even when I’m just a shadow.
If you get a chance, take a day trip and explore the Marin Headlands. There is so much to see and it’s all incredibly gorgeous.
As I walked into the office this morning, I noticed a homeless guy hanging out over by Derby Park. The thought of him spending the night in the cold was unbearable to me. I was getting out of a warm car, headed for a (mostly) warm office, to spend the day with warm people. And here was this guy, sitting at a cold metal picnic table on a cold winter morning.
I went in and put my stuff down and decided to go buy him a cup of coffee.
He’s younger than I am. Through our brief conversation, I learn that he’s an alcoholic who has lived on the street for 7 years. He drinks a beer for breakfast and spends the day collecting recyclables to pay for food and his drinking habit.
That is his life. He is younger than I am.
Sometimes, I think we are afraid to get close to people like him because it reminds us how close we all are to that. Or so we can pretend *that* part of society doesn’t exist: the part that sleeps outside every night for 7 years.
I’m now in my warm office, drinking a warm cup of tea, talking to warm people. And he is outside, thinking about a beer, trying to make it all go away.
I think I’m being vague in this writing because I don’t want to think about it. I just want to imagine it doesn’t happen. I just want to pretend the worst of society is boring meetings and uncleaned lunch dishes in the office kitchen.
It’s not. Be sympathetic to that. Always be sympathetic to that.
Yesterday, I was thinking that I’ve lived 36 years on this planet. So, I know what it feels like to be every age from 0 to 36.
Then I thought about situations in life, good or bad. In any situation, I choose how to react to it. The older I get, the more choices I have. Meaning, at any given moment, I can choose to be 5 or 15 or 34 or any age in between.
Now, I’ll be the first to say there are a lot of times when it is important and fun to be 7. I’m thinking about when the sprinklers come on (although it’s tricky now because I have to find a safe, dry place for my iPhone. I’m considering carrying a ziploc bag with me where ever I go). I’ve hardly ever met a sprinkler I didn’t want to run through.
Sometimes, the best way to act your age is to act another age.
Likewise, there are moments when I need to act every ounce of 36. Not just for my own sake, but for the sake of those who depend on me. It’s not always easy to act the right age. And being tired or stressed can make it even harder. As a situation gets more difficult, the tougher it is to act my age. I suspect I’m not alone in experiencing that. But as long as I make an effort to be calm and poised, in any situation, I figure I’ll get as close as possible to acting the right age.
I made a book. It’s not perfect (I think the dimensions are too big), but I like it. It’s a collection of photos and writing I created between June 2010 and August 2011. It was a very tumultuous, beautiful, difficult, humbling and profoundly amazing time for me.
The book covers a very distinct chapter of my life. A period when every aspect of my life was up in the air. I accepted some of my weaknesses and made some significant changes to how I live these precious few moments of time I will be here.
Maybe that sounds a bit melancholy. But that is what motivates me. That is how I motivate myself. My time is precious because, by nature’s standards, it will be short. How short? I don’t know. I think 80-90 years sounds about right. But no one knows for sure. Everything is a river. Time is just flowing by. What am I doing to make the most of it? I don’t always know, but I’ve tried to stop letting fear or “the way you are supposed to do things” get in the way.
In the past year, I became a more solid person. Solidly grounded and focused on how I can surround myself with people I love and meaningful experiences. I’ve also become more at peace with the person I am: sometimes gregarious and silly and sometimes quiet and introspective. Making that peace was a journey that at times broke me into little pieces. I’ve collected some of those pieces as well as the mementos from that journey in this book.
Let me be clear: I didn’t solve any existentialist dilemmas in my little book of corny poems and sunset photos. I simply used a couple of different forms of art (writing and photography) to document the thought processes by which I learned a little bit more about myself.
Maybe there is something in this book you can relate to. That would be incredibly humbling and neat for me. If there isn’t? That’s ok too. Either way, thank you for taking a look.
You don’t have to buy it to see it. You can flip through it on Blurb.com
(I originally wrote this earlier this year. I think in February. I didn’t like it when I wrote it, but now it seems like something worth sharing. It was a very nice way to end a Friday.)
Last night after work, I grabbed my guitar out of the trunk of my car and walked down to Natural Bridges state beach to watch the sunset. I’ve had my guitar in my trunk for the past couple of days. I’ve stepped away from work a couple of times to walk down and play guitar on the beach for awhile. Yes, it sounds cliché and silly. And I’ll forgive you for whatever thought just crossed your mind about me potentially being a hippy.
I’m not the kind of person who is comfortable singing and playing in front of people. But with the ocean churning in the background, I’m much more at peace walking around, singing songs and clobbering my guitar strings.
Friday nights at Natural Bridges tend to be like Friday nights at the movie theater. There were plenty of people out to watch the sun go down. Still, I was able to find myself a spot to walk around and play without interrupting anyone’s moment of natural beauty.
After a few minutes of playing, I saw that a toddler, no more than 1-year old and wobbling around the beach with her parents, had taken an interest in me. She fearlessly started toward me, squeaking and pointing the whole way. Her parents seemed apprehensive to disturb me, so I knelt down and offered my guitar to the slowly approaching little one. She got even more excited and continued to make her way up to my guitar.
Her mom spoke to her in English and her dad spoke to her in French. It was very cool to watch them explain to her what it was and what she was doing in both languages. She had obviously strummed (I’m using that term loosely) a guitar before, so I held a few notes while she hit the strings. Her little face was mesmerized.
It was a really neat moment and a perfect way to end the week. I stayed out there for another 30 minutes, playing in the dark until my fingers got so numb I had to stop.
Earlier in the day, I had lunch with friends and we were talking about how amazingly lucky we were to live in a place as beautiful as Santa Cruz. So, after playing guitar on the beach at sunset and letting a toddler curiously strum along while her parents spoke to her in French and English, all I can do is agree. I’m pretty lucky to live and work here.