Stephen Wawryk is a New Yorker, turned yogi, living in Los Angeles. He survived a 40 mph car crash when he leaped in front of it in order to save his mini dachshund, Polka Dot.
In addition to adventuring around with his loving wife, he keeps a schedule full of travel, yoga, hiking, writing, biking, coffee, tea, and spending time with friends and family.
He recently released his new book, Unknown, a delightful mindfulness picture book, about living in the brand new and loving your truth.
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.
As a newborn, my mother was doing the laundry with me beside her on the second floor. 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 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 at the table for my birthday cake, I sat at the end while everyone else was far away towards the other side. I blew the candles and I'm almost sure I wished for calamine lotion.
Shoot me to a couple years later to what I recall as staring into the 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 room to Barney. Rugrats came along, and then The Lion King. All these made me believe that I could be something.
I'm in 4th grade and at my friend's house for a sleepover.
Aside from the typical video games and junk food, we're staying up late downstairs while his family goes to sleep.
The channel gets switched, and there in front of my eyes are naked women. Confused, but enjoying it, I continue 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?"
An erection?! I don't even know what an erection is.
When I get into 6th grade, I somehow know a few kids from little league baseball. Our Elementary schools have merged.
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 my hair first.
I love these nights.
There's going to be hot wings and hockey. Two of my favorite things.
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. I see it and automatically respond "it's hideous." I shout "how could you do this to me?"
My father apologetically shuts down. His father died when he was 9 years old, and here I was at age 11, yelling about his kind gesture.
Puberty was beginning to strike. I was going from this shy kid to someone that would hit his growth spurt first.
Like it happened overnight, this momentum would be a blessing and a curse. It took me to levels of high intensity and fighting became a form of therapy.
Sitting at the computer inside my home in Long Island, I would look outside into the backyard.
It was raining this day. 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/
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 campus. And I remember the fate of our relationship when sitting in her car one night. Our "we're only friends" vocabulary came to an end.
Count 5 years later when I proposed.
It was on a sunrise hike in Sedona, AZ. 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. I was stuck in Phoenix, AZ for work.
The day I found a new job that would move me to 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."
I could hear the tears pouring from his eyes.
On Ana's and my wedding day, 3/14/2015, 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 to sing the chorus.
We've had our ups and downs, yet Ana and I continue to grow 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 weird. She's calling to tell me that my dad has passed away from a sudden heart attack.
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 if for the living."
The choice is only yours to love all that you 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.
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 28 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.