The Impossible Man
The Impossible Man
Jun 30, 2023
Episode Two - Beginnings
Play • 51 min

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After giving listeners the ten-thousand-foot view of the Impossible Man book project and Jon’s story in Episode One, Episode Two begins the more-or-less-chronological exploration of Jon’s “character arc” as described by me, Johnny: a fiction-minded storyteller.

Wondering what the hell that means? Enter your email below to get a cheat sheet of the process used to uncover Jon’s “character arc.”

In this episode you’ll hear about Jon’s earliest years, when he began kindergarten and was mocked by the other children because he didn’t know what “handicapped” meant — something his mother explained very differently than most people do. The way Jon responded to those taunts might surprise you.

As with the pilot, please let us know if this project is interesting to you and if we should continue! Ratings and reviews on podcast directories (like iTunes and Google Podcasts) are very appreciated and will help us a lot!

TRANSCRIPT FOLLOWS:

NOTE: The transcript below was generated by AI and has not been edited. Accordingly, some things below are a little weird … but you’re smart, so I’m confident you can figure it out.

SPEAKER A

When you're on a table in a hospital and the doctor tells you you're going to die, there are only tworesponses. The first response is to get very afraid and then die. Second response is fuck you. I wasn'tready to die, so the fuck you response was all that was left to me.

SPEAKER B

Welcome to The Impossible Man, the true story of how the inability to move allowed one person to tradehis humanity for ODS defying superpowers and how he clawed his way back. Hi, and welcome to episodetwo of The Impossible Man. I am your host, Johnny B. Truant. Thanks to everyone who got in touch afterthe pilot. Clearly a lot of you out there interested, so we're going to continue. We're going to see whathappens over another few episodes. If you are still into it, be sure to let us know. The first episode of thepodcast was meant to be a complete overview of John's story and the podcast idea and the project thatwe're doing. And as such, we covered a lot of ground. We covered kind of John's general introduction, mygeneral introduction, the project's introduction, as well as a lot of his attitudes and beliefs and the idea ofthis impossibility that he has cultivated. Now, when I followed up with John to do episode two, I wanted tobe a little bit more organized, a little bit more linear. And as you heard in the previous show, I'm a fictionwriter. So I'm looking at this story as if it were a fictional story, as if John were a character. And so Imapped out the markers that would appear in a story if John were fictional. And I'm beginning to exploresome of those in this episode. Every character, before they go on their journey, begins in an ordinaryworld. And so that's a lot of what we covered in. This is what was in John's early life. What were hisattitudes when he was born? What were the dispositions of his parents, and what were the influencesthere? And how did that propel him forward into the beginning of his arc where he originally had someemotion and then learned that he had to turn it off in order to protect himself? And that is the larger arcthat we're going to continue on. And I have in mind what his inciting incident, his first act climax and allthat good stuff is, but we're going to tackle them all in order. So in this one, we really go deep and you'llsee the beginnings of how this unstoppability was forged and how John propelled himself forward andeventually got himself in some trouble that will spend the entire book trying to get himself out of. Andinterestingly, it has nothing to do with his disease, at least not as the main show. So here we arecontinuing our discussion with episode two of The Impossible Man. All right, here we are back for sessiontwo. I guess we're calling this podcast the Impossible Man. That's an evolution. We didn't know that thefirst time. Are you happy with that?

SPEAKER A

I am, yeah. I may be unhappy with later, but I reserve the right to be unhappy later. But for now, I am.

SPEAKER B

You do well. But I think it works as a good reminder because we've been focusing on your arc, and that isobviously the point of the book. But we to some degree lost track of the point that the whole idea wasthat we're also going to try and teach people how to do this. I asked you on the one we didn't record, theone we didn't share on the podcast, and I said, Is that something you can teach? You can teach peoplehow to do impossible things. And you said yes.

SPEAKER A

Yeah, absolutely. I was even thinking, when this eventually becomes a book, maybe that'll become anaddendum that no one gets on the podcast. What do you think of that idea.

SPEAKER B

How to do impossible things so they have to get the book. You can't just cheap out.

SPEAKER A

Yeah, I'll write you'll be able to pick it up if you're listening closely enough. But I can add a little manual,field manual to doing impossible things.

SPEAKER B

I like this. That's the content marketer in both of us right there. That's what that is. All right. So what I didis in between these, because last time was kind of an overview. We were all over the place. We coveredkind of your mentality and your history and all that. But I think it might make sense with if we takediversions, that's fine. But as a general through line to begin kind of telling the story in chronological order.So I wrote down on my little cheat sheet here what I believe to be the act markers in your story. The waythat I'm approaching this as the person who's going to be putting down the actual words is to suss out acharacter arc as if you were a fictional hero. So if you were a protagonist in a book, there are certainpoints that you would go through. You would begin in your ordinary world. You would have an incitingincident that kind of kicked you out of normal and taught you that something was needed attention. Youwould have the first act climax where you're going on a journey. You would have a midpoint whereeverything changes. That's the hallmark of the midpoint. You would have a dark knight of the soul, whichspoiler, we kind of already know what the Dark Knight of the Soul is probably going to be a second actclimax where you're all in on this new information, this change that you're going to realize in your arc andfinally resolution. And so I wrote down what I think are the act markers. And the arc that we decided wewere going to use was this idea of you were always confident, but in order to have that confidence, youwere angry and emotionless, in your words. Was that accurate?

SPEAKER A

Yeah, definitely.

SPEAKER B

So you kind of said, Get out of my way, world. I'll show you who I am. I'll show you what I can do. But itcost you empathy and personal relationships.

SPEAKER A

I was a machine.

SPEAKER B

What I had here, maybe we just kind of start with because I've never done this before in a podcast. So Iguess with the ordinary world, I'm imagining you. So this is what I'm imagining. I'm imagining young John. Imean, we have to start from the beginning, right? And so tell me the story as well as you can from thebeginning. Now, one of the things we need to keep in mind as we do this is that at the beginning, yourmom was obiwan, right? She was the mentor. She was the one where you got your unstoppable,unbreakable sort of an attitude. So I imagine a lot of this is going to be her story, but where would you liketo begin? Where does the John Morrow story begin?

SPEAKER A

I mean, it might be interesting to know that when I was a young child, I was not emotionless. And you canactually see it in the photography from when I was a kid, when I was, say, before I had my back surgery, Iwas your average, normal, happy go lucky kid. And then somewhere along the way, I think it was my backsurgery, the way my eyes looked completely changed. They became more dead, more distant, andthey've never really even now regained the same quality I had when I was a child.

SPEAKER B

When did you feel like you were different? Because you said at some point you became like anotherspecies. But was that after the back surgery or was that before?

SPEAKER A

It probably started around the time I went to kindergarten. That was when this whole idea of othernesstook root in my mind, because I didn't feel like the other kids in kindergarten and before kindergartenwasn't really around other kids that much.

SPEAKER B

So it was the lack of comparison. You basically were able to believe that everybody is like this.

SPEAKER A

Before that, I don't know if even the idea of having an identity had really taken root. And I remember myfirst day of kindergarten vividly for this very reason. Up until that age, my mother had never told me I wasdisabled. And I didn't know what the word meant. I had never heard the word. I knew I had SMA, but thewhole idea of a disability or being handicapped was completely foreign. I didn't even know what thosewords meant. So when I went to school, I remember one of the children said, kind of pointed at melaughing and said, he's handicapped like kids do. And I remember I said, what's that? And he yelled out tothe whole class, he doesn't know what handicapped means. And the whole class started laughing at and Ibroke down the tears the teacher because I was like, there's this word, I don't know what it means.Everyone else thinks I'm ridiculous because I don't know what it means. And the teacher took me outsideand she said, you really don't know what henshaw means? And I said, no, I don't. And she thought aboutit for a second and she said, I think this is a conversation you're going to have to have with your mother.So I went through the whole bay, like the whole day, I was just obsessed with there's this word that I'mexpected to know and no one will tell me what it means. And just feeling really frustrated with that. And Iremember my mom picked me up from school and I went out to the car and she asked me, how was yourfirst day? And I broke down crying again. And I said, they called me candy capped and I don't know whatit means. And she got upset. I could see her, like, fuming. And I remember feeling scared because Ithought she was mad at me for not knowing what it meant. She calmed down and she said, that's okay,it's true. And I said, but what does it mean? And I remember she was silent for a really long time. For me,it seemed like an eternity. It was probably one or two minutes. And she told me it means you can't dosomething as well as someone else and you need help, is what she told me. I said, well, just like therewere other kids who didn't know their ABCs. And I did. And she said, that's exactly right. We're allhandicapped somehow.

SPEAKER B

Paint a picture for me here. I'm assuming you were in a power wheelchair steered by a joystick. Is thatcorrect? Yeah. There are usually rows in a classroom. Like, did you have an assigned place? Were youtoward the back? Toward the front. What did they do there?

SPEAKER A

They always put me in the back because the way desks and aisles are put together, it's really hard tonavigate a wheelchair to the front if the door is in the back. So the only time I ever ended up in the frontwas when the door to the classroom was in the front, which was not very common.

SPEAKER B

So the taunting, for want of a better term, that happened before class began. You were there early. Theycame in and they hadn't met you before.

SPEAKER A

It was during some sort of a group activity on the first I don't remember what the group assignment was,but probably introduce yourself to the kids around you or something along those lines. But it was duringclass, so the.

SPEAKER B

Teacher was paying attention and in charge of the class nominally, and just kind of this just happened.

SPEAKER A

Yeah.

SPEAKER B

Were you looking to the teacher for support or rescue? And they just kind of let it go on?

SPEAKER A

It didn't go on very long. Once the whole class started laughing at me, the teacher immediately toldeveryone to be quiet and took me outside.

SPEAKER B

That point about handicap is a really good one. I've thought of it when people say to me like, oh, you'rereally smart or something like that. And I'm like, yes, but you can fix a car and I can't fix my car. Sayingintellectual intelligence is somehow better has always struck me as OD. So this idea of you can't do somethings that other people can do as well as they can do them, but conversely, you can do things betterthan other people did. Was that the dominant I guess I'm trying to get at? Did you really truly not feel inyour bones that you were any different from them?

SPEAKER A

At that point started attention because my mother wanted to preserve the idea that I was the same as anyother kid and I instinctively understood that. But at the same time, because I had gotten laughed at, I alsofelt like an outsider. And that was when the feeling started. And the whole time I went through school, thatsense of otherness just got stronger and stronger and stronger.

SPEAKER B

So paint a picture of life before that. What was that home life like starting as early as you can rememberor that feels formative?

SPEAKER A

I was mostly just around my parents. I didn't had one other friend who had cerebral palsy. So I think in mymind it wasn't abnormal to have any sort of physical condition because my only friend had cerebral Palvis.And I remember my mother was friends with another lady who had a daughter with SMA and I saw heroccasionally. So there were no children in my life except for, I think probably saw some other kidsoccasionally, like church for short amounts of time, but wasn't really friends with any of those kids. Sothat was what my life was like.

SPEAKER B

Okay, how far back do you remember? So you began undying mothers and fighting for your ideas withthe story about your like when you were born and the doctor saying there's something different going onwith his legs, that sort of thing. What are those stories? Can you tell me to get this early picture?

SPEAKER A

One of them was of me being diagnosed.

SPEAKER B

Was it apparent from birth?

SPEAKER A

No, it was not. And even in my photos before one year old, my father had me dressed in sports stuff allthe time. After one years old, I'm never dressed in sports stuff and my father isn't in the picture anymoreand he's not in any photo after that point.

SPEAKER B

What's your relationship with your father like? Because I've heard so much about your mom, but I can'ttell if you had a good relationship with your dad or not.

SPEAKER A

My relationship with my dad now is excellent, but my dad doesn't particularly like kids and was so scaredthat I was just going to die at any time. That he emotionally and physically distanced himself from me andpretty much disappeared from my life until I was around the age of 18.

SPEAKER B

How did he disappear? Were they still married? Was he still around or did he move away?

SPEAKER A

They were still married for, I think eleven years, but he literally would come home after I went to bed. Thatwas almost every day. So I actually saw him more after they got divorced, where he would take me forone day every two weeks. I saw him more at that point, and at the time I did not understand why, and Iwas immensely hurt by it.

SPEAKER B

Did your mom attempt to explain it?

SPEAKER A

She did. She explained that it was a problem between them, but I knew instinctively that it wasn't justabout her. I even remember thinking every time I would get straight A's, my dad would take me out fordinner to celebrate. And I remember thinking, I have to get straight A's or I'm never going to see my dad.

SPEAKER B

And this was from almost the beginning, from when you went to school?

SPEAKER A

Yeah.

SPEAKER B

So when you told that anecdote about you were mostly in sports stuff and then you were not, give mesome context behind that. It sounds like maybe he wanted a sports star, and then he realized he wasn'tgoing to get one, and this was one more level of emotional distance to protect himself. Is that accurate?

SPEAKER A

Yeah. My dad was very athletic. He got a baseball scholarship to go to college, and he was probably agood enough golfer to be on the PJ Tour. He played golf a lot. My father is kind of a hustler in the mostendearing possible way. The closest example I can think of is Mel Gibson from the movie Maverick. He'sthe spitting image of my father. He preferred to actually wait until other people won the PGA Tour, andthen you would go challenge them to a money game and he would win. So, yeah, he was a hustler. Sosports were everything to him, and he bet on everything. And the idea that I would never be able to playsports just crushed him.

SPEAKER B

There are two ways to be crushed by your kid playing sports. The first is that somehow you're so investedin sports, and it's literally that as a problem. And then the second is that it's kind of just one thing to grabonto with a larger issue, like the fact that you couldn't play sports reminded him that you had what couldend up being a terminal disease. Do you think it was more like that?

SPEAKER A

I think it was the second one, and his life was sports and business, and I was too young to understandbusiness, so that left me with a complete lack of understanding of his life. In his mind, you don't, like, talkto your son. You play baseball with him. It was a form of communication where the idea of caulking to me,I still think he knew how you basically.

SPEAKER B

Already said that you prioritized academics because that was a way to hopefully communicate with him.Is it true of business as well?

SPEAKER A

Yes. When I turned 18, I was in that angry teenager stage, and I decided one day, I'm just going to have itout with you about this. It was one of those things I tried to bring it up a few times, but it was always hewould find a way to change the subject.

SPEAKER B

When you say bring it up, you mean your disconnect?

SPEAKER A

Yeah. I mean, my burning question was, why were you never around during my childhood? I didn'tunderstand everything I just told you. I didn't understand any of those things. I finally cut it out with himand he didn't say anything. He just let me yell at him for a while and he started to get tears in his eyes, buthe just sat there. Then at the end, he went in the room that he had for storage, and he brought out a pileof papers and he put them in front of me, and it was this huge stack. And he told me, this is just one pile.So that a whole room of these. These were one year of medical bills. And he said, I paid all of these yourwhole life. I know it's not what you needed for me, but it's all I had. I wasn't strong enough to be there foryou emotionally. I didn't know how to connect with you. And the easiest thing to do was to bury myself inmy work and just try to forget about the whole thing. And he said, I'm so sorry. I would give anything tochange it, but I just can't.

SPEAKER B

So this reminds me of when you see a personality disconnect in, say, a relationship with, like, a marriageor something, and there was this kind of humorous way. I'd heard it mentioned once with I don'tremember. There are two certain types involved here. One person says, you never tell me that you loveme. And the other one says, I'll tell you if I ever stop loving you. Like, if there's ever a problem, I'll let youknow. You can just assume that everything is fine until then. So do you see that? Because when I'mhearing that, I don't know if you intended it this way, but when you say he went into his office and hepicked up a stack of medical bills, if in a movie, there would be music swelling behind that because that'sthe moment where that is the way, at least in my I don't know what your impression is. I don't know whathis is. That is a way that he was showing his love in the only way he could. Do you see it that way at all?

SPEAKER A

I do. Even at age of 18, I instantly understood. I remember looking through the stack and just that oneyear was like almost half a million dollars. So we're talking very large amounts of money that he spent. Isaid something along the lines of, I can't believe it cost this much. He said, of all of my investments, youwere the greatest. I was dying of pneumonia when I was 16. It was very interestingly. The last time I hadpneumonia, and it was incredibly bad. One of my lungs was completely full of mucus. The other lung washalf full. My lungs were already only about half developed. So I was operating on 25% of my lung capacity,which would be like twelve and a half percent of a fully healthy person. So literally the doctors thought itcould be ours and I would be dead. And it was one of the many times where they told me, we don't thinkyou're going to make it. And there was a drug that I had been keeping up with and my mother at DukeUniversity. I lived in Charlotte, and it was not approved by the FDA yet. They were stolen trials forpneumonia. And when it got to the point where it was so bad they were certain I was going to die, theycalled Duke again and said, listen, he's going to die. Can we give him the drug? There's nothing to lose.And they said, yes, but it's going to take us 4 hours to drive it there. And they weren't sure I was going tomake it. So my father pulled out his checkbook and said, how much? Deborah brother on the helicopter,they said, 40 grand. And he paid it like 30, 45 minutes later, I had the drug. It was a drug that they gaveyou in the nebulizer machine. So it was like a mist. It's called plumazine. I remember later this went on tobe sold for like $1,000 a dose. They gave it to me and it immediately liquefied all of the mucus in mylungs. They turned me over a bucket and it was almost like I was vomiting out of my lungs, this like liquidmucus. And when I got done, they did an x ray. My chest was clear and this was like 2 hours after theygave me the drug. And I've never had pneumonia again.

SPEAKER B

I know that pneumonia has been a big deal for you. You've had it, what, 17 times?

SPEAKER A

16. I had it every year until 16 and then never after that.

SPEAKER B

Do you have any idea why?

SPEAKER A

I can guess. I have rational and irrational guesses. Rational guesses are I also graduated high school at 16,and I wasn't in such close proximity to kids anymore, so I was just around less bacteria. I think that's apossibility. I'd also gotten weaker to the point where I could no longer touch my face at the age of 16. Somaybe that affected it. Those are my rational reasons. My irrational reason is I felt like in that moment,something was decided between me and God. And I couldn't articulate it or put my finger on it, but that'swhat I felt like. The agreement was I wasn't going to die. That if I was going to die, that was the time.

SPEAKER B

How many times have you almost died since then?

SPEAKER A

Never. From pneumonia, but almost died? I'd really have to think, let's say at least a half a dozen, if not adozen.

SPEAKER B

You said that the drug was on your radar. The Palmerzyme. Why was it on your radar?

SPEAKER A

Yeah, that goes back to the methodology. Because I was obsessive about tracking any drug that couldkeep me alive, even those that were not approved by the FDA, because I knew that pneumonia was mynumber one risk. And through age of ten or eleven, I started reading about the anatomy of lungs andreally, really understanding lungs. I mean, better than I can talk to any pulmonalogist about the anatomyof a lung and how pneumonia works. I also researched every drug that could help me, both ones thatwere approved and ones that weren't.

SPEAKER B

How'd your family pay for this? How did they afford it?

SPEAKER A

My dad had probably made ten to $20 million in real estate, and he'd spent well. Number one, he'dgotten taxed. Half of that. He'd also been through multiple divorces, and so there goes another half. Somaybe, let's say he kept two or 3 million, 4 million of that money, and nearly all of that had gone to mymedical bills.

SPEAKER B

What do you think would have happened if he hadn't had that?

SPEAKER A

I'd be dead.

SPEAKER B

So there was no scenario in which a program or insurance would have made up the difference.

SPEAKER A

I was unable to get insurance. They would not get me a traditional insurance before Obamacare. And alsoMedicaid had an income test for your parents. And my dad always made too much money for me to getMedicaid. There were no options other than for him to pay.

SPEAKER B

If he had less money, maybe you could have qualified for Medicaid, but I imagine you would have gottena different quality of care, right?

SPEAKER A

They would have not paid for a helicopter or many of the other things. I had physical therapists that sawme, like, two to three times a week, and I didn't know it, but he was paying $100 a session for thosephysical therapists. So there were a lot of things I was not aware of that he was paying for.

SPEAKER B

So I'm going to put you on the spot with what I think is probably a pretty difficult question, but I'm justcurious. So we're toying with the idea of the impossibility, like doing the impossible, using your personalvolition, using your force of will. But there are elements of this story that feel almost like providence,right? Like you couldn't control how much money your dad made you couldn't control the timing ofvarious things. That worked out just right. I'm just curious, and maybe this is out of line, I don't know, butdo you have any, like, what are your beliefs in terms of spirituality or faith or coincidence or universalalignment or any of that stuff? Do you put any stock in any of that?

SPEAKER A

I definitely believe in God in terms of religious tradition. I've become less and less connected to anyparticular religion. I was raised Christian. I still have very strong Christian leanings as far as my faith. Butas far as the religious orthodoxy of Christianity, it's a complete turn off to me, more around the principlesthat are attractive to me. And as far as supernatural beliefs, I 100% believe that some supernatural thingshave happened in my life, that God, for some reason has decided to keep me here. I have no idea why.

SPEAKER B

Do you feel a need to live up to that? Like you were spared in some way, shape, or form, and so you'dbetter perform?

SPEAKER A

Yeah, it's my name. My name means Jehovah's gift from birth. My mother even told me your name doesn'tmean that you were a gift to me. You were a gift to the world.

SPEAKER B

So if you were to guess as to what any of that means as to what you might be here for, do you have anyguesses to show.

SPEAKER A

People what's possible would be my closest guess?

SPEAKER B

If you were raised Christian, I'm guessing your parents were both religious. Is that accurate?

SPEAKER A

My mother was. My dad kind of went along because she made him.

SPEAKER B

Is that a big driver as to why she believed that she could take care of you or that you were destined tosurvive or any of that?

SPEAKER A

Yeah. This is a story that I haven't told right before my first birthday. That's when she was told I would liveuntil the age of two. And so she just prayed, like, we're talking huge amounts of prayer, like four to 8 hoursa day for that entire year. And she's convinced that before my next birthday, before my second birthday,that either the day of or the day before that god told her he will be spared.

SPEAKER B

Did the second birthday have sort of a deadline feel to it? Almost like if she could get you to your secondbirthday, then there was some element of, okay, I made it. And that took off some of the pressure tovarious degrees, yeah. So what would you say to somebody who's listening to this or who will read thebook, who's an atheist, who is like, yeah, I don't believe it. Would you have any response to that?

SPEAKER A

Yeah, I have friends who are atheists. Faith is often the way we explain the unexplainable. What I look atis you either believe that God exists and that he has a plan for my life, or you believe that I'm. Theluckiest man in history. One of the two. And I don't think there are really other options. If you want to, youcan chalk it up to luck, but I don't personally believe it's possible for anyone to be that lucky. It would bethe equivalent of rolling snake eyes like a thousand times in a row. That's how lucky you would have to be.

SPEAKER B

And that rolling snake eyes a thousand times in a row is surviving things that were absolutely supposed tokill you, according to all the doctors. It's a sequence of those things.

SPEAKER A

Even getting a father who could afford to pay all those medical bills, it's either luck or providence.

SPEAKER B

Where does your impossibility thinking, your volition, your stubbornness, your reading, the FDA clearingon drugs and stuff, where does that fit in? Because on one pole is extreme luck. That's entirely passiveand you're lucky. And on the other extreme is that God is somehow having a plan for your life. And again,you're passive in that. So where do you put your efforts and your ability to do the impossible, implyingsome action on your part?

SPEAKER A

My mother's attitude, I don't think she ever said this explicitly, but her attitude was god agreed to let youlive because I spent a year in prayer. So it was action, result. And so I very much grew up with thementality that, yes, there was opportunity, yes, God had a plan for my life, but it's something I had to fightfor.

SPEAKER B

There are some characterizations of prayer that are almost like a deep meditation that a yogi might do toslow down his heartbeat or something like that, or things that aren't normally in control. But prayer beingequated to, let's say, something that doesn't necessarily need to be religious in nature, but that it'ssomething that has an effect because of various other things that might be New Age or not. Where do youcome down on any of that?

SPEAKER A

I don't know.

SPEAKER B

Do you pray?

SPEAKER A

I do. And I feel the connection to something larger than myself. When I pray, do I hear words speakingabout to me? No, I don't. But I feel a connection to something larger. It feels like there's something there.

SPEAKER B

Okay, so let's go back to early life. So this is me pausing and going back to this is pre kindergarten. Canyou give me some flavor there? How did you spend your days? You mentioned that you had a friend ortwo. You had the friend with cerebral palsy and all that. How were your days spent? What did you do?What were you into? What were your interactions?

SPEAKER A

This makes me smile now. I was into WWF wrestling. I loved wrestling. I loved monster trucks. I lovedelectric remote control cars. I loved action figures. I had a whole bunch of soldiers and GI. Joe andeverything. Action figures. I idolized Michael Jordan. And part of the reason was because my father wasfriends with Michael Jordan's father. They were really close friends. So I got to meet Michael severaltimes. I just idolized it. So I had Michael Jordan paraphernalia all over the place becky gave me andsigned.

SPEAKER B

Did he give you any of that stereotype sports personality words of encouragement and advice?

SPEAKER A

He never said much of anything to me. I think that every now and again he would make like a tour throughthe hospital, see all the sick kids. And I think to him I was a friend of his parents and just kind of anotherstop along the way. I would be surprised if he remembers because he did what he did for me. For a lot ofkids, other than that close connection to Michael Jordan, I don't feel like my life was all that different fromyour average less than five year old boy. Maybe a little bit less physical. I like to go fishing with a bobber,a little float thing. And I would catch because we lived on a lake, Lake Norman. And my dad would justtake the fish and fill him back. I do remember at the age of about four years old, I don't know if it was thefirst time I caught a fish, but it was the first time my dad was with me when I caught a fish. And he tookthe hook out. He put it on, I don't know. We call them stringers. They're these strings with, like, hooks onthem to keep the fish until you're ready to leave. And when we left, he gave me the stringer and he said,Carry it home. So I did, went inside, showed it my mother showed her my little tiny fish that I caught. Andmy dad pulled by the cutting board and put the fish on the cutting board and gave me a knife and said,cut off its head. It was moving. I don't know if it was still alive. And my mother started to say, no, don't dothat. And he got really mad and he said, let him do it still. I'd use my hands at the time. So I cut off hishead and I was still crying, probably even harder. And he slapped, not hard, but enough to get myattention. And he said, never be ashamed of putting food on the table for your family.

SPEAKER B

What do you think that was about? Do you think that was about yet another defensive mechanism that hehad that he wanted you to be capable? Or do you think that that was like a real lesson that you then tooklater? Because like you said earlier, this is going to benefit my checking account and I'm not ashamed ofit. That sounds like cousin to it.

SPEAKER A

I think it was the same lesson that he would have taught any son. It was a very hard lesson about the roleof a man in the world, is that you had to not pay attention to your emotions and you had to take care ofyour family and you had to put food on the table, which would be a metaphor for money.

SPEAKER B

Well, I'm noticing some synchronicities here, and I'm wondering if they're just imagined or if they're realsynchronicities. So first of all, you made the comparison in the first episode about your friend who wrotethe book comparing entrepreneurs to hunters to hunter gatherers. So that's a direct connection. And itmakes me wonder. You said that you need to ignore your emotions and just do what needs to be done.And you're talking at age four and at age five you started kindergarten. And I'm guessing that's when youdeveloped some of that emotional intensity and that kind of like beginning of the emotionlessness. Wasthere any connection there?

SPEAKER A

Probably. So that's the first time I can remember. Well, that was one other time I needed a shot. I don'tremember if it was a vaccine or what it was, but I was young, I was probably two or three years old. Andmy father took me to the doctor and I kept trying to run away from the doctor every time the doctorwould try to give me the shot. And when the doctor gave me the shot, I started crying. And my dadsmacked me hard when I started crying and told me, don't cry, I remember I kept crying even harderthen. And he told me, I'm going to keep hitting you until you stop. And I stopped.

SPEAKER B

This was age what again?

SPEAKER A

Two or three.

SPEAKER B

So do you think that this was all because what I'm hearing is latent suggestions that your mind latercapitalized on. It sounds like you got these suggestions from your dad whether you realized it or not. Andthen later it's almost like, oh, turning that off is an option. Do you think there's a connection there?

SPEAKER A

I definitely chose to turn off my emotions and I realized it was an option. I also, in retrospect, do not thinkI would have survived if I kept.

SPEAKER B

My emotions on early school years.

SPEAKER A

You mean up until probably about the age of twelve? Those were immensely painful years.

SPEAKER B

And then around twelve was when you said, I'm going to turn this off.

SPEAKER A

No, it was even earlier. I probably started in kindergarten.

SPEAKER B

Well, that was also on my questions to ask was, what did you do when those kids were laughing at youand stuff? Did you take it for a little while and then turn I remembered taking.

SPEAKER A

It until the first grade. And I remember in the first grade, I deliberately picked out the biggest bully in theclass and became friends with them so that nobody would mess with.

SPEAKER B

How'D you do that.

SPEAKER A

The first thing I did, I walked up and I gave him one of my video games and I said, have you played this?And he said no. I said, well, you can have it. And we started playing video games together after that. Iremember he came to my house one time and my father said he can't ever come back because his fatheris a drug dealer, so he never got to come back.

SPEAKER B

But he was a badass, though, it sounded like. Is this the kind of kid who brought a knife to school?

SPEAKER A

He was that kind of kid, yeah.

SPEAKER B

Can you tell me anything else about him? Like what he looked like, the sort of trouble he got into,anything like that?

SPEAKER A

He was black. He was really tall. He was poor. I don't think I realized at the time. Like the kind of poorwhere all of his clothes were used. He didn't have anything new. I remember he struggled to read, and Ihelped him, used to read to him, but only when no one was around and no one could see.

SPEAKER B

Did he have a crew that he ran with and a tough guy image.

SPEAKER A

To uphold later on in second or third grade he did, and he stopped having anything to do with me.

SPEAKER B

Well, that's what I was going to wonder, is you would think that that kind of kid might have an initialprejudice, but it sounds like in first grade he didn't.

SPEAKER A

No.

SPEAKER B

And that worked. That kept the other kids at bay. Because you were with him.

SPEAKER A

Yes.

SPEAKER B

And so what happened when your protector wasn't around anymore in second grade and beyond?

SPEAKER A

One time I got my arm broken. I always had quite a mouth on me. I learned to give more than I got. Ilearned to defend myself with words to the point that people would eventually get mad enough tobecome physically violent even knowing that I was in a wheelchair, because I would just make them feelso stupid. And one day, I don't remember what I said, but one of the kids pulled my arm around behindmy wheelchair and told me to take it back or he was going to break my arm. And I didn't take it back and.

SPEAKER B

He broke my this was like your ordinary suburban high school. What was the kind of the makeup and thedemographic and all that? I know it was in Charlotte.

SPEAKER A

This was even before high school. This was in middle school, 7th or 8th grade, a lot of poorer kids, publicschool. He was definitely a poor kid. I ended up becoming friends with him afterwards. I'd had so manybroken bones up to that point. I knew it wasn't broken all the way through, that it was only cracked. Andso I didn't tell my mother and I never went to the doctor. But to this day, I can still very easily tell if abone's broken and how bad. I didn't cry when you broke it. I didn't make it sound. And the next day, Iremember I stole all of his books out of his backpack and killed him. And he couldn't do his homeworkand started getting zeros on all of his homework assignments. And I told him, I took your books and I'mnot giving them back unless you apologize.

SPEAKER B

In elementary school and I guess into middle school, what was kind of your role in the high school?Because early on, you paint a picture as a kid who definitely took some shit and it sounds like along theway. But it also sounds like your mouth got you in trouble as much as, or more than just kind of likespontaneous bullying. So were you kind of like a rascal? Were you popular in certain quarters? Were youquiet and you vanished into the background? Like, what were your relationships? What was all that like?

SPEAKER A

I was an intellectual bullet. I would not have called it that at the time, but looking back, that's exactly howI was.

SPEAKER B

So lording your intelligence or manipulating people? Or both.

SPEAKER A

Both.

SPEAKER B

Give me some examples of the sorts of things that you would do.

SPEAKER A

The worst example is there was another kid in the wheelchair that was not as smart as me. Kid,dasheen's, muscular. His name was Josh. And the school couldn't afford to pay for two caregivers, so theyput us both in the same class so one caregiver could help us both. So I was in every class with Josh forseveral years, and I used to do anything I could do, say anything I could say on a daily basis to make himrage to the point of not having any sense in his head. He used to cry when things got really bad, so I usedto make crying faces behind the teacher's back, like pouty lips Adam, and might whine at him when theteacher wasn't looking. I eventually figured out that his mother was a soft spot, so I would make up long,convoluted stories about his mother doing terrible things and tell it to a crowd of kids.

SPEAKER B

Terrible things? Like embarrassing? Like sexual things?

SPEAKER A

Yes.

SPEAKER B

Why did you do that?

SPEAKER A

In my mind, the only way to be safe was to make other people afraid of me. And he was the easy one topick on, that no one else would mess with me.

SPEAKER B

So it was a little like attacking the biggest guy in prison on day one.

SPEAKER A

Yeah, and I was ruthless. We used to race, too, and in multiple years, he never beat me in a race, evenwhen he had a faster chair, because I would literally plan the angles to run into his chair and to rip thewheels off. I mean, one time I even remember, I hit into his chair and part of the metal on his chair madea big gash down my leg, probably like a three inch gash, and I just kept racing. And one time he hadanother kid pushing to try to win, and I took my foot rest, which are really hard aluminum, and I kept themin the back of the knees going as fast as I could, and they couldn't walk after that? Yeah, I was justabsolutely vicious.

SPEAKER B

Did people like you, like, did you have were you were popular?

SPEAKER A

I was, yeah. But it was mostly because nobody else liked Josh and because they didn't want me to do thatto them.

SPEAKER B

Where was the progress of your emotionlessness at this point? Were you fully like, okay, I'm just going todo what I need to survive, and I don't give a shit about anybody else?

SPEAKER A

I was 80% there.

SPEAKER B

Did your mom watch this and did she have thoughts on it?

SPEAKER A

I was so good at manipulating it and hiding it. My mom never saw it, and neither did any teacher.

SPEAKER B

So you were convinced this was the secret, right? Like this was the way to survive. It didn't strike you aswrong at the time? No, because it was survival.

SPEAKER A

Survival, yeah.

SPEAKER B

Was high school any different? Was high school more of the same?

SPEAKER A

High school, I went 100% there, but I was more isolated from the other kids. I had a caregiver on my own.He was very good to me in many ways. He was a father to me. He was my caregiver for 16 years. He wasthe ex bus driver for the high school. And because I had a fully grown man with me, nobody messed withme. I didn't need to defend myself. But it was intensely important to me that the teacher always knew Iwas the smartest kid.

SPEAKER B

So you didn't feel the need to defend yourself, but you did feel an intense need to prove yourself?

SPEAKER A

In some ways, it was the same thing. If another kid spoke up in class and their answer wasn't perfect, Iwould pick it apart.

SPEAKER B

So it sounds to me, as a third party, like you were maximizing maybe the evil side of what your mom toldyou originally. I mean, a euphemism for handicapped is differently abled, but in this case, it sounds likethat is literally how you were approaching it.

SPEAKER A

Is.

SPEAKER B

It was you had some shortcomings, other people had shortcomings, but they were both shortcomings.And that's kind of what this sounds like to me. Is that accurate? That you were just trying to emphasizeyour strength so that the shortcomings weren't noticed?

SPEAKER A

You're being nice, putting it that way, it was more of you took advantages of my weaknesses, now I'mgoing to take advantage of yours.

SPEAKER B

How does that feel, looking back?

SPEAKER A

Feels terrible. The final year that I was in school, josh was in a different class. He wasn't tormented by meanymore. I graduated two or three years before he did. I graduated a year early, and I think he graduateda year late. He was not the sharpest pencil. It was a struggle for him to get through school. I remembergoing up to him at lunch every on graduation and apologizing. He told me he hated my guts and to get thefuck out of it. About three or four years later, he died, and I called his mom and asked why she didn'tinvite me to the funeral. She told me, he hated your guts until he died and so do I.

SPEAKER B

How much of that played into kind of a wake up call for things to change? Or was that after you'd alreadybegun to kind of pick away at that?

SPEAKER A

By that point when his mother told me that, I felt nothing.

SPEAKER B

So if you felt nothing, what inspired you to apologize in the first place?

SPEAKER A

There was something still trying to be a good person. And I think it was because a part of me felt like, yes,it's okay for me to use my intellectual gifts to embarrass other kids who have normal bodies, but here's akid who had neither intellectual or physical gifts, and this is what you di…

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