Five Things to be Grateful For

I can think of ten or more instances where people have come to me to complain about the horridness in their lives. They hate their jobs, their managers are assholes, they don’t have money to go to a concert, their date went sour, etc. To be honest with you, I also don’t think there’s been a moment that I can remember in the past couple eternities where the mainstream news didn’t have something negative and fear striking to shove down the throats of the average viewer. It’s quite sad, especially when we already have our own problems to handle. But get this. It doesn’t have to be this way. Why don’t we ever talk about the amazing artist one of us stumbled upon while perusing Spotify or the dog that came up to us in the middle of the street just to say hi? Or even on a larger scale, why not just talk about the beauty of seeing another day? Today, I’m happy to share with you guys the top five things we can all be grateful for right this second, and trust me, I promise it’ll make your day just a little bit better!

 

1) Your Physical Environment

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of working for a pizza shop in the middle of rural Colorado. Golden prairies and cumulus clouds spanning for miles, no obnoxious traffic jams, and the two dollar gas totally made it worthwhile, not gonna lie! But as I was driving to my next delivery, I stopped and thought about the smaller details that are simply overlooked by many of us. I want you guys to take a look at your immediate surroundings right now. Whether you’re in your childhood bedroom or kicking it on the Gold Coast, there’s always that one element—no matter how small—that can shift your gears into thinking more positively about the current space you inhabit. Trust me, I get it. You want to get out of mom and dad’s house or seeing the myriad of crazies roaming your city’s streets make you want to move cross country, but until that freedom day happens, just find that little park that’s out of the way and appreciate the beauty of it! Hey, who knows when you’ll ever have a chance to see it again?

2) The People Still in Your Life

In a globalized world, we are constantly being bombarded by the compulsory task of making connections, attending awkward company dinners, or hearing some squeaky nasally voice ask you the same age old question…”ARE YOU IN THE INDUSTRY?!” As vital as it is to expand your social network to get to where you want to be in life, it feels even more fulfilling when you can laugh about that nasally voice with your one or two go to buddies from college. Travelling through almost half the country has made me deeply appreciate and love those who will always be there with you to share your moments no matter where you are in this increasingly complex matrix. It may sound lame, but the next time you’re feeling alone, it’s definitely a grounding feeling to call mom and dad and reminisce about your childhood for a bit.

3) Your Memories

I think my previous point does a decent job leading into this one. No matter what point you’re at in life, we all have one or two instances where we laughed our fucking asses off, saw an inspiring artist, or had a conversation with a person who totally blew our mind. By no means am I saying to live in the past, but when the going gets tough, reminiscing can be the best antidote to remind you that life really has the potential to be a worthwhile journey. So next time you decide to bitch about that manager you can’t stand, just cancel it out with that funny memory with your best friend instead! Just make sure not to laugh in his or her face though…a smirk’ll do the trick. J

4) Your Future

I’m sure we’ve all had some wild dreams, and of course, the perception of what’s wild ranges with each of us! But come on, who here hasn’t wanted to have their own talk show, live in different countries, or who knows, even establish our generation’s next Apple or Microsoft! Guys, these dreams are what make us human. And part of being human is the ability to follow these “crazy” images! I understand it won’t take a day. Or a month. Or who knows, maybe not even a year! But hey, the pursuit of happiness is one of the central tenets of being alive, and following that hunch is what will make you thankful for having another day in this world.

5) Being Alive 

There have been points in my life where I felt that it wasn’t worth it anymore. I nourished my self-destructive delusion that I was stupid, unattractive, or a faulty product. I didn’t have enough money. I took longer than my peers to complete the university rat race. I was living in the back of my car. I’ve had romantic relationships that are comparable to cesspools. But by the same token, I’ve traveled and experienced a hearty portion of America and got to live in some of the most iconic cities. I’ve seen artists and shows that have literally put me to tears. I’ve met and interacted with all types of people. Most importantly, I’ve been able to live to tell my stories with the world. See, life will never be as pleasant and full of light as most neo-hippies want you to think. There will be low points. There will be times where you want to curse out the guy or girl in front of you for driving 10 miles below the speed limit or a person you’ll wake up next to in the morning without knowing why you slept with them in the first place. However, the high points will be worth everything. And that my friend, that right there is the point of being alive. Having yet another opportunity to see your path unfold is something we take for granted, myself included. Take advantage of it, for there are many of us who wish they had another day to curse out that driver or have that final laugh with their best friend—love every moment of it.

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Crossroads

 

Traveling’s in my blood. I feel that there’s almost like a microchip activating in the id part of my brain every time the three-month honeymoon phase subsides. My dream’s always been San Diego, but is there something else out there? I start making plans, scribbling away at a new idea that I came up with for the next rush, and start saying my goodbyes. I sometimes think back to our ancestors, you know, the ones from Pangaea. Weren’t they nomads? Isn’t it against human nature to just sit there blissfully letting everything go by? If I had seen the world back then, I’d be everywhere.

I got a call from my friends yesterday, and it’s official; we’re on the road again. I was excited to Leah and Eric’s voice. We were catching up, when somehow, the topic came up, and I asked, “We still doing that trip we planned years ago?” “It’s that time. Time to make that Google doc and make this shit happen,” she responded. I couldn’t help but to smile at the thought that I’d see my friends again. Our lives are always in sync with one another. It’s a great feeling to be honest. After two solid hours of discussing our game plan, we got off the phone. Feeling upbeat and optimistic, I decided to call my parents and tell them the news; I always seem to forget that talking to them is stepping past the crossroad, a straight line of harsh reality.

The phone kept ringing—really wish it went to voicemail—when suddenly, my mother picked up. “Hi Gus, I called you yesterday, but you never seem to answer,” she said suspiciously. My mother’s what you would call a “model citizen,” which is something I’ve always admired her for. At 25, she got her American citizenship, and after 27 years and counting, she has not stopped to strive for her idea of perfection: pay the bills on time, be a model wife, a caring mom, scrutinize every nook and cranny of her already clean home, excel in her dream job, etc. However, when her son or anyone deviates from that much desired “line,” prepare to hear a Harvard lecture on what it is that you’re doing “wrong.” That right there is what always brings me back to reality—a line only goes in one direction. As I started mentioning my future journey and potential move to another state, I felt her glare for coloring outside of the lines, “Are you crazy? You have bills to pay. I was going to take a couple weeks off for your birthday, but at this point, there’s no way if you keep changing your mind! What about school? Every time you feel stable—“ You guys get the point, right? As much as I respect my parents, making the realization that our minds are like opposing magnets in a chemistry class was something I knew early on, but why I still feel frustrated about it is beyond me. And despite my friends’ support and my strong willed desire to say fuck it all, it gets to you sometimes. That’s life I guess.

Later that night, I lie on my bed and listlessly flip through my phone and watch hours of videos of what it’s like to live in Vegas. The chipper bald dude on the screen starts talking about his experience, and with each one of his statements, I’m already envisioning my life there. MCrossroadssy entire journey to California was for the pursuit of freedom, yet somehow I’m craving more. Maybe that was it. San Diego was only a pit stop in what I was about to embark, and seriously, I haven’t been this stoked in a while. I think back to my journey down the California coast. I was driving down the breathtaking Pacific Highway 1 at the speed of light, the crisp coastal breeze hitting my face, and the translucent waters gleaming for miles past the prehistoric cliffs. No Wi-Fi meant that I had to use the old fashioned radio to keep myself entertained and add to the otherwise placid scenery—classic rock it is. This moment and this moment alone was what reminded me of happiness, my definition of it at least.

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My Journey to the West: The Departure

I can still remember the emptiness I felt on that bed. Lifeless. Tidbits of paper hovering over me with goals I deemed as unattainable because of whatever excuse came to mind, followed by a deafening silence that even the loudest of headphones couldn’t drown. I was depressed. Each day felt like a year, which evolved into a decade, and everything became like a rerun of those novellas my grandma would religiously watch every morning. Following a two and a half year journey that led me to soul mates, breakups, drug usage, and dropping out of school, I was caged and sealed in my hometown for the past year and a half, a time to reconnect with my parents who almost enjoyed the fact that their little boy was back under their watch. I mean, if captivity taught me one thing, it definitely was to write my heart out to the only person who seemed to understand me—that black leather notebook was my one true lover at the time. “I know that there’s more to life than this,” I’d say to myself.
It wasn’t until that Tuesday in late May that it finally hit me. I’m finally living out my dream of flying out West. On the night before the big trip, my mother would ask me, “How are you feeling? Aren’t you gonna miss home?” I knew she knew what the answer was. My friend Mike would tell me “You should stay with us, Gus. You know people here. Everyone’s going to get mad or miss—“ I stopped listening after that point. None of them have ever taken any action in their lives that required working for themselves. It wasn’t their fault though. Long Island was simply not the place it was when our parents moved there 20 or 30 years ago. Culturally, my town never changes. People are still reminiscing of the day Patricia Barnes tripped at the high school pep rally eight years ago or one of the countless weekends you got drunk at the local sump. Tony’s still at the Carvel, Jenna’s at the local bar. Financially though, our parents are still slaves to their homes, their cars, their competition with Mr. Jones down the street, etc. It was a dead end and those who are brave enough leave, but many will never find the maturity or courage to do so.
It was the morning of the 17th, and the pressure inside my stomach clutched every element of my body. I barely slept all night thinking about this moment that I’d long been waiting for, however, I was highly unaware of the unexpected adventure that the universe had in store for me before I got there. We arrived at the airport, a dull grey apparatus with the gleaming city skyline in the background. My father’s always been a man who perceives black and white as two distinct entities, no more no less. The thought of him going to an airport he was unfamiliar with was “una locura,” especially when the two terminals were indistinguishable. After countless turns around the freeway, we arrived almost half an hour behind schedule. Predictably, my father would start one of his typical humorous rants of an aging man, “Aaahhh, this airport’s such a pain in the ass! I don’t understand why they have to make this shit so complicated!” Hearing him made me laugh, but for the first time ever, it hit me. I wasn’t going to hear these rants for a while. Then it all came back. My mother’s little bickering with Grandma over eating a whole box of chocolates, my aunt passionately crunching away numbers during tax season, my weekend reunions with my friends of chugging Four Lokos and speeding down Ocean Parkway to see the sun rise. I was leaving. The hug that I gave my father was one of the longest we’ve ever exchanged; I knew there wouldn’t be another one for a while.
If there was one thing I learned that day, it was definitely the importance of “getting there two hours before your flight leaves.” Sleep’s always been precious to me, and I was not about to ruin that for any major move or life change no matter how big. However, the universe will teach you the meaning of hustling whether I liked it or not. I remember running through the barrage of travellers with a hopeless attempt at catching my flight, and at first, there was an illusion that I might have succeeded. Then customs happened. At that point, there was no choice but to accept that my six-hour flight had just turned into a 18 hour waiting game accompanied by overly salted airplane nuts and cheap soda. Heh, at least I can say I “traveled” across the country. From talking to the gracious flight attendant in Chicago to almost getting off the plane in breathtaking San Diego, life was teaching me the lesson of patience yet again.
18 gruesome hours later, I managed to make out the icon that made Seattle look like a miniature Tokyo. At least that’s what I read in a random article on Google. Haggard, hungry, and desperate for some rest, I stepped out of the terminal and into the railway to downtown. I smiled until the sides of my mouth went numb. Never have I felt so accomplished, so refreshed, and honestly, so free. The nostalgia quickly dissipated as I stepped into a high tech vortex that would be my home for the next six months.
It’s almost funny how much your mind can separate dreams or fantasies from actual reality. The miniature Tokyo ended up being the opposite of what I envisioned. The Space Needle—an obvious trap for the your wily visitor with their ever so stylish fanny packs—ended up being as cutting edge as Google proclaimed it to be. However, there was something that told me that this was not like any other city. I knew I had a purpose for why I came, but of course, life’s generous if you decide to wait long enough. During those first few months, I managed to find a small room not too far from downtown, landed a job at a local pizza joint, and on the surface, life was good. At least I convinced myself that. My internal dialogue of denial would repeat, “I wanted this. This is my dream. I’m living it!” But being alone in a place that doesn’t necessarily warms itself up to an outsider turned out to be the best mistake I could’ve made; the “Seattle Freeze” is real folks. The “outsider” status is not new to me, but I wanted to believe that it was going to be a lot easier, or that I wouldn’t have to go out of my way to make things happen. It’s part of something you learn, I guess. It forced me to reflect on my past a lot, and self analyze certain elements that have still followed me across the country. My life the past few years, my recent heartbreak, my own prejudices towards others, etc. Moving to another city was only the beginning. Dealing with life and all the beauty and ugliness it contains was another species.
As I’m sitting here writing away like a juggling acrobat, it’s almost crazy how fast my life’s progressed in only nine months. I’m in a completely different city, experiencing a lighter energy, and living a more satisfying life, but it wouldn’t have happened without those months of gloom, analysis, and friendships that remain with me to this day. I still talk with my mother on the phone and she’ll always mention to me whenever I tell her about my life that, “I was the one who decided to leave!” I don’t regret one day. But the time that I’ve spent have taught me lessons that no physical comfort could ever teach you—I’m finally living.

Journey to the West