Cornerstone Content,  Writing

It Came Without Warning

The wreckage of my past is the war that’s never won. Often times I think about all the things that were said to me so many years ago; I would always listen to the negativity, silently as if I were laying down in the wake of someone else’s incompetence or insecurities, my elders and a handful of those my parents entrusted with my care having labeled me as difficult simply because I was intelligent, and quiet.

When I was a child, I was always passive, reserved, and yet completely incapable of truly standing up for myself. Telling people how I really felt at the time, expressing my emotions, and finding an outlet for my anxiety became the culmination of my daily fears. Teachers hated me and taking their constant criticism instead of speaking up feels like a punch I never got to land.

I was always a loner. I had one best friend in my childhood, and I foolishly believed that we would be friends forever, and that things would never change. It wasn’t until several decades had passed that we eventually went our seporate ways.

Thomas Slatin, July 1981

I regret wasting my younger years like a kid out in the rain, being reckless and wild, and never staying in one place very long. Drifting from one place to another, never knowing where my home was, or how my life and love would be. Making my plans for things that I wanted to come true, then feeling dissatisfied and dismayed by the reality that although my parents would tell me that I could do anything I set my mind to, life had other plans. Starting at age 12, I was sent away to summer camp. Boarding school would follow, then a few years of college halfway across the country. Specific time periods in my life can be theoretically measured out with suitcases and memories, always being tossed around from one place to another, living a life of travel and temporary habitation.

I foolheartedly placed my trust in some people I thought were my friends, and never could have imagined that I would see my 40th birthday, after taking so many enormous risks and leading a path of near self-destruction.

My father died one Saturday morning, leaving me with an enormous and completely unexpected amount of responsibilities. It came without warning, suddenly as if one day he was here and the next he was gone. Then came the untimely passing of my father in law, then a few years later, the loss of two people I considered to be my surrogate grandparents. I regret not having the opportunity to tell those who pass away what they truly meant to me, how they helped raise me, and how much I truly admired and respected them, and how after many decades of them playing a major part in my life, became my flawless heroes. I sometimes feel selfish in my secret desire for these people whom I had admired almost all my life to be a part of my life for all of time.

What's It Like In New York City

Lately there has been a longing to go back to my nest; the one and only constant in my life that has always been there, and has never changed. I stop by every now and again and revel in the sights and smells once known only to touch the walls, look at my childhood doodles and drawings which still remain, which inexplicably survived through the decades I spent away. I have a seemingly insatiable desire is to visit the places I used to cling to, all alone, silently as if speaking is unnecessary, only to wander through places I used to call my home, lost in thought. I think about going back to where I attended summer camp, and what it would be like to stand in silence, all alone while a gentle breeze blows against my face while my thoughts float through the grass in the wind. These unhealthy attachments to specific places have somehow taken over and I spend at least five minutes out of every day thinking about them.

I am relentless, persistent, and determined. If there is something I truly want in my life, I will do whatever it takes to achieve my goal, yet my daily fears still remain and so often comes the bitter taste of losing hopes and dreams. I wear my own crown of sadness and sorrow in the realization that the vast majority of all of my successes and achievements came to be long after the passing of my father. In some ways I feel guilty for putting my father through a difficult time growing up, when I was always indecisive, hated school, and wanted nothing more than to pursue my own path in life. My father cried the day I left college and told me that I was making a mistake, yet what he strongly considered a mistake was what ultimately made me successful and happy. I cried a few years after my father’s passing when I heard a sad song on the radio; the lyrics explaining how life was easier when one was young. My father had many plans for me to grow up quickly, become famous and successful, and ultimately follow in his footsteps.

Plans are a curious thing; when we are young we make plans for how our life, love, and careers will be. Somewhere during the course of our lives, we are forced to reevaluate our plans and accept that in life, not all dreams come true. Then, as we approach the end of our lives and our health begins to fail, we make a series of plans, knowing our time is short.

Success is a strange thing in that it is the great equalizer. While a handful of my friends found success early on, I found it later in life, while others still haven’t found it. Despite my education, I cannot find the words to express how often I feel a need to have friends in my life; despite being an introvert who needs a lot of time on ones own, nobody wants to feel isolated or alone.

The photograph of me in this article came from my father’s childhood photo album, and was taken by my mother, Anne Slatin.

The photograph of Bank Street in New York City was taken in March 2019.

6th Grade And Other Mishaps | Growing Up Introvert | A Typical Friday’s Child | I Used To Be A Habitual Trespasser | Camp Chateaugay, In Pictures (1991-2000) | Generation Gap


  • esgyll

    I feel the same kind of sadness as well as anxiety that has always hovered in the background of my life, never truly leaving. I agree that life doesn’t really always work out as planned, and our ability to succeed at it lies in how we would be able to cope with it with new plans that are always lie in waiting.

  • Oyeyipo Oladele

    I agree with you that Success is a strange thing in that it is the great equalizer. That handful of our friends found success early on, and you found it later in life, while others still haven’t found it is how life goes. I love your courage Tom. Its like photographer work has come to stay as your family profession. Thanks for this post.

  • brainedet

    You are not alone Tom, we always have that childhood that we sometimes regret having. But I thank God for my present. It is well now.

  • Danielle M

    I’m glad that you didn’t let the insecurities from others to have effect in your choices and they way you decided to live your life.

  • miakayuuki2012

    A bit too wordy for my taste but that is okay. At least you are telling your story. I have followed your post for some time now and thank you for showing us a glimpse of yourself.

  • Maury Cheskes

    I feel the struggle you’ve gone through is very relatable. Everyone wants to find meaning and purpose in life and it often takes awhile to feel comfortable in our own skin. After years of instability, I think I’ve finally found serenity in the work I do and the endeavors I plan to pursue. To achieve happiness, I think your goals should include the culmination of all your strengths so you feel satisfied and fulfilled at the end of the day. Obviously, nothing’s perfect, but I find our weaknesses to be very motivating for self-improvement. Thanks for this meaningful piece.

  • jolly555

    Life throws so much at us and sometimes, it get us really confused. But the good thing is always the fact that with time we can wriggle ourselves out of it and become that person we have always wanted to be. God you became one.

  • Butch

    How each one of us define success is very subjective – other people find success in having a great marriage, others in good fortune, others simply with having peace of mind everyday. I do agree though that somehow it is a grand equalizer because one way or another we search for a certain version of success that we think will make us happier when we achieve them. Interesting how the human mind works, eh?

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