Category Archives: the beginning

we all die trying to get it right

yesterday i left denver.  i was fortunate enough to get a few hours of sleep despite all the nervous energy coursing through my body, and even more fortunate that i was able to spend my last couple hours hanging out with one of my best friends, micah.  a seasoned traveler himself, we chatted about where my head was at and what sorts of ideas i had for route options, etc.  over burgers and milkshakes (i wanted to make sure my last meal – for the foreseeable future – in america was thoroughly american). a very intuitive being, micah could sense a slight unease within me, so rather than dumptruck me with typical advice about where to go and what to do and what to see, the usual things people offer when they find out you’re going somewhere they’ve been, he opted for less-traversed but just as – if not more -important topics. things like how to combat feeling like a tourist. how to get away from the things your guidebook tells you to go see, and how to escape the crowds. how to find peace and natural experience off the beaten path in the random and unexpected.  it’s something i greatly value about micah and about our friendship. he has the ability to move the conversation past the easy, routine topics and provide thoughtful insight in a way that others may not even notice.

micah dropped me at the airport and as i approached security, i was selected for the TSA pre-screen, where you get to go through security without taking off your shoes or belt, you don’t have to remove your laptop from your bag, or any of the other annoying but necessary security procedures.  it’s never happened to me before, and i must admit, if i was traveling a lot more in the US, i would probably spring for the cash so that i could do that from now on. it’s worth it.

anyway, being selected for pre-check distracted me from all the thoughts that had been barreling down the wide hallway of my mind all morning. a distracting amalgamation of last-minute paranoiac gut-checks like “oh man did i forget my headlamp?!” or “i definitely forgot underwear,”  mixed with bigger picture contemplations on the significance of this trip in my life, or whether or not i was going to find what i was looking for, or if i was going to waste my hard-earned money and fall flat on my face and somehow end up on an episode of “locked up abroad” or some youtube video demanding a ransom, hoping that liam neeson would come to my rescue.  i’d like to say that i’m competent enough that my confidence wouldn’t even entertain such doubts, but i can’t.  also, i really hope i didn’t forget my underwear.

after i gleefully skated through the pre-check, glancing over at the poor souls removing their shoes and begrudgingly searching for their laptops in their oversized backpacks, i slung my own small carry-on pack over my shoulder and headed for the steps down to the denver airport shuttle train to take me to my departure gate.  as i stood at the top of the first step (i have a rule that i do not allow myself to use escalators or elevators if the option for stairs is present… within reason though.  i’ll not be running up flights of steps to get to the top of the eiffel tower in paris), a sudden overwhelming wave of emotion gripped me and knocked me back.  a thin, icy cold thread of confused adrenalin snaked its way down the veins in my arms and legs, the hairs on my neck and arms were suddenly standing on end, and my skin began to tense up and form “goosebumps.” my stomach formed a small knot in it, the same sensation i used to get right before my first trip to the plate in an important baseball game when i was younger. the same reaction i’d get right before taking the stage to play a show or an open mic night back when i was still performing.  the same feeling i’d get right before painfully attempting to ask a girl that i really liked to prom in high school (or really on any date ever in my life. even today. it’s hilarious).

i paused at the top of the stairs, confused by what it was that i was feeling. was it uncertainty? was i suddenly regretting my decision to venture out and leave behind everything comfortable in my life? there was a vague recognition of these feelings, as though my body was telling me that this had happened before, but it had been so long that we had completely forgotten what it meant.

i’ve heard people describe me as unshakable before, and often, especially when i am working, i play that card well. unflinching, i make decisions and i hold to them. i try not to show emotion. a boss of mine once pulled me into a room and gave me the worst verbal brow-beating i’d ever received because he wanted to see if he could rattle my cage and get my attention. he wanted to get a response. i didn’t break. i spent the entirety of his shouting tirade trying to calm him down, confident that he had made a mistake.  (in fairness, there was more to the scenario than just this, but the point is still there).  in my life, i’ve become very good at controlling my emotions and not letting them betray me, especially in public.

and there i stood, flummoxed by these strange new feelings i hadn’t felt in so long. i didn’t know what to do with them. i couldn’t even define them. as i stood paralyzed at the steps, people all around me rushing to get to the escalators to make their flights (nobody ever takes the stairs anymore!), i became aware of my surroundings and the fact that people might be looking at me. i immediately forced myself to push forward and down the stairs.

as soon as i took the first step, the dam broke. the emotion rushed over me, and everything changed.

the icy adrenalin in my veins quickly turned over into a warm rush of blood to the head, my face became flush.  the knot in my stomach suddenly burst into “butterflies.”  the same sensation when that heavily anticipated at-bat in the important baseball game results in a double in the gap, standing on 2nd base triumphantly looking back to your teammates in the dugout and your family or friends in the stands, seeking their approval and wanting to celebrate with them, but maintaining composure with the knowledge that the game is still going on. the same reaction when the performance on stage results in applause, and people voice their approval, acknowledging and confirming the hard work you put into your art.  the same feeling when the date is over, and the chaotic internal war of schizophrenic dialogue in your head over what-to-say-and-how-to-act-and-maniacally-and-desperately-hoping-that-she-is-really-liking-you-because-you’re-really-liking-her-and-she’s-way-too-hot-to-be-going-out-with-you has all subsided because you just jumped off the ledge and leaned in, and she kissed you back.  and you confidently help her into her car and walk back to yours, calm and cool like it’s no big deal, when inside your heart is exploding and all you want to do is splash puddles and swing from street poles and dance down the street like a rhythmless gene kelly, because you know she likes you.

i tried my best to hold it all together as i slowly descended the steps. i suddenly had tears in my eyes but i refused to let them escape onto my face. i got to the bottom of the stairs in a dizzy relief, and realized what i was feeling.  it was joy. it was a nervous euphoria that my body and soul were creating to tell my mind that for once, finally, in a long time, i was doing the best thing for me.  i’ve wanted this trip for years, but i’ve also been terrified of it.  i’ve made plans but pushed them off for short vacations with friends because they were safer and easier, or i’ve abandoned them altogether because i couldn’t work the courage enough to quit my job.  for years i’ve been both tempted by and held captive by the same idea, and now, today, at last, i was doing something about it for better or worse.

i don’t know what’s coming next, and that’s okay.  i’m learning how to let go.

 

today’s ear candy:

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Why Europe?

last night i was having a drink with someone and we were having this wonderful wandering conversation, drifting from one topic to the next without any specific direction or goal.  it was a refreshing interaction for me, and one that surprised me.  over the last 5 years i’ve allowed myself to fall into a sort of manic style of conversation that you get when you’re trying to arrive directly to the point of the interaction.  you cull the talking points, distill them down to actionable directives, and then you try to do the same for whatever your takeaways from the meeting should be so you know what productive actions should come from the interaction,  all in the interest of saving time and boosting efficiency.  this is extremely important in the corporate world, but the effect this habit produces on the rest of your interactions is similar to removing the color from a painting;  it’s all still there, but you’ve likely lost the very thing that made it beautiful.

as we were talking, we aimlessly drifted to the topic of my upcoming travels. the type of trip i’m taking tends to draw a general routine of questions to which i have my normal “canned” responses.  but this time around i was asked a different question that no one had asked me yet:  “why europe?”

the funny thing is, when someone says they’re going to europe, there’s never a question of “why?”  among most modern, intelligent, forward-thinking americans. i think it’s just generally understood that most people would like to go to europe some day, so when someone says they are going, we just sort of look at them and think “man, that lucky bastard is taking my vacation.”  and then we carry on with the conversation and communicate how jealous we are and how excited we are for them.  but the person i was speaking with likes to play devil’s advocate and challenge opinions to test the strength (something i usually do) of statements, so when i said europe, she challenged me. not in any rude way, but the implication was that europe might be an easy destination for someone to go on a soulsearch, and if i was indeed looking for experiences and answers to specific questions mentioned earlier in the conversation (something i won’t go into detail in this post) then my mission might be better served on a different continent.  and it is a good point.

but the fact is that there is a lot more than history and art that i hope to explore in europe.  and europe is actually something that i’ve passed up multiple times for other destinations, other relationships, other opportunities that in retrospect never really amounted to much but they seemed like the responsible thing to do. the fact is the older you get the more reasons you can find for not doing something outrageous (in my case, going on an extended backpacking trip), and so you handcuff yourself to duty and responsibility, and you find other distractions or other things to spend your money or time on that are easier and safer.  And it’s not until much later in your life that you start counting your regrets, and often by that time, it’s too late.

so part of this journey is reclaiming something that i’ve wanted to do for 10+ years.  i want to see where the civilized world started, and what people are doing with it now.  i want to see how people live their lives, how they appreciate the things around them, or even learn what  they appreciate.  i want to learn, i want to be overwhelmed, i want to be the stupidest guy in the room.  i want to watch a play in Shakespeare’s Globe. i want to stare at a real Michelangelo ceiling and be crushed by a true labor of love.  i want to wander a Prague street after drinking a few too many pilseners.  i want to trek all day to see an active icelandic volcano and be awestruck by the naked power that doesn’t even care if i exist. i want to dance like a fool (and look like one too) in barcelona.  i want to see the things that were in my history books and on my tv, and i don’t want to see them from a facebook post.  i want to experience it all in the 1st person.

and somewhere along the way, i hope it changes me.  i leave for Iceland in 6 days.  i do not have a return flight.

 

Peter Gibbons: What if we’re still doing this when we’re fifty? Samir: It would be nice to have that kind of job security.

the quote above is from one of my favorite movies, Office Space.  it’s a movie i’d watched often in college, but i never had a true appreciation for it until about 5 years ago when i got my first “real” job working as a tech support phone rep at a company called Intuit.  those days were interesting for me. i had been homeless (living out of my rusty ol’ toyota 4runner) for a couple months after the girl i had moved to Denver for on a whim had broken up with me and left colorado for an ex of hers. i had been sleeping on friends’ couches as long as i could without wearing out my welcome, bumming meals, smokes, beers, and any kindness people could offer until i could figure out what i was doing with my life.  it was 2009, nobody was hiring, and i had basically given up on my dream of being a starving musician in a band somewhere.   and then somehow i got an email back from intuit, scheduling an interview.

i didn’t know anything about tech support, or sales.  they were hiring for a hybrid role where i had to do both.  i sat across the table and lied my ass off, tried my best to make them laugh, employing my best self-deprecating personality, and tried to convince them that i was a perfect fit (which was probably not the case).  my goal going in there was to just make them like me enough that they wouldn’t mind sitting next to me at a bar somewhere if there was nothing else going on.  i must have done something right because i got a call back before i even got home (or whomever’s couch i happened to be crashing at the time) and they offered me the job.

fast forward through the next few years, through a lot of sales awards, a couple promotions, a wave of outsourcing, mass hirings, mass firings, divestitures, acquisitions, site relocations, and now, ultimately, a site closure.  and now, here i am, i’ve come full circle.

or have i?

today marks the first day in over 5 years that i don’t actively have a job to go to at any point in the near future. i have a clean bill of health, i have no kids, no significant other, no mortgage, no demanding responsibilities anchoring me where i stand. my employment at homestead, where i have been a manager for the last 3.5 years, and sales & support rep before that, has come to an end. i am, quite literally, free.

the scene in Office Space that is quoted above obviously is one heavy with sarcasm. but also honesty. some people look at their job and they find a safety and an identity that allows them to live their life with a comfort and security. some of those folks are lucky enough to be doing something they don’t even consider work, and they draw all of the energy of their life from it, while others… (to quote George Carlin)

“…work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit”

i found too much of my own identity in my occupation these last 5 years. i allowed myself to think that my internal value was tied to my job, my title, and my paycheck, and i eventually grew weary and complacent. instead of growing and learning and creating and inspiring, i gradually and slowly devolved, and sought fulfillment in anything that would give me a temporary release, without success.

i am now determined to “undo” as much of that as possible.  this place here will serve as my documentation. today i begin a quest to relentlessly evade the mundane.  to find a way to live this life extraordinarily. to go against the grain of the american worker bee mentality of working and saving and preparing for the inevitable demise that comes with age, and instead i will wholeheartedly commit to being present and living now. adventure will be my creed, and discovery my motto. i will not wait until retirement to live. i will live now.

stay with me, friends, i have a lot of big things coming up. music, video, travel, pictures, and of course, the dissection and recollection of my mind.  it’s time for me to get back in touch with my creative side, and i want to share it with you.