I was recently asked if I felt that life was a a whole bunch of random events that you help create and push forward, or was it carved in stone to be lived out like chapters in a book. My first reaction was simple and to the point "I make my own life, and I decide where it goes" I said, though in the back of my head a little voice said "really?" Though the conversation was a pleasant one, that went in many directions, it left me thinking about my life in its entirety from my earliest childhood memory to this very moment as I write and share my ideas with all of you. So it got me thinking..what if it's both? Random and scripted all at once...
All I have is my life to really dissect and to look back on, so I'll tell you a few things about me. See, if you would have told me that I would be a professional musician, traveling and living this kind of life when I was a child I would have laughed, and then probably got mad at you. Growing up wasn't the easiest thing to do, there were always issues with my family, whether it was close relatives or long distance ones. But being the youngest of 8, I just assumed that's how it would always be. But as Kanye West once said in a song of his "That's Family Business" So I just learned how to accept and adapt.
My mother raised me on her own, and though it was strict as a typical Puerto Rican household would normally be, she always made me take my studies seriously. I was never able to "hang out" in the neighborhood, but instead I was home from school early, doing my homework with little playtime. Funny thing is now, when I look back, that was such an amazing thing she did for me and I'm so thankful.
I'm not sure why my mother raised me the way she did, maybe she just wanted things to be better for me when I grew up, or maybe it was just random and it was just her idea of what being a mother is. You see, I attended a public school in the Bronx, and after finishing the 3rd grade new zoning rules went into affect and they forced me to transfer. I found myself to be kinda quiet at the time, so changing didn't really make a difference to me. In fact, it was just another thing to deal with. But what I didn't know was that it probably changed my life. Before I left the first school I took a few citywide exams, and the interesting thing was I did pretty good. Actually, it was a perfect score.
When I went to the new school and they look at those scores, they decided to put me into a program for what they called "gifted" children. Kids that excelled in all aspects. Through what ever randomness this world had put in motion for me, it allowed me to get accepted a special program for Junior High School. That's where music came in, it was meant to open my mind to expand my knowledge in my studies, but to me...I fell in love.
Because I went to that school, It paved the way for me to attend LaGuardia H.S for performing arts, which opened my ears to jazz music, which allowed me to attend the Litchfield Jazz Camp and meet some of my closest friends, which helped me get into a music conservatory, which allowed me to continually perfect my craft, which forced me to grow up and look at life different.
My outlook in life was so different 10+ years ago, I only saw the goodness and happiness every so often, but music and the last 10 years made my eyes and mind open. I learned to stop and look around and see the beauty of it all. To listen and respond, to help and to care for those I barely know. It was my mother who started the seed for all this, but it was the years of living, the individuals I met along the way that helped shape me. It was those people that made me realize success is all about a mindset, not a specific act. Every second of every minute of every hour of every day of every year made me who I am this very moment.
I can look back in life thus far and know that I'm happy. And there is nothing random about that. I made the decision to be happy, to live every day as it is meant to be lived, to pick up my horn and create music, to affect my fellow human beings in any positive way I can. The sadness from my past, the confusion of childhood, the search for a deeper meaning, only makes my success in the present feel even more amazing.
It took me 27 years of trial and error to come to this point. So was it random, or was it scripted like a well written play? I say it again, it's a little bit of both. But unlike a play or a movie, I can't start from the beginning all over again whenever I deicide. But, what I can do is sketch out my next few chapters and see where it goes. I can see how clever "randomness" can be. Because it can always come to this.. "If life's randomness was so random, would I have still ended up here?"
"Creativity is the ability to introduce order into the randomness of nature." Eric Hoffer