It’s been one year that I’ve been without you, and what a year it has been. The time has flown by, and you cross my mind every single day. So many ups and downs. So many obstacles that I’ve had to overcome. But here I am. Stronger than ever. Wiser than ever. More confident than ever. And I owe a lot of it to you. You taught me to always stand my ground. To fight for what I believe in. To never settle for anything less than what I deserve. I think if you were still here, you’d be proud of me (despite the fact that I’m living in a van). I think you would be able to look at me, and the life I’m creating for myself, and be truly happy. Even though I’m not a professional soccer player like I always said I would be growing up. Besides, I’ve always kind of been the odd ball of the family. I used to bring snakes in the house even though you hated them. I used to always climb trees in the backyard as far up as I possibly could. I rode my bike too far in front of you when we were on the road. I used to dress like a confused homeless person in 7th grade. And I had a mullet for the greater half of my childhood. But no matter what, you always just let me be me. You encouraged me to go after whatever it was that I wanted, but would criticize my every move, only to make me better at it. The perfectionist inside of me today is thanks to you. It’s both a blessing and a curse, because it causes me to try my best and always work on self-improvement. At the same time, no matter what I do, it will never be perfect. I beat you in a banana bread bake off, but still wasn’t happy because I added my chocolate chips into the batter at the wrong time. You claimed adding chocolate chips was cheating, but I must have missed that part of the rule book. Anyways, I just wanted to take this opportunity to say, “thank you”. Thank you for helping mold me into the man that I am, and that I am becoming. I know I still had a lot that I could have learned from you, but I think I can take it from here. This strive for perfection is going to be my fuel for the rest of my life. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on everything that I have going on, even though I know you’re watching over me. I love you to the moon and back, Mom.
In less than a month I will be returning back home from my job in Massachusetts. I will no longer be living in my van, aside from an occasional trip here and there. But this in no way means that I will return to abusing my access to the luxuries of life. I intend to live as simply as I do now, perhaps even more simply. Sure, I will be back in a house big enough for a family of 6 or more, and sharing it with just my dad and brother. However, I have every intention of selling or donating roughly 80% of all of my possessions. My bedframe will be gone. 2 of my 3 dressers will be gone, along with the clothes inside. My pellet guns I haven’t used in years, gone. Every single knick knack and useless item, gone. Unless it is essential to my everyday life, it will be gone. I’m currently reading Walden by Henry David Thoreau (highly recommended by the way) and it really puts a lot of things into perspective. Even just the first chapter on Economy will make you reassess the value you put on different items in your life. This is a man who, when the sun is shining in his window and making him get too hot, instead of buying a curtain, would rather seek the shade that nature has provided so as to avoid the unnecessary work of adding more housework for himself in tending to the curtain, aside from the small cost of the fabric needed to make a curtain. Perhaps that’s living too simplistic and frugal, but I dig it.
K.I.S.S. Keep It Simple Stupid. A motto I have tried to live by ever since Professor Titus told it to my geology class freshman year at college. It can be applied to every aspect of life, and used to increase the quality of nearly anything. I even use it with the soccer team I am coaching now. If you keep the game of soccer simple, it becomes so much easier and more fun to play. Perhaps the best ice cream I have ever eaten in my life is a simple 3-ingredient recipe that anyone can make. A timeless, and always accepted outfit for anyone: a plain white t-shirt and jeans. The amount of peer/societal pressure that gets placed upon us to “enhance” our lives is ridiculous. People don’t think for themselves anymore, and that is where our problem lies. We need not complicate our mortal existences with the augmentation of futile thingamajigs and gewgaws. <– see what I mean. Stupid.
When I return, I have 3 goals in mind. Firstly, as I said before, I will be living with my dad and brother. I will be taking a few weeks off of work to focus on myself. As it will be nearly winter, I will devote a portion of my time to finding and cutting firewood for our woodstove downstairs, and tending to the fire day in and day out. I will be cooking hot meals for the family every single day. In this time, I will really focus on keeping myself healthy, not just physically, but mentally as well. Doing what my mind and body wants to do, whenever it wants to do it. Secondly, as I have also said before, I will be selling or donating nearly all of my possessions. Unnecessary clutter adds unnecessary stress to your life. I don’t need that crap. But I will need the money. Which brings me to my last goal. I will be converting our unused “exercise room” to a work place for myself. I intend to make every piece of furniture by hand to ensure it has a much higher value to me. An art which I feel is all too lost in todays world. The workplace is going to be dedicated to creating content, in the form of blog posts, photography, and videography. I will be investing the majority of my savings into equipment for this, so I better make damn sure I stick with it and devote myself to it.
I have already realized the importance of networking and connecting with the people in my life. That includes my dad, as well as the gas station attendant who I see on a semi-regular basis. I find so much more joy in seeing someone laughing than I do in buying the latest Call of Duty. My actions need to start reflecting that notion. Rather than bragging about my kill:death ratio I got as a sniper in a video game, I need to start bragging about my laugh:frown ratio I got as a a friend during our last hangout. Maybe not literally, but you get the idea. I will be improving my quality of life by getting rid of all the crap that the world says will improve the quality of my life. I don’t want to live my life “As Seen On TV”. I want to live my life in whatever way feels best to me, which I should have been doing years ago. I have the ability to not give in to peer pressure, which most of you probably already know, seeing as how I’ve never drank a drop of alcohol, taking a single drag off a cigarette, or tried any drugs.
I cannot wait for when I return.
But I’m working on it. For whatever reason, I always have been. I want to be a photographer, racecar driver, Youtuber, blogger, an amazing friend/brother/son, a great coach, a mentor, a motivational speaker, a personal trainer, a world traveler, a carpenter, a scholar, a movie star, a singer, an author, and the list goes on and on. My mind has always worked in a way that has led me to believe that I am already good at something, therefore I don’t need to put in the work required to become better at it. That mindset has left me in a place where I am not actually all that great in any one area. I’m just mediocre. And that is weighing on me.
It’s time to prove myself. Right or wrong, it needs to be done. I already have the mindset of “I can, therefore I am”, which is exactly what I need. Now I need to put those thoughts into actions. If I want to be a great photographer, I need to take some damn pictures. If I want to be a Youtuber, I need to create some content. If I want to be the best me that I can be, I need to start doing, rather than daydreaming. And this goes back as far as I can remember. I never wanted to stand out from the pack. In elementary school when the teacher would ask us a question, even if I knew the answer, I wouldn’t raise my hand. I’d wait until the teacher gave the class the answer, then sit there at my desk proud of myself for knowing, but not acting upon it. This carried through all the way to my time at college. My final year there, in a high-level geology class, the professor asked us a basic question; what is the protolith of marble? I knew the answer, but didn’t say it. The whole class ended up getting scolded for at least 10 minutes for being in such a high-level geology class without knowing the answer to that question. And I just sat there all proud of myself for knowing the answer and not saying it.
I’ve been living my life all wrong. It is time to become that outstanding person that I know I can be. No more coasting through life as a mediocre individual. If I want to be great, if I want to be an expert, if I want to truly leave an impact on this world, I need to start doing the things I already believe I can. And I’m welcoming failures as much as I’m welcoming success. I’m at a pivotal point in my life where I need to know what I can and cannot do. If there are areas that I really excel in, perhaps I should be pursuing them. If there are areas that I’m not so great at, perhaps I should either put in the work to become better at it, or just scrap it altogether. I need to set my ego aside. I need to stop believing that I can do something, and just freaking do it. It’s a process, and I’m working on it.
When you live in a van in a different state, where you don’t know anybody, and have loads of time to yourself, you think. You think about life and memories, about friends and family, about love and girls, about your plans and the future, about food and drinks. You think about things that matter, and things that don’t. You analyze more than you ever have, because you have time to. You wake up bright and early in the morning, start thinking your way into a deep rabbit hole, and before you know it it’s time to leave to coach soccer practice. You constantly catch yourself day dreaming about what you want out of life, and also about that amazing vegan meal you had last weekend. But what it all boils down to is being able to be stable in your own mind. Being isolated from the real world, lonely and anxious. But being surrounded by all your friends and family, and smiling inside your head. Watching your memories play over and over again like your favorite movie inside your mind’s eye to boost your spirits. It’s when you get lost in this utopian world of memories that you start to realize what exactly it is that makes you happy. Not once have I thought about my Xbox One that I used to spend countless hours on, or about the MobiBlu Cube MP3 Player I thought I needed in 9th grade. My 36” TV hasn’t crossed my mind once, nor have any of my pellet guns. My iPad has remained untouched since I’ve been here. And all of the clothes that I’ve spent good money on are all equally as forgotten about in my memories. What I do think about is all the people and the smiles I’ve come across in my lfie. The laugh I got out of Jess last weekend, the way Frankie and I can communicate without saying a word and bash the crap out of each other all day just for fun, the way I danced like a fool right beside my brother at my cousin’s wedding, the long talks I’ve had with Keanna, the times my mom taught me new dessert recipes, working on my Studebaker with my dad, wrestling with Cooter (that’s my dog, you sick freak), making deals with Frankie’s little siblings, reminiscing on childhood memories with Drew. If you haven’t made this list, don’t feel bad. I promise you you’re still playing in my mind. I just can’t write a never-ending blog post.
What I’m saying is that people need to stop placing value on “stuff”. You’ve heard it all before. “You can’t take those things with you when you die”. And I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but, come on now. When you boil life down to it’s basics, which is kind of forced upon you when you live in a van, you start to realize what matters. You change your perspective on everything in life. Money loses value, clothes lose value, stuff loses value. On the flip side, friends exponentially gain value, connecting with people exponentially gains value, yourself exponentially gains value. If I can smile when I’m on my last gallon of gas on the Mass Turnpike, haven’t showered in a couple of days, haven’t eaten in 10 hours, with my phone battery on 3%, quite literally only $37.61 in my checking account, with broken suspension and fuzzy radio reception in my home on wheels, all just because I remembered when Frankie and I almost broke Tom’s table decoration when we were playing with a ball at nearly midnight, I think you can find peace when you don’t have enough money for the new iPhone X. I challenge you to make a list of all the things in life that matter to you. Then make a list of all of the “stuff” you have laying around your home. Just spend time analyzing these lists, and please let me know how it goes! My contact info is linked on my blog somewhere!
why are we afraid to interact with people?
we all know that pulling up to the light on hiawatha blvd where you get on 81 north, seeing a homeless person is inevitable. well i just raced my way to the light just in time for it to turn red. i was first in line and saw a homeless guy i’ve never seen before. he kinda looked like that meme of the guy on the history channel saying “aliens”. i immediately turned my radio off knowing i would have at least 1 minute before the light turned green. i looked at him with his unbuttoned shirt and his cardboard sign that read “nobody is perfect” and said “how’s it going, man?” and that’s all it took to remind him that he’s human too. why is that so hard for people to do? whether it’s a homeless person begging for that pocket change you don’t need or an elderly man sitting alone on a bench at the park or a mother at the grocery store battling with her kids to get them to quiet down so she can hear the feedback of her light taps on a watermelon to see if it’s at peak ripeness. this is where society falls short. i don’t know if it’s due to all the screens we have surrounding our lives. in our hands, in our pockets, on every wall in every direction you look. or maybe it’s this abnormal fear that the person whose ears are hearing your words is somehow going to transform into a monster and belittle you or even worse, offend you. or maybe it’s a fear of awkward situations. like we need a thoroughly thought out word track for how we want to steer the conversation because we are afraid of not having everything in our lives planned out for us. or just the sense of pride and selfishness that tells us we don’t need that human interaction. even if the other person would benefit from it as if we were pulling them out from underwater. we just can’t bring ourselves to do it.
this is how my conversation went, verbatim:
“how’s it going, man?” – me
“i’m trying to get to where you are, driving a bmw and what not” – aliens man
“oh trust me, you don’t want all of this. it desensitizes you. *slight pause as he didn’t know what to say* look, i just bought a 1995 chevy van that i’m going to be living in for the next few months”
“come join us man!” he said as he laughed and pointed to his 2 other friends sitting in the shade.
“maybe i’ll come visit you at some point!” i said with a laugh. even though i was dead serious.
“the world needs more people like you” he said with the biggest smile on his face. he approached the car with an outstretched arm looking for a handshake. i obviously obliged and looked him in the eyes.
“thank you very much, dude. i appreciate that greatly” the light turned green and i nodded as i let my clutch out. with the same huge smile on his face, he reached his hand into the air to say goodbye and yelled: “not all homeless people are bad!”.
“that’s right!” i yelled back. i couldn’t agree more. with that parting phrase. with his sign. he made my day, and i’m sure i made his.
how much effort did that take? none. how much harm was i in? zilch. how awkward was that? 0%.
how happy am i that i did that? extremely. would i do it again? absolutely. am i better than that guy just because i have my shit together at this point in life? fuck no.
i challenge you, before the day is over, go talk to a stranger that looks like they could use a pick-me-up. ask someone how they are, and actually mean it. listen to them. give them feedback. give them encouragement. it doesn’t take much, and we all have the capability to help someone. so just do it. if you don’t see anyone in person before the day is over then make a phone call. send a text. send an email. slide into a dm. i don’t care how you do it. just do it. help someone in some way or another. our communication is one of the things that makes us human, and allows us to be rulers of the world. it is perhaps our strongest tool. use it. for good. please.
for the record: i don’t care what this guy looked like. i’m not trying to make fun of his appearance in any way. i’m just simply giving you a visual so you could connect more with the story. that is all.