200

Earlier this week, when the Queen passed, I found myself wandering off. I started to think of the millions of people who are devastated by her loss. The impact this woman had on our culture. The sheer gravity of her existence is stunning. I then thought about the people, things, and events that have impacted my life. What are they? I began to think about making a list of twenty. My last piece about the Queen happened to be my 199th. It seems serendipitous that I was honing in on the number twenty, so in honor of my 200th post, I’m going to deliver a list of the twenty most impactful- people, things, and events in my life. And, likely yours.

This list is in no particular order.

The iPhone. The device changed everything by revolutionizing the way we communicate. It helped improve calling and texting. It brought us the emoji, which seems petty, but the fact is, the emoji helps with nonverbal cues in communication. It enhanced the way we listen to music, and paved the way for us to consume other media, such as videos, considerably more effectively. It improved the way we browse the Internet. Lastly, but quite possibly the most important, it led to apps. The most impactful being Uber and other ride-sharing apps. It truly enhanced and changed transportation as we know it. It made travel, commutes, and everything in between remarkably easier. All in all, it’s amazing what the iPhone (or, ‘smartphone’) did in terms of championing technological change and progress. God bless you, Steve Jobs.

Facebook. The website that brought us all together. Good ol’ social media. The epitome of the cliche, ‘a blessing and a curse.’ It’s hard to think of something in life as pronounced as social media that brings so much good, as well as so much bad. We collectively love to swear it, and then the next day, swear by it. It changed communication forever. But, that was just the beginning. It then altered how we consume news, sports, entertainment, and practically anything else in life. All I can say regarding social media is this – I am thankful that I remember a time in my life when there was no social media. And, for that reason, I pity the generations to come who will know nothing but.

9/11 is an obvious addition. I do not add it due to the trauma, as well as the remarkably embedded memories of that day. But instead, its aftermath. The wars, the Patriot Act, and the TSA forever changed the lives of all Americans. Just this year we finally ended our failed crusade against terror. The further we get from that fateful day, the more it seems these wars were fought in vain. My heart weeps for the soldiers who not only deal with the difficulties of a post-war life, but the heartache of asking themselves ‘what was it for?’ Like the wars, the more I understand about the Patriot Act, the more I come to realize it is the greatest misuse of government power ever regarding our alleged protection to privacy. I was young, but I look back in mournful dissatisfaction that my government used propaganda to turn me against innocent Muslims by blanket stereotyping the largest faithful group in the world. Finally, the useless expansion of government via the Department of Homeland Security. A department that was created to protect Americans, but today, is no more than a waste of government resources. All in all, that day forever changed the lives of every American. Now, nearly twenty-one years later, it doesn’t feel as if any lessons we learned stuck. While I know myself and many of us long for the feeling of patriotic unity we had the days after the towers fell, I hope we never have to sacrifice as much as we have to simply feel that way again.

Covid, like 9/11, is the other obvious addition. But, unlike 9/11, the book hasn’t been written on this tumultuous chapter of American history. It does appear more likely that we look back on this period with more dismay and sorrow than we do 9/11. Again, another catastrophic failure of government leadership. The lockdowns will be remembered as the greatest peacetime disaster in human history. The social and economic fallout from this will be looked at with incredible negativity. It was due to fear, but frankly, the fear ruined us. It hurt our health, destroyed our social dynamic, and simply altered our society in the worst way. There will not be one piece of data that ever justifies what we did. And, the most damning part of it all will be what we did to our children. We let them down. I simply don’t have a word to describe how badly we failed our youth. The vaccine, and in particular, the rapid distribution of it, is shaping up to be a global health fiasco. More and more it seems this was a reckless science experiment gone horribly wrong. Lastly, at its best, the Chinese communist party acted ignorantly and slow walked telling the world about Covid courtesy of their reckless lab leak. And, at its worst, the Chinese maliciously did it. Nonetheless, the crimes against humanity created at the hands of the communistic regime killed millions. Will they every be punished for this? Sadly, doubtful.

The Catholic sex abuse scandals uprooted everything about the world’s most popular religion. It’s an absolute disgrace, and to be frank, that’s putting it mildly. Anything and everything regarding the disgusting acts committed by these predatory priests is atrocious. And, the coverup within the church takes an already horrific event entirely off the rails. There is no defending it, but it is important that the world, and especially American Catholics, allow themselves to move forward from this atrocity. The actions of many disgusting men do not speak for a religion Christ brought to our earth nearly 2,000 years ago. That’s where we are today. Many refuse to return to the church based on this scandal. They are ridding themselves of connecting with God based on the atrocious actions of men who were meant to be leaders. Americans must return to Him, and therefore, return to His church. God will only judge us as individuals, and not against others. He does not compare us. Therefore, he does not give us a pass in terms of how faithful we are based on the circumstances of our life when juxtaposed against other situations. This is made perfectly clear all throughout the Bible. I don’t say this as a threat to guilt people into returning to church. I mean this as a positive. God loves all of us. He wants us to return to Him. He makes this perfectly clear when his only son tells us the story of the Prodigal Son. It’s time to stop being the resentful brother, and instead be the brother who comes back to God.

The baseball steroid scandals. Growing up, it was my favorite sport. It was most everyones’. After all, it’s America’s Pastime. I fondly remember the home run chase between McGuire and Sosa. It’s some of the most amazing sport memories I will every have. I recall the incredible rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees. The fast pitches from Randy Johnson, the steals from Ricky Henderson, and the hits from Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. Then, the sport died with the scandal. Jose Canseco wrote the book, Congress took the lead, and the rest is history. The sport got caught cheating on a broad scale, and its innocence and dominance never returned. This opened the door for other sports to take charge. It led to basketball, and most certainly, football to overtake baseball and never look back. Today, those sports command the nation’s dialogue, and my childhood memories are nothing but that – a memory. I don’t believe the sport will ever return to what it was, but I am thankful I had the chance to grow up as the last American generation where baseball truly was our pastime.

The 2008 financial crisis. As a college student studying economics who was working at a major bank while aspiring to be financial advisor, this was an impactful moment in my life. I’m also the son of a real estate agent and residential painter living in the epicenter of the crisis. The crisis changed the lives of myself and those around me. It left behind memories and lessons that will last a lifetime. I recall having to inform a woman her home had been foreclosed on. I remember watching the congressional vote for TARP and awaiting emails from management whether we were to remain open. Daily, I had to educate depositors on FDIC insurance, and try my best to quell their fears. I remember my professor throwing out the textbook and informing us that everything in our Econ book was being rewritten and changed right before our eyes. I remember the day Lehman went under, the day AIG was bailed out, and the day Congress finally approved TARP. I remember when Washington Mutual and Wachovia disappeared, and when Indy Mac went under. Their account holders came in to our bank with their FDIC checks to start anew. Finally, I remember the aftermath as a banker in Las Vegas. I had grown men who had been laid off crying at my desk pleading for us to reverse their overdraft fees. I recall having to educate homeowners on HARP and HARP 2, so they could remain in their homes and avoid foreclosure. Those were the darkest days of my life pertaining to my career. I went home crying most nights due to the sadness I had to witness each day. The despair of the unemployed. The fear in the voices of those not being able to afford making a mortgage payment and losing their home. I saw it firsthand, and I hope to never see it again.

Columbine. The first school shooting. The first mass shooting in my life. I still remember the day I got home from school and Oprah was on TV talking about the horrors that took place at that high school. I can still see the kids exiting the first floor windows and running to safety. Little did I know that this tragedy was sadly just the beginning of the worst trend in my life as an American. Almost two decades have passed since that horrible day, and yet I still see the horrors, and remember the visuals from all the new cities that add to this never-ending list. Whether it be Uvalde or Parkland. Sandy Hook or Virginia Tech, the school shootings haven’t stopped. And, it doesn’t stop at schools. It’s Pulse Nightclub and Route 91. It’s El Paso and San Bernardino. It has to stop, and we cannot become numb to the horrors of these tragedies. It’s been the ongoing American horror story that’s defined my life, and the lives of far too many.

The Harry Potter books, movies, and J.K. Rowling herself. It began when I was a young child, and in many ways, the stories are still being told today. There weren’t many years I didn’t end up at a movie theater watching one of the eight films. My generation honestly grew up with Harry, Hermine, and Ron. J.K. created a new world for us to dream off to. She did what no one had done since Walt Disney created Mickey. But, she did so much more. She created a whole slot of characters. All of them with backstories to uncover. Her ability to put these fantastical creations onto paper rivals what Tolkien and Lewis did for children in the 1920s and 30s. I can still sit back and watch a movie today. And, despite a part of our society trying their damnedest to cancel her, her work and shear genius can never be taken away from our lives, and that’s the way it should be. She’s one of the positive hallmarks of my childhood that I can and will fondly look back on.

Disney and Pixar. It’s hard to imagine this marriage not happening. Pixar brought us Woody and Nemo. Disney gave us Simba and Aladdin. Together, they’ve brought us Cars, Coco, and we don’t talk about Bruno. There’s too many movies to count, but the endless stream of entertainment from these two companies has been nothing short of remarkable. Disney has remained a culturally relevant phenomenon for generations, and that’s unquestionably true in mine. Disney also helped bring the Marvel comics to the big screen. What began with Thor, Iron Man, and Captain America, recently ended with The Avengers defeating Thanos to cap off a nearly twenty-year run of superhero movies. This saga defines a tremendously long stretch of movies in my life.

Barrack Obama was a transformative moment for America. Now, I must admit, I didn’t vote for him with the two chances I had. However, I understand the magnitude of his presidency and what it means to so many Americans, and the rest of the world. Also, after two remarkably turbulent administrations, it’s feeling as if Obama wasn’t half-bad. He did leave behind a legacy, too. First, the ACA or Obamacare rightfully changed healthcare. It’s not the way I would have gone about it, but the industry itself was in dire need of a tuneup. The removal of preexisting conditions being a barrier to cost effective healthcare may be his greatest accomplishment. He also gets credit for killing bin Laden, and I will never forget that moment. I was about to go home that Sunday the news broke, and instead my late friend and I stayed out and cheered his death with some good ol’ American PBRs. Lastly, it didn’t seem huge at the time, but his mandate to federally acknowledge gay marriage truly changed American history. Again, there’s a laundry list of things from Obama over eight years that I vehemently disagree with. This starts and ends with him mocking me and my ilk by satirizing us as clinging to our guns and religion. But, in the words of his wife, I am capable of going high when they go low.

Donald Trump. One could argue Obama brought America Trump, but nonetheless, it’s hard to imagine what life would be like without him. Historically speaking, many will brand him the country’s most corrupt leader ever. They’ll use this to chastise him as the worst. But, while I wouldn’t put him in my top ten of the best, I also wouldn’t have him in my top ten of the worst. He wasn’t as corrupt as the country’s prior three leaders. It’s just that the establishment of D.C., in concert with the media, was hellbent on branding him that way. And while his presidential decorum certainly does rank him last, there’s no requirement for that with the job. His tax cuts were his greatest accomplishment, and economically speaking, the data backs this up as a success. It was also one of his biggest mistakes. He opted out of lowering taxes further for the middle and lower class due to a political chess move. He felt he’d retain the House and be able to do this heading into the 2020 election. That never happened. His other mistake was the ‘shit hole countries’ comment that derailed what would have unquestionably been the best reform to any American system in decades. The immigration reform bill infuriated the far-right and far-left, so you know it was a perfect bill for the majority. But, his slip of the tongue gave Pelosi and Schumer an out, and they opted out of handing Trump a tremendous win. He did what Conservatives wanted of him by adding three ideological similar Justices to the nation’s High Court. And, he surprised many with his isolationist, yet appeasement tone surrounding national security. A policy that worked. He will be credited with the failure that was shutting down the American economy, and rushing of the vaccines with Project Warp Speed during Covid. This, in my opinion, was the fault of Fauci, but that’s a piece for another day. Lastly, he is obviously who to blame for January 6, and while it’s likely he didn’t commit a crime, his inability to keep his mouth shut (possibly) finally did him in. Time will tell.

Tom Brady. There’s just no way we’ll ever be able to talk about football without bringing up Brady. And, considering he’s played the sport for as long as he has, it’ll be strange when he’s finally not there. Tom didn’t necessarily change the game the way others did. But, its the way he played that will make him the best quarterback of all time. He’s a winner. The man simply finds a way to win by any means necessary. And, the most remarkable thing about it is he’s won time and time again with entirely different variables. A different supporting cast. A different opponent. A different team! I could go on and on, but simply put, he is the G.O.A.T.

Tiger Woods. Like Brady, it’s just been one hell of a ride. To me, Tiger is golf. I don’t remember golf without him, and I’m not quite sure how much I’ll love the sport when he’s officially gone. He’s given me too many memories to count, but his most recent, and entirely unexpected, win at Augusta was simply special. It was hard to understand just how good he was during his unprecedented runs early in his career. Today, when you juxtapose his streaks with anyone else on the tour, there’s just no one who comes close. It’s incredible how talented at golf the man is. And, while he won’t overtake Jack in Majors, to me he’s the best.

Michael Jordan. Growing up, who didn’t want to me Like Mike? He was basketball to me. He was the first amazing player I had the privilege of watching. And, as a child, he did Space Jam just to make sure I’d always have an affinity to him. His shoes and logo defined Nike. Simply put, MJ was the gold standard for any athlete growing up around my time. And, because of that, Michael gave way to Kobe. He was determined to be as good as MJ. It’s also worth mentioning Brady and Tiger modeled their motivation around MJ’s pursuit of greatness. I’m fortunate to have gotten the chance to watch all three of these remarkable athletes in my lifetime. They are all role models for success. Regarding basketball, MJ and Kobe are two legends. Sadly, we of course lost one way too soon.

Pope John Paul II. Admittedly, I was young when he died, but his legacy remains intact. And, as a Catholic, his work is so important. The older I get, the more I read his writings. The more I understand his run in the Papacy, combined with a greater understanding of the history surrounding the world at the time, the more I realize his significance. He was what the world needed at the appropriate time. I pray in my life I can witness such a transformative and amazing Pope, but if not, I am blessed to have seen the end of his run. It’s awe-inspiring to think that he and Mother Teresa lived at the same time. Two Saints in the flesh. It’s profound to think that he, Margaret Thatcher, and Ronald Reagan lived at the same time in their pursuit to rid the world of Soviet Communism. He, a Pol, greatly affected by the atrocities of WWII understood true evil walking among us on this earth. He fought for peace every day of his life. Lastly, his ability to display deep humility by forgiving his near assassin is simply stunning. The man was an exemplary role model for us all. Thank God I got to witness his presence.

Will Smith. Hear me out. First, it was The Fresh Prince. Then, it was Independence Day. Then, it was Men In Black. Then, the songs from Big Willie Style. You know them right now! Welcome To Miami, Gettin Jiggy With It, and Here Comes The Men In Black! Such 90s gems! Then, Wild Wild West. Then, Bad Boys 1 AND 2. Then, The Pursuit of Happiness. Remember, I’m an Financial Advisor. Then, the remake of Aladdin in the role that Robin Williams defined while I was a child. Then, the Oscars slap. He’s been everywhere throughout my life in regard to entertainment. And, he’s now the main star in the most infamous event on live TV.

Tom Hanks is to Will Smith as good is to bad at the moment. He’s the embodiment of a professional. And, like Will, someone who’s been in a relevant movie role seemingly each year of my life. It’ll be hard to watch movies when I’m older and not see Tom Hanks. Yes, DiCaprio, Cruise, and Freeman all were considered for this slot, but ultimately, Hanks takes the top spot. It’s too many to list, but here’s a link to them all. It’s insane! He really does have a hit almost every single year! I have to give one shout out to Catch Me If You Can which is one of my favorite movies of all time. Not the star of the movie, but a supporting role to Leo. And, of course Spielberg directed it.

Comedian Dave Chappelle is the funny man of my time. I’m not old enough to have appreciated Larry David and Seinfeld. And, while comedians like Robin Williams, Will Ferrell, Mike Myers, and even Ben Stiller could have taken this spot, Chappelle is the king. I get it. The others delivered some remarkable movies, and Will Ferrell could have easily taken the top spot for that regard, but the lightning rod that Chappelle has mistakenly become gives him the top spot. His most recent series on Netflix solidifies him as the G.O.A.T. of comedy. His shorts from his show back in the day were amazing, and countless lines are still relevant today! Whether it was his True Hollywood Stories with Rick James and Prince, or his idea to have a ‘Racial Draft,’ Dave Chappelle was great, is great, and will remain great.

Kanye West is the artist of my generation. He is the Prince, Michael Jackson, or Elvis of the 2000s. There is no one in music who embodies the role of an artist more than Kanye. He’s a genius, a pop culture icon, and one of the most influential businessmen in the nation. His talents are boundless. He’s changed not only rap, but music. He’s collaborated with many, and crossed over into various genres. The man sits on the throne as the king of music today, yesterday, and tomorrow. Eventually, a new artist will assume his relevance, but no one stands close to him as of now.

I look forward to my 300th post! Thank you for reading.

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