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Alive

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I told Nick once that I was going to get a tattoo of a compass, with the arrow pointing north, and only the “N” labeled.  I told him I was going to get it because it would symbolize him, that he was the “N” that I was heading towards. This was during our “weird time” as I call January-April. He told me not to and laughed at me for wanting to do that. Looking back, I question that laugh because I wonder if this conversation happened before or after he slept with someone else. Then came back to me, again.

I would have thought things would be much different than they are right now, even just a few months ago. I would’ve guessed that Nick and I would either be back together or that I would have pretty much moved on.  Well, I guess that last part would be me lying to you.  You know when you absolutely just know that someone is going to change the rest of your story, no matter how many chapters they show up in? I felt that immediately with him. I guess we all hope for the best, being humans and dependent on love whether we like it or not.  That’s one thing that always makes me laugh and want to yell out bullshit in the middle of people telling me about themselves.  We, as humans, are all hopeless romantics- men, women, cynics, realists, the whole lot of us. I don’t care who you are or what you say, there is not a single one of us that doesn’t wake up wanting to find that feeling that just makes us scream in liveliness.  We are all just searching for a purpose and, for many of us, that feeling of life and being alive is found in another person.

See, “love” as a whole is overrated to me.  Mostly a word used falsely by children in high school or people who just don’t know how to say that they just want company.  It’s used by a whole bunch of people who are scared to admit that it would be wrong to just want sex, so they tack on a whole bunch of stresses and pressures under the mask of love just to get the nod along from society. Love has become so commercialized and holds so many expectations that it has been essentially ruined.  I don’t think the divorce rate is going up because people are falling out of love.  Quite the opposite actually, I believe the divorce rate is going up because people never fell into love.  That a couple had been together having fun for such a long while that people and family and friends and movies and country songs and society as a whole began to pressure and push and pick at the relationship, until the two involved in it felt that they had to take the next step.  Now the next step for many people is moving in together, but sometimes that is even frowned upon without an engagement ring or being married.  Soon, that couple who was completely happy in each others arms has been forced into a house they don’t want, with a ring on her finger, and a general feeling of uneasiness if this was really their own choice or just what they are supposed to do. Some people don’t even realize this isn’t what they wanted until after a wedding, which tragically eventually will lead to a divorce.

So, “love” is not something I truly believe in.  Finding your kindred spirit is a completely different story though.  I believe that there are people that you will meet in your life that will teach you things that you will never forget, that their presence will nudge you towards the path that you are supposed to be on, and that being with them, even if it is only temporary, will leave lasting memories and flashbacks that are activated randomly for the rest of your life.  These people you are immediately drawn to.. as if some stronger force was pushing you and saying “this one, pay attention! they’re right there!”.  Sometimes you end up in a relationship with yours and sometimes they just become just a teacher and a friend.  The thing about it is that you love them regardless.  Your soul delights in them, it finds so many things in common that you can’t contain your excitement at the fact that someone just gets it, gets you, gets everything.  I  don’t know how else to explain it, I guess if you’ve ever met yours, you’d understand.

Not a lot of people read these days, like really read.  Not just shit books either, like Tucker Max and whatever that damn shades of grey book was, but like real books.  Books that make you feel something with authors that have talent and such a voice that you can put yourself in that exact setting, picturing that exact character, feeling those exact feelings they have put down on paper for you to feel. Steinbeck, Wolfe, London, Twain, Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Bukowski, Orwell, and the rest. There are hundreds of thousands of amazing books out there by amazing authors, and it is almost impossible to find someone who reads, like really reads.  Not just to read so they can say they read it or take a picture of them reading for instagram or to improve their “hipster” image they pride themselves on.  I wanted to find someone who read, and enjoyed reading, as much as some people enjoyed television and movies. I remember my soul cheering when I went to Nick’s apartment for the first time and saw a bookshelf in his living room with actual titles on it that meant something. I remember the volumes of national geographic that were thrown about his bedroom.

In my profession I get to eavesdrop just about every second of every shift I work. I’m a bartender, its part of the territory.  I have come to notice that the majority of my generation is just plain stupid.  Now that’s not exactly the nicest thing to say, I’m sure I have conversations from time to time that if they were overheard people would immediately question the intelligence of me and my friends as well. But there is no lack of dumbasses coming into the bar talking about absolutely nothing or things so completely vapid and shallow and just bullshit it would almost be better if they said nothing at all.  I see everything from couples filling in the silence with ridiculous, trivial conversations about this piece of gossip or that article in void to groups of friends commenting on “did you see her facebook status?” or amazing one liners like “when we’re all old and gross, we’ll be happy we have these” after taking fifteen group pictures in a row with multiple duckfaces and poses. I’d hate to be one of the girls that peak in high school or college, but apparently a large part of the population is becoming just that.  Their bodies are so tired, beat, and worn out with pores full of makeup and cells full of alcohol, nicotine, and other party substances, that I guess they really do need the multiple pictures of themselves now. I laugh because I find myself starting to like my age and how it looks on me; I finally feel like my external and internal selves are catching up to each other.  I sit there often and I question if this is really what people have become. Just so superficial and shallow and just the complete opposite of deep in any form.  There is no meaning behind anything, its all for show and social media and to fill in the “awkward” silences. Maybe I’m just getting too old for it all.  I like silence. I like real conversations that don’t include judging people or trivial gossip. I remember once, in the toyota, when Nick told me he thought we didn’t talk enough. I never thought we needed too really. I think some of the most meaningful conversations I have had in the last few years were with him. I also think some of the most comfortable silences I have ever had were with him. I didn’t want or need to fill the silences with bullshit and stupid stuff, it was nice just to be around him. I was content in our silences because between the silences I was content with our conversations.  I felt like he taught me a lot when he talked, and I felt like I taught him what I could when I talked.  Silence is amazing, it is far under-appreciated and often covered up with bullshit that just dumbs down its glory.  I still cherish a lot of memories I have of us, just sitting in silence on the couch or in the woods, passing a blunt back and forth, and thinking our own thoughts quietly to ourselves. I get scared to think that maybe he looks back at it as a weakness while I still see it as a strength. We fit together without words, and in a world so filled of meaningless ones, my soul was ecstatically wrapped in the comfort-ability of our silence.

Sometimes, it’s hard to convince yourself things are over. Sometimes, it’s not. I don’t know where I really consider myself with Nick. I can only hope he is out there hanging out with all the duckface-selfie-taking vapid girls at the bar and occasionally finding himself question if this is all there is left out there; and maybe, just maybe, looking back at the very untypical, deeper-than-most bond our spirits formed. Maybe pride will stop him from admitting it, or maybe he’ll be too drunk and easily replace me with some pretty, stupid girl that either will or won’t matter in the morning, or maybe the fleeting memory of a real connection will discourage him from being like all the other dudes at all the other bars. Maybe I took an amazing, deep, intelligent, handsome guy and transformed him into some kind of bar fly, image-prizing, womanizing asshole. Maybe that’s all he was ever going to be, or maybe that’s all he ever was and I just couldn’t see it. Or maybe, his spirit attracted another intelligent, pretty girl who sees through all the superficial bullshit and he’s happy with her like he was with me. Maybe she won’t screw it up. Like I said, I don’t really know where I consider myself with Nick. I know, right now, we don’t even speak. [His call and choice and I respect that]. I do know that yesterday I finished a Steinbeck novel and my soul longed for his the entire time I read it. I can’t say if we’ll ever talk or see each other again, but I find it hard to swallow the large lump in my throat when I think that we won’t. I do think that our paths will eventually meet back up, one way or another, regardless of if my spirit will still cheer for his, I’m not sure. I do miss his friendship and advice often.

And I do know that I got that tattoo of that compass pointing towards the N. Fuck it, I’m from Maine anyways. Should be easy enough to change the story behind it to being based on being from up north one day if the hope and longing for Nick is ever officially dead.  I don’t know if I would bother lying about it’s history though. He taught me enough that he deserves to be commemorated in ink regardless of the questionable future of us ever meeting back up. I mean, not everyone gets to meet their kindred spirit these days and I’ve seen worse, more meaningless tattoos.

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12 months

When you sign a lease, you never really know how many things can change over that year. You make plans and you try to map out your life, but usually, it turns out nothing like what you planned. We signed the lease to our first place together and he had plans to propose and I had plans to accept if he ever asked. I spent a lot of time decorating and trying to make it feel like a home.. building a “nest egg” most of my customers called it. I started planning a wedding, he started planning our financial future. It was planned, everything was mapped out. The date, the venue, his job path, all planned and ready to go.

What you never seem to include in your plans are: the fights, the speed bumps, the social media lusting, the time apart that separates two people who called each other best friends, the temptations you get presented with by being a bartender, the friends who have terrible intentions for your relationship, the distance, the stress, and the toll all these take on you. Nobody ever plans a break up, especially to an engagement. When you’re caught in the spiderweb of it, you don’t even really see it coming. Maybe because it’s too close, ya know? Maybe it was just so much focus on the future and some day and a year from now that you get blindsided by the present. Maybe it was all the times that we didn’t say what we thought, that I didn’t ask for help when I started noticing other people, that he didn’t ask for help and tell me he used instagram to stare at other girls. Maybe it was pride or a lack of a true feeling of protection in our relationship that stopped us from addressing our weaknesses and struggles in our present and covering them with plans for our future.

The first night we had the keys, we had a mattress on the floor of our room, a record player and a modest mouse album, a bottle of champagne, some vodka and orange juice. We were happy. We drank to our plans. Enjoyed our new, empty house and slept in each other’s arms on the undressed mattress.

It’s funny how one year, twelve months, can change everything. I walked around the empty house, drank a bottle of champagne to honor our failure, and slept on the floor. I woke up and took one look around. Left the keys on the counter, locked the door, closed it, and left. Called the office and told them everything was out.

12 months. Huh. What a fucking difference.

Back to Me

“Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

 

Today was the first day in a long time that I realized that I am slowly becoming more like the old Cam, and I am extremely excited about it. What spawned this realization? I was talking to my friend who moved to California and just telling him about what I did today. Towards the end of my list of today’s events, he just started laughing. I am a very hilarious person, but at that particular point in the conversation I hadn’t used any humor, so I questioned what spawned his roll of laughter. He paused and said, “I missed you. It’s good to have you back. Ole happy, hippie Cam!”.

We talked for a little while longer, said our goodbyes, and hung up the phone. I really started to think about what he had said. I noticed that I had to fight the urge to laugh as well. “I am back,” I thought to myself, smiling. I knew, and felt, exactly what he had meant.

It’s hard to put your past self into words. So I’m just going to act like I’m describing a stranger who wasn’t me because it’s easier for me to articulate my former qualities that way. I’ve changed so much that looking back to the past on who I used to be is kind of like observing another person anyways.

She’s a health freak- I’m talking 100% external and internal. She doesn’t drink any alcohol or smoke cigarettes. She grocery shops in the organic section and at farmer’s markets. She makes her own almond milk, peanut butter, vegan cream cheese, and mashed potatoes out of cauliflower. She is a fantastic cook. While everyone else is sleeping, she’s at the gym. When she gets home, she meal preps. She reads a lot because she enjoys it. She doesn’t have a television because she doesn’t enjoy it. She spends as much time outside as possible. She walks her dog and talks about her like she’s a person. On the back of her dresser, which doubles as a headboard, she has hand written a million different quotes in different color markers. They range from “Live, Laugh, Love” to “Don’t waste your time and energy on feeling envy or jealousy. The race is long, and in the end, it is only with yourself”. She has the most brilliant smile and strangers often stop her at the grocery store or the bank to tell her how happy she looks. She holds the door open for people. She pulls over and helps old ladies on the side of the road carry things. She has conversations with bums about why they shouldn’t smoke when they are digging in ashtrays for stubs, but then tells them that if they are going to, to at least smoke their own and hands them money to go buy some. She is kind. She doesn’t judge or think mean thoughts towards strangers, remembering that everyone is fighting their own battle and that she honestly believes a chain of kind events towards people who need them could help end the world’s problems. She’s religious and a Christian in her heart and actions, but has no idea of that yet because a boy hasn’t given her a bible hidden in a stack of books, so her brain hasn’t learned it just yet. She glows with happiness, inside and out. It’s not an act, it’s just her. She’s fun, spontaneous, and a genuine good listener. She is a loyal friend and will get out of bed at 3 am to give her drunk ones rides, they call her the Cam Cab. She’s never in a hurry. She isn’t worried about money [which let me explain the thing is that I had way less then, I just had this weird/awesome way of knowing and trusting that everything always worked out]. She inspires people and teaches them things, and doesn’t know she’s doing it until they tell her, sometimes weeks or years later. She has plans to move to Italy to teach English. She has been applying for a volunteership to build the National Park of Patagonia and thinks that she will finally be accepted for that 6 month program this year. She believes in soulmates. She doesn’t believe in looking for them. She’s hard to tie down to one place, one person, one job, one life. Traveling makes her feel more at home than anywhere she’s ever lived. She wants to do great things; not like be famous or rich great things, but like make a difference and help people great things. She has no idea how to accomplish that.

I guess that’s the most of it. It’s crazy how far away from yourself you can become. You change one thing for one person, then you sacrifice this thing for another, then you stop doing this because of that… next thing you know describing who you used to be is like looking at a stranger. I don’t point fingers and I don’t believe in regrets. I changed because I made choices that led to decisions that lead to actions that caused these changes. It was totally under my control. It’s funny how when you stop concentrating on yourself and start focusing on someone else, how easy it is to become a ghost of the person you once were.

But today, that ghost must have jumped inside me. Here’s the events I was explaining to my friend that made him point this out.

I woke up at 5 am to drink a protein smoothie made with fruit & veggies in my blender and go to the gym for spin class at 6. After spin, I worked out more and came home. I made breakfast which consisted of eggs cooked with cottage cheese on protein toast with avocado. I walked my dogs down to the preserve and back, which is about a four mile loop. I showered, threw on a bathing suit, and went and laid out at the beach for a while. I went grocery shopping at this place called Fresh Fields Farms [amazing!] and publix. While I was there, an old man told me that I looked like one of the happiest people he’d ever seen [I was visiting fantasy land in my mind and day dreaming about some happier memories about a year ago involving an old couple, grilled cheeses, and a past publix trip]. On the way home, I saw a lady with her 3 young kids waiting at the bus stop looking hot and aggravated, so I gave them a ride. It turned out being quite the ways away, about an hour longer than expected, so when I got home I spent some time cleaning where my ice cream melted all over my car. I cleaned my house and put some laundry away. I practiced Modest Mouse “Ocean Breathes Salty” and Willie Nelson “Always on my Mind” on guitar. On Tuesdays, I started a new routine of giving myself a facial from a mask I mix up of a bunch of stuff [activated charcoal, tea tree oil, rose-water, European clay powder, honey, and aloe- try it, it makes your skin so so so smooth]. Then I started meal prepping for the week, so I made cauliflower stirfry [no rice, you use the grated cauliflower as the rice], egg fritata, peanut butter protein waffles, 7 seed protein granola bars, salad with homemade guacamole for the dressing, baked chicken stuffed with homemade spinach pesto, and some gluten-free protein donuts for a treat on my high carb days. When my friend called I was reading The Blithedale Romance by Nathaniel Hawthorne. He was having a bad day so the phone call started with me telling him some advice and a cheesy “Old Cam quote” to back it up. I haven’t used a quote paired with some advice in a long, long time. It even felt familiar and happy to do it; and it was awesome to remember one after so long too. Then came the laughing.

Sometimes, things happen for a reason and there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it. You can’t change the past. You can’t force people to love you and be with you. Today I realized that I can only look forward. I can go back to working on myself and being the person I loved and the friend I am called to be. I picked up a few new tricks during my relationship and they’ll come in handy, but it’s mostly time to revert back to the old, known, tried, and true methods. Hello, Happy Hippie Cam. Peace out negativity and fighting for things that just don’t deserve more efforts at this current point in time. Maybe one day they will, or maybe they never really did. The fact of the matter is, it’s all behind me now and all I can do is smile, accept it, and see what happens next.

Damn, I missed me.

Yes.

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There’s one three letter word in the English language that has a lot more power than people tend to give it. I realized this back in April when I decided to make that word a much more active part of my life. That word is “yes”. Simple enough, right? It’s a pretty common word that most people tend to use everyday. When I sat down and decided to start saying “yes” more often and more purposefully, I realized that I had been using it wrong for years. The problem is that most people use it as an answer to a question, which is what I often did. The thing about “yes” is that I think it is supposed to be used much more as an action; a promise to do something when the question is asked, and not just as a brush-off or acknowledgement of a request like it has turned into.

I realized that after being in a committed relationship that lead to an engagement for a few years, that at some point “yes” followed by an immediate action stopped existing and was replaced with saying things like “soon”, “let me check with Nick”, “let’s plan to do that”, or “definitely, I’ll call you when he gets back in town”. Before I knew it, I had done something which is very out of character for myself: absolutely nothing. I stopped working on myself. I stopped improving myself through new experiences and traveling, which is the way that I feel I grow and learn the most. I stopped being the impulsive, jump-in-the-car-and-go, down-for-anything, just-ask-and-she’s-in girl. I started waiting around. I started turning down things. I started making plans, 90% of which never happened because we never happened. Eventually, I lost my spontaneous reputation and people stopped asking me and inviting me on amazing adventures and to join in experiences. The calls from my friends became fewer and further between, then eventually stopped. My invites and questions asked became much more easier things- like a night out at the bar or a beach day drinking, which I’m at a point in my life where I really just dislike drinking as a social activity. It has lost its’ fulfillment and fun and appeal to me, so I eventually even said no to that, and became bored. Bored and waiting, all the time. I do not like to regret things, and I don’t regret very many things about our relationship, but I do regret the time I wasted and the things I said no to, for what turned out to be nothing. So after this parting of our ways at the end of April, I decided to get back to that girl I used to be. How? By saying yes and acting, not planning, but doing immediately.

The things that have happened in a little over a month have really opened my eyes to why I used to be so happy before. Yes is a very positive word, especially when it is acted out. I believe that positivity attracts positivity, I always have. One of my best friends approached me right at the end of April. A few years back I had driven across country randomly, a trip which started out as a 2 week visit to Memphis and became a 6 month long road trip coast to coast [that is the girl that I am trying to get back to.. if you could feel my heart ache for who I was back then while typing that sentence I think everyone would understand me much, much more]. Wes looked at me and said “Cam, you should drive with me to Cali and pull my last trailer of stuff out there. I’ll pay for everything and give you some money for missing work.” He moved out to Lake Tahoe in March and was back in Florida to pick up his dirt bikes and four wheelers. I immediately said “Yes”. Wes didn’t believe me, which kinda hurt to be honest. There was one time when my acceptance to the deal on the table wouldn’t have been a shock or misinterpreted as a joke. I told him yes again, and asked him when we were leaving. I got my shifts covered at work and we left 3 days later. “Yes” was as simple as that, it was a response, followed through with an action. The trip was great, not quite as long as my last coast to coast adventure, but it reminded me of a piece of myself that I had long buried and ignored.  I saw new things and met new people and got to travel. It was deep down good for my soul and began to bring back an older Cam that I wish I had never changed for anything.

The funny thing about saying yes is that once you do it, you seem to get more invitations to do new, fun, and exciting things. Which, thank my luck, have for some reason all been offered to me for free. In the last month and 13 days of changing my perspective of yes, I have: been on a cross country roadtrip, started professional guitar lessons, went to TPC at sawgrass, started violin lessons, been hiking in North Carolina, went on a camping trip to the springs, been wakeboarding, been off-shore fishing, got an amazing trainer and nutritionist, recieved an opportunity to live in Italy for a year with a job [which I haven’t exactly said yes to because that one unfortunately does require a little more planning but I am getting closer everyday], am going on a week long vacation to the Keys and staying in an amazing house in Marathon with boats & harleys, have been to the art museum downtown known as the Cummer [which I have wanted to do for a year but we never seemed to have time], and started this blog. All those things sound amazing, right? Well, ready for the real amazing part? I have actually done that entire list and have still made more money than I have spent [thank you Wes].
My advice for you: start saying yes and following through with an action and you might just be surprised at the chain of events it leads to!

 

One last thing.. for the person who I hope maybe one day is reading this, but probably isn’t. There have been a lot of hard questions I have said yes to too. Do you miss him? Do you know he’s slept with someone else already? Did you hear about St Patty’s day? Do you know he was on a date at European Street already? Do you really still love him? Do you really plan on not dating anyone for a year still? Do you honestly forgive him? Would you take him back if he showed up right now? You know that he probably is never going to show up again, he already moved on, right? You still plan on waiting?

Yes.

Listening

I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life in three words: it goes on. [Robert Frost]

Every morning, I wake up and I listen.  I don’t get out of bed, I just listen. I can hear all kinds of things.  there’s the chirping of many different birds, not a single one I can name. depending on the day, sometimes there are less birds singing and the chorus is replaced with the sound of rain cascading down from the sky onto my roof and hitting the bottom of the overturned canoe in my back yard.  I can hear my next door neighbor’s baby begin screaming as she awakes.  I can hear the muffled snores of my roommate in his room across the house.  depending on the day of the week, I can hear the trash and recycling trucks making their early morning rounds.  I can hear my neighbors opening and closing their car doors as they head to work.  I live in an area where it seems like everyone has a truck, they all seem to be diesel, and I listen to the familiar sound of their trucks idling before they pull away.  I still just listen.  I can usually hear the murmured sound of one of my dogs twitching her paws and quietly barking while she has a dream; I love that she dreams. I can barely hear the alert on my cell phone from the other room, letting me know I’ve received an email.  I’m never in a hurry to check it though because the emails are never from the sender I’m hoping they are.  I always hear the first morning yawn of my other dog as he senses my consciousness; his jaw always pops during it for some reason.  it’s a trait that he picked up from his human dad. I’m not saying that jaw popping during yawns is something I truly believe to be a cross-species learned action, but I am saying dogs resemble their owners and they both do it.  I can hear my A/C unit come to life outside and then eventually hear the cool air start to force out of the ceiling vents in the house.  I hear lots of things every morning, but I never really hear the sound that I’m listening for.  the one diesel engine that would make both my dogs jump off the bed and run to the front door, usually before I had even detected it.  I smile a little as I remember the way it sounded: old, but reliable  like it had been working hard for years, but it still had plenty left.  it was a real work truck, unlike some of the other diesels I normally hear in the neighborhood.  Although it might not have been as new-it was covered with dings and dents which all had different stories behind them- it was my favorite. so every morning, I just listen. hoping one day the familiarity and serenity will be broken with the sound of that ram 3500 diesel idling to a stop in the driveway, with that little squeal that only it has as it turns off.  I still haven’t heard it and that’s okay because I have learned that life does go on, but that doesn’t mean that it hurts to still listen.