First, before I start, I’d like to check-in with my most recent house cleaning. This has been one of the hardest months of my life, and mainly onset by detrimental shifts in habits, lifestyle, and forms of self-expression. I once again underestimated time, and while I healed the majority of my injuries quickly, I am plagued by this broken or sprained or whatever knuckle on my right ring finger. I continue to push, and I continue to allow expectations to whittle away my energy as I try to perform at full capacity. I am left climbing in a gym multiple days a week training, riding around town on my fix speed bike, slack-lining in the park, working full time, schooling full time, and exercising the biggest mental battle I’ve faced in a long time.
In school, I’m taking an online class on Buddhism. As I begin to scratch the surface of this ideology, I am realizing more and more that my whole idea about what Buddhism is about has been mere assumption, and that I really knew nothing about it. I naturally started to apply these newfound ideas into my life as I started to struggle under the pressure of stress and depression, and quickly diagnosed that the source of my suffering is myself and my longing to control everything. When I went to Yoga last night, the first time in months, I was meditating through my stretches and in my resting poses and the discipline took on an entirely new meaning. Meditation made a lot more sense when I understood a little bit more about Buddhism and what I was trying to free myself from. It’s a nice and welcome new development.
Life comes with all sorts of expectations, sometimes projected from outside sources, but it’s most often self-imposed. This brings me to the business. I have had a lot of really strange conversations with people lately, some involving my solitude, and some involving my future, and some involving the sustainability of my experiential pursuits in life. My good friend, I wrote about this in my rant a few days ago, told me that I should really consider doing these classes on Sundays and expand my professional repertoire of skills, and I couldn’t help but feel offended because it was this very friend who told me a few years back that I should drop my mass amount of skills in pursuit of mastering one. I was also a bit aghast because I am one of the most professionally versatile people I know…
I’ve mentioned that I started out working as a dishwasher making minimum wage, but what I often neglect to mention is that before that I was a drug dealer. I was a high school dropout. I was homeless. And I was also a prisoner, sometimes physically, but always mentally and spiritually.
As I said, I started my adult life working in the restaurant business washing dishes and living in halfway house. I was learning how to pay rent, and how to navigate through the adult world of our society which is filled with responsibility. I don’t think I could navigate that passage again. Prior to that experience I had learned to navigate as a prisoner in the California penal system. I learned how to survive in a hostile world, and I learned how to become a diplomat. I learned how to adapt and coexist with people I didn’t know or agree with.
In the restaurant industry I was met with further instances of people I didn’t like or agree with, but I learned quickly how to tolerate and accept people, and oftentimes I changed my outlook, and many of those people have become my close friends. I’d spend my days off in Jamul visiting my family, and assisting my Grandpa with his home projects. I learned concrete, and I learned carpentry, and I learned roofing, and how to read tape measures, and I learned to use tools. I picked up side jobs from friends and I learned landscaping and irrigation systems. I was constantly learning new things, and I was hungry for it.
When it came to fun, I had started hiking, and I spent a lot of time walking around the city, and then jogging and trail running. These hobbies were coupled with water sports, particularly body surfing. I didn’t have a car for the first few years of my sobriety, and carrying fins was much easier than hauling a surfboard around. I had a lot of recrational hobbies, but I never dropped one thing for another, but instead allowed the things in my life to layer and learned to express myself through each one as I found more time and balance in my life. The car was what really unlocked the potential to truly exercise and experience all these hobbies.
Eventually the restaurant industry started feeling like a dead end, and in desperation I started going to college. I started in remedial classes–they didn’t even award college credits, but I didn’t care, I was just eager to move forward. I moved out of the halfway house and up into a new standing in society.
In college I had a Professor who worked in law as a Jury Consultant, and she quickly noticed something appealing about my ethic and brought me on as an intern and soon became my mentor. Who would have thought that some ex-con junkie loser high school dropout would be sitting in a court room working on a death penalty case? I didn’t. What is even more puzzling to some though, is that after those long days in court I’d return to my night classes, and then wake up the next morning and go to work at my real job, which at that time was as an electrician, and somewhere in between I still found time to get outside and run Cowles Mountain, or paddle out for some waves at Ocean Beach. Some people call me high energy, I think I’m just lucky.
The picture I draw is a strange one. I am an electrician, arborist, landscaper, independent contractor, grant writer, writing consultant, hold a position on the board of a nonprofit organization, and I’m an academic. Someday’s I dress up in a suit and a tie, and when I show up to work people laugh about my scabbed swollen hands. I’ve had professors in college pull me aside and ask me if everything is okay. I remember the first time it happened I just shrugged and said, “Well, you know I do have a real job outside of school.” Sometimes I have conversations with hardened guys on construction job sites and they just look at me dully and ask me if I’m gay. And that’s okay too.
If there is any one thing that has attributed to this weird variety of skills, it has been that I refuse to define myself as any single thing. I choose to define myself as Josh, and I don’t see myself as having a career, but instead being an individual with many skills to offer. I don’t see these skills as being one thing that “I end up doing with my life,” but instead things that can help me fund my authentic experience. I don’t believe in a destination, but instead tend to focus on a journey.
Monday during the day I was an arborist, and that evening I was a student, and in the evening a cyclist. On Tuesday I was a student for most of the day, and then was a nonprofit officer, and then I climbed. Today I was an electrician. Tomorrow I’m going to be a landscaper. Friday I’ll be a jury consultant and a grant writer. Saturday back to being an arborist.
But I don’t think it’s the variety of skills that truly makes the all-arounder. Instead, it is a culmination of social intelligence and being competent in a multitude of social interactions and circles. Going from a construction worker to a jury consultant is fucking hard. Going from a professional to a student equally hard, and making those transitions multiple times throughout any single day is a great talent to learn. Maybe it doesn’t make sense. Maybe I’m crazy. Maybe you understand if you’ve allowed yourself to bounce around that much.
Ultimately, who I am is a collection of skills and memories that I’ve picked up and refused to forget over the duration of my lifetime. I cherish these things and my ability to balance them all into this strange balancing act of Josh.
So for those of you who’ve followed my writing, I am grateful. I hope for whatever reason this gives you a little bit more insight into who I am as a person. I spray a lot in opposition to the status quo, and sometimes I feel like I may be saying things that can be perceived as offensive. I hope you know that I have mad respect, because where you’ve succeeded, I have failed, and that’s what led me to develop this strange multi-faceted way of life. And it is this multi-faceted way of life that is the fringe.
It’s a lot of work to maintain, but if you really try to picture the life I’ve described, it outlines being a commodity in so many different professional realms that I can pretty much never pledge to any one person or profession and vanish at any given time, weaving in and out of society as I please, making money here, or taking months off at a time there. It allows me to live life on a whim.
Until next time, as an old friend would often tell me in times long past, “Wear the garments of life loosely.”