Notes From a Year of Taking Risks
"Well, what I do now?" Those were the words I uttered as I hung up the phone with my mom and observed people in Ellis Square in Savannah. Just weeks since a separation and impending divorce, these were words I had been uttering all too frequently. The fact was that I couldn't answer that question for any part of my life, except maybe what I was going to eat for the next meal. This was the first trip I had taken in months and the first by myself in what had probably been a couple years. I wasn't even sure why I was in Savannah. I just knew I had to get out of South Carolina for a few days. However, upon hanging up the phone, I turned my phone off for the weekend, grabbed my camera and notepad, and didn't look back. I had absolutely no idea about the 365 days that were to follow. It's exactly one year to the day that I find myself just a couple hours south of Savannah. It's a late Saturday evening and I'm sitting on the beach of Amelia Island, Florida. The wind gently brushes against my face. If I had more than a half-inch of hair, I imagine it would be blowing in the wind. The waves gently crash onto the shore just in front of me. It's pitch dark and I look up at the sky that is full of stars. I pick up a handful of sand and let it fall through the cracks of my hand back onto the ground. A smirk comes across my face, followed by a chuckle, and then I lose it amidst a flood of happiness as I hear the words of the Avett Brothers song Head Full of Doubt/Road Full of Promise.
When nothing is owed, deserved or expected. And your life doesn't change by the man that's elected. If you're loved by someone you're never rejected. Decide what to be and go be it.
I gave a lot up this year to embark on a season of traveling. A great job in the PR industry, friendships, a home, a flat screen television and surround sound, and dating. These were a few of the more significant things I gave up. Why am I telling you this? To hold it over your head and tell you how much better my life was without these things? Of course not. Who am I to say that my life is somehow better that yours? I want you to know that this isn't about minimalism, living as a nomad, or long-term travel. It's also not about throwing caution to the wind. However, it is about the year of risks that I took and how I came out on the other side.
"Are you sure this is what you want to do?" I can't tell you how many times I've heard that over the course of the last year. Are you sure you want to quit your job? Are you sure you want to become a freelancer? Are you sure you want to live in a foreign culture? And each time I was asked those questions, it only further confirmed my decisions. At the end of the day, I had to follow my intuition and do what I wanted to do. Each of the decisions I made this year came down to what I wanted to do and not what I should do or what I was expected to do.
I experienced and learned things in one year, that I hadn't learned in 27 years of going to school, working a typical job, and living a "normal" life. It's as if I've been watching a dramatic mini-series on HBO. At the beginning, you see the main character who is so jaded, unhappy, and full of visible flaws. But then by the end, you see this person, who while flaws may remain, has become so transformed, that they don't even know that person from the beginning of the story. It's like I watched the height of my story unfold right before my eyes.
Have I arrived? No, and I never will. I'll make mistakes. Probably some of the same ones, along with some new ones. But the guy sitting on the bench in Ellis Park in Savannah, frown on his face, wondering what's next; that guy, I don't even know anymore.
As I sit on the beach, I think about the last year, knowing this is my last trip for a few months. There's a satisfaction I've never felt in my life. Never from graduating college, winning competitions, getting published, my first kiss, or anything else. "Checkmate, life". I had taken what had become the biggest risks of my life and I had won. What did I win? Nothing monetary, no t-shirt, and not even a trophy. I had come to see that the world was beautiful again, that I can attain happiness that goes beyond a momentary burst of joy, and that I can do this life thing. I was comfortable in my own skin. The things I gained far outweighed the things I gave up. I gained a respect and reverence for life I had never experienced, learned the meaning of being content, and made friends, many scattered abroad, who as the Avett Brothers put it: Loved me for the man I've become.
I wanna have pride like my mother has, and not like the kind in the bible that turns you bad. And I wanna have friends that I can trust, that love me for the man I've become and not the man that I was.
The risks don't end. Hell, yesterday I found myself cruising through the Gulf Coast on an 8-hour drive and weaving through New Orleans traffic to make it to the rental car place five minutes before they closed, while giving myself just enough time to make my flight. That's enough risks for a week. The risks will be different. The latest, moving to San Francisco in what is now just weeks away. You don't have to travel, move, or change jobs to take risks, but what is certain, is that the risks you take will require you to give up certain things. But when don't our choices do that?
If you want to feel alive, then learn to love your ground.-Mumford & Sons, Sister