Barefoot Monologues

A Journey of the Sole


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Courage {Prompted}

The following post is part of a writing exercise that my friend Kathy and I have undertaken together. We choose a weekly topic from a list of prompts found here. I intend to use a varying array of writing styles and techniques, and to limit my editing. I invite those of you with blogs of your own to participate with us.  And as always, thanks for reading!

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napolean-bonaparte

At first I thought this week’s topic pick “courage” was going to be the easiest topic ever. After all, I’m totally courageous! I possess so much courage that I….well I…I definitely did…

Wait.

Here I am, with this deliciously blank page in front of me, all ready to talk about the most courageous thing I have ever done. Certainly it was the act of picking up my life on the east coast and moving to California, right? I thought so. But the more I really consider it, the less courageous it seems. I mean, we left what basically amounted to a crappy life, for a really good life. Bad weather for good. A house that was a money pit to a home we love. A 9-to-5 commute to the office for a flexible-hours home office. Frozen peas for Farmers Markets.  You get the picture. We moved somewhere that basically made it easier for us to live. Big freaking whoop.

Going somewhere that’s easier for me to be happy might be considered efficacious, or even adventurous. But not courageous. A “courageous” move for me might have been driving to Alaska in January or relocating to a foreign country that speaks a different language. That would take some courage. And also some major survival skills that I don’t happen to possess. But I moved to the land of beaches and palm trees. I mean, come on. Easy-peasy.

So what’s so courageous about moving to California? The fact that we cashed in our life savings and drove across the country? Nah, we were lucky to have the money so readily available to us. Most people don’t have that. Besides, we both have jobs that we can do just about anywhere so there will always be more money.

Is it because we left all of our friends and family behind? In this hyper social-networking day and age when practically everyone you know is a text message, Skype call, Facebook post or nights-and-weekends phone call away, that’s hardly brave. Also, moving to a different state is pretty much as rare as a penny. And moving to California is even less rare…I mean, I can’t remember the last time I even met a native Californian. Everyone ends up here.

In all reality, this relocation wasn’t courageous, it was just the fulfillment of a longtime personal desire. Nothing a little gumption and some cash flow can’t handle.

So what makes me think I’m such a courageous person?

Am I courageous because of all the times I’ve spoken my mind instead of bowing down to people who have wronged me? Because I went to school for art instead of something “practical” or because I ended a bad relationship when I was scared to do it? Am I courageous because I’ve run an ultramarathon? Because I run even when people call me fat? Does it take courage to forgive and move on from your shitty childhood? A home you don’t want anymore? An unhealthy friendship?

What makes me assume that anything I do is so singularly amazing? I mean, I’m not exactly slaying dragons or saving kittens from burning buildings in my spare time, so what is so special and courageous about who I am and what I do with my life? What makes me such a fucking hero?

And why am I always questioning myself?

Well, maybe that’s just it: questioning. Maybe there’s something to be said about that guy saving kittens from burning buildings in his spare time. Most people would say that’s a courageous act, but when you call him a hero he’ll scoff and say he was just doing the right thing. Maybe courage isn’t something you recognize on a day to day basis. Maybe it’s not something you can see and pat yourself on the back for doing. Courageous people are the ones always asking themselves the important questions, and answering with honesty instead of bullshit. Maybe courage is about admitting that you’re not a hero just because you packed your shit into a car and moved, bought a house and raised 2.3 kids, or because you lived past 30 without bleaching your hair.

Courageous people do. They act. They think critically. They accept mountainous challenges. They problem solve. They don’t ask for help they could do without. They do things that are against the norm. Courageous people are the ones who just do what needs to get done. Not for accolades. Not for hero status. And the most courageous people will probably never consider themselves so, because they were just doing the right thing.

So I’ll just end by saying I’d love to be courageous someday. But I’ll probably never move to France, so if I were you I wouldn’t hold my breath.

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I Left My Mojo in Carlsbad

The afternoon sunset at my favorite sand-covered spot, Carlsbad Beach.

The afternoon sunset at my favorite sand-covered spot, Carlsbad Beach.

For weeks, it was nowhere to be found. I searched everywhere I could think of. I looked all over the house, in cluttered closets, under furniture, between my dog’s teeth and in the back seat of my car. It just wouldn’t turn up, and I couldn’t remember the last time I saw it, either. I asked some of my friends if they’d found it anywhere, maybe left behind in their car after a trail run or something, but nobody had.

I even ended up making an excuse to see my buddies Vanessa and Shacky, so I could look under the tires of their Rialta RV myself, because that had to be the last place on earth that I didn’t look. Or heck, maybe Vanessa stole it herself! I mean, she’s been running an awful lot of hundos lately, and nobody is really sure where she got all that mojo.

But, Vanessa is way too sweet to do something like that, so I had to let my suspicions go.

After awhile I made some “Lost Mojo” signs and posted them all over my neighborhood. No calls, not a single one. I started going door-to-door, but this is California, so I just got a lot of weird, uncomfortable smiles and no real answers. So I resigned myself to the reality that I might never find my running mojo again. I took up yoga and even looked into Crossfit as a possible replacement, but alas, it just wasn’t the same.

Then one day I went to the theater and watched a movie that was set in the east coast. It gave me that dull ache of homesickness for the first time since I moved to California. Those cracked old sidewalks and oak trees with their leaves that fell to the ground and made a crunching sound beneath my Merrells. Then I realized, that was it! Had to be. I must have left my running mojo behind when I left New Hampshire. Surely it must have been swept up and thrown into the garbage by the new owners of my house. It’s gone for good by now. What a goddamn shame.

Since then I haven’t been running much, if at all. And when I do lace up, my runs just don’t have the same fire that they used to have. I have been reduced to slowly gaining weight from lack of exercise and bad afternoon television, as I stare blankly at the pile of beautiful unworn INKnBURN clothing and tester shoes, for which I still have yet to write reviews.

Fast-forward to last weekend, when I actually, miraculously, showed up for the Tri-City Carlsbad Half Marathon. I wasn’t going to run it at all because, I mean come on, I haven’t trained in months! After all, I’d lost my mojo! My last long run was fifteen miles, sure, but that was way back in November. I just wasn’t physically prepared for a half marathon. Not to mention the fact that I’d signed up for the full marathon originally, and had had the Race Director demote me to the half over a month ago. There was shame written all around the idea of this big ole’ race in the fine city of Carlsbad, California. So why show up?

Well, last week I was talking with Shacky, while we stood around uselessly in front of the Rialta at the San Diego 50 Miler and Trail Marathon (I had also signed up for this marathon originally and then bailed on it, which begs the question: is there any end to my bad habits?!). I told him I wasn’t planning to run at Carlsbad at all. That’s when crazy old Uncle Shacky convinced me to just go ahead and do it. “Just half-ass it,” he said. “It’s one of the prettiest road races in the San Diego area. If nothing else, you can walk most of it and take tons of pictures.”

I take a lot of advice from Shacky. I’m not really sure why, since most of it tends to end horribly, while Shacky just sits by laughing. Maybe it’s the beard, it makes him look so sweet and avuncular while so successfully hiding his true maniacal intent. I’ve been burned by Uncle Shacky advice more than once and I don’t want to talk about it.

So naturally I decided he must be right, and showed up for the race.

The morning was gray, rainy and dreary, and the marine layer was so thick you could taste it in the air. I was pretty sure we wouldn’t see much of the ocean, nor many of the other sights that typically make this so called “Surf Sun Run” so memorable. Once again, the joke was on me. Thanks, Uncle Shacky.

Look at that beard, totally disarming! *Photo by Vanessaruns

Look at that beard, totally disarming! *Photo by Vanessaruns

But all that aside, I’m glad I showed up to race, and I’ll tell you why. Even though there were something like 10,000 runners signed up, the whole event was exceedingly well-organized by the volunteers and race directors. There was water available literally at every mile, energy gels ever so often, and even pretzels and oranges (which I’ve never seen before at a road race) handed out on the course. Despite the absolute lack of sunshine, the ocean was still awesome to look at. The sight helped me ignore my aching hips and roiling tummy, which forced me to stop twice for the porta-johns (I’d made some bad nutrition choices the night prior). Conversely, because of the lack of sunshine the temperature was fantastic, in the upper 50’s, with nice cooling winds.

There were so many great things I could go on about during this race. But the greatest and most unexpected outcome happened as I rounded that one corner during mile 4, and saw those delicious foamy waves to my right for the first time. Because that’s when I finally found it: my mojo. It was there all along, on the sands of Carlsbad Beach!

Of course! I must have dropped it and left it behind on one of my early runs out here on the west coast. I was so freaking happy, I almost completely forgot I had no reason to be running 13 miles that day.

All joking aside, I’m not going to say this was the easiest long run for me to complete. In fact, I found myself walking a lot more than I typically do during a half mary (which is almost none). I had to employ my get-through-it mind-tricks a little earlier than usual, because my feet and hip flexors were on fire as early as mile 8. But despite all the pains I suffered from lack of preparation, my attitude didn’t suck the whole time. Well sure, I had a lot of trouble getting my ass out of bed that morning, but we’ll leave that aside for now. I crossed the start line of that race with a smile on my face, and that’s exactly how I crossed the finish.

I’m not going to say that there was any stellar kind of performance going on, either. I don’t even know my finish time exactly, but it was at least ten minutes behind my PR (a blazing fast 2:35)…and well, I don’t give the first shit. This race wasn’t about my finish time, it was about my attitude.

I’m not even sure what exactly it was about that day’s events that turned on my mojo. All I know is that I finished a half marathon race without any real training, equipped with nothing but my two feet, some good tunes and a boatload of determination. And that takes some mojo.

So I dunno. Maybe there’s something to be said for racing, at whatever distance. Maybe it’s that excitement we all share as we stand shivering in one large group at the starting line. Maybe it’s the camaraderie, the equality we find as we traverse the same course and overcome the same challenges. If you really think about it, the race is a place where we are all brothers and sisters, where we are a family of trials, determination and grit.

Whatever it is, whatever it was, I hope I never lose my mojo again. It was a bitch to find.

menalysacarlsbad.

Also thanks to my amazing cousin Alysa, who participated in this race as a bandit, but nonetheless inspired and impressed the hell out of me by completing her first 13 mile endeavor, despite not even being a “runner.” I love you, kid.


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16 Things I Won’t Miss About New England

I just wrote a lovely post ruminating on the 14 things I will miss about New England, when we move to California at the end of this month. It was all very positive and complimentary. But it was only half the story. Seems only fair to also mention the things I won’t be missing, while I’m out there eating cheap avocados and lounging in my hammock suspended between two palm trees.

1. Interstate 93

North of the city, south of the city, at the 95 split, on the New Hampshire border….doesn’t matter where you are, I93 sucks during rush hour.

2. The accent

Yes, in some ways it’s endearing to hear your relatives mispronounce words like “harbor” (haaa-bah) and “chowder” (chow-da). But after awhile it just sounds like you’re surrounded by morons, even if everyone in the room has a PhD.

3. Fucking snow

You were waiting for this one. There it is.

4. Humidity

I will never miss feeling as though I’m running through a vat of tomato soup.

5. Rain dates

Sure, New England gets summer. It gets really hot for two months, to break up the really cold rest of the year. But guess what? It rains all the freaking time. For every three nice summer days, we get two crappy ones. And they’re usually Saturday and Sunday.

6. Boston pride

As I mentioned in my other post, New Englanders are a proud and hearty bunch. But there’s a flip side to every good quality. People in Boston truly believe that their shit doesn’t stink, and it’s always the most obnoxious of them who like to make sure you hear about it. We might even see a few of them in the comments section below. 🙂

7. The Red Sox

Sometimes I like to compare myself to living in Nashville, Tennessee and not liking country-western music. In other words, I hate sports (and I especially hate those stupid pink “B” baseball caps). But I am, per usual, in the minority.

8. The Patriots

What a ridiculous name. As if only New Englanders can be “patriotic.”

9. The Celtics

Irish name. Not exactly patriotic.

10. The Bruins

I actually liked hockey, until the first time I logged onto Facebook during Hockey season.

11. My neighbors

Meet my neighbors: Bob, Bobby, Robbie, Billy-Bob and Cletus.

Fireworks every weeknight from May to October. Screaming fights in the front yard, cars skidding through the 4-way stop sign at midnight. Harley Davidsons with pipes the size of weiner dogs waking me at 5:30 each morning by bumbling up and down the circle for 20 minutes. And the dogs! I once ran around our block, the equivalent of half a mile, and counted 14 separate dogs barking at me from their back yards. I swear our neighborhood wasn’t this bad when we moved in. What happened to all the quiet little old couples that used to live here?! Looks like we’re the only quiet old couple left.

12. Boston drivers

Nobody here knows what a directional light is. They took that whole section out of the Driver’s Education books, and they stopped checking for them during state vehicle inspections. And you can just forget about the word “yield.” Bostonians live by the law of the middle finger.

13. New Hampshire property taxes

Our house sits on 1/10th of an acre of land, is nowhere near a body of water and is over 30 miles from a major city. But we still pay over $5,000 per year in property taxes. And they don’t even pick up our garbage. But hey, good thing there’s no sales tax! That way everyone from northern Massachusetts can save a bunch of money by shopping up north.

14. People who love to ski

I just dislike them. End of story.

15. Martha’s Vineyard and The Cape

If I never again have to hear someone talk about their summer home “on the Cape” (on Cape Cod), it’ll be way too soon.

16. Dunkin’ Donuts

Dunkin’ Donuts coffee tastes like brown water flavored with a jelly doughnut, and it’s almost always burned after 11am. I’m a Starbucks lover, but I’m one of few. I’ll tolerate a cup of Dunkin’ coffee because it’s typically my only choice. In most cases I have to go 3 or more miles out of my way to find a ‘bucks, while passing by 32 Dunkin’ Donuts locations on the way.

California is thankfully the land of Starbucks, so when we found our house in San Diego the first thing I did was check to see how many Starbucks locations there were within a half mile of our address. Six. Yes!

Anything I missed?


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15 Things I Will Miss About New England

This may actually be a bit of a faulty title, because a lot changed in the days between conceiving this post and writing it. Until Monday morning I really had no idea how my employment would be arranged once we moved out to California. Would I be able to remain a full-fledged employee and keep my status as art director? Or would I be relegated to the post of a contract worker and have to essentially set myself up as a business, buy all my own equipment and pay my own taxes? All in all, I wasn’t extremely worried about the outcome either way, and knew it would work out (like everything else inexplicably has).

But, as it turns out, California laws will allow me to remain an employee to the company in the way that I am now, my boss can give me a computer, a happy raise and vacation time, and all is well. And that also means that I’ll be visiting the Boston office a few times a year, and will be able to delay some of the finality of the big move.

It’s natural for someone who is moving far away to focus on all of the exciting things that the new place will offer, and I certainly am doing that every day. In fact, several lyrics from the song “California dreaming” have already snuck into a few of my recent Facebook updates. Not to mention how glad I am to get out from under my upside-down mortgage, the sump-pump in our basement and our unbearably annoying neighborhood.

And then the other day I thought to myself: but what about all of the things I still love about New England? Surely there must be a few upsides, other than the obvious family and friends. And then after not too long, I started to get nostalgic and the list got longer in no time.

If nothing else, it was a nice exercise in remembering the most positive and wonderful features of good ole’ New England, where I have spent the first 33 years of my life.

1. The smell of the woods in the morning

Ever since I was a kid, I have always loved being outside. Sure, I had a definite city-girl streak in my early and mid twenties…but that warm, clean scent of pine, dirt, bark and dew on New England summer mornings always brings me back to my outdoorsy self. It reminds me of camping in tents as a kid, of waking up at 6am on Saturdays to take the boat out with my dad and brother before it got too crowded at the lake. It’s driving to work every morning with the windows down, inhaling the fresh New Hampshire air. And it really makes me smile.

Of course, that’s not to say the smell of West Coast sea air makes me smile any less. 🙂

2. The fresh atlantic seafood

Stop staring at me.

Maine Lobster. Freshly caught that morning, thrown in a pot and served shell-on at the local beach-side restaurant by the afternoon. Seasonally priced and worth every penny. There’s really nothing like having sand in your hair from a day at the beach, a nutcracker in your hand and a whole lobster and a cup of melted butter to all yourself. Only in New England.

3. The cities

I used to be able to see this from my bedroom window.

Boston is one of the most intellectual, fashionable, culturally diverse cities in America. New York City is another. And they’re both really close. In many ways I’m sick of cities, and I’ve never really loved going to New York as often as I do for work. But I have learned a great deal from being close to such trendy and relevant cities (like where to find the best sushi). And although San Diego is one of the most amazing cities, and L.A. is in its own way a mecca of sorts, there’s really nothing like the very singular grit and soul of an East Coast city.

4. The soul

Speaking of grit and soul, New Englanders have a rare and wonderful version of it. People who are from cities on the East Coast have a sturdy valor to them, one that is unflinching, unapologetic and undeniably intelligent (well, there are exceptions to the intelligent part – ask me about that another time). East Coast folks don’t trust you right away, but once they do they’ll never leave your side. They are proud, and not just of their sports teams, but also of their family members, of their well-manicured lawns, of their 60 year old family-owned restaurant.

East Coasters drive to work in blizzards and pay shit-loads of money to heat their homes. They also go to some of the best colleges in the country and become some of the best doctors and scientists in the world. They’re a bunch of hard-working people who make the best of what they’ve got, which is probably the only way to get through that miserably cold and damp month of February.

5. The “Bahston” accent

I don’t have one (and frankly I’m glad), but there’s definitely something to be said for this very singular accent. It is almost a dialect of its own, one that is exclusive to where I grew up. Moreover my entire family has one, so therefore it will always have a wicked place in my haaaaht.

6. Halloween

The chill in the air. Brown leaves crunching underfoot on the sidewalks. Pumpkins carved into evil faces glowing spookily on window sills. Halloween theme parks with nighttime hay rides and creepy haunted houses. I know Halloween exists everywhere, but in New England it has almost the same buildup of Christmas (but without all the snow and Christian influence).

7. The first snow

A New England snowfall in fantasy land.

I fucking hate snow. There is quite possibly only one thing I hate more than snow (namely, the ear-splitting sound of my neighbors speeding up and down the street on motorcycles at 5am). However, every winter we have our first snow of the year. And yes, I’ll admit it is always quite beautiful. It drapes the world in a perfect white blanket of chill. Inexplicably, everything goes quiet. It’s almost as if the snowfall puts a muffle on the sounds of the world, so it can be experienced by all in silent tranquility. It’s just stunning. That is, until the next morning when you’ve gotta go scrape that shit off the hood of your car before driving to work.

I’ll miss the first snow. But – really, I’m okay if I never see snow ever again in my life.

New England snowfall, in real life. Get out your ice picks and hair dryers!

8. White Christmas

Speaking of winter, a list like this isn’t complete without a nod to the much adored White Christmas. In California I’ll likely be wearing shorts on Christmas day, and that’s probably going to be a little weird. But then again, in recent years we haven’t seen much snowfall until January anyway. Although, decorating a pine tree with the windows open might seem totally wrong. And fun.

9. The landscape

I’ve always been completely enthralled by topography. Whenever I enter a new place I love to examine the world beyond the dashboard of the car. How much sky do I see? What kind of trees are around me? Everywhere I go, stuff is different. Even when I drive to New York City a mere 3.5 hours away, I notice different foliage. Not surprisingly, Atlanta, Georgia has so many more flowering trees and plants than we do. Vermont has nothing but hilly mountains of green fur trees. Salt Lake City is disturbingly pancake flat, with enormous amounts of sky and resounding purple mountains in the distance. Wherever I go, I see what’s around me and immediately compare it to what I know.

So, all my life I have essentially lived in the middle of the woods, nestled a few dozen miles inland of the ocean. Except for the years I lived in Boston, everywhere I go, there are trees. Roads and highways are swaths cut from the edges of deep forest. Growing up, just about everyone’s back yard ended with some gnarled bushes, ancient trees and the darkness of the woods beyond.

I don’t know a lot about the land in San Diego, other than what I picked up from the few times I’ve visited and some photos from friends who live there. But what I’ve gathered so far is that there aren’t as many trees as there are bushes and canyons, and that there is a hell of a lot more beach and sky. I’m excited about the change in scenery, but I also know that I’m going to wake up every once in awhile and really miss running through the quiet, shaded woods.

10. The architecture

In New England, the city buildings are old. Many of them have been around for a few hundred years and they’re still made of stone. For these buildings, gargoyles and carvings still exist. Churches are still creepy, gray and very tall. The old architecture around here is just beautiful, and I’ll likely miss it in California, where the buildings are much newer and tend to have that Mexican-inspired adobe style. Not that there’s anything wrong with Mexican-inspired adobe style.

11. Knit hats and Uggs

And stylish winter coats. Big, fluffy sweaters. Scarves knitted from yards of thick, warm wool. I hate the cold for sure, but I do really love burying myself in some uber-warm winter attire. I know that it gets chilly in San Diego in the winter. Like, maybe 45 degrees. But, considering that you don’t even need to wear running tights to run in 45 degrees (well, at least I don’t), chances are my favorite pair of knitted Uggs probably won’t be seeing the light of day ever again.

12. The first perfect day of spring

Spring rocks.

Also known as the biggest smile on my face all year. You know the day: it’s somewhere between May 15th and June 1st. The day just springs up on you when you’re least expecting it. The sky is impossibly blue and you remember what the sun is. You tentatively open the windows and a fresh, warm breeze floods the inside of your house. For the first time in months you don’t need a jacket, and it feels exhilarating, almost naughty, to leave the house for a walk or sit in your car without the extra layers on.

The adjective I always tie to this day is “triumphant.” Because it feels like I have triumphed over something (the dreadful and dark winter), and that I’m a renewed person, ready for anything. Ready for those 11 nice days of summer.

In San Diego, every single day is the first day of spring. Some would say that might take the special-ness out of it a little. And perhaps it will. But, I have decided that I am willing to tough it out and deal with 365 days of sunshine. I know, big sacrifice.

13. The fall

Photo credit: Vered Galor

Speaking of seasons, Autumn is really my favorite, for obvious reasons. The air gets cool and dry, the trees do their colorful changing dance, and the ground turns into an orange symphony underfoot. I love the smell of fall, and I love the traditions that follow. Apple picking, pumpkin carving, impressing others with my one and only baking trick (old-fashioned apple pie). I suppose I’ve been lucky to experience all those New England autumns, because they’re just not the same anywhere else in the world.

14. No sales tax

Well, in New Hampshire anyway. What’s the sales tax in California these days? 23 percent?

15. Living close to history

About two miles from my current home in Derry, New Hampshire, lies the farmhouse of the late and great poet, Robert Frost. For several years my commute to work cut through the site of the historical battlefields at Lexington and Concord. I once went on a school field trip to Walden Pond, where Henry David Thoreau imagined some of his best writing. I got one of my tattoos in Plymouth, the first town in America. The colorfully historical witchy town of Salem, Massachusetts, where Halloween is at its hallowest, is located less than 25 miles from where I live. And so forth.

Massachusetts is the oldest place here, and filled with so much cultural significance. I am lucky to live in a place of such rich American history. I can’t exactly put into words why, but makes me a little sad to give up that small glory.

What do you love about New England?


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The Big Move and My New Rules for Life

This post has been a long time coming. It’s a pretty big one for me, so I considered starting it with some trite quotations about making your own happiness and following your dreams, but then I remembered that posting quotes is what you do when you’re trying to convince yourself to change your life for the better. But I’m already convinced. A change is coming.

Shawn and I are in the process of moving to the West Coast.

We’ve been saying it for years: we’re moving out to Cali. We love San Diego. We’re going back to where Shawn grew up. We have had it up to our eyeballs with shoveling snow and wearing wool socks. You know, all that glass-eyed bullshit that everyone says at one time or another. The promises they make to themselves (and to each other) that one day… yes, one day soon, they are going to make a change, dammit. And nobody really believes you when you’re the one spewing it, because hardly anyone ever follows through. I’m sure almost nobody believed us. In fact, I bet half of you reading this still think I’m talking out of my ass.

But no matter. In a few short months, we will be 3,000 miles away from the doubts and nay-sayings, anyway.

A bunch of years back, my husband Shawn found his calling. He discovered that his interest in superheroes and movies and his boundless artistic talent translate exceptionally well in clay and urethane. He started to build a portfolio of character masks, busts, monsters, superheroes, makeup applications and props. Turns out they were good. Very good. And soon enough he started attracting attention from FX companies, famous comic artists and even celebrities. Of course, they are all located in southern California.

Meanwhile, I met an incredible group of people who love to run barefoot and experience more of life than the average, ordinary American worker ant. I watched them leave jobs they hated, move out of states they didn’t love, get rid of their burdensome mortgages and the enslaving shopping-mall-bound obligations of the typical “American Dream.” Of course, most of them are located on the west coast.

(Anyone else see a pattern here?)

And then one day last October, I had dinner with two of those incredible folks, Jason and Shelly Robillard, and I told them about our American Dream. Our dream to live in a place where the sun shines all year round. Where palm trees grow in the yard and the sun sets over the ocean. A place where Shawn can find proper work in his field, and where I can find people to run barefoot with me in the middle of nowhere, under the warm February sun.

I told them how I have visited the city of San Diego three times; and how each time I stepped off the plane my first thought was always “this is home.” All my life before this, I have never belonged to any place. I’ve never heard a town call my name. But San Diego? She is my siren song. I love her already, and I think she will love me too.

When I was done talking, Jason and Shelly just looked at me.

“Well,” Shelly finally said. “Tell me this: what are the obstacles holding you back? And more importantly, how are you going to remove them?” Okay, that’s not exactly what she said, but that was the handle of it. In other words, she and Jason forced me to look at our life through a cleaner pane of glass. What was holding us back?

  1. Shawn’s job, which he hated but liked the pay and benefits
  2. My job, which I liked and didn’t exactly want to leave
  3. Our home, which we own and have a mortgage for
  4. The fabricated notion that we need to work typical nine-to-five jobs and make a certain amount of money to be happy

“Okay,” they went on, “then what are you going to do to eliminate those obstacles, to have what you need to be happy? And if you fail to get what you need, what is the worst possible outcome that could result? Then, take a moment to really think about that outcome. In all honesty, would it really be that bad? Wouldn’t there be a feasible way to resolve it?”

Turns out, the answer is no, it wouldn’t be that bad. Moreover, just about any situation can be righted, almost every risk can be minimized. And in fact, the biggest risk of all to our happiness is never taking any risks.

In addition to being a couple of exceptionally caring friends, those Robillards…well, they’re just plain brilliant.

Just the act of removing some of our self-imposed obstacles has turned out to be more of a source of happiness than we ever imagined. In February, Shawn found himself no longer employed at his job. So he started sculpting full time. And he has never been happier. His only regret? Not having done it sooner.

I have a feeling that we will echo the same thoughts once we move to California: why did we not do this sooner? What were we so afraid of?

Well, it’s time to stop being afraid. Time to stop carrying around the remains of whatever confining rules of adulthood that our parents and teachers have pounded into our heads our entire lives. It’s time to make some new rules.

In fact, I’ll start with a few now. And no, these aren’t a bunch of trite quotations. They are my own. And I encourage you to create a few for yourself.

Live how you want, because nobody else can make that choice for you, and nobody else will be responsible for it later

A bigger house, an expensive car and designer clothes don’t make good people love you more

don’t sabotage your own personal growth by asking others for assistance instead of working through problems on your own

stand far enough behind the crowd to see which path everyone else is taking, then take the one nobody did

You don’t have to have children to experience the joy of caring for someone who loves you unconditionally

Making choices based on someone else’s desires won’t satisfy either of you

Work hard enough to challenge yourself, but not so hard that enjoying life is a challenge

Just because you were born here doesn’t mean this is where you belong now

apologize to no one for the person you are, and especially not for the one you plan to become