One person is listening. Perhaps more, but at least one. I'm so pleased.

I was asked by many people on Monday morning about the AFC championship game that I attended on Sunday night. One of the most frequently asked questions was:

"What time did you get home?"

I arrived home on Sunday night around 1:00 AM, but I explained that it was fairly early given the fact that I often arrive home from night games well after 3:00 AM.

Most people have a hard time understanding how I manage this. They also question my sanity when they learn that I will drive to a Moth StorySLAM in Brooklyn, downtown Manhattan, or Boston on a weeknight to maybe tell a five minute story and arrive back home after 1:00 AM.

I have always been a proponent of saying yes when opportunities present themselves, regardless of the sacrifice required.

I am also a proponent of living your life with the perspective of the 100 year old version of yourself.

I know that this advice is good. I know it would make people considerably happier if they followed it. I know that I'm right.

So often, I wonder if anyone is ever listening.

A couple years ago I met a teacher while speaking at her school. Over the past year, she's begun to listen to my advice and take it to heart.

She began by saying yes to taking the stage and telling of a story for Speak Up. This was not an easy thing for her to do, but since then, she's become a Speak Up regular and fan favorite.  

Shortly thereafter, she went to New York and told her first story in a Moth StorySLAM. The next day, she wrote to me about my philosophy of saying yes regardless of the sacrifices required:

"It's the greatest lesson you ever taught me. I'm trying so hard to fight my natural instincts to say no and just say yes. It's annoying how right you always are."

Needless to say I enjoyed that email a lot. 

Last weekend she traveled to Washington, DC to participate in the Woman's March. 

On her way home, she wrote:  

"Learning to live life the Matthew Dicks way. Man, your way is exhausting."

It's true. It can be exhausting. It's not always easy. And it doesn't always work out. Sometimes I drive to Brooklyn for a Moth StorySLAM and never take the stage. Sometimes the Patriots lose a big game, and the long, late night drives home become much more difficult. Sometimes I say yes to something that I must later change to a no when I realize how much I hate it.  

But the willingness to take risks, step outside your comfort zone, brave the elements, forgo sleep, face uncertainty, and suffer possible failure are all superior to a lifetime of regret.

One of the most common regrets expressed by people at the end of their lives, recorded by hospice workers, is this:

I wish that I had let myself be happier.

From Business Insider:

"This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realize until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called 'comfort' of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to their selves, that they were content, when deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again."

The question people didn't ask me about the AFC championship game (but should've asked me) was this:

What will you remember most about the game?

The list is long. Tom Brady's flea flicker, the way Legarrette Blount carried half of the Steelers team to the goal line, and the huge goal line stand by the Patriots defense will always remain in my mind.

But my favorite part?

Midway through the third period, with the Patriots in the lead, Bon Jovi's "Livin' on a Prayer" began booming through the stadium during a timeout. The entire stadium became to sing. A second later, the big screens showed Jon Bon Jovi in one of Gillette Stadium's luxury suites, singing along with us. The crowd roared. Bon Jovi raised his hands and began conducting the crowd as if we were his orchestra. When the music stopped as the Steelers broke the huddle, 60,000 people continued to sing a cappella, finishing the song as Pittsburgh ran a play. 

It was a joyous moment. One of the happiest moments I've experienced in a stadium where I have watched games for more than a decade.

Had I been sitting on my couch at home, warm and dry instead of wet and cold, I would've missed that moment, and what a tragedy that would have been.

Perhaps others have tried to adopt the "Matthew Dicks way" over the years. Maybe they've listened to me speak or watched my TED Talks and changed the way they approach life. 

At least one person has, and for today at least, that is enough for me. 

Twenty-five years spent standing in a parking lot

I'll be tailgating in the parking lot at the Patriots game on Sunday. I have seen many things in the decades I have spent tailgating at Gillette Stadium.

Public intoxication. Nudity. Fist fights. Fender benders. Lobster shell distance throws. A Christmas tree labeled "Trebow" that was set afire and nearly burned several dummies to death in the process. 

I've bribed parking attendants. Trudged through snow up to my waist. Sent a soon-to-be-exgirlfriend back to the car at halftime when she could no longer endure the freezing rain and demanded to be brought home. Pushed my pregnant wife up the ramps to our seats with the help of my friend, Shep.   

Even after a quarter century of attending New England Patriots football games, I still see things while tailgating that surprise me.

Like this: 

A comfortable place to sit prior to the game and perhaps an efficient way to get rid of an old piece of furniture at the same time. 

Killing two birds and such.

The Patriots lost yesterday. I'm a happy Patriots fan today. You should be, too.

As a Patriots fan who spent yesterday evening in Gillette Stadium, watching his beloved team blunder their way to a second straight loss, you might think that I would be upset today. Depressed. Annoyed. Outraged. Discouraged. Disheartened. Even angry. Enraged. 

You might think that the flood of messages that I received from joyous Giants, Jets, and Philly fans just after the game would have set me on edge. Primed me for sadness or rage.

These would all be reasonable expectations, But you would be wrong.

Perhaps it's because of the way the Patriots lost the game yesterday. They were not dominated on offense or defense. They were not pushed around and overmatched. They may not even have been the worst team on the field yesterday. 

Three plays caused The Patriots to lose yesterday. 

  • A blocked punt returned for a touchdown. 
  • A punt return for a touchdown. 
  • A 100 yard interception return for a touchdown. 

Take away one of these plays - unusual plays which you almost never see and truly never see in one game - and the Patriots win easily. Two of the plays resulted in 10 and 14 point swings respectively, and the third play put seven points on the board for the Eagles. 

When your team makes dumb mistakes and loses, it's perhaps easier to feel okay about the loss. It's not a sign that my favorite team is physically inferior or less talented. It's not a signal of things to come. It's simple stupidity. The inability to execute. 

In short, dumb mistakes. 

And perhaps it's easier to accept the loss when your team's record is still 10-2. Had the loss ruined my team's chances to make the playoffs (like the Giant's loss did yesterday), perhaps I would not be feeling as good as I do today.

And perhaps the fact that the Patriots' best receiver, the other best receiver (and one of the best players in all of football), the best running back, the best offensive lineman, and the best linebacker are injured (with three of the five expected back by the playoffs) helps to dampen the pain of the loss. While it's universally acknowledged that all football teams suffer injuries by December, it's also been universally acknowledged that the Patriots rash of injuries this year has been extreme. 

We've lost without some of our best players on the field. Of course we struggled. Just wait until they are back.

All of these reasons may help me to feel better this morning, but here is what I think is the real reason:

I enjoyed the game yesterday. I did not enjoy the final play or the final score, but the game was exciting. The final score was not 35-7 or even 35-14. It was 35-28, and with a minute to go, my team had roared back and was threatening to tie and maybe win. 

It was a thrilling fourth quarter. 

The Patriots scored two touchdowns in the final five minutes.
They recovered an onside kick. 
They forced a fumble with under a minute to play to get the ball back.

They also ran a double reverse which led to stone-footed Tom Brady catching a 36 yard pass. 

This was not a team that laid down and died. They fought. They fought like hell.  

When the Patriots scored on a Tom Brady one yard run with 3:00 minutes to go, the faithful who had not already fled the stadium erupted in cheers. The concrete and steel beneath my feet began to shake. I was jumping in the air, pumping my fist, offering high-fives to anyone I could find. Still down by a touchdown with three minutes to play and only two timeouts, the chances of tying or winning were still slim. The Patriots needed the ball back.

A recovered onside kick. 
A defensive stop.
A turnover.

They got the turnover, but they could not manage to drive the field.

We lost.

But those final five minutes... the joy, the hope, the possibility. It was amazing. It was a feeling that can only be experienced if you have been in the depths of despair. It was like watching a phoenix rising from the ashes. It was hope where there was once none.

These are not everyday feelings. These are momentous emotions.  

When the Patriots scored with three minutes to go, I turned to my friend - a man who once told me that I live in the moment more than anyone he has ever known - and said, "Listen. We probably aren't going to win this game. But please, don't forget this moment. This moment of joy and possibility. Don't let the depression of a loss steal this moment of happiness from you."

I was actually screaming these words to him over the roar of the crowd and the music, and I was holding onto him. Squeezing his shoulders and chest. Trying to force my words into his body.

My friend - who was also attending his first professional football game ever - did not heed my advice. He was not able to hold that moment of joy and hope in his heart. He grumbled on the way home. Told me that it's the end result that matters. That moments of possibility are meaningless when they don't result in a win.

I suspect that many Patriots fans will be feeling similarly today. They will be angry or annoyed or depressed today and perhaps tomorrow and maybe all week. 

I understand that, too. Had the Patriots lost 35-7 in a game that offered nothing by way of excitement and joy, I would be feeling the same way. 

But that's not what I watched yesterday. I felt joy in that stadium yesterday. Hope filled my heart. I witnessed an almost remarkable comeback by a team of determined football players.

For a short time, I was as happy as a person can be. 

And I got to see a crazy double reserve pass to the quarterback, too.  

Too often we forget the small moments of happiness and hope when the end result is less than we expected or desired.

Perhaps my friend is right. Maybe I am able to live in the moment more than most, but even more important than living in the moment is remembering those moments long after they have passed. It's honoring them. Recognizing them as important and blessed events in our lives. Acknowledging the great fortune to be able to exist in that moment, experiencing the kind of hope and joy that can be so elusive for so many.

I'm okay today. I didn't like the final score, and I wish that the Patriots comeback would have been complete, but the moments along the way were magical. Unforgettable. I'll keep them close to my heart and leave the final score for someone else to wallow over. 

The best moment that I have ever spent at a football game. Maybe one of the best moments of my life. And it happened during a timeout.

My love of the New England Patriots doesn’t make a lot of sense.

A collection of men who I have never met take the field to play a game that I have never played professionally, and even though I have no tangible connection to a single person associated with the Patriots organization, my heart hangs on every play.  

And it doesn’t matter who is playing in the game. Last night, in Gillette Stadium, I cheered on running back LaGarrette Blount, who just weeks ago was playing for the Pittsburg Steelers before being released for disciplinary reasons. 

Had he returned to Foxboro in the brown and gold of the Steelers, I would’ve prayed for abject failure. Fumbles and missteps and bone crushing tackles to the ground.

But last night he wore the red, white, and blue of my team, so I cheered him on as he ran over the Indianapolis Colts and helped to bring the Patriots – my team – to another Super Bowl.


As fan, we root for laundry. We are loyal to the uniform. Villains become heroes and heroes are made villains depending on the colors that they wear.

It’s almost religious. It makes no sense.

And yet I was standing in section 331, row 24, seat 5 last night, as the rain came down in sheets, euphoric as my team dismantled the Indianapolis Colts and punched their ticket to the Super Bowl.

Last week I watched the Patriots defeat the Baltimore Ravens in one of the best playoff games I have ever seen. In the end, the Patriots defeated the Ravens 38-34, but not before having to make up two 14 point deficits and pulling of some of the best and most unusual plays that I have ever seen. It was a frigid, dry night in Foxboro last week, but we forgot about the arctic temperatures. Ignored cold hands and frozen feet. There was too much  drama unfolding before us.

Yesterday was a different kind of game. Temperatures were near 50 for most of the night. Torrential downpours soaked is. The game was essentially over by midway through the third quarter. We were able to relax. Laugh. Celebrate. In my 10+ years as a season ticket holder, I have rarely laughed more than last night.

My favorite moment of the night, and perhaps one of my favorite moments ever spent in Gillette Stadium, was as the Patriots were driving to make the score 38-7. The rain was falling harder than it had all night. The wind was carrying it across the field in sheets. A timeout was called. The telecast went to commercial. Music began playing in the stadium:

Creedence Clearwater Revival's Have You Ever Seen the Rain.

In a downpour, almost 70,000 people rose and began to sing together. Our team was on the precipice of another Super Bowl, and we were fortunate enough to be there to watch it happen. In the driving rainstorm. On a dark and windy night. 

When the timeout ended and play resumed, the stadium stopped playing the music. Tom Brady stood under center, waiting for the ball to be snapped. Two teams were poised to resume battle. But the fans continued to sing.

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I have never felt such a collective feeling of joy as I did in that moment. Men and women of all ages, from all walks of life, sang a song that almost seemed to have been written for this moment. It was as if we had spent our lives listening to this song and learning the words by heart so that we could come together on this one night, in this singular moment, to sing in unison.

Your future self wants you to be daring and adventurous. Don’t let the current version of yourself screw things up because it’s cold.

I went to the Patriots-Ravens playoff game on Saturday. Though I love attending Patriots games at Gillette Stadium, it’s not always easy.

I left my house at 10:45 AM and returned home around 10:45 PM. It’s a long day. 

Prior to leaving the house, while I was dressed in my long underwear, my cat vomited on me. This might have happened regardless of my plans for the day, but it happened. It was a thing.

In a sad twist of fate, my friend received word that his cat was dying while we were on the way to the game. On Sunday, his cat was put to sleep.

It was about 15 degrees during our tailgate. We cooked steaks, beans, and loaded potato skins on a propane-powered grill. Less than 10 minutes after food came off the grill, it was cold.

The walk from the parking lot to our seats takes about 30-45 minutes depending upon the size of the crowd at the gates. It’s a battle through hordes of fans, and for a large portion of the walk, it’s uphill. Up about seven ramps to the upper deck and about 75 steps to our seats. By the time we finally sit down, we are stripping off our coats and hats because we are so warm.

The temperature dropped at game time. Factoring in the wind chill, it was about 5 degrees by the second quarter. Beers were freezing. I looked more like the Michelin Man than myself with the layers of clothing affixed to my body.


As soon as the game ended, we ran for the car. Beat the traffic out of the parking lot. Stopped at McDonald's to strip down to civilian clothing, I discovered that my face was seriously wind burned. Then we began the 75 minute drive to my friend’s house and the 45 minute drive on my own to my house.

It’s a sacrifice, particularly when the game can be watched in the comfort of my home.

But I sitting in the stands for the 2015 Patriots-Ravens playoff game, and I will never forget it. I saw and heard things that I have never seen before in a footfall game.

I saw Tom Brady throw a pass to wide receiver Julian Edleman, who threw a pass to Danny Amendola for a touchdown. Strangers embraced me as Amendola crossed into the end zone. I’m not sure if I’ve ever heard the stadium so loud. 


I heard referees announce that Patriots running backs and tight ends were “ineligible receivers.” “Do not cover number 34” a referee announced. It may have been the strangest in-stadium announcement in the history of the NFL.

I saw an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called on the Baltimore bench. Though I’m sure this has happened in NFL games before, I had never seen it. 

I watched a team come back from two 14 point deficits to win the game, the first time it’s ever happened in the playoffs.

I watched Tom Brady set the NFL record for passing yards and touchdowns in the playoffs.

I watched Bill Belichick tie Don Shula for the most wins by a coach in the playoffs. Next week, I hope to see him break that record.

Sure, I could’ve watched the game from my couch and been warm. Yes, I could’ve eaten a meal that did not go cold in minutes. It’s true, the hours spent traveling by car and foot to and from the game could’ve been better spent (though spending that time with one of my best friends wasn’t exactly a poor use of my day).

But I’m warm now. My belly is full. My face has returned to it’s normal color. And I have memories of time spent with a friend, watching history be made, that I will carry with me forever.

For about half a second, I had two extra tickets for Saturday’s game. My friend, who owns the tickets but was suffering from the flu, sold them quickly. But I had time to fire off some emails and text messages to friends to see if anyone wanted to join us.

Some already had plans. Some were out of state. One was anchoring SportsCenter in Dallas. But a few declined because of the cold. The travel. The effort required. The allure of the stupid box and the couch.

I feel bad for those who stay home for reasons like the cold.

You can always be warm tomorrow. You can take a nap and enjoy a warm meal the next day.  But you can’t make memories like the ones I did on Monday. Sometimes sacrifice is required to witness greatness.

Maybe it’s crazy, but the 99 year-old version of myself wanted me at that game. My future self wanted me sitting in section 323, row 24, seat 5, alongside my friend, cheering on my team as the temperatures approached zero.

I try to listen to my future self whenever possible. You should, too.

Future you is always smarter than current you.

My highly improbable weekend

On Saturday, I played golf. In December. In New England. The course was closed, and there were sticks and pine boughs in place of the pins, but that didn’t matter. I played.  

I didn’t even care that I lost.

On Sunday I attended the Patriots game at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots lost to the Buffalo Bills. Since New England had already locked up the top seed in the playoffs, the game had no real meaning. The Patriots sat many of their starters, and as a result, they failed to even score a touchdown.

I didn’t even care that they lost.


On Saturday night, I attended my extended family’s Christmas party in Massachusetts. I was in the room for more than five minutes when my wife called over to me. Pointed.

I looked. Standing in the corner was my father.

My father was at the party. My father does not go to parties. My father does not leave his house unless forced to do so. My father does not interact with large groups. My father does not attend family functions. 

My father was attending a family Christmas party. 

Given my immature and petulant need to win at all costs, I’m not sure which was more improbable this weekend:

  • Playing golf in December
  • Not caring about losing my golf match
  • Not caring about the Patriots losing their game
  • My father attending the annual family Christmas party

It’s nice when life can offer up such a bounty of surprises.

I began the day as a depressed and angry idiot. I ended the day with laughter and rainbows and sunshine. Literally. The lesson: Don’t give up hope.

Bad start to the day.

Arrived at my friend’s house, 40 minutes from my home, having forgotten without my ticket to the Patriots’ game. It requires an incredible amount of stupidity to do such a thing, and I felt like an idiot.

This meant that I would need to drive back home, pick up my ticket, and then drive to the game on my own, battling the traffic that would be building my the time I arrived in Foxboro.

It meant that I would not be driving with my friend, which is frankly one of the best parts of game day. The two hours that we spend in the car together is one of the best parts of my week.

It also meant that I would be paying $40 for parking instead of $10, because I would no longer be sharing the expense with my friend and the two others who we planned to pick up near the stadium.

It also meant that I wouldn’t be parking alongside my friends for our tailgate and would likely be hiking back and forth to their parking spot.

It also meant that I would be parking near the rear of the parking lot, slowing my departure by as much as an hour.

I didn’t think it possible that I could feel any worse. 

Then on the way back home, a police officer pulled me over for speeding.

I had reached the lowest moment of my day.

The police officer asked if I knew how fast I was driving. I did not. I explained that I was angry and hadn’t been paying attention.

He asked why.

I explained that my son had been in the emergency room late last night with a head wound. I showed him a photo on my phone.


I told him that my dog was making my wife crazy at home by barking and scratching, and that she was texting me continuously about it. I showed him the series of angry text messages. 

I told him that I had forgotten my ticket to the Patriots game and had cost myself a drive to Foxboro with my friend and at least two hours of additional driving on my own. 

The officer felt my pain. We talked for ten minutes. He let me go.

From that point on, my day turned around completely.

I arrived home and was able to kiss my daughter, who was asleep when I had left. I told her that I had come home just for her.

She’s five years-old, so she bought it. 

My drive to Foxboro only took 90 minutes. Record time. Surprisingly, there was absolutely no traffic at all. 

On the way to the stadium, alone in my car, I came up with two new ideas for novels. I also prepared and rehearsed a story for an upcoming Moth event and listened to three podcasts. Not as good as driving with my friend, but not bad.

Miraculously, I arrived at the stadium just 15 minutes behind my friends. As I pulled into the lot, the people parked beside my friends decided to move their car, which no one ever does. One of my friends ran up to the parking lot attendant and asked if I could have the spot, and shockingly, he said yes.

The odds that the people parked beside my friends would move their car just as I pulled into the lot are astronomical.

The meal, which consisted of donuts, sausage and peppers, burgers, and dogs, was free (and my friend had planned on it being free all along), saving me the normal $20 food fee and offsetting most of my additional parking fee.


Even though the Patriots were playing a 1:00 game, we had a game to watch on our television while tailgating because Detroit and Atlanta were playing in London. Atlanta was winning 21-0 at halftime, but I told my friends that Detroit would make a game of it in the second half. They scoffed.

Detroit won 22-21.

The weather, which was overcast and cold while we were tailgating, turned sunny and warm as we entered the stadium.


The Patriots routed the Bears. 51-23, and it wasn’t even that close. We laughed and cheered and had a great time. 

Our parking spot in the lot turned out so good that we were on the road by 4:05, and I walked into the house before 6:3o. Record time.

I saw a rainbow on the way home.

I was incredibly sad and angry when I discovered that I had left my ticket at home. The flashing red and blue lights of the police cruiser brought me to the depths of despair.

Then my day turned around completely. The universe smiled on me for a day. For me, this is unusual to say the least.

But it’s a good lesson. Sometimes things can turn around on their own through no effort on your own. Despair can transform into joy when you least expect it.

So don’t give up hope.

“Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

Even if you are incapable of making a difference in your own life, the universe can smile upon you at any moment.

Wait for that moment.

My wife and children are ruining football for me.

I attended the Patriots game on Sunday. The weather was spectacular, the pregame tailgate menu was superb, and most important, the Patriots won.

It was the first game in more than a month for me. I missed both home games in October thanks to my book tour and a wedding.

I was happy to return to Gillette Stadium on Sunday. I love attending Patriots games. When I was young, I made a list of life goals, and one of them was to become a New England Patriots season ticket holder.

I’ve been dreaming about these Sunday afternoons (and occasional Monday nights) for many years.

While attending these games often means the loss of an entire Sunday, there are only eight home games a season (six for me this year), so it isn’t too big a burden.

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Except now I have a wife and a daughter and a son who inexplicably continue to do fun and cute and memorable things while I am away at the game. Rather than placing themselves in suspended animation or parking themselves on the couch, anxiously awaiting my arrival, they do stuff that I want to do, too. They continue to exist, and I find part of me wanting to exist alongside them.

I miss them, damn it. It’s so annoying.  

Five years ago a day spent at the Patriots game was pure bliss for me.

Now I miss stuff like this, making the games slightly bittersweet. 

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We won that game three separate times, and then we lost.

Excluding Super Bowl losses and a playoff loss to the New York Jets a couple years ago, yesterday’s Patriots loss to the Arizona Cardinals might have been the most difficult loss to bear in my entire life, for the following reasons:

1. It broke a home opener winning streak which began ten years ago with a miracle comeback victory against Buffalo that I watched from within the confines of Gillette Stadium. It was one of only three times that my friend has ever been willing to hug me.

2. It was a perfect day for a football game, and home openers are always special. Troy Brown was inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame and Drew Bledsoe threw him one more pass on the turf of Gillette Stadium. Military jets soared overhead as the national anthem concluded. The sky was blue, the air was warm and the bacon-wrapped chicken chunks were a thing of beauty. The steak was cooked to perfection. It was a day fitting of a victory. A blowout, even.

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2. The Patriots lost to the Arizona Cardinals at home. The Cardinals are not a good team.

3. The Patriot were not outrun, out passed or out tackled yesterday. They did not play well, but they were beaten by a blocked punt, a tipped ball that resulted in an interception, a phantom holding call and a phantom false start. Though the Patriots certainly deserved to lose the game, they lost the game thanks to a handful of unusual and somewhat freakish plays.

4. Worst of all, I thought the Patriots had won three separate times.

First, there was the fumble with two minutes to go that gave the Patriots the ball back within field goal range, down by two. Though it was foolish to begin celebrating the victory at this moment, we did.

Next was Danny Woodhead’s touchdown run which would have put us ahead by 5 with less than a minute on the clock, only to be called back by the aforementioned phantom holding call. We had already been celebrating victory for a full 30 seconds before we even saw the flag.

Finally, there was a the missed field goal, which looked good from our angle in the stadium, prompting us to begin celebrating victory again only to learn 10 seconds into our leaps and screams and high-fives that the kick went wide left.

The kicker had already made four field goals that day with ease. Two were over 50 yards. He had successfully kicked 24 consecutive fourth quarter field goals up until that point.

Then he missed a 42-yard field goal with one second left on the clock.

It was a series of emotional swings over a five minute period of time like few I have experienced in my life, and it left me empty and exhausted.    

My former students have said that I can be surly and demanding the day after a Patriots loss. My current batch of kids should count their lucky stars that we have the day off for Rosh Hashanah.

Perhaps I will feel a little better tomorrow.