Tag Archives: support system

Goodnight, L.A.

“‘Cause I could break like a bird.
Or I could swallow the sea.
It seems like the daylight is coming,
and no one is watching but me.”    —Counting Crows

With a weighty heart, I’m walking away from the city I’ve called home for the last 15 years. The only other time I was ushered toward the exit was at the completion of my college internship with the Beastie Boys in ‘99. I knew I still had so much left to accomplish, so much to explore. But I was dragged back east by the cuffs of my jeans, fingernails scraping the sidewalk. The most electrifying and enlightening period of growth I’d had in my young life was stamped with a finite expiration, and it was time to turn in the keys and retreat to the familiar. But I vowed I’d return to plant my flag.

I fell in love with this town from the minute my toes touched the smog-laden sidewalks. The energy. The hope. The constant buzz of brains consumed by a solitary pursuit. The land of dreams and dreamers, populated by an army of idealists and artists, is precisely where I found the welcoming, open arms I’d been waiting to fall into. It’s been almost 20 years since I was first smitten with a seductress disguised as Southern California, and it all zipped by in a hazy blink.

People talk about the nice weather and the constant traffic, but it’s so much more than that. The pound of the pavement and the cycles of the Pacific are inspiring, fueling, energizing, and driving us to be more fully engaged versions of ourselves. It’s less about the artificial sheen of glitz and glamour and more about the grounded grind. “Making it” doesn’t make us better, and most of the memories we’ll carry are collected during the pursuit.

This time, I’m leaving with a lot more knowledge about how the pistons move inside the grand Hollywood machine, but I remain just as enamored with the progressive perspective and overwhelming sense of hope that lives in this coastal town. I’ve seen the man behind the curtain, and I still believe he’s a wizard.

Over the last 14 months, I took a deep dive into this battered psyche on an exploration to find a meaningful justification and a greater sense of purpose for the next chapter. I slid a series of scenarios in and out of vacant brain spaces like a manic game of Tetris, and the only feasible fix for the constant trepidation about the impending tidal wave cresting above my head was a severe shift in my course trajectory.

Taking time to take stock of the reality that dwindling days disappear at a greater rate with every passing year is an important practice. Routines and rituals serve to speed our clocks, and if we don’t come up for air to check in with ourselves, we’ll drown in the monotony.

So, I watched another year slide off the calendar, spent some minutes trying to remember more than five truly significant moments from the last decade, and then made the decision to not allow ten more rotations around the sun to vanish by simply ignoring their pace.

We have very limited screen time on this show. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to see how the shoes fit when we’re 80 or 90. Only a select few will push much beyond that.  Some of us get half as many chances to wipe the slate clean and start again.

Splitting the people I care about most into two groups on opposite sides of the country has never been a comfortable arrangement to accept. But I refuse to live with the regret of inaction. If I don’t spin the wheel to move the rudder, the scenery never changes. I’ll wake up an old man, wishing I’d better preserved the bonds that built me, and I’ll think of all the sunsets I took for granted, arrogantly expecting the following day to dawn.

I’m so grateful to have spent the majority of my prime years in this uniquely special city. To have been surrounded by an ironclad support circle as I navigated the wildly unpredictable waves that routinely accompany a creative life was the sole reason I was able to swim for so long.

But it’s time to switch tracks and replace stations. Let’s see where some of the other trains travel.

Adolescence Interrupted

I Believe in You

I’m a big fan…of everyone else.

For some reason, I can see limitless potential and promise in the work and dreams of others. It’s easy to be a support system, offering encouragement and positive feedback, without an ounce of back-scratching reciprocity in mind. I love to celebrate people’s successes and revel in their triumphs—giant wins or tiny victories.

Even though I have generally found myself in fairly competitive fields and dog-eat-dog cities, there was never jealousy, envy, or any desire to trade positions with those who seemed to be riding a golden chariot to bigger and brighter futures. I simply saluted them as they passed through the clouds.

It’s exciting to witness a friend or loved one harnessing some hidden potential or exploring a particular passion. A sense of admiration and pride fill the space where bitterness or resentment could easily reside. I’ve always thought it was just lucky wiring to be free of that kind of burden—comparing my station or level of self-actualization to my peers. But I think it’s a bit more complex.

First, an interesting dichotomy is at play since I’m wildly competitive in so many areas of my life (tennis, board games, etc.), but feel absolutely no need to find rivals or adversaries in the work world. I hold fervent beliefs and opinions about almost everything, and I have zero reservations engaging in heated debates about endless topics. I will go to ridiculous lengths to defend a stance or point of view, but when it comes to status, career, or social standing, I gladly and regularly relinquish my spot in line. Why?

By maintaining an “army of one” existence and basic life philosophy, there is plenty of satisfaction found from the simple act of meeting minimal core needs. A solid sense of security and a healthy inner circle are almost all that’s on my list. I’m sure a depleted self-esteem reserve and a backlog of darts that stuck just left of the bullseye haven’t helped my cause. But the core code was written long before the swings and misses, and I’m grateful for the ability to be a cheerleader for those around me.

Some shoot for the stars, and some look for the best soil to bury the stake. Comfortably in the camp of the latter, I prefer a foundation that remains right where I left it.

Adolescence Interrupted

One Common Denominator

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When you spend the majority of your life wondering why each attempt at progress ultimately lands at the feet of failure, it could be wise to start taking inventory of the repeating variables.

If every social situation feels strained. If the looping cycle of start, stop, and repeat has scarred you with burns of a broken skipping record. If it seems like the world is reading a different page. If the inconceivability of normalcy is shocking. If there’s a security in remaining a prisoner to your own thoughts because that’s the only space where safety lives…then the obstacle to happiness and fulfillment is you. Well, I am finally ready to raise my hand into the air and admit that I am the problem.

I am the metaphorical lawnmower, starting with a forceful pull, attacking the task at hand, and then sputtering out in a cloud of smoke and burned clippings. Loud and resolute, my job is unyielding. Opinions and criticism are casualties left in the wake of my obsessive focus, eyes fixed on the finish line. Optimistic for options, I am seduced by the notion of possibility. Then, the tower of cards inevitably crumbles. I curse the lack of horsepower and blame the grass for being damp. But I’m the one who decided to mow in the rain.

My preferences too rigid and my lifestyle too stubborn, I alienate to maintain a false notion of control. Then I expect an illusory support system to cradle my artistic ideals for the betterment of the big picture. But that’s not how people operate. It’s how robots are programmed.

Until I stare into that mirror long enough to see why the fly is flailing in the ointment, I will continue to ride that slingshot back to start.

But identifying the sharpness of the thorn is the first step in facilitating its removal.

Adolescence Interrupted

The Keys to the Kingdom Can’t Open All the Locks

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Being born a white, middle class American male undoubtedly comes with a limitless bounty of benefits. The struggles that most modern human beings have to face on a daily basis make the insignificance of any routine discontent seem laughable. On a macroscopic scale, this dichotomy is even more ridiculous.

As Eddie Vedder so aptly chanted, “He won the lottery by being born. Big hand slapped a white male American.”

But the only reality we know is our own, and perception can be a wily thing. I look at the daggers I’ve dodged, the nearly-impossible summits I’ve reached, and the countless pitfalls I’ve leapt, and I wonder exactly what that lottery ticket looks like. As I find myself standing back at the starting line for the umpteenth time, I can only imagine what this fight would feel like wearing a different color skin, in a different city, or without the love and support of friends and family to provide emotional safety nets along the line.

Surviving in today’s world is like walking through an infinite corridor, following a flash of light somewhere in the distance. Unfortunately, without warning, random pieces of the floor can disappear beneath your feet and occasionally massive boulders chase behind you in some theme park-replicated Indiana Jones living nightmare. It’s a wonder any of us make it through life…alive.

Questions and concerns, worries and wonder. There’s a lot taking up valuable brain real estate. We have self-constructed familial and social circles, and we spin inside those centrifuges, hoping that the sediment will settle. But being dizzy is a big part of those passage rites, regardless of race, gender, or socioeconomic position.

We’re all just doing our best not to wobble and fall, one shaky and carefully-planted step at a time.

Adolescence Interrupted