Without out context STAR 35 is a peculiar thing to be tagging on just about every single post of mine for the last four years. But I guess it is time to explain what STAR 35 is and it is also time to retire it.
I am now 34 years old. Next year, all willing, I will reach 35 years old. Over the last four years, I have embarked on one of the most enriching journeys of my life. Right before turning 30, I flipped my whole life upside down to rebuild it again by removing basically everything I knew. I had to start all over again. You can read about it in my post, I Wanted Columbia So Bad, I Didn’t Have a Plan B.
Today, I can confidently say that after dropping the atom bomb on my life, the dust has settled and I am exactly where I saw myself to be.
Now let’s get to the reason why you are here. You want to know what STAR 35 or #star35 means. At the very basic, it was my mantra. For those of you who do not know what a mantra is, a mantra is a word or sound repeated to aid in meditation, mantras can also be used as ways to concentrate, program the mind and for slogans. I chose to use STAR 35 as one of my mantras because I associate a very heavy meaning of the word STAR and the number 35.
So let us get to the grizzy of STAR 35. This will be long, I told Y’all this has a deep meaning.
I was 29 and in Thailand with my ex-wife when we were still married. We were on a vacation from Bangladesh, where my ex-wife and I had been living and working. I was just learning about the beautiful world of journalism. We had enjoyed a beautiful night as tourists in the streets of Sukhumvit, Bangkok. If you have never been to Thailand, it is one of the most beautiful countries, in my opinion, please go.
After a fun night of libations and delicious food, we met a woman who sparked a conversation with us. My ex-wife and I were an eclectic young couple and always attracted the weirdos, we are weirdos too, so talking to people from different walks of life is nothing out of the ordinary for us.
Our conversation felt deep, we talked about things that had piqued our interest at the time. Topics like, our cultural backgrounds, relationships and most importantly religion and spirituality, which at the time I was fighting a huge battle with.
A side note, during these years, as a newlywed man, I was folding to a lot of unaddressed issues within myself. My stay in Bangladesh had open up wounds I had in relation to my personal identity as a mixed person of Bangladeshi and White American heritage. Then there was the battle with my own concept of a god and how I saw Islam in my life as not just an American Muslim, but as a human being that was losing his faith in a religion as a whole. Add this to the fact that I am a very sensitive being with unresolved childhood issues and it spelled disaster. If you look back at photos I was extremely depressed. I sometimes skim through them to remind myself that you may end up in a hole, but you can always crawl out of it.
Back to the conversation.
After this woman had gained the trust of my ex-wife and me, she offered to read our palms. I think she read both of ours, but either way, I only remember when she read mine.
I have always believed in psychics and palm readers. I think us as humans have great powers and potential to go beyond what most of us cannot fathom, that is if we are able to plug into it. But I do not think that to tell someone their future is in whole truly fair. I will not argue this point here, I believe this whole piece will end up as a discussion of predicting futures on its own.
So here I am on the streets of Sukhumvit, my right arm extended into this woman’s hands. She peered into the nooks and crannies of my palm, and looks up at me and said, “Do you pray or meditate?” I responded, “No I can’t right now, I have too many things blocking me from even trying.” She looks back down at my hand, her face looked of concern. She then said the first words that pierced me like a knife to my chest, “You should be dead, look at your lifeline, you should not be here.” I quickly replayed my young life and agreed, “Yes I have had a few instances where I should not be here.”
My First Brush of Death
My first brush with death was when I was only eight years old. I had moved to California from Massachusetts and one day I started to have excruciating pain in my lower abdomen and was throwing up profusely. My parents were not alarmed, they thought I either had food poisoning or the stomach flu. See when I was young, I was that kid, always getting sore throats and ear infections, constantly having nose bleeds, getting hurt or let’s just say something was always going wrong. So like any parent of a destructive and always sick child didn’t think it was anything serious.
After two days, I was not improving and during the night I had crawled to my parent’s bedroom which had a hardwood floor. I laid on the floor with my stomach exposed to the cold floor to try to comfort the pain. I remember crawling to a new spot when the floor would become warm, I spent the whole night doing this. The next morning my parents found me on their floor and took me to the hospital.
I spent the next three days in urgent care, the doctors constantly checking my white blood cell count. They could not pinpoint what was wrong with me because the pain in my lower abdomen was stretching from my left side to my right side. They came up with all these prognoses and would feed me medicine. By now I had not eaten anything in six days and I was hooked up to an IV to receive nutrients. The next day, I was totally lifeless and my white blood cells had dropped dramatically. I had given up my fight, I couldn’t move, the pain had passed hurting and I did not have any more energy.
Panicking, they brought in another doctor, my savior. I will never forget how the doctor B lined straight to me, touched my arm to check my pulse and said, “I think he is going septic, I think he has appendicitis and it has already burst, get him into the ultrasound room.” Next thing I know, I am having cold gel slathered on my tender stomach, and then they put the probe on my right thigh, the pain shot through to my spine. “His appendix is burst, how could no one catch this!?” he said, with haste, he yelled, “We need to get him into surgery now.”
I remember being thrown onto a gurney and they were prepping me for surgery. I remember my parents telling me they were sorry and they love me and I will be okay as I was rushed to the operating room. The anesthesiologist was so calm compared to the tornado of the chaos of nurses and surgeons around me. He told me, “Everything is going to be okay, look at that clock and count backward from 12 to 1,” as he placed the anesthesia mask on my face.
I woke up laying on my left side, feeling paralyzed and cold. In front of me through a glass, I watched surgeons operate on a man’s open chest. I wasn’t scared, I wasn’t even sure if I was alive, to be honest. I remember just looking at this lifeless body as the surgeons moved with precision and wondering if that is how they had operated on mine. Above him was the same clock that I had seen before I fell to the anesthesia. It would be 30 minutes before a nurse came to check on me. She said to me, “You’re awake, are you okay.” I nodded yes. She said, “Don’t move, we will move you to a room soon.” I felt relieved, I was alive.
I stayed in the hospital for the next three days and quickly started to feel my strength come back. I would lay looking out the window at the vast roof of a building next to the hospital that looked like a barren concrete desert with air condition units popping up like oases. Off to the distance, I could see palm trees being kissed by the beautiful California sun. I hadn’t had solid food for 6 days and still did not have an appetite, I would suck on toothbrush sponges that they use for babies to satisfy the discomfort in my stomach.
Eventually, they gave me hospital food, I could only eat the jello because the smell of food nauseated me. Twice a day a nurse would come in and make me walk. It was painful, but they explained to me that if I did not start to walk that my incision wouldn’t heal correctly. I hated it, walking ten steps from my bed to the door and then ten steps back to my bed, now I walk everywhere.
One of my fathers class friends from Bangladesh came to visit me, he gave me two gifts. One was the classic Disney animated movie “An American Tail: Fievel Goes West” and a book on Ancient Egypt with a hieroglyphics set. These two gifts meant a lot to me, I saw myself in Fievel, a tiny mouse that had come to the West and was antagonized by cats. This was my story, I was always this little mouse who had always been picked on by cats that wanted to kill me, but in the end, he triumphs. The book on Ancient Egypt changed the way I looked at my life and religion. I learned about the virtues of Ancient Egyptian culture and it taught me that there is a whole world outside of Islam, I started to question my mortality and what was the real truth on this earth from appreciating Ancient Egyptian philosophy.
A few days later I returned to my home in Sunnyvale, California and I healed quickly. Before I knew it I was running around and my appetite was back. The experience made me what we call today “woke.” I would never be the same naive boy, I now had a new lens to see the world through and I was going to let my curiosity lead the way. I would put myself in what many people would think were compromising situations, I would have brushes with different experiences that I times put my morals and life on the line, but for me, I understood these were experiences in my life I needed to have.
Back to my palm reading
So here I am in front of this woman, she reinforced, that I should be dead and not be sitting in front of her. She looked at my palm some more, tracing my simian crease (1)(2), she grabbed my left hand to see that it is present on both my palms. She said, “You are a treasure map to others, you show people how to get to their treasures.” I shrugged. I thought about how at 29 I was exhausted. In my short existence, I had always lived for someone else and done very little to better my life. It all started with my mother, a bipolar schizophrenic, who had been very dependent on me because of her illness. I grew up thinking that this is how my relationships were supposed to be. I dated women that needed to be “saved.” At the time I saw my marriage the same way. All I know how to do was sacrifice my life for her. In any of these relationships when I decided to break this mold their response was not supportive, I think it felt like I would pull the rug from under them, so I can’t blame them. But this pattern of behavior from myself would make me become resentful, I wasn’t fully conscious of what I was doing back then.
I think this palm reading woman could see in my eyes that I was replaying my life with every word she said because I could feel the love in her hands as she touched me. She then moved to my upper palm and with a pen, she drew a star. She asked, “Look, you see this faint star?” I replied yes. “You are capable of becoming a star, not like a celebrity, but you are capable of becoming whatever you dream to be.” I looked at the star she had drawn. She took the pen and drew a line over the faint break in my lifeline and said, “Look right now your lifeline shows that you should be dead, but this line right here, you can make it grow, you can live.” I looked at the line and the star and she continued, “You must change your life, you must start to pray or meditate, if you do this you will become something great, if you don’t you will be dead by 35.”
I looked over to my ex-wife for reassurance, she nodded in agreement. I always trusted my ex-wife and in regards to this palm reading even more. My ex-wife is a special soul, she can read palms, but she always declined to read mine when I asked her, this was enough for me to believe what had just taken place. The woman did not want money, instead, she gave us both hugs and sent us on our way. I was devastated. I had just been told that my life has a deadline, literally, I now believed I would be dead by 35.
I remember walking back upset and saying to my ex-wife, “I am going to die.” I couldn’t fathom changing at that point. I was already in a deep depression and had a constant feeling of failure. When you’re in a rut, nothing in the world ever seems possible.
When we returned to the hotel, I became badly sick to my stomach and ended up throwing up all night, as if I was purging everything. The amazing food and drinks, my emotions, the baggage, my anger, and fears, everything. All were being flushed down a toilet bowl in the midst of lights in one of Bangkok’s luxury hotels.
We returned to Dhaka, Bangladesh and I fell into a deeper depression.
Growing up biracial in a mixed household during the 80s was interesting, to say the least. There are many stories that can be told, but I will explain a few ways that my mother being a White American affected my life. My mother had to make a life pack with my father’s family when they married. She had to convert to Islam and agree to raise us as Bangladeshi Muslims. She basically gave up her identity and became the traditional submissive wife cooking Bengali food in the kitchen and raising us in the mosque. We were constantly reminded that we should be ashamed of our white side. In every mosque, I attended during my youth I was told I was hell bound because of my mother. So when our family went through my mother’s trials and tribulations with her illness, I processed it as God’s will. He was punishing us.
Some of the roots of my depression.
I was torn. In my life journey, starting from my experience at eight, I had read extensively about different religions and philosophies. I was always searching for proof that Islam was true, my instincts had grown to be skeptical about any religion actually. I never asked anything from God, but a sign that he truly existed. This is how my experimentation with drugs started as well, I was looking for a miracle moment. I was pulled towards ideologies rooted in animistic principals. There is something beautiful about the fluidness of looking at the world as being fully connected, inanimate objects, plants, animals and us humans, we all breath energy. I was slowly learning that everything I was raised on might not be true. I started to feel alone and became very destructive, I didn’t have anyone at the time to share these feelings and views with, this was before the internet. As I got older I turned to drugs and alcohol and had dysfunctional relationships with women and people who were influencing my life negatively. I became crazy, I would numb myself and find comfort in my rhetoric. Instead of finding the truth, I was going nowhere, well except down.
I was 23 and out of my mind, thought “The Man” was after me and that I knew everything. This all came crumbling down when a series of deaths occurred to people close to me. Two of these deaths which I will explain now changed everything for me.
For privacy reasons I will not elaborate too much, except where I felt our relationships were and how I responded.
The first was a woman I had known since we were in our early teens. We were each other’s first kiss. I remember playing an innocent game of spin the bottle if I recall, except it was a vase, it was all we could find, and trying to alter the game just so we could have that kiss. We would “date” for a bit, but the distance between our families homes made it impossible to have a relationship and we ended it, I would move on to have a high school sweetheart. The high school sweetheart was a relationship based on hormones and teenage angst, I would lose my virginity and stay with her for four years before finally ending it. I then had another relationship that threw me into a caustic two years and left me wounded and skeptical about love. Eventually, at 23, this woman and I reunited. But me being the coward I was, I danced around my feelings and never told her how I really felt. I was in love with her since the first kiss.
It was the morning of Pahela Baishakh, Bengali New Years, and I had crashed on my parent’s couch after a night of heavy drinking and partying. We were supposed to be heading to processions to celebrate the holiday, but instead of being woken up to do so, my father was waking me up to tell me that she had been shot while driving home to her parent’s. We rushed to the hospital, everyone in our community was there. As I entered the room she was being held in I went numb. There she was lying lifeless, her head was bandaged up to conceal the two bullet wounds. She was connected to a life machine to keep her alive. Inside I crumbled, I knew I would not ever be able to speak to her again. I went to a room adjacent to hers, there lied her mother in a bed, the shock of her daughter’s condition had jolted her system and she was having panic attacks. I went over and held her, all I could think was, this was suppose to be my mother-in-law someday. I felt as if both of our lives had been sucked from us as she held me and we both cried. Knowing there was nothing else anyone could do, we left the hospital. In front of my father’s car in the hospital parking lot my head started spinning, I started gagging and I threw up. I could not get myself to attend her janazah, the Islamic funeral. I did not want to say goodbye to her, I still regret not attending her burial to this day. I will always love this woman.
The second death involves my sister’s ex-fiance. I will not say much about this man except that we did not like each other. I was always skeptical of this man and what is motivation was to be with my sister. We clashed constantly. There were many incidences where we wanted to kill each other. During those times, I was so out of my mind that no one trusted me when I would tell them I didn’t think he was right for my sister. I do not blame them, I was an alcoholic drug abuser with no direction in my life. My sister and father had gone to Bangladesh where they were shopping for the upcoming wedding when I was in a car with one of my closes friends back in California. We were smoking a blunt while watching a Kat Williams stand up special on his portable DVD player when I received a call that this man had died. I went and grabbed my mother and brother and we rushed to the hospital where I saw him lifeless. The story of his death is, he had stood up to greet his nephew when he passed out and never woke up, he died of a brain aneurysm. That night I called to Bangladesh to notify my sister and father of his passing, they would be on the next returning flight to California.
I remember picking up my sister and father from LAX. She ran to my arms and I held her, she broke down and tears and nearly fell to the ground, I caught her and brought them to the car. I dropped my sister off with my mother and this man’s family, grabbed my brother and we took my father home to freshen up. During this drive, my father started telling me how much he loved me. He told me no matter whatever I have done in my life, he loves me and that he never wants to lose me. We returned back to the family’s home and took part in tarawih prayer, a traditional pray performed during Ramadan and it was more important than ever to pray. During the drive to get my sister and father I had been listening to Tupac, one of his songs had struck a chord with me, “When Thugs Cry.” The lyrics, “Let no wrongs cry out when thugs cry, dear God.” These lyrics were constantly running through my head. Now here I was on my knees reciting my prayer when I started to cry. All the years I had prayed to God to show me a sign and I believed here it was.
I cried out so much and the touch of my father on my shoulder sent me into further tears. It was as if God had touched me himself through my father’s hands. Thoughts of regret starting running through my head. I had almost lost my father to a major heart attack and quintuplet bypass during my senior of high school. Instead of realizing the gift of his presence, I had rebelled even more. Here I was on my knees and I felt the love of my father, the deepest I had ever felt up to that point. I realized the man that had just died, was only 28 years old and here I was 24 and had no accomplishments, I had tarnished my relationship with my family and was going nowhere. What had my life become and where was I going to go?
Another series of changes, a new chapter
The year that followed, I disappeared. I had to cut out a lot of people out of my life that I thought were my friends but were just straight up toxic. The destructive activities I had taken part in that I thought brought me machismo and respect, I realized were just hurting me. I cut it all out, many people around me starting to think I had gone religious and found God, I didn’t I just woke up again. I started to heal my relationship with my family and I got a steady job and started to make a life for myself.
During this transformation, my ex-wife entered my life. I have to say, this woman is a gift. I will always honor her for the way she changed my life. She is what set me on my spiritual path. For God knows what reason she saw a lot in me. She told me very early on, “Adnan you are powerful.” She could see my frustrations with the energy I possessed, I was all over the place and she knew how to guide me. She introduced me to literature and philosophies that helped me articulate the feelings and thoughts I had.
Through her, I embarked on the journey to becoming a man. We would soon get married and I started to slowly recognize my potential. I left a high paying position with a company and went back to school, where I was able to earn my bachelors degree. This is where I also started to get the taste for journalism. I felt cured of all my pain during this time, accomplishments have a way of hiding pain though. I consumed knowledge about my major, political science and dived into new age literature. I came to Bangladesh to do my thesis and returned to California to defend it, and then jumped back on a plane and that is where my Bangladesh story starts.
When I arrived in Bangladesh, I was optimistic. My ex-wife and I were finally reunited together. We both had been finishing up school on two separate coasts in the US. I felt as if I had become spiritually strong and could face anything, what a facade that was. I quickly found myself frustrated trying to find a job and start a career and my ex-wife was also fighting her own personal demons. We had grown apart because of the distance and the life experiences that we had gone through separately over the last two years. Eventually, we started working together, which should seem as the perfect situation was affected by our perceptions. Though I can only speak for myself.
At the beginning of this piece, I said, “My stay in Bangladesh had opened up wounds.” Holy fucking shit did my wounds opened up, they were now gaping wounds. The issues with personal identity, my religion, my relationship with my parents and my ex-wife, and my professional direction sent me into a downward spiral. I was so blinded by my pain that I could not see the blessings in front of me at the time. Here I was in my fatherland, my second home, getting the experiences of a lifetime and being given the opportunity to see my work being thrown on publications like CNN and Vice, a journalist dream. I could not see the blessings in it. All I could do was say how I much I hated Bangladesh, how disgusted I was with the country. I was confrontational with everyone and in hindsight, I knew I was not grateful for having anyone in my life, I hated myself but could not admit it. I had regressed back to the little boy again, thinking it was me against the world.
I was exposed to different parts of Bangladesh for different stories that we did together. I saw how poverty, abuse, negligence, and power is destructive. Instead of recognizing the power in me to be a voice for these people, I just wanted to run back to California and get back to the same habits of numbing myself and being angry.
Instead, I had to go to Thailand and have my palm read. What a way to complicate life even more. If I haven’t lost you, thank you for sticking with me.
So I am back in Dhaka, depressed and thinking that I am going to die, at the time it was more like “fuck I know I am going to die.” My marriage was failing and I was falling deeper and deeper into depression. We had an amazing opportunity where we did a small documentary for Vice on the violent elections in Bangladesh that year and that was my breaking point.
While working on postproduction on the documentary my ex-wife and I had to go to London to help with editing. I could tell while we were there that our marriage had changed a lot, we both were preoccupied with the project. I use to look for moments when we left Dhaka to “fix” our relationship because I thought Dhaka was toxic and was one of the contributors as to why our relationship wasn’t working. But things were different, I could tell we had drifted apart.
When we returned to Dhaka, I was involved in an incident where I and two other individuals got caught up in a physical altercation that almost led to us being expedited back to the U.S. to face federal charges because it had occurred on another nations embassy property. That is when I knew I had hit a low. Once everything was resolved, I plead with my ex-wife to return to California with me, that we should enter into couples therapy, but she declined to go back. I do not blame her, her career trajectory was taking off. I just knew things were not working, instead of blaming her, I decided to leave Bangladesh. I was heartbroken, but I knew this was the best decision.
I arrived in California and started attending therapy. Hands down the best decision I have ever made in my life. I was blessed by the universe to have a therapist that totally got me. He taught me how to process my childhood and my adolescence and how to look at my marriage. When my ex-wife returned to the U.S. months later, I was on the path to healing. But she returned with her own storm and we had grown apart more. Our short documentary with Vice had done pretty well and she started to get a lot of attention. The pressure of this new found success triggered a fight between us.
From my perspective at the time, I had always forfeited my feelings for hers. I say this a lot, “I always hold the umbrellas for people when it rains, but no one ever holds an umbrella for me.” I can now look back and realize that this line is the ego speaking. But at the time, I could not do it anymore. We had a small disagreement with contract negotiations and future plans and I went silent for two days. She grew upset with me and when I was ready to come around and make peace, she wasn’t. We ended up having a big fight and that was the day we separated.
Every three days I would call her and ask how she was and if she wanted to reconcile, I would ask if she wanted to start couples therapy. We both had our own therapist, but this is problematic because it is literally like having two coaches for two opposing teams, both are rooting for their own player and giving two different game plans. I knew this and I thought we needed to come together. She would respond every time I asked with a solid no and tell me to go and find myself. This went on for two months.
During this time I was seeing my therapist twice a week. I felt like I was defeated and didn’t know what to do, my friends lent me there support and my family started to move in and help me too. One weekend my parents and I took a trip to San Francisco to visit my sister and brother-in-law, we talked about different aspects of the relationships, but I didn’t think about divorce until one pivotal moment. We were at a Malaysian restaurant and I was 5th wheeling it. My mom and Dad, my sister and brother-in-law, and then it was just me. They all were interacting with each other and I just sat and watched them laughing and enjoying each other. “So much love I thought,” it was at that moment I realized that I am not connected to her anymore.
Upon my return to Southern California, I went to my therapist and told him, I think I want a divorce. For our next two sessions we talked out every aspect of my decision and in the end, we both agreed I was in the right state of mind to make the decision. I consoled my family and friends, everyone gave me their support. I knew what I had to do.
I remember the phone call, I called from my closet at my parent’s house. I called my ex-wife and I said I wanted to talk. She said she didn’t want to talk. I immediately responded, well this time I wanted to discuss divorce. I remember quickly went into logistics mode and told her she can refer to a website and we can have it done within six months because we’d only been married for four years and because we have a mutual lawyer friend that can help us orchestrate it, this can be smooth. Maybe, because of the shock or I do not know what, she agreed. I hung up and dropped to the ground crying, I balled my eyes out. My brother and his girlfriend came and consoled me. This is the first time I have had my heart broke. I packed up everything of hers threw into a bag and it was time to move forward.
We scheduled a meeting a week later and agreed to have the paperwork already done. I brought my good friend for support. I remember telling him, “No matter what, even if I lose everything to make sure that I sign the papers.” We sat at a restaurant in Santa Monica, where we had our first date, where I had fallen in love with her, where I had thrown one of her birthdays. I sat across from her as the conditions of the divorce were negotiated. I remember thinking, “How is this the person I had fallen in love with, I am now sitting across from her and ending this chapter in our life.” We signed our papers and told each other we loved each other and then I headed out. I remember running back into the restaurant just to make it clear that I wanted to keep my cats, they agreed. My friend took me to dinner and drinks and then I went home.
The birth of STAR 35
During a conversation with my friend I told him, “I want to leave this relationship better than I had entered it.” A couple of days later, I turned to a hobby of mine that I always love to do, but my ex-wife hated and that was rapping. There was a beat that I really loved to spit on. It had come on in my music rotation, the song was by Joey Bada$$ called “Hardknock” produced by Lewis Parker. I poured out my frustrations with the world, my relationships and how I visioned myself. The track can be found here, Prolix – A Hard Knock. I recorded this track in one night and it is not flawless, you can hear me running out of energy by the end of it, but I never re-recorded it, because the emotion of the track speaks of the place I was in at the time. The chorus is, “A hard knock makes you have to hit restart, puts your life on pause, all things fall apart, but I know I’m a star.” In the song I also have a line that says, “I sound off to those who don’t get me, can’t waste life with anyone who ain’t looking out for me, relationships always end with an epiphany.” Upon listening to my new anthem, the birth of STAR 35 started. I still listen to this track when I am down.
In creating this song, I had gone back to that night in Bangkok when my palm was read. When that woman had told me I would be dead at 35. I decided okay, if I am going to die, then I am going to do everything in my power to rise from this pain. I declared that I will be a star by 35. I will self-actualize by the time I am 35 or I will die. I decided like anything you manifest, you need a mantra. There Y’all go STAR 35, #star35.
Something crazy happened when I submitted my divorce papers. Another one of my good friends had told me, “We are all here for brother, let yourself feel the pain, don’t force yourself to do anything, don’t shower, don’t care, just heal and after one year we will come to pick you up.” In my head I was like naw, that isn’t going to be me. I didn’t want to be a casualty of my situation.
The first thing I knew I could do was to take ownership of my own physical being. While I had lived in Bangladesh, I reached 196 lbs, I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol and a fatty liver. I had a horrible tolerance for alcohol and I relished in self-loathing. That was now going to stop.
I started waking up early in the morning, naturally, I was waking up at 5 am. I would start my day with a 3 to 5-mile run, depending on how hard on myself I had been the day before. I would run until I threw up. I would then meditate after. Bringing your body to total awareness at the moment helps to focus on your meditation, I did this through physical torture. I then would enjoy a green elixir, a cup of coffee and a blunt. Eventually, by afternoon I would have the first meal of the day and the rest of my day was focused on reading and planning my future.
Within 2 months I had dropped 30 pounds.
I visited my therapist regularly and started to manifest my future. But this journey was not smooth in any way. Most days I was stuck in heavy depression.
Like I explained in my prior post, I had nothing, I was back in my parents home, divorced and unemployed. I could barely pay my bills and could not even look at a woman, yes my libido was gone. I was wounded by life.
Therapy is interesting to me. When I am in the chair, I can intellectually understand my life and know what to do. I know how to reach into my esoteric understandings and explain what has happened to me and how the universe works. We all know my philosophy. Life is based on LOVE and FEAR, for fear comes to pain and anger and from LOVE comes compassion and reverence.
The problem is, I did not know how to express anger anymore, I had totally forfeited the emotion of anger thinking that if I want to become spiritually whole, I would need to rid myself of this emotion.
Three months into my divorce, I was killing my body and not looking my anger in the eyes. Two experiences really stick out to me during this.
The first is a song that had come out during this time. The song was Big Sean – I Don’t Fuck With You (Explicit) ft. E-40. In the song, he says, “Bitch, I got no feelings to go I swear I had it up to here, I got no ceilings to go.” Now, first of all, I do not like referring to any women as a bitch. The lyrics also told a story about me, that I had met my limit. I would listen to this song in my car, a convertible Mazda Miata, that I would roll in bumping this obnoxiously loud with the top down in the early mornings on my way to Runyon Canyon in L.A. to run my ass off and then go meditate, quite a contradiction in my eyes at the time. I felt guilty for relishing in the song because as much as I would get to express my anger, I found the song to be derogatory and hateful and that I couldn’t believe I was thinking about this woman in this manner.
The second is an injury I suffered one night after a massive amount of training. I always took the opportunity to exercise with any friend I could find. One of my friends is always trying out new workouts and he asked me to come out to the football field this one evening to do a HITT workout that involved running ladders, pushups, squats and sit-ups. I am highly competitive and do not like to lose to anyone. So I went full out and we completed the workout. Next to the field was a basketball court. I decided to lace up my basketball shoes and played four games. Once again my competitive blood kicked in. I was already exhausted and my coordination was going. It was the last game and I came down the court with the ball in my hand, did a move I normally do, it is a finesse move with a dribble skip turn and fade away jumper that I have perfected over the years, except this time when I came down, I landed awkwardly on to my ankle and badly sprained it.
Two days later, I found myself at my therapist panicking. I remember saying, “How am I suppose to heal now, I cannot work out!” I explained to him how I was ashamed that I would listen to anger filled songs and going balls out on my body to get over my divorce and for the next month I was going to have to let things just happen. During this session, I also discussed that I wanted to apply for graduate school, but I was scared because first of all, I didn’t think I was good enough and second I was suffering from writers’ block.
See even when you set a goal, for me, it was by 35 I had to be great. You cannot connect the dots ahead of time, only after you have gone through your trials and tribulations can you look back and then connect the dots. This is where that saying, “hindsight is 20/20” comes from.
So I didn’t get angry, I tried a different tactic. I did do one thing that really opened my eyes. I started to forgive. First thing I did was forgive myself, obviously not in one day, but every day during my meditations, I would tell myself, “Be compassionate to yourself, love yourself and forgive.” It helped me recognize that everything is all because of me. Anything that happened to me is because I attracted it, philosophies I have adopted from Eckhart Tolle and Gary Zukav. Through this thinking, I was able to then start forgiving others.
With my applications deadlines coming up, I started to reach out to people for letters of recommendations and put together my dismal portfolio for journalism school. The process of writing my essays still intimidated me. One day after a murderous run and meditation, something kept coming to my mind. I needed to forgive my ex-in-laws. I won’t go into the tumultuous relationship with them, but let’s just say I needed closure.
I penned a letter, signed and sealed it, and sent it with no expectations. The feeling for me though was somewhat liberating. The night my Columbia Journalism School applications were due, I just lit up some blunts and went to work, the rest is history with that, I have my masters, you know how I do.
When I did receive my admission letter to journalism school, I road cloud 9 for a hot minute. I remember entering Pulitzer Hall, coming to tears throughout the first week of classes, being so grateful to be there and knowing my life was going to change. To write about my experiences during the program has to be another post, trust when the time is right I will write on it. Let’s just say nothing is what it seems, it was hard work and I feel privileged to have gone and studied under some of the best journalists in the game, but there was shit there that I could have done without too.
So let us get to the death of STAR 35
As I said, journalism school wasn’t all that great, especially towards the end. I finished, took my diploma and went back out into the real world. I was constantly applying for jobs and not catching my big break that we all think we deserve when you first graduate from the number one journalism school in the world. I took a job at a local restaurant as a host and would pass my time having White people come and be disrespectful to me. Nights I would question, “Why did I do this to myself, here I am now highly educated and I am back doing a job that I had to do since I was a teenager.” My ego was kicking in and I was not going to get better anytime soon.
Playing the victim is one of the most dangerous things a person can do to oneself. You forget the blessings in this beautiful universe, I had regressed back to the same depression I was experiencing years ago. This time it was going to kill me. I could spew shit about the universe being compassionate and that all you need to do is believe and meditate. I would tell this to everyone else that needed my help, but I was dying inside, I wanted to die. Oh, hypocrisy. See I was 33 about to go on 34, and that was to me my “dead man walking” year.
In June, I booked a ticket to California to attend my brother’s graduation. I thought this will be a great time to reset my gears and then return to NYC ready to take over the world. Yet, I could not shake off the depression and self-doubt that accompanies it.
Instead of seeking the proper help I needed I decided to turn to drugs. One night I decided to take a drug trip that I do not recommend anyone should ever embark on without proper supervision. I do not condone the use of drugs to anyone, it takes a certain mindset and caution when doing illicit drugs. I will definitely write a post on the various trips I have taken throughout the years. But for now, I will briefly summarize this trip and what occurred.
I acquired a collection of mushrooms, acid tabs, and DMT, like always I had weed on hand and embarked on a journey. I started off taking shrooms, which sent me into intense hallucinations for the first couple of hours, I then took some of the acid tabs which shot me into more hallucinations after couple more hours I took my first hit of DMT. If any of you have ever experimented with DMT, the trip is a quick 15 minutes of the only way I can explain as a rocket trip out of this world. I panicked during this first trip, I remember thinking as it climaxed, I have to die, it was the only way I could fulfill the trip. Upset that I thought I had failed, I finished the remaining mushrooms and after an hour I took my second hit of DMT, this time I let go, I died (inside my trip). Still disappointed, I took the last remaining acid tabs and rode the trip for a while. I was still extremely lucid during the trip and conscious of everything I was doing, yet I was hallucinating and my world looked the best I can describe it, like the movie the Matrix. Determined to make something of my trip, I took my final hit of DMT.
What happened next blew my mind and has changed my life. I took my hit of DMT. I will not explain how to administer this drug in this post because I feel this needs lots of warning and explanations. I shot up like a rocket, died and then my vision started. I am going to articulate this the best I can.
I remember coming around the corner of a wall, in an area of white space I first identified a shoulder of someone. In my head I was attracted to this body, I wasn’t sure who it was at first. The attraction was everything, sexual, curiosity, inspirational as it was a mix of emotions. As I moved closer I saw the body in its entirety, it was me. Laying there lifeless. All I could think was, “Oh my God, he is beautiful, he is vulnerable, he is delicate, he is light.” I quickly came back to consciousness. Still tripping off of the cocktail of drugs, I would trip for the next six hours, not sure what to make of my out-of-body experience.
For the next week, I was lucid in my head, but everyone around me could tell something was off. After using substances like this, your serotonin levels are all over the place. You feel liberated and for some, like me, you talk a lot. From what I have been told, I was saying a lot of things that seemed crazy and I now more than ever believed, “none of this matters.” What everyone was hearing was, none of this matters, means this life doesn’t matter and at any moment that I was ready to take my life, quite the contrary to what I actually believed. What I realized, and have realized in the past, was that our existence in this world doesn’t matter. It is more of a blip, a moment of consciousness in this world. Our thinking is derived from a need for survival on a planet that has principals that we must follow to promote our physical existence. When you do substances like these, you learn we are part of a greater force, that we cannot be pigeonholed to our physical life just on earth.
My ex-wife happened to be one of the people I had spoken to after this drug trip and based on her own fears, she contacted my parents, who with the help of my brother and sister initiated an intervention. They wanted me admitted to rehab. I was very calculative, I knew that they all thought I was crazy, again, yes I say again, because at every turn I have been deemed crazy, and yes I am, but in a good way, but this time I was able to speak to my sister. We took a day together where we both expressed our feelings about our lives and where we were and I reassured her that I was not suicidal, just frustrated with my current career situations and my life, but I knew I was on the brink of something.
I returned to NYC and the opportunities came flooding in. I was now editing a feature documentary for Reuters and time to time going into NowThis, making video packages. I also was offered an opportunity I had been manifesting from the beginning of my career to work with a man I have looked up to in the journalism/filmmaking world. But I was not satisfied with any of this. I tried to go through the motions and let my life follow these great blessings, but inside I knew this is not what I wanted to do anymore. I knew that I had not healed and I knew that in my subconscious I was still manifesting my death.
In September I was coming to the end of my contract with Reuters, an experience I enjoyed for the fact that I had always dreamed to work with publication and specifically under a journalist that words cannot start to explain this dopeness, he is a genius. I was ready to join my next gig, my dream job, but I was just not feeling it.
The Rohingya crisis had hit its magnitude at this time. I was already flirting with the idea of going back to Bangladesh for reporting. While in journalism school I would always say that maybe I would just go back to my fatherland and float around and reignite my passion for journalism. After a conversation with my ex-wife and a few colleagues and friends, I spontaneously bought a one-way ticket to Dhaka, Bangladesh. I came back to California for a week, already feeling relieved but also scared, I did not know what the fuck I was going to do. I had no plan. I hung out with family and my close friends and embarked on my journey.
I originally arrived in Dhaka and stayed with my aunt and uncle. I instantly bumped heads with my uncle, we are two different types of men, and out of respect, I decided to bounce. I booked a one-way ticket to Cox’s Bazar. At the time I had no intention to work, I just needed to get away.
I was linked up with the Bangladesh Girls and Boys Surf Club. The perfect place for me to figure myself out. I started surfing and working out. Most importantly though, I had solitude. I might have Bangladeshi blood in me, but I am a foreigner here. This time, however, I didn’t feel that way. Every morning I would go out with the boys and catch morning waves, then I would work out and eat. I then roamed around Cox’s Bazar trying to speak in my broken Bangla with people. It was a challenge, not just because of my limited communication, but also because of who I am and how I look challenges many people in this Islamic conservative country, especially this region of Bangladesh. This time though, it did not bother me. I knew who I was this time, I knew that in time of disagreement there is an opportunity to reach across with compassion and understanding. That I can be me and they can be them, we do not have to agree, but appreciate. I can’t tell you everyone appreciates me, but that is their journey and I have mine.
One of the days of surfing, one of the boys was shooting photos of me and another local surfer. I have gotten a lot of attention for these photos when I posted them on my Instagram account. Those photos triggered my most recent epiphany.
I saw these photos and at first was like, “Holy shit I look old.” But after sitting on them for a bit I realized. This is the man I love, I love myself so much. Yes, I am 34 years old, and I now look like a man who is in his thirties. I have grown up. I never imagined to see myself happy and enjoying myself. This is where I am supposed to be in my life right now. I started to think about how selfish I had been to myself, that I wasn’t looking past 35 years old. I was fearful of losing my youth because I thought I could on actualize at my young age.
It was at that moment I realized how damaging STAR 35 had become. What was first a mantra that was pushing me to greatness had become my death wish. The pressure of having to obtain things by a certain age had eaten me up and I could not see the blessings that I was being given by this beautiful universe every day.
I realized I had to truly let go of anything and anyone that was not helping me. That meant holding on to my past, I decided once and for all the find resolve with my issues and it also meant closing the door on another chapter. It meant closing contact with ex-girlfriends and yes, even the ex-wife. It was beneficial to me and maybe it seems dickish, but it is beneficial to them too. People we need to move forward, we all need to move forward, I realize hanging on to things is the ego push against change.
Look, most of my life I have felt deeply misunderstood. I could not rationalize the torment my mother and so many people go throughout their lives. As an outlier, I felt at least some comfort in helping others, but I did not love myself, and in that sense that was selfish.
I have learned the most important thing is to take ownership of your life. That we all need to learn our triggers and remove them from our lives. I have learned the opposite action, whatever negativity is in you, do the opposite, do something positive. Do not look for tomorrow, because it is not promised, your blessings are in front of you today, so do today as if it is your last day on earth. I know that no one is better than anyone else, we are all conscious, whether we know it or not. Be alive, be true to your feelings, those are your true thoughts. Find the light and love inside you and emit it at every given opportunity.
I am not perfect. Anyone who is around you will tell you that. I might look like a guru, but I am not. I might meditate, practice yoga and try to be mindful, but I am not always on point. I smoke cigarettes, love weed, and my drugs from time to time and yes I might also drink. My diet is not always on point, and sometimes I might not work out. But the days where I do not have the motivation, I push hard, I push hard because even though none of this matters, on this planet you make it matter for yourself and those that love you. And I love all of you.
Goodbye STAR 35, Hello Eternity!