My name is Christoph and I was born in Mainz in 1966,
the same city in which Johannes Gutenberg was born, the inventor of the
the modern printing press, who printed the Gutenberg Bible around 1450.
My parents were both professional artists. My father was an accomplished pianist, conductor and composer of classical music,
and my mother an actress, singer, painter and dancer.
I grew up with the love for music and the performing arts, and I was fortunate to have spent a lot of time as a child in some of the great theater houses across Europe.
Like many children I was full of wonder and curiosity about life, but I developed the sense that society was more focused on me doing what I was supposed to do than helping me to understand what this thing called life was all about. My mind was always filled with a lot of things; images, voices, ideas, concepts and especially questions. I had lots and lots of questions about life, the meaning of all things, trying to find the underlying reason for suffering, war, for why things are they way they are, for why people behave the way they do.
I always greatly empathized with the suffering of others, always asking myself why I had the good fortune of growing up in a comfortable home in Germany instead of living without regular food and shelter somewhere in a 3rd world country. Seeing images of starving children my age provided me with lots of heartache, pain and angst as I was wondering how God could allow for those things.
One day, I was about 6 years old, I was sitting with my
Parents at the breakfast table. My mother read a newspaper, and on
the back was a picture of a very weak and obvious
starving child somewhere in Africa.
Without hesitating, and with the innocence and curiosity of a child,
I asked my mother a question that of my sorrow and deep sorrow
Expression: Mum I ask: Why am I 'me' and not this poor child?
How could I have fun and enjoy life knowing that every day thousands of children, women and men are falling victim to malnourishment, war, violence and mass genocide? Of course I could not even begin to understand the reasons for why all of those atrocities are happening, so without telling anybody about how I felt I began wrapping myself up more and more within myself. I began disliking the world I was living in and the people in it for their seemingly superficial nature, selfish motives and limited understanding, and because of that I never developed any genuine, healthy and intimate relationships with others.
I also remember an interesting discussion I had with my dad when I was very young. He asked me the following question:
"Do you work to live or do you live to work?" Of course, I thought at the time that the only reason people work is to make money so they can afford a good life, so they work to live, but for my dad that was completely different.As a musician and artist, my father loved his work, which was a very big and important part of his life. In other words, he lived for his work, which as a child I did not fully understand, but I was already beginning to wonder what role work has in our lives.
On the war path against authority
I always had intense desire to grasp the meaning of life, the reason behind war, suffering and the underlying motives behind human behavior, but I became very early frustrated over the realities of 'growing up'. While I was extremely eager to learn I felt that my curiosity was less important than me doing what I was required to do, so I turned into quite the rebel who had a deeply rooted problem to follow orders. I also become very aware of and sensitive to the cruelty children exhibited in school, like picking on others and making fun of them for being different or not wearing the right clothes, or just having glasses. All of this pained me a lot since I began to see that not only the realities of school and authority required me to be a certain way in order for me to fit a mold imposed onto me, but that also on a more personal level, children exhibited a similar tendency; to look at others not in terms of who they are, but rather in terms of how they want them or need them to be.
This feeling of not being allowed to be who I wanted to be, to learn and live according to my own inner pace and interest left me drained, frustrated and angry. Required to go to school for 6 hours every day, being told what to think and how to behave was like torture to my inner sense of reason, curiosity and interest which was already highly developed, even as a young child. As my natural response I withdrew more and more within myself and my inner world of ideas, thoughts and questions. I began having a difficult time falling asleep at night. After hours and hours of the voices inside my head talking to one another from all directions I had to actually tell myself to stop from thinking, which was quite a challenging undertaking since those voices were extremely strong and persistent.
I became an extremely bad student because I needed all my questions answered in order to move along in a certain subject, and since I was always pretty shy and insecure I never asked those kind of questions. I became quickly bored and frustrated over the monotone, non-stimulating and structured ways of formal education, even though I was extremely eager to learn. Eventually I turned into quite the rebel who had a deeply rooted problem to follow orders. I had issues concerning discipline, doing homework and paying attention to something I was not interested in.
One of my elementary school teachers recognized the problem with me very well:
"Christoph," she said, "can be a good student, if he just wants to."
I had the feeling that life was not about what I wanted to do anymore, but what I had to do, and that was for me, was like a kind of declaration of war against my inner will that was so strong that nobody could break him. To my father, who was rather authoritarian and disciplined, I developed an even more blatant attitude. When he told me I had to do something, like clean up my room, do my school work and listen to the teacher, my response was: "I dont have to do anything. The only thing I have to do is die, and one day I do that anyway."
My few buddies at school nicknamed me 'father' because I had adopted a kind of know-it-all and parental attitude, thinking that most of their behavior was rather immature and superficial. I have always adored girls, but I was always too shy and lacked the confidence to speak to them. I also thought it was pretty stupid that when a boy likes a girl to then ask: Will you go with me? I always wondered: Go where?
The story of the little dog
On the way to school, when I was about 7 years old, I closed the gate to the garden of my parents' house like every morning. As soon as I set foot on the road, a small dog shot around the corner, and then jumped my leg. Without knowing what happened, I saw his small, pointed pink 'thingi' and slowly I realized that he was trying to satisfy his sexual desire on my leg.
I then tried with all my strength to remove this little horny dog from my leg, but that was easier said than done. He just did not want to let go of my leg, and only after a few minutes and a lot of effort had I finally succeeded. This was not a one-time event, but repeated itself every day for the next few weeks. Somehow he had developed a radar for me, for as quiet as I may have been so as not to alarm him, every morning at 7:45 am, I had not even closed the garden door behind me, as this little creature was back to jump my hung .
All this was so disgusting and embarrassing to me, and I felt so used at that moment that I put that experience out of my memory for about 30 years. Much later in my life, I realized that this dog represented something that I had always observed in my fellow human beings and that caused me much grief. When people see something in you that pleases them, they react like that little horny dog, they crave for you and jump at you you full of dissatisfied lust to get what they want, but as soon as they are satisfied they release you and go to the next person to meet their needs.
I felt somehow inadequate for not being able to perform well in school. I began getting the sense that there was something about me which was different and unique, but instead of rejecting and punishing myself for it, I learned to accept myself for the person I was. My parents could not possibly understand what was going on for me, and my class and schoolmates were all too busy having fun and being kids that I never had the opportunity to open up to anybody, nobody to share my real thoughts with.
Despite my melancholy soul, my life motto became the text to a very meaningful children's song, with which many children grow up here in Germany: "It does not take much to be happy, but who is happy is king." Even though I was a very troubled and sad child inside, at least I could seem happy on the outside, which led to my becoming a class clown at school, making others laugh. This was the only way to draw attention to me, thus overcoming my inner loneliness and boredom.
Early interest in the American culture
My 6 year older brother was technically very talented and he had built a small adapter into my TV that allowed me to receive the television program for US troops stationed in Germany called AFN (American Forces Network). Even though I did not really understand most of it, it opened up a door to a whole new world. American shows like Alf, the Muppets Show, Mork and Mindie, Perfect Strangers and especially Soul Train, a dance show for colored people, awakened in me a sense of love and sympathy for a culture which was so very different from the one I grew up in.
My father was a producer of various music shows for ZDF, and he sometimes took me to work with him.There he had a small cabinet of hundreds of records sent to him by different companies, and I could choose and take with me what I wanted. I found many recordings of colored musicians, for whom I have already developed a deep admiration from the show Soul Train. Slowly but surely I've accumulateda large collection of disco, funk and soul, as well as rap music, which started in the mid-70s.
The first turning point in my life
After I finally graduated in 1983 I attempted to continue my scholarly education in a higher technical school, but failed miserably due to my lack of motivation and interest. Not knowing what to do with myself I began my mandatory service in the German army, an experience which changed my entire outlook on life. I was surrounded by people who reminded me very much of how I have lived my life up until this point, and eventually I found that most of them were basically just as non-caring, disinterested and disillusioned as I was up until this point. Over the next few months I began to do a lot of soul searching and self-examination. Slowly I began to realize that my rebelliousness during my school years did myself a lot of harm, and that I missed out on the opportunity to learn and to improve myself. For the first time in my life I understood that you learn for nobody else, not for your parents, not for your teacher, not for anybody else, but only for yourself.
When I completed my service I found myself a completely changed person, ready to open up a new chapter. During that time I had such a thirst for knowledge that I have signed up for countless courses, starting with an English course at the community college, then business English, Japanese, French and various business courses. I became so ambitious that I did not spend the slightest moment without reading a book or studying new vocabulary. The thought that drove me was that I wanted to learn a lot of new things to make up for what I was missing at school, to become successful, earn a lot of money, and then enjoy life, but my relationship to other people was still marked by great discomfort.
Fate is calling
After I completed my apprenticeship in 1988 I worked in promotions and marketing for about 2 years. This was truly a dream come true, working in a high pace environment was just what I was looking for. During this time I was residing at a youth hostel due to the fact that it was located very close to where I was working. One day, after returning home from a long day at work I took some time to relax in the TV-room, unwinding from the stress at the office, when I heard somebody talking in a very loud and animated matter on the telephone. Not thinking much of it, rather being a little bit annoyed over her loud demeanor, I closed the door and continued watching television.
A few minutes later my solitude was interrupted by somebody sitting right
across from me at the table. As it turned out it was the person who I heard
a few minutes earlier talking on the phone. When I looked up I encountered
the beautiful, warm and alive features of an African American lady.
As it turned out she was stranded in the hostel due to the fact that she got
mugged a little bit earlier. A taxi driver recommended the hostel to her since she now had to figure what to do.
Her name was Eunice, and she was from the United States. I was instantaneously fascinated by her very alive and refreshing personality, but also was very intrigued by the fact that she was a performing artist. Since she had spoken a very fast American English, I understood only a fraction of what she told me. From what I understand, she originally came from Alabama but has been studying at the University of Kansas for many years. She was visiting Germany with a host family, and when she made her way back to the airport, her bags were stolen with all her papers. A taxi driver had then recommended the youth hostel, as she now had to think about what to do. We had a very lively conversation for about two hours. During that time, I've fallen in love with her a little, and started to feel that this is more than just a one-time meeting. When she finally got up from her chair, I noticed that she was a bit bulkier than I had hoped. Since she was a very attentive person, she had immediately noticed that in my expression. Her immediate reaction was, "you're too thin for me anyway." We both laughed, and after that spent about three weeks together in my apartment in Germany before she had to return to the USA. After she had canceled her flight many times, it finally came the time when she had to leave Germany. When the day of their departure came, we were both in tears, but after countless letters and phone calls during Christmas 1990, I then decided to buy a one way ticket to Kansas.
Arrival in the land of unlimited possibilities
When I arrived in Kansas on January 19, 1991, I was instantly thrilled to be surrounded by people who spoke in a language that was very foreign to me, but their relaxed attitude immediately appealed to me, a way of life that was so different from my German culture, against which I rebelled from an early age. Eunice took me to various basketball games shortly after my arrival, which was something I only knew from TV before, with cheerleaders and a marching band during halftime, and all the pomp and circumstance known fromAmerican sports events. This was all so overwhelming for me, and I was also too busy processing all these new experiences that I did not concern myself too much when Eunice sometimes behaved very differently from when I've met her in Germany, much more tense, hectic and sometimes she even acted a bit crazy, but i thought that will go away after a while.
Eunice came from a very large family from Alabama,
the deepest south of the USA. Shortly after my arrival
she took me to family celebrations, with hundreds
of her uncles, aunts, cousins, nephews, nieces and grandparents.
Almost all of them welcomed me with open arms, except for her brothers and sister, who were much more conventional and reserved than their so much more outgoing, unruly and unruly sister, who had always been a bit of a thorn in their eyes.
They were also very suspicious of this 7 years younger white guy from another culture that Eunice brought into the family. Although there were many moments when Eunice was anything but "normal", I was so blinded and distracted by the many new experiences, and also that was the only way for me to stay in the USA that I readily agreed to when she proposed marriage to me.
On March 2, 1991, less than 2 months after I left my home in Germany, and only
4 months after I met her in Germany, at the tender age of 24, and her being 31,
we got married in front of her family and many friends in Lawrence Kansas.
In many ways, my wife was very much like me, she was also a person with a very strong will who always did what she wanted, even if the other one did not like it, but she was also very different. Unlike me, she knew exactly who she was and what she wanted was anything but shy and had no trouble talking to others. As her masters thesis she wrote a one woman show called "Images", a portrait of 5 women different of African-American history,like Harriet Tubman and Phillis Wheatley, which she performed several hundreds of times in front of thousdands of people. She was also a person who loved people, and she was also loved by most of them, for her very authentic and alive nature, but then there were also many others who were also intimidated and overwhelmed by her very strong presence.
In the course of our marriage, I noticed another problem with my wife, which most of her family and friends were aware of, but no one told me about it. When things went well, she was a very loving and caring person, but as soon as she got upset, her behavior changed in a way that was reminiscent of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. She then became a very uncomfortable, uncontrollable, hysterical, and aggressive person, scaring everyone around her.When that happend, I made a terrible mistake, which only made things worse. Instead of simply giving her time to calm down, I then did what most of us do when dealing with an extremely irritating person; I confronted her and tried to change her behavior, which made it even more difficult.
Despite all this, on our first wedding anniversary
our first daughter Lee-Anna was born on March 2, 1992
and 15 months later our family grew with twins, a boy and a girl
Learning to work on myself
A couple of years later I started working in a job where we were allowed to use headphones while working. Since I was a very fast and efficient multitasker, I used my time at work to explore the radio culture of the new world I was living in. I listened with great interest to political programs, religious programs and talk shows. After some time I became a member of the library, where I borrowed books on tape.
I began to listen to biographies of celebrities, history books and books on the future, politics, business, management, philosophy, spirituality, and then I came across a topic that should have a major impact on the future of my life; self-development.
This was also the time when I enrolled in some general courses at the university of Kansas, but after a few semesters there, the birth of the twins in 1993, and then the death of my father in October of 1992, who actually prophesied that if I would leave Germany he would never see him again, I felt that my life was spinning out of control. I therefore stopped my studies at the university in order to focus on my personal studies.
The idea of working on myself was totally new to me, and also incredibly inspiring as I was facing some serious problems in my own life. A few months into my personal studies, my attention was lead to Stephen Covey's "The 7 Ways to Effectiveness."In it, I found a concept that opened my eyes to the key to effective personal transformation:
"Between what happens to you, and your response to what happens to you
lies your ultimate freedom to choose your response. "
As soon as I began to understand the tremendous implications of this principle, I was inspired to learn as much as I could about the subject. For the next ten years, I've studied countless books on tape, articles, and essays by self-development gurus like Dr. Wayne Dyer, Deepak Chopra, Leo Buscagli, John Bradshaw, Dale Carnegy, Anthony Robbins, Peter Drucker, Tom Peters, Ken Blenchard and Earl Nightingale.
I began using a recording device to convey my newly found insights in my own words. Over the next few years, I recorded my thoughts daily for several hours, and then listened to them in order to become a more effective presenter. My intention was to one day also work as a motivatinal speaker and life coach. During this time I've absorbed an average of 3 books on tape per day, and during my breaks at work I always went outside to record my newly inspired thoughts and ideas on tape.
Although I was incredibly inspired by what I learned, in the evening I went home again, where I continued to argue with my wife. After many years of this, I was able to hear my own anger and repeated complaints towards the person I was married to in my own recordings. I then made a new, profound realization. However difficult she was, I was not able to change her, but only mself, so I began to work on that.
My wife was hospitalized more often, where she was eventually diagnosed with manic-depressive or bipolar disorder. As soon as I became aware that she was actually very ill, and therefore could not control her self, I slowly learned to distance myself emotionally to no longer stimulate her irrational, explosive and unpredictable behavior, but unfortunately it was already too late.
When things did not change for the better, I talked to a social worker and together we decided to send the children to San Francisco to live with my wife's sister for a short while. We then signed temporary guardianship over to her, and it was my hope that we would successfully work on our marriage during this time so that our children could return to a stable and secure home.While it was our plan, that our children would only spend only a few months in California before they could come back to Kansas, it took more than two years and countless marriage counseling sessions to come to terms with the fact that nothing would improve., and so I made the long overdue decision to file for divorce.
Because my wife's sister never really accepted me into her family, so she did not want to send the children back to be with me in Kansas. Because of that I had to move to San Francisco to file for visitation with my own children. It took about 6 months for the divorce to be granted. My plan was that my now ex-wife would take over our condominium in Kansas, while I would receive a lump sum from the divorce settlement, with which I would finance my relocation to San Francisco.
The day on which the divorce became finalized, I quit my job of more than 10 years, bought a small used car to drive to San Francisco the following weekend to start a new life there. The next day, I think it was a thursday, I went to a club in the evening to celebrate the beginning of my new life in california. After dancing for a few hours I left the club aronund 2am.
"Life happens while you make other plans." John Lennon
When I crossed the street to get to my car, I stood for a few seconds on the side of the street to exchange a few words with a young lady who just came out of the parking lot, when all of a sudden a speeding driver came around the corner and hit my left leg. I was thrown into the air by the impact, and without losing consciousness I landed on the street.There I lay, screaming with unbearable pain, and before my eyes I saw all my plans to move to San Francisco and to begin a new life there go down the drain. As I slowly turned to see where the pain was coming from, I saw my left leg completely twisted.
After a few moments, which seemed like an eternity, the ambulance finally arrived and took me to the local hospital. Later I learned that the driver of the car was obviously drunk and left the scene of the accident. This was definitely another difficult twist of fate, but I was just happy to have gotten away with my life. At the same time, I thought that this was a sign that I was not ready to move to San Francisco, and that I had to learn something important from this new experience. My left leg was broken in two places, and after patching it up with a titanium rod and two screws, I was discharged from the hospital two days later with a cast and on crutches. Because I quit my job only a few days before the "accident", I was not entitled to accident insurance. I could not work anymore and therefore had to live off the money I received from the divorce settlement. After having to pay part of the hospital bill and expenses for a cheap motel where I lived for a few weeks, my financial reserves were exhausted.
There is no place like home
Without money, family and friends who were willing to help me, I was then forced to contact the local homeless shelter. There I found my new home for the next three months. It was ironic to make my first contacts after my marriage with people who, just like me, had lost everything in their life. This was the second time I lost my home, the first time when I left Germany 12 years ago, and now that I found my new home in a homeless shelter.
It was February 2003, and as always we had a lot of snow in Kansas, and it was bitterly cold. We were about 30 people in the gym of a school where we slept on mats. Every morning at half past five we had to get up, and then after a quick shower and breakfast were released out on the street again about an hour later.Without any special goal, without obligations and duties, we then had the whole day available, until at 9 pm when the homeless shelter opened its doors again.
Even though I could only move very slowly on my crutches, which required quite a lot of effort, especially in the extreme cold, somehow it was also a very exciting time for me. Compared to my incredibly stressful marriage of 12 years, during which I sometimes wondered if I would ever come out it alive, I saw this "accident" as just a small detour on the way to a new life. I considered what happened as a new learning experience, and so I met this extremely difficult situation with a positive attitude. I spent my time during the day in different coffee shops, where I started to write down my thoughts about all that happened, and what I learned from it.
Lessons from being homeless
I also spent a lot of time getting to know people from the homeless shelter better. I noticed that many of the people there were highly intelligent, and longed for intellectually stimulating conversations. Of course, each of these individuals came from a home, but then, after some tragic experience they eventually ended up in the social system. There they accepted the stigma as a homeless person, someone without a task and a future, mainly an outcast of society. Everyone I spoke with had an incredible story, but rarely did anyone even care to hear it. The workers in the homeless shelter were mainly concerned with the organizational aspects of the homeless shelter, while the homeless people themselves spent their time with more or less irrelevant things.
I have had many long and intense conversations with the people there, listening to their story to understand the reason why they ended up in a homeless shelter. Most were very wiling to tell me their stories, very grateful to have found an open ear, but when I also wanted to tell my own story, I realized how most of them were unable to listen to me fully. Never before have I understand how distraught and troubled the human soul can be as a result of unprocessed traumatic experiences. Many of the people there had a history of physical and emotional abuse, and as the result distanced themselves from family, friends, and the rest of the world. It then became clear to me what is missing to help these people to bring about a healing of their injured soul; the genuine contact, and the positive feedback from someone who cares deeply, who listens to them to understand them, who does not judge them, but who can put himself into their situation and who then empathizes with their own grief and pain.
My car with my belongings had to be sold shortly after my accident. I was therefore dependent on finding a new way to get to San Francisco. I spent several hours in the library every day to find a short-term job, as well as a ride to San Francisco. After about a month, my cast was removed, and I was finally able to walk again without crutches. I then took a few small jobs to make some money, I then found a temporary home away from the homeless shelter, and eventually found a ride to San Francisco.
When I arrived in San Francisco in January 2004, I had about $100 in my pocket. I did not know anyone in this city, except the aunt and uncle of my children, but my relationship with them has always been very tense. They were therefore not willing to support me in the reunification process with my children, or help me find a job, and so I was completely on my own again. With the little money I had I rented a room for 3 days in a youth hostel. During that time, I went to the San Francisco court to file for visitation with my own children, which of course was granted to me as their natural father.
After a few days I ran out of money again, and so I was forced to contact one of the homeless shelters here in the city. I had to stand in line at 3 am in a certain place, in a long line of about 100 people, and then get a bed the next day. I was registered homeless in San Francisco's computer system, and was directed to one of the many shelters, where I was assigned a bed.
I spent the few next weeks and months getting to know this incredibly novel and eclectic city. Somehow I felt the energy here, and the people as much more open, creative and accessible than the people I knew from Kansas or Germany. I loved the atmosphere of this city, even though I had no money to do anything. I remember clearly how, for example, I visited Fishermans Warf, a major tourist attraction at the harbor. There I was overwhelmed by the an incredible number of people, a variety of shops, restaurants, street vendors and street performers. The scent of delicious dishes hit my nose, but without a penny in my pocket and with a growling stomach, I had to wait for lunch in one of the soup kitchens, or for dinner in a homeless shelter.
Nevertheless, I was in good spirits and incredibly happy to live in San Francisco now and to be able to see my children again soon. The first meeting with my children was organized by the aunt and uncle of my children in the lobby of a hotel. Without preparing my children, they simply told them that they had a surprise for them. It's been already more than 4 years that I saw my children the last time. My eldest daughter was already 12 years old, and the twins nearly 11. When I was waiting in the hotel and they suddenly came around the corner and saw me, they were almost hysterical with joy. I also was in tears immediately, and we hugged each other tightly. What a joy to see us again after such a long time. We were so overjoyed, but unfortunately the relatives, who were not so happy that I was there, separated us after a short while. I did not tell them that I lived in the homeless shelter, but informed them that I filed for visitation, so that even without their consent, I would be able to see my children on a regular basis.
Since I was now registered as a resident of San Francisco with a Po Box address, I was able to get a library card. There I spent several hours every day, posting ads about my life story, with the aim of finding someone who might have a small uninhabited room or couch where I could stay for a while as a guest, so I could better focus on the future of my life. I also published advertisements regarding study groups for personal growth and self-help, but to be completely honest, and I realize now that this was the main reason for why I was not successful with that, my main motivation was not so much to help people, but to make money to improve my life situation. This is something towards which people, especially in San Francisco, are very sensitive towards. Still, I've received a great response from those who wanted to learn more, but I was not able to give people the kind of attentioned they needed in order for me to help them, and in reality it was actually me who needed help, and so I did not respond to emails until a few days, and sometimes even weeks later, and then it was too late, and people lost interest, thinking I wasnt serious.
During this time I had regular supervised visits with my children in a court-assigned place, where our gathering was monitored through a glass wall by social workers. This made me somehow feel like a criminal, but still I was happy to spend time with my children.
Even though I did not have an exact plan for the future, I hoped that I would find a way to live with my children again.
Actually, this was quite unrealistic as I was still homeless, with no prospect of regular employment, and considering the fact that San Francisco is a very expensive city, it would take an incredible amount of money to raise three teenagers by myself. Nevertheless, I believed in myself, knowing that all had a deeper reason, that I would take an important lesson from all this and I that was called to share my learning experiences with others.
Some time later I had an appointment with the Social Services of San Francisco, where I was officially reported as homeless. This gave me the right to receive public support in the form of food stamps, worth about $ 120 a month.
I then lived in the homeless shelter for about three months, before an incredibly generous and helpful person responded to my internet ad in April 2004, where I stated that I was looking for a better life situation for me. He lived in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco in a rather small one bedroom apartment, where a small extra room next to the kitchen was empty, just big enough for a small futon. We got along very well, and he was so touched by the honesty of my ad that he offered to move in as his guest indefinitely.
This was truly a godsend as it allowed me to get a much needed break from all the weirdness, drama and pain of the past, to recharge my batteries, and to collect my thoughts I then found some small jobs over the internet, and with the first money I earned, I bought a used laptop to write down my ideas and also create my first website. Over the next few months, I developed the concept of realize2actualize.
Regular supervised visits with my children took place every week. Our great hope was that we would live together soon, but since this did not happen, our relationship became more and more difficult. Even at home with their aunt and uncle, the children were acting more on edge, and their behavior became more difficult to manage. Above all, my son had a hard time to keep his anger and frustration under control, and so their aunt and uncle did not want to deal with it any longer. Without informing me, they decided to end their guardianship, so the children were removed from their home and ended up in foster care.
At the beginning of 2006 I accepted a full time telemarketing job. After more than two years living as a guest at Haight Ashbury, I finally moved into my own place.With my first salary, I acquired a video camera because I wanted to capture the unique atmosphere and energy of this incredible city. I then set up my own channel on YouTube, where I quickly recorded hundreds of videos of walks through the streets of San Francisco, while talking about my own philosophy of life: https://www.youtube.com/realize2actualize
The years went by so fast, and I moved from one place to another without really setting foot anywhere. Since my children now lived in a home with foster parents, I was able to visit them without supervision. They lived with a rather nice foster family in Vallejo, north of San Francisco, and we met there for a couple of hours, or in a restaurant or mall. This was a very difficult and tense time for all of us, and I noticed how my children emotionally distanced themselves more and more from me. I knew that they still loved me, but since their father was never able to provide them with a home, they lived their own life, and I was not really part of it. I was just somebody with whom they sometimes went to dinner, but I had pretty much lost my parental influence.
My daughters were better able to be dealing with this difficult situation because they lived together, but my son, who lived in a seperate house, was developing serious problems with his uncontrollable anger, so he was moved from one foster home to another. When he was about 13 years old, he made friends with a few guys, who, just like him came from broken homes. They were all involved in different criminal activities, and so they got him to stand guard while robbing houses. Unfortunately this was the beginning of his own criminal career. I never knew about this until he was caught by the police much later and he was sent to the juvenile detention center, where I visited him many times. After living in approximately 8 different nursing homes, he had the opportunity to live with his mother in Kansas in 2009. He was incredibly excited as the day drew nearer, but as fate would have it, a few days before he was to move in with his mother, she died from a heart attack as the result of mixing medication with alcohol.
The true spirit of San Francisco
At the beginning of 2010, I met a woman who allowed me to get a welcome distraction from my loneliness and inner sadness. Anat was a bundle of positive energy, a Samba dancer national champion of Hustle Dance, and one of the queens of Burning Man, an incredible art festival that takes place once a year in the Redwood Desert of Nevada.
Her amazing energy has mesmerized everyone she came in contact with. Wherever she was, she was the center of attention, and therefore had a great following of loyal fans who went everywhere she went. After meeting her, she has invited me to countless parties and festivals, including the San Francsico Carnival, where she danced with her samba group.
It was really incredible for me to meet people with such a positive and life-affirming attitude. They all welcomed me into their community with open arms, but with a still very heavy heart, I did not really open up to anybody. Even though I somehow felt like an outsider at these events, I sure had a lot of fun. At many of these events, I used my video camera to capture the amazing energy of the modern generation of hippies and flower children. At some point a friend suggested to me at one of these events that I should call myself 'The Now Guy'.
A friend of Anat was the manager of a few apartments in Richmond, a town north of San Francisco. After I told him about the situation with my son, he was willing to let us move into one of his apartments. Of course, I was overjoyed that I could now live with my son after more than 11 years, and I did not even think about the possible problems of our reunion. My son, now 19 years old, had some serious trouble and discipline issues because of his past, and I did not have the strength to set clear boundaries for him. The first few days and weeks everything went well. I helped him write a resume and find some small jobs over the internet. He also worked a bit as an unskilled laborer, but then he became dissatisfied because this was pretty hard work and he made very little money, so he then started again to earn money with different criminal activities
We argued more often, which unfortunately sometimes escalated into physical assault. We lived together for 4 months in Richmond and then moved to Vallejo, where we rented two rooms in a very large and clean house. This was much better as his two sisters lived in the same city, so we were able to visit them more often, but after repeated problems, he left after 2 months. Without knowing where he was, after some time I had heard that he had difficult problems with the police. With such a broken family life, no real friends, no steady income and residence, I then decided to return to Germany in March of 2013, after more than 22 years in the USA
During the course of my life I had to deal with many changes, losses, disappointments and a great amount of hardship, having to adapt to many new and difficult situations. What I went through I refer to as "the path of forced detachment", where I lost many things, like a sense a sense of belonging, home, family and stability, but I also learned a great amount.
Before I left Germany I actually did not like people, because I did not understand their seemingly selfish and irrational ways, but eventually I learned to appreciate people for who they are, knowing that we all actually want the same thing, to be loved, to be respect, to be understood and appreciated for the unique individual we are. We just have different ways of getting those needs met, but basically, we are all more alike than we are different.
After what I went through I can thoroughly relate to anyone who is dealing with difficult situations and challenges. From what I learned I know that all experiences, especially the difficult ones provide us with a great opportunity to learn valuable lessons and insights. In addition to that I have come to understand that people who are difficult for us to deal with, those who irritate us and trigger us in a negative way, those people are actually our greatest teacher.
I believe that it is time in this world for us human beings to unite and overcome our superficial differences, which up until this point have separated us from one another and are the cause for countless arguments, disagreements, hostility and violence. The time has come for us to unite in love, peace, mutual respect, understanding and appreciation, and regardless of our differences, we are here to help each other, to learn from and with one other, and to work together in order to create a better world.
Thank you for your time and attention, and I hope that my story could inspire you a little bit to look at your day to day challenges as an oppportunity to learn valuable lessons and insights.