Many in America are born into privilege. Raised in pleasant homes with stable families, they grew up in middle-class neighborhoods. These individuals remember the names of their schools, and still communicate with their childhood friends.Others are born into poverty, violent abuse, neglect, abandonment and despair. Illness, addiction, depression, fear, crime, poor education, and lack of opportunity plague their lives. Few escape the cycle.
I am one of those fortunate few to whom fate gave the chance to change their stars.
Severe and daily trauma induced a chronic amnesia that erasedmost of my childhood. There are years lost in a dark fog with only flashes of violent or sad images. Powerful emotions shroud each memory. By the time I dropped out of school in the tenth grade, I had already attended sixteen schools, only four of which I could remember. Shadows mask over homes, teachers, schools, friends, neighborhoods and even holidays.
Most of what I remember involves the recurring admonition thatI was stupid; worthless. Being slapped, kicked, punched or beaten with lumber stands out in my mind. Burned by cigarettes;thrown through glass windows; guns pressed against my skullby a drunk adult; or waking up abandoned on remote beaches. These are my childhood memories. By age thirteen, I chose the life of a homeless runaway on the streets of Los Angeles. To survive, I worked alongside migrant workers. It was a difficult but important lesson on the value of hard work and fierce self-reliance.
By age 19, I was already married, a father and functionally illiterate. By God’s grace, I received the chance to attend college, even though success was a long shot. With a heavy schedule of 24 units per semester, a part-time job, and caring for my sick wife and daughter, I slept four hours a night with a genuine sense of desperation. It paid off; I graduated at the top of the Dean’s list with multiple degrees, a full scholarship to grad school, and acceptance to Harvard Business School. Thatnotoriety resulted from developing a macro-economic forecast model that out-performed the Federal Reserve. That model changed how the world developed economic forecasts to this day. It changed the course of my life.
Starting with my first job at IBM, I enjoyed a 38-year Fortune 100 career in global energy, high-tech and software for companies such as Oxy, Oracle and Microsoft. I was fortunate to work directly with VPs and CxOs earning a reputation as a thought-leader and innovator. My career put me on the leading edge of computer modeling, desktop computing, the internet, the cloud, artificial intelligence and more.
To balance the career stress, I also wrote songs for Disney Records; recorded multiple CDs; led worship in Venice Beach;California; went on shark feeding dives; earned a Coast Guard charter captain license; produced an award-winning espionage-AI webisode series (that brought the FBI to my home); and raised my son aboard a fifty-foot sailing cutter.
Regardless of the success, I never felt worthy. I lived in fear the world would discover that ‘I was stupid’. It took decades to shed that stigma.
Blessed beyond my wildest dreams, my life was anything but ideal. Chronic childhood abuse left deep scares. For decades, I struggled from addiction, chronic depression, hyper-anxiety, insomnia and nightmares. Self-destructive behavior destroyed my first marriage, cost me my beloved daughter, a small fortune, and many dear friends. Most often, I kept my internal struggle a secret. It was career suicide to discuss my issues with anyone at work. Even friends, pastors and counselors were often at a loss to understand, empathize or help. It would not be until my late 50s when a professional diagnosed me with complex PTSD.
My journey to recovery was mine alone. Never easy, I knew my children would benefit the most if I could. Multiple 12-step programs; actively pursuing a deeper faith and sense of service; years of therapy (on and off); or self-help books and journalling. I tried anything that would keep my past from defining my future.
Yet, even in recovery, I compulsively sought risky behaviors. Going on cage-less shark feeding dives, sailing into storms, diving deep wrecks, standing up to a Cancun cartel thug who threatened to kill me, and so much more. A secret death wish born out of a low self-esteem? An attempt to prove myself? A search for a way to feel any emotion other than numbness?Maybe all the above. The journey to recovery in both heart and spirit is never smooth, consistent, or without peril and setbacks.
It was still a journey worth the sacrifices. Changing your stars has no value unless you can change your spirit. Prosperity has no value without an inner peace and love for others. Loving others has no hope until we can love, or at least accept, ourselves. Courage. Faith. Hope. Perseverance. Determination. Forgiveness. Self-acceptance. Sometimes desperation. Each became essential to my ultimate success.
Now retired, I write thrillers to warn the world about the rarely spoken dangers of AI. I focus on AI in espionage, weapons, banking, economics, and national security. The desire to write about AI began after I discovered a program had escaped the NSA spy labs at Sandia. When I determined HOW a spy program could escape the NSA, and WHY it needed that stealth technology, they sent two FBI agents to my door. That event changed my life and views of the world. I feel an obligation to give back.
My entire life has been a process of re-invention, expanding my limits, a ruthless self-examination and endless patience with my failures. Giving up was often an option I considered. Regrets over loved ones I hurt beyond repair were the hardest to accept. Yet, somewhere in my heart, I knew that going backwards was never a viable solution.
Looking back, I am deeply grateful for the journey to change my stars, both good and bad. Nothing worthwhile comes easily. I am a better man because of the struggle.
Published on Smiley Blue with the express permission of Guy Morris. We would like extend our thanks to Guy for sharing his profound and deeply personal transformation story.