His mother’s death, his doctor’s warning, and a desire to connect with, and share, the Gentleman Traditions of his heritage, put him on a path of using his writing to have a conversation with the world.
One afternoon about a few years ago, as we every so often did, and still do, I sat down with some of my old college friends for coffee, reminiscing about the old days, retelling old stories about our old ways. We all come from different walks of life, but we have one characteristic that has tied us since our twenties; we are forward thinkers who love the classic traditions.
We always found amusing how far we got in those days, armed with little more than a cocky confidence, a slick smile, and the ability to act more professional than we actually were. Today we are older, wiser, and have actually became respectable professionals in our individual fields, but we never forgot it was thanks to all the lessons we learned back then.
“If only I could leave an instruction manual, a sort of guide, to my kid in case I’m gone, so he doesn’t have to learn the way I did , the hard way, by making more than my share of mistakes.”
This comment came just a few weeks after my mother had unexpectedly passed away. A few months before her passing, my doctor had warned me to start taking care of myself or I wouldn’t reach 40. Like so many other warnings he would give me, I never took him seriously. That is until my own mother’s passing made my doctor’s comments seem a lot more serious.
In just a few days, all that philosophical verbiage I used to spout out from my martial training, how you have to “Live today as if you could die tomorrow”, became a reality alarmingly fast. We looked at each other and raised our cups in agreement and understanding. That was the informal start of what I called the Caballero Club.
With an idea in my head, I began my first draft about a year ago for what I first called the Caballero Chronicle. Originally, the project was going to be a guide for Latino empowerment, following the Old Gentleman Traditions from Spain and Latin America. Yet, the further I dealt in the topic, the more I realized that the lessons of empowerment I wanted to tell others, were not limited to a single ethnicity or race, or even culture. They were about understanding who you are as a man in a modern world. It started to take shape in the form of a thesis of self-empowerment based on the Universal Truths of Respect, to others and to self.
So, armed with a proposal and about 45 thousand words, I headed to test the waters as an amateur writer. And that’s when I found out yet another reality of life. If you are an unpublished author, a complete unknown, trying to push a book, those waters I was testing were really cold and unkind. Yet, instead of getting frustrated by the rejections, I got frustrated with myself.
I realized I failed one of my own lessons, especially the idea that you don’t travel to reach a goal, but to experience the trip. I was so focused on having a manuscript ready to sell to a publisher, that I lost track of why I was doing it. So I put the draft away.
And that was the formal start of Being Caballero.
I would simply enjoy the ride. Write, read, see people’s reactions. Treat it the same way you would when having a conversation with a friend. Sometimes you teach them something, other times they teach you something. Yet this conversation would be with the world. Am I the same man I was when I began? No. I am not even the same man I was when I began writing this article. That’s the beauty of life, you constantly grow and learn.
Every once in a while I still get together with my friends and have some coffee and catch up, just now it’s usually on Skype since we each live in different time zones. We’re still discussing how just being a gentleman, how being honorable, how being educated, and how being cultured, all helped us forge our lives. We discussed how that attitude got us through hard times, and helped us enjoy even more the good times. Many of those chats have actually evolved into some of the stories and lessons you have read here.
But what about trying to get the book deal, you ask. That will happen if it has to happen. I hand that over, like so many things in my life, to fate.
Right now I am a little too busy just enjoying a conversation with the world.
Photo: Flickr/Alice Popkorn