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Remembering Brandon Noland

I originally wrote this post in 2011, after a tragic accident that took an amazing man too soon. On this melancholy Monday morning, after the horrifying events in Orlando, I didn’t see this as an opportunity to push my political beliefs or personal agenda, but I did want to address it in some way.

In my experience, trying to shift an individuals perspective on mental health or gun control is a futile pursuit, and misses the point. 

I don’t know the solution to the pattern of violence that’s changed our country’s viewpoint from “if” this will happen again, to “when” and “where” it will. 

I strongly agree with the idea that’s splashing through social media: to love more and hate less. I believe the best way to do that is through story. Stories of love, stories of reflection, and stories on the shortness of life. 

I come back to read this post every year to remind myself how fragile life is. It’s a reminder to live to the fullest, to love more, care more, and try harder. 

I hope it can provide some meaning or inspiration for you as you start your week.

In memory of Brandon Noland…

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Brandon Noland is one of my best friends. A little over a month ago Brandon passed away in a tragic offshore accident. This is my first time mentioning the death of my friend because I really don’t like to think about it. Since the time Brandon passed I have been doing a lot of thinking, and I would like to share with you guys lessons I have learned since that hapless day.

(For those that don’t know, for an offshore job, you go off into the Gulf of Mexico to work your ass off for two weeks, and then you get to come home for two weeks. It’s a simplified version that will help you follow along wth the story.)

***The following story is 100% true, except for the times. I estimated the times the best I could.***

Saturday, August 16th, 2011

I was finishing up a 17.5 hour drive, coming into Katy, Texas (my hometown) from spending a summer in North Carolina. It had been a while since I’d seen all my friends, and many of them happened to be in town.

I was about 30 minutes from my house, and my boy Brandon hit me up to see how far out I was.

I’d called Brandon earlier that week to let him know I’d be in town at the same time he would be home from working offshore. He said he had bad news; he just received a call saying he had to be back offshore in the morning, so he wouldn’t be in Katy for the weekend. We just had the night to hang out and catch up. 

So I made some phone calls, and put together a little something’ somthin.’ Actually, there was already a party going on that night, so I told him I’d see him there… at the party I planned. What he doesn’t know won’t hurt him.

I finally made it home, took a much-needed shower, and put my fancy pants on (i.e jeans and a T-shirt).

I ate some food, gave my mom a kiss, a rolled out for a good night.

8:00pm: I walk into the party, and greet everybody.

8:01pm:

Brandon Noland (BN) “What’s up, scrub (to me)?”

Danny Coleman (DC) “PLEASE tell me this chump isn’t addressing me as “scrub” (to everybody else, while pointing at Brandon).

8:02pm We dap each other up, and swap a couple man stories.

8:10pm: Brandon, myself, and our friend Tyler sit down, and begin to swap additional man stories.

*This is the type of relationship Brandon and I had. We liked to mess with each other a lot. We are both competitive people that want to win at whatever it is we do, and we always competed against each other. We would talk shit back and forth, then crack jokes together, and tell funny stories, and then repeat. We never really had too many serious or “deep” conversations, angry interactions, or anything like that. It just wasn’t our style.

9:03pm: I am making moves on some hunnies, telling jokes (that are hilarious, of course), but they aren’t interested.

9:05pm:

BN “Danny! Quit being a bitch, and come play this game.”

DC “B-nol, let’s be realistic, you don’t want me to come over there and defeat you at your own little game.”

BN “Just come play so I can beat your ass real quick.”

9:08pm: He finally convinces me to play.

9:24pm: I win the game. Nice.

9:25pm: B continues to talk trash. He begs for a rematch. 

9:26pm: I accept his rematch.

9:50pm: He beats me. I’m pissed.

9:50pm: I don’t say one word. I set the game up for a best out-of-three scenario. Duh. Brandon understands that tying (1 to 1) is not an option.

10:09pm: I win. I am the champion of the night. I talk trash for the rest of the night, and refuse all other rematch challanges. Why? Because I am the champion. See, I’m not like Brandon in the sense that if he’d won game three, and I asked for a rematch, he would have granted it to me. I am not so kind, I walk away a champion.

11:24pm: Brandon and I are leaning up against a counter in the kitchen.

11:25pm: I look over at Brandon. He seems to have a very serious demeanor, and is staring slightly down towards the ground.

*Remember, this dude is somebody I consider one of my best friends, but it just wasn’t our style to get too serious. We just liked to have a good time, and keep the energy light. We all have our friends that are good for different things. Some for serious conversations, and advice. Others for fun and pleasantries. Brandon was my pleasantries person, and I like to think I was his. Maybe not, but I like to think so.

11:26pm:

DC “What the hell is wrong with you?”

BN “Dude, I was just thinking, if I died tomorrow, I would be 100% happy with the life I’ve had.”

DC “That’s cool, bro. Not me, I got shit to do before I go.”

BN “Well me too! I am just sayin’ that I have lived a good life so far with no regrets, and have enjoyed every minute of it. I’ve had problems just like everybody else, but I look around and realize how much happier I am than so many people.”

DC “Well that’s good man. I’m glad to hear that. I don’t know why you’re  going all serious on me all of a sudden?”

BN “Haha I’m just saying, dude!”

2:00am: We all leave the house we’re at. Brandon heads for his offshore location. I leave for my house.

2:15am: I’m laying in bed. I start to think about what Brandon said to me. What if I die tomorrow? Am I happy with the life I’ve lived? Am I living my dreams? Do I have regrets? Have I made a difference in anybody’s life? What will be my legacy? How do I want to be remembered?

3:01am: Still awake, rolling around in bed. I can’t stop reflecting on life. I’m all eager to wake up in the morning and start making moves on my dreams.

3:17am: Still awake, I think, “Damn Brandon, why did you put those thoughts in my head, man?” I’m stressing out.

3:46am: I finally pass out.

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

11:30am: I’m driving to Oklahoma. I get a call from my friend, Michael.

11:31pm:

Mike “Hey dude, did you hear about Brandon?”

DC “Noland? What about him?”

Mike  “He died this morning, D.”

DC *Silence….* “Wait, what? What do you mean?”

Mike “He got into an offshore accident dude, I’m sorry.”

11:33am: My stomach twists. I let the it all digest for a moment. 

11:34am:

DC “I have to go, man. I’ll call you later.”

Mike “Later, dude.”

11:35am: I ride for the next 2 hours in complete silence. No radio. Turn off my phone.

I didn’t believe it. I mean, I really didn’t believe it. I expected the dude to show up to his own funeral for crying out loud.

Since I didn’t believe it, I showed no emotion. I didn’t cry the day I heard about it. I didn’t cry at his funeral. I didn’t cry at the reception. What was wrong with me? This is one of my best friends. He’s gone, and I don’t even shed one tear? Do I even have a heart?

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

I’m making the long drive back to North Carolina with all my stuff. Three hours into my trip, out of nowhere, I lose my composure. I cry like a 6-year old. I have to pull over. Memory after memory flood though my mind. It finally hit me. The dude was gone forever. No more jokes, no more stories, no more hitting him up on the phone. Nothing. I start to get mad at myself for being such a pansy.

“He wouldn’t want me crying like a little girl,” I thought. “He himself would call me a little bitch.”

Over the past month I’ve been thinking and reflecting on what Brandon said to me that Saturday night. Life is way too short for us to feel sadness, anger, envy, contempt, and other negative emotions. Sure, it’s human to have a flow of negative emotions, or a bad day. But out generation worries, complains, and stresses about petty things that truly do not matter.

In 2004, Harvard University took a poll of it’s students; 4-out-of-every-5 students had symptoms or feelings of depression. 4-out-of-5! Are you kidding me? Obviously, there is a lot of stress that comes a long with being a Harvard student, but c’mon now.. 

Similar numbers ring true on many college campuses around the country. That’s insane.

The purpose of this blog is about the mental health of our generation. Mental health is being shown to be more and more important, and equally, if not more important, than physical health.

Life is no trial, it’s a one time thing. Create what you want to create, do what you want to do, be who you want to be. We all get way too caught up in what others think.

Guess what, you’re going to disappoint your parents, piss off your peers, and do things you aren’t proud of every once in awhile. But you get to choose how to respond to these situations.

My goal isn’t to crush your soul and make you cry. I just want you to think about a bigger picture next time you’re upset or stressed. I understand break-ups and due dates are stressful. That kind of stuff can take a mental toll on all of us, sure.

But look, you are alive. So every time you go into that place of “poor me” just think about how lucky you really are. Think about how Brandon’s mom feels? How his sister feels? THAT is pain. THAT is tragedy. No parent should ever have to watch their child go.

Since Brandon’s death I have changed in that I call my family more, and I don’t stress about what other people think about me nearly as much. I do stuff that I enjoy & love way more often. I take more chances, and I ask myself every night “did I enjoy life today?” 

This is heavy shit, I know. But I just want you guys to see that we really don’t have time to be negative in life. Just do your thing, set goals, tell jokes, have a beer or three, and truly enjoy yourself. 

We have no idea when our time will come, but when it does, how many will go out like Brandon Noland? How many of us, on our last night, can honestly tell ourselves, and our friends and family, that “if I die tomorrow, I would be 100% happy with the life I’ve had.”? 

Let’s take a page out of B-Nol’s playbook and enjoy whatever time we have left here.

Rest in peace, Brandon. You’ll forever be missed, homie. 

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