by Frederick Egan Castleberry
Every summer, my parents would scrounge together enough cash to purchase Six Flags season passes for my brother, sister, and me and essentially tell us to knock ourselves out. Six Flags was basically the best amusement park in America. As I grew taller over the years, eventually no roller coaster was off limits. I rode them all...again and again and again—my brother and sister always in the seats next to me. I loved it. One, in particular, blasted you straight up into the sky, higher than any other attraction. It was like flying...the wind in your face, in between your outstretched fingertips, soaring to such great heights. As if to say, "Gravity, stay the hell away from me..."
I never forgot that feeling.
As most of you know, I've been making my living with my camera for the past five years. I realize how fortunate I am—doing something I love and actually making a career of it. Only a small percentage of people get to do that. I've been on the other side—I've put 10,000 hours into something I felt nothing for (nobody says, "I want to be a banker when I grow up"). So don't think for one second a day goes by without me thanking God each morning I get to continue doing what I do.
Life is like that amusement park I grew up going to every summer. There is always a bigger, faster, steeper roller coaster to ride...but there is no height requirement, only a "dream" requirement. Some kids grew up dreaming of becoming doctors, professional athletes, engineers. Spoiler alert: I wanted to design clothes. Next month, I'm hopping on a bigger roller coaster. Only, this roller coaster isn't at Six Flags—it's in New York. I recently accepted a position within Ralph Lauren. And if I'm being completely honest, it still feels like a childhood dream I haven't awoken from.
"…no one—not rock stars, not professional athletes, not software billionaires, and not even geniuses — ever makes it alone.”
I came across this quote while reading Outliers, a book by Malcom Gladwell on the story of success, and it made me pause. We cling to the idea that success is a simple function of individual merit and that the world in which we all grow up and the opportunities we're afforded don't matter at all. It does matter. It takes a village. Every one of you in my world matter...the loving family, the dear friends, the fraternity brothers, the prodding professors, the loyal clients, the brilliant colleagues, the serendipitous meetings, the religious readers of The F.E.C. Diaries—you all helped me reach this point. This wasn't happening without you. At some point or another, you've each been in the seat next to me...hands in the air, screaming at the top of your lungs.
Thank you for your support, your belief, your friendship, your wisdom, your rebuke, your love, your couch. From the bottom of my gravity-defying heart, thank you. Here's to the next great roller coaster...