The Missing Piece
INTRODUCTION Walk with Me
This is no fairy tale. Within the pages of this book you will find no mention of glass slippers, princes, fairy godmothers, sleeping beauties, or evil witches. A whale swallows no one, and a woodcarver’s puppet, magically sprung to life, won’t cry as his nose grows with each lie. You won’t find any of that here.
There is only me.
I’ll start by saying I’m no expert at life. My story is about a misguided young man dancing in the gray and choosing to live dangerously in the middle. I am a student of love. This book is about the period in my life when I was most broken, unable to gather all the pieces, much less put them back together. I’ve heard that “not all those who wander are lost,” but not all who
are lost even know they’re wandering. I ran, mostly from the truth, but occasionally from myself. I was a runner by nature, and usually without a destination in mind.
Before getting too deep into my story, I want you to know five specific things about me:
1. I grew up as a military dependent, and our family traveled often.
When I turned seven, the world as I knew it changed. My mother met Frank Anderson III on a blind date at a Ruby Tuesday in Raleigh, North Carolina. They were friends at first. Both were young divorced parents; Frank a father of one, Frank IV, and my mother, Monique, had two: my older sister, Elise, and me. They were careful about how their relationship progressed. Frank was a military man and he had a very dependable and trusting way about him. Nine months after their blind date, they married July 1, 1995, in Chesapeake, Virginia. They had my younger sisters Brianna and Ahmore a few years later, in 1998 and 1999. Up until this point, Chesapeake in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia was my home, but after that day my definition of home was never the same.
Starting a new school happens to most children three to four times throughout their lives. Preschool, elementary, middle, then high school are the usual transitions. But when you’re a military family like we were, you have to get used to relocating
regularly. And with that comes new environments, schedules, social circles, and new schools. I was uncomfortable each time I had to start a new school, and the worst transitions often came in the middle of the school year. The best way to describe it is that it’s like walking into a room full of people who have known one another for years and everyone quiets to a hush as you take your seat. Nobody knows what to say, so they just watch and observe you. Now imagine having to do that as a child; then imagine that child having to do that eleven times.
There’s a certain rapport children build with one another that allows them to become comfortable. Over time you learn which friend is great for playing basketball, which friend’s mom buys all the good snacks, which always has the latest video games, who has the best manners so my mom doesn’t mind if he sleeps over. As a military child, the time needed to get comfortable in a new environment was rarely afforded. Once I got settled and at ease, I knew sooner or later I could be moving. Constantly walking into that room full of people who have known one another their entire lives became my normal. Only it wasn’t normal.
The experience at each school meant a lot to me. To give you a sense of just how many schools I attended, I’m listing them below.
• George Washington Primary School (Chesapeake, VA): kindergarten and 1st grade, 1992–1994
• College Park Elementary School (Virginia Beach, VA): 2nd grade, 1994
The sound of wedding bells ringing. Family moves to North Carolina.
• Millbrook Elementary International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme Magnet School (Raleigh, NC): 3rd grade, 1995
The sound of relief. Family moves back to Virginia.
• Camelot Elementary School (Chesapeake, VA): 4th grade, 1996
Thinks that this is bullshit but kinda cool at the same time as family moves to California.
• Acacia Baptist Elementary School (Hawthorne, CA): 4th grade, 1996–1997
• White Point Elementary School (San Pedro, CA): 5th grade, 1997–1998
• Richard Henry Dana Middle School (San Pedro, CA): 6th grade, 1998–1999
The sound of crying. A whole lot of crying. Family moves to Germany, but back to Virginia first.
• Hugo A. Owens Middle School (Chesapeake, VA): 7th grade, 1999
• Baumholder American High School (Baumholder, Germany): 7th grade, 2000
If it’s starting to feel like a lot, imagine actually doing it.
• Hugo A. Owens Middle School (Chesapeake, VA): 8th grade, 2001
• Baumholder American High School (Baumholder, Germany): 8th and 9th grade, 2001
• Monmouth Regional High School (Tinton Falls, NJ): 10th and 11th grade, 2002–2004
• Deep Creek High School (Chesapeake, VA): 12th grade, 2004–2005
2. I’m a father. I have two dads.
Frank was the most consistent father figure throughout my life. He understood the value of discipline. He was patient. With him I always felt a sense of stability and safety. He was strict but he was a good guy, a man with clear principles. He provided for my sister Elise and me like we were his own. We spent quality family time and every day he made my mom light up with joy. I see how my mother knew Frank would be good for us.
Dana, my biological father, had to be a dad from a distance. I wondered how that affected him, but I also wondered if he really cared about me. I wasn’t sure.
At twenty years old, I became a father as well. I’ll get more into that later.
3. I am wandering romantic.
Relationships, be they platonic, romantic, or professional, are a big part of our lives.
Many of my adult frustrations and problems began when I traveled the world during my adolescent years. The constant travel and relocation influenced the way I approached relationships. I had to say too many goodbyes sooner than I wanted to. I got accustomed to running from problems rather than ever really solving them. I became a skilled runner whenever I was emotionally overwhelmed. I would hold in my pain and pass off a lot, always pretending as if I was okay. Unlike Frank, I rarely utilized patience or let things play out naturally. Instead,
I looked for the shortcut before time ran out. “New move, clean slate” was my motto. I learned not to spend too much time missing places and people I knew I would never see again. And as I grew older and began searching for fulfillment, I oftentimes found myself coming up short.
4. I’m a proud navy veteran.
The US military legacy is in my family. My mother’s father, Papa, retired as a chief in the navy and my dad Frank retired as a colonel in the army. I served four years in the navy before separating. A military career until retirement wasn’t something I could commit to.
My decision to enlist in the navy was inspired by my son. More about that later.
5. I believe love is really all that matters.
There comes a time when our actions and desires have to balance out and we must choose the person that we most want to be. This book serves as my opportunity to look back, reflect, and to share the life lessons that helped me decide what kind of person I wanted to be. There is no proven formula for how to live a perfect life. In fact, there is no perfect life. But a fulfilling life is not only real, it’s obtainable. Not one of us was cheated in our design, but many of us get lost comparing and competing in areas that we shouldn’t. I should know, I was that person. I spent
years chasing the idea in my head of who I should become all the while ignoring what life was trying to teach me about who I already was. It wasn’t until I made it past my own doubt, fear, and shortcomings that I finally learned to see me. And it took trying to force love into all the wrong relationships before I finally got around to loving myself.
The greatest opponent we face in the game of life is ourselves. We spend hours, days, and years searching for answers to the questions in our heart. But the answer is there. Our full awareness of self, our understanding of purpose, and our appreciation for the power of love are the missing pieces to alleviate the pain so many people feel. It was the answer to the pain I felt.
Some of us go through major life experiences too early and some of us make adult decisions prematurely, like getting married and having children. We do so unaware of how these decisions can follow us for the rest of our lives. The pain of unintended consequences can shift each person’s course differently, some for better, others for worse. My “way” was about what was comfortable for me and not necessarily what was best for me.
Through every experience we find a new piece of ourselves. Each day, with each choice we either reaffirm who we are or introduce a new part of who we’ve become. Growth, joy, and love are things we must choose to continuously welcome in our lives. The spirit of our future depends on our ability to stay open, moldable, and honest. When I look back on my life I don’t have any regrets. Through every mistake I’ve made I’ve learned many lessons. I was broken and I didn’t recognize how low I let myself start to feel, I just know that I felt something was missing from my life. And I had all the wrong ideas of what it was. I thought,
if only I had this car, this job, this house, or this woman, then I’d be whole. But with the fulfillment of each thing came more longing. And I am not alone in this. Although this story is mine, the lessons these reflections uncover are meant to help you improve life emotionally, spiritually, and in your relationships. No matter who you are, where you’re from, your social status, or political leaning, there’s been a point in your life when you felt like something was missing. Like some of the pieces were around, but not enough to add up and get the game going. So I pose the questions:
What will it mean to you to feel whole?
What will finally make you happier?
What can increase your faith?
Will you embrace peace in your relationships?
How will you give your love?
Welcome to The Missing Piece. I pray you leave this book with the inspiration to fulfill your purpose in life. And I hope that within these pages you find a reason to love, heal, forgive, and be free. It’s time.
Walk with me . . .