Tag Archives: taking a chance

Rain-Streaked Daydreams of a Would-Be Nomad

It’s one of those Wet Coast days I think might wash away all my sins if I stand in it long enough. The kind of rainy day that makes my head thick and my eyes heavy.
I sit by a window, umbrella-head after umbrella-head passing me by. Between pulled-taut hoods and umbrellas, I’m not sure anyone with a face remains. It’s like some surrealist daydream. The bobbing umbrella-heads.
This rain, these days… in some ways it’s all I’ve ever known.
photo 3
I drift off between the wet tires splashing and my clacking keys, wishing it was the clickety-clack of a train rumbling under me instead of the Wet Coast Writer soundtrack that it is.
I have a tentative date of November 1st, 2015, for when I set out on a bold adventure I hope will last me five years. Trains, planes, and automobiles: Steff Style. If I don’t leave earlier, that is.
I have ideas of where my path will lead but I’ve learned life’s more fun if you misplace the roadmap. Maybe I’ll plan it out, maybe I won’t.
For now, I have a rough idea of my first year abroad with pretty simple rules — stay nowhere less than two weeks or more than three months. I’ll tell you more about that one day.
I have many places on my list. Many weird little things I want to do, like ride as many funiculars as I can everywhere I can. Forage for food in every region I stay longer than 4 weeks in. Write ebook upon ebook, but in the classic travelogue or literary journal style, not the “I got your deets” type travel-writing one sees everywhere on the web.
I want to write about places and times, peoples and experiences. My culture-shock and awe. I want to dream of adventures to come then embark on a completely different journey than planned, and to be changed in every way by the world I get to explore.
I’ll sell half of what I own before I go, strategically “loan” my antiques to friends and family. I’ll start over with a simpler life when I return. I wonder sometimes how living around the world for five years and opting out of this rooted life, tapping into a roaming nomad life will change me. What new values will be sculpted? What parts of the old me will crystallize? How much metamorphoses do I have in me?
It’s a big goal. I don’t have anything emotional invested in making it to the end of that five years. Instead the end of the journey will be something organic. Like love or a really good sale — I’ll know it when I see it.
I want to live in locations as far flung as Tangier, Zagreb, Prague, off the beaten path in Spain, Cape Town, the vineyards of Mendoza. I want to sit in Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, photograph Madagascar’s baobab trees, dip a toe in the Congo river while I read The Heart of Darkness. I want to walk the beaches of Fiji, visit family in Australia, live in the mountains of Ecuador. I want to see cherry blossoms in Japan, drink tea in Osaka, and ride a scooter in Vietnam.
The list keeps getting longer, because that’s what good lists do.
photo 2 (3)
So today I stare wistfully through my rain-soaked window, knowing that all this familiarity and routine is not long for my world. I relish in being bored and stuck in routine lately. I cherish bad hair and pajama days. I know it soon won’t be an option soon. Not for the better part of five years.
In the end, this life of mine where I’ve felt trapped in this costly part of the world is proving to be a gift — the gift of losing connection, of sensing opportunity, and of daring to take a chance.
I’ve deliberately made my departure date further away, because I think I want another summer here in Victoria. Like I say, I’m not married to my plans. I’m going to listen to the wind and go where it leads. Those winds may gust sooner than November, like say on my 42nd birthday in September. I’ll listen for the breeze and heed its way.
Paul Theroux once wrote that tourists don’t know where they’ve just been, and travellers don’t know where they’re going.
And so I daydream of all the many places I would love to see while committing to none of them. Wherever I start, it’ll be the adventure of a lifetime. With every day that passes, I grow a little more ready for it.
For now, I’ll return my gaze to the screen, fall back into the routine of the dayjob, and sigh wistfully about a future I’m not sure I can wait 11 months to begin.
As that day draws near, I’ll begin issuing ebooks of all kinds on my travels — the days leading up to it, the dreams I have for it, the plans and logistics of it, and more. If you’d like to be on the mailing list for when I begin issuing those books, that’s here.

Everybody Has Reversals

One of my favourite movies is the little-known David Mamet skewering of Hollywood, the filmmaking parody called State and Main.
In it, supposed screenwriter Phillip Seymour Hoffman laments being kicked off his first movie.
The bookstore owner, played by Rebecca Pidgeon, says to him, “Well…  Everybody has reversals. If you were never down, how would you know when you were up?”
It’s a pretty universally held-belief espoused by everyone from Rumi and Kahlil Gibran to my neighbour Bob down the street.

Graffiti I love from Vancouver's Granville Island. Unfinished on purpose or interrupted? No idea. Love it.

I think we get it, right? Gotta be sad to know happy, poor to know rich, fat to know thin.
I’m identifying with the latter as I acknowledge I’ve been backpedalling against my own reversals of late.
I had set myself a weight goal in May and I’ve moved the opposite direction. I’ve been kind of mentally lost at sea as I’ve been screwing up the courage to make the journey to where I need to go: self-employment, et cetera.
That means I delved into emotional eating while I’d been on edge and in fear.
Failure is something I’m really scared of. So scared, in fact, I’d rather not try at all and have the excuse that I’ve yet to get around to it, than to do it and face-plant.
I’m getting past that in my (cough) old age now, and starting to have the “feel the fear and do it anyways” ’90s mantra pumping through my head, but it’s been taking a while.
I know what I want now, and that means the emotional eating has begun to become more obvious to me — I’m realizing what I’ve been doing, I’m conscious of the shame that has come with it, and the depression that comes with realizing I’ve been failing myself for a while now.
I’ve been trying to hide it.
But there’s only so much you can hide when you’re carrying around the evidence on your ass.
Seriously, right? That’s what it boils down to: Who the fuck do you think you’re kidding, there, tubbo?
Granted, I’ve only gained 2 pounds more than I started the summer with, but I’m still pissed off about it, because I know HOW to defeat it, and because I’ve fucking cycled more than 1,100 kilometres this summer — all for naught! All that sweat and pain and endurance so I could barely maintain my weight? Fuck!
This week some things are coming into play — I’ll be talking to a professional trainer to see what we can maybe do for each other. I finally made a connection last week with someone and we’ll see if it’s a promising venture toward the weekend. Here’s hoping.
As a result of getting a “yeah, let’s talk!” from the trainer, I realized “Well, I’d love to get the help, but you know what? I’ve done this all by myself before — I cut out butter, I ate better, I worked out 6-8 hours a week… I didn’t need a trainer then, and I don’t need one now.”
So, I decided I’d get real. I celebrated with a cheeseburger, but then I knuckled down and chucked out the butter, made some mental commitments as to what I’m willing to do, where I’m willing to go, and grocery-shopped accordingly.
I also decided that I don’t need a trainer, no, but I want one.
Sooner or later we all have to realize that we can only get ourselves so far on our own. There’s only so much we can consider inside our little brains and only so many experiences we can have first-hand. There’s only so much we can excel at in life without others’ help.
Eventually, help really is something we all need to accept.
I honestly believe the last five years of my life have been specifically about teaching me that it’s okay to ask for help and that it’s okay to turn to others. You can’t possibly know how far I’ve come, but I still have far to go.
Times like these are when I’m proud to say at least I’ve learned how to make the first move.
It’s been a very difficult lesson, gaining the humility that is needed to admit help is required.
The two lessons I’m most proud I’ve taken from the last 10 years are: 1) That I know I’m strong enough to overcome everything that gets put in my path, and on my own, and 2) That I’m finally comfortable asking others for help and admitting that I just can’t do everything, and that it’s given me a tremendous amount in life.
Where I’ve gotten myself is this:

  • I’m more than half-way to the body and the health that I’ve wanted all my life.
  • I’ve overcome most of my injuries to the point where my days seldom get clouded with the thoughts of pain and discomfort that used to swirl like blackness around me.
  • I no longer feel my goals are hopeless but instead feel anger that I’ve been letting them slip by because I know in my heart I should be all over ’em like Oprah on a ham.
  • I’m ready.

Yes, I said the big word: Anger.
I’m fucking pissed, buddy. I’m mad. I’m bitter. I’m choked. I’m gonna kick some ass. MINE.
It’s all MY fault. It ain’t about the media or the government, life beating up on me or any of that shit. This weight I’ve regained is ALL MY FAULT and I FUCKING KNOW IT.
Oh, sure, you want to do the “Hey, love yourself” or “Embrace yourself and be gentle” la-la-love-in bullshit? KNOCK YOURSELF OUT. Ain’t my cuppa, honey.
It was THIS MOOD that launched me on the path that saw me losing 70 pounds, saying NO MORE, and going hard after what I wanted. It was THIS MOOD that said I’m entitled to better but only if I earn it first.
I’m not being mean to myself, I’m saying I’m better than this. I’m saying I know I can do this. I’m saying I have this in me. That’s love, man. I know I’m built for this. That’s love.
I don’t need to light candles, run a bath, and sing “Kumbaya” to myself, okay?
I need to put the fucking butter down, pay attention to when my belly is full, stop living the college dorm “HEY, LET’S GET BEER” life of excess that my summer has been. That’s love, man.
Am I pissed off at myself? Sure.
Am I gonna hold a grudge about it? Fuck, no.
By this time next week, I want my attitude to be “Hey, I’ve done well this past week. Let’s go windsurfing!” ‘Cause that’s scheduled for then, you know. That’s how we say “ENOUGH” in my world.
Kumbaya, motherfucker. Reverse this!

Jumping. No Parachute.

So, that thing I wrote yesterday about quality? Pfft, fuhgeddaboutit.
Today, I had nothing to eat for 9 hours and thought it’d be wise to drink wine. Now, writing for you (because I love you so) seems brilliant.
This, or I piss off Twitter. Every now and then it’s fun to memorialize stupidity as a whole, so, uh, HI.
You know what I did today?
I sent a Not-a-Book-Proposal to a literary agent. Apparently it’s impossible to get a literary agent in Vancouver, so I’m totally comfortable with failing in Mission: Get A Literary Agent. Like, t-o-t-a-l-l-y.
But then again? I feel pretty good. I do! I do. It wasn’t a book proposal, but it was proposal about a book I proposed; just, you know, done my way.
Even if it’s rejected, just hitting “send” was a major accomplishment. Huge.
I packaged up my dream into a little box, tied it with a bow, and sent it into the great unknown, to a pretty not-insignificant agent I’d be lucky to land. THAT deserves celebrating.
I jumped, man. I jumped MY way. Cue Sinatra!
I don’t want success and fame if it comes at the price of bending over and taking it before I kiss every ass in sight, okay? I want to be myself. Be nice, but not pull punches. I wanna do whatever whimsy hits me. I don’t want to worry about consequences or overthink moves.
I can’t be a sell-out, I don’t roll that way. My friends would die laughing at the proposition of me trying to sell shit I don’t believe in. You have no idea.
For years, I’ve been told there was a “process” to success in writing. People you had to please, things you had to do.
Well, a few years ago all I did was write well for a few months, with no apologies, and it did me wonders. Somewhere deep inside I think craft matters more than promotion, and so do integrity and individuality, and seeking success the “tried and true” way ain’t individual and isn’t a ringing endorsement of one’s integrity.
But, you know, have at it, if that’s how you go.
Whatever happens, I know it’s ALL on me and I won’t have to wonder what woulda happened if I followed my instincts.
That’s its own reward. If you’re me, anyhow.
I was terrified today because I know nothing about book proposals.
Know what I had down in my calendar to do THIS week? “Read about Larsen’s book about book proposals.” I was gonna START that today. Know what I finished and hit send on today at 3:30? Right, a totally winged, improvised, “well, that looks right” version of a book proposal I sorta hashed out in an email with the agent then went rogue on.
If, by some intergalactic long-shot, I should happen to land the agent, you know what probably would be the reason? That it was completely against type. I dunno. Whatever. I did the best *I* know how to do, and I’m half-drunk tonight out of contentment and satisfaction with myself, not stress and worry.
Fuck it, man. You do what you can, and if you fail, you plan “B” it. That’s life lived the fun way.
I’m 36. I’ve wanted to write a book since I was 15. The closest I came was in ’96, when I did a novel-writing workshop and really got somewhere with a basic idea, but never figured out the endgame of my plot.
My then-writing teacher, Maureen Medved, who’s had a movie made of her novel Tracey Fragments, said I wrote stories like Denis Johnson, the awesome author behind Jesus’s Son — the book/movie. Which is to say my fiction is really dark and harrowing, with a cruel psychological bent and scarcity of language and edgy vernacular. Or something.
I haven’t written fiction since, aside from a few stories. But I’ll go back there. Someplace real, real dark. Someday. Likely sooner than later, too. I think the drama needs to end in my life first before I turn to creating more of it at will.
I digress.
The last 10 days have been monumental for me.
Huge. Monster. Unparalleled.
I’ve spent so long just trying to survive in life that I forgot how to get ahead.
I don’t want to try and explain that right now, but know that when I hit that last period, my eyes were overcome with tears. It has been many, many very long, very hard years. Any successes or moments of awesomeness I have had of late, I’ve earned the hard way.
But, no, I don’t want to explain that right now. I’ve spent five years writing about it.
The last 10 days, though? That’s new.  Luck, fortune, validation, proving things to myself, conquering lifetime fears, being completely myself without apologies? Um, yeah. New.
Sending a book proposal today was the single most optimistic, hopeful act I have ever committed in my life. Ever.
It’s the biggest stamp of faith I’ve ever put on myself. Ever.
It is absolutely monstrous. Schwing.
The book?
100% about me. E-e-k.
It makes me laugh, really. My entire life has been governed by my insecurities. Others would probably think I’m cocky or arrogant, because I write so much about myself or tweet constantly. And that makes me laugh really hard.
It’s a strange paradox. Yeah, I think I’m amusing. But there’s only so far I think that gets me, and there’s only so good that I think am. It’s one thing to have an idea of what you might be capable of, but a whole ‘nother one to go there in reality.
I consider my wit to be kind of like a localized weather phenomenon. Think of it as that storm that blows over your neighbourhood. For a moment: Relevant. Then, poof, gone.
That’s not running myself down, that’s just acknowledging that it’s a big, big world filled with much to be fascinated by.
I took that big chance and tonight I get to enjoy the intrigue. Was it good? Did he like it? Do I get a lollipop? Stay tuned.
I jumped.
Tonight, that’s all that counts. I took the leap, the one I’ve been avoiding for 15 years.
About motherfucking time.
Photo from Skydive Virginia.