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Read an excerpt from Your Crossroads. Your Choice by EJ Apicello

Welcome to my diary, my journey, as I tripped and crawled through the darkest time in my life- when I witnessed  people that I held incredibly close to me shatter my very existence with their words and actions. The things within this book spine are extremely raw and exceptionally real. You and I are going to get very close, the details in this book, although oddly general, are incredibly specific. Yes, I realize what I just said and as you read my words you will see what I mean. As you silently gasp and mentally bitch slap me, please be kind because my story is just that - my story. It is not any more or less special than yours. In fact the only difference between our stories are the choices we made at each of the crossroads in our lives. For most of my life the choices I made were not based on my happiness but on everyone else’s. This book describes what I have experienced in my journey to finding my happiness and hopefully never letting it go. Sadly, it took me thirty six years to find the strength I need to detoxify my life and self-view and find someone who is worthy of my awesomeness. Thirty six years to shatter the negative foundation I had built shatter the ultimate representative I created to hide behind and begin the process of building a new foundation. Only this foundation will be built on strength, confidence and above all, happiness. So take a minute or thirty and sit with my story for a while. You never know what you might find out.


Perspective is a very personal thing. I am a firm believer in the idea that there is no one reality - we each perceive our own. With that being said, please keep that in mind while you are reading my story because in the end, that’s what it is - a story. Some of the details and some of the people may be composites of my memories and that is fine by me, the essence of what  I want to share with you will ring true. I am sharing my experiences in the hopes that my words will resonate with you, connect you to my story and show you that you are not alone. We are all on this hunk of rock together, blindly  making our way to the finish line. This book is meant  to help you - I want to empower people who are standing at a major  crossroads in their lives. Encourage them to find strength and confidence in the choices they make  so that they can find their happiness. Your  crossroads. Your  choice.

I N T R O D  U  C T I O N

Quasi Logic Behind Totally Illogical Thoughts

I challenge anyone to argue with the following oh so utterly simplistic, almost ridiculously too easy to be real, truth. Here it is, people, be ready for your mind to be blown!  Every choice has an oppo- site choice. And these choices come at a crossroads. A crossroads you are in control of. So go ahead, try and come up with a reason to argue that what I speak isn’t the absolute truth. I’ll wait. Come back when you realize you can’t think of a single one. Please don’t  get me wrong, it’s not that I enjoy being right; I just know it’s hard to argue with such an insanely logical and straightforward truth. You see my readers, my new friends, it will hurt less if you accept this to be so. Everything in our world has two opposing choices, and these choices sit at our own personal crossroads, forcing us to embrace either the right or the wrong, the easy or the hard, the light or the dark. Throughout this book, you will see how I am working through this arduous journey with you by my side, priding myself on being a woman of logic and facts, but let’s be clear: I also believe in Santa, the Tooth Fairy, and unicorns!

What can I say, it gives me intense pleasure to know that while you read this book you are going to be kept on the edge of your seat! There will be sexy steamy bits, utterly hopeless bits, raw emotional bits, hilariously funny bits, and pathetic whiny bits. But I promise, if you stick with me, at the end of it all, there will be mostly strong, empowered, utterly-confident bits. But who knows, right? This honestly an introduction to my journey of self-discovery not directed simply at you but at me as well. Welcome aboard my crazy train, I hope you enjoy the ride!

Please recognize that as you stumble through my jumbled mus- ings and scattered thoughts that where I sit typing this, even on the last of the last of the last rewrites, I am starting at the same place in my journey as you are right at this very moment. The beginning, and I’m not sure what will happen at the end. This thought makes me both nervous and excited. Is my life going to stay the same, or will it take a completely different path, one that is still unbeknownst even to me? What a novel idea (wink, wink) that you will be right there to experience my holy shit moments as I experience them.

“Talking” to you like this is going to force me to have thoughts, feelings, and emotions that I haven’t allowed myself to experience before. This will be like breaking through the fourth wall just like they did during the movie Deadpool, which, by the way, is the best movie I have ever seen. It was like the movie was talking to my soul! I digress, though, and I must get back to focusing on the introduction, for this is my welcome to you, as if you were right here with me urg- ing me on, especially when I feel like I can’t go any further.

I will admit this: I am being slightly selfish, I’m using you for some personal gain. Why would I admit this upfront? Well, because I think it’s important to be honest with myself and you, my new confidants, so that we have a clear understanding of what is to come. Be honest with yourselves too, you picked up this book for a reason. There is something  you are hoping to gain from reading through my journey, sharing my experiences, and being able to reflect on them as if they were your own. Which is exactly what I would like you to do by the way. Put yourself into my shoes through my words. I pur- posely kept this book very generic, partially because I am trying to fly under the radar until I am so famous it doesn’t matter anymore, and partially because I want you to use this book as a sounding board for your own emotions, thoughts, and feelings. And please remember that is a good thing; it is one of the two biggest reasons that I wrote all of this nonsense down and worked so hard to get it into your hands, your consciousness, your world.

I am going to introduce you to the many faces that I wear, or should I say wore, throughout most of my life. You will also be here to discover the parts of the new me that I am in the process of piecing together. With that being said, it is imperative this early in our bud- ding relationship, that I share with you the vast clarity I have found while writing this novel and you see the clarity of your choice while reading it. It took me up until the moment the first letter was placed on the page, over thirty-six years, to realize that in spite of the very logical, black-and-white  way of processing things that I so absolutely rely on, it is time I accepted that I too am layered in shades of gray, just like everyone else.

OK, Maybe Only Two Shades of Gray

I have always had two opposing...shades, for lack of a better term...inside of me and I thought that my attempt at trying to bal- ance them was working. And by balancing, I mean smothering one side so that the other was the only one seen by the world. I didn’t realize the amount of work, stress, anxiety, and effort that I was wasting on stuffing down everything that actually was, for better or worse, part of my true self. I chose early on to place the pleasure and happiness of everyone else above my own, and it was killing me.

Sit and think about this for a moment. I spent my life putting others happiness over mine. Go ahead, you can put the book down, I’ll wait for you to come back when you realize how ridiculous that was. Put yourself into your past and go through the decisions you have made, the experiences you have had at each of your own cross- roads. Did you put your happiness or the happiness of others first when you made your decisions? If your happiness was secondary, why? What reason did you sell yourself that sounded like it made sense at the time? You will notice several underlying  themes through- out my story and keeping your happiness as the priority above all else is one of the most important. The weight of the entire world on your shoulders is crushing and thinking you can carry it alone is ridiculously unrealistic.  As one person, we cannot be expected to fix everything and even more importantly we cannot be expected to follow every rule, to always be perfect. It is not possible, and if that is your number one goal in life, well then you are basically living a lesson in futility. Case in point, me. I spent my life being concerned with not bucking the system, trying not to push the envelope because although it is something that I seem to be naturally attuned to do despite how hard I tried to fight it, going against the flow takes con- fidence in your own opinions. I lacked this confidence, which is why I repressed that urge to push the envelope even though I always had that innate desire to walk the line.

In retrospect, it would have been much easier to use all of my energy to will myself to become a wallflower or doormat letting peo- ple walk all over me, allowing everyone else to decide what makes me happy rather than letting myself decide. The problem was, however hard I tried to be a wallflower, to only be the color beige, I found that it was incredibly boring! I still had my own opinions and knew what I wanted, but it all boiled down to a lack of confidence. I had no confidence in myself and therefore believed that my opinions and choices were automatically wrong. It took me until now, and I still falter, but I am starting to realize that each and every one of us is trav- eling this path together towards the same unknown. There is not one single person on this earth who knows what is going to happen in the future, or who knows every right decision that is to be made, yet I was wasting my time worrying that the person should be me. There is not one person on this earth who is perfect and has all the answers, yet I spent the better portion of my first thirty years believing that I had to be that person. If a mistake was made or something was too unknown for me to prepare for, it was unacceptable. Living this way was exhausting and self-destructive, and the process of writing my journey down, sharing it with you, is my salvation. A tool I am using to step out of my comfort zone and become the person that I want to be, the person that will make me happy.

You see, in each situation or stage in my life, in order to keep the people around me happy, I morphed into whoever I needed to be to make them their happiest. For my mom, I was the daughter who stayed home and watched TV with her instead of having a social life because that was the version of myself that made her happy. This was despite the fact that throughout my childhood I experienced some pretty heinous things like when I broke my arm as a young child. I was five years old and fell off the jungle gym at a neighbor’s house. Despite my screams of pain and tears, my mom didn’t quite believe I had done any permanent damage. To test this theory, she put my favorite candy, plain M&M’s, in my good hand and told me that if I wanted to have some I would have to get them with my broken arm. Of course I could not complete this task, which is when my mom knew that I was not faking this injury and took me to the doctor. I came home about five hours later with a cast on my broken forearm.

I knew that growing up my mom had an issue with her weight so I shouldn’t have been surprised when I recently found a card from her that said “Good luck – I know you can lose those forty pounds!” Let me inform everyone who is wondering why this might be wrong, I was only thirteen when I received said card and not overweight. For my best friend, it was being her yes girl, always allowing her to be right no matter how awful her decisions were. When shit went south as it always did, the yes girl had to turn into the clean-up girl. Why did I chameleon myself for all of these different people? Because that was the versions of me that ensured their happiness and I wholeheartedly thought that if I could make them happy, then I would somehow find my happiness. Later in life, and basically until my current present, for my ex-husband, the version of myself I have had to keep up at all times has been being somewhat of a doormat, somewhat of his mother, agreeing with his views on family, children, and who we are as individuals and partners and parents because that is what ensured his happiness. His vision is to die in the house we had bought together basically nailing down the next and final chapter of our lives, which is indeed, death. FYI, from this point forward, I will be referring to my ex-husband as M1. Why you ask? Well, I have two people in my life, one representing my darkness and one representing my light who ironically share the same name. To keep things clear but still ambiguous, I am calling the one who represents my dark- ness, my ex-husband, M1 and my new light M2.

Who Invited the Martyr?

Put the “How To” on quick and easy torture curses back on the shelf, because I feel that you should let me continue my explanation of the journey I am on before you begin to place judgement. Believe me when I say that I very much know that M1 has some (I guess) positive qualities, but as you will learn throughout this story, we are all products of our past. I fear, that however M1 claims to want to stop the cycle of darkness from his past and filter the things his par- ents did, it seems he is unable to. It is not surprising that I gravitated toward a safe, routine, normal guy like him to continue to fulfill the expectations of my family. It was a desperate attempt on my part to keep up the useless effort I was expending to gain their acceptance and through that, I expected, my happiness.

Alas, as much as it would help the explanation of my journey, I do not have the right to tell you anyone’s story but my own. I will give you a little taste of a mile in his shoes however, and leave you with another almost painfully obvious statement regarding his jour- ney: The choices made at each of his crossroads, good or bad, right or wrong, caused him to be who he is. As it just so happens, as my journey and evolution continue, I am seeing that I can no longer view him through the tinted lenses I relied on to cloud my vision when I gave him my ultimate representative (don’t worry, explanation to follow). It never occurred to me that the endless insane cycle of arguments we had surrounding my behaviors were simply precursors to the earth- quake that would permanently alter the landscape of my life and our marriage.

Hiding My Personal Sloth (Not the Lazy Animal, the Uggo from Goonies), or Ultimate vs. Regular Representative

Throughout our joint journey, when glimpses of the real me would make it through all of the defenses I had set up, M1 would call bullshit. The behaviors, actions, or comments were so clearly different than those of my ultimate representative that he was con-fused where they were coming from. This is how the realization of my  ultimate representative came to light. A representative is some- thing we all do at key points in our lives. I went one step further and created a regular representative on steroids. I used this version of me as a shield to hide my non-beige persona from the world. I will now take a minute to explain the difference between the two because they are recurring themes throughout this book, my journey and honestly, our world.

A normal run-of-the-mill regular representative is a culmina- tion of the best parts of yourself that you allow to be seen and experi- enced by important new people in your life. This eventually becomes too much to keep up and gradually the best parts of you start to mix with some of the not-so-best parts of you until you are back to just, well, you. This cycle is what we have built our very society on and most people have chosen to only create a regular run-of-the-mill representative. Come on, imagine if you showed up to your next first date, job interview, Comic-Con, or whatever other major life event is on your horizon (short of birthing a child because then you can do whatever you want) as you feel most comfortable, most like you. I doubt those aging yoga pants or classic pair of jorts (self-made jean shorts that were all the rage in the eighties and still grace the closets of men who are trying to hold onto happier times) are the first impression you are going for. The purpose of the representative is to put your best foot forward, show them the you that you could always be! If you had your own personal stylist, chef, and makeup artist that is.

An ultimate representative my new friends is a unique  nightmare I created for myself very early on in life to hide behind everyday, con- vinced that it was the right choice. I would not allow the not so best parts of myself to show, to anyone ever, because if I did, something bad was clearly going to happen. Logically, long-term sustainability of an ultimate representative is an exhausting, if not impossible, task to maintain and led to periodic cracks in the armor so that bits of the real me managed to peek through. And as stupid logic continues to dictate, having M1 highlight the obvious difference when it occurred inevitably led to arguments and long discussions followed by weak resolutions agreed upon out of sheer exhaustion. I hated that the resolution always involved trying to stuff that glimpse of me back down into the darkness, but in the moment it was the only thing I could do, throw up the white flag and surrender. I always assumed that because those parts of my real self caused such a rift between us they must not be good enough for someone to like, let alone love, which is why they were the parts of me that I tried to keep hidden.

 I Have it Locked Do

I thought I had it all under control. I believed that I was doing a great job convincing the world I was exactly who they saw, no more, no less. Holy shit did I not have it under control, not even a little. Parts of me were being suffocated,  slowly dying as a direct result of the amazing work I had done perfecting my shields and creating my ultimate representative. The shittiest superhero powers to ever have, morphing into whoever made the other person happy while killing the pieces of your own true self! I can just see the lines circling around the block waiting to purchase those Halloween costumes at Party City.

Remember, opposite choices will always exist at each of your crossroads. To lose my darkness is the equivalent of losing my light since one cannot exist without the other. No  darkness means I wouldn’t have the critical parts I need to face my choices at all future crossroads. Please recognize I am not encouraging you or I to release all of our demons onto the world, just because you have some dark- ness doesn’t mean everyone needs to see it. All I want is to be ok with all parts of me, know that none of them mean that I am wrong. The first step in embracing my true self, what I thought of as my darkness, was to make a choice to step into the light with who I am, which includes all of the real parts of me. If I hadn’t made this super critical first choice I would never make any subsequent choices a priority and the journey to self-discovery, happiness, and acceptance could never have begun.

The part of me that was fading away was one I had worked so hard to hide, and at first I didn’t realize that it was affecting my whole

world. Thankfully, life is funny that way and always seems to allow things to happen exactly at the point when you need them most. Coincidence? I doubt it. It is difficult to argue that there isn’t some type of goal we are all meant to reach or Final Jeopardy question we were all meant to answer, don’t you think? At the beginning of my ultimate representatives’ ultimate demise, I came to my next major crossroads, this time consisting of a who and a what. That who, M2, that has been showing me that I possess the strength I need to take this journey and the what that is my future, something still unknown to me.

It has been about a year since I began the process or purging this story from my mind. And despite all of the steps forward I have taken, there are days I feel like I am still at the beginning. I still falter and lose my way but the difference is that now I am in control. I choose each step I take, each path I journey down with my eyes wide open. Changing who you are is difficult if not impossible, believe me, this whole book is about my attempts to do that my whole life before realizing that who I am is just fine. Here’s the hook: changing how you handle life is totally in your control. Choosing happiness is up to you! Simple but true my new friends. You will see how this explanation carries you through my steps, my process to get me to this final realization. The events of our life do not make us unique, rather it’s the choices we make at the crossroads of those life events that truly define who we are. 

No! Don’t Give Up On Me Yet!

Wait! Stop! Don’t close the book! I promise, you will get what you paid for, whatever you thought you were going to get from choos- ing to take my story home with you. This is simply my introduction, a chance for me to connect with you through my stories as if I were right there letting you know that you aren’t alone in this world. It can be a light read, a heavy read, or any kind of read in between. Trust me this is the Walmart of books. I mean come on, I referenced a freak- ing unicorn, people! If you keep reading, if you give me a chance, I promise I will help you find what you didn’t know was missing or fix what you didn’t know was broken.

I know that saying “I am broken” could make me sound weak or not complete, but we are all broken. It is what makes us human, unique in our own experiences. One of my secret pleasures is read- ing young adult novels and there is a particular series that encour- ages people to have surgeries and make changes to themselves to an extreme degree just to appear like everyone else. It’s  a classic sce- nario for a novel, forcing a young adult to choose between conform- ing to society’s rules or finding out who they are as their own self. Most people go through this awkward journey to get to who they are before completing most major milestones in life, but as you are starting to see, I don’t like being like most people. I always ensured that I did what was expected by everyone  else at all times to guar- antee their happiness. Despite my attempts at being beige, I have always been drawn to the art of skin ink. I love my tattoos and have always allowed myself that one guilty pleasure. Whenever someone meets me for the first time, they are always surprised by the amount of ink decorating my flesh. My father thinks I get tattooed because I have no respect for myself. My mother thinks I am just desperate for attention. I think my ink tells the story of my life. I now realize that they are pieces of my true self that I need to remember regardless of comments and judgments because they are a reminder of who I really am and how I got here.

I Am Not Broken

OK, fine, perhaps you are perfect. Then, please, continue to live in your castle built on perfect choices as you read about my imperfec- tions. Just know, and I hate to be the one to do this to you, but I call complete bullshit. You aren’t perfect, no one is. Did you pick up my book because unbeknownst to yourself, in your present moment, you would benefit from learning how to be a little more humble, gain a little more emotional intelligence? Maybe you will, just by reading about my journey. What is the saying, walk a mile in my shoes and all, right?

This idea of an unobtainable perfection is something we have drilled into our very DNA as a self-preservation technique. If we are always striving for perfection, then we don’t have to face our fail- ures and shortcomings because they are not our fault they are just a step towards becoming perfect. It also instills a permanent sense of failure in each and every one of us from the very beginning of our lives. As long as you are breathing, there is opportunity for growth, a chance to challenge yourself and reflect on your past choices so you can make better ones going forward. It is very hard to do, but we must learn to be happy in our present moment before we can look towards the future.

Read this next statement closely and with undivided attention: You can’t be anything other than you, and the you in your present moment is just who you are supposed to be. Who are you really envious of? Who has the perfect life you wish you had? Think about the answer and then go take a long look in the mirror. The person looking back at you is all you’ve got, and no amount of wishing, hoping, or fairy dust will change that. Do not despair, don’t you see how this is a good thing? It means you hold all of the power, you are in control. Decide if your present moment is filled with things that make you happy. If not, then find strength in that realization and begin to take steps to change it.

Just One Little Thing...

Be real with yourself. Promise to give me just that one little thing. I am going to be really open and honest in the pages to come, and I hope you can be nothing but the same in return. After all, we are now partners on this journey. Take a break from reading this book at times on purpose. I know, right? I am discouraging you from finding immediate gratification by plowing through this book in one sitting. Rather, I encourage you to let both the good and bad parts sit with you for a moment or a few moments and see how they make you feel. How do they make you reflect on the choices you have made in your past?

As you are sitting with your feelings, seeing how my words make you react, try and do it without judgement or immediately attempting to fix or change whatever you may be feeling. It will seem almost impossible but it is doable, I promise. Are you starting to rec- ognize that you are simply reacting to your past? Recognize that all this feeling can provide you with is the knowledge and strength you need to make the choice you truly desire at your next crossroads. No matter how uncomfortable it gets, begin to learn what it’s like to be with your whole self without trying to hide any pieces. It’s only you who’s here; no one else knows what you are thinking while reading this, and if you are that concerned about Big Brother, throw a metal colander over your head and call it a day!

If you can begin to accept who you are it makes it easier for others to begin do the same. We may spend our whole lives denying this next statement, but it is an absolute truth. No matter how much we try and fight it, we are all products of our upbringing,  and the choices we have made at each of the crossroads in our lives. For me, sharing my story through this book, and hopefully for you reading this book, was a major decision that was made at the crossroads of whether to continue to hurt or to begin to heal. Can you guess what my decision was? Clearly, if I willingly invite you, a stranger who at the moment does not know all of my secrets, into the darkest parts of who I am and what I experienced, then I am choosing to heal. If I had chosen to continue to hurt I would be stuffing my face with another cookie, nagging M1, or wishing I was anywhere but my current life.

Step One of the Journey

I went through a myriad of reactions as my ultimate representa- tive began to crumble and the real me that I had kept hidden started to force itself to the surface. It was as if my best friend was dying and I had to figure out a way to deal with it.  Notice I say reactions because the only words that can accurately describe my thoughts in that moment were verbs: anger, depression, mania (yes, once I real- ized my world has been made up of choices based on other people’s happiness, I went a little cra cra), and finally acceptance. Those verbs

influenced my feelings and actions, which in turn will influence my choices at the crossroads I will encounter in my future. The most recent choice that I have made completely based on my own happi- ness, my choice to share this story, is a huge step in my journey to heal. This is only the first of many choices and crossroads I will come to during this healing portion of my life. The difference is, it doesn’t scare me anymore, because now I have a plan, an actual course of action. I am no longer just existing trying to convince myself that this is how it has to be. Although I have had these awesome steps forward, I am only human. On occasion, I do still try and dig my heels in trying to fight this change, thinking of a thousand reasons why this book and my dream to build my business would fail. But it’s in those times that I remember just one reason, that one chance that this book will be successful that keeps me going.

In case you didn’t realize this first chapter is analogous to our— meaning yours and my—first date! It’s my chance to show you that although my words might force you to feel things, it’s only the fore- play in our dance, the first time you are tasting my long, hard tale if you will. I hope I am giving you enough to pique your interest, I always want my readers to stay satisfied. I do not want to be the acne- faced, sweaty-palmed fifteen-year-old virgin boy of your memories that blows his load too quickly. No, I want to be the Christian Grey of your fantasies so that you understand how passionately I want you to experience satisfaction and contentment from my words.

My Ultimate Hope

I want the blood, sweat, tears, and effort I spent weaving this tapestry of words together for your eager eyes enjoyed however hard or soft, fast or slow, vanilla or kinky as you desire just so long as you promise you walk away satisfied. For real, promise me, right now, no kidding. Repeat after me, “I promise to read this book with my emotional walls down and my thoughts honest, without judgement for myself. And no matter what, even if I think this book is the worst piece of shit writing ever to be called writing, like worse than the third Christian Gray book, I will find some way to get pleasure from it. I will make sure that I have been satisfied, I mean I already spent the energy and money to obtain it.”

Be Serious Now!

All right already! Enough with the undying promises to get pleasure from my book! You are going to make me blush. I know that all the people who read my words and become part of my journey will have infinite amounts of compassion and will support each step. I am already getting and hopefully will continue to get satisfaction from this book. Partly as I sit on my couch in your past, my present, with my three-legged kitty in my lap because no matter how many (amazing! and totally original) jokes I may have peppered through- out this book, it’s still a raw, sad, painful, critical step in my journey. I will also get satisfaction in knowing that you might allow yourself to glimpse at your darker, broken pieces without judgement or at least begin to acknowledge that they exist.

Perhaps I will be lucky enough to have you begin to heal, and that is the reason this book, my particular story, called out to you. And maybe, just maybe, if the stars align and the heavens decide to smile upon me, I’ll be lucky enough to be the reason that your glimpses at your inner self become  long hard stares at who you are. Who knows, those stares could turn into honest self-reflection and the beginning of your own journey to discovering your true self. Well golly gee, if that were to happen it would be the cherry on top of my happy sundae.

What the Shit?!

I was rereading and editing that last section and a jarring thought occurred to me. Could it be that a part of my ultimate repre- sentative that I so strongly identify with, something I already started to show in my writing, my humor, is nothing more than part of the defense mechanism I chose to perfect and use as the armor I hid behind? Huh, I literally (and I’m using the term in the correct con-

text this time) came to that realization as I was typing it.  Crazy...I’ll be right back...I need to talk to the Harlequin Hitter for a moment, but please, you should proceed with your reading. Although if you have been waiting for a good place to pause to get a snack, pee, or catch up on life (since short of a nuclear attack as soon as you opened up my pages the rest of the world clearly fell away from your atten- tion) now would be a good time. I am listening to my own advice from before and pausing in my writing so that I can sit with this new feeling. Humor is a choice I made, but was it a choice that I used only as a shield to protect the world from my darkness? Or is it truly a part of who I am, who I want to continue to be?

Sitting with My Feelings...Bleh!

I am surprised that I don’t feel more sad or angry with this new realization because my wit, sarcasm, and humor are a big part of who I am. I take pride in being the girl who wears her heart on her sleeve, what you see is what you get, drama-free, but I guess that isn’t really the case, is it? In fact, the longer I stay and pull this train of thought from my brain and into reality, it seems as if the truth of who I am has been something I have kept ridiculously well hidden within the walls of my ultimate representative. This has been going on for so long that even I don’t know what is real and what is fake anymore!

I think I wasn’t totally honest with you or myself just now, and I am sad about this realization. Who wants that light bulb to go off above their heads well into their adult life? That they aren’t  com- pletely who they are, or for that matter, who anyone else thought they really were? The saying with old dogs and new tricks has to have a grain of truth somewhere, so where does that leave this old- ass bitch? Remember what I said earlier? Our past is a part of who we are so there is no use fighting it, you won’t win. I am seeing now that the key to handling mistakes or so-called failures from your past is to take them, reflect on them, understand them, and then use the knowledge you have gained to strengthen the choices you make at future crossroads.

The understanding that these were parts of me that were my shield should allow me to enhance them. Make them and by default me a better, stronger version of my current self. If I choose to take my humor with me it will now rest on a foundation of acceptance and peace rather than judgment and anger. Remember we can’t change who we are, that is a lesson in futility. We can only change how we choose to react to what life throws at us. What is the essence of this whole literary journey after all? Healing the dark, broken parts of ourselves, finding the strength to choose happiness, correct? So own who you are and be proud of it! If someone in your life falters a little when you show them these amazing transformations, remember to be kind and patient. This may seem life affirming and soul cleansing for you but they had no idea this chaos was going on inside your head and may need to take a moment or two to catch their breath.

Sidebar here, readers. Not to sound selfish and bring everything back to me, but I am going to pout and stomp my foot now because where does this holy-shit realization leave me at my present moment? Will I figure out how to handle my new realization by the end of this book? Will you know how to handle your realizations? Don’t forget that (fingers crossed) by the time this literary gem gets to you and becomes a New York Times bestseller and one of Oprah’s Book Club favorites, time will have passed since I have put these words to paper, since I have given them power. This is my healing process, and you are experiencing not only my memories from days long gone but also my discoveries as they are happening to me in my present moment.

 Back to the Future

Time is weird like that, isn’t it? When you read this, I will prob- ably know what happens at the end of this book, but you will be just at the beginning. You haven’t even gotten to my highest highs or my lowest lows yet. Kind of bullshit, right? I agree, so this is what I am going to do for you. I’ll let you in on a secret. Come closer, shield the words on this page from prying eyes . . .OK, good. Here goes...I can tell you at this moment in my present time, that I am confident of this one fact: who I am, whatever that ends up being, will not be

black and white, or even two shades of gray but rather thousands or millions of shades of gray. Anyone who is not happy with that or happy with the end result of my journey can suck an egg! I am done with trying to keep everyone else happy when the only happiness I can control is my own.

Am I for real? Yes! Am I crazy? Clearly! You see, the overarching moral of my story is that you are not special and neither am I. At least not when it comes to the fucked-up shit we all have experienced in our past, the wounds those experiences have left, and the crazy it has caused us to become. For me to call those experiences special would give them strength and power over me. It would allow them to firmly and vividly take root in my memory, never letting me move on. No, thank you, that is the polar opposite of what I want this book detail- ing my unconventional journey of late-in-life discovery to do! I am banking on the hope that my journey causes these past experiences and self-diminishing thoughts to soften their sharp edges and melt into the background of my memory where they belong.

Don’t get pissy because your parents always told you that you were special, and here I am telling you that you are not. Read the last paragraph again, the non-special part of us is that we are all, to varying degrees, messed up from our past. Where our uniqueness and individuality shine is in the way we choose to handle our dark- ness, if we choose to handle it at all. We are all broken and we, myself included, need to focus on accepting our entire selves as the first step toward discovering who we are and what makes us happy.

Let’s look at trying to heal what we can any chance we get, seize the moment and all that nonsense. There is no purpose in continu- ing to lament about what is wrong—if you continue to talk about a flat tire, will it magically fix itself? No, it’s up to you to make the choice to fix it. This choice, however simple it may seem, is what will set your future in motion again, because if that choice isn’t made, just like that tire, you are stuck. I can only speak for myself, when I say that this flat tire is tired of being stuck, and my tale will show you the choices I have made to get my life moving again.

Afterglow Convo

So...have I hooked you yet? Brought you close enough to the edge that you want to see what it feels like to just let go and fall over? Have I convinced you to keep my words around in your head for a while? I understand that I and this book need to earn your trust—maybe start reading me somewhere not too special, like in the bathroom on those days when you just need a few extra moments of privacy from the family. Or maybe you could have a little faith in life and the decision you made at the crossroads of whether to buy this book or not and keep it close to you at night, so you can read it at that magical time that is always laced with possibilities and choices.

Coincidentally, night, actual darkness, is the one tangible in this world that I fear. I hope the intelligence  level of my readers is high enough to see the connection that actual night has to everything bro- ken in my world. I fear the night so much so that I still sleep with a stuffed dinosaur I got from Santa when I was five! I have connected the night to my inner darkness. As the sun sets below the horizon, awakening the creatures of the night, the light also fades away from the corners of my most intimate places, allowing them to be become filled with fantasies or fears. It’s my choice, right? When the pregnant belly of the moon rises in the inky black sky, the fears of my mind would always take control of the stage. Night after night I would spiral through thoughts of fear, concern, or worry that I wasn’t doing enough to keep up the appearance of my ultimate representative.

A strange thing started to happen when I put pen to paper, or rather fingernail to keyboard . . . the night became my friend. I see the night as the refuge that allows me to spread my limbs without the crushing weight of my ultimate representative. Sitting with pieces of my true self and not greeting them with judgment seemed almost taboo. A naughty secret that I shared only with myself, I began to look forward to the night. Don’t get it twisted, I still sleep with that same dinosaur. In fact after my crossroads tattoo I am going to get him inked on me for eternity. I see nothing wrong with having a bed buddy! I have let you in on my train of thought on what choices I now need to make to get me to be happy. What choice will you

make? Will you embrace your biggest fear, your version of the night? Or will you bury your head under the covers when the light begins to fade and continue to lie to yourself?

Left Wanting More

In my present, I have some amazing friends who told me that my opening sentence needs to hook my audience, tease them just enough that they want to read another sentence then another and another until they have blown through the climax and are left breath- less and sweaty at the end. Pssh, fuck that noise, my motto is: go big or go home, so I clearly had to do more than a sentence. I decided to give you a whole damn chapter that pulls you in and ignites some- thing inside of you that has been waiting so patiently and obediently to come out and play.

Look at this introductory chapter as that first time with your new love interest. Not the first time you wish you had with them - I know the steamy scenes you are currently running through your mind that you have taken from movies or TV. I swear being so connected to the world has really killed our imaginations...sheesh. Rather, I want you to try to picture the first time you had sex with the last person you had sex with! That’s what this first chapter is for you and I, our first time together, a chance to let you feel me out, try me on for size and see if you want to come back for more. As with most first times it might be a little awkward and slightly uncomfortable but if you stick with me, I can guarantee that you will have mostly exciting experiences with the promise of more pleasure to come.

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About the Author

Welcome to my real, crazy, emotional, probably too honest journey. I am an everyday girl in this everyday world trying to keep my head above water and within the pages of this book you will learn about the things that have broken me down and the steps I am taking to build back up. You will see, my new friends, this story is written in a unique, general, conversational voice, which was my choice. I want you to be able to picture yourself in my shoes, relate my trials and tribulations to yours and see that you too can find your happiness. Even if you don’t realize this yet, every single one of us possesses things inside of ourselves that we didn't know were there. It took my life taking a crazy right turn and dumping me at the lowest possible point before I could see the strength within myself. We are not defined by what we do, we are defined by the choices we make. I decided when I put pen to paper that I want my choices to start defining me as strong, confident, secure and above all else, happy. So, who am I? How about I tell you who I was. A self-loathing shell of myself who put everyone else’s happiness before my own. Herein lies my story to find that happiness and all of the ups and downs along the way. See who I was and who I am trying to become and maybe, somewhere in there, you will find out a little about yourself too.

Connect: Website | Facebook | Twitter: @ejapicello | Blog | Instagram: @ejapicello

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