In Spring of 2014, I took off in my car alone to travel around the United States and play as many music venues as possible. The project evolved into Open Mic Across America. In the span of about six months, I traveled to thirty-six states, played over one hundred venues, and truly experienced life to an extent I had never before encountered. From the people I met to the places I saw to the artists I discovered, it was truly a wonder beyond simple description. The videos below are recaps of areas I visited and reviews of venues. Below the videos are blog posts I kept throughout my travels. To see pictures of the wonderful places I visited, check out my Instagram.
A Trivial Tour Journal
Northern and Southern California
Pacific Northwest, Boise, and SLC
Denver, Omaha, Trin Cities, and Chicago
Kalamazoo, Pittsburgh, and Montreal
New York, New Jersey, and Baltimore
The Bluebird Cafe Nashville
Dallas and Austin, Texas
Albuquerque, Phoenix, and Las Vegas
2:59AM: This is the "Homecoming" entry. I am home in Las Vegas, NV as I type this. It is a surreal feeling. It has been a surreal experience all along, but I think it is only sinking in now. I will let it continue to sink in before rushing to try to put it into words. I just wanted to officially check in that I had arrived back. Safe and sound. For now...
11:00AM: The car is cleaned out and washed. Its oil and transmission have been changed. Everything I had with me for the past 6 months is thrown all over the floor of my parents' house. I'm trying to settle quietly into the lull of the morning, the lack of unfamiliarity. Being at home is now ironically foreign. What do I do with myself? It has to be something worthwhile.
12:45PM: I meet an old friend... an ex-lover... a confusing companion for lunch. I was able to squeeze in a small workout and a shower before driving down to a new development on the Las Vegas strip. We eat and chat and she shows me around the grounds. I feel a little bit lost. I'm not used to walking next to her without an arm around or fingers interlocked. I feel my silence throughout the entire afternoon. My travels may have made me quieter. I wonder what other ways it has changed me. She and my mother both remarked that I look too skinny. I don't feel skinny. I feel fit. I'm sure I could stand to eat more regularly, but I'm certainly not malnourished, and I get a good amount of exercise.
3:00PM: We catch a movie, and the fatigue from pulling an all-nighter really starts to kick in, as does the realization that I'm actually home. I almost have a panic attack in the middle of the theater. I even consider walking out for a bit, but think better of it. Just push through. When the movie is done, I again feel lost as I walk her to her car. I express my confusion, but know that I'm not making sense to her. She didn't just return from spending almost 6 months away from anything familiar. How could I expect her to understand? How could I expect anyone to understand?
6:00PM: I'm home, trying to occupy myself with the small chores I know I need to complete. But doing laundry and reorganizing my room is hardly a distraction for my mind. If anything, it is just a lull to be filled with the noise of my thoughts. I know I cannot drown them out... er, drown MYSELF out. It's impossible. But I need to give myself a new topic. My thoughts need to be focused on the future, not the past. No, that's not right either. My thoughts need to be focused on the PRESENT. I am here. It is now. And that is everything.
I guess a big part of me is just scared to come back home. Afraid that I've accomplished nothing. I sit in Phoenix, AZ, one stop away from being back in Las Vegas, and I just find my mood sunken. I keep reminding myself that at the end of the day, I did it. I went all over the country and experienced so much. I saw so many places I'd never been to, met countless people, heard music and poetry that no one else has access to, played my own songs for strangers across the country, and I lived true to myself for the duration of this road trip. I have to keep reminding myself that I am where I'm supposed to be. I guess sometimes I just wish I was supposed to be somewhere different.
The last few stops have been interesting. Austin, Texas was an absolute blast, as everyone kept saying it would be. I got to play my 100th venue and enjoy the quirky city for a good week. It was a fun and productive time before I packed up again and made my way to Albuquerque, New Mexico. That area of the country had been one of my initial question marks for the tour. I didn't think I knew anybody in the area, but it would be too far to drive from Austin all the way to Phoenix. I figured if worst came to worst, I could find a hostel for a couple nights and make do. But then early on in the tour, as I posted pictures to my social media accounts, an old friend commented, "Dude, that's awesome you're doing an open mic tour! If you make it out to Albuquerque, let me know. I'm living out there now!" I couldn't believe it. My response came immediately: "No way! I was planning on being out there like late September/early October. I will totally take you up on that!" He came back just as fast: "Yeah, man, I've got space for you to crash, no worries." And just like that, I fell into the good graces of good people again. So I got to see an old friend in a new town, though not for a very long period of time. His work schedule gave us very little time to catch up and hang out, but his kindness in allowing me to stay with him is not something I can ever thank for enough. Albuquerque was a fun town too. Green chili gets put on everything, there's an interesting Native American feel, and the people are good natured. I hiked Petroglyph National Monument and played a great open mic at Brickyard Pizza. I didn't think much about how close I was to home. My mind was at ease.
I drove out to Phoenix after a few nights. Arizona may very well be the most beautiful state in the union. As my host put it: "It's like the entire country encapsulated in one state. The only thing it's missing is a beach." He's right, it is gorgeous. The drive in was awesome. The landscape morphs frequently, but fluidly. The roads wind through rocks and cacti and forest. It makes me happy that this is here. That it is my gateway home. It will be a wonderful welcome. It is just hard to think about what will be welcoming me. I worry that it is the same life that I left. I worry that I will settle back into monotony. I worry that I won't take advantage of the opportunities I've created on this journey.
The answer to all of these worries is simple: Don't let myself do those things. It is in my hands how I live from here. Just as it was my hands that built this road for myself. I must keep my hands busy. I know what they are capable of. Both negatively and positively. I must put them to work in a positive direction. I must keep writing and creating and planning for my future moves. That is all I've got. What are my hands capable of creating for me next?
I left Las Vegas on April 23, 2014. 5 months ago. Since then, I have visited 34 states and over 40 cities/towns. I have been to 2 countries and 2 coasts. I have slept on 32 "beds." I have performed in 97 separate venues. I have heard countless artists. Seen many friends. Made many new friends. Eaten amazing food. Seen beautiful landscapes. There are too many things to capture. These last 5 months of life have been so much... so much... life. There is no other way I can put it. I have lived so much during this journey. I can't even think of much else to say right now. I am somewhat overcome by the idea that it is near an end, though I really have to stop calling it that.
In no way is returning to Vegas an end. Nor is it a beginning. It is a continuation. It will be a point on a timeline. A choice. Many choices. It will be a crossroads in the middle of a maze made only of crossroads. Nothing stops the moment I get back to Las Vegas. Sure, things change, but things are always changing. It will undoubtedly be a major adjustment. It will be neither good nor bad. It will just be. Like me. I just want to be. I don't want to worry if I am living the life I am supposed to be living, or if I am meeting expectations. The truth is and will remain that I just am me. And part of me wants to say, "And that is a wonderful thing." But it isn't. It isn't wonderful. It isn't terrible. It just is. I just am. Good or bad. Right or wrong. Better or worse. These things don't exist. They are opinions. They are judgments. I don't want to exist within their walls. I want to live.
Dallas, Texas has treated me very well. It again will not be easy to say goodbye when it comes time to leave tomorrow. I have a little two year old cousin here with whom I have played every day. I hear her come in the door in the afternoon following day care and ask, "Where is my cousin?" I come downstairs so she can pull me around and show me toys, offering me random pieces of paper to "Give to my mommy." I know by Sunday we will both be saying, "Where is my cousin?" saddened that the answer is not within reach.
It hasn't just been the family aspect of Dallas that has made it so nice, it has been the venues. There was a rare lull in between open mics. As I last checked in, I was in Nashville, but only to play one open mic that came highly recommended from all of my stops across America. It was a packed space, filled with musicians and artists of high levels of talent, but because of its popularity, our sets were extremely limited. I got to play one song in front of an attentive audience, and then I had to step off the stage to make way for the next person. I left the next morning hoping to get to Tulsa, Oklahoma in time for the only open mic available while I'd be in town, but a two hour standstill on the freeway in Arkansas prevented me from making it before it was late into the night, too late to perform. For an audience anyway.
Though there was not an opportunity to perform in Tulsa, there were good people and good times to be had. I got to enjoy some good company, get back far enough west to have more authentic Mexican food, and just explore a new part of the country. I also got the opportunity to see an old friend. A man with whom, as boys, we were inseparable. We decided together to take up music. We started a band. Our paths have since taken us in two very different directions, but that is part of what makes true friends so great: It doesn't matter how different or far apart you are, there is still a connection there. We shared a meal and some laughs before I made my way into Texas.
Dallas has pretty much made up for that lull in performances. I have jumped from venue to venue around here and received such wonderful responses. There is so much opportunity to play out here, and the crowds are engaged. They are listening. I can feel the connection while I'm on the stage. I can hear it in the sincerity of their cheers and their discussions with me once I step down. It has filled me with so much energy. I will use that fuel to push me through the homestretch of this journey. I'm not far from home. Just a few more stops. A couple more weeks, and when a little voice asks, "Where is my cousin?" the answer will be, "He's at home. He's with people he loves."
I'm one hour closer to home. Well, in a literal sense, I'm many hours closer to home, but with regards to time zones, I've moved an hour in the direction of Pacific Standard Time. Throughout the entire trip, the clocks in my car and on my laptop have remained on PST to keep me more aware of what is going on back home. I can look at the clock and picture where my loved ones are at the moment, especially if I am familiar with their schedules. I can see them rising out of bed as I drive across state borders, or getting off of work as I take a stage. Maybe it is a silly comfort, but I'll take any comforts I can get at this point.
I drove away from the Atlantic coast yesterday, meaning I have now left two oceans behind me on this journey or tour or trip or whatever it is. Baltimore is now in the past, and Nashville is my present. I am extremely grateful for all that I got to experience in Baltimore as there were good people and good venues. Some good food was mixed in as well, meaning it gave me just about all that any person could rightfully ask for. It wasn't easy to leave, but it helped knowing that I'd be headed in the direction of home. Today really marks the one-month-countdown as my intention is to be back by October 8. I need to keep myself focused on the present, though. I have no idea what waits for me in a month.
My present, Nashville, finds me in Music City Hostel. It is a comfortable place filled with cool people. I sat around a collection of tables with study abroad students yesterday. Mostly Australian accents filled the air, but the occasional British sentence rippled through to my ears, and I was told there was also a French student, but never caught that one moving through the air. A quiet Frenchman maybe. I loved hearing their stories. They are studying in North Carolina but just decided to take the weekend to pile thirteen bodies into a couple of vans and come down to see Nashville. They just wanted to skate and drink and laugh and have a good time. It would seem they achieved their mission. I guess it would seem I've achieved mine as well. I took off on the road to play music and experience more of America, more of the world. It would be impossible to say that I haven't done that by now. I have played over eighty open mics, slept in over twenty cities, met countless people, hell, I even went to Canada. I'd love to say that my mission is accomplished, but I think I'm the type to say that my mission will never be accomplished. There's always more to be done. That's how I feel now. There's still so much to do.
That's not to say I don't appreciate all that I've had the chance to do so far. It has been a wonderful experience - No - It has been a series, a collection of wonderful experiences with the occasional bad experience mixed in, which seems necessary. So who knows which category today will fall into. All I know right now is that I'm one hour closer to home, but it doesn't matter because all I can do is live the hour that is right now.
"Nothing's gonna change my world." What a great line by a great band. It's so simple, but yet very poignant. Nothing is going to change MY world. I'm still a person in love with writing, currently with the opportunity to travel and perform and live and love. No one can take this from me. It feels good to be living this way. How could it not? Sometimes bad thoughts creep into my head. Feelings of loneliness or anxiety over the future are unavoidable, but they are not insurmountable. It only takes effort. Effort that I am capable of putting forth. Time and again.
I recognize my capacity to feel such things as well as to respond negatively. With anger or self-deprecation. It is because I can identify that those things do exist within me that I am able to keep them at bay. People that think they are incapable of harboring such feelings and displaying them in the world, those are the people that do them most often, but just call it something else when they do it. To them, they are still a good person. It's when other people do those things that they have a problem with it. See, everybody is capable of being an asshole, the only thing that makes someone not an asshole is their choices. The only thing that makes anyone anything is their choices. I've heard a few people describe themselves as "bad at making choices." To me that is just saying "bad at life." Choices are all that determine your life, and you are the only one in control of them. If you find yourself "incapable" of making good choices, then what is your life going to be?
Similarly to everyone being capable of being an asshole, everyone is also capable of being wonderful. At any given moment in time. Just because someone has made a bad choice in the past that caused them to be an asshole then, does not mean that they should be written off for the entire future. They could continue to make good choices from there, so give people a chance. Don't give people a permanent title based on their past, whether that title be good or bad. Sometimes your friends and people who you have known to be good and awesome individuals, sometimes they'll make bad choices. Do not give them a free pass. Do not excuse that behavior because you know they are a good person. Call them out on it. Help them to fix it. Same goes for people that you have a low opinion of. If they make a choice that is good, do not dismiss it. Recognize it. For we are all capable of both good and evil. We all, for better or worse, have the ability to reason and choose for ourselves. Use it wisely, and recognize that every time you do use it, you could be an asshole. Or not.
Writing songs saves my mind. Without my songs, I would almost definitely go insane, or at the very least just be a very angry person. When I face a difficult situation or disappointment, I can play or even just listen to recordings of my songs, and they make me feel better. The meanings there, both old and new, remind of the lessons I have already learned. They are there just waiting for me to apply them. Just like when the things we learned in school got put into actual practice in the larger world off campus. It feels good. It is comforting to know that there were similar struggles before, and I came out better for it. That is what I am determined to do now. As always. Get better.
I face my most current struggles in Baltimore, Maryland, though as usual, the struggles have little to do with where I am and everything to do with what's at home. Where I am is a good place, and I just need to keep reminding myself of that. I need to remind myself of the present and everything that I have here, now. I have health. More than that, I have fitness. I have an able mind. A creative mind. I have friends that have aided as I make my way across the country. I have love. I have music. Music.
It is a big reason why I choose to pursue these creative careers. I like to believe that my songs and writing can help other people just like it helps me. Surely, others face similar struggles and frustrations throughout the course of any given day. Maybe my lessons, my wisdom, can help them to navigate their path. I would love that. Both selfishly and unselfishly. I would love to help people because it would be great for people to have help, but it would also feel good to be the one that did it. To anyone currently struggling, I'm here. I too have struggled. I want you to succeed. Let's work together and be happy. Let's live. Let's love.
Things have seemingly turned a corner in a positive, enjoyable direction, but I am aware that there are many more corners ahead without indication of what awaits on the other side. I departed Boston after several very successful open mics. It was odd to me that in the areas north of Boston (Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and even Montreal) there was very little original music at open mics, in fact, there was almost none at all. In Boston, there were very few covers performed, which is much more my preference at open mics. It felt great to again be among songwriters and poets, and even comedians, all the people that enjoy being creative and want to share it with others. The Lizard Lounge, Club Passim, and Bloc 11 Cafe were all fantastic open mic experiences and I highly recommend them.
From Boston, I drove to New Jersey. To do so, I needed to drive less than a mile through New York City, which took me about 45 minutes. It was an experience for sure, but not one that I am eager to replicate. Traffic from cars, bicycles, and pedestrians make it somewhat of a nightmare to navigate. I honestly don't understand why some people choose to drive in the Big Apple on a regular basis. I, however, was excited to get through the journey as I would be arriving at a place where I would actually be quite familiar with my host for the first time in a while. It feels great to see a friend when it seems like it has been a good amount of time in between seeing a familiar face at all. We played catch up and she showed me the sights. It was one of the most comfortable temporary homes I have experienced yet. Also, on the day of my arrival, there was a great open mic in Hoboken, New Jersey at the Bwe Kafé. The place was packed, the talent was great, and the hosts were super cool throughout the entire night. I loved the whole experience and it finally felt like things were back on track.
The next few days in New Jersey went well. I got to hike, visit the Jersey Shore, eat some delicious bagels and pizza, and just hang out with an old friend. After a few days, I left my car there to venture into the big city across the river where I would be seeing another great friend as well as have my brother visiting from home for his birthday. Things have continued in a similar way. New York City has a lot to offer in terms of venues, talent, and food. It is extremely crowded and sometimes it can feel a bit overwhelming, but if you take it all in stride, you will discover some of this world's magic and wonder. I will get more into details later for places to go or to avoid, but for now I just want to enjoy the time I have. There is so little time left in this crazy adventure, but there is so much time left in the grand adventure that I have been on since birth. Or that we have all been on since there was a bang in vast, seemingly endless and empty space. I want to soak in as much as I can before, just like everything suddenly burst out of nothing, nothing returns with a barely audible gasp.
I suppose it was bound to happen eventually. I just hope this is the biggest speed bump I'll hit, just as I hope the drive to Vermont was the worst one I'll encounter, just as I hope my most recent heartache will be the worst I'll ever have to feel... One can hope. I sit outside of Hostel Backpackers, where I will be spending the night, typing and texting away to try to occupy my mind and turn a rough situation into an inspiring story, a turning point. I would love to take every obstacle and make it an opportunity, but when climbing a hill, one doesn't quite see the lessons on the other side, they just see an upward climb and feel the aches in their muscles slowing them down.
The plan was fairly easy: Arrive in Boston on Sunday, crash with friend one night until he leaves for Connecticut, move to other friend's place on Monday, jam out every possible venue, and drive away happy on Saturday. It sounded so simple and the contacts had been included on the plans and given their confirmation. Steps one and two went flawlessly, for which I am so grateful, but then on step three.. I got a text at 2:30pm: "Hey sorry man I'm still in NY for one more day. I should be home tomorrow afternoon." Ok... so... where should I sleep? I guess I have no right to complain. The guy is housing me for free for almost a week. How nice is that? If he has to stay in NY, he must have a good reason. Maybe it's work. Maybe it's for love. I can't judge. But why not tell me before I'm all alone in a city without a plan? Why not give me some notice that it's even a possibility that you won't be there? It hit me in the gut and knocked the wind out of me. Some have said that I should be stoked that I made it this long without this happening to me before. Someone said that if I didn't expect this kind of stuff, then I am naive. I guess I am. I didn't expect people to not keep their word. I didn't expect someone to withhold important information that would shape the way I prepared myself. I didn't expect to be abandoned during a difficult time... I don't think I'm talking about Boston anymore.
Yes, I'm pissed about my current situation, but I'm not going to let it ruin what I'm doing. I'm not going to let it ruin me. I still do not expect those negative things because I put my faith in people. I do not want to start walking around expecting people's worst, just so that I am prepared when it happens. I expect your best. As often as humanly possible. Maybe it will hurt me because people will make mistakes or take advantage of my trust. Maybe I'll spend a lot of time disappointed. So what? Maybe I'll also incite some people to act better. Maybe I can get more out of people by not setting the bar low. My expectations can push you. They push me. I expect your best, so be prepared to give it.
Well, I suppose I am officially on the swing back towards home. I reached Maine last week, which is the furthest point from home I will be. It was a bit of a surreal experience as the simple, almost country lifestyle out there is the polar opposite of the city to which I am accustomed. I spent some good time with some cool people, jamming as much as I could. Whether it was at open mics, or just around a camp fire with new friends, I had a blast playing songs. I faced a tough decision of when to leave, just as I have in almost every place I've been. I had grown comfortable, and my next destination was uncertain as my prospective host was unresponsive until the night before I was scheduled to arrive. It made me nervous, but I knew it would be too easy to always just stay where I was comfortable, so I left.
I arrived in Hanover, New Hampshire on Monday. I'm staying with a friend of a friend who has been great since I arrived, but his easy going personality is what made it somewhat difficult to coordinate my arrival. I had a rough couple of days since arriving. There have been a lot of reminders of the worries waiting for me back home, as well as evidence that the world continues to turn without me. I'm sure it was a combination of things. The 4th of every month is always difficult, as are all of my days of travel from one temporary home to a new one. I was struggling to sleep. I was struggling to smile. Outside of the limited time I got to perform music, it was difficult to find my happiness. Today, I went on a long trail run through the natural environment out here. My legs and ass were already aching because I first ran the hills on the roads for the second day straight, but I still decided to add the trail. At the end of the trail, I reached a clearing of the trees leading to a large field with a small pond. I climbed the mound of tall grass to overlook the whole thing. The wind nudged me towards the pond, and I remembered my host suggesting that I should make sure I take a swim while I'm out here. I jumped in for only a little while, letting the water wash me of my worries.
When I climbed out of the water, I thought about how silly my concerns were. The troubles at home were nothing that I could presently face. Those are decisions that can only be made when I am at home. Not before, and not after. All I can do now is make sure that I am being the best me right now. I should give myself that. I deserve the best me possible. My friends and family deserve the best me. The world deserves the best me. My run back through the trail to my temporary home felt much faster than the one to get there. My muscles ached less. Any pain I did feel did not feel like pain, it felt like growth. And that is what I need to remember. Pain is there for a reason. I can sit and dwell in it, resenting the fact that I have to experience it, or I can accept it, allowing it to take me where I am supposed to go.
Open Mic Across America has now pushed abroad. I sit in Montreal, QC in Canada as I type this. I was given a little bit of hassle at the border, but nothing to really fuss over. I'm sure it seems a little bit suspicious to have someone drive into your country in a car packed with enough things to survive for six months. It probably draws even more attention that this person has no job to speak of, nor any real plans for what he will be doing throughout his stay. I get it. What I'm doing is by no means "normal." But that is part of what is fun about it. Back in L.A., my first stop on this journey, a music producer giving me advice said, "How many people are there in the world doing what you're doing? None. Well, one - you!" Nothing about what I'm doing is common practice. My eating habits, my sleep schedule, my travel, my planning, my outlook, my goals, nothing. But what a cool thing to be able to say, that I am doing something so unique that I don't really know of anybody else that is doing something like it, or of anybody else that is like me.
Sometimes that can be a lonely thought. Who else is like me? Who sees the world as I do? Who wants to spend time with me? I don't need others to see the world the same way as I do, I just need someone to share my view with and who will share their view with me. Or it can be multiple people. That is one of the nice things about open mics. Some open mics, I should say. Often, there are just so many people there who want to share. They've created something based on the way that they perceive the world, and they want to show it to other people. It is truly wonderful. Sure, some people are there for the attention or for the exposure. Those people are looking for those things in the wrong places. An open mic is typically a great place to share and have things shared with you. It is hardly ever, almost never a place to get exposure. What a romantic tale that would be: "Artist discovered at local open mic. Fame and fortune to follow." It's silly. It's a dream. People need to understand that there is a reality to wake up to. Though, I suppose those seeking attention aren't really hurting anyone with their dreams. As the Beatles said, "I'm only sleeping."
"If you have learned one thing on the road, it is how to be a good houseguest." I received this compliment yesterday, and it meant the world to me. I want to be the best houseguest I can be. These people are opening up their homes to me simply out of the kindness of their hearts. It is not enough to express my gratitude in words. They need to see it, feel it through my actions. It may seem simple to them, as so many of them have said, to have me stay for a few days, but it makes such a huge difference for me. They are making my life simple and happy. The least I can do is return the favor.
I have reached Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania now, after a trying few day stretch. Certain frustrations have started to creep into my travel, but I cannot let them get to me. Confusing roads or unfortunate circumstances at open mics cannot affect my mood, cannot affect myself. Yesterday in the midst of my "troubles" (I don't really think I can qualify them as such) I looked up to the sky and just laughed. I said out loud to myself, "If these are the challenges, I'm still here. I'm still going. If this is the roadblock that is getting thrown in front of me, I'm not turning around so let's see what's next." It was probably dumb to challenge the universe like that, because my next few hours were filled with even more challenges. I persevered, with lots of swearing, and ended up at my open mic in an old and run down area of Pittsburgh. I played an ok set, but my voice was tired, causing me to come in flat on a few notes. Disappointing.
The people were still excited to hear I was from across the country and kept me on the stage for awhile after my set, throwing out questions about my travels and influences. When I mentioned that I was a Penguins fan, one girl accused me of claiming similar things in each city I go to, that I'd go to Philadelphia and say I was a Flyers fan. I couldn't help it, it was instinct, "FUCK the Flyers." My comment drew loud applause, but I felt foolish for my outburst of hateful words. I stepped off the stage in shame and talked with various people about my travels. I met a group of travelers from Florida whose look fit the bill of wanderer more than my own does. Their dreadlocks and dirt encrusted skin made me wonder if I'd ever get to that point. If I could ever live so free from the eyes of society as to let my physical appearance go. I'll admit that I still have quite a bit of vanity, even on the road. I work out every day and hate wrinkles in my clothes. I post pictures and video clips that display me in a good light, and I want people to notice.
I feel bad for that, but it is true. I do want people to notice. Both for my sake and theirs. A selfish side of me wants them to notice because it would be nice to be recognized for what I'm doing, maybe even to receive a tangible reward in the form of a following or financial backing, but I also want people to notice because I think that I can help them. I think that they can learn from me. Maybe that is cocky to say, but I believe it to be true. I think that if people took notice of what I'm doing and saying, they might be able to find a little bit more happiness in their lives, and that is what keeps me going.
I have arrived in Chicago, Illinois. The reach of my friends back home continues to aid me in ways that I am unbelievably grateful for. I recently talked with someone about how lucky I am to have received so much kindness throughout my journey this far. The person I was speaking with said that it is a reflection of myself. I can only hope that is accurate. People have been so good to me that I have no proper way to express gratitude or repay them. So instead I just work to be worthy of it. Worthy of them. I strive to be the best being that I can in every way that I can think of. How can I be kinder? More honest? More giving? More able? I want to build myself both inside and out so that I have more to share with the world. I want to share it.
It is easy for people who are presently in a good, happy place to say that everything happens for a reason. To say that they are exactly where they are supposed to be. They can look back on their hardest trials and say, "Yes, but they have led me to here, to this place of happiness, so I needed them."
But true understanding belongs to those who currently find themselves in pain or suffering and still can say that they are exactly where they are supposed to be. That their anger and sadness is necessary. That everything is happening as it should. If something bad happens to someone, and they learn from it to do better next time, then that is why it was required for them to endure failure - so they could learn. This person is on the path to happiness. However, if a person makes a mistake, but learns nothing, instead continuing to make similar mistakes, then where that person is supposed to be is in suffering, in pain, in anger, in sadness. I can say confidently that we are all where we belong, but I cannot say that we all belong in happiness. We belong in happiness if we choose to belong there.
Also, do not mistake the fact that it should be easy for happy people to recognize the worth of their troubles for the notion that all happy people do value their past troubles. Their happiness might be where they are meant to be because it could lead to their fall. Sometimes, people need to have something and lose it before they ever appreciate what having happiness means. The next time they achieve it, it will mean so much more.
It has been too long since I have checked in. I sit in a cafe in St. Paul, MN, pondering my world and my choices. I find myself happy on the road, performing my songs for audiences of varying sizes. It is nice to receive compliments and inquiries about where they can find my music, but it is nicer to just play. The things that happen when I step off the stage are good, but nothing can compare to the feeling of strumming and singing, of expressing my thoughts, of believing my words as I put them out into the universe. It is nothing short of amazing. I am aware that some day I will have to face the realities of home. That prospect scares me. For the time being, I am just going to enjoy the opportunity I have in front of me. I have time to write and create. It shall not go wasted:
A wish for a different past is a wish for a different present. If you are happy with your present, there was no other way to get there than the path that you took. If you are NOT happy with your present, you need to change your behaviors now so that when the future becomes the present, and the present becomes the past, you can be happy with where you are.
Hello World! For those of you who have not yet viewed the above video, my name is A.J. and I am a singer/songwriter from Las Vegas, Nevada currently driving around the U.S. to play open mics and small venues for fun. I realized some time ago that if I never took the opportunity to drive around and play music because I love it, then I would grow up to hate myself. I am lucky enough to not currently have anything holding me back, and am blessed enough to have awesome people in my life that make the whole thing much easier. So I gave myself a year to save up and touch base with family and friends, and then in March 2014, I quit my job.
I started driving towards the end of April, and today I arrived in Seattle, Washington. It has been an amazing trip so far, and I am only looking forward to what will happen from here. I will check in more often to update on what is happening around me. For those who know me personally, I promise I will be safe and share the good stories. For musicians, I promise I will give you the low-down on different city's music scenes and open mics. For venues, I promise I will be honest in representing your facilities and staff. For travelers, I promise to give you my tips for the road and for hidden gems along the way. For anybody else... ummm I'm not sure what you're doing here, but I will try to be entertaining nonetheless. I would love to share my journey with all of you. Maybe I can convince you to take a risk or avoid a mistake. So check back in sometime. Feel free to email or facebook or instagram or whatever. Thanks for reading. Live every day like it's your first.
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