I wish someone would have told me that I would not have found my purpose in life until late in my adulthood. Far too many years had passed, and I often wondered year after year, what my purpose in life was. I had believed that something was wrong with me, or I would never find my purpose. It wasn’t until last year that I realized that my purpose was to share my life experiences with others.
As part of my series about “authors who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing award winning author Anthony Owens.
Anthony Owens has an extensive background, having served 20 years of active naval service, where he received extensive accolades and awards for his service. He has worked for a major defense contractor for 10 years as one of the lead Network Engineers and as the Technical Trainer at the Langley Air Force Base in Hampton Virginia. He has been a federal employee for the last 13 years, serving as the Information Technology Specialist (Network). Mr. Owens hold a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and a Master of Business with a concentration of Information Security from Saint Leo University.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your childhood backstory?
I was raised by a single mother, growing up in Brooklyn, New York. My mother struggled financially, and as a result, my brother and I and ultimately my little sister went without adequate clothing, food and necessities that we should have had. We were forced to eat sandwiches that were made of condiments like ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise, and syrup. I named my book Syrup Sandwiches because of the syrup sandwiches that I preferred over the other condiments, but the book has nothing to do with food. The book is about dealing with the struggles of life and not being defeated or defined by our traumas or adversities. The book is about believing in oneself and realizing that life will be difficult, challenging and sometimes unfair, but we should always choose to never give up. I decided that the title of my book would be “Choose Not to Give Up!”
When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? Can you share a story about that?
There were no books that I read that directly inspired me to change my life. What inspired me to change my life were all the abusive men that were in my family. Witnessing abuse from my grandfather, uncles and my mother’s boyfriend solidified in my mind the desire to be nothing like them and to reverse the terrible cycle of abuse that had consumed my family for generations. What I learned from these carless, emotionally void and what I call cowardly men, was how not to be. Unbeknownst to them, they inspired me to be and do better.
It has been said that our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Growing up without a father and not having any male support, advice or guidance, I was left to figure out life on my own. When I decided to join the Navy, I did so without having any advice from any family members. I joined the Navy, not realizing that knowing how to swim was crucial. I had never swum before going into the military. I learned that swimming was a requirement when I went to basic training. As I was climbing the rungs of the ladder leading to largest body of water that I had ever seen, reality set in and when I jumped in the abyss, it was then that everyone knew what I had known forever, that I could not swim to save my life.
Can you describe how you aim to make a significant social impact with your book?
My book talks about my life and having to deal with fatherlessness, single parenting, domestic abuse, bullying, poverty, discrimination, and trauma. I came to the realization that I could not have been the only one to have experienced the aforementioned issues, and I wanted to share a story that I knew many could relate to on so many levels. My book does not tell anyone how to live their lives. My book shows the readers, through my experiences that we can still overcome our traumas, adversities and misfortunes. My book Syrup Sandwiches, Choose Not to Give Up! Shows the readers that they can believe in themselves and can do and or be anything that they want in life if they choose not to give up. I believe that most of us realize that life can and is at times very difficult, unpredictable, and sometimes unfair. There will be times when many may feel that all hope is gone, and that life may not be worth living. My book shows that there is still hope when you believe in yourself. Already, this book has impacted the lives of many in positive ways. Fathers are now realizing that children do need them in their lives and their impact should not be underestimated. Single parents are embracing their roles and are inspired by the impacts and differences that they are making daily in the lives of their children. People who have or is experiencing domestic abuse, especially children, can see that they are not the reason for the abuse and are not blaming themselves as much. People that are experiencing bullying are realizing that they should not keep it to themselves and are sharing their experiences more and more. People are also starting to stand up and against bullying. Poverty issues are being addressed, as more people are seeking educational advancements and employment opportunities. Discrimination is an ongoing issue and I believe that we must keep bringing attention to it and address it when it presents itself.
Can you share with us the most interesting story that you shared in your book?
The most interesting story in the book was watching my mother being physically abused and not being able to help her. I felt terrible that I could not have done more to have protected her. Sure, I was only a child at the time, but that did not stop me from wanting to help. I could not understand why anyone would treat another person so badly. I was lost and confused and did not have an outlet. I needed therapy, hell my entire family needed it. I believe to a certain degree, that our therapy came in the form or other incidents in our lives that were more impactful, causing us to forgo its predecessors.
What was the “aha moment” or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world? Can you share a story about that?
I decided to bring this story to the world when the pandemic hit. It was at that point that I saw so many people losing loved ones and being turned upside down emotionally and financially. I realized that too many people were starting to give on themselves and on life. I wanted to share my book with the world to let them know that all hope was not gone. I wanted them to see that this too shall pass. The world needed to read something that was positive, relatable and encouraging. My book offers just that. My book does not describe a trek up the tallest mountain or a cure for a mysterious disease. This book addresses issues that people are facing everyday.
Without sharing specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?
One of the people that I play corn hole with came to me after reading my book and said, “Anthony, I want to thank you for writing your book. I read it and thoroughly enjoyed it. After reading it and doing some self-reflecting, I realized that I could have been doing so much more for my son. I now realize the importance of being there for your children. I have started to spend a lot more time with my son and, I owe it all to you.”
Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?
The first thing is that emotional therapy should be free and readily available for everyone. Secondly, I believe that domestic abusers should receive stiffer criminal penalties. Lastly, hate organizations should all be eradicated.
How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?
I define leadership as the ability to be able to effectively guide, train and show others through personal behaviors, experiences and knowledge, how to satisfactorily achieve a particular mission, task or action.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.
- I wish someone would have shown me how to be a husband. I did not have any examples growing up on how to be a husband. The men that I was around were terrible and lacked parental skills, maturity, and common sense. When I became a husband, I was young and immature and often found myself hanging out with friends instead of being the good husband I should have been.
- I wish someone would have shown me how to swim before joining the Navy. Growing up in Brooklyn, there were not many swimming pools in my neighborhood, so many children did not have the opportunity to learn how to swim and I was one of them.
- I wish someone would have told me how to be a father. Once again, not having any men in my family that were good fathers, made it difficult to learn anything from them. When my son was born, I initially struggled with being a good parent, due to lack of knowledge, maturity, and experience. I struggled more saying that I love someone than showing love.
- I wish someone would have told me that writing a book about my life would be difficult. I will take that back, writing about my life was not difficult. The difficult part was reliving all the trauma that I had experienced during my life. There were many times that I had to stop writing because I found myself becoming sad and before I knew it, there were tears.
- I wish someone would have told me that I would not have found my purpose in life until late in my adulthood. Far too many years had passed, and I often wondered year after year, what my purpose in life was. I had believed that something was wrong with me, or I would never find my purpose. It wasn’t until last year that I realized that my purpose was to share my life experiences with others.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote is;
I am what time, circumstances, and history have made of me, certainly, but I am also much more than that. So are we all. James Baldwin.
I believe in people, and I believe that I am not better than anyone, and there is no one better than me. I believe that we all have the right to be happy and to live accordingly and no one has the right to treat us poorly or judge us.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
I would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with President Barack Obama. I believe that Mr. Obama exemplifies class, grace and leadership that many can learn from.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
Facebook @Syrup Sandwiches
This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!
Social Impact Authors: How & Why Author Anthony Owens Is Helping To Change Our World was originally published in Authority Magazine on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.