Happy Anniversary to…..well, me. It’s officially been two years since the launch of The Luke Norris Experience and I couldn’t be any more pleased with what it’s done for me. The year leading up to March of 2013 had been one of the worst I’d ever experienced. I addressed most of it in last year’s address, but a quick refresher for those new to the site.
I separated from my wife, reconciled with my wife, separated from her again after catching her in a lie, watched as my father withered away, watched him take his last breath, found out my wife was pregnant with someone else’s child four days after I buried him, which ultimately led to the divorce being finalized on January 17, 2013. And let’s not forget that this entire time, I’m still trying to be the best father I can to my 2-year-old twin little girls (I’ll get to them later). Now let’s not get this twisted and place all of the blame on my ex-wife. I have and still to this day take full responsibility for the things that assisted in my marriage falling apart. I’m not going to pretend that I was the best husband in the world because I wasn’t. I made my fair share of mistakes and I’ve got nobody to blame for those except myself. But it still felt like I had been hit with a ton of bricks after a ton of bricks had already fallen on me. I was hurting. The life that I knew was gone. My father was gone. My wife was gone. Most importantly, my kids were gone (half the time anyway). Yet, I knew that things could still be okay. I had a great support system. I had my family behind me every step of the way. I had a great new girlfriend that would listen if I wanted to talk and comfort me if I needed to cry. However, I still needed another outlet.
Writing had been that for me in the past, but I’d gotten away from it. A few years before, with full support from my now ex-wife, I’d started a novel. I wrote around fifty pages and then just stopped. She, along with the few others that I let read it, encouraged me to keep at it, but I did what I always did. I got lazy. I got complacent. I got distracted. Basically, I used any excuse that I could to just not put in the work. And I, and those around me, suffered for it. I worked at jobs that I didn’t love just to pay the bills. I hated getting up in the morning to go to work. I would still go in and do my job, and still do it very well, but I wasn’t happy. I knew it. She knew it. My family knew it. But I didn’t do anything about it. I knew I had a little talent, but what was I doing with it? Not a damn thing.
So I decided to change that. So on March 20, 2013, The Luke Norris Experience was born. I didn’t really expect much from it, as I was really just using it as a cheaper alternative to therapy. I’d just write a little bit here and there, post a few links on facebook, and let it bounce around my group of friends and family. But here’s what happened. I rediscovered my love and my passion for writing. And guess what? It actually became therapy. Exhibit A: The Angie Experience. This let me get out feelings that I’d kept inside for over a decade. Exhibit B: Dear Alex. Last May, a friend of mine that I’d known for almost thirty years (I’m 35, so put that into perspective) passed away, and writing this letter to his son helped me through it. Even more importantly, it seemed to help others through it. I was approached numerous times at the funeral by people telling me that they’d read it and couldn’t think of a better tribute. Hell, one of my best friends in the world told me that he’s only cried a handful of times as an adult, and reading my words about Mike was one of them. As much as I like to act like an egomaniac, I’m really not big on compliments, but to hear that something I’ve written was actually helping people through a very difficult time was truly special to me. It made me feel good, which can sometimes be a very difficult task.
I’d also write about the lighter side of life. I’d talk sports or movies, let my readers vote on things like their favorite Christmas special or their favorite baseball movie and fun stuff like that. I was enjoying writing again. Even better, I was simply writing again. And the world has taken notice. No, seriously. That’s not just a fun line that I wanted to throw in for effect. My initial thought that this would just bounce around my inner circle was completely wrong. In the two years since the initial launch, thousands and thousands of people all over the world have visited The Luke Norris Experience. To be exact, my words have been read in 57 countries on 6 continents. So while I have this opportunity, I want to take the time to say a big THANK YOU to my followers in (deep breath) the United States, South Korea, Germany, Australia, Moldova, Switzerland, Rwanda, the Cayman Islands, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Canada, China, Mexico, Honduras, Brazil, Italy, France, Spain, the Netherlands, India, Argentina, Portugal, Colombia, Uruguay, Venezuela, Russia, Chile, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, El Salvador, the Czech Republic, Ecuador, Peru, Malaysia, Morocco, Taiwan, Slovenia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Pakistan, Costa Rica, Libya, Albania, Kenya, Algeria, Belgium, Angola, Latvia, New Zealand, Turkey, the U.S. Virgin Islands, the United Arab Emirates, Thailand, Panama, Japan, and Greece. I’m waiting on you Antarctica. But seriously, thank you to each and every person that has ever been here. I know my posting lately has been a little down, but there’s been a reason for that. I haven’t slowed down. I’ve just had to shift focus a little.
One of the people that logged on to the site was the man known as Moreno, one of the co-founders of Binge Media. I won’t dive too deep into the story, as I wrote about it last year in The Binge Media Experience, but the point is that people were taking notice. I’d met him once or twice, so when he offered me the chance to become their sports writer, I jumped on it. From there, I’ve also now got my own weekly column called Working the Weekend with Luke, which I usually put out every Sunday. I once asked Moreno if there was a specific thing that I’d written on this site that led him to the decision of adding me to the staff. I figured the obvious answer would be one of the numerous sports stories I wrote, but he actually said that it was when he read Aloha Raul that he knew I’d be a perfect fit for Binge Media. Wait, what? That was another therapeutic piece I wrote about one of my best friends moving to Hawaii. And certainly one I needed, but I wouldn’t think of that to be something that would get me a writing job. But perhaps I’d underestimated the power of that kind of work. It showed emotion. It showed vulnerability. It showed elements of storytelling. It showed that maybe I still knew how to write. It got a reaction, and that’s what I aim to do in every single thing that I put out there. Whether it’s good or bad, if I can get you to respond, I’ve done my job. If I can get you to connect with what I’m talking about or what I’m feeling at that given moment, I’ve done what I set out to do. I like to think that’s why I’m writing for Binge Media. And I definitely know that’s what I set out to do with each and every column I write for them. They’re a great group of guys who are passionate about what they do, and they’re good enough to give me the freedom to write about what I want when I want. It’s that faith and that trust that I know I have to bring the best that I have each and every time. There’s a lot of talented people at Binge Media and I know that I have to bring my best just to keep up. Thanks for the confidence fellas. You gave me another outlet to work on my craft and I’ll always be grateful for the opportunity.
I’ll come back to writing in a little bit. If you’re my friend on facebook or follow me on Twitter, which you can do @THElukenorris by the way (cheap plug), then you know I promised a big announcement. But hey, I need to build the drama just a bit more, so stay with me.
If you read last year’s address, then you know that I’ve been looking for the right answer to one question for a long time. While I still will not divulge exactly what that question is, I can tell you that although I still can’t give the answer I’d like, I’m a hell of a lot closer than I was a year ago. Last February, I still wasn’t quite where I wanted to be. Believe me, I was better than I was the previous year, but I was still struggling.
Even a year and a half later, I don’t think I had fully gotten past the death of my father. I knew he was better off, as he was no longer in pain, but it was hard for me. For years, I held in a lot of anger that I had to let go of when he got really sick. I had to forgive him for the pain he had caused me over the years. I’d done that, so that wasn’t it anymore. I’d gotten even more off my chest when I delivered the eulogy. But what really got at me was the fact that I actually watched him die. I simply could not get that image out of my head. I’m so thankful that my sister, who was pregnant at the time, left about an hour or two before it happened so she could get some rest. We all knew that he would probably go at some point during that night, but it’s obviously impossible to know exactly when. When she left, I almost did the same soon after, but something told me to stay. The last thing I wanted was for him to be alone when he died. He had spent so much of his life alone (a lot of that was his choice), and I couldn’t let him go out like that. But I hoped that maybe I’d be asleep there in his room when it happened. Or maybe the trick I use when my food is taking too long at a restaurant (I just step out for a cigarette). And that’s almost what happened. They had moved him from the main building about an hour before into a much smaller building across the street. Not only did they need the room in the ICU, but they knew things were close and said they wanted him to be more comfortable. He’d basically been in a coma for the previous three weeks, but I tend to trust what the doctors tell me. So I went out to burn one and not more than two minutes after I came back in, he was gone. I was sitting there just watching him breathe in and out, in and out, in and out, in………and that was it. And I couldn’t get that image out of my head. I would dream about it. It would just pop in at the strangest times. And I couldn’t figure out why.
So what about now? I can tell you that things are better. As I think about the last year, I can honestly say that although I told myself that I had let everything go, I really hadn’t. Believe me, if you knew everything (and perhaps someday I’ll tell you the whole story), then you’d know why there was so much anger. There’s a part of me that feels that there may always be a little something inside of me that won’t let go, but these days I’m dealing with things in a much healthier way. Instead of constantly remembering all the negative things that happened, my brain is allowing me to remember even more of the good things that I’d forgotten about. In turn, that’s making the image of his last breath a little more blurry. I don’t see it as often anymore. I don’t think about it as much as I used to. I can actually talk about him with my daughters and not have the image pop in my head. And it’s so sweet when they ask about him. They’re four, so most things that they do are cute as can be, but their interest in him is so great for me to watch. I obviously keep pictures of him in my house, so when they happen to be looking at one, they’ll bring it to me and ask me “Is this your dad?” I tell them that it is, and they remember more and more of the previous conversations and they’ll ask me, “Did he die?” Again, I’ll tell them yes, but then they’ll respond with “but he loved us very, very much when we were little babies.” My response is usually the same. “He sure did sweetheart”. At some point in their later years, I know they’ll get to asking more questions and I know that I’ll have to tell them some of the hard truths that come when talking about my father, but if the question “And you still loved him?” ever comes, I know what I’ll say. “I sure did sweetheart”. Miss you Pop.
So how’s the love life these days, you ask? Alive and well. I’m not one to discuss my relationship on facebook or anything like that (sorry, we’re just not that couple), but she’s a very big part of my life. It gets tricky sometimes with her busy schedule, but that’s actually one of the things I love and admire about her. Her work ethic is incredible. I wish I had had that kind of tenacity at her age (she’s ten years younger than me). Her full-time gig is teaching music at an area K-8 school, which gives her about 450 students to see on a weekly basis. Throw in the fact that it’s a very low-income school with tons of behavioral issues, and you might be able to understand that keeps her pretty busy. But on top of that, she gives voice lessons (she’s an amazing singer) at a music shoppe two days a week, runs the drama department, gives more lessons here at the house, and sings at a local church. Even as I write this, I’m probably forgetting something. But that’s just who she is. She’s one of those people that can’t sit still. Yet she still finds the time and energy to go for a run, or hit the gym for yoga or spin class, and most importantly, be a part of my daughters’ lives. She’s got her own song that she sings to them at bedtime. She’s become the resident hair dryer after bath time. She makes us dinner when her schedule allows it. She’s just fantastic with them and they absolutely adore her, and I know she loves them like they were her own. She has a very strong relationship with her stepmother, so I think she knows how hard it can be to find acceptance from children that aren’t hers, but she’s trying so hard to be a positive force in their chaotic life, and I couldn’t be happier with her efforts.
Is every day perfect? Of course not. Show me a perfect relationship and I’ll show you a unicorn. The probability is just about the same. Sure, we’ve gone through some trying times, none more so than late last year. I will not get into the details of it, but it wasn’t fun. But we didn’t give up on each other. We fought through it, opened up to each other, and I can honestly say that we’re stronger now than we’ve ever been. If I get down, she’s there to pick me up. When she gets down, I’m there to pick her up. Relationships are hard, especially when there’s kids involved. But we do our best to talk things out, which hasn’t always been my strong suit. But these days, I’m quick to say I’m wrong when I was wrong. I’m quick to say I’m sorry if I truly am sorry. I’m trying to avoid making the same mistakes I made in the past. I’m a better partner now and I know she knows that.
Inevitably, I get asked from time to time if I plan on marrying her. I know it’s a valid question, but to be honest, that’s something that I don’t know if I ever want again. It’s not a knock on her by any means, but I’m just not eager to jump back into a situation that didn’t go so well last time. Of course, Ashlie and I have had this conversation so she won’t be shocked at any of this information I’m giving you. She knows that in many instances, marriage just changes people and at 25, she’s certainly in no rush to get to the altar. It’s 2015 everyone. We don’t have to get married to show each other how we feel. Maybe we’ll end up there. Maybe we won’t. That’s for us to decide. What I do know is that we love each other, and that’s really all I need to know.
And, of course, my reason for being.
As you can see, I just took my daughters to Portrait Innovations, so enjoy the free publicity. But as you can also see, they make any photographer’s job pretty easy. I know the initial reaction when anyone meets my daughters is to tell me how beautiful they are (and they obviously don’t make liars out of anybody that says that), but the first thing I always say to people when I brag about them is how smart they are. My favorite thing to do is to just listen to them when they don’t know I’m listening. They tell stories. I mean, there’s dialogue and everything. Do you know how happy that makes me? As someone who loves to tell stories, it warms my heart to know that they’ve got that in them. I will just sit on the couch and listen to them in their playroom while it’s going on. I swear I need to start recording them and put them on paper. I could be freaking rich. They’ll just sit there with their toys and build a story from scratch. They’ll have a setting. They’ll have the main characters. And then they’ll just go. They will come up with the most amazing storyline and just go. It goes back and forth from day to day on who takes the lead, but they’ll seem to have the entire thing mapped out before they even start. One will tell the other to say something because the response is already planned to move the story forward. It’s awesome.
But then Wednesdays happen. Wednesdays are the biggest reason keeping me from the answer I so desperately crave. You see, the way my divorce settlement works, I have my girls on Mondays and Tuesdays, the ex-wife has them on Wednesdays and Thursdays, and we alternate the Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to have a full 50% split, but I hate when my girls aren’t here. I’m just lost without them. It’s too quiet. I do my best to stay busy, but when the five-day stretch rolls around every other week, I’m just heartbroken. It’s a feeling that I don’t wish upon anybody. Even the weeks where it’s only Wednesday and Thursday before my weekends with them, I just lose it. I get them up and get them ready before my mother picks them up to take them to school, and it kills me to leave the house knowing I won’t see them later. I’ve got no problem admitting that I cry every single Wednesday morning. When I get home and they’re not there, it’s still really hard.
When they’re here, I have a bedtime routine. They go to the bathroom, they brush their teeth, we go up to their room and read a book or two, I sing “You Are My Sunshine” to them, it’s kisses and hugs (always more than one), and they go to sleep. I obviously don’t go to bed as early as they do, so when I go up to go to bed, I put their covers back on them, give them one more kiss on the cheek, turn their nightlight off, and head into my room. But on the nights they’re not here, I obviously don’t get to do any of that. And it’s still really hard.
This is the one thing I don’t have an answer for just yet. I’m beginning to think that I may never have one, and maybe that’s okay. All I can do is move forward each and every day they’re not here, make the most of each and every day I do have them, and trust that when they’re with their mother, they’re being loved as much as they are when they’re here. At least I know that’s not a problem. I will say that no matter what happened between my ex-wife and I, I will never and could never say that she’s not a great mother, because she is. And if I must say so myself, I think that for divorced parents, we do a great job of communicating with one another about our children. We’re adults and we’re acting like it. I know it has to be hard on our daughters jumping from house to house, but we try and make the transitions as easy as possible for them every time. We work with one another when the schedule needs to be changed. The girls are too young to fully understand everything, but they know that she’s Mommy and I’m Daddy and we both love them unconditionally. They didn’t ask for this, but the strength that they’ve shown during all of this is unbelievable. I know that things didn’t end well between Cara and I, but I’ll always be thankful that I met her. She gave me the two greatest gifts I could have ever asked for in Ashlyn and Brooklyn, and for that, I will always be grateful.
Well, I’ve covered just about everything except for one issue. How’s work? Well, about that.
There’s very few things in life that I dislike more than a hypocrite. With that being said, I’ve been a hypocrite for years. But that’s okay, because I hated myself for a long time. But I’ve always attempted to help others. For some reason, people would come to me for advice when they were feeling down, and I’d always try and tell them the truth. I’d tell them that they were smart, or they were beautiful, or they were just unlucky. I’d tell them to follow their heart or follow their dreams and things would turn out okay. Meanwhile, as I said earlier, I’d wake up in the morning and head off to a job that I knew I didn’t want to go to. But this wasn’t just the typical “oh, I hate my job” thing that everyone goes through. This was a serious “I wanna drive this truck into a wall” kind of thing. But it really wasn’t that bad. I did my job and I did it well, but I just wasn’t passionate about it. Then I got laid off. The timing wasn’t great, but after a while, it seemed that it was the best thing that could have happened. I took some time off, took a road trip to sort things out, and a few months later, I actually got excited about a job offer.
Last summer, I took a job at a local TV station selling advertising. And I’ll admit that for a while, it was great. I learned some of the ins and outs that go with production. I learned a lot about a business that I really enjoy. I was able to get involved in the community that I love so very much. I helped with a food drive. I got involved with a group whose sole purpose is to help people with developmental disabilities. I was helping businesses grow, and I was making decent money doing it. But then things changed. The guy that hired me got fired. The job stopped being fun. Micromanagement became commonplace. And if there’s anything I hate around an office, it’s being micromanaged. I can’t function properly with someone constantly looking over my shoulder. You can’t teach through fear and that’s exactly what was happening. We weren’t being helped. We were being threatened. Sales is a tough business. I knew that going in, but I know that I’m good at it. But not the way it was being done in that office. So it came to be that I would spend more and more days being miserable. I hated getting up for work in the morning. I hated getting in the car to make the ten minute drive to work. I hated walking in the front door. And I certainly hated sitting through yet another pointless meeting that accomplished nothing. I wasn’t passionate about it at all.
I’ll say it again. Today marks the 2 year anniversary of the launch of this site. So here’s the big news. Everything has been leading to this: I quit my job. Actually, I quit my job three weeks ago, but I did it the right way. I didn’t just walk out. I stayed on to help with the transition of my clients and what not, but my last day was a week ago today. That’s right. I left my job on Friday the 13th. Scary, right? Not even close.
The scary part of this whole thing was spending one more day unhappy. The scary part is waking up when I’m sixty and realizing that I’ve spent too many years of my life being unhappy. Being afraid that I’ve been nothing but a hypocrite. No more. I refuse to live like that. I refuse to look my daughters in the eye and tell them that they can be anything they want to be, that they should always follow their hearts, that they should always follow their dreams when I’ve never done it myself. I will not let my daughters look at me like that. I’ve been slinging the same bullshit for years that it’s time for a change, but then I don’t do one fucking thing about it. I let myself think that I’m doing something about it, but all I’ve been doing is holding myself down from who I’m supposed to be. So who am I?
I am a writer. Let me say that again for my own justification. I am a writer. For the longest time, I would tell people that “I write a little bit”, but I’ve never actually called myself a writer. Even the times I’ve been published, I would never call myself that. But this is who I am. This is what I’m supposed to do. I know I said I don’t really like compliments, but I’m going to give one to myself. I have talent. I’ve just never fully tapped into it. The last two years have opened my eyes and for the first time in forever (I’ve been watching too much Frozen with my kids), I can finally see where I want to go. And it’s not to a grocery store to sell coffee. And it’s not to a furniture store to convince the owner to run a commercial during CSI. So what’s the plan?
Freelance writing is bigger business than most people think. There are thousands upon thousands of websites out there that pay people just like me to write their content for them. I’ve already made a few inquiries and am currently in the process of putting together a new website to highlight my work and my strengths. While you’ve really only seen the work I do here and at Binge, I’m capable of so much more. While I choose not to discuss certain subjects publicly, I know more than you might think about politics and religion. We know I can write about sports and entertainment. There’s also parenting sites out there. Anybody think I might have a little insight into divorce or being a single father raising two daughters? The possibilities are endless. Believe me, I’ve done the research. I wouldn’t just do this on a whim. I’ve taken a lot of time and done a lot of work to make sure that this was the right call, and I know in my heart that it is. I have a lot to say, and it’s finally time that I said it.
I know there’s a lot of you reading this right now that are thinking that this is completely irresponsible. But Luke, you have two kids. But Luke, you have bills. Believe me when I tell you that nobody’s going to starve. My first priority in life is those two little girls and I would never do anything to jeopardize their well-being. Is it going to be a process to start? Absolutely. Is this going to be work? Absolutely. But I’m up for the challenge and things are already in motion. I’m in the process of putting a new website together. I’ve compiled a list of opportunities that best suit my style of work, and I’m getting more sent to me each and every day. This is happening folks. I fully understand that I’m probably going to take some heat for this decision, but let me take this opportunity to say something. If you’re looking to judge me, save it. I don’t want to hear it. I’ve got no problem with constructive criticism, but I would never blatantly try and talk you out of doing something you want to do, so extend me that same courtesy.
Is failure an option? Of course it is. Am I scared? Of course I am. It’s okay to be afraid. But I will not be afraid to fail. I’ve just always been too afraid to try. That ends now. I will not live a lifetime of regret. For once, I’m choosing to actually live.
My name is Luke Norris and I’m a writer. Damn that feels good.