We tend to plot our lives on the timelines of the relevant events that have marked our lives. The births of our children, graduations, marriages, adoptions, first homes, and many other events tend to decorate our timelines and photo albums. There are also deaths, divorces, and devastations that, though they don’t always decorate our photo albums, they do add perspective into better understanding the individuals we have become.
Like most timelines, mine has graduation dates, anniversaries for things like marriage and divorce, and events that have otherwise marked the trajectory of my life — such as the death of my abuelo when I was six; my first concert and violin solo; my first computer; my first dog; my first kiss; and definately my first best friend — none of which have proven as tantamount and consequential to the crime for which I was accused and convicted that took place on August 16, 2004.
I can’t recall the dates of my first marriage, graduation from college, first business, or many other crucial and joyous points that have marked the trajectory of my life and timeline. But the day that Garland Taylor was killed created its own sub-timeline in my life.
Naturally, people interested in my case are curious about my life. They have questions about my family, place of origin, children, siblings, and for the most part, throughout my writings, these are topics and places that I don’t often visit.
However, I have lived and loved many places and people on both sides of the Mexican-American border. I am a product of at least two cultures, and I love both of them for different reasons and find both strength and resilience in being Mexican and determined temperance in being American.
My first career after college was in finance. It was short lived for many reasons, but mostly because it was a career I had chosen solely based on the financial prospects it presented. Like many first generation Latinos who graduate from universities, there is a certain expectation to rise above and beyond where our parents resided on the socioeconomic scale of life. I chose business, and, in particular, finance, because I was raised and educated to believe that happiness is a question of having the means to have what one wants.
But, as it turned out, a career in financial services — where the sky is the limit on income potential — only served to show me the fallacy behind the premise. Should be as I observed my contemporaries in the field I quickly realized that I lacked the necessary motivation to successfully peddle dreams through investments and financial products.
The definitive realization came to me when I was sitting in an awards ceremony where I was being celebrated for having the highest in New Gross Revenue, meaning that I had convinced enough people to either buy our products or invest with us.
An evening with Family and Friends (2003)
I looked around the room and saw all these people applauding my achievement, and as I walk to the podium it suddenly occurred to me that I didn’t have it in me to do what I had just done, again and again, year after year.
I can’t even begin to tell you what I said at the podium, but it was most certainly a lie. Because, for once, I wasn’t proud of the achievement. And whatever it was that they handed me to commemorate the milestone was quickly deposited in the trash on my way out of the building.
Please forgive the momentary interruption but there’s an important question that I must ask. Have you ever taken a moment to look at your life only to find that you hadn’t become the person you set out to be?
Because when I walked out of that awards ceremony I wasn’t just dismayed by some imaginary disconnect between who I thought I should be and who I was. I literally felt disgusted with myself on so many levels that I didn’t even know where to begin.
All I knew and understood was that somehow I had traded who I was and wanted to be — someone who genuinely wanted to improve people’s lives — for someone who utilized his charisma to convince others that that’s exactly what he was doing, when in fact, all he was doing was making a buck. And if you think that sounds like a car salesman, you’re not far off.
All I can remember that evening was getting into my car and immediately thinking, I can’t sustain this charade much longer. I may not entirely know what my American dream is, but I know that it’s not peddling dreams for a buck.
What followed, however, were a series of decisions that many would call poorly planned, precipitous, and maybe even disastrous. I was trying to rediscover the best parts of myself without having to confront myself. A lot like trying to give myself a haircut without looking in the mirror.
I was an unfaithful husband, and ungrateful son, and unreliable brother, and an even worst friend. There were things that I did well, too, but I wasn’t even close to balancing the equation. And perhaps one day I will write a memoir about it, but until that day I will limit myself to what seems relevant.
Let’s see. There was a pregnancy. A marriage. A separation. Several affairs. A failed business in Mexico. A bankruptcy. A successful business in Arizona. Love. A daughter. A business fiasco. And, let’s not forget, the fateful trip to New Mexico just prior to August 16, 2004.
Most of what followed is discussed in my podcast or newsletter posts. And what I would like to leave followers and potential advocates with, as they deliberate on the merits of my life, is an observation, a piece of advice, and a request.
The observation is this: I know that my life was not lived so as to earn a humanitarian award for philanthropist of the year. There was no circle of close friends, family, or community who would step forward for an interview or photo op to share charming anecdotes from my life. So if you are looking for proof of some redeemable qualities that could otherwise motivate your involvement in supporting my journey towards justice and exoneration then allow me to save you some trouble. Because while redeemable qualities, like most individuals, are certainly part of my character, I didn’t start to live by them until I was wrongfully convicted, imprisoned, and forced to confront the incongruities between who I had set out to be and who I was.
Unfortunately it took a cataclysmic event to finally open my eyes to see who I was becoming. You could say that business as usual in my life was not so different from “business as usual” on Wall Street today — it was filled with aggressive tactics that almost always blur the lines between what is legal, moral, and SOP. And I don’t say this as an excuse, it’s just an observation of what was permitted in my world.
Now for my advice.
Don’t wait for the cataclysmic event before you rearrange your priorities. Wherever you may find yourself in life, turn off the distractions, be present and willing to ask yourself the tough questions, then patient and strong enough to accept whatever those answers may be. Life is certainly not a Monopoly board, and the best parts of life have little to do with what we can buy or possess.
It is my experience that at relatively young ages we understand what is both valuable and important. Then, often times, we allow socioeconomic pressures to persuade us that the path we are pursuing is going to be hell because we’ll be poor, unemployed, or even homeless — outcomes that don’t usually match how we would like to envision our success.
When I was a teenager, and on the cusp of making some important life choices about how to pursue happiness, there were two things that I enjoyed: helping and teaching others.
I remember sharing this with a remarkable teacher named Judith whose advice I trusted. She told me that unless I was willing to live poor and destitute then first on my list needed to be to make my fortune. And once that was done I could pursue all the teaching and helping that I wanted.
And while I don’t believe her advice was meant to cause any harm, sometimes we can lose ourselves on the roads we take to avoid our destinies. But, the good news is that our destinies will often find us, even on the roads we take to avoid them.
And now for the favor.
Please help me to find a director and a film company. This story. This case of just how easy it is to be prosecuted, convicted, sentenced, and then forgotten, all without any constitutional safeguards whatsoever is not only my story. It’s an unfortunate reality that this nation needs to confront, precisely so that it can be addressed. Because if the basis of our rights is a politician’s whims or convenience, then none of our constitutional rights are real. The Sixth Amendment guarantees each and everyone of us the right to confront our accusers, but a guarantee is only as real as we make it. Which is why this story needs to be told.
We all know somebody, and maybe your somebody is someone who could help make this film or documentary a reality.