. I fought toughman contests, Milwaukee Rumble and other smaller events in the area. I told your Aunt Crystal that I was boxing/kickboxing and God bless her, she thought I was taking an areobics class. I let her keep thinking that and did what I had to do.
You are now, I'm sure, old enough to notice ads with scanitly clad women plastered everywhere. The way women protitute themselves to make money, to me, is in the same vein as men beating each other to a pulp to satisfy a bloodthirsty audience.
I know one thing - God didn't make me a good fighter.
I lost more than I won and didn't make much money doing it, but the promise of a good payday kept me at it. The last time I fought was in 2006, which was my worst fight and the one seen by the most of my family and friends. I was sitting the back room with the rest of the fighters as we were lead out like cattle one bout after another. The kickboxing event was tournement style and I would fight once the first night and as many as many as four times the next, depending of if I kept winning or not. That night the luck of the draw was not with me as I fought a guy called 'the rock' (not the WWE wrestler) who knocked me unconscious in the first minute of the first round. I went home hurt and the next day painfully rolled out of bed, put a piece of tape over my cut eye and went to work.
It was a terrible feeling. I felt very worthless. When your time isn't worth much and you make your body worth even less - there isn't much left for you.
Now I have a family with secure employment and livable income. I have a home and a credit score in the mid 700's, something I never thought I would have. I work very hard, but feel like there is something more for me out there. I feel there is something bigger that I'm supposed to accomplish. What worries me is that on my deathbed I'll be surrounded by people who love me and have led as good a life as I could and still be thinking, "Is this it?"
This worries me becuase I have a feeling that I'll get into heaven and God will welcome me by calling me and 'ungrateful little sot' or something - and he will be right.
It's important, my delightful niece, that you work hard and do your very best to accomplish your goals and make your life worthwhile. You have to be careful, as I very much do, with how you define failure. You may not really be failing at all. The only one telling you that you are a failure is you. Nobody - not even the people that love you the most - can help you with that. You have to find your worth yourself. If not, then even a thousand sounding your praises with fall deaf in your ears.
I know that even if I never succeed at getting a book published that God will be happy with my hard work and efforts of creation. I'm pretty sure he likes people who create things. He can relate.
Just remember, Temple, that no matter what you do, I love you. You are an important and worthwhile person. You are surrounded by people who love you and would do anything to keep you safe. Everyone gets discouraged, especially when things don't happen in the timeframe that one sets for themselves. It's important to realize that all we have is time until we don't have it anymore. All we can do is try, Temple. I'm going to keep trying.
Maybe my work will be published post-humously and my grandchildren will reap the benefits. Won't that be nice - for those ungrateful little sots. :)
I love you much and miss you always,
Uncle Justin

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