Why I Have A Stache

“Excuse me. I’m sorry, but your moustache is awesome, dude,” said a man next to me in line to board a flight. “I can’t grow one, wish I could. But yours is killer, man.”

“Dude! Your moustache is great!” a guy exclaimed as he passed my date and me as we walked to her car after a drink. He excused himself as he went by. “Pardon me,” he looked at my lady friend. “I’d love to grow one, but I just know I’d look weird,” he said to me.

Backstage, pre-show. I was just about to take the stage and the security guard stepped in front of me. He was about 6’ 6”, 300, a pretty hefty fella.

“Hey!” he barked loudly over the house music. I froze for a moment. Had I done something wrong to warrant his shadow looming over me? I rifled through my memory of the evening trying to think of some reason this large keeper of the peace might be after me, but nothing came to mind. So I kept calm and carried on, as they say.

“What’s up, man?” I responded in a friendly tone, if not a pubescent cracked voice. His shadow quickly receded as his face changed from ominously serious to inquisitively childlike. He came closer and his eyebrows perked up.

“I gotta know…How long’d it take you to grow your stache, man? It’s dope! I’ve been thinking about growing one, but I’m just nervous that I’d look weird, ya know?”

So I said to Big Vince the same thing I said to Colby at Logan Airport and James on the street in Downtown Culver City: “If you really want to grow a stache, let it grow! You’ll definitely think you look weird because you look at yourself every single day, but that’s natural. No one else will think you look weird. People (barring your lady friend, perhaps) see you as you are, not as a comparison of what you looked like yesterday or three days ago or three weeks ago. There is a middle point where it’ll start growing into your mouth and it’ll feel funky and you’ll be wicked conscious of it, and you’ll be playing with it all day. But you have to just muscle through it. Let it roll because once that stage is over, you’ll be golden!”

“Thanks, dude!” said Colby.
“Thanks, sir!” James responded.
“Thanks, man!” Big Vince from The Troubadour replied.

My stache didn’t grow out alone. It had some chinly company in the beginning.  For years I kept my facial hair at a constant stubble. The first time I decided to let it grow past my standard two-week growth/trim cycle (basically constant stubble to actual beard), it got to about an eighth of an inch before I looked at myself in the mirror one day and was like, “OMG, I have an honest-to-god actual beard!” I posted a picture to Facebook. The caption actually read: “My beard is HUGE.” Such a novice.

When I finally decided to completely forgo the trim portion of my cycle, I let my beard grow strong and powerful for six months. One night at dinner with my cousin, she looked across the table at my five inch face forest and said, “You know…you have a really nice jaw line under there.”

There was a long pause as I raised an eyebrow. She braced for my response.

“Yeah, all right, I get it!”

About a week after she not-so-subtly inferred that I should trim the muzzle-lashings upon my face, I was driving home from work, combing my beard (yes, I had a beard comb in the car), and then it hit me: “Today’s the day,” I thought as I looked at myself in the rearview mirror. “This baby’s coming off.”

I started trimming when I got home. My bathroom sink was drowning in five-inch, brown, black, and occasional white hairs from my cheeks and chin. The scene was brutal for any hirsute. Fallen soldiers everywhere. The hairs fell from my face in slow motion to the cold porcelain curves of the basin. I should have strung crime scene tape around it. It was like when Ben Kenobi felt Alderaan’s demise in Star Wars: “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”

But there were leftovers. A victorious few in what has come to be known as The Great Beard Trimmer Incident of 2011. As I stared at my skinny, mostly naked face, my moustache looked finer and more glorious than it ever had when surrounded by my beastly beard. It was proud in its solitude, excited to face the world without the weight of the suburbs of the chin.

I was on the ice rink in Santa Monica season recently. It was filled with parents and their children swishing around in circles. As I leaned against the rink’s wall resting my shins and ankles, a small, giggling girl about eight years old, skated past and shouted through the crowd, “Excuse me sir! I really like your moustache!” And that’s why I keep it around. It starts conversations, it creates bonds between men. But most importantly, it encourages people to smile.

Why I Sold My Stuff to Travel the World and the Questions I Ask(ed) Myself

Which is the greater risk? Leaving your job, your friends, your stuff, your routine, your life, to go on an adventure into the unknown because you feel it in your gut? Or staying put at your job, with your friends, surrounded by your stuff, ingrained in your routine, in your life, with no change in sight because it’s the “safe” and “acceptable” thing to do? It’s a thought that has crept up for me on many occasions in the past few years. And the more I opened myself to the understanding that change is good, all the time, every time, even/especially when I don’t want it, I realized that my staying stagnant, when in my heart I know I must seek change, made the decision to leave all the things listed above and embark on a round-the-world journey simple. Not easy, though. I just knew I had to do it and began to ask myself a truck load of difficult questions.

I went to Italy in 2014 with my cousins, aunt, and uncle after they suggested I tag along. I bought the plane ticket and met them in Cinque Terre a month later. On the front and back ends of the trip, I stopped into Rome for a pair of weeks to visit a couple of friends whom I had met in 2012 after a tour with my band and ended up having the time of my life. They introduced me to their friends, and they introduced me to their friends. We shared conversations, drinks, food, laughter, the whole nine. It was absolutely lovely. After that three-week trip I came back to LA and fell into a funk. But it wasn’t the standard “I wish I was still on vacation” funk that generally accompanies heading home after a beautiful experience abroad. It was deeper. And it lasted longer than any funk I’d been in in a while. As the months passed and I was unable to determine why I was down for so long, I started digging deep within myself. I busted out the magnifying glass and head lamp, cracked open the darkest parts of my soul, asked myself a zillion difficult questions, and forced myself to look in the proverbial mirror. I started assessing my life (What am I actually doing here?), my goals (What do I want to accomplish before I die?), and my purpose (Whom do I want to affect before the end?). So yeah, the easy stuff. Peeling off my skin and scratching my most vulnerable wounds was not a pleasant experience. But I did it. And I continue to do it. Unfortunately, this is one of those things that isn’t a one-time event. You have to constantly uncover the truth beneath the surface and face yourself and your demons on a regular basis. Sweet.

I read the Four-Hour Workweek among other books as part of that deep, uncomfortable dive. At the end of each chapter, the author poses a few action items, some in the form of questions. One of the questions that stuck out to me went something like this: How hard would it be for you to come back to where you are today – your job, your routine, your life – in 3 months, 6 months, 3 years? Not emotionally, per se, but practically. I knew the answer immediately: Easy. Wicked easy. I haven’t yet built an empire, eased my way into upper management, or gotten too committed to a lifestyle that would prevent me from pulling ties from a career which would bring my comfort crashing down. But executing this task of unplugging myself from my life is far from easy, it’s a chore. Physically and emotionally. How do I go from routine 9-5p, eat, sleep, band rehearsals, drinks with friends, all the way to the other side of the spectrum: sell it all, pack a bag, no obligations, nowhere to be, no one relies on you, and roam the earth? Is this even something I want to do?

I started by asking myself a series of questions similar to the one Tim Ferriss posed in his book. His was the one that pushed me to the edge and allowed me to move forward with my desire to see what was next despite not knowing what it was that I wanted or what the future would look like.

  • How hard would it be for me to come back to where I am today?
  • Do I have a support system in place? Friends, family, colleagues, etc.
  • Do I feel comfortable selling, donating, and/or storing all my stuff?
  • Do I really need all the stuff that I have?
  • What is the most important thing in my life?
  • Why do I work hard to obtain all sorts of stuff only to die with none of it?
  • What can I give back to the world? 
  • What do I have to say with my life?
  • Do I love where I am in my life?
  • Will my friends support me? If not, are they really my friends?
  • Is my heart open and free?
  • How can I make this world a better place?
  • What is my purpose?
  • Am I special?

I continually asked myself these and myriad other questions and ruminated on them over the course of about a year and a half. I made adjustments in my life when some were answered, I pivoted when opportunity presented itself, and I changed my vision when change was necessary. I did not know where I was going, but I knew that the path being laid before me – by my own work and by the universe – was the right one. 

I was on my way. 

Each question I pondered yielded multiple iterations of answers. There was no point that I said to myself, “This is exactly what I will do!” It was more like, “I think this is a good idea for now, but who knows?” and I just stepped forward. Like in 2015, when I made the choice to use all my time off from work to live with my friends in Rome for a month instead of quitting my job and moving there. I had no idea what I was trying to accomplish outside of just enjoying time with friends and seeing if I could make a few professional connections. I didn’t set up meetings with anyone, but did question and probe the folks I met about their lives and what they do and why they do it. During that process, I didn’t find a tangible purpose for me to stay in Rome (i.e., a job/career, artistic opportunities, love), but I did further my knowledge of myself and my thoughts of this world based on my experiences, the experiences of others, and our shared connections. So I came back to Los Angeles to reassess. I knew I wanted a change – Rome was the first leaping pad – but I didn’t know what that change would look like. When I got on the plane in Rome to come home, I wasn’t sad to leave and come back to my “boring” life, I was invigorated and excited to see what I’d do next.

In reality though, Rome wasn’t the first leaping pad at all. As I continued to ask myself questions, I also pulled back my perspective from being deep in the weeds of my life and took a 30,000 foot view of what I was doing. I saw that my month in Rome was indeed way further from the beginning of my journey than I thought it was. I don’t know how long my journey will be, so I can’t say it was in the middle or near the end, but it certainly wasn’t in the beginning. This process started much further back than that year-and-a-half than I thought. Every choice, conscious or not, my own or forced by circumstance, has led me to this point. It’s easy for me to get lost in the “story” of my own personal journey, trying to pinpoint each plot change, and how exactly I got to this point, but that is a waste of my time. The “why” doesn’t matter yet. The “what do I do now?” does.

“So, like, what do I do now?”

Here’s my suggestion based on what I did: Think of every reason you shouldn’t do this thing and determine whether that reason is based in fear. DO NOT make decisions based in fear. That is not living. That is a prison. (And I’m not talking about survival fear – we all know to run away from a rabid dog, and not to hurl rocks into a swarming bees nest, that’s just common sense. I’m talking about ego-based fear: If I do this thing and it doesn’t work out like I want it to, what will people think? What will I do for money? How can I look at myself in the mirror? Etc, etc. That’s the fear we’re looking to avoid here.) I started asking myself even more questions about the things I fear the most as I started to consider this journey of relatively epic proportions.

  • What will people think?
    True friends will support you, or maybe even come with you. Forget the others. 
  • What will I do for money?
    There are lots of online resources about saving money over short periods of time and making money on the road. Also, when you have no bills to pay or very few (which will happen when you forsake the routine of daily life in one place for travel), you don’t need a ton of money to maintain a life back home, which means you don’t have to work as much, which means you can travel more. Travel isn’t as expensive as people think and you really only need enough money to get to your next destination, eat healthy, and have a bit of fun. I understand this isn’t exactly an easy thought to get on board with. Lots of us want that sizable safety net “just in case.” But this is about relying on what skills and talents you already have, what support you have in place, and what is being laid out for you, too.
  • What about my stuff?
    You really don’t need all the stuff you have. It doesn’t bring you happiness. This is a fact.
  • What about my job?
    Again, how hard is it to get back to where you are? Do you love what you do? Can you live without it for a while? Is it a placeholder to maintain some sort of normalcy that the society in which you live has put on you?

During my trial-run month in Rome in August ‘15, I recognized that I didn’t want to live there. Not because I didn’t love Rome, but because the thought of living there had the same weight as the thought of living in L.A. where I’d resided for the past twelve years. It just felt like a meh thing to do. Being in one place felt stagnant and stagnancy isn’t for me. I love both cities. And others, too. But L.A. lately hadn’t been working for me. It wasn’t the city, it was me. There’s something else out there that I needed to find, that I needed to give myself over to. That something is not in L.A. at the moment. It’s not in Rome either. Perhaps it’s in places I’ve never been or places I’d like to go back to. Long story short, I just don’t want to live anywhere right now. I want to experience everywhere. Or at least as much as I can before I run out of money/energy, find an awesome career, fall in love, or die. And those things won’t even necessarily prevent me from continuing on my travel experiences. Hell, I could find a career in travel. Or meet a woman who wants to work and live on the road with me for a while. Or I could change my mind and focus on something else entirely. Or I could die. But that could be the best journey of my life. Who really knows? (That’s definitely a topic for another time.)

The key to all of this is that having a very specific, clearly defined, OCD goal in mind is not the way I roll. I change my mind a lot. I’m human. Sometimes I see shiny things, go “Oooooooh!!!” and when I get close to them, they lose their luster. Sometimes the blemished things turn out to be the best, most rewarding things I’ve ever experienced. It’s tough to tell what result you’ll see when you’re in the heat of it. The emotional roller coaster of decision making can be wicked confusing and complicated.

It all comes down to this: You must do what you feel is right for you. Listen to that tiny voice that winces and sighs when you have to deal with an angry phone call from a client at work. Take note of the general emotional state during your days. Keep track of when you feel “down” or “uninspired”. Spend at least 10 minutes a day sitting quietly without interruptions (thoughts about what it all means count as interruptions). Do your best to recognize what you can control and what you can’t. (Hint: You can control wayyy less than you think you can, but you can absolutely control how you respond to situations.)

There are many different ways to succeed in life. New paths are laid out before us on a daily basis. To know which path is right before you choose it is impossible. But as long as you approach each path with eagerness and an open heart, you will make the right choice no matter which path you choose. Trust yourself. Trust those around you. Trust a higher power if you believe in one. None will let you down.

Living Life Without Meaning (…Kinda Sorta)

There’s a deep regret I feel for not having truly lived life. For having jettisoned, ignored, lost touch with an ideal process of thought that I spent years cultivating based on reading inspiring texts (The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living, Zen Guitar,  and Siddhartha, for example), attending spiritual masses (at the Agape International Spiritual Center), and simply being free from fear. Instead of maintaining this process of thought, I’ve unconsciously (and other times, very well aware) opted for an easier and wasteful feeling of sadness and debilitation. I’ve spent hours pondering what I should be doing instead of focusing on what I am doing. I’ve spent days considering my options only to rationalize my way into choosing none. It’s a theme that doesn’t exist every day, but it certainly never disappears.

Over the past year and a half, I have been stuck in one of these phases of fear and debilitation. Unable to see the truth or to make decisions based on positive progression or genuine fulfillment, I have wasted opportunities, relationships, and experiences because my mind has been more focused on what each moment meant than simply living it. Meaning doesn’t reveal itself in the moment though. It comes only from deep reflection and sometimes it doesn’t come at all. In these moments, I’m stuck. Often thinking, “If I am unable to understand what this means for me, for my story, then what exactly am I supposed to do with it? How do I process its place in my soul’s journey?” While I’m spending my moments pondering that thought, I am missing what’s right in front of me: Life.

When those moments have passed, I find myself reflecting on inconsistent feelings of love and emptiness, depth and waste; I descend into a state of shear ambivalence. I’m unable to sift through and find the truth – which was there all along, but I didn’t pay attention to in the moment. I find myself longing for feelings that never actually existed, romanticizing relationships that were all but romantic. Do I miss her? Or do I miss the feeling of missing her? Of just having someone to miss?

My therapist once asked me if there is anyone I’ve dated that I look back on and think, “That could have worked.” At the time he asked me this Pandora’s Box of a question, I felt firm that, no, there was not. I know he wasn’t looking for an answer then. He was looking to plant a seed. And that seed has grown into a veritable apple tree of past girlfriends and lovers and crushes and admirers. I pluck one and take a few bites, chewing voraciously on each sinew and morsel of the relationship, and by the time the core and stem are the only pieces left, I come to a different conclusion than I had in that therapy session, but the same for every single woman: Maybe. Again with the ambivalence. Does that mean I wasn’t trying hard enough with each of them? Was it simply a compatibility issue? Is there something wrong with me? Am I undateable? Unlovable? Incapable of loving? Or is it just that I haven’t met the right woman yet? I hope it’s the latter, but the older I get, the more I feel it’s a combination of all of it. And that frightens me. Perhaps I am deficient in some way. Scarred by an overthinking brain, a quenchless soul that always seeks more, a constant fear of doubt, and irrational insecurity that exhausts the mind and body. This would be a sad reality.

Since I began writing this post in August 2015, I’m happy to say I’ve made some hefty adjustments in my process. I began laying out ideas for change. Change based in love, not fear, change that I truly wanted, change that I felt would benefit my life long-term and open me up to unforeseen opportunities. The hard part was figuring out exactly what I wanted to do next. While I pondered that overwhelming thought, I asked myself many questions and dove deeply into my life desires. I’ll share this process along with specific questions I asked myself in a later post, but the gist is, I stopped asking myself why I was doing what I was doing and what it all means, and instead asked myself why I wasn’t living the life I wanted to live.

Now that I’ve sold, donated, and stored all my stuff, moved out of my apartment, left my city, left my routine, and begun a four-month trip around the world, I find myself (finally) stepping out of the boat of doubt. I am combating that deep regret head on. But, sweet merciful crap, it ain’t easy.