Posts Tagged With: failure

My Eskimo.

 

I feel like my whole life, there’s always been an Eskimo standing in my way.

Thinking about my last blog, We All Have Our Eskimos , and the longer portion of the journey I’m about to take, it’s made me gratefully reflect on how much of the road I’ve already traveled.

When you are discouraged, weary, or looking for the last bit of strength to keep going forward, take a moment to look back at how far you’ve come.

 

Why, David?

Why do I “have” to do this? Am I unstable? Am I “throwing it all away”?

Honestly I try not to laugh out loud when you ask those questions. I can hear the fear in your voice. You have so much, it seeps out and bleeds onto everyone else you “worry for”. In fact, you have so much fear in your life, that you have cast it on to me, expecting “the more the merrier” in your desperate club, seeking to convert more members.

No, this was a very deliberate and necessary decision.

Let me say this instead: it really isn’t anything new for me.  (hence the Boy Meets World article & quote)

I barely made it through high school without getting kicked out on the street, 2 or 3 times.

I decided to stick it out, bite my tongue, and try to stay –because even at 16, I knew there was nothing more to that kind of freedom than a decade of uneducated minimum wage labor, living in a crappy apartment, with no true way out. A high school dropout, fighting to just survive.I’d essentially be stuck there too. And I didn’t want to just survive. I wanted to thrive. I wanted to live. So, I truly do understand how people get to that kind of hopeless place in life, where people look down on them and see them as lazy or not contributing to society. I was almost that story.

I have compassion for those people we think of as the bottom of the drip pan, holding out their tongue for the good graces of “trickle down theory” because of the unique perspective my I’ve been so graciously  “given” through my life’s challenges. I am always reminded of
the introduction of a book I first read around the same time: The Great Gatsby

“In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing anyone, just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.”

Now this isn’t a plea for you to pity the downtrodden. I don’t know what your worldview is. And I get that most people don’t agree with me. In America, we believe that most anybody (clear of a life threatening debilitation) should be able to “make it” on their own, without help from anybody. It’s the Rockefeller story that we repeat over and over, saying “anybody could do that!”.

But, I ‘m not going to argue that point right now. I just want to make the distinction that the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps, boy!” mentality is a larger pill to swallow for some, because other people have it easy and this sounds like a simple solution. They never had to fight for anything. Everything was given to them.

That said, here’s the real simple distinction, a precursor to that statement: It’s just plain harder for some than others. Obviously, I believe in taking control of your life. That’s always been my view, which dictates most of history.

I was talking to my friend DJ the other day, who is trying out for the NFL, and he said, “You know man, it’s like this: most of these kids had it easy. They went to Ivy League or huge state schools with a paid tuition from their daddy or a scholarship. I went to a small town Oklahoma school and paid for it without getting any scholarships. They played on prime-time TV and didn’t have to worry about getting signed after college. I’m 25 and just now gettin my shot. So I feel you. Ya, it’s taken me longer, but you know what, I wouldn’t trade it for anything; it makes me try that much harder. It gives me my edge. It will be my story to tell. It’s made me fight for what I want. Someday, you’ll tell that story too, David. ”

But let me put it this way: How big are the boots? And how heavy are they? Are the straps frayed and prone to breaking, every damn time you think you’ve got a good grip?

 

storyline

My Story

I was told I would never “make it,” living on my own. That I would never amount to anything.

I had worked a formal job since the day I turned 15, paying for my own stuff. So, after high school, with my earnings, I moved to Oklahoma, not knowing a single soul. I started over. I created a whole new life, building from nothing. I faced my fears head on, determined to prove everyone wrong.

I was determined to prove this impossible wrong. Failure was not an option on the table.

Looking back at all the friends and connections I have in that small Okie town, it’s hard to believe I had the stones to suddenly pack up and move there at 18, with no guarantees. But I did. And not only that, I thrived.

People told me I would never go to college or become anything in life. Well, as I prepare to graduate, I can hardly believe it myself.

My dad told me I wasn’t smart enough to go to school. So I tried that much harder. At first, to prove him wrong….but then because I really started to enjoy it. I found out……I wasn’t dumb. I actually loved learning…..and was a really good student. In addition to school work, I took flying classes through the school’s aviation department and soloed, gaining many hours afterwards– a very literal feeling of independence I still do not take for granted, though I haven’t flown a plane in 3 years. It taught me so many things about myself and what I was truly capable of. The sky is the limit.

I taught myself poetry. I taught myself writing. I taught myself photography.

I had to pay my way through college, with no idea how the hell this would happen. Well, I not only held down work and school, but started doing photography, in addition.

I bought my own equipment and my Sophomore year I quit a really good job I had in radio to open up my business, David Reagan Photography, officially. Full time.

Yeah, I was scared to death. Just when I was startin to build up all my “safety nets,” I began to tear them down again. In my head, I thought, “What are you doing??!!” But I knew it had to be done. You have no idea how scary it is to open a business and have only yourself to blame. If you fail and bills don’t get paid. There is no hourly wage guarantee to calculate your budget, whether you’ll make rent. This made me self-reliant and matured me in ways I can’t even tell you. Last year, I photographed Miss Teen Texas, a model, and was hired to go on a photo assignment to South Africa.

I not only overcame my vast distrust of people, but I learned to open up and let people love me– and love them back. I found communities that accepted me and told me I was vital to them. This was huge for me. I came from a place where I didn’t feel wanted, where I closed myself off and looked out for only myself, because I had quickly learned that was the only way to survive in the “real world”.

Facing Fears

Though I still have many fears to conquer (re-conquer).

Okay, honesty time. Here’s a few:

Fear of hardship.  I crave my bed after little sleep, a long, stressful 9 hour day of work and physical exhaustion at the gym. And I absolutely love hot showers. But I’ll have neither of those luxuries on my trip.

Fear of vulnerability.  I have a fear of women, putting myself out there to love and be loved again. (This is one I need to re-learn) But it’s hard to be vulnerable when you’ve been cheated on. I feel as if, in some ways, I’m back where I was graduating high school. BUT this time, I’m facing it with an awareness it’s there.

Fear of logistics.  unknown places if you will. Mostly because I’m horrible at navigation and reading maps. This kind of will have to change. haha

Fear of dying.  My friend asked me this weekend if I was prepared to die . Gotta face that. Damn.

Fear of hunger. I keep having nightmares (thanks to all of you constantly telling me!) I might find myself stranded in between cities without food. (also water)

Fear of nature’s ugly sister. Snakes and all the things that go bump in the night….when you’re camping by yourself!

Fear of public image.  People will think I’m crazy. Like literally insane. I worry about what people think wayy too much, even to this day.

Fear of loneliness. Undoubtedly this one will be faced, with so much time on my hands. It’s unique because most of society keeps themselves so busybusybusy they never have to listen to their own thoughts. Often, we’re scared of that part raw, smothered part of ourselves and attempt to fill all our free time and head space with white noise.

Fear of failure?

 

Why It’s not “easy,” even for me

For clarification,

I’m not writing this from the position of “having nothing to lose” and just want to take a fun little trip. No. That’s all wrong. It scares the hell out of me. I had the most to lose. I still do. I was the least likely person to ever embrace this. I had the ideal set up, with a town, friends, a self-employed job, connections, and money. But giving it all up….is what drove me– facing every fear and “impossibility”.

In fact, just a couple weeks ago, a friend and I were talking about the different “safety nets” we create and tell ourselves we need. I told him about the trip. He responded, “Ya, that’s easy for you, but you have nothing to lose. I could never do that.”

I stopped. “Wait, what do you mean?”

“Well….don’t take this the wrong way David, but I think you’re at a great point in your life where you have no obligations. It’s prime- You’re staying at your grandparent’s, about to graduate, working at a crappy grocery store, and see yourself as having nothing to lose, as you leave for this adventure. Am I right?”

I looked him square in the eye.  “No. Ben, you’ve got it all wrong. You really don’t know why I’m here, do you? Understand, I’m here, talking to you right now…because I’ve already lost everything. Actually, everything is at stake. The journey began months ago when I moved away from everything I’ve ever known. This is simply the first stop. That’s why I’m in South Texas. “

I’m at a crossroads in my life. And standing still, not choosing any path, will get me run over. It’s not the trip I fear, but the idea of never chancing to take it. That’s what kills me.

 

Summary of the past 2 month’s blogs

I relate to you. The aimless, the apathetic, the burnt out, the poor, the smart and the uneducated,  the proud, the distinguished, the lost, the weary-eyed tech gazers, the displaced 21st gen. who do not resemble the hobos after the 20’s depression any longer.

They look more like the post-graduates of the show “workaholics,” toiling under a job they hate, under massive loans, under a boss they hate, doing meaningless entry-level work….because they see no other way out. [This is the aimless generation of America. But in the disguise of prosperous times and modern safety-net systems. No child left behind, right? Eh?]

I see our generation wandering in a different way than the Jack Kerouac’s of the 30’s, who literally struck out on the road, searching for purpose. I see our generation as those who treat career jobs like shitty minimum wage jobs, because we have only been taught to show up and log in the hours. We have been taught that was admirable, expected, and the only choice. We were not told, however, to put forth meaningful work, to chase after our passions and enjoy what we do.

Where do you picture yourself 10 years from now? What do you want to be able to tell your friends (or kids) you’ve done? Yes, these are allowed to be intangible achievements too. All the better. Write a bucket list. I promise you won’t regret it. Hell, there might even be an app for that these days. I don’t know. At your 50th year reunion, what do you want to tell those bald, wrinkly, beer-bellied jocks you did? (Pssst. I’m going to venture out and take a guess that your priorities will be completely different from high school. Just sayin. Make it good, not cop-out stuff like “shag Mary-jo”)

The point is, if you’re putting off your dreams right now, because something is in the way, “for the moment,” you’ll still be waiting when you’re 70. Because something will always be standing in your way. There will always be an Eskimo, resting atop the billboard scrawled with your passions, taunting your dreams which seem oh-so-close, blocking your way. There will always be an excuse. There will always be “something to finish up,” or a job, or a friend, or a critic, or a place….which you can’t seem to leave yet, due to “responsibilities” or what you “should” do.

 

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The (almost) Vagabonds of a Generation. [Part 3]

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It’s the “rock bottom” attitude that I want to challenge today.

Rock bottom is just an invented place where the weary travelers rest.

 

There is always further distance to fall. And to definitely greater heights to climb.

As I’ve been talking about in Parts 1 and Parts 2, I believe

in our generation……we err not in our extremes, but in our stunning display of mediocrity. Taking a picnic between solid ground and summit. 

Also, consider there actually are two ways to fail:

-From never trying

– From succeeding at things which really don’t matter

Both stem from the “No way! I’m leaving my circle. This-is-all-I’ve-ever-known”  excuse.

 

It’s the comfort seeker inside of you.

Yes, you know the one. He’s small and green and hungry, like the creature from the Mucinex commercial, but instead lives in the deep in your belly and refuses to eat anything other than sweets.

And because, in America, sugar-infused products are never in short supply, you and he are good friends.

In fact, you have never had a single argument.

But one day……..the minute he grows parched, the minute he doesn’t get what he wants,

all hell will break loose.

Tantrums will ensue the painful aftershocks.

You will be at war with yourself. This thing inside of you. It affects everything. Like a how a toothpick under the fingernail racks the whole body with electric shocks.

And you’ll wonder,

How could something so insignificant take over my life?  When did I lose control and start letting circumstances dictate my happiness?

Why did I tell myself, I need ______ to achieve my full potential?

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We live in, not only a nation, but within an era, where possessions are the highest form of aspiration–the greatest measure of “success”.

I’m not even going to waste my time making an argument about this.

It’s apparent. It’s accepted. It’s aspired to.

If I could go even 1 day without seeing a car, which cost more than a house anywhere else in the world, I might take give a double take. For a brief second.

So, moving on with my point,

Even if you want to, it’s extremely difficult to get rid of this perspective.  We were born into it.

[The best in the west! ‘Merica!]

 

Sorry. Had to get that one in.

I like that word because “millennial” subculture has re-manned it for comedic use. When some yells, “Murica!” after someone’s statement, we take a second look. We laugh. It has helped us see the extremes of our nation and poke a little bit of fun at some things which needed poking. (Or a straight slap in the face by a bald eagle). And as it’s done with humor, we’re starting to be able to laugh at ourselves, which is awesome.

And here’s why I like that interjection:

I think it’s really hard to be aware of why we do the things we do, on a daily basis. Half the time we fall into error due to good, ol’ fashioned ignorance. On auto-pilot. It’s not purposeful. But that doesn’t really help the outcome. Also, it never hurts to have a sense of humor. When you begin to take yourself too seriously, people become objects and opposition, instead of the main focus.

 

So what is the “main focus”?

God, how do I say this to you without sounding…trite?

If you were broke – and I mean dead broke, on the street- could you still be happy?

That’s what I aim to find out.

The reality of the answer for most of us is screaming “no!”. Already. And we haven’t even left out chair! C’mon, be honest with yourself.

But……what if it was embraced…willingly?

That’s what I started asking myself. (among other things) What is the struggle of modern American youth? As I mentioned in Part 2 last week, it’s certainly not physical or material. No, it is “spiritual”. Perhaps not in the sense of religion, but that we are apathetic about creating meaning in our lives. We have given up on searching for our passion. We have given into the norms of society.

Giving up is always easier than embracing the struggle.

So, ask yourself: If you stripped away ev-er-y-thing, all the things you consider “necessities,” could you still find meaning in your life? Would you have the courage to chase after those deeper passions?

me

I mentioned I was going on a road trip across America. But I didn’t tell you how.

 I wasn’t sure you were ready for it.

Most people aren’t when I tell them.

They look at me like I’m crazy.

Well, here it is: I’m going on foot. I’m hitchhiking and riding on trains. With only a backpack, a small camera, and notebook.

No safety net. Nothing for someone to be able to argue, “well David you weren’t really homeless.” Or “Well, you didn’t really have it that bad, because you had______” (insert whatever here, like blow up mattress, The Hilton, a car, gas money, 3 square meals, etc).

Nothing.

No promises. No expectations. No guarantees. Strip away all of my comfort zones.

Some people told me, “Yes, but I’d feel more comfortable if you did it with ______ (items)”  ……….If I could eliminate all the risk from the start, what would the point be?!

The point of life is not to successfully wall off any possible room which leads to “risk” or “danger”.

THE POINT IS– WE ARE ALREADY TOO COMFORTABLE. We are entertaining ourselves to death.  Who decided comfort was the point, or single hallmark, of a “successful” life anyways?

 

All this to say: I want you to know, at the lowest of your lows, there is always an option. Believe that.

Sometimes, we just don’t like it. Mostly because it’s never an easy one. You always have an option. We just convince ourselves we can’t afford take it.

But you can’t afford not to. A heart is a precious thing to waste.

Find it and don’t let go; don’t let anything stand in your way. That’s it. Don’t over-complicate it.

Oh come on now. Please don’t make that face at the computer that says “You’re crazy anyways. No way in hell I’d do that!” I’m not saying your journey will look anything like mine. That’s your story to write and everybody’s conflict will be different. I just want to show you that it’s possible.

 

……Maybe somewhere along these roads we’ll both find hope and reason to believe in the “pursuit of happiness” again.

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10 Years From Now…[Part 3]

 

So, to recap Part I and Part II of this series,

I basically equated one of my teachers with a well-intended, roid-raging version of Mr. Keating from Dead Poets Society.

Ya, that’s a pretty rough metaphor. So, “Dr. Reality Check,” if these posts somehow make their way back to you…….(as they inevitably do in small towns)…ummmm….you can tell it however you want, when you make your own blog. I’m just doing what you taught me. Sorry, but you knew this day was coming when you enticed me into taking an extra course, “for fun”. Yes, I’m grinning as I write this.

But in all fairness, I’ll admit, it was one of the most important classes I took in college.  And inspired a blog post a year later. I’d call that a compliment. (I see the meaning of it all now. Hey, better late than never)

 

As I was saying,

It turns out, this class had a lot more to do with life than I thought. [See part 2 for backstory]

We only hated him because it resembled life all too well.

 

Life is a lot like Dr. Reality Check’s second question

#1: What do you want to be in life? What are your highest aspirations, if nothing stood in the way?

[Give essay answer]

 

#2:Now list 10 specific steps you will take to get from here to there.

 

We face these impasses, after a ridiculous amounts of training and motivational speeches, without a plan, and go……

“Ohhhh. Shit.     I got nothin.”

Not because you don’t sincerely want a real solution, but because you have always relied on the “right answer.”

Generic quick-fixes have a funny way of never being directly applicable to our life. In the real world, you have to think for yourself and want things for yourself. Nobody else can administer the motivation. There are no presets. There are no fill-in-the-bubble quizzes. And, sadly, the majority of us don’t realize this until its too late.

Way too late.

It sounds simple…because well, it is. The first part always is, remember? You read this and probably mutter, “Yayayah. I know. This is nothing new.” But this isn’t about reading something on a computer screen and changing your life. I’m not that conceited. Hell, I won’t even pretend to give you advice like that. Its near impossible. But mostly, I just won’t. It’s not up to me. You have to want it for yourself.

I will just settle to be your inspiration. That’s it. That’s all I can do for you. I just want to show you through actions and not just words— the important part. The second part. Your goals, dreams, aspirations. And the stuff down deep you haven’t even uttered out loud, much less to someone else. The stuff you think is impossible, so you try not to dwell on it more than a few meager, depressing seconds.

Like the screaming teacha’ suggested,

Write it.

Write all those things down. Even if you don’t show anybody at first.

But most importantly do it. Until you get it onto paper, it’s just theoretical, swirling around with your daydreams of a mid-afternoon nap and Reese’s cups, with hardly a speck of chance to be realized.

 

 

You can’t step forward on stones that haven’t even been laid out!

 

#1 Reason: It stops feeling imaginary. It becomes a possibility.

#2. It reminds you of your goals, everyday. Which you’ll find is really helpful for the times of hopelessness. (Post it on the bathroom mirror?)

#3. It makes it easier to verbalize, to construct, to explain, to share with a trusted and close friend.

Confiding in that someone, sharing your vision is a double-whammy, a 1-2 punch to the gut/ego. They will hold you accountable, but will also encourage you or offer helpful suggestions (unless you have that sarcastic best friend who likes to motivate you by insulting you, calling you sissy and whatnot). It’s a balance. So pick someone who knows you. They’ll be like a doubt-fighting sidekick. But without the tights. (unless you want, ladies)

 

So, this part isn’t even about the faith of “stepping stones”. You aren’t there yet. This is (figuratively speaking) about mapping your route on paper, road by road, instead of just pointing to a state, mouth dumbly gaping, shouting “I want to be there….”.

You’ll be surprised by how it makes those far-away dreams seem a little more real, and just a tad bit closer. And this doesn’t even have to do with your school or job, necessarily. I’m talking about bigger things. What is it you want to do, to make a difference? outside the 9-5 everybody works. [If your biggest aspiration is a job, you need bigger goals. If you don’t believe me, see Kid President.]

What impact do you want to have, beyond just showing up and punching in the right answer, to get you by?

I don’t want to just “get by.” I want to live a radical, interesting story– one you can’t even attempt to nod off to. I don’t want the usual “solution” for my problems, or to embrace the status quo, just because that’s what we were taught. 

 

Following my own advice

Big announcement for my friends (and acquaintances/followers): In the upcoming months, I will be preparing to chase after my dreams, instead of just talking about them. Real preparations for a NON-hypothetical adventure. Rather than just whining about unpleasant circumstances and what I wish I could do, I’m going to make radical changes. I’m just going to do it.

Whether or not I succeed, is not the point. Whether I leave this chair, instead only writing about them, IS.

south Texas.
January 2013

This spring, I’m going to be embarking on an epic, solo road-trip across America. On foot. For a couple months. This is something I’ve been planning for a while now.  

At the lowest point in my life…..l want to show you this leap of faith IS possible.

And I will- show you- not with words, but with actions. I will follow through on my own advice, which as we know is the hardest thing to do. I will abandon all my fears, knowing it “only goes up from here”. I will continue with my project of complete honesty and traversing the unknown, no matter where it leads.

You can keep me accountable and encourage me.

I reached a point where I want to stop talking about my desires in life, and start chasing them.
Funny how, all of a sudden, when you have to flesh out that second question Mr. Reality Check asks, the realization hits:

We’re scared to actually go after some lofty goal. It’s easier to shoot the shit. Trying means failing is an option.

But I’d rather have 1 small dream I’m actually living out, no matter how insignificant, than die having 100 unfulfilled, lofty dreams.

It’s the illusion of actually living that kills us. Sometimes, it’s the talking about dreams that kills us. Because that’s all it ever ends up being. Talk. And more self-doubt. And excuses.

 

But, 10 years from now, do you still want to be making excuses?

 

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