life

Start Acting Like the Person You Already Are

“I heard Natalie Goldberg, the author of Writing Down the Bones, speak on writing once. Someone asked her for the best possible writing advice she had to offer, and she held up a yellow legal pad, pretended her fingers held a pen, and scribbled away.” - Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

The sun blasted down through the windshield of my aunt’s Taurus. The Alabama heat accentuated the leather car interior providing musty, hot smells even as the A/C pelted my eyes with Arctic chill. My aunt, the youngest of my mom’s four sisters, was taking me only god knows where. As a kid we normally spent a lot of time together running errands, seeing the sights around Birmingham, or generally having fun. As philosophically as a 10 year-old gets I remember saying to her [in loose verbatim], “In Sister Act, Whoopi said to a student, (Lauryn Hill) that ‘Don’t ask me about being a writer. If when you wake up in the morning, you can think of nothing but writing…then you’re a writer. If you wake up in the morning and the first thing you think about is singing, you’re supposed to be a singer.”

At ten years old my fascination with the Sister Act movies was at an all-time high. Every day I would get home from school and pour half a cup of Hershey’s chocolate syrup into a pint of 2% milk. I believe nowadays health blogs could consider this as “bulking”. As a child, this repetitive non-nutritious snack was seen as normal. As the chocolate and dairy mingled as new friends I would make the one snack item that I didn’t burn...most of the time. Popcorn packets melted away in the microwave into large bags of hot, oily movie food.

Our playroom was the kids zone. The carpet needed to be replaced due to all the spills. The couch was from when my dad was a bachelor. The TV was an analog, rotary box with wood paneling. I would already have Sister Act, Sister Act 2, or the Little Rascals in the VHS and would rewind it impatiently. (I understand my cinematic picks are not envious or flattering, but they were a part of almost every afternoon of 4th grade.)

As the back of my thighs stuck to the passenger seat and I looked up at my aunt, my childhood idol, and was crestfallen when her response was, “Well, I don’t believe that.” She went on more about how that was inaccurate, but I couldn’t hear. My little childhood world had taken a big blow. I offered up one of my favorite lines, from my favorite movie, to my favorite friend and the response was a resounding, “That isn’t correct.”

Now, this scenario didn’t send me reeling back in time and convince me never to pursue writing. It didn’t cause me to like my aunt less. What it did do, however, was put judgemental boxes around professions and people’s habits. As an adult I see my peers constantly struggle with defining themselves through careers while more excitedly explaining their side hustles or hobbies. It’s not easy to be a creative mind in a world built for efficiency and making money to support those hobbies and hustles.

A now famous quote by Colonel John Boyd, an Air Force pilot superstar, goes, “To be somebody or to do something. In life there is often a roll call. That’s when you will have to make a decision. To be or to do? Which way will you go?” Ask yourself, will you simply “be” something or will you “do” something. I see it as earning my stripes to “be through doing”. In the acts of work we become what we see ourselves as.

Before I took time for this summer to be dedicated to writing my book I never called myself a “writer”. Writing was something I did all the time either for myself or to negate travel expenses, but never something I consider earth-shattering or genre-moving. It was my partner who took my hand, looked me in the eye and said, “You’re a writer so start acting like one.”

When you wake up in the morning, what is the first thing you think about? When you have down time on the weekends or at night or in the morning what do you do? What hobbies do you have that create that special spark of creativity or belonging to a greater presence than yourself in this world?

To me, that is what we are. We are the persistent pursuits, the constant challenges we present ourselves with, and the small wins that feel like major accomplishments. As I write this now I am using my morning before packing for Mexico to write about a thought that popped into my head while I was driving around town yesterday. It flows onto this page, but is also a struggle to focus in its entirety. Yet, I proceed because getting this up on my blog that few people may read is a win. It is an accomplishment. Because I work on my craft of writing I am a writer.

I am a writer. It’s about time I start acting like one.

Who are you?

Why Travel Is Hard

It's never easy leaving or coming home for me. Since I was a child I would dream about exploring exotic lands and meeting new people and eating food cooked on open fire pits. As an adolescent my brain could not comprehend being away from my parents, my bed, my routine, or my pets while I was actually away. All of the new sights and sounds and tastes were the only things I knew or even cared about. Ironically, when I returned home and my high ceased was the only time I realized the importance of my excursion and the place/time I had missed.

So why, as I grow older, do I still dream of traveling and exploring, but come down even harder? I know what I am missing and the responsibilities I need to resume when I return. That does not frighten me, that typically fuels me to accomplish more. But, it's a known fact that time spent after preparing and then actually traveling is a "blue period". 

I cannot call it escapism because I have the luxury to travel. The luxury to dream and work towards what I want out of travel. I have reached goals much earlier than I ever thought possible. So what would there be to escape?

Yet, the current adjustments are quite difficult. The details of everyday life that are dressed up while traveling seem more basic now. While traveling I now understand the simplicity of all human actions. The social standards are set in different ways, yet wherever I travel I feel at home because the actions performed are the same. 

Travel presents invaluable quality time to explore, learn, and teach new ideas. My newly settle home in New Orleans represents quality time with friends, work, and a sense of being. 

This is a new era of exploration for myself and I welcome it accordingly.

A Letter to My Quarter Century

It isn’t much to be 25. some people tell you  that you are young, others look at you as an adult. No one is necessarily looking at you with jealousy. Twenty-five is the same distance from birth as it is to early retirement. Now what?

I am now 26, but looking back at my last quarter century I can tell my next 25 years will be spent more wisely, more healthfully, and without the complete self-criticism. Well, at least I can hope they will be.

Considering my most recent memories are of young adulthood, that may be the best place to start. Anything before are just memories, and anything after is speculation. The past 3 years I have found these connections.

 

  1. My mother was right, don’t believe everything I read on the Internet. Luckily the majority of spam-esque emails have stopped. Unfortunately they have been replaced by real-life trolls, manipulators, and con artists. Catfish. The Internet is the very source that everyone seeks information from, and is also the well that anyone can dump their own filth into. Even this letter. The aggregation of information has quickly led to a filtering process of those who can discern shit from real meaning.

  2. Everything is grey. You will be able to see both sides many issues. However, now you have experienced enough to make informed decisions for the future. People will come to you for help, guidance, and advice. Knowing how to stay out of certain issues, but still be helpful to others is the delicate balance you are beginning to master.

  3. Keep a strict code of ethics and apply to #2. It’s easy to bend rules due to emotions. Stay strong and carry your moral code close to your heart. “To educate a man in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.” - Teddy Roosevelt.

  4. Try to do the small things. The short-term gratification will not exist, but the long-term results can change your life. You have acted recklessly and maturely and can clearly see the results of both. Being spontaneous and carefree certainly has its advantages--at times--but staying the course you have set out for yourself will make you happier on a more consistent basis.

  5. Learn the skill, apply it to where you give a s**t.  You can’t say much about the professional world. It means a lot, but at the same time, you feel tethered, not bolstered by much of what you do. You have found a skill that provides benefit to a lot and now need to focus on applying that professional side to companies you care and believe in. Passion is not the correct term for it, but “belief” may be the closest derivative. Believe in what I am, who I am helping, and what it produces.

  6. Listen to you core principles, but adjust for your life. You always knew the type of life you would demand, but what are the costs? Stability versus spontaneity is consistently a  major inner turmoil as I adjust from my younger to later twenties. It’s the internal growing pains that will confuse you the most, but they are not harmful. Keep in mind that with change comes growth.

  7. There will always be someone better off than you, and someone always worse off. You have known this for a long time, but keep remembering it. Remind yourself of this to keep you on solid ground away from the constant emotional peaks and valleys.

  8. Be persistent, but gentle with yourself. Ambition can be a clouded dream. Fight off the definition of yourself to others by setting up a strategy and be as specific as possible. This will occupy your time better than comparisons. Definitely  don’t compare yourself to others and what they have done by the time they were 25. Everyone’s path is different. Keep a steady aim and calm focus on what you want to be. “How we spend our days is how we spend our live.” - Unknown

  9. Make more calculated decisions. Do the math. You + late nights/close quarters/water parks/cruises/sitting for a long time/not exercising/not writing = an unhappy you.

  10. Travel and say yes to almost everything. You have always carried the opinion that you should never say “no” to a new experience. And although your experiences brought wisdom to pick and choose more wisely now, I hope you never lose the lust for new adventures.

  11. No matter where I come from, I am my future. Families are hard, high school was the worst, and nothing ever seems perfect while you are living in the moment. Move on. The only way to get past imperfect decisions, comments, and attitudes is to try and correct them and then do better in the future.

  12. Come to terms with getting older. You are only 26 now. Still a baby in most people’s books. Old to others. To yourself you are in a yearless wasteland. Are you 25, 26 or 27? It doesn’t matter. What matters is the trajectory you are on and knowing that at any time you can change it, but now is the opportune time to set the pace for the rest of your life.

Also published in Thought Catalog.

Where to Start?

Knowing where to start may be the hardest idea to think about.  Many times we can see where we want to be, but do not know where the ignition switch is. Usually it is hidden right underneath our anxiety or inside the vault of a peer's mind, but to find it we must relax. 

On so many occasions I can see myself a year or two from now and what I want to be doing. My past times typically turn into my career and new past times arise. I have never had a set hobby list except for exercise and books. If I could eat, run, and read all day every day I believe I would. And yet, it is obvious to say, but this is not a way to make a living. 

So, I typically find myself laying around-burnt out-wondering how to get to where I see myself, and I see that a lot of people feel the same. 

 

First, relax. It has taken me years to learn that slowing down and even stepping away is a good thing. I have tons of energy and usually exert myself like a hummingbird. Always in motion, inertia carrying me around, and if I stop, I die. Many people today work like this. Trying to see where to fit in and find the next project, the next idea, or the next business. What we fail to see while moving so quickly is that everything else is moving around us all the same.

Whizzing and spinning almost on the brink of implosion and all dedicated to the same train of thought. Stopping and noticing the craziness is the best way to really see what you want and where to start.  A majority of us see what others are doing and wish to mimic that pattern. We may believe that we are pioneering a new way, but it is only when we take our unique position on that pattern does it become a new invention. To find out what your position is on whatever you wish to do you must slow down.

 

Second, set dates. I have had LOTS of projects on the back burner. Always telling myself that I need one more thing before I could work on the big stuff. That is me lying to myself. And when I see those big projects now (5 months into 2014) I feel terrible. I have not treated those projects with the attention and care that they deserves because they ARE my starting pieces. They ARE my ignition switches. 

I have now set dates for each project: my new website and my video series. These two projects will be my babies for the next month. I will work an hour in the morning and two at night on them plus all my note jotting. I want to create things and these projects will be  my great place to start.

Creating is the most effective way to truly find what you want and to get there. I can dream all day long about traveling and meeting new people, but if I stay in my house contemplating various ways to travel then I am missing the point. 

 

Put down your mind maps. Put down your "brainstorming" hours. Create. Build. Destroy. Rebuild.