A Beautiful Life Full of Risk

Lately, I’ve been thinking about how fear can cripple. It can hold you back from doing the things you really want to do in life, including achieving your dreams.

It’s no secret that we’re all afraid of something. Maybe we don’t try because we’re afraid of failure. Maybe we don’t love because we’re afraid we’ll end up brokenhearted. Maybe we don’t live because we’re afraid we’ll be hurt. And while all these are possible (and could or have happened at one point) if we don’t live and experience all there is, then, we merely exist.

With that said, it’s taken me 25 years, a lot of thinking, some life experience and a thought provoking essay to figure that out.

Almost a year ago, I was reading an essay titled Madness and the Crayfish Factory by Jon Foreman. On the surface it’s a story about surfing the giant, shark infested waters of Cape Town, South Africa, but, dig a little deeper, and you’ll find it’s about so much more. Tear into the meat of the story and it’s about chasing down your fears, staring them in face and overcoming them (even though you may be terrified). It’s about meeting the challenges in life head-on. There’s no guarantee you will come out unscathed, but that’s part of the risk. And isn’t a risk something like a gamble, a 50/50 chance that the end will be what you wish. Of course, the choice is always yours. So run after the things that scare you or stay on the sidelines.

“But remember: in any worthwhile endeavor there’s risk involved. Fall in love, fight for something you believe in, or paddle out on a day that scares you — the risk is always there. But perhaps the greater risk is to live out these shallow lives, running from our fears and dreams.”

I don’t want to run anymore. I’ve never been good at long distances (sprinting, yes) and I’m beginning to feel tired.

How about you?

I’ve been running for years, taking very few risk (and later wishing I had). Although, the risks I’ve been brave enough to take have been worth it.

If you think about it, there’s a whole world waiting, inviting you into its arms. There’s billions of different people to meet and learn from, hundreds of places to go and numerous adventures to be lived. Each of these have the opportunity to provide you with an experience and a story, or two. I certainly have no intention of surfing in the shark filled waters of South Africa, but I’m sure there will be times when I’m in my own, metaphorical, shark filled ocean with waves that continuously beat me down. And each time I will pray that the water doesn’t drown me and the sharks don’t eat me.

Isn’t life itself a risk? Our lives are made up of moments, decisions (for better or worse), people, places, feelings along with a variety of other things and each one contains a certain amount of unpredictability. At the same time, they help shape us as person. They add to the adventure and story that is our life.

After all, we only have one life so we might as well live it.

It’s like Jon points out in his essay, we all have a deadline. Don’t be so foolish to believe death won’t find you because, eventually, it will find all of us. This is something we have no control over, but what we can control, I believe, is what we do with the life we’ve been given.

So here I am, at a bit of a crossroads (as I’m sure we’ve all been there), and I can either sit back and let life happen, or I can live and not just simply exist. And I choose the latter. There’s things I want to do, places I want to go and people I want to see. I have my whole life ahead of me, infinite possibilities. We all have infinite possibilities. It’s the great unknown and, sure it’s scary, but I’m learning that’s part of the adventure.

Still, sometimes, when I’ve made a decision and then feel myself shying away, I hear those words echoing in my head; “But remember: in any worthwhile endeavor there’s risk involved…But perhaps the greater risk is to live out these shallow lives, running from our fears and dreams.”

Take a risk. I’m not saying you have to surf sharky waters (unless you want to), but we all have dreams and achieving those dreams require a certain amount of risk.

And I’m willing to take that risk.

If you would like to read “Madness and the Crayfish Factory” in its entirety, you may do so by going here.


A Birthday Message

Let’s show Mr. Chad Butler, drummer of Switchfoot, some love, as he turns 41 today!

SF132013Happy Birthday Chad! You hit things for a living. You are a drumming machine. You are an animal on those drums (sort of like Animal the muppet). You are Bad Chutler. You are the one who has the ability to fall asleep anywhere (please teach me how to do that sometime). You’re one of the most humble and kindest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Even though your drum set sits at the back of the stage, you seem to be the heartbeat of the band, working together with all the other parts (a body can’t function without a heart and you are part of the rhythm section). Thank you for everything you do, all the sacrifices, all the travel, all the tours. Thank you for making beautiful music and sharing it with all of us. We appreciate it and we appreciate you. I hope you have great day (as you celebrate in India). I wish you all the best, always.

That Sweet Sound Of Rock n’ Roll

It was so cold that I could see his breath come to greet the night air. Each word floated on a puff of smoke, traveling over the crowd and flowing to our ears. The notes chased Switchfootafter the words, blasting through the speakers and hitting like a shock wave before clinging to them. The bass and drums vibrated through my body. They gently wrapped themselves around my heart, became part of me, and before long it felt as if my heartbeat match the rhythm of each song.

I, along with many others, sang along, the lyrics and melody weaving there way through the raindrops. The relentless rain was nothing more then a nuisance, an army of fine water droplets attempting to drive us away. But we are a strong breed. We all stood in the cold rain as if it wasn’t even there. After all the snow we’ve seen during the winter it was going to take more then a little rain to send us running.

It was Saturday, March 14 and Sugar Daze was being hosted by Okemo Mountain Resort in Ludlow, VT. Switchfoot was the headlining band, not going on until the evening. I was positive it would stop raining by then, but I would be mistaken. I had watched the weather all week, praying for sun or at least clouds. I hoped for snow instead of rain. I’m not magic and can’t control the weather, but it never hurts to hope. I was given a high temperature of 39 with rain. No matter what the weather was, I knew I was going. So off I went on a mini road trip to Vermont.

I arrived around 1:30 in the afternoon. Yes, I was incredible early, but this gave me plenty of time to explore (which is something I love to do). Although, exploring led to being cold and wet. It had rained for most of my two hour drive, only letting up once or twice to lull me into a false sense of hope before starting up again. It wasn’t a heavy rain, just a fine mist as if someone was spraying me with a garden hose.

A hot drink was the way to go at this point. My choices were coffee, hot cocoa or tea. I chose tea and as I held the styrofoam cup I could feel the heat penetrating through to my hands, much like I knew, later on, the music would warm my heart and soul. It was a lovely feeling.

I think its been established that the day was cold and rainy. Honesty, if you couldn’t look pass it, then, the day was downright miserable. Personally, there was too much to look forward to (not to mention the beauty of the mountain).

The concert was to take place at the base of Okemo Mountain. As I stepped outside clutching my hot tea and looked up at it, I thought how picturesque it appeared. The clouds hung low over the top of the mountain, wrapping it in a blanket of light fog. It was dressed from head to toe in white and dotted with giant pines and still sleeping trees.

I settled myself at a small table out of the rain, but in front of this gorgeous view. Skiers and snowboarders walked by in a continuous fashion. I watched them lugging their gear to and from the ski lift as I sipped my tea.

Suddenly there was music coming from the stage. (This was a most welcomed sound that drowned out the rhythmic dripping of rain.) It was a simple guitar riff that could’ve belonged to any musician from any band. Since there were two other bands in the lineup, I didn’t give it a second thought. At least I didn’t until the drums joined in and it sounded a little something like “Say It Like You Mean It.” From where I was sitting I couldn’t see who was on stage, so there was no way of telling if my ears were playing me false, but my curiosity was peaked. I grabbed my tea and left my dry shelter to, once again, strike out into the spitting rain. Music was still coming from the stage (only a drum beat now) and as I rounded the corner I saw Drew warming his hands by a heater. He looked a little sad, or maybe he was just cold. Yes, come to think of it he was probably just cold. (We all know how much he loves the cold. Not.) I made my way up a small hill of snow and leaned against a fence off to the side. I stayed and watched them do sound check until the rain became too much, then, took shelter again.

The music had stopped only moments ago and I was back to listening to the people, the rain and the silence of the mountain. (It was actually quite peaceful.) As I turned the corner, I saw Drew and Tim coming down from the stage, crossing over a snow mound. Drew was moving pretty fast, headed for the warmth of the hotel. (I don’t blame you, Drew. I don’t blame you one little bit.) I did have a chance to chat with Tim, who Drew left in the dust on his mission for warmth. Even in the drizzle he was willing to stop and talk for a minute. He told me it was about 80 degrees in California the previous day and about the same today. (Well, thank you guys for leaving the warmth of California to hang with us in the cold rain of Vermont.) Then he made a comment about skiing and I told him I don’t really ski (because I’m more of a snowshoe golf kind of girl). We parted ways and I wished him a good show.

As evening came on, the rain continued to fall. The gray evening sky slowly turned a blueish black and I found myself in a place where hot breath meets the cold night, where words float on puffs of smoke as the notes chase them, and where the bass and drums are the heartbeat while the melody and lyrics flow like blood.

The songs that rang out in the night were:
Say It Like You Mean It
Dark Horses
Who We Are
Petty (Won’t Back Down by Tom Petty)
Let It Out
Mess/Your Love
Worth The Fight
7 Nation Army
M2L (Meant To Live)
BA55 ?
When We Come Alive
Where I Belong

Although, at a certain point, it was as if the guys decided…Set list? What set list?…and simply started playing songs. I’m not against this at all. In fact, I’m all for it. I love spontaneity and nothing was more unpredictable then this show.

There were two people in the crowd, one with a sign, who requested “On Fire”. So, instead of playing “Mess” or “Your Love” the guys played “On Fire”. This song is an oldie, but a goodie. It’s a beautiful song and one that I’ve always loved (so thank you for your request).

One song they played wasn’t even on the set list. They decided to play “Lean On Me” by Bill Withers. I was standing there thinking, “How many people here know who he is?” SwitchfootI’m not afraid to admit that one of those people was me. (Although, once they started playing I said to myself, “I know this song!”) As an extra surprise they brought Brad Corrigan (from the band Dispatch and the previous solo act) out on stage to sing with them. This is a good song and a fun one. Not to mention, I think it was pretty clear to everyone in the crowd that the guys were having fun too.

“This is the time of the night,” began Jon. “when I let Tim decide what song we play.” As soon as the words left his mouth, I found myself thinking they were going to play “BA55”. I love that song with it’s deep bass intro and light drums in the distance along with the lyrics (and then the drums really come in, but the bass is still a central part of the song). While Tim did start off playing a heavy bass line it wasn’t “BA55”. It was “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes.

Great song.

Great cover.

As soon as Jon opened his mouth, as soon as the lyrics started pouring out, I was completely thrown. I thought he sounded a lot like Jack White. I mean, only Jack White can truly sound like Jack White, but, for what it’s worth, Jon came pretty close (and I wasn’t expecting it). This cover reminded me of The Beastie Boy’s song they performed (not at this show but ones in the past). “Sabotage.” I always thought they nailed that song and Jon’s voice hit many similarities, with his own unique twist.

Now, this is completely off track, but I find myself wondering if Jon channels these artists before they play a cover? There’s something for all of you to ponder. And if any of you have any insight, I would be happy to hear it.

The stage had a type of roof and an overhang to keep the floor dry, but it also had two platforms on either side. These were exposed to the elements and as the night went on began to develop and slight sheen. So every time Jon stepped out on one, I hoped he wouldn’t fall.

Once he was standing on the platform on the opposite side of the stage from where I was standing. I was singing along as I watched him slowly crouch down and focus on someone in the crowd. I leaned over the barricade bar as far as I could, stretching my neck, to see what was happening and witnessed something beautiful. There, sitting on her father’s shoulders was a little girl about five or six years old. She was smiling, clapping her hands and bounding a little as Jon sang to her. It was a very sweet moment and even after he left, that little girl was still beaming.

Jon crossed the stage and made his way to the other platform, where he was helped down and into the crowd. The barricade bar wasn’t sheltered and due to the rain and cooler temperatures of the night air, it was beginning to become slick. As he was preparing to jump over the bar, he slipped backwards and I grabbed his arm. I’m not sure what good it did, but I’m glad for my cat-like reflexes. (The last thing I wanted was for him to fall backwards and hurt himself. Of course the other option was that he fell forward and landed on me since I was right in front of him. Luckily, no one fell and no one was hurt.) Jon weaved his way through the crowd, giving high-fives and even stopping to take pictures with some people before heading back to the stage.

SwitchfootThe music flowed as freely as the rain from the sky. Some were deterred by the weather, but not me. Besides, the cold was forgotten and replaced by the warmth of the notes and melody.

By the end of the night the rain had soaked me. My boots were wet and I could feel the water seeping through my socks. My mittens couldn’t have been more wet if I immersed them in water myself. My hat had seen dryer days too, but it was all worth it. I’m pretty confident in saying that anyone who was at the show would agree. The guys gave it their all. They always give 100 percent and more, every single one of them. So thank you for leaving the warm, sandy beach of California to join us in the cold, rainy and dreary mountains of Vermont.

We appreciate it.

We appreciate all of you.

Until next time…stay classy gentlemen.


Respect Your Elders, They Can Teach You Things

From the time you were a child you probably had your parents and various other people telling you, “Respect your elders.” I’m sure this put a sour look on your face (as it sometimes did mine) because you thought you were being funny, you were only being a kid, but you were really being disrespectful. The fact that your parents (and mine) were attempting to instill the idea of respect is a positive thing. They were trying to make you a better person, raise you right. They were trying to teach you to respect the people around you.

In today’s world, I don’t think the elder population is treated the way they should be, especially by the younger generations. Most of the time they’re brushed off, ignored, left alone. They are thought to be incompetent, a burden and even a drain on society.

This not respecting your elders.

And we’re all headed in the same direction, as far as aging is concerned.

The reality is, these people can teach us things.

Remember all those historical events you learned about in high school; WWI, WWII, The Great Depression, among many others. Have you ever asked anyone who was alive during that time what it was really like to have these things happening around them? Have you even thought to ask? Sure you can learn from a text book, but it can only teach you so much. A text book can’t relay the pain of losing a brother or a son to war. It can’t show you the joy on a child’s face after receiving a new pair of shoes. No, texts books can only show you the facts.

It’s been my experience that a first-hand account is best. Over the years, I’ve found you can learn more from asking then any text book could ever teach you.

I’ve often asked my grandpa to tell me stories about his experiences in WWII. I’ve asked him to tell me stories about his parents and immigration. I’ve asked him to tell me stories about the places he’s been, the things he’s seen and the people he’s met along the way. Sometimes I ask him to just tell me a story, any story.

My grandma’s the same, a vessel full of stories. I’ve asked her tell me what it was really like growing up during The Great Depression, if she remembers FDR’s Fireside Chats coming in over the radio. I’ve asked her to tell me what it was like to have brothers in the war, what they had to say about the combat of certain battles and how it felt when they came home.

I’ve asked my grandparents a number of things over the years. I love history and listening to people’s stories. I’m curious and want to know, to keep growing. I’ve learned things I never would have found in a text book, or even on the internet. Regardless, I believe it’s important to somehow record these stories, even if it’s by memory, because one day all these people will have passed on from this world and their stories will go with them.

My grandparents aren’t the only ones who have taught me a thing or two. I’ve learned from friends, family friends, my grandparent’s friends and the list goes on.

Back in January I wrote about a teacher I had in college who, afterward, became a friend. He was an older man, so most of the people in class wrote him off as just that; old. If only they could’ve seen how much he could’ve taught them. He told me numbers stories of old-time newspapers, of what it was like being an editor, what it was like being a reporter (and some of the things he did to get his stories would never fly in today’s world) and life in general.

It seems to me that the younger generations don’t know how to respect their elders (although, I’m sure some of you do). They’re brushed aside as people wonder, “What do they have to offer?” The truth is, they have so much to offer. They are a window to the past, which is just as important as the present and the future.

My suggestion, or challenge, to you is to show them more respect. Find a grandparent, a family friend, anyone you have a remote acquaintance with and have a conversation. Ask them what it was like growing up, what it was like to experience some of these big events. Simply ask them to tell you a story, any story. I guarantee you’ll put a smile on their face and learn a thing or two in the process.