If You Didn’t Know, It’s Because You Never Asked!

“Growing Pains”

It’s been six years in this dessert called Vegas. Back in 2006, I really don’t know what my goal was of moving to Las Vegas from the Jersey Shore. Literally, I lived 20 minutes from the shore where my ex-wife and I lived with her parents and our daughter. I’ve been working at Whole Foods Market in Red Bank, NJ for a little less than a year when I saw an opportunity for me to relocate close to the West Coast. Was it for a better life? Was it for more money? Or was it to just to be the rebel that I was and explore the world that no one around me ever explored before? I really don’t know why I left New Jersey in the beginning but all I knew was that it was something I needed to do.

Now I won’t bore you with the story of “What happened in Vegas.” What I will tell you is what I gained from my experiences here. Well maybe not…

Before 2008, my life was all about providing for my family. Both my ex and I turned 21 in Vegas but never really partied. We both just worked our asses off to “raise” our daughter. Me, I clocked in and clocked out, loved my job but was just basically clocking in and out and earning a pay check. Nothing more, nothing less.

My daughter Cecelia motivated me to work hard and ask questions later. Everyday I came home from work, all I wanted to do was play with her, dance with her, and just enjoy my life as a father. We loved going out on adventures and seeing the city we lived and loved! My family was my life. Seeing them happy was all that I needed to keep me going. And they were happy.

After a while, work became mediocre. I was a Customer Service Supervisor since I opened my first Whole Foods in NJ. I loved interacting with customers and my job was not that hard. I was organized and determined to do the right thing, productive, and loved going above and beyond. I made some great friends working at Whole Foods Market. But with all those positives, I was missing something. Where was my passion?!

I needed something more. Now, don’t get me wrong, my daughter was everything to me. She was a constant. But you know how they say, things come in twos? Well, I needed something to go along with the love I had for my daughter. Then, the answer came to me, a wife! My ex and I got married on August 8th, 2008, yeah, all the eights were a symbol for “infinity.” I love how I talk about her back then as my ex already. Well I guess you can predict what happened.

I believe that God creates things and destroys things for a reason. Low and behold, my marriage was something that was destroyed because it shouldn’t have been created in the first place. I mean, I loved her so much. She was my first love (that I exclaimed in public) and I mean I genuinely cared about her. She was the mother of my daughter. Isn’t that enough, title and love? Apparently not. Our lives went down the wrong path together. If anything, we failed together. We drifted apart and it ended kinda nasty. I’m sure not as nasty as others…here I go again making excuses. Ok, it was horrible. I was broken-hearted, lost my confidence, and that’s when I turned to God.

In the summer of 2009, a little less than a year from when I vowed a life of infinity with my ex, I left immediately for New Jersey. Leaving everything behind, work, friends, my wife and the life I created. My daughter came with me to “start anew.” Trying to begin my life all over again I fell into depression and just denial. I turned to my family and a couple of friends (literally, there were just two) for help. But I could not keep my mind out of Vegas. I left everything back there, the support system I created with coworkers, the life I “dreamed” of, and the unresolved problem with my ex. I tried to build something in NJ. With the help of my family, those two friends, and especially God, I did. I realized what that second thing I needed in my life was. I found it, my passion for food and cooking!

With the help of some prayer. I created the idea of Serve M.E. Now. A play on words describing serving God, who is entirely about M=magnificence & E=excellence, now. God helped me through a lot of my pain and despair. So it was only fitting to praise him for giving me my talents and passions. Serve M.E. Now, or how I like to call it, SMN, is a personal catering company where I provide in-home, on-site catering for clients with all tastes and desires. It was the best thing I had going for me next to my beautiful daughter.

While all this creativity and passion was sparking, there was still something missing, unresolved. I hated that feeling of unfinished business weighing heavily on my shoulders. So, after 7 months of roughing it, three jobs plus trying to raise my daughter (with the help of my parents and siblings, of course), I needed to go back and settle things in Vegas. This time, I’m back on a mission…to live my life for only two people, my daughter and myself.

It was rough at first, my ex and I, to say the least, we’re not seeing eye to eye. I moved in with two friends from Jersey, I started all over at Whole Foods, and was back with my crew in Vegas. Life was great, so far. Until drama inserted itself between my friends. But hey, things come and go right? That was the first thing to go (or you can say first case to be closed)

Meanwhile, my daughter had to adjust living with parents who were separated, living in two different homes. She had the notion we were getting back together. It sucked to continuously crush her dreams. I hated myself. I felt like the worst person in her life. How can she love me? I didn’t do what she asked of me, to be a family.

I needed something to regain pride in myself again. So I did what I knew best, cook! Whole Foods Market offered me a chance to pursue my dreams. Cook and bullshit, I mean provide great customer service! ;-P I loved it! I cooked every day at work, created my own recipes, showed off in front of customers and team members. My confidence was back! Then, SMN, got some attention as well. With the help of some friends, I acquired a few catering events that got my name in the Las Vegas community. Six months later, I got called to do the unimaginable, become a private chef for a well-to-do (Jewish) family.

So I did it! 4 years after moving to the desert, I’m building a career with WFM and started a viable business that showed great rewards. Immediately after working for this family, I realized I loved this. I found my passion and I’m sticking to it. Plus, my daughter finally accepted reality and I did everything I could to work things out with my ex. Now we’re a well oiled machine. This is what God wanted for us. To be a loving team for our daughter, we did it! Things are looking up!…right?

Here I am, a little over a year later, and I’m a new person. Career-oriented, self-motivated, loving, hard-working father, whole foodie-by-day, foodie-by-night, but I’m still missing something…family. I grew up with over 25 blood relatives living within 2 miles of my house. I knew what it meant to be part of a community. However irritable and frustrating it could’ve been, it was still family.

My daughter only has me, my ex, my ex-in-laws, and my late ex-brother-in-law (RIP Allen) to grow up with out here. We are a great group, however divided, that’s what we had to offer. My ex and I have no time to join the PTA, hang out with the other parents and kids, or join after-school activities. My daughter has no one else to grow up with other than her young-adult parents and their young-adult friends. It’s not fair and it’s not right. So I gotta do what any 26 (almost 27) year old GAY (how do you like that for subtle), single father has to do, move back to where you started and ask for the help from your amazing, unrelenting, always reminding, forever loving parents!

These past two years alone, I learned so much, the value of friends, the value of children, the value of passion, the value of love, the value of dreams, and the value of life itself. By my own definitions, I became an incredible chef, healthy-eating guru, businessman, father, and lover of life. I’ll be the first to say I still need to work on becoming an incredible brother and son, but I can’t do that without living around family right? Maybe?! Anyway, I have never felt this complete and incomplete in my life. Remember having to complete a project at school? Then, at the end when you received your grade of an ‘A-‘ along with the statement, “needs more content!”? Well, that’s how I feel.

I achieved all I wanted to achieve out here or at least that I could. I got the ‘A’ I’ve been aiming for BUT have no real content, I need MORE! I’m ready to take the next steps but feel like I can’t budge out here, alone, in Vegas. Now that my ex and I are in a better place (heaven compared to before) and my career jump started thanks to WFM and SMN, I need to make my next move. I need to expand my horizons and set down my family’s roots.

My daughter and I will be back in New Jersey this coming June. With the help of my parents and family, I’m ready to move into the next chapter in my life. I am hoping to expand my experience and skills to create SMN into the company I dream it could be. I want to dive into different aspects of the foodservice industry to learn what I need to make SMN successful. I want my daughter to grow up surrounded with loved ones that you can’t stand but just can’t live without. I want her to experience a community as amazing as I did. She is the most important thing in my life and I want the best for her. Even if the best means swallowing by pride, going back home, and living the life God intended for me.

New Jersey…he’s baaaaack!!

Stay tuned for “The Great Construction”…