Live a Great Story Challenge 5: Dream Day

As a new Live a Great Story Ambassador, I'm participating in our weekly challenges. I am posting them because I feel that all anyone really needs is to know is that they aren't alone. Sometimes that's enough.

Challenge #5: Figure out what your Dream Day is and GO LIVE IT

I was pretty unsure of where to start with this challenge when I initially read the email on Sunday afternoon. I texted Shayne to see what he had to say about the challenge and he was able to point out the first issue with the challenge: "if we have to dream up the perfect day and live it, I'll need to rob a bank first." 

Hey man, dreams take money.

But the best thing about Shayne is that, no matter what jokes he makes, his perfect day would be spent taking pictures. Pictures of PhillyPictures of PeoplePictures in general.

I mean... is that my dream day too? I love to take pictures. I love to go out with my camera and just observe people. I love photography. I love film. I love anything involving a camera.

But is that my dream day?

As the week continued on, Sunday rolled into Monday and I was strapped for time with deadlines looming, as usual. Tuesday was no better, with the brunt of my afternoon getting rescheduled due to some issues with my wife needing to get her legs x-rayed.

 People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting at the school that reportedly killed and injured multiple people on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

People are brought out of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting at the school that reportedly killed and injured multiple people on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

I kept trying to reach my deadlines until Wednesday: another school shooting. This time, 17 were dead in Parkland, FL.

Now, it's Thursday morning and I haven't been able to sleep. I can't really have a dream day when I can't sleep at night, worrying about the children that I will have with my wife in the future, who will have to go to school and possibly deal with something like this.

Sometimes, when my wife and I watch a movie that has a scene in a high school setting, she'll look to me and say, "Is high school really like that?" She didn't go to a high school like I did, so the context for her to understand isn't really there.

Sadly, I understand everything about the high school experience.

In 1999, I was in history class (taught by a man who was convinced I was a disappointment to my family for not living up to my brother's grades, and he let me know it every single chance he got), when an announcement came over the loudspeaker: There was a school shooting. Not a lot of information was known. We were going to remain on lockdown until told otherwise.

 Eric Harris  (left)  and Dylan Klebold  (right)  caught on the Columbine High School's security cameras in the cafeteria, 11 minutes before their suicides

Eric Harris (left) and Dylan Klebold (right) caught on the Columbine High School's security cameras in the cafeteria, 11 minutes before their suicides

I was in that classroom for 2 hours more than I needed to be that day and my mind was spinning.

The information that we got that day trickled down to us from the teachers and was spotty. We knew that there were two kids in a town in Colorado that bought guns online. At the time, my parents wouldn't let me have AOL, so I couldn't comprehend buying anything online let alone a gun.

Then, information came out about a "Trenchcoat Mafia." My ex-boyfriend loved wearing a trench coat, was he going to shoot up the school? Instantly, it appeared, everyone around me was either a "with it" or "n/a" person:

With it's: You were allowed to be involved in the conversation because you were with the group that would help stop it from happening.

N/A's: You were the conversation. You were not allowed to speak out of turn. You dressed differently. You had weird colored hair. You were in theater. You were probably gay. You listened to loud music.

You were then bullied because "you probably had a gun."

That summer, I noticed a lot of things for the first time (including that I most certainly into other girls) and I was starting to get uncomfortable by the people around me who were saying and doing things that I couldn't understand. Hateful, awful, horrible, mean things. They claimed it was in an effort to protect me or themselves. More than anything, it was fear and ignorance.

I noticed the game then and I stepped away. I disassociated with a lot of people over that summer. On the chopping block was mainly friends I had known since kindergarten or before. I couldn't see this other group that I loved to be a part of, take the blame for something they weren't even involved in.

In the past few years, I've tried to reconnect with some of these people. I guess you could say I had a change of heart as far as cutting people out of my life, and I had some regrets about relationships I had fractured. With some, it went well and it was like no time had passed in our friendship. With others, it was made very clear that they couldn't recover from the small-town mentality that their parents instilled in them (either by fear, hatred, or amusement). 

 But that's none of my business

But that's none of my business

As a side note, I'd love for "these people" to have a conversation with me anytime. I have invited a few of them, more than once, to have a sit-down conversation. A hashing-it-out, if you will. These, you see, are also the people that have been complaining about NFL players kneeling for the National Anthem when we all know that they were the ones sitting at their desks, half/fully asleep during the Pledge of Allegiance at 8am. These are also the people that assaulted (physically, as well as sexually) others for their own amusement and/or to make themselves feel better for any number of reasons (for example, their parent's divorce, getting sent to military school, getting busted with a bag of weed/pills, etc). These people are now parents, and that makes it that much scarier. 

In my senior year of high school, I volunteered in the main office during one of my 4 free periods, filing absence notes from parents into students files, typing, answering phones, etc. That same year, there was a kid that was a new student that had just started who no one really knew.

Oddly enough, this student had a regular amount of absence notes from his parents, that was obviously not an adults handwriting. A joke was made that "there was something fishy about this kid." 

Well, that kid ended up kicked out of school because he was found out to be the person responsible for the multiple bomb scares. If I remember correctly, he lived near the school and would go to the building really early in the morning and tape notes on the entrances to the school. We missed a few days (I believe there were 2 hours delays so the "bomb squad could search the building") but no one really knew the kid and it wasn't even a blip on most peoples radars. It was just another excuse to skip school.

Life continued. Graduation. College. September 11th. Leaving college. The Iraq War. Jobs. More school. Life just moved on.

What else continued? School shootings.

We. Did. Nothing.

Thoughts and prayers don’t do a damn thing.


You know what, I don't have a dream job. I don't have a dream car. I don't even have a dream life anymore. I just want a day where people can go about their lives without the pain and misery that comes with a school shooting.

I don't want any more children to be murdered. I don't want any more parents to have to bury their children because someone killed them at school.

I also don't want any more parents to have to explain why their child carried out a school shooting. I don't want any more kids to be bullied so badly that they think a school shooting is the only solution.

We need to be better.

We need to be better parents to our children. We need to be better listeners when people need help. We need to be the lighthouses that people look for when they need help.

And now the really hard part: I have to somehow go live that.

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