I must admit that, though I always enjoy doing these types of exercises, this one is a) much longer & more involved than I anticipated, and b) probes much deeper than I expected. A few of these questions have dredged up thoughts & feelings that I’ve been pretty successful at burying for awhile. I’m not complaining though. It’s important to really find out what makes a person tick, and even moreso to understand yourself, so in that respect this is a really healthy & cathartic task. I apologize for the length of these entries, which are more extensive than what I normally prefer to post even after I broke the questionnaire down into parts. Also, though most of the questions are really interesting & provocative, some are head scratchers that I’ve admittedly not answered all that well, and for that I apologize. At any rate, if you haven’t perused Part 1 please take a few minutes to do so when you have some free time, and ponder what your answers to these questions might be.
What question can you ask to find out the most about a person?
Getting to know a person requires time. I don’t think it can be boiled down to just one question. It takes many questions, as well as observation.
When was the last time you changed your opinion / belief about something major?
I’m not sure to be honest. My core beliefs are pretty steadfast. That being said, I am a reasonable man and willing to listen to others & discuss issues. There is always the chance that someone or something could change my mind about one thing or another.
What was the best compliment you’ve received?
Back in college a group of fraternity brothers & I were going into a bar that had been converted from an old house, and the front entrance was not handicapped accessible. The guys forged ahead and I was just kind of sitting there. One of them turned back and suddenly realized the situation. He apologized and said “I honestly just forget that you are in a wheelchair”, which I thought was very cool.
As the only human left on Earth, what would you do?
Find food & shelter. And pray…alot.
Who inspires you to be better?
My faith inspires me to be better today than I was yesterday and do better tomorrow than I did today. I admire & respect many people, but they have their own lives to lead and I can’t live for them. However, God gave his only Son so that I should have eternal life and Jesus died for my sins, so I feel like I owe them that respect.
What do you want your epitaph to be?
I prefer not to think of such morbid things.
What did you think you would grow out of but haven’t?
I thought I might develop healthier eating habits someday, but it turns out I just really enjoy food.
In what situation or place would you feel the most out of place in?
It never ceases to amaze me that I tend to feel loneliest in a crowded room, usually surrounded by people that theoretically like me, but the truth is they are merely courteous & polite…they don’t really see me or know me.
What’s the dumbest thing you’ve done that actually turned out pretty well?
Well, I drank a lot in college and didn’t die, so I’ve got that going for me. Like everyone else I do my share of stupid things, but I’m the type of person who then imagines the worst case scenario and beats myself up worse than anybody, so then in reality things usually shake out better than I thought.
They say that everyone has a book in them. What would your book be about?
I have a few ideas.
What is something you will NEVER do again?
I ate escargot once, which was a bad idea. But generally…never say never.
What do you spend the most time thinking about?
I’m not sure there is one specific thing. My thoughts bounce around a lot depending on various stimuli. My friend The Owl calls it “living in your own head”.
What are some of the events in your life that made you who you are?
I’m sure I’m not the only person in the world that has had positive & negative events that have impacted my life. On the negative side I don’t think I’ve ever gotten past the death of my mother 17 years ago, and a car accident about 20 years ago has devastated me in ways that no one…not even my closest family…will ever understand. I have also had a few health issues that have significantly affected my lifestyle. On the positive side I have had tremendous familial relationships and friendships that have shaped & molded me. My collegiate experience was the best time of my life during which I learned much that I still carry with me.
What do you wish your brain was better at doing?
I wish I was more motivated & less of a procrastinator.
There are two types of people in this world. What are the two types?
Men & women…contrary to modern day interpretations of such things.
What is the strangest thing you have come across?
I see strange things every day. Not much surprises me anymore.
What is something you are certain you’ll never experience?
Marriage. Being a father.
What dumb accomplishment are you most proud of?
I was a multiple time spelling bee champion in grade school & junior high. As an adult that’s pretty meaningless, but I’m still proud of those victories.
If you could make one rule that everyone had to follow, what rule would you make?
Everyone would be restricted to two marriages. If you get married & divorced twice you’re done…no third chance.
What are you addicted to?
Sadly, social media. Probably because much of the time there’s nothing else better to do. Oh, and chocolate…I can’t forget chocolate.
What stereotype do you completely live up to?
I don’t think I fit into any stereotypes, and God knows the circumstances of my life have provided ample opportunity to do so.
What is something you can never seem to finish?
I have a bad habit of getting into 4 or 5 books at once and it might take me months or even years to finish one.
As you get older, what are you becoming more and more afraid of?
I spent some time…6 months…in a “skilled” nursing facility at the age of 33. I know as I get older that the possibility of ending up in one of those places for the long haul becomes all too real, and I don’t even want to think about it.
What is one of your favorite smells?
I love the smell of my beautiful dog Rocco.
What would be the scariest monster you could imagine?
The love child of Hillary Clinton & Oprah Winfrey.
What song or artist do you like but rarely admit to liking?
I really like N’Sync and some of Justin Timberlake’s solo stuff.
What would you do if you knew you were going to die in one hour?
Call my Dad & sister.
What book impacted you the most?
Lots of books have had a positive impact on my life.
If you had to change your name, what would you change it to?
Vincent. Although I like my name just fine.
If life is a game, like some people say, what are some of the rules?
Who is / was your most interesting friend?
My friend Greg & our friend The Owl are unique dudes.
Have you ever given to any charities?
What is something that your friends would consider “so you”?
I’m not sure…you’d need to ask them.
What risks are worth taking?
That’s a matter of personal opinion. Everyone has different things they consider important. Personally I am risk averse, which has probably been to my detriment.
What can you not get right, no matter how many times you try?
I can’t seem to get the whole meeting women & dating thing down. Of course I haven’t really tried all that hard.
If you could convince everyone in the world to do one thing at one point in time, what would that thing be?
Wow…that sounds like quite the undertaking. Heck, I can’t even get a couple of my buddies to go to Vegas with me, so I doubt I could get “everyone in the world” to do something. And I can’t even fathom what one thing I’d have everybody do.
What do you take for granted?
I try not to take anything for granted, although I am sure those who know me might be able to come up with a couple of things.
What would be some of the most annoying things about having yourself as a roommate?
My sleeping habits are horrible. I am a night owl, but then sometimes even when I don’t go to sleep til 4am I’m still up by 9am. And if that happens I’ll probably need to take an afternoon nap. Other than that I don’t believe I’d be a horrible roommate. I don’t drink, do drugs, or “party”. I’m not a neat freak but I’m not a slob either. I am fairly easy going & quiet.
What’s something you are self-conscious about?
My weight. I need to shed 75-100 lbs.
What personality trait do you value most and which do you dislike the most?
I like that I’m a good listener & mostly easy to get along with. I hate that I am a procrastinator & lean toward being lazy.
What small gesture from a stranger made a big impact on you?
Little things mean a lot. A smile. A friendly hello. A firm handshake. Saying “please” & “thank you”. It’s not hard to be a decent person, but it’s not as common as it should be.
What gets you fired up?
Politics. I have very strong opinions and can easily be sucked into a debate/argument, but it’s almost always a no-win situation no matter how right I know I am.
What challenging thing are you working through these days?
Nothing big. Not one particularly dominant thing. Just facing the little day to day annoyances that we all must overcome.
What irrational fear do you have?
I was in a car accident about 20 years ago. Because I need hand controls on a vehicle it took a couple of weeks to get a new car & new hand controls. In that time the whole idea that I could have died overcame me, and I developed a driving phobia that has gotten worse over time. I have a very limited comfort zone and do NOT travel outside of it. I have missed out on a number of events in the past two decades, and my social life is severely limited. To be honest I don’t even think I’d be living in WV and have the small little financially challenged life that I do if it weren’t for that accident and the resulting phobia. I probably would have moved out of state, had some level of professional success, maybe went back to school, and likely gotten married & had kids. You might think I am exaggerating, but I assure you…I am not.
What’s the best and worst piece of advice you’ve ever received?
My father used to tell me when I was a kid that even though people were nice to me, pat me on the head (cause people do that to handicapped children…seriously), & express sympathy for “the poor little crippled boy”, that they hadn’t walked ten feet before they’d forgotten all about me because they’ve got their own problems. It might sound harsh, but it’s 100% true and very humbling. The world doesn’t owe me anything and I don’t expect anything from anyone. Many people are polite and even nice, but very few actually take the time to get to know me or genuinely care beyond courteous social interaction. And that not only applies to me…it’s universally true. That doesn’t make anyone “bad”, it just means we’re all selfish & caught up in our own stuff. It is what it is and that’s okay. As far as bad advice, I feel like my advisors & professors in college failed to guide me in any meaningful way, and upon graduating I was just kind of left twisting in the wind without much direction, ill prepared for the realities of being a working adult.
If you had a clock that would countdown to any one event of your choosing, what event would you want it to countdown to?
I want to go to Vegas dangit!! Who’s coming with me??
What makes a good life?
Faith. Family. Friends. Professional fulfillment. A decent place to live. Financial stability. The occasional adventure.
What do you strongly suspect but have no proof of?
That George Soros is a puppetmaster on a scale that few realize.
What’s the last adventure you went on?
I’m not very adventurous. I wouldn’t mind changing that.
When do you feel truly “alive”?
Usually very late at night. I’m weird like that.
What was the most memorable gift you’ve received?
I’ve gotten lots of nice gifts for birthdays & Christmases over the years. I’m not sure there’s one that stands out above any other.
What chapters would you separate your autobiography into?
- The Teen Years
- The College Years
- The Accident
- The Depression
- The Infocision Years
- Losing Mom
- My Unfortunate Incarceration
- The Rocco Chronicles
- The Hotline
- Middle Age
What do you like most about your family?
My family is fairly normal. My Mom passed away 17 years ago. My Dad is getting older so he’s not as strong & energetic as he once was, but he’s always been there for us. He’s easygoing & low key, just like me. He’s not extroverted by any means, but handles himself well in social situations…alot like me. He has given me lots of profound advice over the years. He doesn’t have a master’s degree or some fancy job, but he’s a heck of a Life 101 professor. My sister has had some rough times, but she’s there when we need her too. My two nephews are young men now and finding their own way. My grandparents are all gone but I have such fond memories of them. It’s difficult to pinpoint one specific thing I like most about my family. They’re my family…I love them, always have & always will. We’re not perfect but I don’t think we’ve ever been dysfunctional. I didn’t realize until I was an adult and had spent some time out in the world how fortunate I am to have the family that I do.
What do you hope your last words will be?
This is kind of like the epitaph thing…morbid. Let’s move on.
What stat for your life would you most like to see?
I’m not really into stats. Life isn’t a competition. It isn’t productive to keep score and compare yourself to others.
What are three of the most significant numbers in your life?
I used to keep track of how many surgeries I’d had, but I lost count. I think it’s 28.
6/9/95. That’s the day my life changed forever, and not in a good way. I’ll leave it at that.
795 is my fraternity roster number. The number itself is unimportant, but it symbolizes what I consider to be the best years of my life.
What could you do with two million dollars to impact the most amount of people?
I would certainly do my due diligence if I came into that kind of money. Admittedly I would keep a big chunk for myself, but there are family & friends that I’d like to help. And I suppose if I were to make some wise investments and grow the money I could help even more people.
If you were put into solitary confinement for six months, what would you do to stay sane?
I have actually had that experience…kind of. I call it My Unfortunate Incarceration. In 2006 I developed an ulcer on my tailbone. I spent a month in the hospital, six months in a “skilled” nursing facility, a year homebound except for doctor appointments, another stretch in a different hospital recovering from surgery, another month in a different “skilled” nursing facility, then a few more months recovering at home. All told I was laid up for about two years in my early 30’s. Someone actually asked me at the time how I was handling it because they would’ve been bashing their head against a wall. It was lonely to an extent, although I did have frequent visits from my father & sister and a few friends occasionally. I also had cable, internet, & lots of books to read.
What’s something horrible that everyone should try at least once?
It depends on what one defines as horrible. What I consider horrible you might think is just dandy. I think we should all try lots of different things. After all, how do we truly know something is horrible unless we’ve experienced it??
What fact are your resigned to?
The fact that I am unlikely to ever marry, have children, or own a home.
Have you ever saved someone’s life?
Not that I am aware of.
What were some of the turning points in your life?
June 9, 1995. That’s the day I left my college town of Huntington, WV and returned to my hometown. It is the worst decision I’ve ever made.
June 20, 1996. That’s the day I had the auto accident that negatively impacts me to this day.
February 23, 2000. The day my mother died.
April 9, 2006. The day I landed in the hospital with an ulcer on my tailbone. It was the beginning of a two year saga that my father referred to…even at the time…as a “life changing event”.
What would a mirror opposite of yourself be like?
Hmmm…that’s a great question. So I suppose the opposite of me would be…thin, good looking, charming, confident, energetic, ambitious, left-brained, a born salesman, liberal, a rulebreaker, an adrenaline junkie, into partying, an ailurophile, a country music fan, and prefer healthy fruits & veggies over chocolate.
What are you really good at, but kind of embarrassed that you are good at it?
I’m not sure I’m particularly good at anything, but if I was why would I be embarrassed??
What are three interesting facts about you?
Oh heck…why stop at three??
Which of your scars has the best story behind it?
I have many scars. They’re all from various surgeries. I don’t think any of those stories are particularly fascinating.
What’s the title of the current chapter of your life?
What’s the hardest lesson you’ve learned?
No one lives forever.
What mistake do you keep making again and again?
I’m not as healthy as I could be, largely because of poor eating & other habits. On an intellectual level I know the kind of improvements I need to make, but I just can’t seem to resist the beguiling siren call of chocolate…and pizza…and pancakes…and root beer…and pasta…and ice cream…and……………………………………………………..
What do people think is weird about you?
I’m not sure…you’d need to ask them.
When people look at you, what do you think they see / think?
On the surface I am sure that most people see a fat guy in a wheelchair. That’s fine…I long ago came to peace with that. However, I hope that anyone who takes the time to get to know me sees a decent yet flawed human being who tries to do the right thing most of the time and treats people with respect, is reasonably intelligent, has a fairly good sense of humor, and lives by a deeply ingrained moral code & faith.
What have you created that you are most proud of?
If you could make a 20 second phone call to yourself at any point in your life present or future, when would you call and what would you say?
I’d call myself the morning of my car accident 20 years ago and say “Drive careful on your way home from work today. Take it slow.” Or maybe…maybe…I’d call myself all the way back in the spring/early summer of 1995 when I was making the decision to leave my college hometown and move back into my parents’ house and say “Don’t do it. Stay there. Ride it out. Don’t give up…it will influence the rest of your life.”
What annoys you most about the in-groups you are a part of?
If I am a part of any “in groups” I am certainly not aware of it lol.
What do you have doubts about?
I have doubts about whether or not I am living up to God’s standards and truly exampling Christ. The fact that I even question myself about it tells me that I need to do better.
What do you want to be remembered for?
On a personal level I hope I am remembered as a good & decent person who treated everyone with respect. On a grander yet more superficial level I think it would be cool to write a great book and/or screenplay that people would still be enjoying long after I’m gone, and maybe win an award or two for my work.
What are some of your personal “rules” that you never break?
I try to follow God’s commands and the teachings of Jesus Christ. I can’t say that I never break those “rules”, but I try to do better each day.
What do you regret not doing or starting when you were younger?
A few things. I regret not continuing my education past college. I regret not being more financially responsible so that I could have more flexibility to do things I’d like to do. I regret not relocating out of my home state of West Virginia because as beautiful as it is in a number of ways there are no opportunities or future here. I regret not taking a chance with some ladies that might have been fantastic wives & mothers.
If you could have a never-ending candle that smelled like anything you wanted, what fragrance would you want it to be?
That’s a tough one. I have a few scented wax warmers in my apartment. I lean toward the food-ish smells like baked bread, apple pie, chocolate chip cookies, blueberry muffins, etc. I suppose if I had to narrow it down to one specific scent I’d go with vanilla. One can’t go wrong with vanilla.
What’s the best thing about you?
I always lean toward my sense of humor.
What bends your mind every time you think about it?
Bends my mind…..hmmmmm. Nothing really comes to mind. What an esoteric question!!
What’s the best thing you got from your parents?
My parents are/were awesome!! It’s hard to narrow this down to one thing. However, I think the most important thing my parents taught me is that the world doesn’t owe me anything because of my disability, that life can be cruel & unfair but one has to roll with the punches & overcome. They had another child…my older sister…that they had to be fair to, so I didn’t get any special treatment or receive a break just because I was disabled. There was discipline in our house!! That really helped me as I grew into adulthood. Now, it occurs to me that the intent of this question may mean what did you get from your parents genetically. In that regard I think I am a good blend of my father’s affable strength & my mother’s discreet yet fierce ethical decency.
What’s one responsibility you really wish you didn’t have?
A couple of things pop into my head. First, I wouldn’t mind having someone else handle my finances and pay my bills. I guess that’s what a financial planner and/or a spouse is for, and I have neither. Secondly, for the past two decades I have said that the first thing I would do if I ever came into a large sum of money would be to buy a limo and hire a driver. No more driving for this guy…let someone else deal with that craziness.
What is the “holy grail” of your life?
If your childhood had a smell, what would it be?
The smell of our kitchen as Mom made a home cooked meal. Baked steak & mashed potatoes w/gravy, spaghetti & meatballs, mac & cheese, and meatloaf were some of my favorites.
What are the top three things you want to accomplish before you die? How close are you to accomplishing them?
I’m past the point of being ambitious, and worldly accomplishments aren’t that important to me, but I suppose if I had to come up with three things I’d say a) write a book and/or screenplay, b) travel to Vegas, & c) see the ocean. They are all doable, but probably aren’t happening anytime soon.
What do you wish you could tell yourself 10 years ago? What do you think you’ll want to tell your current self 10 years from now?
Ten years ago I was homebound with an ulcer on my tailbone. If I could talk to myself from that time I would just convey the message that “this too shall pass” and reassure myself that I will come thru on the other side and resume my life. As for the other part of the equation, let’s just live one day at a time.
In your group of friends, what role do you play?
I have different groups that I am part of. I’m not really the leader of the pack in any scenario, but I can take charge and be the decision maker if necessary. Most usually I am The Voice of Reason, offering advice & suggestions from a rational & empathetic point of view.
Among your friends or family, what are you famous for?
I’m not sure I am famous for anything lol.
What is the biggest lesson you never learned?
I learn new things every day. Life is constant learning. If I were aware of a big lesson that I hadn’t learned I’d do my best to learn it.
What’s the most immature thing that you do?
If your life was a book, what would its title be?
Two Strikes. It emulates from something my father has always told me, that because of my health issues I always have two strikes against me.
What’s the best and worst thing about getting older?
The best thing is that most of the stupid stuff I did as a young man is behind me. I’ve learned and know better how to navigate the world. The worst thing(s) are physical. Getting older means moving a little slower, battling more issues, taking more medication, & not having quite as much pep as one may have had 10 or 20 years ago.
What’s something that happened or something that someone said that changed how you view the world?
When I was in college my friend Greg gave me a copy of Rush Limbaugh’s first book The Way Things Ought to Be, and it changed my perspective on many things.
What are you most likely very wrong about?
When I’m wrong I admit I am wrong. At the moment nothing comes to mind though.
If you had a personal flag, what would be on it?
I think it’d be neat to have a crest or coat of arms. Mine would have an eagle with a fountain pen with the words “wisdom”, “honor”, & “integrity” written below.
What lifestyle change have you been meaning to make for a while now?
I really need to lose a significant chunk of weight. Atleast 50, and more like 100 pounds. Easier said than done though.
What would be your spirit animal?
What incredibly strong opinion or belief do you have that is completely unimportant in the grand scheme of things?
I am a hardcore pro-life advocate. I believe that if someone doesn’t want to raise their child for whatever reason then there are tons of folks looking to adopt and provide that child a good life. The issue is certainly important, however since I am a man and unlikely to ever have a baby be a part of the equation in my life my personal opinion doesn’t really matter in any practical way. Also, I have come to the realization that Roe v. Wade has remained thru multiple Presidential administrations and various incarnations of the Supreme Court so it is unlikely to ever be overturned despite my objection to the ruling.
What chance encounter changed your life forever?
During my first few days on the campus of Marshall University I happened to run into a guy that had been a year ahead of me in high school. He & I weren’t good friends or anything, but had a passing acquaintance and I was happy to see a familiar face in a town where I knew absolutely nobody. He invited me to dinner at his fraternity house. I ended up rushing and joining that fraternity. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I had a fantastic college experience and made lifelong friendships.
If you could have a video of any one event in your life, what event would you choose?
I would love to have a highlight video of my entire 4+ years in college. Kids these days take pics & videos of everything they do and share them on social media. They will truly appreciate having those memories recorded in the decades that follow. Unfortunately I went to school way before any of that stuff was even a thing, so very few photos or videos of all those good times exist, which makes me sad.
If you were forced to relive one 10-minute block of your life again and again for all eternity, what 10 minutes of your life would you choose?
I don’t think it would be possible for anyone…no matter how mundane their life may have been…to reduce any good memory down to a ten minute span of time. A year…yes. A day…maybe. But 10 minutes?? Not possible.
Okay, let’s take another breather. I’ll be back with the exciting conclusion in the near future.