(This is my third attempt at this post. I'm not sure why I'm over thinking this so much)
The big THREE ZERO. That's where I am. I'm a recent arrival. Got here last week. Stumbling, half awake, it hit me with all the fury of a very soft, and quite lame, thump.
At first I tried going through my twenties in chronological order. Starting in Jerusalem, going through South Africa, Safed, and then to Long Beach. But that got tedious.
Then I tried from another angle. I'm not even sure what it was. Obviously wasn't very interesting.
Here's the deal. Looking back, my life had been awesome, and it completely sucked.
I've been extraordinarily blessed. I had good schooling, did well in school. When I was 15 my parents let me loose in Israel for three years with a $100 a month allowance and small list of phone numbers I got from my cousins. I learned how to be alone (in a good way), how to ask for stuff from strangers. I learned to love traveling, love walking (I walked crazy amounts to get out of having to pay for a bus or cab, I walked clear across Jerusalem many a time, a good 10 miles), and love, almost painfully, the holy land. I learned how to make a bread sandwich (two pieces of bread surrounding a third), how to put chummus on everything, how to find the cheapest and best Shwarma. I slept on a rooftop in the old city for a week, on a towel in the golan, and on the same towel in Eilat. I learned how to bargain in the shuk, got a hookah down from 400 shekels to 30, even had him throw in a bunch of coal and tobacco and then walked away because I didn't really want it. The dude almost killed me. I called random strangers who gave me other numbers of other random strangers whose houses I then crashed for weekends. I learned what it's like to stay up for days on end, studying for a contest that I decided too late to join. I learned how to sleep. I convinced a few friends to go to Switzerland for a week. We stayed at another stranger's house in Zurich for Shabbos, found an apartment in Grindelwald, ate pasta; tuna; swiss cheese; and chocolate, and skied. Hard. All for around $400. We even lost one of the crew as he went to look for francs while the train took off. In the days before cellphones were ubiquitous. He had no clue where we were staying or how to get there. He somehow ended up in a neighboring village, hung out in a local bar (speaking yiddish to the locals) for a couple of hours, moseyed on to Grindelwald, asked a local taxi company if he drove any bearded yiddish-speaking folks anywhere, which they did. It's funny how the lost dude never worries. I mean he knows where he is. It's the found who worry.
Ha. I thought I wasn't getting to get all historical on you. Well between 19 and 30 a lot has happened. I'm sure it will come up some other time. Most importantly I married Estee and joined the exclusive five-before-thirty club (known to the cool kids as 5B430 Club).
That's all the awesome part.
The part that sucked was how easy it's all been. I never really worked hard at school. Things always seemed to fall into place when they needed to without crazy effort on my part. I spent hours a day reading fiction, and hours at night talking, hanging, maybe drinking a bit. I made money, lost money, and didn't really care. I dated the first girl I really liked, and married the first girl I dated. Which was the best thing I've ever done, but that's not the point. I fell into a job here in Long Beach, fell into another, wandered into graphic design, and stumbled into photography. Yeah, of course I put in the hours, and occasionally actually worked. But for the most part I waste time.
There are so many things I wanted to do. My Switzerland trip was an anomaly, a blip. There was this Summer program in New Zealand that I wanted to go on. For the first month you learn how to be a ski instructor, for the second you teach, and it pays for your travel and lodging. I wanted to rent Harleys with a few guys a drive across America. Of course I wanted to do the whole hitchhiking thing as well. I went backpacking for one week of my life. One. Stinking. Week. I never landed in some random city in Europe with just a backpack and a map, I could have. Many times. But I didn't. Rarely hiked. I could count on one hand the sunrises I spent in solitude in some beautiful place. Never surfed. I still can't play guitar or tap dance. Never really tried poetry. Don't know algebra or geometry and I still can't string together a proper paragraph. I was too busy doing nothing. Wasting time.
I learned for years in Yeshiva, and hardly know a thing. I started book after book, topic after topic. Never finishing. To think of it makes the heart grow heavy, and the eyes start to tear. I don't listen to my heart beat anymore. For when I shut everything off and tune everyone out, all I have is me and I don't like what I see. I've been alive for 30 years, and have what to show?
Yeah, I blame it on many things, on my inherent laziness, on being smart enough to get by, genetics, having an addictive personality, but I don't think that's it. Not all of it. I think I'm scared. I see that I get by, and even do some pretty cool things along the way without giving it too much. And deep down I wonder how much I could accomplish if I actually tried. If I woke up one morning and lived intentionally. If I let go of all my distractions and focused on following my dreams. I have no clue where it will all lead. Somewhere great. And great is terrifying. I know that if I allow what's deep down inside of me to come out it will change my life. And while I look back with disgust on the nothingness that is the past 30 years, it's my comfort zone. 80% of the Jews didn't leave Egypt. It sucked. Pretty badly, but becoming G-d's people? Going on some crazy mission to change the world? Doing something great? Do I stay here as a slave to my shortcomings, or do I break free, grab life by the horns. Can I walk into the unknown, take that step? Truth is anyone can take that first step, it's the next one, and the next. It's waking up every morning and knowing that today will be something special.
Sheesh, I wrote that all last week. For all I know that whole last part is bogus. All that trap about fear and the such. I may just be incorrigibly lazy.
The point is, I'm 30 and I don't start now, it just ain't gonna happen. I've narrowed it down to two resolutions.
Resolution numero uno (for my Spanish speaking readers, that means "number one"): Every time I look back on my day/week/month/year/decade/life/previous life/ with agonizing despair at my seemingly relentless and self destructive time wasting, I shall slap my mind with my other mind, and say: "Stop!! Yeah, you sucked. Big deal. Get over it. Every day is a war, and you win some battles, lose some battles, as long as you're still fighting you're good. Now get off your lazy posterior, and attack. Sneak around the enemy and shoot him in the back, stab him in the leg, pop him in the head (wow, that sounds harsh, I've been listening to my six year old too much)"
Resolution numero dos: That my next 10 years are waaaaaay more coherent than this post. Too often I get lost in the means and the ways instead of the destination. Just this morning I was doing my morning prayers on the banks of a lovely lake in lovely weather with lovely birds and ducks making all sorts of lovely sounds. And I found my mind drifting off to photography, to places, ideas, gear, thrift store hopes… I caught myself, and laughed at the absurdity (better than crying at the ridiculousness). All these ideas bouncing around in my head are mostly ways to further my business. You know, I'd love to provide for my family, not to have to worry about rent, or if we could afford cleaning help this month. I'd love to limit the amount of work so I could go somewhere beautiful, without a worry on my mind, meditate a bit, and do my morning prayer there. Yet here I am, doing the exact same thing right now, and instead of thinking about G-d and myself I think of ways to get more money so I could go somewhere beautiful… To live life coherently. To have the choices in my day to day life be in accordance with my goals.
My wife and I have some blog plans for the coming years. They are risky plans. Scary plans. But a life without courage is a life without integrity. And I'm even more scared of looking back at 40 and writing the exact same post. That is scary.
So this is the year I take the step. And the next. And the next. I'm not sure which surface I'll be landing on next, but I trust in G-d that if I do my part he'll do his.
There is no way I am reading over everything I wrote to see if it actually makes sense, so I apologize for pointless ramblings and unfinished thoughts.
The title is from the song Breathe Easy by my talented friend Levi Robin.