- Countries Visited: 20 something
- Travel Wishlist: Amalfi Coast, Southern Italy
- Locked down in: Minneapolis / Denver
“Suddenly, I felt like that 12 year old boy who had always been lost in the world, was turned into the 26 year old fully confident man. A man who was content with the uncertainties of life, but someone who had the uttermost lust to discover all that he could.”
This is the story of one of the worst years in human memory, yet one of the most empowering years of my life.
Just like seemingly everyone else on earth, on New Year’s Eve 2020, I stood proudly proclaiming that this year would be the year everything came together for me. This was the year my wildest ambitions would come true. I was positive that on December 31st of 2020, I’d be somewhere in a tropical climate, chiseled body, luxurious career, surrounded by beautiful people with seemingly not a care in the world. Boy how wrong I was, how wrong we all were.
Rather than the year starting off with a bang it started with quite the opposite. I was having such difficulties finding work, that I had to move in with my mom and her boyfriend. Hardly the move a 25 year old freelancer wants to make. To top that off, the immigration process for my step mother and brother were taking longer than anticipated and both of my grandmother’s had recently been diagnosed with cancer. Life was in total ruins.
Fast forward to the beginning of March. At this point, news of the pandemic is ramping up and things are slowly but surely getting more heated in our political climate. If there are any good bits happening it was that Liverpool, my favorite football club were in the round of 16 of the champions league, and though they were down on aggregate they have somewhat of a reputation for epic comebacks. (see UCL 2005 Final, UCL 2019 Semi-Final) To add to that, the weather was at least getting better. I was getting some nice bonding time with my younger siblings, oh and my favorite job had hired me for another few seasons. Life it seems, was finally turning around a bit.
Unfortunately this didn’t last long. Within one week I found out that my grandmother, who I loved dearly, and confided in for nearly anything had passed away. The loss of a woman who an entire family leaned on for love and support, had left a gaping void. Grief is not a word strong enough to describe the heartbreak and pain that our family felt, and frankly still feel to this day. No one felt this pain more than my grandfather, who met and fell in love with her when he was a mere 5 years old. They had been dating since they were 15 and never left each other’s side. I had learned so much about the art of stillness from them, as at any hours of the day you could walk into the backyard and find them silently sitting next to one another, enjoying the sound of nature, and birds singing their lively tune. I can only hope to find love as strong as theirs is.
To add to the heartbreak, two days before I was meant to leave for my job and the same day that Liverpool came crashing out of the Champions League following a triumphant comeback, I discovered that due to COVID restrictions my job would be forced to halt production. Love and job lost, I was high and dry. This, I can easily say was the most depressing moment of my life. While I’ve certainly had more traumatizing events, the culmination of the state of our world, added to all the personal stuff was overbearing. I’m just incredibly grateful to be surrounded by so many loving and powerful people.
The good news here is two fold. The first is, when your world comes crashing down in spectacular fashion you realize there is only one direction to go, up. Second, you realize when life comes through your walls of security like a wrecking ball you can either choose to sulk and be beaten into a pulp, or take grip of the situation you were handed and fight like hell to make it better. At the time I had been diving deep into Stoic philosophy as a means to find a way to deal with the trauma. I learned about action, and thought. Understanding that we can only control a finite amount of things, the things of which you can control must be controlled consciously, with thoughtful consideration. The things beyond our control however, must not be allowed to affect us, as they are concrete. Through this I was able to make a change in my life that changed quite literally everything.
If you’ve stuck around through the depressing downfalls of the year, you’ll be happy to know that this is where the story takes a more positive turn. Three days after discovering I had lost my job, I woke up and walked into the back yard to lay in my hammock. I lay there contemplating whether it was I who needed adjusting or rather my surroundings. I thought back to a road trip I had taken with my best friend the previous fall, I thought of the freedom felt, the memories and bad decisions made. At that exact moment, I got a call from him. Upon finding out that he too had lost his job I immediately joked that we should just move out west, to my surprise he agreed. A change of surroundings it was. Denver was on the calendar.
One month later, I was standing at the end of the driveway giving my mom one last hug before driving 18 hours west to start a new life in Denver. It felt fake. I had left so many times before but for some reason this just felt like I’d be driving around the block just to say “Gotcha” and begin unloading all my belongings again. Well, it wasn’t a joke. 165 red bulls and a day later, I would arrive at our new home. It was a quaint little place on the West side of the city with an unreal view of the mountains. Matt, my roommate was a bit behind so I just sat on the floor of the apartment taking in the space and wondering what the rest of the year would hold. Would it continue to get better or would life come crashing down again.
Denver Colorado, if you don’t know is at 1600 m elevation, and my, you feel the difference when you’re drinking alcohol. The first few days were spent by my roommate and I getting drunker than anticipated, while playing drinking games in our fully unfurnished -household items for chairs- apartment. After that, however, was when true magic took place. See, I had struggled for years with a feeling of being lost. A feeling of not only not fitting in, but not fitting anything for that matter. Suddenly, I felt like that 12 year old boy who had always been lost in the world, was turned into the 26 year old fully confident man. A man who was content with the uncertainties of life, but someone who had the uttermost lust to discover all that he could.
With my physical presence in the world firmly established, it was time to find some friends. As most of you know, seeing your friends during lock down is quite difficult. Finding new friends in a new place during lockdown proved to be a challenge in a league of its own. When the quantity of people you are introduced too is reduced, the quality becomes all the more important. Well it seems I hit the jackpot. Between a hinge date that became a friend for life, and an old coworker whom I’d end up taking on the adventure of a lifetime my small quarantine pod was stacked with Allstars.
As mentioned earlier, one of the biggest setbacks that Covid dished out was that my career, as many others’ careers, was put on hold. I ended up being lucky enough to find a job that allowed me to fix my severely damaged knee, while working from the comforts of my own bedroom. Alas I was part of the WFH 9-5 grind, my worst nightmare. I’d spend days staring out at the vast mountains while on calls with angry customers who had forgotten their password for the 10,000th time. To make things even more interesting, my roommate Matt, had found a job that was taking him all over the country. I may have been a bit jealous. More than anything though I was just lonely. As nights became longer, and days went from warm and sunny to cold and crummy so did my mood. It wasn’t long after the start of winter that I was put on probation at work for letting a very disrespectful client have a piece of my mind. This is most certainly not a move I recommend, even if it felt great at the time.
So here I was, seasonally depressed, alone, suspended, and physically broken. Quite a respectable reason to be in a rut. As with all ruts, the most important part is the dreaded “rock bottom”. Mine came on a particular afternoon when I had invited my friend and ex-hinge match Kelly over for some coffee. Immediately upon her arrival I started to unload my life struggles onto her shoulders. Kelly however while being one of the most positive people I’ve ever met, had been in quite the rut herself. So, as I tried to unload my negativity onto her she very firmly told me to get a grip, and to do something about my life rather than trying to bring others into the depths of seasonal depression hell with me. She was right, more negativity does not lead to positivity, ever. What happened next is undoubtedly the most important part of my year thus far.
Having let our tears fall, as we sat both drained of our misery and ready to recover, Kelly and I decided a change was in order. There was nothing to lose, so I might as well live the life I wanted to. It was like the dam had burst. Within the week I was outside running for the first time since my ACL injury almost 2 years prior. I was back doing photography and videography, I felt… alive. They say when it rains it pours, well in this case one could say this in a positive tune. Within the span of a week I had been put in contact with a production company for future film work, a CBD beverage company I had created content for responded to my pitch and said they would love to work with me, and last but not least my favorite job on Survivor was coming back for the first time since Covid. On top of that, due to a large shift in crew I was able to get two of my best friends hired. It makes me so happy to think that they will get to go on an adventure of a lifetime! Life it seems, has a funny way of acknowledging when you are trying your best to be your best.
From this point things really just continued to get better. A few well timed trips into the mountains and to a magical little town called Moab provided some much needed r&r. Moab in particular was a great spot as our air bnb was located on the base of the La Sal mountains and was overlooking both Canyonlands and Arches national park. It looked as though we had landed on mars and were overlooking it’s most majestic of wonders, except instead of needing to take a 7 month space flight it was only a couple hours from my home! Once I got home I spent some time with those wonderful new friends I had made in the darkest of moments. Life felt a bit back to normal which was a real nice change of pace.
Time was fleeting before my departure to Fiji and I had but one important task left to accomplish. My roommate and I were expecting… another roommate. Our friend who had come to visit in months prior had decided to make the move to Denver as well, and so, we needed a place with one more bedroom. Through what I can only describe as sheer luck and great timing we found a place without even beginning to look. It basically fell into our laps. This place is our dream place too, it’s in one of the nicest neighborhoods in the whole city, across the nicest park in town, is completely renovated and came at a total bargain. Like… what’s not to love? The car theft, that’s what. It seems that car theft is essentially a given when living in downtown Denver, so that’s a bit of a downer. Here’s to hoping our cars don’t attract too many scheming eyes.
Finally, I’m sitting here mid quarantine in Fiji, and I just can’t help to think of how blessed I am. I understand that many of us have had incredibly difficult years, myself included. Times like this force you to recognize those who are there to help you through. To be thankful for the big and small moments that life hands you an up beat. To understand that while life can be tremendously difficult at times, it’s our responsibility to ourselves to push with all our might, in order to live happy, fulfilled lives.