Stephen Thaddeus Wawryk loves the ocean, going for hikes, and anything yoga or coffee related... just not together. Outside of his work for a nonprofit, he enjoys spending time with his wife and two pups and adventuring wherever whenever possible.
He’s lucky to have survived a 35 mph car crash into him when he leaped in front of it to save his mini dachshund, Polka Dot.
And he also released his first book, Unknown, a delightful mindfulness picture book, in April 2017 for adults and teens who need a little self-love when trying to find their way.
Before we skip ahead, let’s go into my childhood for a brief moment.
Born on 3/8/1988 at 8 lbs 6 oz, I was a larger baby.
My mother always wanted a son. Her father, who she adored, reminded her of how much he wanted a grandson.
He died a few months before I was born, while I was still in my mother’s womb.
When I was a newborn, my mother was doing the laundry with me beside her on the second floor of my childhood home. She was going down the stairs with me in her arms when she lost her balance and tripped.
Cusping me against her chest to protect me, she broke both her legs.
My three-year-old birthday present was a welcome by the chicken pox.
I still vividly remember being in my backyard with all the other kids. They weren't allowed near me.
When we were in the kitchen, celebrating with birthday cake, I sat at the head of the table while everyone else was far away towards the other side. I blew the candles and I'm almost sure I wished for someone to scratch my back.
A couple years later, I recall staring into the bathroom mirror, thinking "this is what I look like?" I don't know if that was the day I became conscious or if it was a hint of reincarnation.
These were the years I used to lock myself in the playroom to watch Barney. Rugrats came along, and then The Lion King. All these made me believe that I could be something great.
I'm in 4th grade now, and at my friend's house for a sleepover.
Aside from the typical video games and junk food, we've stayed up late downstairs while his family went up to sleep.
The channel switches and in front of me are a bunch of naked women. Confused, but enjoying it, I continued watching.
I get up to go to the bathroom and shut the door behind me. When I start to pee, I suddenly feel water spraying all over. "What is going on?"
In the 6th grade, I somehow know a few kids from little league baseball. Our Elementary schools have merged and on day one, I meet someone who introduces me to the rest of the class.
I get home and my dad tells me that my Uncle John is coming over for a haircut, but before he arrives, he'll cut mine first.
I love these nights.
There's going to be hot wings and hockey, two of my favorite things, I think.
I sit down in the barber chair and the cape is pulled over me. Once my dad is finished, he lets me know, and I head to the bathroom to check it out.
Suddenly, I see it the change, “it's hideous." I yell out.
My father apologetically shuts down. His father died when he was 9 years old, and here I was at age 11, yelling about a kind gesture he did.
Puberty was beginning to strike and I was going from this shy kid to someone that would hit his growth spurt first in his class.
Like it happened overnight, the momentum would be a blessing and a curse. It took me to levels of high intensity and fighting became a form of life.
Sitting at the computer inside my home in Long Island, I looked outside into the lush green backyard.
It was raining this particular day and I was writing a letter to try and get colleges to accept me into their business school.
I chose marketing because I saw myself up on stage, speaking in front of thousands of people.
Skip to the next couple of years, living in the dorms at Arizona State University, and then a 4-bedroom apartment with three other guys. I learned a lot about myself.
I learned the beauty of love. I also learned the act of surrender.
Having met Ana through mutual friends, we would spend countless nights together at the library.
I remember the first time we held hands. We walked through the campus and I dropped her off at her class.
I remember the fate of our relationship when sitting in her car one night, with the words, "we're only friends," floating into the air and vanishing like yesterday’s rain lying on the concrete being pierced by the heat of the sun.
The sunrise in Sedona, AZ is majestic.
And what a place for me to propose to Ana, but on a hike at 5:30am, July 21 2013.
Both Ana and I had been embarking on an 18-month long-distance relationship.
She moved out to Santa Monica, CA for a job opportunity and I was stuck in Phoenix, AZ for work.
The day I found a new job would be the day that I finally came to live in California, I called my dad to let him know the news. I told him that the last question asked was "who is your role model?" To which my response was "you, dad."
I could hear the tears pouring from his eyes.
On Ana's and my wedding day, March 14 2015, 6 days after my birthday, our friend Jake played the guitar and sang Bloom by the Paper Kites to Ana walking down the aisle.
My other friend, Chris, learned to play the song The Girl by City and Colour. There I was as the lead singer in front of Ana as a surprise with all the rest of the groomsmen and guests to sing the chorus.
We've had our ups and downs, yet Ana and I continue to grow like a flower’s bloom each day.
November 20, 2015.
A little over 8 months since my wedding, I get a call from my mom.
It's 630am, so this is unlike her. “Stephen. You’re dad died.”
In shock, I scream. Utter disbelief kicks in. My world has officially changed.
There's this debate about if you would rather watch a loved one die slowly, yet you have the moment to say goodbye to them. Or would you rather the sudden shock like I felt?
I've heard the saying "life is for the living."
The choice is only yours to love all that you’ve got.
And there it went.
Ana and I went to Ojai for a small vacation.
I saw a hawk up in the sky, and the energy of it swiftness, mixed with grace gave me hope. It was like a battery recharge.
I spent 7 weeks cleaning up my house in New York after my father passed away.
Each day was a building block in one way, and a wrecking ball in the other. I destroyed so many old thoughts and feelings that I had been suppressing and that were holding me back.
There I was at age 27 realizing the value of life. How quick it could be pulled from you. The bottling of emotion does no good for anyone or anything.
So as I chase my dreams, I recall the boy with his childish laughter. Out on the streets playing pretend.
Imagining this world and the magic I would find in the trees.
I am still that boy.