Monday, May 23, 2011

on staying in your own lane.

As the countdown continues to my move abroad, I've become increasingly reflective about the past and what I can do to improve the future. I'm also becoming less attached to physical possessions, with good reason. In about 14 days, I'll begin selling everything I've accumulated in this wonderful apartment over the last year. The dope ass entertainment center I found on the curb and added shelves and color to which now serves as a bookshelf. The low and wide coffee table I love. The gorgeous desk I bought as a reward for hard work on which I've written many awesome things since last July. Dishes, paintings, posters, candles, mirrors, lamps, mismatched chairs, tables: everything. With the exception of books, clothes, an a few other prized items, everything must go.

I'm thrilled about this.

As the move approaches, I'm fascinated with the thought of not coming back for a while. No, not a few months. It's a one-way ticket that lands in Costa Rica. Then, a bus across the border into Panamá, where adventure awaits. When you ask me, "How long do you plan to go for?" I can't give you the answer you are likely seeking. I am going to explore and live my life somewhere else. Simple. Why put a time limit on it?

More than this, I'm expecting this to be the start of several years outside of the States. Learning languages, exploring cultures, humping locals, and growing up altogether. Sure it'll be tough, but it'll also be extremely rewarding.

In my periods of reflection, I've often glanced back at old journal and blog entries, revisiting the man I was upon landing here in Los Angeles, the man I was while navigating chaos in New York, and while festering in the mediocrity of Virginia. Aside from improving as a writer, I've noticed a change in how I view my path, journey and decisions as they relate to those of my peers.

I've learned to stay in my lane.

No, I am not discounting my capabilities. What I mean is that I've stopped (or, at least grown smarter about) gauging my success as compared to the next person's. I've learned that every path is different and to be respected. The process is just as valuable as the result. Though your journey may not be for me, the goal is that you will grow and learn from it, being able to look back and see progress within yourself.

Grüvment photo, 2003
I had a friend (yes, had) who I would have once called my best friend. Sure, the title of "best friend" was of far greater value in his juvenile (yet older and underdeveloped) mind, but that's beside the point. We danced together. More specifically, he danced for me as a member of the Grüvment Dance Company. Briefly. In 2003. Whether he danced well is also beside the point. Stop getting me off-topic. After a stint of dancing, training, competing, traveling as a company, our discussions naturally moved to the next step. (When) Will we move to Los Angeles or New York to further our careers? The year was 2005.

I'd fallen in love with New York, so that was the natural choice for me. I knew in the back of my mind that I'd eventually end up there. I tucked the thought away in the back of my head under "Someday In The Undetermined Future."

This friend, on the other hand, was not to be outdone. Not one to let lesser dance abilities stop his show, he implored upon his wealthy father to fund his new life in Los Angeles, where he'd begin training professionally in hopes of dancing beside Janet Jackson someday. Backstory: Friend is lucky enough to have never had to work to support himself. He'd regularly make light of "borrowing" cash from pops' wallet without him knowing when necessary. Only requirements from parents: keep up your car and pay your cell phone bill. I was 18. He was 21. Friend's father came through, gifting him a car and $20,000 with the instructions that he'd carry his entire load for the first six months in Los Angeles. After that, he was to be on his own. Jackpot.
the boys of Grüvment, minus "Friend" (mind you: 2003)

I wasn't so lucky. While I did live back with my parents at the time, I was paying BILLS. The move back was indeed to be temporary, so I planned to get up and out once I felt secure. Friend spoke regularly of making a trip to LA with another friend who'd already been out here living the dance life. They were to be roommates, had been scouting apartments, browsing furniture, and planning a new existence out West.

Who was jealous? This guy. I never told anyone, but I soon resented his luck and circumstances. Here he was, inspired, coached, trained, and motivated by ME, about to make the leap before ME. I kept thinking, "He's gonna 'make it' before me." I pulled back from him. Jealousy consumed me. Where was my windfall?

And so it continued:  Our group continued dancing together, and pushing each other. I went back to school. Friend planned and plotted to relocate and start anew.

He began spending: Club outings, alcohol, gas money, dinners for friends and romantic interests.

And he planned....

He kept drinking. People would often comment when they'd see him sober, "What's wrong?"

And he planned...

Months passed, the exploratory trip out to LA never seemed to materialize. He began joking frequently of returning to school to "delay adulthood," and bounced from job to job. What happened: "cold feet."

And then he totaled the car, lost his license, got charged two counts of felony embezzlement (with a Finance degree, of course), and was alienated from Dad's wallet.

To date, he has yet to touch down on California soil...or "get serious" about dance or move out of Mama's house for that matter.

Shortly thereafter, I got sick with Lupus, survived a coma, learned to walk again, did eight months of chemo, and became, ultimately, stronger than ever. I moved to New York 13 months after being diagnosed.

I say all that to say this: Fuck what the next guy is doing.

I resented this guy for YEARS. Though we've grown apart of late, I spent far too long chugging along, glancing into his and everyone else's lane, trying to gain two belt notches when he'd gain one. I gain no pleasure in pointing out the differences now, because, again, fuck what he has going on. Even with our other friend in Los Angeles (who started in my company and later toured with a major pop artist for years) it took a minute for me to appreciate, but not covet, his accomplishments.

I used to envy friends with degrees. Most of them are now in a field completely unrelated to their studies, drowning in debt. I used to wish I had more financial support from Mom and Dad. Now, I cherish the lessons learned from being independent from a very young age. My leap to New York at 20 inspired friends back home to grow wings and relocate to NY and other cities as well.

Sure Friend had an open wallet at his disposal. But he's crippled by enabling parents and can't seem to step out of the nest in a small town, much less a large city.

My path is just as valuable as theirs. Same for you. Your journey is important. What works for you may not work for me. With my move in less than 40 days, in light of the questions I get pertaining to what I intend to do in Panamá, I've grow more confident with my response.

"Everything."

And that's alright. I realized at 21 that not doing what everyone else does is totally fine. While I may not have employed the best means to achieve what I see as my life's goal, the passion to do what ultimately makes me happy has never faded.

I'm not painting my life as the hardest ever. I just know that overcoming a hereditary, chronic disease, disability, a bleak chance of survival, poverty, heartbreak, and a million other woes, I appreciate MY road to now more than I would have ever imagined.

I suggest you do the same.

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