My girls are now 10 and 7 so the Christmas magic is still alive and well in their hearts. At their age, I always made a point to sit before the decorated tree and think back on the year that was. This year is bound to hold several dog-eared pages from its chapters, and these particular pages hold numerous names, and what kind of writer would I be if I don't share this little message for them to know?
But allow me to share some backstory.
Sheri and I moved back to Connecticut after losing our home in Pennsylvania. For over two years, we struggled in ways that put our very lives to the test. I will admit, Connecticut felt like a horrible decision at times. The lows outnumbered the highs and we both reached our breaking point, leaving us in the most uncertain of times.
Somewhere in the fog that was my brain at the time, I found my way to Porter and Chester Institute with the intention of studying electronics only to follow in my father's footsteps as a Drafter.
Desperation is an incredible motivator. I took to learning CAD and managed to form a reputation as a dependable and talented designer. Not even halfway through the course, barely into the second quarter, I applied for a position as a piping drafter designer with General Dynamics Electric Boat. To my surprise, given my short time in school and my limited, but admittedly impressive drawings, I earned the chance to work for the premier submarine builders in the world.
In the last three months, all I wanted was to demonstrate what the job meant to me, and I've done all I can to become a strong team asset, and I want it known that I'm determined to go as far as I can within the company. The opportunity is endless!
And so, this year, I became a professional, which gained me the stability and prosperity I so desperately needed.
Every piece of my life's puzzle fell into place, and every question I ever had on why something was happening at the time it was, was finally answered. It all led to Clinton, CT, where I can finally rebuild the concept of HOME for us.
Life can be merciless at times, but given enough motivation, and a touch of luck, it can be amazing.
I couldn't have done it alone and this is why I needed to pour these words out.
First and foremost, my parents, my heroes, my rock. Thank you both for carrying me through most of the year. I don't know what I would've done without you. You helped me in every way possible and found a way to make me see light where I saw darkness.
Sheri Sue Robayo, you really are the strongest person I have EVER known and I can't tell you how proud I am to be your husband. It wasn't easy many times, but to see the smile on your face when I look at you is a reward no Heaven could ever bestow. My life doesn't happen without you, and I look forward to more triumphs in our lives. I love you more than you'll ever know.
Jay Hornyak, my brother, thank you for everything you did for me, for my family. I wish you the success you deserve with ACS. I'll miss driving the Red Diablo.
Kristen Diekmann, my oldest and best friend, and the one person who knows me better than I know myself. Thank you for always believing in me when I least believe in myself, and for always knowing how to straighten me out.
Paul and Sue Feher, you brought so much warmth to one of the coldest winters of my life. Thank you for your help and encouragement.
Brian McCarthy, I have no words to adequately express just what your friendship means to me. No friend could've done more for me when I most needed it, especially talking me into applying for a career at Electric Boat. Thank you for seeing talent in me, and for dragging me into believing in myself. That conversation went on to change my life and I will never, ever forget it.
Sarah and John May, Kathleen and Eric Bergman, Aman and Gurmeet Singh, "La Cuadrilla". You guys...let me just say that Clinton feels like HOME in large part thanks to you. Thank you for the laughter, for the cheer, for the support. Here's to making more memories together!
Paul and Olga Gebauer, you two always knew the right words to say when I needed them most. Here's to more Halloweens and amusing conversations! Thank you both for your genuine friendship and affection.
Lorena Bedoya, my sister, my very best friend. You were a huge inspiration for me to get my act together and find direction in school. You're tough, and you've come a long way yourself. I'm so glad I'm back to share our lives together with our kids, and for reinforcing what makes us Robayos. Love you, kiddo.
Fabio and Eileen Ciampini. Fabio, we've been friends since our days fresh off the boat, and no one has ever made me feel like family despite time, distance or circumstances. I'm so glad you're in my life. I'm so thankful for all the special occasions we've shared, especially Liana's baptism. Parenthood is a wonderful trip, and I'm so happy for you two.
To Doug and Lisa Tappager and their incredible kids, Sarah, Amanda, and Dougie, my Pennsylvania family. Lisa, thank you for that swift kick in the pants and for pulling me out of the hole. I truly believe this recovery, though long in coming, started that day at your house.
Scott and Stephanie McCreary, time and distance means nothing in a friendship like ours. May the years bring us together often.
My book buddies, Elise Stokes, Peggy, Monica LaPorta, and my editor Heather Jacquemin, thank you ladies for your gracious understanding and help, even from afar. You all gave me perspective and encouragement when I doubted my writing. I don't know if I will write again, but it's so good to know I don't have anything to prove to anyone after earning your admiration and praise for my craft.
So, this was my year.
I found I have a great family, terrific friends from before and today; I found my very best friend in the girl I love. Oh how I admire her as a mom and as a woman; I found that things indeed happen for a reason; I found I can be happy again; I found it is possible to rectify every mistake once you reach the shores of hope after enduring the crushing waves of self-recrimination.
And last, but not least, Merry Chirstmas and a Happy New Year full of Health and Prosperity to you and your families.