Posts Tagged With: life writing

Day 2: How the Theme of My Trip Started

Despite the many stories I could tell you…I sat here in my chair tonight, in Beaufort N.C, not knowing what to say.

So much to say… and here I sit, feigning a really crappy version of writers block. It’s kind of like the feeling I had in college, when I had so incredibly much homework to do that I watched TV. It piled up, so I put it off altogether. You know the feeling.

I have a migraine and a million excuses I’m making to myself – why you won’t want to read my boring, predictable anecdotes. But Patrick, one of those amazing people I’ve met along the way (letting me crash at his place right now) reminded me to press on.

He said, “DAVID! I live with you now and I still want to see a new freakin blog post! Jeez, would you update it already?!!”  Made me laugh a bit. But he’s right. It’s time you knew the good and the bad. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to yet. It hasn’t been logistically possible, like I assumed. And I wouldn’t have had time to anyways. (chuckle) But now I can!

I’m overwhelmed with where to begin. There are so many things I want to share. But I doubt I have time for the majority of what I want to say on this blog. So I’ll pick and choose a few from each state which you may find relevant, without having to know my whole journey’s timeline.

So, for now, I’ll just approach it like I do on the road: One day at a time, one story at a time. Where it ends up, we’ll see.

Beaumont, Tx

Beaumont, Tx

Day 2.

I had coffee and one last good breakfast before leaving the old town, southern bliss- Beaumont. I walked out the door of that beautiful entry-way, with its embodiment of every warm and earthly comfort, and looked at Ben.

 He gave me a look that was full of excitement and slight jealousy, eyes gleaming like quarters, grinned, put his hands on my shoulders and said,
“Well.   This is it.”

I honestly don’t remember what he said after that, because it was so surreal. Just that line stuck with me. He was right. After all the talking and planning and writing and wishing I’d done, none of that could have compared to this sensation.I could hardly believe it was finally here. The rush had snuck up on me somehow, despite the fact I thought I was more than ready.

I had that feeling you get when you arrive at the airport with a tingly lump in your throat, itching to get through security….and the burning, numb feeling like after you take a shot of whiskey.
I knew I had a big adventure ahead. And it wouldn’t end anytime soon. There was no sentiment of, “Ya, but I’ll be back next week.”

The hugeness of it hit me. There was no going back.

I had already said goodbye to all my friends in Durant, Oklahoma and Dallas, Texas in December. Without notice and only one class left to graduate, I packed up my stuff overnight, put it in storage, and left. I said goodbye to the few close friends who knew I was leaving. I left a town and friends and everything I loved….knowing full well it would be a very long time before I ever came back. If I came back.

And now, I had one friend where I moved on the coast of South Texas. I saw him every couple weekends, as I worked a crap job. He lived about 30 minutes away.

He was the last person I dared to let into my life.
All the walls had gone up again, yet he managed to start prying a few bricks away in a few short visits.

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So here I was. It had all led up to this moment. And I knew it. I was cutting my very. last. safety-net.

Somehow, I found myself walking down the street, looking back at Ben as he closed the doorway.

I waved goodbye to to the last friend I had yet to leave. I knew it had to be done for me to move forward. You cannot live in two places at once. I knew it was for the best, but that didn’t make it any easier.

That was the only hard part.

I say this to relate to you just how sad I was to leave him standing there. I hadn’t expected to feel sad for someone I’d known for such a short period of time. Yet I was.
He had shown me what friendship and unconditional love really looked like, more than most had ever done in my life. And I had only really gotten to know him in the past 3 months. But for some people, all it takes is 3 hours, and our lives are changed. He doesn’t know this. And, once again, I find myself wishing I’d told the people in my life how much they mattered, when I had the chance. I didn’t realize it at the time, my head a thousand miles away (almost literally) though I was consciously grateful. It’s not an excuse, but it’s true.

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Longboarding with Ben on Day 1

So Ben, if you ever read this, I want you to see that you impacted my journey in a bigger way than you’ll ever know. Thank you. The people’s lives you’ve touched as a result cannot possibly be measured. You helped propel me into the next chapter of my life, with clear eyes and a full heart. It would have happened either way, but not with quite the same attitude. Because of that, people got to see a different David, who wasn’t just limping along, but leaping. I wasn’t leeching off other’s passion, I was overflowing with my own. Every person I’ve met now has been affected by you. Just like that, one person made a difference in so many people’s lives.

To list merely a few,

He made sure, every time we were together to show me a good time. We would just cut loose and de-stress. No worries after all the crap that happened through the week.

Other times, he brainstormed with me when I did need to really think hard.

He reminded me that I’m not alone, and that there is hope yet ahead – that there are great things ahead for me.

He helped me plan my route out of town and the train I would catch, as well as other details. We stayed up late, drinking beer and going over the map.

He gave me advice that sticks with me to this day; he endured listening to my rants when I just needed someone to talk to.

Planning the next day's logistics

Planning the next day’s logistics

He didn’t judge me when I opened up to him about my brutally honest, blasphemous questions concerning community, our “great nation”, society’s expectations, disillusionment with the norm, fears, insecurities, goals, God’s existence, church, women, friendship, money, and mythical love.

He didn’t pressure me into his perspective. He never judged my own. He didn’t lecture me about safety; he instead equipped me as best he could, knowing that I’d leave either way.

He gave me his time, a jacket, a knife, food, and a place to sleep.

He never told me not to go, or that I was crazy for doing it.

He never told me how to go.

He was one of only 2 people who encouraged me to do it, knowing it was something I needed to do.

I honestly don’t know how he did it. Because almost every base reason for doing what I’m doing conflicted with his beliefs and lifestyle.
But he understood one simple thing not many other people did before (not after) I left. He got it:
You don’t have to agree with everything….or anything somebody does, to love them and just be their friend. To give.
I had nothing to give him in return. He expected nothing. He just gave and gave and gave, without even cashing in on the age old “well if you’re my friend, you now have to at least listen to my warnings” etc

Sometimes, it only takes one person. One unique person, bold enough to be different and unashamed of it. It doesn’t take hundreds for our heart to fathom that those kind of people still exist. It just takes one.

And that’s the first story of how one person impacted so many.
It set my journey’s theme for whole rest of the trip.

Unconditional kindness and love, in the midst of hard times, in unexpected places, and they expect nothing in return. I’m sorry I don’t have the words to better explain it. But there it is.

Those people do exist. They’re not the majority; they’re the minority. But hey- don’t play the numbers game. Not everyone can play a main character in your story. Only a few.

I can attest to the fact, it takes a while to find them -the one out of a thousand who will stop by on the road to pick up the hitchhiker. And that’s discouraging, of course.  Some days it outright pisses me off how many people and hours will pass before someone stops. Yes, it’s easy to focus on how shitty the rest are. But I’m not so sure that’s the focus.

Those few who do stop are the only ones who were worth riding with, all along. I know, it’s never ideal timing or the faces you’d expect it to be. It’s hardly ever the rich and famous, but they aren’t the ones who make a cliff note in your adventures and struggles. It’s not those kind of people you would’ve wanted to pick you up anyways.

Don’t take for granted the Ben Carpenters of this world.

You may be afraid to spend less time with the thousands of friends you have on Facebook, possibly offending somebody. But I promise, when you focus on those who actually want to be a helping part of your life and surround yourself with people who constantly love on you, it undoubtedly will inspire you to stop rambling about the rest of the those crazy characters who don’t matter and shouldn’t be taking up page space.

You’ll stop worrying about safety in numbers and start taking risks, maybe even taking risks as your own example to other strangers of unconditional love.

And just maybe, as we learn there are those few, it’ll make the world a hell of a lot less scary place.

 

Wasn’t at all where I planned to go with this post, but once again I have remitted control of the outcome. Perhaps I’m learning.

The end.
(for now)

Me and Ben went exploring at the beach on St. Patty's day, doing our best Boondock Saints impressions.

Me and Ben at the beach. Exploring on St. Patty’s day, doing our best Boondock Saints impressions.

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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?

 

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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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Categories: Life Writing | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

We All Have Our Eskimos

Ladies, you’re welcome for this picture of Rider Strong, the feature of this post. Eat your hearts out.

“We All Have Our Eskimos”   3-19-13

Interestingly enough, this episode is centers around Shawn. And while that is unusual for this show, I found myself in his story like you wouldn’t believe. When I first watched it, my mouth dropped open–I know there are a couple serious episodes in every season, but I was surprised at how “real” they kept the storyline.

 

[Boy Meets World: Season 5 episode 13]

Opening scene: “That’s impossible.”

Mr Feeny, returning graded essays to the class, says, “An interesting thing happened when I was grading this assignment Mr. Hunter. Yours wasn’t there.” {insert Feeny-ish dry sarcasm}

Before Shawn or anyone can even breathe, Cory sticks up for him, “Oh, oh- I can explain that!…” and makes some excuse about how they think so much alike they turned in one paper. Mhmm.

So Mr. Feeny gives them a “B”.

Then divides it by 2. Which is a “D” each for them.

Cory: HEY!

Shawn:  Still fair, still fair.  {laughter}

Cory:  C’mon! It’s senior year! Why are you being so tough with your assignments?

Mr. Feeny, getting frustrated, responds, “Fine! Make it two “F”s!”

Of course you know Topanga has to butt in: “No don’t fail them!….’F’s will haunt you for the rest of your career”

Cory says it doesn’t matter because they’ve all turned in their college applications……right? Wrong. Shawn speaks up. He hasn’t. Cory, quickly whipping around in his chair say, “What?! I filled them out for you!”

Shawn sullenly says, “What’s the point? People like me don’t go to college. Even if I get in, how am I going to afford it? There are so many things standing in the way…. (pause)

……Why are we doing all these assignments anyways? What else is there to learn?”

-SILENCE-

Cory echoes this statement, trying to back him up, but only digging a deeper hole.

-longer awkward silence-

Mr. Feeny, with a grave face, asks the entire class to leave, except them two.

Topanga chimes  in again, begging him not to fail Cory and Shawn. Feeny says, “You better stay too you little control freak.”

Turning to Shawn, Feeny states, “I want this assignment brought to my house by 5 o’clock today.

Shawn, with wide eyes, retorts “5 o’clock? That’s impossible!”

Uh oh. Feeny no likey. Shawn sarcastically blubbers to Cory, “Why doesn’t he just ask me for tickets to the Superbowl?!”

Feeny: New assignment! Come up with Superbowl tickets by the end of the week…..Mrs. Topanga!-I have an assignment for you too! Butt out of other people’s lives for one week. Otherwise, you get an “F”.  (she can’t help them)

Topanga: But I’ve never failed before!

Feeny: There’s a first time for everything. …And as for you Mr. (Cory) Matthews, since you feel so responsible for their fate, I have put their fate in your hands. Their success is your success; but if either of them fails, so do you.

 

Next scene: Silent Topanga

it cuts to the trio sitting around the kitchen table, brainstorming how to do this impossible assignment. The radio is playing in the background as Shawn and Cory come up with ridiculous ideas. The DJ announces a contest: call in for a chance to win tickets to the Superbowl! But only Topanga hears it. She frustratingly blares the radio in their ears, mimes the words, and even jumps on Cory’s back to get them to understand. It goes against everything in her nature not to yell outright it in their stupid, oblivious faces. She wants to help so bad; it’s killing her. She’s not good at suggesting; she’s good at telling people how it is. The boys finally hear it (without listening to Topanga), call in, and find out they’re the lucky caller!

Shawn (on the phone) : “Wait?! I have to do what now?!”

 

Next scene:  “He’s not going anywhere soon.”

Shawn, with a few others sitting on top of a billboard. One man is rolling by on a stretcher, being treated for hypothermia. A radio station is broadcasting live, from the street below the billboard. They’re holding a contest: whoever can stay up there the longest wins.

[By the way, it’s REALLY cold outside, where this takes place in Philadelphia’s winter.]

There are only 3 people left. Cory brings up some hot chocolate to his best friend, which Shawn gleefully taunts the other contestant with. Shawn drinks it in front of him and the man gives up. \

Only 2 left.

This “Eskimo”  isn’t moving anywhere soon.

This is Shawn’s only chance, and it is fading fast. It’s this or nothing, but obviously he can’t outlast the other guy. All options are exhausted. He sighs,

I thought I had a chance…..but

There’s always going to be an Eskimo standing in my way, isn’t there Cory?

As Shawn climbs down from the billboard, he mutters, “This whole thing was impossible.” Cory then says to himself, “Feeny knew that!”….

The trio returns to the classroom, saying they’ve “got it all figured out”.

“It was never about Superbowl tickets.”

Feeny: It wasn’t?

“Even though something is impossible, we still should have tried, because that’s all you ever wanted. You wanted us to try….even though it’s our senior year and there’s nothing left for us to learn.”

They think they’ve learned the “lesson” Feeny was teaching, as we (the viewers) are tricked into believing this is the moral of the story, nicely wrapped up– like every episode.

Wrong.

Feeny: Where are the Superbowl tickets?………

(serious pause)

Get the tickets, OR fail.

 

Next scene: “People like me”

 

In this clip, we find the climax of the story: After some searching, Cory and Topanga find Shawn, sitting alone, on top of the Billboard, thinking.

After they climb up, he blurts out, “Whenever I’ve wanted anything in my life, there’s always been an Eskimo standing in my way.”

He tells them about not being able to go to summer camp, like Cory did, and growing up in a trailer park, instead of a real house. These are basic examples for something that’s obviously a repeated theme in the story of his life.

Shawn suddenly stands up. “Well I’m going to the Superbowl!”  (Meaning, he’s literally going to find a way to San Diego, hitchhiking etc.)

Cory jumps on his feet too now, pleading with him not to go. “How?! You don’t have tickets. You don’t have a way of getting there.”

Shawn, with clear eyes and an unwavering voice declares, “Cory, people like me don’t go anywhere because they don’t believe they can get there. I’m my own worst Eskimo….If I don’t go, I’ll never go anywhere… Now be my best friend and get out of my way.”

 

Next scene: The grade

As Cory walks back into the classroom with Topanga, he says, “Mr. Feeny, I’ve failed you……..He was going to do this one on his own, no matter what.”

Feeny: Oh?…He said that? Those words?

“I guess I failed you on this one, huh?”

Feeny: On the contrary, you passed with flying colors.

…Cory, Shawn isn’t going to college and succeed because you want him to. He has to want to and believe that he can. You need to know that you won’t always be able to [help].

….Life is a lot tougher than school my dears.

‘In the final clip, everybody is watching the Superbowl at a restaurant.  Suddenly, Mr. Matthews jumps up and excitedly points out Shawn on TV, in the crowd. Feeny says to him, “How do you know?”

Because he’s holding up a sign: Hey Feeny, nothing’s impossible.

 

The Breakdown: My Thoughts and Questions about the Episode

Shawn learns the actual lesson, the most important one, though there are many to be gleaned here. He discovers the one we pass up oh-so-often in life, looking for a more neatly wrapped package. We want easy, simple answers, with rules, helpful hints and guidelines, along with a definite grading system.

Well life is a lot more complicated than school my dears.

Too often we stop at the first twist of the story, believing the lie that it’s okay to give up. As long as you “tried”. Whatever the hell that means.

It was mistranslated in our work-driven culture through the past generations, leading up until now. As I so similarly mentioned in my “Motionless Vagabonds” post, there are two ways to fail: from never trying or from succeeding at things which really don’t matter.

Somewhere along the way we started believing in the “As long as I just show up….” mentality

along with the “attempt the impossible” mindset….which doesn’t worry about actually succeeding in the reality of the situation.

It’s hard for us to envision the end goal, if we never believed it was possible anyways. We end up attempting short-sighted quick-fixes and frustratedly dragging our feet without purpose; We give up before we start.

Now, I could be wrong (and we’ll leave room for that), but what I gained from this story is not that some things are impossible….but we should still give it our darndest–oh well if we fail; some things are impossible; A for effort.

I think the question it asks is “What do you call ‘impossible’?

Better yet, is the word “impossible” just an excuse you tell yourself? I’m not saying that “trying” isn’t good enough; don’t misunderstand me. I think it’s the point.

Let me put it this way: nothing can be finalized, written in stone as “impossible” until the point at which we give up. Even if it’s whimsical, it doesn’t matter; it cannot be defined as such while you are still trying to prove it wrong.

Maybe if we completely redefined “possible,” drawing it’s circle much larger (maybe even all-encompassing) it would make us reconsider how far our “effort,” or action should go before giving up

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Feeny learns to let go, as they will be graduating soon and he will not be able to teach them any further. This is the last lesson, if you will.

Oh, and by the way, Topanga fails. Yup. Because she must learn that perfection not the point. Topanga, who has never gotten an “F” before, realizes the assignment wasn’t about her speaking up, but her always trying to obsessively control the outcome. As Cory learned the opposite, she found there is a time and place when she indeed should be speaking up, regardless of the looming consequences (the “F”). If you dig deeper there’s a lesson about priorities in here and not letting the goal hypnotize you into trampling all the people along the way, thus defeating the purpose. Never trying may ruin you, but so will comparing yourself to perfection.

And speaking of a “time and place for everything,” some of us fall into each of these roles at some point in our life. Or maybe we just “put on different hats” at certain times, with certain friends.

Sometimes, we’re Feeny, the “jerk” or “teacher,” yelling hard truths and teaching the tough lessons when it isn’t popular. They may not see  how it’s out of love yet, but it’s best way to motivate or help that “Shawn” succeed.

Whereas sometimes we need to just shut our mouth, like Cory. Even if they’re you’re very best friend, ultimately you can’t want it so bad for them that it magically happens. Cory won’t always be around to bail him out. Shawn has to take control of his life. Point blank.

Other times, like Topanga we should stop fearing the consequences for ourselves, if we volunteer to fight alongside them, and just speak up already.

But if your story is more like Shawn‘s….my hope for you is that you raise your banner high and show everyone watching, “Nothing is impossible.”

 

Here’s the episode, in its entirety. Enjoy!

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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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10 Years From Now…[Part 2]

Sorry guys. I forgot to upload the video for the movie “10 Years,” which reminded me of this question, spawning this series of blog posts. It may help you get the gist.

 

So, to back up.

The hardest class I ever took in college wasn’t even required for my major. And the worst part of it was… I took it “for fun”. Ya, I was that guy in college. I took extra classes, “just cause”.

[So I totally understand if that makes you want to tune me out right now. But I promise this series of posts isn’t about school. Unless you want it to be. Hopefully, it will mean something different to everybody.]

Anyways, I took this Public Relations course, where your grades were judged from projects like raising money for a non-profit cause, by putting on a benefit concert, or selling raffle tickets. Stuff like that. Very unconventional class, to say the least.

Our groups created imaginary P.R. companies. If we didn’t succeed, we didn’t pass.

Ya, there was no pressure on us or anything.

This teacher was like Mr. Keating, but raging on steroids [Dead Poets Society]. I think I’ll call him “Dr. Reality Check”.

Instead of bubbling in scantrons, I found myself drawing up a business model and creating commercials for TV and radio, to promote our company’s cause. It was almost all out-of-class work.  In class, we gathered around for fireside chats and discussed, realistically, how we planned on executing our business plan – the specifics. No generic fluff. He spotted that quicker than a fat kid tastes splenda in his “sweet” tea. We quickly realized that proposing solutions for problems are easy, when everything is hypothetical and the hot air never rises beyond the classroom ceiling.

With Dr. Reality Check, the usual college-kid bull shit answers were not acceptable. We all feared the moment he lifted his pointer finger to call on one of us. There was never a “right” answer, it seemed. No quoting the textbook. He would pace back and forth, saying, “hmmmmm….does anyone else have a better answer? That’s not what I’m looking for.”

But in my defense, it wasn’t our fault. We had been programmed over the past 18 years of our life in the public education system to give the predictable, textbook highlighted “right” answer. It’s what the teachers have always wanted to see, grading our tests. I think it is every bit like answering “Jesus” for any given question in Sunday School; Yes, it’s expected, but never wrong. But that wasn’t what this teacher wanted. This dude required us to think for ourselves and show how we came to that solution.

We all hated him by the end of the semester.

Poetry would have been a whole lot easier to come up with, on the spot.

We barely slept. My classmates, to this day, will attest to having violent, PSD-induced night terrors, imagining him calling on us. We thought we had the school system all figured out, by this point in our college career. But this random class was more work than all my other classwork combined. This isn’t how it works! We had no clue how far off we were. But none of those are the reasons we dreaded his deep breath, before announcing end-of-class assignments. Well, mostly. I did enjoy sleeping and having a social life, before that semester.

Yes, we loathed, even feared, the inevitable homework  which we wouldn’t humanly have time for. But the real reason for this dread is, we couldn’t stand the fact….. the answers couldn’t be copied, word for word, out of the book. He made us think.

We just wanted our standardized testing back. And his hardest portion of the final test was the question:

 

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

[Give essay answer]

Sounds easy right? Everybody has dreams and shit– you know, the stuff that keeps you awake at night. Or daydreams at a dead-end job. Either way, we all got ’em. Everyone could write a novel here. But the second part was harder.

 

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

“Oh.”

Ya, that’s everyone’s reaction. I dare you to get out a pen and paper. Because it’s really hard to commit to the second part, listing verifiable ways to actually see them happen. This is the part that stumps most of us. We have the first part, the easy part down, like our last name. We’ve rehearsed it a million times in our head. But the second part, we’ve contemplated about as many times as Lindsay Lohan has sobriety.

Dr. Reality Check said it is very easy to keep creating these elaborate dreams, if we don’t feel the pressure to follow through on them. No commitment factor= no pressure, basically.

 

Even today, as I write this, the question still hangs over my head.

So, what’s it gonna be? I mean, sure, I have an pretty good idea. But I sure as hell don’t have it all figured out.

There were no easy answers for the “solution” to this problem.

There never will be.

Because nobody can take control of your life for you. It can feel like others are integral to it sometimes, as they help guide you, walking along a similar path, in step, but nobody can walk it for you.

For example, a couple months ago I was sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting for him to show. I asked the nurse, “What kind of vitamin supplements should I be taking, as a 21 year old guy?”

Her response: “Oh, just Google it. I don’t know.”

Gee thanks.

But honestly, the secret is really this: nobody knows. Almost everyone’s faking it. The few who “get it,” have already been to the lowest place, the place where everything is stripped away, where only the bare truth remained, where they were forced to find the answers themselves, because those higher-ups who were “supposed” to know didn’t– a place where there is no Google solution.

We need to learn to be okay with that.

Especially in our (my) generation of get-it-quick-results and Googling damn near ev-er-y-thing.

High school and college can be great times for learning and thinking outside the box. Yes, I know that. I’m not discounting their importance. [More in part 3]

But, after that, what are you going to do–when the regimented structure and prodding is stripped away?

You will only have yourself consult. Only yourself to fault for failure, not the system.

No matter how much other people may want it for you, the choices in life are ultimately yours.

And, as I described in Part 1, not deciding to do anything IS making a choice.

 

So, 10 years from now, where do you want to be?

[To Be Continued……..in Part 3]

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10 Years From Now…. [Part 1]

Where do you want to be 10 years from now?

So I came across this movie the other day, 10 Years [2011]. I was mildly intrigued. At first, I passed it up and looked for another movie. I mean, it’s not exactly a cookie-cutter blockbuster script. So, it didn’t get a lot of attention. But, after a few days, this “10 years from now…” question really started rolling around in my head and gaining traction. It reminded me of something my teacher had asked me last year [more in Part 2]. I found myself daydreaming at work about what my reunion would look like. I wanted a really badass story to tell. Lets be honest– we all do. Would I be single, married, poor, or rich? etc.

The concept was really starting to interest me, and I hadn’t even seen the movie yet.

Well, I finally watched it. And yes, it was good. Remember, the film is NOT set in their high school prime. Which is odd for a plot. Think about it: In casting, they usually like to keep the characters young, healthy, and bright-eyed– in the “best years of their life.” But not this movie. It fast forwarded to 10 years later.

It’s the story of 4+ bachelor dude-bros/best buds who triumphantly reunite after all this time. Some things are the same, but things aren’t as they left them. And a bunch of insane guy-talk, beer, and hi-jinks are thrown in for good measure. And lots of reminiscing on old pictures and scrapbooks and memories.

But I’m more concerned with the reunion aspect.

It’s never how you picture it.

(or in some cases, it IS, because they stayed exactly the same, which is equally as sad)

I imagine, some of us will get fat. Some of us will chop off a foot of hair (some of us will grow it out and do the comb over. It will look horrible). There will always be the inevitable goatee, everyone sports. Which will be a better option than the other half of men, which will own mustaches. Some of us will have kids. Like 5 or 6 by then. But a few will just be getting started with their marriage, due to graduate school or a start-up business. Some people will have traveled around the world, or made a fortune; but others will never have left their hometown. Some will be druggies. Some will be unrecognizable with plastic surgery. The prettiest kids will lose their looks, and others will finally grow into them. Some of us will be famous, finally gaining popularity we never had in high school.

I think it will shock you. I have no idea what your reunion will look like. But I think the lack of nostalgic dreaminess you once envisioned will be what does surprise you. It will surprise you for completely different reasons

When I left for college, I didn’t go back to visit for over 2 years. At all. And, moreover, I can count on 1 hand the amount of times I’ve been back after.

I was only out of high school a couple years when I first got a taste of this. And it hit me in the face. Hard. One winter, after this long-awaited visit, I found myself shuddering in the rain, leaning heavily on a (now long-gone) friend’s shoulder, searching for cover from the downpour on the town square, shaking uncontrollably, whether from the cold or the night’s string of hazy encounters, I don’t know. I swallowed back the dry, inevitable feeling which rose in my larynx, threatening to steal the moisture also from my eyes.  I hadn’t cried in years. And now I found myself trying to hold back all those rising emotions, for fear of embarrassing myself in public.  I didn’t want to leave yet, but I realized I had nothing and nobody to stay for. I didn’t know where to go just yet, so I curled up on the steps of the  courthouse. Shit. I had come back for nothing. It was too late. I felt I wasn’t there when they needed me. Not that there was anything I could do, but it was crushing me anyways. I had found out one of my best friends was a drug dealer, who now hated his life, who talked in a passionless, monotone voice. Apathy filled the slow stride of his walk, like the bottles in his fridge. It broke my heart that night to see the depressing state some of my friends were in.

Anyways, When I did finally go back, I didn’t recognize my hometown. The usual shock I suppose: high school quarterbacks now fat, working minimum wage jobs, your old sweetheart is married, the religious zealots are now drunk dropouts, the nerdy kids became ridiculously successful, and an assortment of druggies, community college cop-outs, baby-mommas, and altogether lost friendships.

Very few of my closest high school friends made it very far. Even fewer had goals, for the next year. Much less 10 years.

I vowed to never let that happen to me.

I wanted to keep moving forward. High school would not define me. I was determined. I believed that. And I still do, very strongly. Your past does not determine your future. No matter how unlikely.

I want you to see that I am living proof of that. I was told I would” never finish college”, and “never make it in the real world,” and repeatedly that “I would never amount to anything”. But I did. And I am. Despite all odds. This is not a Joel Olsteen inspirational speech. I’m certainly not saying its easy. But I am saying its possible. I am saying, don’t buy into the lie that where we grew up defines or limits our future. I’d say more, but that’s a story for another day.

So, here’s a belated “I’m sorry” to those  friends. It wasn’t that I didn’t care. It was just something I had to do. I had to take care of me. I had to go learn all the things that made me the man I am today. Or else I’d be in the same, or likely worse, place, instead of traveling this world and writing to you. I fear what I would have become, had I stayed in that town.  I couldn’t grow, as a person, sleeping in a bed which I’d my feet already hung over the edge. I had to roam and stretch those legs. I still do. I’m not done yet.

I noticed the physical changes of the landscape too.  Even the city was in on the joke, playing along to this giant metaphor. As the city slowly started to creep in on my quiet suburbia. The bike trail I used to ride on with my best friend, taking long day-trips far away on countless adventures, was defiled by a modern transit system which links to Dallas. Well, there goes a piece of my childhood. That’s growing up for you. Change happens whether you like it or not. I will happen with or without you. But that doesn’t mean it has to be a bad thing. Use it to catapult you, to give you the needed shove to move forward, to embark on something much better. (instead of being left behind)

 

 

I’ve been thinking lately,

Where do you want to be, 10 years from now?

Because that will change how you live, in the present moment.

 

{To Be Continued…..}
More on this question in Part 2.

 

 

-Carpe Diem Dave-

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