I was born in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in one of its many affluent suburbs. I was blessed with a big house, a “safe” neighborhood, and a really high quality education, which exposed me to art and music and literature from all over the world. In high school I was introduced to Henry David Thoreau and quickly became pseudo-obsessed with him and his writing, particularly Walden. It’s so dorky to admit it, but I used to ride my bike to Walden Pond and read, or write or both. I have always cherished solitude and loved to go there to soak up Thoreau’s vibe. His words – his notion of sucking the marrow out of life, a real prioritization of values, simple living and self sufficiency, walking on a less-traveled path, to your own beat – have had a lasting effect on my life.
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”
A few days ago I turned 42 and I’m so thankful to still be blessed, in so many incredible ways. But I’ve spent most of the hours of the last decade focused on working, working, and working. Working my way up the ladder in companies, then on to building up (and sometimes) tearing down my own companies, trying to “get ahead” and “get somewhere”, but where? I had not only lost sight of the life I always aspired to live, I had completely abandoned and turned my back on the person that I truly am. I wasn’t living to my potential. I wasn’t living to my value system. I wasn’t living. And I wasn’t happy.
That was me a mere two months ago, in the March 2013 blizzard, putting up the pending sign on my house near Boston, Massachusetts. Since then, I’ve averaged about 2-3 hours of sleep a night. I’ve packed all my worldly possessions into one portable storage container that’s currently living in Nashua, NH. I’ve driven over a thousand miles. I’ve whittled my traveling gear down to whatever fits in two duffle bags and my computer bag (which by the way can surprisingly fit my laptop, tablet, chargers, memory cards, travel chargers, earphones, camera AND an extra network cable. What, you think I have a problem? I DO have to work while on the road you know!) Which brings me to last Monday…when I dropped my Ruby and Mrs. Jacob Clayton off at the home we’re renting and then immediately left to work around the clock for 3 days on a launch for a huge re-brand/website/social media/everything project (announcement coming this week!) in a hotel where there was high speed internet, and no distraction, a vending machine, and free, unlimited coffee. I’ve dropped the ball on so many other MyUntangled Media clients. The company has grown. I spent too much time doing business with the wrong people. I made mistakes, but that’s how I learn. I don’t like goodbyes, so I kinda skipped them and I know that’s rough for many people. I’m so sorry to my peeps that fit in that category…Welly, Jose, Claire and so many others, please don’t be mad. It’s such a big move and it just got so crazy at the end. I’m also learning how to live with regrets.
This is me now, on an island off the southeastern coast of North Carolina. I crave solitude. I crave the ocean. I long for a place to write and play music. I got so tired of trying to fit a square into a circle, that I finally gave up. In Massachusetts, to have a home 3 blocks from the beach you need to be a millionaire, and I wasn’t seeing that on my horizon, despite my efforts. Those lucky folks are relegated to living in the fancy suburbs, and commuting in traffic for hours a day in and out of the city so they can spend a couple of weekends a year and a week or two here and there, sitting in more traffic, to get to their house on the Cape. (I know, first world problems here but I’m just baring my soul…so bear with me.) I don’t understand how I let myself start blindly following someone else’s set of “rules”. You know, the ones that say the only correct path in life is to go to college, then go get a big job, then go buy a big house (with a good school system, and of course you’ll need a big mini-van or SUV), then rinse and repeat until you’re 62, then (supposedly) you’ll get enough money to live off of. Then what? THEN you move to an island in North Carolina? I’ll be 62 in 20 years, and since I make my own rules, I say “my time is now”, and I’ve never been more sure of anything.
When I first visited the island a year ago, on the coffee table at my hotel was a copy of the book Desiderata for Dog Lovers: A Guide to Life & Happiness. I had never seen it before and wasn’t all that familiar with the poem either. I opened up the book randomly to this page and snapped the picture above which has served as my constant reminder ever since. Of course I immediately Googled the poem, which begins:
“Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.”
“With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.”
I’m not sure what my religious beliefs are but, at that moment, I definitely felt something powerful washing over me. I cried like a baby and I promised myself I would get back here someday, that I would drown out the noise with the sound of the ocean and throw everything up in the air for a chance at happiness and peace and what I know is a better life for me. It’s so hard to know if you’re making a mistake, especially when you’ve made so many. It’s so hard to trust your own voice, to trust that it’s OK to choose happiness, whatever that means for you, whatever your age. Well, it was hard until 5 days ago when sitting alone in that hotel room somewhere in North Carolina, working on a website, delirious with exhaustion, smelly, hungry, beyond stressed, I received the following email:
I know this may be a weird place to do it but I couldn’t find you anywhere else.
My name is [deleted]. I am an alumni of UML and you were my adviser. I am sure you had many students walk through your door in those years so I don’t expect for you to remember me. I am emailing you to say Thank You…. whole heartedly I remember having chats with you about what I was going to do as a career, music, art, poetry, food, and just life. I remember every time that you see me you would say to me, “big things man, you, your going to do big things”. I use to laugh it off. I remember you telling me to go do whatever it was that made me happy, that I was meant to share (poetry). I remember our last conversation where I told you that I would always stay in contact with you… I’ve been looking for you ever since. Your kind hearted words and in your face advice really had an impact on me. So I just wanted to let you know what I’m doing these days..with the poetry. My friends and I have successfully started our non profit [name deleted] we teach young people in the city of Lowell to “write” their wrongs and find voice in verse. I have also moved on to becoming the Teen Program Director at my local Boys&Girls Club. So once again Thank You Jacob for the impression and the confidence you left with me.
A guided soul”
This email touched me so deeply and affected me so much, I cried like a baby and felt something incredibly powerful and wonderful wash over me again. I haven’t been able to talk about it or even respond to it, until now. So, I just wanted to take this opportunity to say thank you so much, guided soul. I’m sorry we lost touch and let’s not let it happen again. Of course, I remember everything about you and, more importantly, I remember everything inside you, your beautiful poetry. I wanted to let you know what I’m doing these days…I just walked the 3 blocks it takes to get from my house to the beach. I’m pretty much all alone out here as it’s late in the day and the tide is high. I just sat down on the sand and pulled out my notebook and a pen to write some wrongs in this post, old-school style. But I’ve gotta sign off now to go watch the sunset over on the other side of the island. I’m trying really hard not to miss any of them. Every single day is a gift and I’ve wasted too many. I’ve changed a lot since we last spoke. I’m not just advising it anymore, I’m living it. I’m living. And I’ve never been happier. I hope you’re as proud of me as I am of you.