Today I was driving to the grocery store and Island in the Sun by Weezer came on. I was transported back to Costa Rica in November 2015.
The bottle of Sailor Jerry’s rum sat in the middle of the table. The party had taken off around me with my two friends, a couple with at least eight tattoos of the Canadian flag between them, preppy fraternity brothers appearing and disappearing from a bathroom, and Cristian, the manager of the hostel, was conversing and drinking with them all. Then there was me. Completely sober. I was at the table, or wandering around, people sat and swung in the hammocks. The sun had set, but it was still warm outside. The afternoon rain shower had since evaporated, and the humidity had thinned out.
Cristian announced: ‘We’ll go to a big party later.’
I followed one of the girls down to the liquor store beneath the hostel. She was blonde, from Rhode Island. She talked about prescription drug abuse at some point. She talked about the waterfront restaurants, and how she worked at one as a hostess. Apparently everyone there is on some kind of prescription medication, just to get by. The fraternity brothers were all collectively in love with her. I was sure they spent all those trips to the bathroom measuring their egos to see who would get to make a move.
I don’t know which one of us opened the door, but I remember being in a place with absolutely no value or interest to me. All these bottles of alcohol on the shelves had no appeal to me. I dutifully followed her to the counter. She paid for it, although I don’t know if anyone else contributed beforehand. We went back up stairs. The bottle sat on the table, while they prepared the peripherals: shot glasses, soft drinks to mix it with, whatever else. They didn’t have coconuts or little cocktail umbrellas but the imagination was there. It was at that moment that I found myself staring at the bottle. I had a guitar string in my chest, and someone had just strummed it. I could just take a shot. It’d be fun. My brain started to play tricks on me too. Remember how fun it was to drink shots of rum, back when you were 16 in Germany? That’s when I heard a voice:
‘All this time you’ve spent staying sober. You’d throw all those days, weeks, and months out. That one shot would reset the clock. With one shot, your clean record is wiped. You would have to start all over again.’
The group of us were walking down an unsealed road to the big party. It wasn’t far from the hostel. Cristian announced: ‘I’m lit up like a freaking Christmas tree.’ Everyone laughed and the conversation picked up again. We passed by a couple of police cars, probably doing a routine traffic stop. Cristian positioned himself in the middle of the group and made himself small. He said something about his immigration status. I don’t know if the police even cared that a bunch of drunk foreigners were out and obviously headed to a local club.
We waited at the bottom of a very big set of stairs, and slowly made our way up and into the crowded venue. There was a big pool outside, but it was roped off. The place was packed, and boring. We left after an hour or two.
The next thing I remember was being near the ocean. There were deck chairs and a swing seat. I wandered out to the beach, then pulled everyone out there with me and ordered them all to look up. In the dead of night, on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, the stars were out in force. I don’t remember the stars very well, but I remember everyone staying on the beach. One of the frat boys and the blonde from Rhode Island were knee deep in the waves. I noticed they were making out, and I looked away. I guess I’d given them a context to be romantic, but that certainly wasn’t what I meant to do. I wanted to feel sublime underneath the brilliant light of nature and existence. They just closed their blurry eyes to all of it.
That was the one time I was ever tempted to really drink alcohol. The voice that persuaded me out of it was my own. I didn’t want to stop being sober, I didn’t want to lose my progress. I really didn’t want to give up on myself, on the commitment I’d made. If I did, the consequences would have been so much more devastating than a headache. I would have broken a promise to myself. I wouldn’t be able to make any other promises and believe that I could really keep them.
I was distracted thinking about this story while I wandered through the grocery store. I’m no longer close to the friends I had back then. I listened to the voice that night, and since then I’ve been living the life I want to, and keeping my promises.
As you may already be aware I’ve taken up surfing. Usually down on the Oregon coast (Seaside, Cannon Beach) or out at Westport, WA. I’ll either borrow Kt’s sister’s surfboard or rent one from a local surf shop. I have my own full length wetsuit with a hood, gloves and boots. I’ve had a few surf lessons: my first two were in Costa Rica, and another with Kt in Australia. Other than that, I’ve just figured it out as I go. I just know how fun it is to catch a wave.
I’ve been fighting off a cold for the last two weeks or so. It’s prevented me from being able to train. I think without training I tend to lose my focus and drive. When I take time off work it makes me wonder what else I could be doing in my life (rather than a desk job). That inevitably leads to me feeling pretty unsettled, and sometimes frustrated that I can’t make immediate changes to the situation. There’s bills to pay: I can’t just surf and train every day. Not yet, anyway.
These last few days, I’ve been wondering what my passion really is. I’ve come around to the idea that it’s not what I’m doing right now. Working in an office isn’t my dream. I can’t waste years working on something that isn’t bringing happiness to my life. There are two financial roadblocks: paying off my car, and the credit card. Those two things need to be cleared before I can really seek out my dream: whatever it may be, and wherever it may take me. I have to be okay with my dream changing over time, but I won’t let go of it, and I have to chase it as if my life depended on it.
I’m thinking about film school. I’m thinking about Canada. I’m thinking about Hawaii. I’m thinking about Boston. I’m thinking about the kind of work I want to do, but more importantly the kind of life I want to live. All of this thinking is being blurred by the cold I’m fighting and the medicine that’s controlling symptoms.
This blog has always been about me, and a way for me to motivate myself. Now there’s another person in my life, and we have shared responsibilities and shared dreams together. She’s always encouraging me to ‘quit my job and do what I really love’. I’ve been stuck in a mindset, and this blog is evidence of it, that I have to figure out my life on my own. Kt is by my side, and she can get me out of my own way. She pointed out that I’ve been avoiding the obvious: I need to write. So here’s to the endless search for the perfect wave, and the relentless chase after the kind of life I want to live.
‘The Way of the Samurai is found in death.’ – Yamamoto Tsunetomo (Hagakure)
It’s Easter Sunday, my day off for the week, and I still woke up at exactly 6am. Happy Easter everyone!
Yesterday I took a day long motorcycle safety course. It included riding exercises, a riding test, a lecture/discussion and a written test. I aced both tests. It was a good refresh and reminder of the swerving and quick stop skills. I have to go to a licensing office and get my motorcycle endorsement.
Motorcycle riding is a life and death activity. It’s a survival exercise. I’ve seen a rider’s boots sticking out from under a white blanket. The next day several riders were sitting on the curb mourning their friend. That image hasn’t ever left me. I know what I’m getting into, and remember it every time I throw my leg over a motorbike. I often hear people say: ‘ride like everyone is trying to kill you.’
I’m not saying every rider has a death wish. I’m just saying the risk is higher, and as such, a higher standard applies to riders. A higher standard of behavior, attitude, awareness, skills, perception, and self control. Those are all the things I like to exercise. I like the discipline of it, and pushing myself to live by a higher standard.
Death is everywhere and can take you at any moment. Everyone dies, and being alive is just a struggle to get an inch of control over your death. Where did you die, how, when, why, who did it: all of it is set up by your life. If you want to die old and rich, you have to live for that goal. You have to stay alive and see it through. Dying well means living well.
The fact you could die at any moment also means you have an obligation to get the most out of whatever life you have. It’s yours, so do whatever you want, but you should to be doing something with it. I know what I’m doing with my life, and while I don’t have it all figured out, I do know what I’m about. It sounds simple but it’s one of the big things that drives me. I have no choice but to get the most out of life.
I’m lucky enough to live in places where I have the freedom to choose the way I’ll live my life. We all have the ability to make life decisions, some of us have the freedom to, and a few of us actually take advantage of it. I choose to ride a motorcycle. It’s not all fun and games, but there are moments of happiness. I’ll be chasing them all the way to the horizon.
‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.’ – United States Declaration of Independence
There are three big changes that I’ve accomplished in the last year:
- Moving overseas
- Moving out of home
- Starting full time employment
Those changes have been about Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
- I want to get the most out of life, go on extraordinary adventures, and have amazing stories to tell.
- No one told me where to go, or what to do: I made the decision to come to America.
- I’ve created opportunities to chase down my personal and professional ambitions.
I’ve established three points of stability in my new life.
- A car
- A full time job
- An apartment
It’s not a dream anymore. So what’s next? Now that I have my independence, and some stability to support it, it’s time to focus on pursuing happiness. It’s time to start adventuring.
Last night I said goodbye to Mum and Dad. I won’t see them in person again, until one of us makes the trip across the Pacific. It’s my last four days in Canada.
Most people my age (in Australia at least) have a few popular growing up trajectories. You finish high school, go to university or learn a trade, or maybe take a year to work full time or travel, start working, and move out. I know people still living at home, and some who moved out years ago. Working hoildays overseas are a well known option for people my age. If you do one or any of these things, most people you meet will have something to say about it. They will probably know someone who has done the same thing.
Imagine the time when there was nothing but rough bush and wilderness. People started exploring and cutting tracks through the bush. They migrated. The next traveller could follow the tracks of the trailblazer before him. Eventually we turned these tracks into roads, which became modern highways connecting cities. It’s the same thing with the trajectories described above. Growing up in Australia is about following the modernised highways and roads: study, work, move out.
It adds up to a very particular definition of success. Everyone goes about it their own individual way, studying different things, mixing up the order of achievement, changing jobs, and so on. I’m not sure if I’m comfortable with that approach to life. It feels like ticking off achievements on a generic list. I’ve lived it that way so far. I’ve studied, worked, and travelled. I’ve been on the well worn path to someone else’s idea of success.
I’m not just leaving the nest to pursue common perceptions of success. I’m carving out my own future. I’m not just mixing up the sequence, I’m creating new opportunities to gather experiences. It doesn’t matter if I’m working, studying, or travelling on this adventure. What matters is that it’s my adventure, and that I’m not bound to the generic definitions of success.
I’ve been thinking about the decision ahead: what path I might take in America. Work, study, or travel? At this moment I’m still not sure what I could end up doing. I know I’ve had a good head start, and that I’m ready to figure it out on my own.