In 2 days’ time, with Jeremie flanking to my left, I’ll be awaiting Mercedes’ arrival at the altar in one of the most seminal moments in my life to this point. From a macro perspective, it’s an emphatic punctuation mark that relegates the Lost Decade of Dating to the pits of history forever. Simply put, it will serve as the tangible evidence of my unwavering perseverance and attestation concerning my love life. Speaking of perseverance, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the more micro perspective of why Sunday is so important. I’m reminded of the journal entries I wrote in Triumphs & Tribulation XI around this time 5 years ago. That brings me to this week’s moment in the Flashback Friday series: the Long Hot Summer of 2011.
How I first came across this moment? For me, the Long Hot Summer of 2011 actually started in the early morning hours of April 19, 2011. After being awakened out of my sleep, I sat up in my bed just gathering my bearings. And as crazy as it seems, I saw a vision on my bedroom wall. It showed me going through a difficult time. I was crying and just having a terrible go of whatever it was I was going through. Towards the end of the vision, there were trees with leaves falling and I had both of my hands raised in victory. While this vision was playing out on my wall, God very clearly spoke to me and said that I was going to have a terrible summer and that if I got through it, I’d rejoice in the fall. I remember writing about how weird that experience was, especially at a time where everything seemed to be going well for me in all phases of life. With the vision still in my head days later, I wrote in the April 22, 2011 entry of Triumphs & Tribulations XI that I couldn’t “see, not with my foresight anyway, anything that could possibly go so wrong this summer that I’d be struggling the way I was in that vision”. Naturally, I started fortifying certain aspects of my life, thinking that if I was strong in all places, maybe that would be something of an equalizer. Then, June 18th happened: a text message to my then-girlfriend asking her if she wanted to check out the 21st Annual Taste of Reston was returned with “I was abt 2 txt u. we need 2 talk”. I knew with 100% certainty that it wasn’t an I’m pregnant “we need to talk” scenario. I honestly thought it was just a situation on her reneging on the Independence Day weekend trip to Birmingham, where I intended to introduce her to my family. But when she did call about 20 minutes later, she gave me one of those “hey” greetings in an unassuming tone. My Spidey-sense immediately went into overload, sensing something was wrong. In that conversation, she told me that she was making a decision to give her son’s father another chance so that they could try to be a family again. That meant she was breaking our thing, with immediate effect. That was the proverbial crack in the foundation. Instead of indulging in local cuisine at the Taste of Reston, I indulged in basically a whole Saturday of listening to the entirety of the Juan Thomas Presents…Heartbreak Hotel playlist in what could be called the Taste of Getting Dumped. While it absolutely bothered me at home the entire weekend, it literally f***ed me up at work the ensuing Monday. I had arguably my worst day in the office during my 2 years at Joint Base Andrews with the key moment being me losing my cool with one of the senior non-commissioned officers, leading to me getting a letter of reprimand alongside a spirited “talking to”. With the LOR and the break-up on my mind, I wasn’t as focused on my weightlifting workout as I should’ve been and I suffered a shoulder injury that ended up lingering around for 2 ½ months. The nail in the coffin was me making a careless financial error during an online payment the next evening…an error that set me back over $3100. Realizing that I was clearly rattled, my mind took me back to that vision 2 months earlier. Everything that was happening to me wasn’t a coincidence: this was God’s message to me coming through like a freight train. I immediately decided that I needed to fast. I unplugged from the world…deactivated my Facebook and Twitter accounts, turned off my phone, disconnected the wireless router, and brought out the headphones at work. As my luck would have it, the moment I went about fasting and trying to get closer to God was the moment the heat got turned up on me. People at work noticed that my now ex-girlfriend was getting dropped off at work by her son’s father. I got questions about it and I did my best to shrug them off. The shoulder didn’t feel like it was getting better. I was getting antsy over how I was going to make up for an unexpected $3100 loss in my finances. All the while, I was still trying to make sense of the failed relationship. I was in a bad place…and I had a whole hot ass DC area summer to labor through it. I did just that: labor through it. I got all the way through to early September before bolting the one place I could be assured of solace: Tokyo.
What it meant to me then? In the very first days of that summer, I was an emotional—and physical, if you count the shoulder injury—wreck. I just wanted it all to go away. Those first few days were the most vicious attack on my faith that I’ve ever experienced. I was so hurt that I gave serious consideration to making a real-life heel turn. Fortunately, I realized my faith was on shaky ground and I ended up reaching out to Alonzo Jacque with the intent to just get some thoughts off my chest in a crisis. Just like another wingman I turned to in a time of trouble, Jacque came through in the clutch. He listened and then he reminded me of what I said on a train ride 2 years earlier, when I spoke about the vision I had for my life. He provided sound advice and he prayed for me. But more than that, he got in the fight with me…he did the 30-day fast without meat and the 2 ½ months without Internet or social media as a show of solidarity. It meant a lot to me that I wasn’t exactly going through the whole ordeal alone. It was enough for me to get to September, where the back end of the vision came to fruition: I found my arms raised in victory. I remember watching a syndicated episode of Criminal Minds in August 2011, where the ending quote was C.S. Lewis’ “experience is a brutal teacher, but you learn”. I hated the experience of the Summer of 2011. It was brutal in every sense of the word. But I learned so much about myself and that made all the difference.
What it means to me now? Here we are…a whole 5 years later. The Long Hot Summer of 2011 still resonates with me. I was thisclose to losing my faith very early in that summer, thisclose to giving up when things really got intense during “the dog days”. But I persevered. And because I persevered, because I took hold of Galatians 6:9 and James 1:12 out of the Holy Bible, I feel like God rewarded me with ascension to a new level in the Juan Thomas experience. From the top secret assignment in South Korea as my Air Force swan song to the cushy term gig with the Corps of Engineers to what I hope will be a perfect set up job with the Department of the Interior, my life has taken off professionally in the years after the Long Hot Summer of 2011. Just the same, I’ve been much better in my dating life over the same period…culminating with me getting married in just 2 days. The summer experience 5 years ago, while absolutely uncomfortable, is the catalyst for many of the positives I got going on right now. The line between me getting married on Sunday and me still being mired in the cycle of bad dating and relationship experiences is razor thin. But I can honestly say that I’m not in this position had I not gone through the Long Hot Summer of 2011.