Trading Comfort for Community

Sitting around last night with my husband in our friends’  living room and listening to them talk about the kind of apartment they might want to move to, reminded me about why we chose the place we did when we moved to LA. I’m telling you this because I think our checklist for our apartment was a little different than most people’s and the result of that has been life changing for us.

What was the number one thing we were looking for in our new apartment?

No, it wasn’t famous neighbors or living by the beach like you might think (though we did get lucky and get both of those anyways). It was community. You see, at our last apartment, building community was actually our official job (yes, that’s a thing). So while we did have enough community to make us recognize the value of it, there were a lot of aspects lacking from it that eventually led to our transformation into 85 year old shut-ins. Only we were the kind of 85 year old shut ins who didn’t sit around collecting cat feces or filling out mail in surveys, or whatever it is that normal 85 year old shuts ins do, but we instead filled our time with working 90 hours a week. I know, it was ridiculous. What’s the good of spending all your time sitting around your apartment if you don’t memorize every word to every episode of I Love Lucy?!

So when it came time to choose a place to live in California, our search was immediately narrowed down to an area where we would have enticing reasons to leave the house and people all around us to leave the house with. We chose the crazy world of Venice Beach. Venice is the kind of place that has led many of our Orange Country friends to shudder as they ask us if we actually moved to Venice on purpose or if it was just some sort of crazy mix up at the property management office like you would see happen on a TGIF show or something.

Yes, we moved to Venice Beach on purpose.

It’s where majority of our friends live (and yes, they’re normal and they chose Venice on purpose as well). Venice is the kind of place where you actually see your friends out and about because people walk and ride their bikes everywhere. It’s also the kind of place where all your friends from other parts of town will willingly come to visit you on a beautiful Saturday afternoon for a game of volleyball on the beach, to finish it off with a BBQ in your front yard. Most of all, it’s the kind of place where there are boundless amounts of people around our own age with whom we longed to share life with.

I know, I know, it also has drugged out young girls who ask for your underwear on occasion (I do have a soul so I gave her an extra pair), as well as homeless people who use your outdoor shower when you’re asleep or hide their stolen bike collection behind the bushes in your back yard, and then there’s the skateboarders who knock you down while they fly past you yelling, “I don’t stop for tourists!”.  Plus, I know some people just wouldn’t be cool with their neighbors sole source of income to be riding around on roller blades while playing an electric guitar and wearing a turban. But all of that is just the charm of Venice and we take the good with the bad. Sure, I’m worried about who’s urine I’m sitting in when I’m chilling on the grass or a bench, or even leaning on the rail at the beach skate park, but I’m wondering the same thing when I’m in those child herpes pits in Burger King playgrounds or swimming in public (cess) pools in fancy neighborhoods!

The point is, we traded in our 2 bedroom/2 bath apartment with a washer/dryer inside our place, a dishwasher, easy parking, 3 pools and 3 hot tubs, and a fitness center… that all cost only a third of what we’re paying now, for a 1 bed/1 bath place with none of those things and the added bonus of drunken passerbyers peeing on our bushes every Saturday night.

But we in no way regret it for a second. Why? Not just because of all the cool stuff I find on walks (see photos below of all the things I’ve found on walks).

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But the real reason I never regret my decision is because all the fancy apartments, personal space, and amenities in the world aren’t worth trading in for the incredibly community we get in our current building, where there are neighbors who are forced to get to know one another because of our shared everything, and people who support one another like family because we’re in such close proximity to one another that we can’t help but be involved in each other’s lives.

The trade was beyond worth it.

When our nose is to the grindstone and we’re working at 9pm at night, but our neighbor interrupts us to bring us leftover matzah dessert from his seder dinner and then his roommate gets home from her date so she stops by to fill us all in on it and we end up laughing until midnight instead of working like we would’ve otherwise done, we know it was worth trading in EVEN OUR HOT TUB in Phoenix for this… and that’s saying a lot! And when it’s annoying that we have to ask our neighbors to help us move cars around in order to have a space for a visiting friend to park, we remember how awesome it is that because we interrupted our neighbor, they will most likely contribute a dish to our potluck dinner and end up hanging out with us late into the night around our fire pit. During which time we may find out that she’s having surgery next week and will need some help around the house or she’ll find out that our family is coming to town next week and we may need to borrow some pillows… or Xanax.

What I’m trying to say is that I think we made the right decision and that so many things that felt like sacrifices initially are the same things that have actually turned into blessings. I’m not kidding when I say that one of the major reasons we’ve been able to stay in LA is because of our neighbors. It’s been their support, as well as their hard work to help us find clients out here, that has given us the hope and the ability to stay in this place we love.

Relationships are the choice that wins.

I know everyone has different priorities and trade offs they’re willing to make, which is important because everyone’s definition of an extraordinary life is different and requires different things. However, there is still a principle here that is universal that I want to remind us all of. Just because we’re all used to things being a certain way, having a certain level of ease or comfort, doesn’t mean it’s right or that we’re not insulating ourselves with so much protection that we’re actually preventing ourselves from experiencing something truly beautiful and wonderful rather than just comfortable. Choosing comfort over relationships is a waste of life that will always leave us wanting.

The following are pictures of the things we gave up and sacrifices we made to live here….

(This is a picture of our shredded, detestable, laminate tile in Scottie’s office, otherwise known as our kitchen, otherwise known as our dining room. You can see our full dining room table stacked neatly in the corner).

905a25def6e10f6a303092eb7f53315a (This is a picture of our giant bed that I have to jump to get into.  When we lived in an apartment that was twice the size of our place now, it was just a regular bed. But after the move every square inch had to become an uber space saver. Now it’s our bed, our guest bed (extra mattress stacked on top of our mattress), AND our storage space (via IKEA bookshelves below) all in one).

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The following are pictures of the reasons we gave things up and made the sacrifices we did to live here…
(This is a picture of all our neighbors having dinner in the Sukah we built together in our driveway for the Jewish Holiday of Sukkot).

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(And this is a picture of us hanging out in our front yard on the pavers that we purchased and laid with the money we achieved through some very fun and unorthodox methods that our property management was not a fan of and shall therefore go unnamed).

b660b43d9741d5bc973b4a4fa7af4b40 (The photo on the left is our neighbor trying to break into her own apartment with the assistance of an untrustworthy ladder and several men who have had too much to drink, after locking the keys inside during Scottie’s birthday party. The photo on the right is my husband and our neighbor who together built a Jewish Christmas tree for our front yard during the holiday season).

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(Spontaneous Fantasy Football draft party in our living room).

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(This is just after we cleaned out our shared garage for a reality show episode being filmed about our neighbor).

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(This is a picture of what happens on the weekends when our friends from all over LA come to visit us in Venice).

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So yeah, there are some things I wish I still had and some additions that would make our lives more comfortable, but as you can see, it’s been a well worth it trade for us.

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Is Extraordinary Living Selfish?

Since my initial concept of this blog began to form, there is one major challenge I have wrestled with constantly.  Am I putting myself first too much in my attempt to live a Rare Existence?  The fact that you are currently reading this blog means that I have decided the answer is no. But still, it is a question that requires some thought, so I’m putting my musings out there.

There are 3 main reasons I do not believe extraordinary living is selfish.

1. Your role in the world matters.

Yes, I do believe that loving the world around you and giving of yourself to humanity as a whole are key elements to a well lived life.
I do not see living an extraordinary life as being in opposition to that life model, in fact I think they go hand in hand quite well. I believe that people’s talents, experiences, weaknesses, strengths, genetic predispositions, etc. all make up one whole unique person.  And it is my belief that each one whole unique person exists to fill certain holes in the world in a way that only that specific person with that specific makeup can fill. That said, I believe that if you are doing something that you are not fit to do or living as if every person were meant to do the same things, then you are going to be unsatisfied and potentially inhibit the world around you from living up to it’s full potential.
The main reason I think everyone should be living the destiny they are made for, is because I believe it is the main thing that will make their life beneficial to those around them.  I definitely agree that living your life for the good of others is the number one priority…  I just happen to think that living the life you are meant to live is one of the best ways to do that.

 2. Sacrificial love isn’t always what it seems.

Yes, life and love require sacrifices. It’s not all sunshine and roses and it’s not all about pursuing things that make you happy.  Sometimes you do things you don’t like for the sake of others.
The problem arises when people define themselves by these sacrifices.
It is so much easier to play the victim.  So much simpler to not push yourself in life because you simply assume your position holds you stationary.  No, life doesn’t always go as planned, no life is not all about our happiness, and yes sometimes love does require more sacrifice than we want to make.  But within all that we still have choices, and no one choice has to define us for the rest of our life because we still have choices after that.  Many people let the sacrifice phase run their entire life so that it no longer can be called a phase, but rather…well, it’s just called their life at that point. Spending your entire life sacrificing what you are meant to be doing with your life for the sake of others has consequences to not only you but to those you believe you are sacrificing for.
The good intentions behind our sacrifices can quickly turn into excuses to avoid our fears.
When this happens, we begin basing our life decisions on fear disguised as love and this is of benefit to no one, no matter how much we want to believe it is.  We are telling ourselves that we are living the way we are for the sake of another person, when really that person/situation can go on just fine without us.  But we are incapable of acknowledging that because that is going to require more self-examination and change than we are ready for.  When we get to this point, we are in the danger zone because there is a good chance that we are doing more harm than good by what we are still calling a “loving sacrifice.”  It’s important to constantly ask yourself “are my past sacrifices still necessary or am I just stuck in a bad routine that I have been afraid of questioning?”  Knowing when to make sacrifices for others is just as important as knowing when to move forward with your life within that sacrifice, or when to let go of the sacrifice entirely.
 I fully believe that you can commit to truly loving others in life and still pursue an extraordinary life.
Sacrificing for others doesn’t have to mean giving up your dreams and loving people doesn’t have to mean you don’t get to be happy yourself.  In fact, for many people, living an extraordinary life is all about giving up their comforts to enable them to love others better (as in the story of Kelli that I featured awhile back).  I also believe that love, happiness, filling the role you are destined for, and selflessness all fit together very well and often create a circle where each aspect feeds and strengthens the others.

3. Your loved ones will thank you.

Anyone who is drained of passion, hope, and joy is not going to be of much use to people around them.
If you are a mom who has become a complete martyr for your children and do not have a single ounce of self-esteem or personal identity left in you… what are teaching your kids about life?  If you are a husband who uses every ounce of energy you have to just survive every single workday long enough to be able to make it home and zone out in front of the TV… what kind of love are you able to give to your wife and what kind of example are you being to your kids about how to love people?
Sick people can’t make others healthy because disease spreads.  Push aside your fears and be willing to constantly ask yourself what needs to be done for the greater good of others… you might be surprised that it requires that you be healthy and happy so you can love others well.  Make the choice to be a healthy person who can lead others to health by example.

The bottom line is that though extraordinary living is focusing on yourself and your own life while pursuing changes that might result in your own personal happiness, that doesn’t make it selfish; because it is those very changes that will most likely result in positive changes in the lives of those around you. If doing what you are meant to be doing with your life makes you happier (and it’s likely that it will) that does not automatically make you selfish. Happiness does not have to equal selfishness. If you are pursuing your own happiness IN SPITE of what’s best for those around you, well then that’s another story. But extraordinary living is not about finding what you WANT to do with your life but what you are MEANT to do with your life and I don’t believe what you are truly meant to do with your life is something that will be detrimental to your loved ones, but in fact beneficial to them… as well as to yourself. As long as your happiness comes from things that are good and true then it is a gift from God and can be one of the greatest sources of the love that you extend to others.

Slowing the pace to enjoy the race

I recently realized that our values went awry somewhere along the way.
We moved to a little place a block away from the beach in the most fun, entertaining neighborhood that I’ve ever known. We then proceeded to unpack. Work. Unpack. Think about going to the beach. Unpack. Work. Think about inviting new friends over for dinner. Work. Work. Long to go swimming in the ocean. Work…. you get the picture.  We moved here for the lifestyle. Yet we are too busy trying to pay for the lifestyle to be able to enjoy it!

The solution (aside from becoming independently wealthy through passive income in the next month)…
… is to work on the discipline of rest. Like a sabbath. That’s right. A good old fashioned, Biblical sabbath. Everyone’s definition (i.e. life and death dogma) about this issue is different so let me explain what it means for my husband and I.  It means no appointments, no to- do list, and above all, no guilt for that. It’s a day of rest. Basically we will refuse to feel guilty for being unproductive and we will enjoy the gift of life.

“But I can’t take a day off, I’m too busy!”
And you will never not be too busy so you need to stop waiting for “someday” when you finally have time to rest and enjoy life and you need to start living NOW. We have a tendency to believe that productivity is next to godliness and we all too often ask  “can I fit this into my schedule?”, when really we need to be asking “SHOULD I fit this into my schedule?”. These are the things we’re taught and we live by, even if we hate it. And now this is what bosses, spouses, friends and any other person you come into contact with expects of you. You must reply to my text or email NOW, you must squeeze me in this week, you must work late… and the guilt piles on as we get further behind and feel even more pressure to perform.  It’s time to give up and realize that you will never get it all done no matter how hard you try and the “someday” where you have limitless amounts of time might not come until the last 5 years of your life (if ever) which means you will already have missed most of it! Taking stress pills, sleep meds, caffeine inhalers, while continuing to have chest pains, ulcers, and emotional breakdowns anyways is not a way to live. It’s not worth it. A day off every week is EXACTLY what we need! No matter how hard it is to come by! It’s amazing how prioritizing time for rest can rejuvenate you for the rest of the week to be even more productive. And it’s even more amazing to realize that you still get just as much done (or not done) as you did before you started taking a day of rest. Don’t waste your life just trying to make it through the stress while ignoring all the joys around you.

“But I can’t take a day off, I get too bored!”
Of course you’ll be bored, you’re going to sit down for a full minute straight! It’s sooo different from your day to day life! That’s not a reason to not take a day off, in fact it’s the very reason you need a day off… you’re incredibly unhealthy! Even if you are just a high energy person, you still need to take time off to do nothing. I read somewhere that it takes a full 5 days of doing nothing before you relax and adjust to the pace (so screw 7 day vacations by the way, unless you plan on it being one of those fun, action packed ones that leave you more exhausted than revitalized when you’re done).

“But… oh wait, I’m out of excuses”.
Right, so give it a shot. One full day off a week. Or even one day off every other week if you have to work your way up with this!  A day of rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. It could be spending time with others or by yourself (I know you can come up with a solution about what to do with the kids when a particular sabbath requires much needed alone time).  It’s one day with no performing, impressing, or pleasing on this day (doesn’t that sound AMAZING?!). No to- do lists, chores, or working on things you’ve been putting off.  It’s a day to sit back and be grateful while enjoying the fruits of your 6 day a week labor.

Start keeping a list of what you’re looking forward to doing (or NOT doing) on your next sabbath. That way when you have a few seconds to spare, you don’t panic because you don’t know what to do with them (you’ll get better at not panicking once you’ve had practice with this discipline of rest by the way). So when you find yourself hitting snooze on your alarm clock more than once, write down “sleep in” as what you’re going to do on your sabbath this week.

Here’s what I did on the first full day off I’d had in over a month and a half…

  • Read for 2 hours in the morning (not productive reading, just an Elizabeth Taylor biography that had more pictures than words- real brain food you know).
  • Went to Starbucks and got a tasty drink with REAL sugar in it!
  • Went to the beach with my husband (FINALLY took time to enjoy our surroundings!!).
  • Started cleaning out our side yard that I’ve been dying to fix up and make usable. Yes this was productive, but it wasn’t something I’ve been procrastinating on, it’s something I’ve been dying to have time to do and it was very relaxing!
  • Watched a movie (Grand Canyon from the 80’s. Really intense and interesting/weird movie!)  I have been DREAMING of watching a movie and I just haven’t had time!
  • Went to bed early. No working until 2 am on this day!

It was such a GREAT day and I couldn’t believe how positive I felt about my life for the rest of the week! Life felt enjoyable and I still somehow found the time to get the same amount of work done that week…. maybe because I was rested and ready to go for the next 6 days of work.

The Ungrateful Generation

“Your generation is ungrateful and you expect too much out of life”.

This is a statement I’ve both heard and read many times before. It’s been said directly to me, as well as to my generation as a whole. Regardless of how it’s presented, it’s always said with a spirit of annoyance at me (us) and with a high degree of self-righteousness.

I agree, we are often ungrateful. I agree, we do expect a lot out of life. Notice I changed “too much” to ” a lot” because I don’t believe our expectations are too high to be achieved. The other part I disagree with about this statement is that ungratefulness and high expectations have to go hand in hand.

Yes, we need to be more grateful, but I believe you don’t have to be complacent to be grateful.
There’s a fine line between being content with what you have and pushing forward to obtain or becoming more. I think it’s soooo important to constantly be doing your best to find that magnificent balance because if you are existing too much on either side, you’re missing out. And I believe that being complacent and choosing not to pursue opportunities you are made for that are right in front of you is just as wrong as being ungrateful.

Are we really the first generation to expect a lot out of life?
You wouldn’t even be in America, the land of opportunity, right now if one of your ancestors along the way didn’t choose to expect more from life and go seek it out. Ever since the first people arrived in America, they have worked to set up this country so that we can expect a lot out of life. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. That’s a lot to ask for, don’t you think?
Wars have been fought, people died on ocean voyages on their way over here, our grandparents slaved away at jobs they hated, all so we could have freedom and opportunity. Pretending those opportunities don’t exist or choosing not to take advantage of them is like spitting in the faces of the people who did so much work to make this country great.

It’s precisely BECAUSE I’ve been given a lot that I feel called to do a lot with it!
I’m an American and I’ve been given lots of opportunity.  I can either ignore it or turn around and pass the gift on so that I can continue to bless the country and community that has blessed me so much. I want to be great like my ancestors and do what I can to make things even greater for future generations. We’re building up yo, so lets keep the momentum going rather than letting it stop with us or even worse, allowing our generation to be the ones that sends us into reverse!

So yes, I am grateful (or at least I try to be) for what I have and all that has been done by others to help me achieve it. And yes, I am asking for a lot out of life. The bottom line is that because I have a lot, I expect a lot, so that I can DO a lot.

(If you like this patriotic speech or want to learn more about Extraordinary Living, join the Rare Existence Facebook Community!).

(Yep, my super smart husband said that!)

The “What If Game”

If you’ve never played the “What If Game” whoa, you are in for a fright.  The “what if “game is the scariest game you’ve ever played… which is the very reason you’ve never played it before.  Everyone hates it.  Here’s how you play….

You think of what you want most in the world.

Then you think of all the bad things that could happen if you had it…. or if your plans for it didn’t work out.

And you dwell on those things.

You think about how you would handle each situation that could possibly even at all (even in a weird world where only horrible things happen) come up.

Then you realize that you actually could handle all of those horrible things (even if it wouldn’t be your ideal outcome) and that you would be surprisingly OK in the end.

At that point you begin to pursue what you want most in the world.  Because now you know that all your excuses, worrying, and paranoid fantasies aren’t actually all that bad.  In fact, what you would have to do in order to handle them is actually very minor when weighed with all of the amazing possibilities of what could happen if you went for this.

For example, whenever my husband and I begin panicking about not being able to pay rent in the future, we think “what’s the worst that could happen?”

The answer is that we’d both have to go get jobs for awhile. In other words, going back to “normal life”, the same place we started at, is one of the worst things that could happen if our business failed right now (don’t worry current clients of Radiant Photography- we’d still be able to fulfill our commitments to you if heaven forbid this ever happened!). So we’re back to square one with no harm done and it would be totally worth the risk and all we experienced in the process.

Even if we were still in debt (which we’re not thanks to Dave Ramsey) and would fall behind on our bills if this happened, we’d have more stress and have to work overtime for awhile but we’d still be able to repair the damage eventually… IT WOULDN’T RUIN OUR LIVES.  It would suck, but not as bad as choosing to work that hard at a job we hate because we were too afraid to do anything else… that would ruin our lives more than trying and failing would.

Once we’ve spent the time really identifying and facing our fears, we realize that the consequences won’t kill us. We also find out that we’ll most likely be able to recover within somewhere around 3-6 months (rather than 10 years as our overwhelming fears were leading us to believe). So we stop being afraid, start clipping coupons, and forget about it because being a barista or a pizza delivery person for a few months isn’t that bad (we’ve done it before!) and it’s better than ruining the life we have now by filling it with fear and worry about what MIGHT happen in the future.

The “What if Game” helps us realize that the consequences of failing are a very small price to pay for the opportunity to live out our dreams. Just the process of trying, and the experiences that happen to you in that attempt, impact your life far more than the effects of failure would!

So play the game… because if you win, you get to live the life you’ve always wanted.

(if you liked this game and want to learn more about Extraordinary Living join the  Rare Existence Facebook community)!

The Ordinary Word

The yin and the yang. The black and the white. The light and the dark. Perez Hilton and Vin Diesel. Our world seems to keep it’s balance through opposites. And it’s no different when it comes to extraordinary words.

For every extraordinary word there is an anti-word… an “ordinary word”.

The ordinary word is the one that sits on your other shoulder, taunting you and your goody two-shoes extraordinary word with his pitchfork, evil sneer, and sarcastic tone. I hate to tell you this, but if we’re going to pursue our extraordinary word, we have to forsake our ordinary word.
So what’s the opposite of my extraordinary word, freedom?  Are you sure you want to know…. it really sucks to hear.

The opposite of freedom is security.

Ew I know! Why does it have to be like this?  Why can’t they just be causal friends who only see each other on Christmas and Easter? At the very least they should be Facebook friends! Really guys, you should try to work something out here for those of us who don’t want to take sides. We want to hang out with BOTH of you, it isn’t fair that we have to choose!
But alas, it’s the truth. The more freedom you have, the less security you have, and vice versa.  As much as I want to stick my fingers in my ears and pretend I never heard that,  it’s true.

This is my great struggle in my pursuit of an extraordinary life.

If you’ve been following my blog from the beginning, you know that my Achilles heel is fear.  And in an attempt to fight the things I’m afraid of, control is my weapon of choice.  Fear and Control are definitely blood relatives of Security. On Christmas and Easter they all get together in Security’s giant house and eat the feast that their buddy Paycheck brought them. Freedom isn’t invited because he’s off sun-bathing in Tahiti with his friends, and besides they’d rather gossip about how foolish and irresponsible he is than actually talk to him anyways. Meanwhile, I’m just sitting at home praying for peace on earth so that we can all go enjoy Paycheck’s meal together!

This is the reason that every time I come to a crossroads in my life, a major battle ensues.  On the one hand… Freedom, waving his late bedtimes and quality relationships to tempt me.  And on the other road, Security is taking me on a tour of a beautiful new house that could be mine and reenacting for me the fictional story (that I once believed strongly) about how I can have complete control over my life.
Don’t be surprised if my head explodes from all of this one day.  And when that happens, I’m sure Freedom will just shake his head in disappointed sorrow that all of this could’ve been avoided if only I’d chosen right from the beginning.  And Security will just come and apathetically sweep up the messy remains that were once my life… which is the exact same thing he’d planned to do as soon as I joined his side anyways.

(Thanks to my brother, Paul McDaniel, who drew me this picture as a visual representation of this post!)

One of the reasons I’ve started this blog is to show people that we’re not magical, we’re not special, and we don’t have it all figured out.

I say that because people are always telling me how jealous they are of our freedom.  I do know why and I am very grateful for the benefits my job brings… because I know there are a lot of them. But it’s important that you know that we don’t have special powers. I promise, we don’t even have Spidy senses; and we definitely don’t have sticky, disgusting spider webs that shoot out of our fingertips (poor spider man got all the stupid powers).

We have the life we do because we’ve chosen it… and you can choose it too. But you WILL have to sacrifice things you may not be willing to give up. You’re going to have to leave behind your ordinary word. Maybe not right away of course,  it’s OK if you’re not ready for that.  But you’ll probably be asked to do it at some point, so steal one last kiss and start saying your goodbyes now because this train is leaving, Baby.

Ordinary people live by ordinary words. 

They can’t see past their deep-rooted fears long enough to reach for that intangible future. So they don’t.  They hold on tight to their ordinary word, often completely unaware that it is exactly what’s keeping them from clinging to their extraordinary word and the extraordinary life they’ve always wanted that comes with it. There’s a reason this existence is rare. The sacrifices are great, but the blessings from it are limitless.

Choose your words wisely.

Post #4: John Mayer is a Liar and Peter Pan is a Hero

No one wants to be “that guy”.

The guy you rolled your eyes at in your early 20’s while spewing explosive promises about how you would NEVER let yourself become like that.  You were convinced you were different, that you saw the truth and that would keep you from ever allowing a house, a job, a budget, a boss, the laundry, a schedule, or anything else you considered to be completely devoid of heart to suck all the passion out of your life.

So stop and take a look now… are you as different from that as you thought you’d be?

I’ll think I’m in pretty good shape and holding up well to my youthful ideals until I one day find myself clutching my steering wheel until my knuckles are white while yelling back at my radio whenever John Mayer tries to give me hope… “SCREW YOU JOHN MAYER!! There is, there is, there IS too such a thing as the real world!  I’m TRYING to rise above and it’s just not possible!  I hope one of your non-real world celebrity girlfriends pops a fake boob and you get silicone in your eye!!!”

This moment is always a red flag.  

But you know you’re in very real trouble when you proceed to spend the rest of the day crying on the couch, clutching your childhood Teddy Bear, Fuzzy, while trying to think happy thoughts in hopes that you’re feet will slowly begin to lift on the ground and you will fly away to Never Never Land to join Tink and the Lost Boys.  If you start chasing your shadow around the living room trying to catch it, call the hospital.

Time to start asking the important questions (actually it’s way past time at that point because I hear it’s hard to journal while wearing a straight jacket).

Like I said, no one wants to be “that guy”. The” old, fat, grandpa man” that Robin Williams played in Hook who actually friggin FORGOT he was Peter Pan!! That guy who has lost all his identity to the “real world”, who has nothing of REAL value left inside himself that he is able to extend to others. When you are sucked dry of all the emotions that make you a “real boy” rather than just a wooden puppet (stress doesn’t count by the way… and yes, I switched stories on you for a second there), who are you helping?  You may feel like you’re sacrificing, but what are you sacrificing and who are you doing it for are two very important questions to ask yourself on a regular basis so that you don’t wake up one day and realize that you began sacrificing for someone and after awhile it either turned into merely a mindless habit that is no longer necessary or even worse, something that is actually damaging the person you started out trying to help (and they adopt captain Hook as their father).  The point is there is only so much you can sacrifice of yourself before you start to sacrifice the good that you are actually intending to do.

Just please, please don’t settle for something that will suck you dry and spit you out dead, before you even ask if there’s another way.  Don’t permanently sacrifice everything that makes you who you are… everything that you were made to be and all the ways you were made to live… all in the name of sacrificing for others.  If you yourself are drowning, how can you teach your kid to swim so he’ll make it to the shore?

You are not much good to anyone if you are dying on the inside.  

Please, wake yourself up and look at the world around you.  Opportunities, adventures, and chances for you to benefit the world in ways that only you can, are ALL passing you by as you wallow in self-pity or pretend like you don’t notice that there’s an entire world going on outside of your normal day to day habits that consume and overwhelm you all by themselves.

Wake up.  Do something.  Don’t settle in for some sort of penance.  Don’t play the martyr.  I know you have a family, you have things or people to sacrifice for.  But what are your sacrifices getting them?  What do they really need?  These are the questions you need to be asking.

I’m guessing what your family needs most is a passionate person who can extend to them love, energy, and life lessons about the world…

… while most of the other adults around you are spending their time either in a numb haze or a stress induced stupor.  Be discontent with mediocre, with a hum drum life, with a robot existence…. ask questions, challenge norms, take risks… do SOMETHING!

Be discontent for the sake of the people you love.

Join us all in this quest for The Rare Existence… you need this because they need you.