I Had a Dream a Few Nights Ago

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A few nights ago I had a very profound dream that ended with a complete thud or so I thought when I awoke. Over the days that followed it kept playing over and over in my mind. Last night as I lay in bed and it entered my mind I felt disappointed that it had so much potential at profoundness but ended like most dreams do: a nebular memory. Nonetheless, today I thought a lot about the dream, it’s context, it’s imagery, it’s meaning.

The dream…

Out of nowhere and no information as to why I was there, I appeared standing inside a what I’d say was an operations watch floor. In case you are wondering what an operations watch floor is, think of a secured facility with large plasma screens and real-time data being transmitted across those screens. Surely you’ve seen some of those cool military or NASA-like movies where there are scenes in such a setting.

In any case, I’m standing there looking at this huge screen that dominates the room. There’s a man standing next to me. He’s obviously there as my guide and to show me around. He’s handsome in a clean-cut kind of way, shorter than me, no facial hair, wearing a jacket — he’s very paramilitary — the kind of person I’ve met a thousand times. The kind of power-guy you see in and around Washington DC.

I look at this large screen and displayed is a map of the world. The continents are outlined with proper political boundaries. This place looks legit. The screen is busy. I can see events happening all across the world simultaneously and some regions are busier than others. The color depicting these events and their respective locations is white. It’s all white with flashes here and there and a seemingly steady white glow in other places.

I ask my guide, “What is happening up there. What do those lights mean?”

“Those are prayers going up.”

“Wow, I didn’t realize so many people prayed.”

“Yep. And He hears every one of them.”

“I always knew He existed. Does He hear my prayers?”

“Yup.”

I face my guide, “what did He say?”

“He told me to tell you to get a shovel.”

Puzzled but cognizant even in my dream, I respond “What does that mean?”

He told me, with a smile, which revealed age lines in the corner of his eyes but a set of nice straight teeth (he looked to be 42 or so) “you’ll have to look it up.”

And that’s it. That’s how it ended. I woke up trying to gather my senses and surroundings and admittedly felt disappointed about the ending.

What struck me afterward as I replayed this over and over was the mention of He. Clearly, we were discussing God and He was mentioned in the third person singular. He wasn’t there but I immediately understood where I was and the importance and awe of what I was seeing and hearing. It was like taking a tour of the president’s Situation Room. The president wasn’t there but he didn’t have to be to still be president and operate as the top consumer of all real-time data coming over those screens. It added to the awe and power and omnipresent feelings I felt.

So today I finally searched the meaning of shovels in dreams and I was so struck by what I read that I actually felt a bit uneasy about the whole thing. I’m just not that into this kind of stuff and I’m not that religious to start.

The shovel stands for the need to dig out something from your past and work towards personal forgiveness and happiness. To find peace. On a spiritual level, I’m told the shovel is the tool used towards inner knowledge. Additionally, the tool symbolizes a trustworthy person you can depend on for support or during times of adversities. (Search it if you care to. You’ll read about several meanings but remarkably the same as it relates to various religions and mysticism).

Considering the meaning, maybe the shovel represents Him as that trustworthy person, which explains the setting and the power and awe the dream provoked within me, standing there on that watch floor, and at the same time a message to me that there’s some self-help to do on my part.

I understand this might not mean a lot to a reader but considering the last couple of years of my life, the deep, deep regret I wake up with every day, the turmoil and change, the stress and anxiety, the depression and wrestling with my past, this dream gave me more answers than any friend or family member, any counselor, book, bottle of whiskey, or anything else I’ve tried or have yet to try, possibly could.

That’s not to say I haven’t come a long way over the course of a year or more as time tends to settle things to their new normal. However, this dream and its timing and meaning really propped me up and made me take notice.

It’s time to break out the shovel, friends.

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The Great Escape

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And back to where it all started…

One morning you wake up and say the hell with it–or was it one night before you finally fell asleep? Either way, I experienced that moment. I remember. It was on the 24th of April, 2015. I decided I had had enough. Something had to give and the fast descent I was traveling, that something likely would have been me. Though I do detest myself sometimes, I still love the hell out of me.

I’ve always been a good friend to myself, the kind of friend who tells it like it is. I may not always listen but eventually I concede to the advice. And here was such a time.

Myself said, “you have to get us out of here. I don’t like the looks of this place.”

“But where do we go? This prison is our home, you know that. This is the way it has to be.”

“Who said? Look, I like you but you’re really starting to get on my nerves. Why should I stick around anymore if you’re just gonna give up?”

“It’s not that easy. We can’t just jump up and quit. We have responsibilities. We have a job. That’d be a crazy thing to do.”

“People have done crazier things. Besides I can’t spend another day with you in that apartment. You’re getting to be hard to live with.”

“So it’s like that, huh? Even after all this time.”

“I’m afraid so.”

“You think it could be that easy. We could just load up and leave?”

“See this is what I mean. I’m not suggesting we cross the Atlantic you wuss. I’m saying let’s just go back home, be closer to the kids. That’s what you need, anyhow. That’s what we both really need right now. You for them and them for you.”

“Okay. I’ll go in and give our notice but let me do all the talking. Sometimes you rub people the wrong way is all.”

I’ve digressed. I quit my job and moved back to my native state of Louisiana. I gave my notice on that day and had my stuff packed and ready for the movers by the end of the weekend–aside from a few odds and ends I tied up throughout the week. On May 6th at 7 p.m., I jumped in my car and started my drive straight through, save for a two hour nap at a rest stop somewhere in northern Mississippi. I had a job waiting for me that started on May 11th with a company in an industry I knew nothing about. But hey, it was my ticket out of there.

And like that I quit the only profession I’ve known since I was 21 and gave up the very trade and considerable perks that made my living. And I took a huge pay cut for my troubles. It would be embarrassing for me to divulge the number. Now I stay at a place with some trees and some shade, with a little garden outback and some birds. I’m two hours from my precious children and I get to see them almost whenever I want. I see my family a lot more, too. I’m still adjusting financially. I’m used to having money. Now I’m learning to not spend on things I don’t need. It’s a challenge but I’m getting it. I worked out a way to keep my car because let’s not get carried away, I’m still a creature of some comfort. Besides, I reckon a man such as myself is entitled to a little fruit.

Additionally, I still have the land I purchased earlier in the year. If I need to sell it for some cash, I can. So if there was ever a chapter to be closed, I can assure you I just closed one. I don’t foresee myself writing one quite like that one again. Then, who knows? This job I have now is salary but I don’t see myself in it longterm. Like I said, it was my ticket home, so I snatched it.

I’ll rebuild and get reestablished but first I need to breathe for a while. I need to reflect on my close call and figure out where to go from here. And I need to stop being self absorbed and accept what has become. I’m working on it is all I can say.

On another note, problem with moving back after being gone for so long and having lived in different states and parts of the world is, you don’t quite fit in like you once did. Though I still have a Southern accent, my drawl isn’t as pronounced as it once was. So now folks ask me where I’m from. I have to say, “why, right here, same as you.” Though that’s a little white lie. I actually grew up about 120 miles south of here. It’s not just the accent that separates me. There’s another divide, an existential one. That’s for another time, though.

At any rate, all of this is kind of a big deal for me in light of the events that have transpired over the past year.

What The Cabin Means

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The old man (I’m not old, but in my mind’s cabin I am) liked to chop firewood for exercise and peace. The rhythm of the axe rose and fell seemingly at its own pace, with little effort but lots of joy. The moist, rich smell of oak and hickory filled the air. The sound of work did not bother the wildlife. Birds chirped and sang and squirrels chattered. He admonished his hounds for giving them chase–his lions he called them: Caesar, Cleopatra and Patton.

His aging profile is noticed in the lines on his forehead. His hairline is receded now but the admixture of Celtic and Saxon blood is undeniable in his features despite the passage of time–A regular Child of God, he reminded himself. He’s thin, still broad, but slightly hunched forward at the shoulders.

The gentle sounds of nature around the cabin were like Beethoven for the destitute. It was nature that played maestro to his all his thoughts and every activity. He rose early each day to review the day’s schedule over cups of steaming coffee. The matters mostly involved fighting back the weeds and vines and birch that threatened to invade his peaceful oasis in the woods. The task was unending but in them he found for each day of his life reason, calmness, and progress. Fighting for civilization, he mused, by undoing nature’s painstaking labor.

In the afternoon, after lunch and a midday nap or a book, he tended to his vegetable garden and five fruit trees. If the heat was not too much, he sat and marveled at what he created in the midst of wilderness. He would walk down to the bank of the creek and sit in the shade. He’d count the wood ducks and the bass and catfish or playfully throw acorns at the soft-shell turtles as they emerged from beneath the surface for air.

The water passed by at the same pace of his life. He was deeply and utterly and completely content. Even free he’d boast, if he were in an arrogant mood.

Winter days were equally rustic and simple. He would carry in carefully cut firewood to the fireplace and escape the cold with a book and a glass of scotch. The light from the crackling heat provided warmth and light to soothe and assist his reading while reclined in his easy chair. He wrote once during one of these nights, “Here I have not only silence but complete peace. Sometimes it is so quiet I can overhear my mind and heart. The wisdom these two share.”

Inside his cabin was a sanctuary. Before entering, he left his boots at the doorstep. He expected those who visited to do the same. His home was a modest, two story, two bedroom affair. He hired laborers from nearby and helped build it, too. On the ground floor was an open layout: living room, guest bedroom, dining room, kitchen, and bathroom and off to the side near the staircase was his reading area and library, which was closest to the fireplace.

Reading was a passion and he had finally developed a taste and discipline for the classics. In the place of large meals were simple hearty stews, salads and the vegetables from his garden and the fruit from his fruit trees.

Ascending the staircase, one passed his book-lined study. On the upper floor were the master bedroom and a fully furnished loft that opened to a balcony facing east. There in the early morning, he would talk to God, created to creator—the details of which are forever unknown.

The cabin stood in surrounded woods hugging the nearby creek. It was remote from the nearest road and invisible from the nearest highway. Although he kept to himself most of his days, he was friendly, agreeable, and never turned down strangers.

He told his son one evening, now a young lawyer, who stressed to him about the lack of time and opportunity that, “One does not have time, son. One makes time. The same goes with opportunity.” (The son forgot this nugget of wisdom. Years later when he realized it for himself but was too old to do anything with it and forgot that it was ever told to him to start with, could do nothing but share it with his son and hope for a different outcome).

His son would help him from time to time with the sawing, clearing and piling. Each claimed for themselves something basic from the land and something basic from each other. At night around a fire or on the balcony looking up at the stars, they would smoke cigars and sip scotch. He asked his son to share with him about his aspirations, about life in general. They called this council the “God and the Stars Discussions.”

The man told his son that satisfaction would take him further than any good favor in life. He explained, “Consider morality, ethics, economics, politics, each passing year and compare it to your own level of satisfaction. Then you are forced to compare your own happiness against the world and decide for yourself who’s doing better. However, one must be willing to retreat, tactically, of course, within his own interior lines and be willing to leave behind dead weight that just yesterday was precious and invaluable.”

His son tried, underneath those stars, to follow along in his father’s wisdom but admitted that with his whole life in front of him, the thought of retreat and living in a cabin was obnoxious. The father calmly and reassuringly said that it’s good to grow old because it allows a person to change gradually, “It’s easier to smile, it’s easier to cry and forget the things that once set our minds on fire. The more one relaxes and sees life in all its simplicities, as opposed to its impossibilities, the more things that seemed important recede. Yet, one does not retire in this simplicity because there is always something to do! Physically and mentally one finds tasks that can be measured and their completion noticed.”

The son pressed for more clarification. Finally the father revealed all that he had learned in life was abundantly within and around the cabin. In which was thus, “Find so much satisfaction in your life and days and works that all of them are more a pleasure than a chore.”

And How Would You Know?

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I came across this site [https://www.futureme.org] which allows you to compose an email and have it delivered to your future self at a date you determine. Being a natural risk taker, I bit.

Before I did, I poked around and read some of the public emails members shared to their futureselves. I wasn’t too impressed.

Turns out most people think they know what’s best for themselves years down the road despite not having one piece of information on the claim and knowing next to nothing about their futureself they lecture. I mean the nerve of some folks.
I found it all arrogant and disrespectful to an elder and rude behavior toward strangers, which is what our futureselves are. It’s best to stay out of peoples business you know nothing about. Then, I’m funny like that.

Wish they had one where the futureself could email the presentself. Now that’d be useful.

At any rate, I fired off an email to my futureself to be delivered in a couple of years. I didn’t lecture my futureself, the last thing my futureself wants is some snot nose kid telling him what’s what in the world.

Drinking Beer Out of Boredom

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I started drinking beer about fifteen minutes ago. Not to get drunk or anything. I still have Macallan left over for that. I mean I may get drunk. Too early to decide right now.

I’m drinking because I’m bored and I get pretty sick of myself sometimes. Which is kind of ironic now that I think of it. I spend a lot of time with myself. I stayed home from work today. In fact, all weekend it was just me and I. No women. No bars. We wrote and played the guitar. We read and watched some boxing too. Shared a bottle of Scotch Saturday night. Got up Sunday morning and cooked some eggs and sausage. We read and wrote some more the rest of the day. I blame me for the hangover.

I guess sometimes I get uppity, preachy, and judgmental. A real pain in the ass for me to be around in other words. Worrying about this or that, replaying this thing or that thing in my head that I did or didn’t do. Generally finding more ways to feel guiltier and shittier. I’m good at that. Maybe it’s just that this one bedroom apartment is too small for me and I. Maybe we were used to the nice home out in the suburbs with the kids. That’s gone now; sold it for the divorce.

I have this game I like to play. I reach rock bottom and then I kick myself over the cliff. Rock bottom isn’t good enough for me.

They say I’ll be happy one day. I give a damn about being happy. I’ll take whole any day of the week.

Sometimes when I get on a bender the few friends I do have say the same thing, “Think about your kids.” Hell, I do think about my kids. I think about them all the damn time. I dream about them too, which is lovely trying to go back to sleep afterwards.

Anyway, I finished my beer.

Habits or Obsessions?

I reckon a person without a hobby would have to be unhappy and boring. We must have them, if for no other reason than to fool ourselves into thinking we have freedom in our lives. That is kind of laughable if you stop and consider how long we spend in our cars and at work. If you consider the bills you pay and the debt you owe, we are serfs.

At any rate, I’ve ruined just about every hobby. I don’t have a particular hobby, other than reading, that I go to time after time. So if I don’t find a new hobby, and soon, I tend to get lazy and miserable. It’s about this time something will come to mind and I throw myself into it. I enjoy it because it keeps my mind occupied and allows me to pour my mental and physical energy into it. Believe me, being trapped in my mind is not a good place to be.

So I took up boxing, grad school, writing, and just about everything else in between. I thought seriously of making my own wine. You might say, wow, that AH sure is an energetic guy. Quite the contrary; I’m actually lazy and aloof sometimes.

Here’s the problem, though. These hobbies of mine always turn into obsessions. They no longer serve as a healthy outlet; I turn them into a burden almost. Every day I think about my new hobby, read about it, practice it or do it – whatever it is. In the end, it tires me and stresses me out. After a while, the thought of it turns my stomach. This usually takes about a year. Then I’ll go through withdraws until I find a new obsession. (I once mentioned how I obsessed over the grass in my yard. I rented a tiller, tore up my yard, bought seed, fed and watered it, and inspected it almost every day. I even had dreams about it. Once it started growing, I never thought another second about it. I probably will never think about grass again).

This obviously aggravates my wife. She’s learned though that this is how I am. She thinks it’s funny and annoying. She doesn’t understand why I can’t just sit still and be content. I don’t understand why I can’t either. The best way I can explain it is that I need a purpose, a task, a project nearly every day of my life.

It’s exhausting though. I constantly feel as if I’m wasting time, or wasting an opportunity if I’m not occupied with something. Sadly, with all these obsessions that is exactly what I end up doing.

I’m always preoccupied with being preoccupied.

I’ve Been Lazy

I haven’t exerted any sort of physical energy since Thursday of last week. I haven’t wanted to. Of course there is a good reason, I suppose. On the evening of the day mentioned, I took a hard shot during a sparring match. I attended a new boxing gym. My membership at my other one is coming to an end, and so I thought I would explore a few more. I worked out with the guys there. They were all good workouts. Perhaps they were a little too unorganized for my liking, or at least compared to what I am accustomed to. All in all, I would say I liked it but knew already I planned to pass on joining.

At any rate, I found myself in the ring with a slightly younger man, who was slightly bigger than me (which isn’t easy to find — me being 6’2″). He was also more experienced than me. Since we knew nothing about each other, we probably went a little harder than we should have. Not with the intention of hurting the other but with the intention to keep from getting hurt by the other. The coach should have recognized this but he either didn’t notice or didn’t care.

At any rate, the more punches thrown, the harder and faster they got. That’s when I took a hard one between the eyes and the bridge of my nose. I felt its force right before everything went black. And I fell asleep.

That’s what it literally felt like. Aside from getting my face bashed in, there was a weird, peaceful state I remember. Almost like I was floating in darkness. When I came to, which was only a matter of a few seconds later, I was staring down at a large puddle of blood. My nose was the source for the deluge.

The next morning it felt like I was suffering from a bad hangover and in a mental haze.  And the day after that. And the day after that. And the day after that. Today is the first day since then I have felt better. I’m sure I had a mild concussion.

I’ll ease back into my workouts. I’m thinking of working up a sweat after this post. It probably wouldn’t hurt for me to be a little lazy though. All the cardio and boxing has gotten me too skinny. Evidence from below. To tell you the truth, I feel like taking a whole month off and eat what I want, and be as lazy as I want. Put on about 10 pounds and start over.

But I won’t. I’ll go back to my old gym and renew my membership for another year. But I won’t be jumping into the ring with people I don’t know. And I certainly won’t be going to gyms that aren’t better organized.

Don’t worry, I won’t be doing any contact for a while.

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To Care or Not to Care?

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That is a line in life we’ve all towed or straddled. Specifically here though I am referring to do we care what others think of us. After we process this question we are faced with a fine line. Always the lines! Most of us like to feel secure enough in ourselves to say no; we don’t care what others think of us. I find that hard to believe, however. To a point, we should care.

The person who says they don’t care what others think is the same person who can’t wait to tell you he doesn’t care what you think of him. I’m not sure if this should be called redundancy or contradiction. I mean if he doesn’t care, why bring it up?

I’m one of the more stubborn people you will meet. I’ve been wrong many times, but I’ve never been unsure about anything. So naturally, I haven’t always endeared myself to everyone I’ve came across. Still, very rarely do I find myself without a care for another’s feelings or view toward me. I’m quick to make a wrong right. I’ve acquired a taste for humble pie. Granted, there are those special people we meet that it’s best not to care what they think of you. Those are the few exceptions, however.

If we truly don’t care what people think of us, why do we have the desire to make a “good impression.” Why shake hands, bother with manners, or even engage in conversation? Why trouble yourself with any sort of legacy? Even if it is no more than raising good kids or having people care enough to say nice things about you at your funeral one day.

I think this is just another myth in life that takes time to topple. Personally, I don’t put a lot of trust in anyone who doesn’t care what others think of them. If someone truly feels that way, then they probably don’t think a lot about themselves. Imagine living in a community made up of people who didn’t care what others thought? I would find the first road leading out of the place.

No, I figure if you have a healthy consideration for what others think of you, then you’re probably an alright person. I bet you have friends among various circles. People confide in you, trust you, and care for you. You’re willing to take on burdens and give favor because you know you will need the same from others someday. Reciprocity is the word. Don’t let anyone try to confuse you in saying this is a selfish motive. That is nonsense. It’s called community. It’s called relationships. Tell them to look up their meanings. They precede any human motive.

The Gospels all teach to be the “salt of the earth” and to “let your light shine.” I always found that to be decent advice.

I’m not intending to be a dime-store sage, but this myth needs to be busted. It goes against the essence of humanity and is a glaring contradiction in what it means to be a person.

Oh What the Heck: A Few New Year Goals

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I’ve never been much on New Year resolutions. I’ve always been of the mind if I wanted to change something or do something, whether the notion came to me during March or August, I did it. The degree to which I carried them out as intended rested entirely on how serious or passionate I was about it in the first place. I would say I am a pretty obsessive person. That doesn’t mean I’m goal oriented. I’m too absent minded for that method. I just sleep walk and bump around and eventually something will tickle my fancy. Whatever it is, I tend to get obsessive about it. I’ve ruined a good many hobbies because of this.

I once got so obsessive with the grass in my yard that I would have dreams about it. I used to walk my yard and inspect all the places I tilled and planted, as if I was some overseer of some great plantation. When the grass began to grow, I realized how stupid the obsession was. I haven’t since then given grass or yards the grass grows in a second of thought. I have seen grass flourish on a block of cement. I doubt anyone took the care to see that it did. It’s grass after all, its job is to grow whether you are there or not.

Having said all of that, here a few things I’ve decided are worth doing.

Reading: No more academic and mind numbing reading. I do enough of that in my professional and academic settings. Instead, I ordered several books written by Mark Twain.

The one I’m reading now is “Roughing It.” Here’s a little story about that. I’ve always loved Twain’s short stories and his quotes but I never sat down to read any of his works outside of those. I was afraid I would not like them and wanted to keep Twain in my perspective. If “Roughing It” can be used as a standard, I’ve done myself a real disservice. Mark Twain is the man.

Another author I’ve set out to read is Shelby Foote’s novels on the Civil War. I used to devour Civil War history but gave it up a few years ago. Because Foote tends to write history in novel form, I never considered his work, preferring instead to read dry accounts of history from historians. I should point out that Foote is equal to any, who call themselves a historian. He just happens to be a writer, too.

I like Foote’s personality and his stories. He’s deceased of course, but he still lives on YouTube.

I’ve also been thumbing through Thoreau’s “Walden.” He took the idea behind the Mind’s Cabin literally. I think everyone can draw a parallel with Thoreau’s frame of mind when he sat down to write about his experiences in solitude. The guys’ quickly becoming a hero of mine – if I cared to have one.

Limit distractions: I haven’t figured this one out yet but I’ll get around to it when I get through with the other things that are keeping me from doing it.

Travel somewhere: Got a few places in mind. I may head down to an island or I may head somewhere out west or in the northeast.

Fight: I plan to have at least one competitive amateur fight this year. I’ve been boxing and training for a year now and would like to have the opportunity to test myself.

Family: That’s an easy one. They are all I have.

Lastly, I would like to keep this site going. I get a lot of satisfaction out of doing it. I don’t write for effect, so to speak, but is more or less a reflection of my mood and frame of mind at anytime I sit to write. It is more of a running chronicle of my mind, a journal of sorts. It’s healthy, I think.

What is it That I Have in Store for Myself?

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Sometimes I like to take it all in. I mean really reflect and project. I may say to myself, “I started at this point and now we are here.” Then I estimate, with a little dumb luck I may just end up over there. Up to now, I’ve managed to keep the Coincidence Cavalry off my flank. I’m not sure how long that can last though.

It’s around this time that when I get my hopes up; I opt for another place to land. So I set a course for my new destination but I usually end up counting the trees in the forest. I get a little sidetracked, turned around, and so, have to do some back tracking. This is when I discover that I’m back where I started having made no real progress, only a few changes.

I don’t duck obstacles or challenges, provided they are worth my time. I’m lazy unless I feel engaged enough to put out effort. College was a breeze for me. When I finished, I didn’t feel any real sense of accomplishment. It was just a check in a box. Grad school is tiring but fun. I already have a feeling I’ll feel the same way when that’s done.

I tend to get in the way of my best laid plans. I ask myself, “What exactly is it that you want us to do?” I don’t have an answer other than, “Anything other than what we are doing now.”

“We said that last time, the time before that, and the time before them. At what point will we be satisfied and live.”

“We don’t have an answer for that. But we have to admit, each move put us in a better position than the one before.”

“True. But where does that put us personally?”

“We don’t have an answer for that.”

And so it goes. I am perpetually unsatisfied and unfulfilled. I scratch and claw my way to a position in life long enough to stand on my feet before I scratch and claw my way someplace else. I hate sitting still.

I’m so afraid that twenty years from now I’ll be that person that says, “When I finally grow up, I would like to do this.”

I can’t even tell you what “this” is for me.