I miss writing. It’s funny, because I write all the time, every day nearly, for work. Yet I miss writing.
I miss that feeling of a spark to a fire, the combustion of creativity. If you’ve never had it, well, you probably miss it too. If you’ve had it and it’s been a while, you can’t help but miss it. One never feels as alive, as a creator, as when they create often and well.
The trouble with working for a living is, well, it’s work. People will say, “if you love what you do, it ain’t work.” Sure, I love writing as a job. Beats the shit out of ringing things in on a cash register, playing receptionist on a phone, banging out deadlines for captioned television, and all the other things I’ve ever done.
But I’m not writing for me.
Photo by Drew Coffmann
Today I aborted work long enough to write for myself when I was inspired, and in a rare show of devotion, I stuck with it long enough to actually post it on my blog. If you saw how many articles I have squirrelled away under a saved title of “IN PROGRESS: ____________” then you’d be impressed I followed through and posted it too.
There once was a time on this blog that I banged out a post daily. It was, without a doubt, the best period of writing in my life. Not just in the act of it, but I think in the quality and diversity of writing too. I long for that kind of steadfast inspiration, daily do-or-die mentality about being creative and getting things done.
I’m 12-13 years older than I was then. And much more employed. Back in those halcyon creative days of yore, I was out of work, getting laid, and percolating with what would become a blow-out with my mental state in the coming months.
Whatever was wrong with me or my life, I had the good sense to write daily.
When I’m not writing like that – which is to say the last decade-plus of my life – there’s really something off with me. I feel it to my core. I don’t complete my thoughts, don’t feel like I’m in the moment, or celebrate the details that make life so meaningful.
Writing is all about taking a magnifying glass to moments, the world, yourself. It’s about peeling back layers until the truth comes out.
And if you’re a writer and you’re not writing, not for yourself and the truth and the mysteries of life around you, then it’s like being a scuba diver without turning the oxygen tank on full. If so, look out. You may not be long for this world.
When I look at my life – as “amazing” as it is to others – and I look at what’s wrong in it, then it’s all about truths and being honest with myself. It’s about failing to live completely in the moment in a way that really peels it all back.
Writing copiously could change that. But writing more would mean piling on top of everything else I do in my life and further reducing my downtime. That’s a hard commitment to make, especially when in the midst of travelling the world for five years.
But maybe I’m on the verge of an era when I can better manage my time. Maybe the idea of taking my trusty laptop onto the rooftop terrace of my Sicilian apartment (where I head to this week) and writing long into the night will feel like anything but work. Maybe there I’ll come into who I really am and what I should really be, not just as a traveller but as a writer in my new, older, wiser self.
Because when I remember what it was like to write every day and the feeling of being on top of it all and dialled into the world, man, it’s like nothing else.
People like Stephen King will tell you writing’s just a muscle and you’ve got to flex it to be using it, and if you ain’t flexing, then you get what you get.
When I think about that crisp, sharp, aware feeling of writing constantly, I can’t help but to think there’s no place in the world that might be better for rediscovering that feeling than when travelling in Italy.
I leave for Bari on Tuesday and then Sicily on Friday. I’m on the cusp of something I’ve dreamt of for 25 years. Italy. The writer, food lover, photographer – She’s going to Italy. For 11 weeks.
What a thing.
Yeah. I guess it might be okay to press pause a bit more there. Who says I need to write an opus daily, huh? Just a snippet. All those snippets of moments and feelings in a storybook place like Italy and Sicilia. Now that’s an idea.
I wrote this late last Friday night and have only gotten around to editing it now. As of today, the numbers below are right — 90 days until I’m homeless and a world traveller. If you’re not following my travel blog, you should.
It’s hard to find great movies on writers. Funny, that.
But I guess it’s such an internal experience that it’s very hard to relay that visually or in any other way. It’s why a movie like Eat Pray Love can suck so hard while the book is a delight to read.
So it’s with great enjoyment that I’m watching Jane Campion’s biopic on New Zealand author Janet Frame, who I’d never even heard about, despite read. Don’t let my ignorance dissuade you of her import; her list of writing awards spans nearly six decades and would be intimidating to nearly any writer. An Angel At My Table is the name of both the film and the corresponding books.
Frame was unique, to put it lightly, and suffered mental illness in varying (but it turns out manageable) degrees. She was due for a lobotomy when word came that her first book of poems was an award-winning publication, and some wise doctor realized her malaise was also the source of her brilliance.
I’m at the point where she’s coming into her own as a writer but is still troubled by the demons of anxiety and other illnesses, and like any proper writer, she is only her complete self when writing.
London, England, by Unsplash on Pixabay. Creative Commons.
Doing what a writer’s born to do
It makes me think that a writer who isn’t writing is a person who can never be happy. Without writing, we’re haunted. If we can’t do what we are, then what are we to be, if not cursed?
I write. Boy, do I write. I can’t say I don’t write. Know how many words I’ve written since April 1st, about 90 days? Over 70,000. Maybe over 80K. Until this quarter, I never knew how much a writer I am. I set a goal, then I blew way past it, so much so that I’ll be the writer anomaly when I travel, as I’ll be completely debt-free.
Strangely though, with all that production going into paid blogging and other professional endeavours, plus some unpaid personal blogging, I have to tell you… I really wish I had some time to write.
There’s writing for the dollars, then there’s writing for the soul, and there’s very little of the latter I’ve been able to execute, only because I’m so riddled by the chase of the almighty buck that I’m too full of emotional holes to really write what I wanna.
Creative Commons image from Sobrecroacia.com. Ilica Street, Zagreb, my second stop on my travels, and near where I’ll live for three weeks, except for a short stint in the next town — which is… see the next picture!
Stealing back my time
In the movie, Janet Frame has just launched herself on her first international voyage. She’s told, to be a better writer, she needs to travel and expand her horizons.
It calls to mind what I wrote about how my travels are, even if others don’t say it, essentially most writers’ dream life. Go abroad. Travel slow. Soak in the world. Record it. Process it. Love it.
That’s writing for you, it’s a writer’s master class — travel.
I’m 90 days away from that life. Travel. No appointments, no obligations, no friends, no family, nothing but a schedule to meet for work, the ability to be in some exotic place for a month or so, and enough time in the day to write for an hour or two EVERY SINGLE DAY. Maybe more! Tee-hee-hee!
Ask me if I’m more excited about the distraction-free time to chase a writing-first life or the opportunity to see the world for five years, and I would honestly struggle to choose. I love the idea of both so completely that it blows my mind I’m getting both at the same time.
Ljubljana, Slovenia, from PopSugar.com’s list of 23 places to visit. And stop number three for me!
Writing is not a “hobby”
I’ve been through a lot in my life. It’s all gone whizzing past in a blur of survival and perseverance. Seldom have I had a chance to percolate and absorb it. I haven’t processed half the emotions I’ve felt over the years.
To some, they might say I need therapy. But the writers, they know. They know I need silence, a phone that doesn’t ring and a door that doesn’t knock. They know I need a window with a view, a desk at a good height, and fingers that won’t weary from a day or a year or a life of pounding out the truth.
It’s better than therapy, writing. It’s more honest, and it’s less selfish, in a way.* Put it down, push it into the world, and watch it resonate with others. When one taps into how fucked up they are, shares it with the world, resulting in a cacophony of voices rising to say how much it resonated with them — that’s the original therapy group session.
Something tells me, though, that landing on the far shores of the Atlantic isn’t going to be when and where I realize what a mess I am — it’ll be where I realize how together I’ve got it.
Motovun, Istria, in Croatia, where I’ll be spending 4 weeks this fall — stop number 4. And this photo’s from Sobrecroacia.com.
It doesn’t matter how I think I’ll do. My expectations don’t matter either. In about 105 days, after I’ve whirlwinded through Vancouver and London, UK, it’ll be my chance to see exactly how it unfolds. But there are no doubts in my mind about travelling improving me as a writer.
There haven’t been many opportunities in my life to spend 10 or 20 hours a week just writing for myself, let lone more, but the few times I’ve had that, my writing has been top-notch and I’ve been enormously proud of it. It’s a whole ‘nother writing level when you’ve got the time, focus, and dedication to achieve consistency.
This is what I hope to experience again. A chance to become more plugged into words and flow. I want the noise and distraction of life to evaporate, and the cadence of something exciting and new to fuel what I write.
What’s that they say about asking and receiving? 100 days.
*But therapy is awesome if you can afford it. For real.
If there’s anything the internet deserves bloody death for, it’s the proliferation of words that make me vomit in my mouth.
It’s one of those strangely ironic situations for a writer. We love specificity. If there’s a word best suited for that which you’re discussing, then go to town. It’s wordnerd time, motherfucker.
It’s like that scene in English Patient:
Katharine: l wanted to meet the man who could write a long paper with so few adjectives. Almasy: Well, a thing is still a thing, no matter what you place in front of it. Big car, slow car, chauffeur-driven car. Madox: Broken car. Almasy: lt’s still a car. Geoffrey Clifton: Not much use, though.
But for a good writer, it’s a sedan or a coupe or a sportster or a hatchback or a jallopy or a wreck or a rust-bucket. It’s not “a car”.
So, specificity — it gets us hot. It’s what we do. Got exact words? A shudder-worthy moment.
Language is a beautiful sonorous thing. It’s not to be sullied by your cheap 5-cent words cobbled together from laziness and the most fleeting of trends. Normcore? We have to have a word now for the way the majority of people dress? He’s in chinos and a sweater, okay? Not “normcore.” When one word covers it all, we turn everything into a homogenized whole instead of celebrating uniqueness.
I don’t know about you, but writing about unvarying collectives able to be encapsulated by a single umbrella word isn’t enthralling for me. That’s the writing equivalent of paint-by-numbers.
People talk now as if language has a seasonal life. Our words we choose are so temporary in nature that we risk being indecipherable to those who find our daily social media transcripts centuries from now. Provided we haven’t climate-changed ourselves into extinction, that is.
Because creatives have never gathered in the city (or worn turtlenecks or toques or hoodies) before: Beat writers and artists at breakfast in New York, late 1950s. L-R: Larry Rivers, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso (back of head), David Amram, Allen Ginsburg
Crimes Against Language: “YUCCIE”
The latest word to explode onto the internet is that of “YUCCIE.” It stands for “Young Urban Creative.”
A news guy I know said, “Yeah, but I sort of felt it needed a word,” about my latest rant on Twitter. Now this is a guy who shares some of the most compelling news I see, too, so I respect his opinion, but this makes my head explode.
Here’s the deal about the Young Urban Creative: It ain’t nothing new. Zero new. Nada di new.
You go back over centuries and the city was always where creatives amassed. They drew together because they needed to have community of others who understood exactly what their passion and raison d’etre is. This remains more true — and more readily found, thanks to the Internet — today.
Creatives, we have a different perspective on the world. It’s easy to feel really alone and forsaken unless we find others who are just as bent as we are.
Look at the culture around Moulin Rouge in the 1890s in Paris, and how it drew the absinthe-loving arts crowd into its fold before spilling out into the world. Look at the Beat writers in San Francisco. Or New York in any age.
Cities are the only place young creatives ever really feel at home. If young creatives are not urban, they’re the exception to the rule. Cities are where artists find themselves, usually, regardless of where they wind up later in life.
But hey, man. It’s the internet age. We need a word for something that’s always existed because it’s 2015 and no one’s got the time to write an actual sentence anymore. Or maybe because it’s not cool enough to just say “creative.” We love to define and codify things.
In Which I Play The Writer/Snob Card
Very seldom will you find me using a term that’s a trendy word. Yes, I’ll go so far as to say it’s beneath me.
This is for the same reason as a film should never be shot with a wardrobe that’s on trend. Have you seen Mystic Pizza, Pretty Woman, or anything else shot in the ‘80s lately? None of it holds up visually because they were all so beholden to the present fashion, trying to look hip, and now it’s dated and sad.
True of language as well. Use anything trendy and it sounds pathetic even before the year is out.
Get over yourself. Being timeless is where it’s at. Don’t fall for the “everything has a buzzword” fad. It’s really okay to use the existing one-million-plus words in the English language. Pretty sure that if you look hard enough, you’ll find what you’re looking for.
If we have a word for throwing someone/something out the window (defenestration), then rest assured, English has you covered.
The writer’s relationship with the truth is a curious thing. Today, I’m thinking of writing’s power after hearing about pianist James Rhodes’ legal victory for free speech. He is finally legally allowed to publish his memoir detailing extreme abuse and frequent rapes inflicted on him as a boy.
It offends me that he had the courage to write this searing book on his abuse only to have some asshole of a judge ban it because it’s “offensive” material. What a cruel irony.
Truth won this week. Writers should rejoice.
James Rhodes: Pianist, Author, Free Speech Hero. Photo from Herald Sun.
As writers, those of us with the courage to rip off the Band-aid and expose our wounds to others, we change lives. We inspire people with our struggles. Not just me, anyone who does it. The writers I admire most, even bloggers, are people who dive head-first into the human condition without apology. Fear, pathos, doubt, rage, lust, angst, pettiness — it’s all who we are. How dare you sanitize that?!
So many people are comfortable with glossing over their ideas so to be palatable to the broadest spectrum of people. They are who I find offensive.
Those who would tone it down, dress it up, soften it, take the edge off — they feel to me like betrayals in wartime.
Life may not be war, but it’s certainly a struggle for all of us. Everything we do is measured and weighed in ounces of joy, heartbreak, satisfaction, or any other emotional currency you devise.
Sanitizing that so it can be swallowed by the least open-minded of us offends me to my core.
Writing close to the bone can’t be done by everyone — it’s too hard. The more harrowing and authentic it gets, the harder it is to push through it. Being truly honest with yourself is challenging enough, but pressing “publish” and sending it to the hungry hoards — that’s truly daunting stuff.
I don’t know how my writing has evolved over the years — I’m too busy doing it to analyze it. I can tell you that what has definitely changed over the years is the reason why I write so openly. I’ve learned no matter how open and honest I am with my words on a page, my readers are never in my head. They’ll never experience the world as I do, be in a moment with me. And I’m grateful for that. In that way, being open doesn’t feel like being laid completely bare, no matter what my end-reader might think.
My fingers always filter my experience. I keep a little for me, share a little with you, and we both get what we want.
What’s also changed is that I’ve learned the value of sacrificing that part of my experience for public consumption. Much of the time my words just fly by folks, like dust on the wind. Hopefully, it finds those who need it at the time.
Nine years ago, I wrote about my mother’s death in a way that ripped both the Band-aid and some skin off. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever written. After struggling with the words for three weeks, I published it, it went out in the world, and fell silent thereafter, like an echo in a dark cave. Or so I thought.
Now and then I’d meet someone who’d mention that post, how it moved them or changed them. One day, I got a PayPal email. A woman in Germany sent me $500, to this day still the biggest donation I’ve ever received. She wrote that she cried for half an hour, then went and sent it to everyone she knew. She finally found something that explained her grief over her mother’s death in a way that others could understand.
For me, that was a life-changing moment. It was as self-affirming as having a blog post go viral with 250,000+ reads in a couple days. I know, because I’ve been there too.
Having one person, though, say I finally put words to a pain they couldn’t voice — I mean, that still gives me shivers now. When someone pulls me aside at an event and tells me what my words meant to them, I play it cool, but inside I’m doing cartwheels.
Because that’s what we fucking do this for. That’s why we probe the dark places. That’s why we risk sharing them. It’s not enough to understand what’s going on with us, or seek understanding. Helping others do the same, that’s the pay-off.
I’m no guru. I don’t have life figured out. Lord knows I’m trying. But that’s the thing. Life isn’t one-size-fits-all. What’s right for you won’t be right for me.
For example, I got friends with the perfect family life. Several friends are doing parenthood and marriage in such a fabulous way that I know, if marriage was my thing, I’d do it just like them.
That makes me vomit a little, though. It’s great for them, but the mere thought of that life fills me with nauseousness and unease.
You know those moms you hear about who start out good, but come apart in a haze of addiction and depression because they feel like the kid wrecked their life, and they hate themselves for it because they also love the kid and know just how much they’re fucking that child up?
That’d have been me. If I were a mother, I’d love the kid, but I’d spiral into a depression I’d then chase with alcohol and drugs in hopes of taking the edge off my self-loathing. As a result, I’d neglect my child, my child would grow up knowing that they were the reason for my self-loathing.
I laugh at people who say “Oh, but you don’t KNOW that.” And you do? Come on. This is my head.
Does it make me evil, knowing this about myself? Or does it make me courageous to admit I could never be Suzie Homemaker? Either way, I don’t give a shit, because it’s simply what’s true. I’ve decided against doing that to another human being. Good for me.
So what’s wonderful for my friends would probably destroy me. My story, though, isn’t the prevailing mantra we hear in the media. Instead, we’re told family is the ultimate reward in life, that an existence without children means no legacy will follow us. What idiocy.
This is why we need different voices in the mix. We all have different truths. From the things that define us through to the roads we should take in life, there is no one universal account.
I never would have imagined I’d be packing up my life to be a nomad, but somewhere deep inside me, I wonder how it took so long to see that this was what I needed to do. Writing about this “pre-journey” phase has been teaching myself a lot about who I am and what I need. Sharing that with others, I think, is a great dialogue to begin.
Maybe, thanks to following my journey so far, someone somewhere has already realized they’re trapped in a life not right for them. Maybe my reasoning has helped another person create a bold new dream for their life.
I don’t know. I don’t care. I’d still write about it anyhow. Catharsis is its own drug.
In the end, putting my story on page is probably powerful for someone, somewhere. Maybe I’ll never meet them. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that I have the right to say “This is my life. This is how I see the world.”
Speaking to our experience, sharing with others, that’s what humans have used their words for since time began. How can a court steal that right from anyone in our supposedly western, free society?
James Rhodes fought for our right to own what has happened to us. To share what has been done to us. He fought for our ability to have community, empathy, and understanding with others.
And he won. Today, all writers, and all readers, are the richer for it. Thanks, James.
Tick. Tock. The countdown continues. 5 months and 1 week, I jam from these digs. Off to Vancouver for The Grand Farewells, and zipping to Croatia, as my uber-nomadic adventure begins, setting the stage for what’s to be the wildest five years of my life.
I’m relaxing as a homeowner does. Fat pants, juicy red wine, and some Netflix. Billy Crudup flick. Which naturally reminds me of the movie Jesus’ Son. And that led me back to my writing lessons with novelist Maureen Medved (The Tracy Fragments). I wrote this story I kinda fell into my first hardcore “writing trance” with, and it was a two-page short story I hope foreshadows the fiction writer I wanna be. She said it evoked Denis Johnson to her, who had already written Jesus’ Son by then.
And I don’t know, man. Am I that writer? I sure hope so. It’s the dream, right? Tell you one thing, once I’m gone, it won’t be for lack of trying.
The goal is a novel, for which I already know the story in a loose gist, and which I’ll not tell you. But a serious “published by the big boys” kinda novel, not screwing-around-with-ebooks novel. Nothing against ebooks, because I mean to write a lot of them, but I’d just like to know something I dreamed up made it to a trade paper or even hardcover. Publishing non-fiction wouldn’t mean as much. Fiction, that’s the hard stuff. From nothing comes everything.
So, I know what I want. Writing. And the freedom to do it.
And here’s the thing: My trip will be to writing what petri dishes are to lab cultures.
There is no better environment or setting for a writer than getting stimulation of new cultures and landscapes all the time, immersed in old towns, living for 30-50% less money, never mired by silly things like house cleaning (think about it! 5 years, no cleaning!) or home maintenance, no friends or family or obligations to screw up the writing mojo. It’s every writer’s dream life. I’ll have more time, more money, more newness around me, more inspiration, and no “real life” distractions outside of what I can resolve on the web, thanks to appointing a legal representative back home.
To keep reading, please do so at my travel blog, The Full Nomad — click here.
This is a whopping 2,200 words. I’ve written it more for me than you, but I hope you too can enjoy it.
When I leave on a jetplane to my unpredictable life abroad, I see myself doing a few things to officially close the door on my past.
Chief among them will be editing those who cast influence upon my life. I don’t want to ruffle feathers now, but I suspect many people who are loosely termed as “friends” of mine through social media will find themselves excised from my digital life, while I’ll choose others to be amplified and omnipresent.
I’ve made some big, long sacrifices to find myself on the road upon which I’m travelling. I’ve set goals, I’ve accomplished them. I’ve changed my worldview and fought through a lot of personal doubt. I’ve removed some excuses from my realm and have fought hard to overcome all kinds of odds. Some of those in my life are a large part of why and how I was able to beat those odds.
A Dream Takes Shape
If you’d asked me three years ago whether I thought I could do what I’m about to do — sell everything, travel for five years — I would’ve laughed at you. My health was bad, my debt was choking me, and I barely had faith I could hack it in Victoria, let alone in worldwide travelling.
But then I started demanding more of myself, convincing myself I had the power to change my situation from the unfulfilling, scary life it was, and instead fashioning something amazing from it. At the time, I was only hoping to pick a cheap country and move abroad as a desperate means to get some retirement savings in the bank.
But then it seemed like that wasn’t enough. It was a big world, how could I pick one country? Maybe I could see more of the world while still saving money.
Then some friends of mine were all out there travelling the globe. Duane was living as a digital nomad — short trips home, then back out around the world again. Jason was on a more-than-a-year trip, doing everything from looking for bats in Austin, Texas, to making the trek up to Everest Base Camp. Nadia was scuba diving her way through oceans all over the planet, creating magical marine photography.
These weren’t famous folks or celebrities, people with major Instagram accounts or book deals. They are simply friends who decided to go a different route than your average bear.
These are some of the people who inspired me to think I could do more than just escape for a while. I could drop everything, get the hell out, and cross off items one after another off my bucket list. Now on the horizon is the dream of not only travelling the world, but the possibility of doing so debt-free. What? That’s insane, but this week I’ll have finally paid off nearly 75% of the debt choking me when I moved here.
Recognizing Regret — And Ending It
My birthday will fall in the week I leave the country, and this is for deeply personal reasons that I can sort of give voice to, but you’ll never understand it the way I feel it.
I’ll be 42 the week I leave. When my mother was that age, she had 15 years left to live. She had no idea of that, then. Nor did we. This weekend, two acquaintances in my age group are in hospitals battling cancers that could claim their lives. Now that’s a fight that takes everything you got. I know — I watched as the days ticked away to my mother’s cancer death.
Much of what led me to Victoria in the first place was reading the posthumous blog post by my friend Derek Miller. It went viral the world over, thanks to the simple, clear way he explained he was sorry he was dying, sad he would miss so much to come, but that, given his choices and his family, he had left this life with no regrets.
I knew, reading his words, that my Vancouver life was clouded with regret. In the year that followed, I chose to end that regret by moving here. In my new Victoria life, that regret is lifting, but it’s because I’ve done the hard work to make it rise, and also only because I’m leaving on this trip soon. My travels will end a lot of the regrets I’ve had — because it will mark me becoming the person I’d dreamed I’d be, as far back as when I was 15.
How Our Friends Define Us
People tell you that success in life is often about “who you know,” and I suspect many people interpret this to mean that it’s about whether you’ve got an Elon Musk or Bill Gates in your phone as a contact, but I think it’s much more than that… while also being much simpler.
I think “who we know” translates to what we see as humanly possible, demonstrated by those in our lives. It’s those people we’re friends with who defy odds, challenge assumptions, or conquer obstacles. They’re folks who show us the realm of our possibility, our strength. If we allow them to inspire us, then we can change who we are simply because of who and what they project.
As my time here draws to a close, I’m trying to be patient with some of those in my digital world. They’re not really “friends” but they’re also not people I’m quite ready to kick out of my online life yet. Maybe some only because it’d complicate business/other friends. For some, it’s because I’m hoping they finally realize they can CHOOSE to change their life. Thing is, it means first getting over the sense of being powerless under adversity.
But come that day I’m leaving on a jetplane, the only folk I want left are the dreamers. Those who might not think everything is possible, but a hell of a lot of it is. I want people who aren’t defined by limits around them but instead are inspired by potential.
Feeling The Fear, Doing It Anyway
I can’t for a moment pretend I’m not completely terrified about my journey. I get mini-anxiety attacks even now, if I’m being honest. But then I get heart flutters of giddy excitement.
Still, I know there will be weepy nights when I feel a million miles from all I’ve loved, when I miss everything from the smell in the air and seasonal weather through to the cracks in familiar sidewalks. I know I’ll sometimes cower under covers, hugging the only comfort item I’m bringing with me –my Quatchi teddybear — as I fight back tears and rage with PMS in some unknown city in a foreign land.
But then I’ll wake and put on pants and steel myself to face another day, and something spellbinding but small will happen — maybe just an old man with a cart offering me a flower or a pastry as he waves off my money, or I stumble into a five-centuries-old church not “grand” enough for an admission price, or some quiet night as I’m perched on a rooftop in some city’s Old Town, staring out over rooftops that barely changed since the Renaissance, as the sun sets, as it has hundreds of thousands of times since.
And I’ll realize then what I know now: Everything in life is a push-pull. Sacrifice feeds accomplishment, and accomplishment requires sacrifice. I can’t have one without the other.
I can’t have the dream of seeing the world and philosophically transforming myself down to the core of who I am, unless I’m prepared to walk away from everything that has shaped me into who I am today. That, my friends, is the price of admission for the big show.
The Price Worth Paying
There is nothing I want more in life than to survive off writing what I want to write. Not client work, not web copy. But things like this filled with thoughtful pauses found in the myriad moments which comprise who we are.
Whether I do that through a monetized blog or it’s by way of writing a monster best-seller, it doesn’t matter. That’s what I want to do — survive solely off my writing.
For that, I cannot have the “But how will you do that” type folks who sort of believe it’s possible but doubt that they could know anyone first-hand who’s capable of eking that existence out, as if it’s some superhero-esque feat . I cannot have those folks around me, the ones I see constantly wondering why a Bad Thing has happened to them, when they could instead simply choose to accept it while they learn something about themselves in the process.
I need the dreamers. The believers. The inspirers.
For a long time, I was lost in the “why” of adversity and never understood how to learn and grow from it, that fires forging me would temper me in the future versus ever again being so badly burnt by misfortune.
Today, I’m blessed by the gift of adversity. Nothing but struggle for over a decade served to teach me that life is a constant fight but it’s the magic of the moments in between that make it so worth fighting for.
Lessons Are Gold
I’ll never be an optimist. I’ll never not fear or worry about life. I don’t believe that’s viable. Not for me. It sets people up for disappointments, I find. Instead, I favour pragmatic realism. I understand that both good and bad befall us. I know struggle often sucks. I accept bad moods and depression when they find me, because they’re valuable tools in the human condition.
But that crap’s on a clock, man. Tick-tock, start moving past it and fast. Like when I blew out my knee at the end of February. I allowed myself to be angry, depressed, and scared — for a couple days. But then I tempered that with determination and resolve. Somehow, I’d make it work out.
In the end, that injury has taught me two things that might become massively instrumental in preventing back and knee blow-outs when I’m travelling.
How much is a lesson like that worth? A month of inconvenience? More? Arguably, yes.
Who Am I? Who Are You?
In the end, there’s no way to clue other people into those epiphanies that transform us from naysayers to unbridled dreamers. There’s no surefire trick, no guaranteed route. Somehow, something unlocks that for you, and you figure it out.
For me, it had to get darker and harder after my move to Victoria before I found a way to claw out of that. But I did that. I had the support of friends, but I was the one with the heavy lifting.
Years ago I heard a quote — “It’s not who you are that holds you back, it’s who you think you’re not.” It is the single most important quote I have ever, ever heard.
For a long time, I saw world travellers as being a specific kind of person. Luckily, I’ve learned there is no one kind of traveller. I have my friends to thank for that lesson.
When I watched my friends Jason, Duane, and Nadia circumnavigating the globe, I realized something important: None of them did it the same way. None of them did it the way I would, if I could. And none of them would travel the way I will.
I realized I didn’t have to follow their model. I didn’t have to be an adventurer of the Patagonia-wearing mountain-climbing ilk, or a big-city fan. I didn’t have to challenge nature, confront extremes, or embrace big fears.
I could eat, drink, meander my way around the planet. I could stop in strange places and simply be a part of them, if only for a day or a week. Take a piece of it with me, leave a piece of my soul behind for the next traveller. That, I could do. And I could share it with readers back home.
Look to the Little Stars
An ex-lover once told me his favourites were the little stars in the sky. The ones you squinted hardest to see, often outshone by the big ones nearby. I always liked them too.
These days, I have what I call “The Park Bench Theory” about life. In it, any day including a moment of pause (often found on a park bench or a seaside log or a museum step) is a fine day well-lived. I don’t need the big fancy days. I don’t need the black-tie events. For me, the best of life comes in the simplest moments.
Here in Victoria, I’ve learned to understand what makes me tick. What I love. What I crave. Where I dream of. Knowing that, well, it’s not as easy as it sounds. It’s essentially the secret to life, after all.
Some people go their whole lives without ever finding th passion or want that makes them tick. I’m lucky. I not only know what my passion is, but I will have a five-year master class that will help transform me into the kind of writer I’ve only ever dreamt of being.
And I can hardly wait, even if it’s a road I’ll journey alone.*
*But no traveller is ever alone. It’s a voyage made possibly by endless strangers all conspiring to get us where we need to be. We are, indeed, shaped by who we know. Even strangers.