Growing up, my mom would regularly throw around the phrase “remember: someone always has it worse!” She was right, you know, someone DOES always have it worse. My mother, though, lived in a world of extremes when drawing her comparisons. You know the old adage about “walking uphill both ways in the snow”? For my mom it was her “parents escaped a prison camp to come to America and the only reason (they) had Christmas was because of the Salvation Army”.
Tough to argue with, right?
Well, this developed the mind of Tom Croom to believe that no matter what was happening, it could always be worse. Mindsets like that are now the fodder for memes – but I’ve actually always operated that way. Flat tire? At least I have a car. And so on.
On November 18th, 2013, my father, silently suffering in the throes of depression from the loss of his wife to cancer, took his own life by overdosing on prescription pain pills. That event kicked off the most challenging twelve months of my life aka “The Worst Year Ever”.
I was thrust into a world no one is ever ready for: depression, wills, probate, estates, step-siblings, estranged siblings, and other satellite relatives offering to help when there’s nothing that can be done.
To date, I’m still dealing with the fringes of the whole ordeal, but it’s more organized at this point. It’s far from perfect, but time and patience have made it easier to manage
Then, over the summer, I fell victim the strange and disturbing laws in the state of Florida. I lost my home to the draconian enforcement ability of a homeowner’s association. I paid my bills, my mortgage, and mowed my lawn… but I refused to pay for services not rendered in the form of an HOA in an incomplete planned community.
Just like the situation with my father, I’m still dealing with details – but the overall ordeal has come to pass.
BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! I never knew my grandfather on my father’s side since I was an infant when he passed away. My grandmother on the same side passed away about twenty years ago. I grew up knowing my Polish grandparents (mom’s side) very well and we were all close. My grandfather on that side passed away a couple of years ago… and last month my final grandparent, “Grandma,” passed away.
Worst. Year. Ever.
So now I’m down to a mother who, depending on the day of the week, loves me or thinks I’m the anti-Christ and an estranged sister who, after seven years, still refuses to apologize for ditching out on my wedding.
You know what, though? Someone always has it worse. 🙂
FAMILY isn’t identified by genetics. This is something I’ve been lucky enough to learn over the past decade by letting so many amazing people into my life. Sure – we argue, laugh, cry, look at each other strangely from time to time – but that’s what family is: acceptance, not agreement.
It’s not well hidden fact that I am in love with the Fast & Furious franchise. Aside from the obvious aspect (I’ve loved fast cars my whole life,) there’s the personal connection I’ve had with the characters in those movies: family.
That’s why, shortly after my father’s death last year, the passing of Paul Walker was that much more impactful to me.
Part of the magic of good entertainment is feeling a connection with characters and, while actors aren’t necessarily the characters they portray, you hope as a fan that the positive aspects do, in fact, hold true. Paul was the same age as me when died. Nothing like a mortality reminder right after your own father’s passing, you know?
BTW: Worst. Year. Ever.
So here we are: 366 days later.
While it’s not THE new year yet, it’s a new year for me. I’ve shared how shitty things have been over the past twelve months, but remember: someone always has it worse.
In addition, when life gives you lemons
you make lemonade you trade them at the farmer’s market for limes and make yourself some margaritas. So let’s look at what the next year has in store for me, shall we?
MY BEST FRIEND and I just celebrated our seven year anniversary. In Hollywood years, that counts as three full weddings, you know? Shannon and I met over fifteen years ago which means that she’s been a part of my life for over 1/3rd of my time on this planet. Let that sink in: 37.5% of my existence has been spent with this beautiful, patient, and all around amazing human being. Shitty year or not: I’m still one of the luckiest men alive.
MY COMPANY has always been nicknamed a “hobby gone horribly wrong”. Somehow, though, this pet project started in 2001, evolved in 2007, and then restructured in 2011 has turned into something real. Next year we have three successful shows scheduled, one in production, and another one in development for 2016. We have two contracts pending for work on two of the largest pop culture conventions in North America next year. The Talent For Cons project is booming. Then there’s the promotions consulting contract with some guy named Edgar. Top that off with some scheduled appearances and rental contracts, and 2015 has already shaped up for a stellar year. Who know that “professional geek” would actually become a real thing?
MY APARTMENT is pretty amazing. Shannon and I downsized dramatically when we left the house, but I refused to be downgraded. It wasn’t easy – especially in such a short timeframe – but I somehow managed to score a small one bedroom apartment near the beach. The result of which is that we now live a life that feels like a perpetual vacation. It takes me exactly five minutes and ten seconds to walk out of my front door and stick my feet in the ocean. (I timed it.) When we order pizza, we don’t have it delivered – we walk to the shop and pick it up. Fruits and veggies? There’s a farmer’s marker we walk to every Saturday morning. Exercise? The park where I used to drive twenty-five minutes to run with Shannon is now a couple of blocks from us. We jog there together. Shannon’s office is either a five minute drive from here or a fifteen minute bike ride… depending on the weather.
MY DOG is Karma the Dog and she is the bestest dog evah.
MY FAMILY is comprised of a group of misfit friends that all fit together in my life. I am blessed, charmed, lucky, overwhelmingly privileged to have them in my life. In addition, I married into the greatest set of in-laws imaginable. While my family isn’t contemporary by ANY standard, it’s my family and I love them all dearly.
MY LIFE hinges, as all life does, on experiences. Since getting my driver’s license, I’ve had severe case of wanderlust. Right after I started driving, my friend Scott and I would tell our parents we were going to the movies and proceed to drive about a hundred miles south to spend time in Fort Lauderdale. Since then, I’ve done my damnedest to go to as many new places and possible and see everything I can. When Shannon came into my life, I hit the reset button and went from “where I’ve been” to “where have we been” – and we’ve been to a lot of places together: most of them with Hard Rock Cafes. We’ve driven through the Rocky Mountains, the Smoky Mountains, and even Mount Fuji. We’ve walked down into the Grand Canyon and got engaged at the top of the Empire State Building. From Tokyo to Tennessee – from Cancun to California – we live one hell of an adventure with no sign of stopping.
Today’s the day, folks.
Remember those cheesy “today is the first day of the rest of your life” posters? I seem to remember one with a cat or Garfield or something… anyway, today (for me) IS that day. It involves some pretty normal life related stuff: write this blog post, sign a couple of contracts, respond to e-mails, go to a dentist appointment, and work on upcoming events. It is, though, the first day of the year after my worst year ever and the rest of my life.
“Second star to the right and straight on ’til morning.”