During the year I graduated from high school, hip hop group Bone Thugs-n-Harmony (“Bone”) released their second album, entitled E. 1999 Eternal. It would be a difficult task for a group to create another album—from start to finish—that could rival Bone’s classic collection of tracks.
Seemingly everywhere I went when the album was released, people in Bomb City were playing Bone’s music. At house parties, local parks, convenience store parking lots, and even in a youth group room of the church congregation I attended, Bone could be heard.
Contributing to the success of the album was Bone’s EP Creepin on ah Come Up, released a year earlier. Personally, I list both the EP and the album among the top 100 best rap albums, hands down.
In 1997, Bone’s song “Tha Crossroads,” from E. 1999 Eternal, won a Grammy for best rap performance by a duo or group. Although cheesy as the visual effects may seem by today’s standards, the video was innovative for its time and I still get chills when watching it.
In 1995, as I could be found in either a traphouse (back then simply called a “dope house”) or the church house, Bone’s juxtaposition with dark and light concepts appealed to me. In particular, I appreciated Bone’s ability to address existentialist content.
Come, let’s go take a visit of people that’s long gone, they rest: Wally, Eazy, Terry, Boo; and still keepin’ up with they family. Exactly how many days we got lastin’? While you laughin’, we’re passin’, passin’ away. G-d rest our souls, ‘cause I know I’ma meet you up at the crossroads. Y’all know, y’all forever got love from them Bone Thugs, baby.
It was quite the shakeup in hip hop when Eazy-E died in 1995—mentioned in the aforementioned verse. I’d seen the rapper perform in 1989 at the Nitro World Tour in Denver, Colorado and by the time of his demise, I’d seen my fair share of death.
Appreciatively, I was taught from a young age that death is an inherent occurrence and there is no reason to fear or lament this indisputable fact of existence. Rather, I experienced unpleasant emotions when separated from people who were still among the living.
It was during high school when I began posing in photos with a crossroads gesture—one arm extended with a closed fist while crossed with the arm of a valued friend who also presented a raised fist. To me, it was a symbol of devotion to a person in life and beyond, from my then-religious perspective.
As the story goes, if I died before my friends, I pledged to see them at the crossroads—the implied plain of existence between life and death, as thought to draw upon a reference to Jeremiah 6:16. Essentially, I was promising to remain close to whomever I posed with in such a manner.
Therefore, “Tha Crossroads” wasn’t solely a song I could ride to when cruising the streets at night; it was an overt reminder about the finiteness of my existence. This lesson was then taken with me when enlisting in the United States Marine Corps (USMC) in 1996.
The B-C connection
While undergoing education and training for military police (MP) in 1997, I met a number of Marines who I thought I’d keep contact with throughout the years. My worldview at the time was influenced by the idea of being able to create a stable surrogate family, because my biological kin were often at odds with one another.
Looking back, I admire the confidence of my naïve outlook. If I didn’t have organic close-knit family ties, I was determined to shape my destiny. To again be young and ignorant in that regard, I’m not sure I wouldn’t draw similar conclusions.
Through the lens of my current mindset, that which is influenced by Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), I’ve since learned to practice unconditional acceptance and not disturb myself about the behavior of others.
Still, I didn’t know about the REBT method for many years following my introduction into the USMC. In 1998, while in Okinawa (“Oki”), Japan, I made a number of friends who were added to my imitation family.
These were Marines who I forged relationships with while persevering through relational trials and tribulations. For example, there were clearly drawn divisions between members of various shifts, bases, and units to which MPs were assigned in Oki.
Even within the Provost Marshal’s Office (PMO) on Camp Kinser, in relation to the MPs who shared a coed barracks on the second floor of our MP station, groups were fractured along lines of hobbies and interests. PMO was like high school cafeteria diplomacy, and I didn’t care much for that arrangement at any point in life.
All the same, I established close bonds with individuals who saw past the juvenile antics of snobbish cliques. These were men I referred to as my “brothers.”
I would have laid down my life for them and I was convinced they would readily do the same for me. Youthfully convinced that we would remain in close contact for the duration of our lives, I took photos with these adopted family members using the crossroads pose.
An invaluable lesson was learned in Oki. I became familiar with the term “out of sight, out of mind” (OSOM)—referring to the phenomenon of forgetting people or things that are no longer visible or present.
The loosely-attached family I was assigned at birth was just as flimsy as the patchwork tribe I assembled in the Corps. Once my friends changed duty stations and were OSOM, we rarely remained in touch.
Back then, I thought in Action-Consequence (A-C) connection terms, reasoning that the Action of my friends leaving and no longer remaining in contact caused the Consequence of my sorrow or disappointment. However, my conclusion was incorrect.
Action – Friends who I considered to be as close as kinship received permanent change of station (PCS) orders and inevitably remained out of contact once OSOM. Such behavior was closely correlated with how dispersed my own family was.
Belief – I believed, “Chosen family must remain in contact, otherwise it is true that I’m unworthy of being close to—and if this is the case, I can’t stand it!”
Consequence – Because of my unhelpful belief, I became sad, disappointed, and clung to ever-changing contacts over the years, eventually becoming the sole person in most of these friendships who held the relationship together.
I maintained the self-disturbing B-C connection throughout my time in the USMC. It existed in Rio de Janeiro, Brasil; Lima, Peru; Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar, San Diego, California; and everywhere in between.
With each brother I acquired, another’s union would expire. My unhealthy belief resulted in a miserable experience whereby my assessed value of life was heavily predicated on the amount of friends I retrained and the quality of those fleeting relationships.
After all, my flawed A-C perspective was based on faulty logic:
Premise 1: When others remain out of touch, it means I have little worth.
Premise 2: Most of my Marine brothers remained out of touch.
Consequence: Therefore, their behavior meant I had little worth.
Dear reader, can you see how my Belief about the Action was what created the Consequence? Not once did I think critically about the belief that caused my unpleasant outcome.
I’m not even sure I was aware of how the loss of friends wasn’t what led to discomfort in my life. After all, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Still, I was somewhat aware there was a pattern of failed relationships in my wake.
This experience created a whole other Action, accompanied by another inflexible Belief, and which resulted in yet another unhelpful Consequence. After leaving MCAS Miramar, my final duty station, friendships continued to dissolve once people were OSOM:
Action – Even when separated from my active duty military command, civilian friends with whom I used the crossroads pose inevitably lost contact when OSOM. I could no longer use military PCS orders as an explanation for this phenomenon.
Belief – I believed, “This is awful! Something must be wrong with me, because most of my friends fall out of contact. If we’d fallen out due to fighting, I could at least understand the separation. However, I must be a repulsive person, because they lose contact even when things are going well!”
Consequence – Because of my inflexible belief, I became miserably sorrowful and began to fear what I thought would be the impending collapse of all close friends in my life.
Admitting my self-disturbing beliefs herein, there is no shame associated with how asinine my unhelpful narratives once were. Quite the contrary, I have rational compassion with myself in regards to how much I desired lasting and close connections.
I now use unconditional self-acceptance to understand that I am a flawed individual, though this doesn’t mean I’m unworthy of connection. Likewise, I use unconditional other-acceptance to acknowledge that others are also faulty people, as friends tend to simply fall out of touch.
Additionally, I use unconditional life-acceptance to admit that the imperfect universe doesn’t owe me anything, as my past, present, and future existence isn’t entitled to friendship. Though I may wish I were blemish-free, others were faultless, and life were perfect, my desire simply isn’t realistic.
Moreover, an unrealized desire is something I can tolerate. Truly, there have been a great number of things I’ve wanted and never received. Yet, I’ve been able to accept and endure the experience of not getting what I wanted. In fact, I’m actually used to that being the case.
On the other hand, unmet demands are something I used to think I couldn’t abide. Using the A-C connection, I deceived myself into thinking I was more vulnerable than I actually was.
That sort of mindset created a victimhood complex, whereby I absurdly believed that the natural occurrence of relational drift somehow equated to my own worthlessness. Thankfully, I now understand the B-C connection and use unconditional acceptance to get out of my own way and stop disturbing myself.
In “Tha Crossroads,” group member Bizzy Bone repeatedly claims, “And I’m gonna miss everybody (long gone, long gone),” as I now understand at this stage of my life that such is the experience of relationships. Even if not OSOM, every single one of us will one day transition from this life.
We can disturb ourselves by demanding that this shouldn’t, mustn’t, or oughtn’t to be the case. However, the imperfection of life—the process in motion which preceded you and I, dear reader—overrides the rigid obligations we place on it.
It took many encounters with death and the loss of a significant number of friends in life for this lesson to solidify in my consciousness. Now, I’m at peace with the fact that I wield no control and very little influence over life and other people.
Undoubtedly, I miss many of those with whom I’ve fallen out of contact. Still, I unconditionally accept that such is the way of life. Even if there is no crossroads upon experiencing death, the contentment I now enjoy is enough to make my time on earth meaningful.
Would you like to know more about how to get out of your own way and unconditionally accept yourself, others, and life? I may be able to help.
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As the world’s foremost old school hip hop REBT psychotherapist, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
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