All Of The Things That I Have Learned: Los Angeles, CA
When I started this blog at the end of 2009, I did it mainly as a way to keep my writing skills somewhat sharp after graduating from college the year before. I’d started it as, ostensibly, an automotive/travel blog, with a little bit of my own life experience strewn about. It’s since morphed into a forum where I’ve been able to reflect on my own past and present. The automotive/travel thread now serves to loosely connect these thoughts. It’s no coincidence that I do the most reflective thinking when I drive, and that new posts appear soon after my travels.
To continue with this theme, this is, ostensibly, a post about travel, but it’s really more about life. Six months ago, just after New Year’s, I suffered a pair of somewhat severe injuries which forced me to radically alter my lifestyle, and for me, that meant severely curtailing all physical activity for close to three months while I recovered. The injuries themselves, the subsequent surgery to repair them, and the lengthy rehab for the pair have given me ample time to reflect on a lot of things. When you spend all of your free time laying on your back, you have a lot of free time to just think and re-evaluate things. You begin to realize exactly what is important to you, who is important to you, and where that all fits in with your core values. Maybe you change your priorities. Maybe you decide to make a wholesale and fundamental lifestyle change. Or, maybe you do none of these things. I have chosen to do all of these things.
This is not an exhaustive list of everything that I’ve come to realize since January 15, but it might be a list of thoughts and philosophies that have laid dormant within me for a while. It might have just taken a forced sabbatical from my everyday life for me to finally realize them and make them active. Although I’m not physically at 100% yet, I’m doing much better now, and I’m finally ready to present my thoughts, albeit in a somewhat raw and unfinished form.
I reserve the right to add to, remove from, or otherwise modify this list as I see fit. I’m sure there are still some thoughts in the back of my head that will take a little bit more time to come forth.
When I was here two years ago, I left L.A. with brown hair and came back with red hair. Why? I don’t really even know to this day. Would I do it again now? Maybe not, but I did it, and I don’t regret it. For one of the first times in my life, I was fully able to let go and live in the damn moment. My friend Bryan called it DGAF. Why? Because I didn’t give a fuck that I had just dyed my own hair bright red. I didn’t care that the dye ran down my forehead, or that it was permanent, or that I had done a horrible job of dying my own hair, or about the next Tuesday when I would have to explain my new hue to my co-workers. It didn’t matter because that was the spirit of the festival and damn the consequences. I knew of this concept of DGAF before, but I had never practiced it until April of 2011. I took that verb-acronym and ran with it. I learned that, yes, It’s Okay To DGAF.
However, a big reason I was able to come back to my job with red hair – and keep my job – is because I work at a music company where that sort of expressionism is tolerated. Maybe I wouldn’t have done it if I was working at a law firm or a big advertising agency. Bright red/blue/rainbow tinted hair would probably be inappropriate in a more conservative workplace. Along those same lines, it would also be inappropriate to walk into my boss’s office and say, “Hey [boss], I DON’T GIVE A FUCK AND I DON’T NEED THIS JOB”. DGAF only goes so far. Sometimes you don’t have to care, but other times, you need to Be Reasonable and remember that in order to remain a functional member of society, you need to pay attention, and GAF. Moderation works well in diets, and it seems to work well in everyday life, too.
At the time, my red hair got me a lot of attention, because it was something new and different for me, and also because it’s the exact opposite of how I would normally act. It wasn’t a conscious call for attention or assertion of individuality, but it sure worked. Individuality is key. One day in 8th grade, I brought a picture of a fancy looking BMW to my art class, because I wanted to draw it for an assignment. The instructor looked at it and failed to see the point, “I don’t understand, wouldn’t you want to draw a powerful car, like a Camaro or a Mustang? Wouldn’t you want to drive one of those cars?” Well, no, I wanted to draw the BMW, and had you asked my 13 year old self at that time, I wanted to drive that BMW. That BMW was powerful. These days, I’d probably split the difference between power and luxury (my Camry notwithstanding), but the luxury car appealed to my teenage self. I compromised with the instructor and drew a powerful luxury car, but that interaction stuck with me for a long time, even if I didn’t realize it. The explicit message was “Wouldn’t you rather do (x) than (y)?”, but the implicit message was, “What you want to do isn’t cool/trendy/appealing enough. Do this instead and fit in.” Screw that. It took me way too long to realize this, but, like that one Audioslave song says, Be Yourself is all that you can do. I’ll go one step further than Chris Cornell, and say that being yourself is literally one of the most important things you will ever learn to do. Being who you are, no matter what that is, is the key. Want to cut your hair? Do it. Want to sing loudly and off key? Do it. Does the purple shirt appeal to you? Wear it. Like N*Sync? Listen to them. Don’t hide it. Be happy with who you are and be that person.
To continue with that thought, a few weeks ago, I set out to write a post about watching a sunset while visiting a mission. Instead, it turned into a somewhat rambling post about drawing inspiration from simple things and making things work out for you, even if things don’t work out like you had planned. When I wrote that post, I was in the middle of a pretty tumultuous period which saw my general everyday mood bounce back and forth between rage and apathy. I’d recovered enough from my injuries to resume normal activities, but I was still very limited by my body, and I was simultaneously depressed and wildly angry over it. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t feeling so great when I wrote that post. I ended up so far off topic on that post that I nearly added a line apologizing for the whole thing, but I decided not to. I decided not to apologize because this is my blog and I can go off-topic if I feel like it. A year ago, I would have probably scrapped the post. Today, I feel confident enough to Own It and admit that I was having a bad day. Sometimes, it comes out in my writing. Today, I feel confident enough to say, “This is how I feel right now. There it is. Take it or leave it.” It seems like such a simple thing, but all too often, we’re too embarrassed/prideful/shameful to simply own it. If you’re not feeling well, then you’re not feeling well. If you make a mistake, learn your lesson and then move on. Sometimes, just forget about other people and be true to your own damn self. I’m not always confident, but I’m learning to be.
To jump back a little bit; that story above about the art class? I’ve never told ANYBODY that story until I wrote it out right there. I don’t know why I chose to wait so long to share it, but I’m guessing that it’s because I was afraid that someone was going to judge me over it. However, I’ve realized that most people aren’t out to screw you over, and I’ve learned to Trust. In fact, I’ve found that if you’re willing to trust people, even just a little bit, they’ll be more likely to reach out and trust you. That’s how friendships are formed. They probably won’t judge you, and if they do judge you, screw them. You don’t need that in your life.
That being said, if I’m willing to trust you, Don’t Be An Ass – just don’t. Don’t be that guy who’s out to screw everybody over. Don’t abuse that trust. It’s not attractive, and you’ll lose friends and die alone and miserable.
While I’m on my Do’s and Don’t’s, Don’t Be An Idiot. I actually learned this one from an episode of The Office, and it’s shockingly useful. Dwight Schrute’s quote still sticks out in my mind, “Whenever I’m about to do something, I think, ‘Would an idiot do that?’ And if they would, I do not do that thing.” You’d be surprised how often you’ll remind myself of this throwaway line in your everyday life, and you’d also be surprised how often it actually prevents you from doing stupid things.
Do: Call Your Parents. Call your parents and talk to them. Actually talk to them, tell them about your life, the good and the bad, share it with them. Tell them about your problems, and listen to what they have to say in response. 99 times out of 100, they’ve been through it. Seriously. Even if you don’t agree with everything they say, you can at least take something out of it. Even if the lesson is “Don’t repeat the same mistakes your parents made”, you can still get something out of a good talk with them. Call your parents. They miss you.
Even if you think you’ve got it all figured out, I’m sorry to say that you’re probably very wrong. Even the best laid plans can come unraveled in an instant, and your life can change forever in the blink of an eye. For all of the times you wake up in the morning, pour yourself a cup of coffee, get in your car and drive to work for what should be a typical day, there is always a chance that it could all be shaken up and turned around before you even know it. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to remind myself of this fact in the last six months. It’s not always useful to predict things, because Things Are Only Predictable Until They’re Not.
But for all of the unpredictability that is life, it’s still so important to try to find at least one constant thing that can make you smile. For me, it’s a road that symbolizes my roots, my present, and most importantly, home. It means peace and freedom to me. I know that I’m never far away from a beach or the ocean when I drive on Highway 1. As completely geeky as it sounds, every time I see the little green sign, I smile a dumb smile just a little bit. Every time. Find That One Little Thing that will make you smile every time you see it or think about it.
When I was taking an introductory psychology class in community college, I learned about Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs. The Wiki link is there if you want a better overview of the concept, but it basically states that before you can achieve self-actualization (and realize your full potential), you have to satisfy all of your basic physiological, safety, and inwardly emotional needs. Think of building a pyramid from the ground up – you can’t put the capstone atop it until the base is fully built. It’s an excellent theory, and one that I reminded myself of constantly during my recovery. It helped me to set my priorities straight – first I learn to walk without crutches, then I can drive to meet up with my friends to watch the big game, and only then can I go to Lollapallooza. Anyways, it took me a while to get back on my feet, and now that I am there, I’ve reconnected with my motivation. I’d become reserved and complacent in the months leading up to my injuries. It’s a shame that it took that specific series of events for me to essentially slap me in the face and realize it, but during my recovery, I realized that it’s okay not to settle. It’s Okay To Want More. It’s okay to want something more and It’s Okay To Want Something Better. You still have to work for it, and you won’t always get it, but it’s okay to want it. If you stop wanting more, and stop wanting better, then you get complacent and lose motivation. You become stagnant and stuck, and you stop growing as a person. Complacency Is The Enemy Of Progress. You never stop growing as a person unless you don’t want to.
(Yes, that’s three lessons in one paragraph. See DGAF above.)
Posted on June 9, 2013, in Bygone Eras, Day & Age, The List and tagged 2013, Confidence, Learning, Lessons, life, New Person, New Year, Own It, Self Confidence, Self Perception. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.