A Bit About Life

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My story from Legacy of Stoke

When one writes, one never knows who will read what you post. When you hit the publish button, you suddenly lose control of the product.

Lately I have read some stories about people who have passed on. In my life, I have had friends who have decided to wrap it up and they left a lot of loved ones in pain. So I have decided to once again put out some stories about my life. If you ever have the chance to read the book, Legacy of Stoke; you can find a segment of my life story as one of the featured stories within the book. If you have read the book, you will recognize some of what you will read today.

Some of my earliest memories involve the doctors office. Tests and the doctor monitoring my output. I also have a lot of great memories of my family and friends. I will not say that I was bullied. The other kids liked me. But at some point, I stumble upon the feelings of the dejected kids and the feeling of failure playing sports. So for me, sports just seemed like a world that I was not a part of.

By the 5th grade, things would start to change. I met a few kids that were not like my usual group of friends. At some point, one of them would take me to the beach and I would struggle to catch a wave. The experience would change my life forever.

So I had a lot to overcome. I started as the last person in the line and I had to work twice as hard to catch up to my friends. But in my mind, I knew from the day that I saw the top pros surf in real life that I was going to be just like one of them. I was completely committed to my dream and I was not going to give up.

From here, the story begins to go in many directions. Highs that many can not imagine. Traveling at a young age. Women. Great jobs. Being sponsored. People that supported my non-productive attitude.

Then the lows.

The partying. Relationships built on image more than anything. The fights. There were things that were far worse but that is for another time and place.

The Winter Park house was in a sense the symbolism of making it. It was myself and 3 friends living in the shadow of wealth. But the reality was the whole picture was a happy facade built over a pile of troubles. We were 4 guys each with a drastically different view on what we wanted out of life.

After several poorly thought out episodes in my house, I decided it was time to gather up what was mine in the house (which was a lot of the items we were using) and return to my parents house. This move basically killed 3 friendships that I had for years but saved my relationship with my girlfriend.

Soon after the move, my long time girlfriend enjoyed a vacation without me. Maybe too much since she ended up as the newest conquest of a scuba class instructor. So now, I was really reeling.

With my life turned upside down, I still had my passion, which was surfing in contests to see me through. So I showed up at the NKF Pro on my birthday weekend and notched up a solid result. I was beyond elated. So to celebrate, my other friends who had sided with me and I decided to visit a few bars in our downtown.

When I awoke that morning, I was in some serious pain. I called in sick to work which I rarely do. That day I tried to sleep it off but it was not helping. By that night I was having a hard time with basic things and I knew I had to see a doctor.

When I opened my eyes a few days later, I was greeted with a bright light and men. Men in Haz-mat suits. I was tied to the bed. This was the start of a long, hard chapter.

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My one cherished photo of me in the hospital…

A few weeks later I was helped into a wheelchair and the nurse rolled me down to the curb. The car door opened and I was positioned into the passenger seat. My face pressed against the window and the car began to pull out of my temporary residence. My parents spoke to me and some times the words were overshadowed by a wash of pain.

Then after a check up the doctor told me about the loss of hearing in my right ear and how to do exercises to help loosen up my arm that was stuck in an L shape. He also spoke about how I might have contracted meningitis.

So now my life had changed. I was 30 pounds lighter and I was an invalid. That was something that did not sit well with me. But my lack of strength made any form of exercising almost unbearable. But I had to do something. So I started doing very small movements to regain strength.

During my stay in the hospital and the months afterwards, I found that it was a core group of friends who drove me to places and took me out of the house that visited me the most in the hospital. These same friends would help me years later when others would fall silent.

Months later I was back in the ocean. But it was not the fairy tale beginning. My frail arms would not respond to the commands my brain was sending. So I try to lift my body up to stand on two unresponsive arms. My board convulsed violently and more often than not I was tossed off the side of the board.

Then came a break through for me. A long, lazy cutback complete with a hit off the foam. Something I did in my sleep since I was ten now almost brought me to tears. I was regrouping and regaining what I had lost.

On land, I had to repay a hefty mountain of bills. So I doubled down and tried to work as much overtime as I could to pay down the debt. As time went by, things with my employer began to sour and I finally decided to leave.

In 1995, I strolled into the Human Resource department and confidently explained why I was the perfect fit for the company. A few days later I was signing off on my paperwork and getting ready to start another great chapter in my life. I was financially solid and outwardly no one could tell that just a few years ago I was fighting for my life. I could now surf as good as before and some said even better than before my illness.

My job was like a dream. It was extremely demanding but rewarding. The reputation of the company was solid. I was all set to cruise into retirement. I had dedicated 13 years and was looking forward to hitting the ever important fifteen year mark.

Then came a few months of turmoil and the final shocking news that the company was bought out by a company that was far smaller. Then the new owners began to make a lot of changes that disrupted the system the company was built upon. Which led to me being laid off. In fact, the first employee to be laid off in the companies extremely long history.

From 1995 to 2011, the business environment had changed greatly. With me being a happy worker bee, I never took notice of the changes. When I walked out the door that day, I was extremely confident that one of my many friends would take me in and I would be working in no time. However, with the recession still in effect, this was not the case at all.  So I put it out that I was looking for employment and was greeted with silence or that they were to busy to drop by Human Resources. So by the time I found an employer, my finances were once again in turmoil.

One week, I sat down and began to hammer out the math. I had my son on my days off. Payday was on Friday. I had to pay bills X, Y, and Z. I needed G for gas and F for food for my son and I. Then there was T for the toilet paper we had run out of. I began to do the math and no matter how I tried, I came up negative ten dollars. The only answer was for me not to eat for a day and feed my son instead. I had exhausted everything. The cans. Sold things. Took the change to the Coinstar machine. So I prayed.

The next morning, I had to pick up my son when school let out. I had to buy the toilet paper of course. So I went to the local CVS Pharmacy. I strolled around the store with the cheapest, generic toilet paper that I could find in my hand just looking at things that I could not buy. Then I walked by the candy aisle. The boxes of chocolate bars were calling to me but looking at the small bills in my wallet; it was a call that I could not do. I walked the aisle. Mounds Bars, Kit Kats… Then I saw one box containing my favorite one and besides it…something in a box. I looked and it was money. I walked closer and looked again. I looked around me. Not a soul in sight. I walked to the end of the aisle. No one. I walked back and looked again to see if it was a joke. I reached into the box and it was a twenty dollar bill.

After paying for the toilet paper, I sat in my car and held the twenty and tears began to well up in my eyes. Not only would I eat but I would go into the next week with ten extra dollars and at that point, ten dollars to me was a hundred dollars.

Today I am not where I want to be financially but I am not down to my last dollar every week. I am healthy and I am in a managers position. The point being that as long as you wake up and put in an effort to change your life; there is always an opportunity that your life will be different than it is when you are at your lowest.

At times it may seem hopeless.

When you operate a business, you face days that are disasters. The call ins start. The crowd is bigger than what you thought. You run out of a much needed product. Something always happens. Someone volunteers to stay over. The shipment arrives!

At some point you clock out and drive home.

You will get through.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About 1stpeaksteve

The Side Wedge is a product of the journey through life of Steve Zima. Former professional surfer, writer, and Operational Management specialist; this is an eclectic collection of travel tips, surf coaching, and stories from my past. I also spotlight music that moves me and world events. Thanks for reading!
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7 Responses to A Bit About Life

  1. This was very inspiring, and I have to compliment you on your storytelling. You never know what struggles people are dealing with. I hope things are looking up for you now!

    • 1stpeaksteve says:

      Thanks for the compliment!

      You know, it is in that phase where it is not perfect but it is not as bad as before. Just a lot of odd factors that have been throwing off developing a solid daily routine. It is frustrating because many times it robs me from being in the water.

      I guess if you think of a boy band and they start to tank; you can imagine how it must feel to return to a more status quo lifestyle. I feel that way at times. Their is one good thing though…I am healthy and happy. So when things change for the better I know I can get back in the water and push things as much as I used to.

      Just have to work to make it happen again…

      • Life is full of ups and downs. If you’ve been to the bottom, I’m sure better things are on the horizon. But I’m glad you’re enjoying the little things in life, like surfing every now and again!

  2. surfbella says:

    Hey , I loved this post,really inspiring . it makes me want to know more, get writting that book! x

    • 1stpeaksteve says:

      Thanks and I really appreciate it. It is not easy writing about the low times…especially when they are fresh.

      As for any form of a book, I need one big goal to be crossed off my list and it would be a good way to close things out on this segment. Just have to make it happen!

      I hope you have a surf filled weekend!

      • surfbella says:

        Hey Steve, I’m just catching up on reading the blogs I follow after being pretty much in a field, in a tent with no internet for the whole summer. Man, you’ve been busy on the blog. I’ve enjoyed catching up. Just thought I’d pop by this particular post to tell you I’ve had a piece of writing selected for volume 2 of Legacy of Stoke. I can’t wait to see it in print. Hope alls well and you’ve been catching loads of waves !

      • 1stpeaksteve says:

        That is wild that you roughed it for that long!

        As for me, not as fruitful overall as I would like but that is going to change. I need to fly the coop from my inhibiting detractor(s) which centers around my employer. I knew the odds were that I was getting a lemon before I went in but I thought it would be that way from one source and not several sources and one being close to me.

        That is cool that your story was selected! I will have to get the second one when it comes out. It will be cool to be now the alumni checking out the newest batch of surfers to be featured.

        Well, get back into the swing of things and I will be looking forward to hearing from you!

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