Jesse Stoddard

Life After High School: Chapter 13 Tears of Hope

Welcome to the final installment, Chapter 13 of my blog-to-book project: Life After High School: Secrets To A Successful Life By Those Who Have Had Twenty Years To Think About It (or) What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School. This chapter is called Tears of Hope. If you missed the last post, click here, otherwise, you can start at the beginning here.

Life has ups and downs and that is part of the challenge. In the years following the loss of Retrofit and the loss of Snohomish Boot Camps, we suffered some more, to be sure. As if we hadn’t learned our lesson, we got a few more black eyes.

In twenty years, I had seen my parents harassed by disturbed and disgruntled sociopathic coworkers in the postal service that cost my dad his job and threatened both of their retirements, and then later watched them be destroyed by the IRS.

Now before you judge, which everyone inherently can’t help doing, since it seems on the surface to be too far-fetched, let me remind you that it is not uncommon for the truth to be stranger than fiction.

You need to know that my parents ALWAYS paid their taxes, and then some, and probably more than anyone else I’ve ever met, times at least ten years with penalties and interest as the IRS made up arbitrary fines. My parents were the subject of targeting, among other boat owners, as a part of fraudulent IRS activity which was featured in the local newspapers.

After their death, I went through a closet full of boxes filled to the brim with paperwork generated by my mother in her efforts to beat their assailants in both supposedly unrelated dramas, only to learn that my parents had hidden much of this atrocity from me while in high school so that I could just be a kid, even though they were seeing their entire lives turned upside down. Now that is love.

My mom did win many of the battles and ultimately saved her retirement after over thirty years of service. My dad did not, and the controversy was simply swept under the rug, along with his professional reputation. He was diagnosed with PTSD caused by the stress.

They had a strong case against the IRS, which they ultimately ran out of resources to finance. Unfortunately for my parents, they were taking on multiple thousand-pound guerrillas with the biggest pockets in the country. They would have needed Bill Gates kind of money to see that through, and they were already worn out from a decade of trying.

Ultimately, they stayed strong side-by-side through devastating cancer.

My dad was a miracle who survived eight years with pancreatic cancer after they gave him three months to live. He had gone through a successful treatment in Switzerland that purchased him several good years of time on loan, only to drain their already dwindling bank accounts, and then watch my mother die of an extremely rare form of cancer in only six weeks after her diagnosis.

To add pathetic on top of terrible, my mother canceled her life insurance policy for my dad, since no one imagined that he would outlive her. They died pennilessly—a true story that might make for another book another time. I still struggle with guilt about not being able to help them the way I thought I should have.

[Cue Circus Music and Fanfare] … Waka-waka-waka, and now for the funny part!

Before my parents passed, we had been busy losing grandparents, my “sister” commit suicide (close cousin who I endearingly called my sister since I am an only child), and as mentioned earlier, my wife and I lost our 6,400 square foot gym after the economy crashed in 2007 and trouble with partners, the loss of a home to short-sale, becoming the victims of embezzlement of my last $15,000 line of credit, outright thievery, the loss of a second business, and general betrayal, all leading to a few years of off-and-on depression as we had accumulated 2.2 Million Dollars of debt with no assets or income to show for it.

So to put this into perspective… If you spent your 20’s drinking beer, smoking dope, and playing video games and you managed to accumulate maybe $17 to your name, you would’ve been 2.2 million and 17 dollars richer than me.

Wait! Don’t tune out yet! It get’s better I promise!

After a lengthy and rocky life road, at least ten of the twenty years were fraught with disaster, and we had come back with a stronger marriage and a new lease on life. We found a business that we could do together that gave us freedom, and we now took solace in our new life with children. I pulled out my mom’s rose-colored glasses, and I try to keep them on at all times.

Needless to say, while driving by the old house that fateful September day after our 20-year reunion, I had a lot going through my mind. The tears were falling for more reasons than one. Although I may never know for sure, I think the source of this was a deep crying out of the spirit.

Now, for those of you who I just lost because I used the word spirit, you can optionally substitute whatever long labyrinthine string of words having to do with psychoanalysis and inner-child-psycho-babble if you like. That’s your choice and you might be right—or I might be right, and you might be an angry and bitter person.

The bottom line is that we have a ton to be grateful for every day we get to draw breath! I am most grateful to be a husband to Mae and a dad to two beautiful children. Phinneas is now 9 years old and Keira is 7 going on 16. We get to both be there to see them get off the bus and try to help them negotiate at parent-teacher conferences.

I now get to do theater and film for fun, and I am involved in a Sketch Comedy group. I also am doing some stand-up comedy and public speaking and loving every minute of it. My kids are finding out what they love to do and we get to help them do that. We spend a lot of time together as a family and are developing life on our own terms.

We are blessed beyond belief, and the tragedies have nothing but deepened my personal resolve to be a difference in this world. We were each made different so that we may make a difference, and every story has a way of connecting with every other. The key is to look for the similarities and build on them and constantly seek wisdom. I view this life as a test and an opportunity to make a choice to take action that leads others to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, and by doing so we will be rewarded now or in eternity.

Lessons From The Loss Of My Parents

  1. You can’t take it with you.
  2. Love your life. Life is too short to hate or be apathetic.
  3. Cancer is a great leveler. It forces you to face the truth.
  4. There is evil out there to be wary of. Defend yourself.
  5. The world is not fair and there are atrocities that should be defeated and injustices that should be righted. Find out where you want to go and choose your role carefully in the grand political game.
  6. Knowledge is not power—practical application of insight is power. Practicing insight and taking action with it leads to wisdom.
  7. Don’t work at the Post Office.
  8. Jealousy is the biggest, darkest, ugliest, word in our language, and a terrible force of evil.
  9. True love is a great thing and is to be cherished.
  10. Don’t do business with extended family unless you are ready for really awkward Thanksgiving dinners.
  11. Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get me.
  12. You aren’t your dad. Life goes on. Move on.
  13. Generational curses must be destroyed.
  14. You usually don’t get what you want, but you do get what you need just in time.
  15. The stories we tell ourselves determine every action we take and every relationship we make. My dad and I fought a lot at the end because of our dissonant stories.
  16. Everyone must deal with grief and go through the stages. You are not immune to grief.
  17. Grieving doesn’t just happen when someone dies. It also happens as a result of a loss of a business, a bankruptcy, a loss of an identity, and even a minor loss as a result of a mundane setback. It may have a lower impact, but grieving still occurs and must be dealt with one way or another.



In the next post, I will continue with a few final interviews (like this one with Megan Murphy) before I wrap this puppy up.

Are you from Generation X? I want to hear what you think! Please comment below and participate in the conversation about What They Didn’t Teach Us Gen Xers In High School. What do you wish someone told you when you were eighteen?

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Jesse Stoddard


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