The Renegade Press

Tales from the mouth of a wolf

One of the most common societal misconceptions about life is that it is linear. From the moment that we are old enough to process complex thoughts, we are told that we will spend our time between birth and death transitioning from one progressive stage to the next. We’re told that we will go to school, graduate and attend college, get a job, meet a partner, have a family and eventually grow old, contented in the knowledge that we have ticked all the boxes that we are advised we must.

Because of this, we believe that everything has a time and place. We convince ourselves that there is a right time to fall in love, to focus on personal development, or to pursue our careers and education. When we believe that we should be directing our energy towards one aspect of our wellbeing, many of us begin to neglect all others, creating an imbalance within our lives that can damage the happiness we all strive towards.

We convince ourselves that because we haven’t finished our education or landed our dream job, that we shouldn’t find a partner and fall in love. Or that because we had a child at a young age, we can’t go back and complete our studies or start the business we have always yearned to create.

But life’s trajectory isn’t linear. It’s cyclical. And we as human beings must learn to be malleable, drifting with the ebbs and flows of the universe as they pull us to and from our heart’s truest desires.

In 2016, I set myself a goal. I wanted to write a love story. My reason for doing so was simple: I had hit rock bottom in my life, and I needed a way to find my feet again. At twenty-seven years of age, I had just had my heart ripped out by a girl and was so down that I became convinced that I would never find someone to fall in love with. I had to fight just to find a reason to stay alive. In addition to feeling like life had just knocked me down, I was viewing my life as a linear progression of events that had just been derailed, exacerbating the pain that I was feeling.

But rather than throw away what was left of my life, I made a choice to write about the very thing that pained me, confronting my fears and creating the happy ending that I believed I would never experience. When I first started to work on the novel, I told myself that it was time for me to focus on my career as a writer. I put everything else in my life on hold to concentrate on creating a manuscript that showed my own personal enlightenment and growth.

A lot of positives came out of what I did. Through producing the script, I began to understand who I really was, what I valued most, and how to shed the fears and anxieties that had lived inside of my head. But I also created a new imbalance between the world I was creating in my mind, and the one that I was withdrawing from on a daily basis. I was so focused on achieving a goal that had spawned from a place of great pain, that I missed out on experiencing some truly special moments, as well as opportunities to appreciate just how wonderful life really is.

The first time that I realised I had created an imbalance within myself was when I was partway through editing my novel. I met a girl. Well, kind of. We actually met a long time ago, and I have always known that there was something about her that could take my breath away. But I somehow convinced her to meet me for a coffee. When she showed up and smiled at me, there was a shift inside my soul and I felt something that I hadn’t felt in a really long time.

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I felt butterflies in my stomach, and a pinch in my chest as if I’d taken an arrow through the heart. By the time our brief encounter was over I had realised that meeting her was the universe’s way of pulling me away from focusing so intensely on producing a manuscript, and guiding me towards something far greater. I didn’t fall for her because she was beautiful. That would be too clichéd. I fell for her because even though she has a smile that causes a kaleidoscope of butterflies to take flight within my abdomen, she’s also intelligent, mischievous, funny, brave, bold, compassionate and so connected to her own heart and mind that she makes me want to be a better man.

In the months since we first sat on a patch of grass and rubbed her dog’s belly while she teased me for taking milk with my coffee, I have made a fool of myself more than once. I’ve told her that I want to be her partner, that I love her, and that when I’m around her I feel as though I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. I’ve written blog posts about flowers coming to bloom, and sent her a short story just because she was on my mind. And yet, while the cyclical arc of my life has brought me to the most unlikely of places where I have found someone I would walk through hell for, her life hasn’t arrived at that point just yet.

The person that I was a year ago would have struggled with the knowledge that he had fallen for someone who wasn’t in the same headspace that he was. He would have crumbled underneath the weight of his own insecurities, and cursed at the universe for constantly trying to pull him away from his linear path. But that’s not who I am anymore. In the space of twelve months I have transitioned from boy with no desire to live, to a writer who momentarily hid himself away from the world, to a man comfortable enough with himself to acknowledge that he has found a woman he could happily spend his life sharing adventures and creating memories with.

Yet while I know what my heart wants, I don’t think that the time for her and I is right now.

The universe hasn’t brought her to the same place as I am for a reason. She still has a few dreams that she wants to achieve on her own. But I honestly believe that she’ll be a part of my life forever. And that one day soon our souls will melt together like colours smeared across an artist’s canvas. Until then, I’ll cherish the moments that we share together and remind myself that you should never rush something that is meant to last.

When I started writing this post I had planned on doing a wrap up of 2017. I was going to talk about the challenges I had faced writing a love story, and what I had learned about myself while producing entries for this blog. But then I realized that doing so would be falling into the same mindset of predetermined progression that I always had. So, I decided to acknowledge that right now I’m happier than I have ever been in my life instead.

By allowing myself the freedom to open my heart and write with absolutely vulnerability, I’ve learned how to be free from the anxieties that turned much of my earlier work into disjointed garbage. By embracing my passions, I have been afforded the opportunity to work with one of my closest friends to launch a new venture that involves other artists and an origami wolf. And by taking a risk and asking a girl I’d always known was beautiful out for a coffee, I have found someone that I long to make memories with.

2017 was a year of introspection and rediscovering who I am. It was a year of slaving away at my desk, pouring my heart and soul into my work in an effort to understand what it is that I value, what I love, and what dreams I truly wish to become my reality. But as the new year fast approaches, I realise that I’ve always known who I am. I just lost sight of that person for a while.

My name is Chris Nicholas. I’m a writer, a wolf, a brother and son. I’m a man about to embark on a new journey with his creative passions; and a lover excited at the possibility of a lifetime of adventures with a soul who vibrates at a frequency that mirrors my own. I hope that when I can finally share my new venture with my readers, they are as excited as I am to be a part of something new, and that together we can change the literary industry forever. And I dream that one day I no longer have to refer to the woman I fell for as my Horizon or Belle Âme.

“If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk in my garden forever.”

–          Alfred Tennyson

Inside the heart of every man and woman lies a little patch of soil. This foundation for the garden bed of our deepest desires sits buried beneath the soft tissue of our atriums and ventricles in a place so sacred we share it only with those worthy of our truest affections. As children our gardens are bare, and we look to those that we love the most to teach us how to bring flowers to bloom. But as we grow and find our place in this world, we begin to cultivate a space that is uniquely our own.

Some people learn quickly; as though horticulture is ingrained into their DNA. They create nurseries bursting with life, or build a bedframe around their plot of dirt, allowing exotic flowers to grow in the empty space where a mattress once was. But some, like me, spend their lives patiently toiling away at an empty plot held together by weather worn timber and rusty nails; determined to grow something more than the florets of a winter’s frost that have settled against the earth.

There have been times when my garden has known the flowers and fragrance of seasonal romance. In my younger years I gave life to blooms that were never meant to last. I knew that my actions were foolish. But with each change of season I learned more about how to nurture the florae that blossomed within my chest. I didn’t realise it then, but as I broke my own heart over and over again, I was preparing myself for something far greater than anything that I had ever known. I was preparing myself for you.

When I was a boy I experienced the blooms of passing fancies. I smelled the scents of fleeting passion and marvelled at the petals of brief affairs. But my garden has never known a flower as beautiful as you…

You came into my life like spores floating on a gentle breeze, burying yourself inside of me with a mischievous smile that you sealed with a kiss. I was so captivated by who you were that I opened my chest, letting you sink beneath my dirt so that your roots could grow. I watered you, and let the sun warm your features until the first tiny green shoots of love grew inside my chest.

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You became the first thing on my mind when I woke each morning, and the last before I fell asleep at night. With each passing thought of you I watched in awe as the flowers of my garden continued to blossom. Some of my thoughts have been more pure than others; I often dream of rubbing your stomach when you’re sick, or sharing in your moments of success and personal growth. But I have also longed to know how your breath catches in your throat when I press my hips hard against yours, or what it feels like to leave goose bumps across your naked body as my lips softly caress your skin.

I know that this sounds scary. Believe me, I’m scared too. But I knew from the moment that I saw you that you were destined to be so much more than just another seasonal romance. 

You are the kindred spirit that I was always meant to find; the flower brought to bloom in the dirt of my soul. The way that my imagination has traversed the contours of your landscape, explored the depths of your heart and mind, and contemplated a future by your side has caused a shift within me. Because of you, what was once a tiny patch of dirt held together by worn timber beams buried in my chest is now a spectacular garden that stretches as far as my mind’s eye can conceive.

Because of you, I stroll through lilies when I picture your smile, or peonies when I remind myself of how I can feel your heart beat through your fingertips when we touch. I smell the allure of roses when I think of the moments of lust that I long to share together, and the fragrance of lavender and honeysuckle when I imagine you asleep beneath my sheets.

I have never known a flower as beautiful as you. I have never met a woman who could smile at me so mischievously and steal my heart. But now that I know how it feels to find someone who can take my breath away, I want to spend forever wandering through my garden, exploring the blooms that you have brought to life within me. I want to spend my life falling in love with the woman that you are every single day, and grow into the man that you need me to be. And I want to smell the subtle scent of lavender and honeysuckle beneath my sheets each morning until our bodies grow old and wrinkly.

I yearn to become lost inside of you, and to find myself again in your sensuousness and beauty. I want to be the flower that blooms within your chest; to be the man who devotes his life to nurturing your mind, holding your heart, and worshiping the intricacies of your flesh. I want to spend our time walking through our gardens, hand in hand, until our souls melt together as one.

We can spend the rest of our lives smelling the fragrance of roses when our bodies collide, or cooling ourselves beneath the shade of palms when we are tired and weary. And when we grow old, we can spend our afternoons lost amongst the fields of lilies that were once nothing more than little patches of soil in our chests. We can watch the setting sun as it sinks beneath the horizon. I can be yours; and you can be mine forever.

I have always hated the idea of wearing shoes when I drive. Ever since I first learned how to navigate the quiet back streets close to my family home with my parents by my side, I have felt uncomfortable with the idea that my foot is separated from the accelerator by a rubber sole. I often try to rationalise my behaviour by telling myself that because I grew up near the ocean and spent much of my youth commuting around town with my feet covered in sand, I have become accustomed to travelling barefoot. But the truth is that I don’t know exactly what compels me to kick off my shoes when I get behind the wheel.

Regardless of why I prefer to drive the way that I do; I always try to arrive at my destination a few minutes early so that I have time to pull on my socks and lace up my shoes.

Weird right? And totally pointless. I haven’t blogged in almost a month and now here I am writing about feet. I know that it seems like a weird topic, but there is a point to this story…

Had it not have been for this strange habit, I never would have recently found myself inadvertently eavesdropping on a conversation between a young girl and her grandmother. The girl must have been six years old, and presumably in her first few years of education. She was dressed in her school uniform and held her grandmother’s hand tightly as they walked down the footpath near where I was pulling on my shoes in the front seat of my car.

“I don’t really have many friends at school,” I heard the little girl say. “I think that it’s because I’m not a very fast runner.”

The girl’s comment made me stop what I was doing and glance up at the duo just in time to watch her grandmother pause and turn towards her. She explained that the little girl had lots of friends, and that even though she may not be the fastest runner in her class, she excelled at plenty of other things. Hearing that she was special in her own unique way brought a huge smile to the little girl’s lips. With the conversation seemingly settled, they continued their journey down the footpath to wherever they were heading hand-in-hand.

Although a part of me felt guilty for having overheard such an intimate moment shared between a grandmother and her granddaughter, the conversation struck a chord with me. Over the past few years I have come to understand that I am a deeply empathetic person, so to hear a small child voice their insecurities and self-doubt caused a chasm to open within my chest. In the three weeks since the conversation took place, I have replayed it over and over inside of my head, and it’s only just now that I have begun to understand why I was so affected by what I heard.

Initially I told myself that I was moved by the conversation because it caused me to consider my own future. I imagined a time when it was my child who doubted themselves, or felt as though they didn’t quite fit in with their peers. I told myself that I didn’t ever want them to feel like the little girl did; I wanted them to always know that they were loved. And I made a promise to myself that neither my children, nor the woman that I grow old with, would ever feel as though they weren’t good enough, or question my love for them.

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But then I realised that I was being foolish. Moments of self-doubt are inevitable; eventually my loved ones are going to have moments where they struggle, or where they must acknowledge that they’re not be the fastest runner in their class. It took some time to figure it out, but eventually I understood that the reason the conversation had such a profound impact on me is because at some point in our lives we have all felt, or a destined to feel, what that little girl walking down the footpath felt when she told her grandmother that she felt alone.

I don’t really have many friends… I think that it’s because I’m not a very fast runner.

Every single person in this world has had times where they have told themselves that they don’t quite fit in, that they’re not good enough, or have convinced themselves that they are alone. Sometimes it can feel as though we as a species are hardwired to see the positives in everyone else, whilst only ever finding failures within ourselves. We have all been guilty of judging ourselves too harshly for what we perceive to be our flaws, instead of celebrating the idiosyncrasies and strengths that make us who we are.  And we have all manufactured faults within our heads that don’t exist, or told ourselves that we must be broken, rather than simply accepting that sometimes it’s alright to not be OK.

The classmates of the little girl in my story don’t dislike her because she’s not the fastest runner at their school. They love her for all the reasons that her grandmother listed, and probably many more. But because she is so fixated on what she perceives to be her one fault, instead of acknowledging her many strengths, she can’t see the positives in who she is that so many others do.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is that life is about perspectives.

Although we may live underneath the same sky, we don’t share the same realities, the same hopes and dreams, or even the same horizons. We are the sum of our past experiences. Because we have all lived through separate journeys, and seen the world through different eyes, no two people will ever experience the world in the same way. It’s just not possible. What that means is that it is highly likely that what you perceive to be a flaw in who you are, could be the very thing that causes someone else to fall hopelessly in love with you.

So next time you stare at your reflection the mirror and see something wrong with your physical appearance, just remember that someone else is looking at you and wondering how it’s possible for another human being to be so beautiful. When you’re convinced that you don’t fit in, remind yourself that others are in awe of the magnetism in your actions and the way that your words make those around you feel safe.  And when you feel like you don’t have many friends because you’re not the fastest runner in your class, remember that the people who matter most will celebrate who you are regardless of whether you ever win a damn race or not.

But perhaps most importantly, remember to talk to someone close to you if you’re ever having one of those days where your insecurities are causing you to feel vulnerable or afraid.

When those moments arrive, take a page out of the book of the little girl ambling down the footpath with her grandmother, and find the courage to acknowledge that you’re experiencing self doubt. I guarantee that when you do, the people who love you will take the time to remind you that despite your one perceived flaw, you have countless strengths and positive attributes that make you the person that you are. We are all perfectly imperfect. And we are beautiful in our own idiosyncratic ways.

 “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”

  • Dr. Seuss.

I recently had a moment…

It was one of those moments when all the pieces of the puzzle that we call life suddenly fall into place, and for a brief instant everything that you have ever lived through begins to make sense. I was at the beach, lying on a blanket beside a girl. Her dog was excitedly climbing all over us, causing sand to stick to our sunburned skin. She was laughing hysterically, apologising on his behalf as she began throwing a stick for him to chase. I leaned towards her and planted a kiss on her shoulder, feeling something monumental shift inside my chest when she turned to meet my gaze and kiss my cheek.

I know that what I’m about to say sounds terribly clichéd, and some may even call me a hopeless romantic. But as I lay on the sand with her head resting on my stomach, I realised that I have never wanted anything in my life half as much as I want her. Sunburnt, covered in sand, and completely at the mercy of a beautiful woman, I started to think that perhaps I have been so preoccupied with chasing visions of literary success that I have misunderstood what life is really all about.

When I first started to experiment with writing at the age of seventeen I never could have anticipated the impact that my passion would have on my life. At the time, I was an idealistic teenager with a head full of stories and an ego a mile long. I told myself that I had talent, and wrongfully assumed that it would be easy to become a best seller, earn a small fortune, and find a partner who loved me as endlessly as I would love her. I didn’t think that I would spend the next ten years continuously pushing myself to think beyond my own limits, or sacrificing as much as I have in order to create.

But because there was such a startling imbalance between my heart and my head, those sacrifices that I have been forced to make were inevitable. I spent years focusing so intently on illogical delusions of grandeur that I ignored the beating of my own heart as it tried to tell me to slow down, appreciate life, and allow myself to feel love. In my ignorance and haste to be successful, I didn’t bother to understand my own emotions. As a result I have ruined relationships, missed opportunities, burned bridges, and suffered through anxiety and depression.

To put it really bluntly: I became so concerned with chasing dreams that I started to really screw up my own reality.

Yet while it would be easy to beat myself up for the mistakes that I made, I’m actually glad that I made them. Because it was the accumulation of all my past successes, failures, elations and pains that led me to that moment in time when I kissed the soft skin of a woman’s shoulder and felt the universe tell me that I was exactly where I was meant to be.

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I’ve never felt anything like I did on that beach before. I’ve been in love; and there was a time when I thought that I had found the girl that I was destined to marry. But I have never experienced a moment where everything just makes sense; where all the highs and lows, the self-doubts, and the chaotic ten years caused by an impulse to write suddenly become meaningless in comparison to something as simple as a kiss, a smile, or watching a girl who takes your breath away laugh as she throws a stick for her dog to chase across the sand.

Now that I have felt it, I don’t want it to go away. I don’t want to lose the feeling that she left behind when she engraved her name in fluent cursive into my soul. And I don’t want to keep endlessly chasing dreams or falling asleep either. As I lay on the beach, I glimpsed a reality far greater than anything that I have ever dreamed of. It was a reality where I could balance the literary goals in my head with the beating of my heart; where I could write, be loved, and be happy all at once.

Life isn’t about materialistic success. It isn’t about selling millions of books, earning thousands of dollars, owning an empire, or any of that bullshit. It’s about being balanced and being happy. It’s about sharing yourself with those that you care about, learning that sometimes it’s important to listen to your heart over your head, and allowing yourself to be vulnerable enough to fall in love. Twelve months ago I never imagined that I could feel something as profound as I did on the beach. I never thought that I would find myself lying beside a girl who is so beautiful that she could alter the way that I see the world just by kissing my cheek. But I did. And I haven’t stopped smiling ever since.

So, I want to set you a challenge…

If you’re out of balance, and you’re listening to your head too much at the expense of your heart, I want you to try and make a shift. I want you to turn off the voice that drives you, slow down, and begin to understand what your heart truly beats for. I want you to stop being lead by your dreams, and start building a more beautiful, worthwhile, and rewarding reality instead. Allow yourself to feel loved, to listen to your impulses, and understand that the greatest thing you will ever do in your life is to share it with the people that you care about. If you can do that, you’ll be truly happy. I promise. Because I am.

As for the girl on the beach; her name has been written into my chest like poetry in the pages of a notebook. Whether I get my reality with her remains to be seen. But I really hope that I do. Because if something as simple as a kiss on the cheek can make me feel the way that I did, there’s no telling how magical a reality with her could truly be. 

I once read a quote that said it is impossible to watch a sunset and not fall into a dream. But I’ve been dreaming for so long now that I can’t tell if it’s the beauty of the sunset before me, or a little arrow that Cupid shot into my chest that makes me conjure up these images of you.

I’m sitting alone on the shoreline, basking in the final rays of evening light reflecting off an ocean so calm its surface has turned to glass. The air is so still that I can taste the ocean on my tongue and hear my own thoughts passing through my head. I don’t know what you’re doing right now, if you feel what I feel, or if I’ll ever find the courage to tell you this in person. I just know that you are miles away from where I am; two hundred and forty-six to be exact. So, as I watch the sun slowly sink beneath the water’s edge, surrendering the sky to the moon and the night, I utter a silent prayer that when the time comes for me to cross my own horizon, I find you waiting on the other side.

I wriggle my toes beneath the sand and imagine the warmth of your body pressed hard against mine. I want to kiss the places where an artist’s needle has left tattoos buried beneath your skin, or hold you down and blow raspberries against your hips until your stomach cramps from laughter. I want to know how it feels to lay beside you as you’re wrapped up in fresh white sheets; I long to press my lips between your shoulder blades while your chest rises and falls with heavy sleep. I want to run my fingers through your hair in a moment of passion, and be the name you utter through breathless lips as we kiss.

I close my eyes as the sun takes its final bow and slips beneath the skyline. When I open them again, the warmth in the air has faded away and night has descended around me. The moon casts a pale yellow light down on my motionless body, as if it knows that you’re always on my mind. I’m not sure how you did it; how you found a way to bury yourself beneath my skin. But now I’m sitting here watching the endless blue ocean turn into an inky black abyss, telling myself that I would risk swimming towards the horizon if I knew it would bring me closer to you.

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I picture myself swimming hard towards the distance, my body breathless and fatigued. I imagine a storm raging overhead, turning the water’s glassy surface into a sea of violent waves that crash down upon my battered frame. My life has never been smooth sailing, nor should it have ever been. The rough waters that I have endured have made me stronger, more confident, and more certain when I say that I once I have swum across the horizon and dragged my weary body onto the shore, I hope to feel your waiting arms wrap around me, and know that I’m forever yours.

I want to hold you tight when you’re hurting, and tell you that I’m proud when you achieve your wildest dreams. I want to carry you to your bedroom when you’re exhausted, you’ve partied too hard, or in those moments when we are consumed with insatiable desire and lust. I want to explore the contours of your body and trace the curves of your hips with the palms of my hands, kissing my way along your calves and up the back of your thighs until goosebumps cover your skin.

I long to feel your heart racing in the throes of passion as your fingers interlock tightly with mine. I yearn to feel your breath against my neck and your teeth against my skin when your body trembles at my touch. If I could just spend my time with you, I would run my hand across the soft skin of your cheek and let our eyes meet as I whisper that no horizon could ever keep us apart. I would swim through waters to find you, no matter how dark, how eerie, or deep.

But I’m not with you in your bed right now. I’m still sitting alone on a beach that has been swallowed up by the hollowness of night. I’m no longer sure if I am dreaming, or if your name has been carved into the chambers of my soul. But I do know that I want you, and that when I find the strength to cross my horizon, I pray that you’re waiting on the shoreline to throw your arms around me.

I know that I would do the same for you. If I ever saw you swimming, I’d be there to watch you take your final stroke before I pulled you from the waters and into a tight embrace. I would tell you that I love you, that I need you, and that you’ve crossed the horizon and found a man who will ensure you never need to swim through such treacherous waters again.

A few days ago I suffered through a crisis of confidence while attempting to gain a better understanding of what direction I am trying to move in with my writing, and my life. During this crisis I managed to convince myself that I have nothing of value to offer a potential lover, and that I was destined to be the man who spends his life writing about love, without ever being fortunate enough to experience it for himself. Realising that I’d fallen into a creative and emotional lull, I decided to write down how I was feeling in a piece that I have since come to know as Dirt. 

I never intended to share the post with anyone. It was simply an opportunity to release some of the angst that has been building inside of me as I continue to work towards establishing myself and my voice within the literary industry. But as someone who believes in the importance of acknowledging that it’s alright to not be OK, I decided to share what I wrote below. My reasoning for doing so is simple: I don’t want pity. I want to give hope to anyone out there who resonates with how I felt. I want them to realise that they are not alone, and that negative thoughts will always come and go; but life will get better if you give it a chance. I promise…

 

An old Ugandan proverb says that the one who loves you, loves you with your dirt. But it’s not the dirt that concerns me. It’s the scars that are hidden underneath. Dirt merely clings to the surface; it can be washed away. I know that one day mine will be. I’ll find you, we’ll fall in love, and the sins and virtues of my past will become meaningless in the context of our lives. Yet I’m still so scared that when we meet and all the grit and grime of who I am is stripped away, you’ll see the blemishes on my soul and realise that you’ve fallen for a man who hides behind his words because his humanity has been broken beyond repair.

When all the dirt is washed away you’ll see the scars on my hands that were caused by a lifetime of fighting to find my place in a world that has always left me feeling lonely and afraid. You’ll see that my knuckles have been split on the cheeks of my enemies, and that I have torn skin from bone by driving my fists into brick and mortar in moments of frustration. You’ll hear the click in my wrist when it moves, and your fingers will feel the callouses that have left my palms feeling gnarled and worn. I’ll be forced to swallow my pride and tell you how they serve as a reminder of a time when I held onto a life that caused me great pain; and how all I had really wanted to do was let go.

I’ll explain that there are scars inside my head too. And that I can still see them when I close my eyes. There are the wounds caused by driving down a motorway with my eyes closed, wondering how it would feel to simply cease to exist. Or the marks left behind by the nights I spent lying awake questioning how I became a sky that no one wants to fly in.

I never wanted to be the man who was different. When I was younger I never thought that I would be twenty-eight years old and still alone. I didn’t ask to feel an empathy so strong that I was willing to sacrifice my own happiness to protect those around me. People often say that it sounds like a noble calling, but I have had my heart broken too many times by those that I have tried to save to find solace in the decisions that I have made.

All I ever wanted was to be normal; to be loved like everybody else. But as the sun sets each night and my sky turns from blue to black, I realise that even the stars are afraid to shine within me.

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And yet my head and my hands are nothing compared to the wounds that lay buried within my chest. My heart has been ripped apart and crudely stitched back together more times than I care to remember. I haven’t even met you and I’m already struggling to find a way to show you just how fragile it has become. How can I ever tell you about the marks left by the infidelities of lovers, and how they make me afraid to love again? How could you ever want me if you knew that a piece of me died when I told a woman I wanted to grow old with her and she left me all alone?

I wish that it was only my dirt that you had to fall in love with…

I wish that I could smile at you with a face covered in filth and grime and steal your heart. But there’s more to me than what’s on the surface; it’s buried beneath the dirt. Life hasn’t always been easy. But I wouldn’t be the man that I am today without the scars that I mark my skin. I wouldn’t know how to love, how to smile, or how to find that little piece of happiness within myself even when I feel like giving up.

I can’t promise that I’ll be perfect when you meet me. Chances are I will be so excited just to see you that I’ll say something stupid, or try to hold your hand. But I promise that I will always think the world of you, and try my hardest to say and do the right thing. I promise that I’ll love you, your dirt, and the scars that hide underneath.

I’ll hold your hands tightly when you’re sad. You may not have the same callouses that I do, but that doesn’t mean you haven’t had to hold on when it felt like life was dragging you down. I’ll kiss your head when you close your eyes and the scars inside your mind manifest as visions that cause you pain. You may have never driven down a motorway with your eyes closed, and maybe you’ve never thought of yourself as an empty sky. But I promise that I will fly in you if you let me. Every day; and every night. I’ll fly one of those little gliders that leaves a trail of smoke, writing love notes across your horizons for as long as we both shall live.

And when your heart hurts as the wounds of lovers passed make you question who I am, I promise to be patient. I’ll lend you my ears, a shoulder to lean on, or just give you a kiss to show that I don’t ever want to lose you. I know that I said that I never wanted to be different. I know that I told you it has caused me a lot of pain. But I’m hoping it’s all for a reason; that maybe when I find you, and you look into my eyes, those differences will be what makes you take a leap of faith, and risk falling in love one last time.

I can’t guarantee that I’ll be perfect. I would do it if I could. But I promise that I will spend every day loving you, even when you’re covered in dirt.

In August 2016, a woman broke my heart. After two years of dating, during which time I convinced myself that she was the person I was destined to marry, she left me. To say that I was devastated would be an understatement. I was inconsolable, believing that my entire world had come crashing down around me. In the months that followed our failed romance, I lost my desire to write, to eat, and even to live.

Yet for all that I temporarily lost, I also learned…

I learned how to let go of the anger and depression that had consumed me, how to pick myself back up when life had knocked me down, and how to appreciate the true beauty of human compassion. But arguably the most important thing that I came to understand in my lowest moments was what it means to truly love someone. Twelve months ago I was hurting so badly, and yet all I wanted was for the woman who had left me to be happy. I didn’t realise it at the time, but that willingness to sacrifice my own happiness so that someone else could find theirs, was love.

Love is not about expensive gifts, loading pretty pictures on social media, or superficial bullshit. Love is the desire to go that extra mile just to make someone smile. It’s holding their hand when they hurt, and it’s the willingness to support them during difficult times.

Love is about finding the one that is worth suffering for, and taking every opportunity you can to show them how much they mean to you.

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When my former lover left me, I didn’t think that I would ever find someone who could make me feel like that again. So, I wrote a love story. In an effort to mend my wounded heart, I gathered up all of my pains and spilled them into a manuscript that is now awaiting a professional treatment from my editor.

But because I’m impatient, I’ve decided to do something monumentally stupid and share a draft of the opening chapter with my readers. At the bottom of this post there’s a link to a PDF download which contains a draft copy of the opening two thousand words of You. It’s not the finished product, and it’s rough as hell, but I’m still so proud to be able to share a little piece of me with those that wish to read it.

I did find another girl too…

I never thought that someone could take my breath away like she did. From the very first time I saw her I knew that she was special; like a spoonful of honey drizzled into my soul. She was the kind of person that only comes along once in a lifetime, but she decided that she didn’t want me the way that I wanted her. And despite what many of us would like to believe, you can’t convince someone to love you, or to ignore the voice in their head that tells them it’s the wrong time.

As much as it hurts to admit, I’m 99% sure that I was the right guy; I just found her at the wrong time. But if she does read this, I hope that she knows just how wonderful she truly is.

Opening Chapter – You

Milk and honey have different colours, but they share the same house peacefully.

  • African proverb

One of the most defining moments of my admittedly short writing career came on December 20th, 2014 when I received my first death threat from a reader. The threat, received via email, was in response to an article I had written which drew comparisons between religious intolerance and a criminological model known as the Broken Windows Theory. Throughout the post, I suggested that the constant defamation of an ideology through misrepresentation and bigotry damages an individual’s perception of a subculture, and creates a rift in our society.

To illustrate my point, I spoke of the Islamic faith and the unjust insinuation that it is a religion defined by violence. I compared acts perpetuated by extremists as stones hurled through the windows of a beautiful monument in an attempt to damage its image and cheapen its perceived worth. At the time, I believed that what I had produced was ground breaking. The piece was my first attempt at blogging about issues far greater than my own, so I saw the influx of hate mail that I received from readers as a sign that I had struck a chord in the hearts and minds of my audience.

These days when I look back at what I wrote, I realise that whilst my intentions were pure, my message of peace and love was lost amongst a violent analogy of shattered glass and social disorder. The end of 2014 was a chaotic time in my life; I was treading water in an endlessly deep ocean of anxiety and despair, and I probably shouldn’t have attempted to write what I did. Nor should I have responded to the threats against my safety with an acid tongue and a willingness to protect my beliefs with bloody hands. By lashing out at those who refuted what I believed, I undermined my own message and became another wedge driven into a fracture between subcultures.

I have never been one to retract a statement that I have made on this site. I have never tried to apologise for expressing myself during my lower moments, or asked for a second chance at a piece that failed to hit its intended mark. But I’m not the same writer that I was in 2014. I’ve grown a hell of a lot since then. I have learned about who I am, what I aspire towards, and that I’m no longer afraid of being wrong.

So, almost three years after receiving a tirade of threats and abuse from readers, I’m ready to acknowledge that if I had my time over, I wouldn’t write a passive aggressive post about broken windows and intolerance like I did. Instead, I would write about milk and honey. And I would speak of how despite their difference in colour, they can still share the same house peacefully.

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When you strip back much of the hate that consumes us and examine the world with some objectivity, you begin to realise just how pathetic and illogical our prejudices towards our fellow man or woman truly are. We often hate because we fail to understand; conjuring up divergences and fears where there are none. And we disparage because we are insecure or frightened of our own position within the universe, beliving that the belittlement of others will allow us to prosper.

But the truth is that while some of us may choose to vilify or trivialise based on sexual orientation, religious creed, or ideological beliefs; we are all connected. And we are all human. It really doesn’t matter whether you are a man or woman; Christian, Muslim, Atheist or other. Nor if you are a heterosexual, transgender, or whether you have fallen in love with a member of the same sex. Or even if your skin is white, brown, yellow or black. When you take away all the bullshit labels, you are a human being; and you matter just as much as anyone else does.

Although we all have our lapses and moments of intolerance towards others; there is no one in this world who should ever feel less valued or appreciated than those around them. If someone does make you feel that you are unimportant, or that you are of a lesser worth than they are, then they’re wrong. It doesn’t matter what their reasoning for doing so is, or even how abhorrent their words or actions may be. There is no fault with who you are, the colour of your skin, or what you choose to believe in. The fault lies in the fucked-up logic and closed-mindedness that prevents them from seeing that perhaps you are the milk to their honey; or vice versa.

It’s at this point where a younger version of me would have flown into a tirade of insensitive nonsense and expletive comments about fighting against the closed-mindedness of others. I would have called myself a wolf and talked about baring fangs, tearing out throats and fighting fire with fire. But I’m not going to do that. Not this time. Whilst I still consider the threats that I received for writing Broken Windows to be some of my proudest achievements as a writer, I’ve learned that there is nothing be gained from becoming the very thing you seek to condemn.

To fly into a rage about bigotry and cultural prejudice would be to speak from a place of hate. Since writing Broken Windows, I have been called a lot of things. Some readers continue to take offence to the idea that I choose to believe in people rather than constructs. They cannot fathom that although I am far from perfect, I try to accept the idiosyncrasies that make each of us perfectly imperfect and wholly unique. Others still have accused me of promoting dangerous ideals, or questioned my sexuality for publishing posts such as Honey.

I used to be angered by the ignorance of others. When someone questioned who I thought that I was I would respond in vulgarity, believing that I had the ability to change someone’s opinions by berating them into submission. But almost three years after my first attempt at promoting cultural acceptance, I don’t carry the same anger that I once did. Nowadays I feel sadness for those who just can’t seem to grasp the concepts of equality and human compassion.

I have learned to feel pity towards the chauvinist who believes that women are beneath him; disappointment for the religious man or woman who ignores the teachings of acceptance they aspire towards whilst tearing down the beliefs of others. And to feel heartbroken for those who believe that the purity of love should be restricted to that between a man and a woman. Because when we close ourselves off to the possibility that the beliefs, ethnicity, orientation or compulsions of another person matters, we lose the piece of ourselves that could have grown through understanding their thoughts, feelings and experiences.

We shouldn’t hate those that are different. We should embrace them, learn from them, and understand that we can share the same house peacefully. Without diversity, the world would be a horribly mundane place. So, if you are someone who struggles to accept people who are different: try. Try to open your heart and mind to the idea that we are all connected, and that we are all equally important. If you do, you just might learn something new, or even help to make the world a better or safer place.

Love is love. Human is human. And regardless of what some may wish to believe; we are equal. We are all valued. And we all connected.

“Everybody gets lost somehow; it’s where we were meant to start”

  • Zachary Britt

Last month marked the fifth anniversary of The Renegade Press, as well as the first anniversary of a friend taking his own life. I had originally planned on creating two separate entries to celebrate my achievement and commiserate the loss of a loved one. But after a few failed attempts to produce either piece, I eventually decided to let the month of July pass without posting at all.

In hindsight, I’m thankful for the writer’s block that stopped me from blogging about either occasion. It seems macabre to revel in the success of a site that began as a means of coming to terms with my demons whilst mourning the loss of a friend who never managed to overcome his own.

So much has changed in my life since I first started blogging in 2012. Over the last five years I have beaten anxiety and depression, watched my father survive a health scare that should have killed him, had my heart broken, received death threats from readers, published a book and severed ties with its producer, lost friends to suicide, and found a way to connect with perfect strangers across the globe through posts just like this one.

Although many of the moments that define me have been tainted with heartbreak; I have managed to find myself amongst the chaos and cacophony of life, and right now I am happier now than I have ever been. When I look back at my earlier work, I can no longer relate to the angry young man crying out for help through posts laden with vulgarity and angst. I’ve stopped writing about masks, depression and violence. The contempt that fueled me to create pieces with an acid tongue is long gone. These days I prefer to create posts about cultural acceptance, flowers, and a girl who has been a drop of honey spilled into my soul.

I still don’t know if I’ll get to celebrate Christmas a day early with her; or if she’ll let me be hers. But the hopeless romantic in me hopes that one day I’ll be able to write another post about her. She just has to tell me that she’s ready to open her heart, and I’ll sweep her off her feet and make sure they never need to touch the ground again…

A reader recently sent me a message to say that she was struggling. She said that her life wasn’t where she thought it would be; and that she felt lost. We talked for a while, emailing back and forth about our own experiences. I told her about some of my darker days, and she shared hers. When we finished talking, I told her that although it may not seem like it right now; she’s not alone. And she is exactly where she needs to be.

There was a time when I felt exactly like she does. I was lost and alone. I was confused and I couldn’t see a way out of the sickness that was inside my head. I used to write horrible posts about death, depression and loneliness as a means of coping with a feeling like I wasn’t good enough. I thought that blogging about my despair was a healthy means of expressing myself. But it wasn’t. Because when those close to me expressed their concerns about my words or behaviour, I would shut down and become even more volatile than I already was.

I spent years thinking that I had found a way to manage how I felt through writing aggressive bullshit. But I was disoriented, journeying down a path of bitterness and depression. Eventually I became so lost that I couldn’t even see where I had come from. Chris Nicholas the young man with the world in front of him was gone; replaced by a boy so angry and afraid that people constantly felt the need to ask if he was OK.

But then something changed. I stopped barreling down that trail of heartbreak as fast as my legs would carry me. I looked around and realised that I had no idea who I was, what I stood for, or what the fuck I was doing with my life. I began to understand that perhaps I had always needed to become so lost that I was forced to start over.

I realised that maybe losing sight of who I was could be the best thing that ever happened to me.  

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When I started over, I had a chance to learn from my mistakes and become the one thing that I had always wanted to be: happy. That’s not to say that I suddenly became the best-selling author that I always believed I would be by now, or that I’ve settled down and started a family, brought a house, or seen the world. I still have a day job, I’m currently trying to convince a girl that I’m worth taking a risk on, and there’s still so much of this world that I’m yet to experience.

But what it does mean is that by becoming lost I realized what true happiness means to me. I now understand how wonderful it feels to be able to share myself with the world like I do, and that it’s a gift to have found a place in the lives of so many people. And I recognise that there is nothing more magical than the moments you spend with your loved ones, or with someone who just smiles and takes your breath away.

It’s been almost two weeks since I last spoke to the reader who inspired this post.

But I’ve thought about her a lot since then. I’ve thought about how the moments that have pained me in my life allowed me to reach out through time and space and connect with another soul who was going through what I had. I’ve thought about how alone I used to feel, and how I never want anyone to feel like I did.  And I’ve thought that maybe by acknowledging that sometimes we need to become so lost that we’re forced to start over, I could show the world that it’s alright to not be OK. And that things can, and will get better. They just take time.

If you’re reading this post and you feel like you’re lost, or alone, or that the world is pushing down on your shoulders so hard that your spine may break; I want you to take a deep breath and tell yourself that everything is going to be OK. If you’re not brave enough to do that just yet, then allow me to say it for you: You’re not lost. Not like you think you are. You’re finally at the place where you were always meant to start. Now that you’re there, it’s time to begin moving forward so that you can understand what it is that will truly make you happy.

If that’s to write like I do, then pick up a pen. If it’s to have a family, or to fall in love; then get out there and find your drop of honey and allow them to fall into your soul. Once you’ve figured out what it is that you want in your life; do whatever you must to make that dream a reality. Because even if you fall a little short of that fantasy, you’ll find contentment in your efforts. I promise.

Five years ago when this page started, I thought my happiness would come through being a best-selling author, and that anything short of that was failure. I never imagined that I would be twenty-eight years old with a day job, writing about honey to make a beautiful girl notice me, and producing books and blogposts in my spare time. But now that I’m here, I wouldn’t change a thing.

I closed out out my first ever post by saying that I wanted to “look depression and misery in the eye, and tell it to fuck off”. But I don’t need to do that anymore. When I started over, I learned how to beat depression with kindness and human compassion. So instead of beating my chest and ending this post by saying that I’m not lost anymore, I’m going to tell you that if you’re struggling like I was, it will get better. You’re not lost. You’re just at the place where you were always meant to start from.

A wise man once said that patience is bitter, but its fruit is sweet. I always believed that I understood what he meant. I thought that he spoke of suffering; that one must sacrifice so that he may eventually prosper. I told myself that I wanted to be a writer, and that the yearning in my chest was the pain I had to endure in order to succeed. Because of this, I spent years fighting against a loneliness so encompassing that I could feel it in my bones. Then I met you. And I realised that I was wrong. It took my twenty-eight years to understand that the hole in my chest was the bitterness of waiting to meet someone who could take my breath away; and that there is no fruit as sweet as falling for a woman as beautiful as you.

It started with a photograph. Until then I had always considered myself a hopeless romantic. I thought that I would meet a girl and we’d hit it off right from the start. I dreamed that we’d bump into each other in the street, or meet through friends of a friend. I told myself that our conversation would flow easily; I would smile and say something clever, and as she laughed I would realise that our souls were destined to become intertwined.

I never imagined that I would stumble upon your photograph and feel a breath catch in the back of my throat. I didn’t think that I would spend weeks trying to introduce myself, before finally sending you an awkward message that just said hi. You were never meant to respond. You were gorgeous. I was just an ordinary man who felt his hands shake and his heart skip a beat when he saw you smile. But you wrote back and jokingly thanked me for not asking to see your feet. You seemed nonplussed by my awkward introduction, and as we spoke I realized that the beauty within you was even more incredible than the image that had captured my attention.

Since then we have spoken every day. With each conversation, I have learned more about who you are. I can remember your birthday, your favourite flowers, and the first time that you called me babe. I don’t think you meant it how I hope that you did. It was just an expression that you uttered without realising that it would make me stumble and fall head over heels for you.

But, while I’ve learned so much, I have said some stupid things too. I told you that I wanted to be your boyfriend; and you laughed and offered a polite no. It was naïve to say what I did. I know that I have found you at your lowest; when you are trying to find yourself. I understand that the timing is so wrong; but the butterflies in my stomach when I think about you just feel so damn right.

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I’m not writing this to say that I love you. We have really only just met. I’m just trying to find a way to tell you that you are a drop of honey that has fallen into my soul. The sweetness of your smile and the subtle touch of your kiss have stirred awake a part of me that I never knew existed.

You are a warm glow that has spread through my chest, and down the length of my limbs. I don’t love you. Not yet. But I know that I could be the single greatest thing that has ever happened in your life. If you gave me half a chance I would be the man who picked you up at 3am and dropped you home, and who carried your shoes inside when your feet hurt. I’d be the man who rubs your tummy when you’re sick, or writes terrible stories about your dog to make you laugh. And you…

…You would be my Lacuna.

I’ve been in love before. I still have the scars to prove it. I’ve never told you this; but it’s something that we both have in common. I found a girl that I assumed I would grow old with; she left me, and I thought that I would always be alone. But then came that drop of honey: the warm amber glow that lit up my soul when I saw you smiling in a photograph and realised that all hope was not lost.

I don’t know if you’ll ever read this; or if I’ll ever get a chance to buy you flowers, to celebrate Christmas a day early, or to make your next birthday the most incredible one that you have ever had. I really hope that I do. I hope that when you find yourself again and you’re ready to open your heart, you remember that awkward message that brought me into your life. I’m not asking you to rush; I’m telling you to take your time. If I can have some fun with you, and make you smile until then, I’ll be the happiest man alive.

But if I never get a chance to show you just how much you could mean to me, and what it feels like to know that you’re no longer wasting your time: I want to thank you all the same. We may have only just met, but you’ve already taught me that there is no fruit as sweet as falling for someone as incredible as you. You’re the woman that made me realise how wonderful it is to feel a swarm of nervous butterflies in my stomach. You are the drop of honey that warmed my soul.

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