🚨 My voice echoed throughout the gullies as I shouted for @sturgeon.dan – my hiking bud had been missing for 30min. 🌨 We were last together on Kit Carson, our attention on the clouds. They were unlike anything I’d seen, playful pillows hiding behind the summit. I saw another cluster in the distance. Were they closing in on us? I warned Dan that we had about 30min – whatever was coming, we would be in the eye of it. 🌪 I paced the avenue as 1/2 blizzards dumped, debating on if I should go back to search for him. The snow was hitting from all directions & I lost vision. My heart pumped as a memory of my CapHill 1BD entered; Matt and I playing rummy in front of a fireplace. I could hear the fire cracking as my toes soaked through a 2nd set of socks. I could feel the purr of Chip as my fingers became numb from scrambling. I wanted so badly to be on the couch with them.
🚁 The 2nd blizzard hit & the reality of the situation settled in. Dan may not get off this mountain. If he is in need of help, rescue could take over 12hrs & the snow could cover him. Screw the fees, how can you put a price on someones life? My hands shook as I held down the SOS button on the Garmin InReach. Then watched the 20sec countdown commence. 🆘 Better to search for 1 person than 2. I marched across the ridge line, bullied by wind. It blocked all sound, except for the GPS device, which synced morbid beeps to my heartbeat. I constantly looked behind me for a silhouette. BREATHE. Finally saw a figure & broke down in tears. HE IS ALIVE! I quickly cancelled the call for emergency rescue. 🗻 3/20 hikers summited this snowy class 3. The other guy began at 2am. 15mi post-holing over 14hrs. Looking back I am not regretful nor wiser. We had the energy & skill to accomplish, but losing a hiker is unspeakable. A truly remarkable, memorable hike that left my bones rattled and mind full of gratitude. 🤯 𝟷𝟺𝚎𝚛: Challenger + Kit Carson 𝙴𝚕𝚎𝚟𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗: 14,081’ + 14,165’ 𝙻𝚘𝚌𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗: Westcliffe, CO 𝚃𝙷: Willow Creek 𝙳𝚒𝚜𝚝𝚊𝚗𝚌𝚎: 15 miles 𝙴𝚕𝚎𝚟𝚊𝚝𝚒𝚘𝚗 𝙶𝚊𝚒𝚗: 6,250’ 𝙲𝚕𝚊𝚜𝚜: ♦️♦️♦️
I became good at projecting what people wanted to see. It didn’t help that older men would arrogantly say “Why don’t you smile?” without realizing how sexist they sound. All the negative emotions, those are my memories to examine, mine to shove into the pit of my stomach, mine to hide. Whenever the conversation of my parents came up, it became instinctive to pretend they were both still very present in my life. Over the years I learned how to respond to this question, because when people actually find out what happened, their reaction was incredibly disappointing. It is bad enough that we do not have the answers, but to carry their pity is unnecessary weight that only makes it worse. I decided it was easier to deny his death toward others, and ultimately myself.
So I did what came naturally. Seemed fitting for the concrete jungle, seeing as everybody keeps their emotions to themselves anyways. It really was the perfect place to isolate my heart. Trapped on this island of bittersweet numbness until someone would rescue me, or perhaps, I would rescue myself.
It takes a lot for me to trust someone. I learned quickly in college that partners are selfish, uncompromising and continued to see it in every relationship I attracted. I was content with close friends, both men and women, and simply enjoyed that kind of love. No need to complicate it with passion that would inevitably fade. Despite the chip on my shoulder, there was one man who slipped through the cracks and appeared as a sudden beacon of light in a dark restaurant bathroom line. He came off so incredibly genuine and caring, that I couldn’t help but let my guard down as our friendship blossomed. It didn’t take me long to figure he was also carrying a small piece of baggage, but I didn’t care. It fit so well with mine. Together we took our luggage and adventured anywhere the wind took us.
Weeks turned into months and life suddenly became purposeful. Slipping into routine, I found myself looking forward to our weekly hangouts. I had never felt this way about someone before; the calm satisfaction of knowing who you are when they are around. With each romantic dinner, with each mundane bagel morning, there was this…je ne sais quoi.
It carried on like this for a while; I was regaining trust and confidence that maybe the universe wasn’t that savage after all. Life was good. So good, my roommate and I wanted to host a celebration. We decided to throw a rooftop, speakeasy-style (later got busted) taco party on our Chinatown apartment. I invited him, and to my disappointment, he avoided the text completely only to reply a week later that he was not in town and now wanted to hang out. Thus began the conflict of my close friends urging me to ditch this joke. I was confused: how could we continue to have these movable moments, yet feel so stagnant at the same time?
As silly as it seemed, this taco party was the tipping point for me. Familiar feelings quickly resurfaced. I shouldn’t have let him in. I wasn’t strong enough to go through another heartache. I soon realized that I was depending on this person to replace the people I have lost. I had not forgotten about my best friend or father, but he was distracting me from reality. What would happen if he left me and I had to face that sorrow again? I couldn’t bear the thought of crawling back into that dark hole. So I did what I do best: I ran.
I took a life-changing trip to clear my head. It was enough to give me hope for a better future and meaning to life. Months after, my job and housing situations were stuck in this vicious cycle and once they conveniently and simultaneously crumbled, I decided to take my exit. I put in my two weeks and gave notice to my not-so-nice landlord in Dumbo. I hammered the nail on the coffin by purchasing that ticket to Norway at the end of February. I would be damned if I had to spend what is always a depressing month in this lonely city. There was no turning back now – I was leaving NYC and everyone there behind.
Yet there was one thing I didn’t account for. I was so empowered and certain of my decision that I failed to predict how he would react. I assumed it wouldn’t effect him much and wrote it off. For someone who was so uncertain about their emotions, he certainly knew how to confess them all at once. Words were flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup – the sweetest love-struct sentences one would ever hear. Perhaps I hurt his ego and he didn’t like the idea of knowing yet another woman left him because of his incompetencies. Perhaps everything he said was true and he was really bad at expressing feelings. All I knew is he was depriving me of feeling wanted and I deserved someone who wanted me. At the time, I wasn’t proud of my actions, but his words never left me. I desperately wanted to believe the best in him. After all, love makes you do crazy things, right?
Wrong. It took me three years of sorting through the confusion. It became clear that he only wanted what he could not have. What kind of person is so bitter about the breakup that they don’t want you to move on either? It was bad enough that I wasted a year of my life trying to convince myself I finally deserved love. Yet he took it a step further and prevented me from experiencing love with anyone else. I may have been miles away, yet he was controlling my actions, well aware of everything he falsely promised, later writing it off as an unhealthy time in his life. If you are somehow reading this, I forgive you for being so cruel. I am at the very least thankful for the memories shared, and hopefully showed you how to love the next woman. You certainly taught me the value of feeling secure in a relationship.
So here I am. Marooned on this island, compiled coral by coral of all the lies I have stacked. Everything leading up to this moment has been one big fantasy. I was silly to think I could actually replace someone. I subconsciously held on because I didn’t know what else to do. He reminded me both of my father and best friend, so I built up this image of someone who is not. To acknowledge that it is over is to acknowledge that my dad is gone, and Mylena as well.
Life is great at sending storms, but it also has a way of providing a life raft. Question is, will I take it? Do I know, nor care where it is going? I am so tired of carrying this self-loathing. Tired of putting my hope in false promises. Surely anything is better than this paradise of putrid.
I can now see that I deserve love. Despite my attempts to fend it off, I have wanted it all along. Perhaps you have to be deprived of all the love in the world in order to realize there is so much to be shared.
Mylena’s passing at such a young age was a complete accident. It was well past midnight when the driver fell asleep at the wheel, losing both his sister and father in the same night. Once again, a complete accident that could happen to anybody. Perhaps if they hadn’t driven home through Beaumont, Texas they would have missed that section of the road altogether. Perhaps if they had one more cup of coffee or just pulled over before falling asleep. There are so many what-if’s that should never be dwelled upon.
I shifted my pain into the things that were present, establishing weekly phone calls with my dad to talk about life, ask him questions and lean on him. His father left him at an early age and he felt equipped to relate. The Christmas right after her passing I flew down to Texas, where I was able to have one of the best holidays of my life. December was always so depressing because it was a reminder of how I had to step up the year my mother left; cooking, helping buy gifts for everyone, someone had to help my poor father. This year, however, was simply full of laughter, and I even saw my dad smile. He had started dating again and I had never seen him so carefree, loving and silly. It was like the real man was buried all these years.
I will never understand why life threw me a serious curve ball as I was barely standing up again. His birthday rolled around in early February and I had this sense that I should be there. Caught up in finding another job before my contract ended, I decided to save the money, make him a birthday card and call him instead. He sounded distracted and I later figured why. He dreaded that year: it was the age in which his father passed. Two short weeks later, he would too.
I will spare the details of his death – the moments leading up to it were so intense and I feel remorse for not seeing the red flags in those final text messages. Each of us played a part, and all of his children carry the weight of wondering if they could have saved him. There are so many what-if’s that I can’t help but dwell on. What if I just flew down to see him one last time? What if my phone wasn’t on silent and I answered his last call? What if he was in pain and didn’t want to be alone?
Nobody tells you exactly how much you’re going to miss someone until they leave. I immediately canceled the rest of my contract and flew down to Texas. The four of were all dealing with it in our own way, and we were incredibly grateful that we at least had each other. I buried myself in sorting out his accounts and researching funeral homes to provide to the group. I can’t tell you how many homes cared more about profits and actually tried to take advantage of the grieving family. His brother, our uncle, was so kind during the process to step in and help the four of us, who were clearly not prepared for this sudden responsibility. When we finally found the right location, I met the funeral director in person, he claimed he was shocked to realize I was just a kid. The woman he spoke to on the phone was pictured to be in her brittle, cold fifties. I guess nobody tells you how grief ages the soul of those left behind.
I was no longer the same when I flew back to NYC. Everything was pointless and I lost my way again. I’m not sure how those months would have unraveled if it weren’t for the kindness of an old friend. He had personally reached out to all my friends, new and old, and asked them to mail a coin to my apartment in Harlem. This may sound silly, however he knew this was the conversation my father and I last had, about coins, and he also knew I had been collecting them from all the countries I visited. My heart filled with hope as random little coins flowed through my mailbox. It was a constant reminder of the people we touch and the memories forever carried with us.
Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my father. Tomorrow marks seven years. Hard to imagine I haven’t heard his voice for seven years. Aside from the few recorded videos of his acoustic charity fundraisers. I regret never saving the voicemails on my old phone. I even picked up lucid dreaming to sneak conversations with him but can never form the sentences when I finally see him. Yet sometimes, when I listen carefully, I’ll hear a train whistle or see a big black bird, and hope it’s him.
I don’t care what the calendar says, Spring immediately follows February 27th. The sorrow of his life blooms into celebration of new life. My brother had a son recently, and man, Caden Scott is the spiting image of him. Throughout the years I’ve made a promise to myself to leave the decay in February; after paying him tribute I must soak up every minute of life. That is what he would want.
However eight years ago was a different story and it took me a long time to get to this place. I couldn’t understand why life was so cruel as to give me the false hope of a fresh start. I was just getting to know my father, and while the last six months of his life were spent in appreciation and humility, I was angry that it was cut so short. He had set each of us up to be frustratingly, independent people, yet we still had so much to learn from him. I finally understood why he was always teaching us to do it ourselves, because his father left him the same way.
It was this moment in my life in which my insides turned cold. Perhaps the city, with all the constant career and housing hurdles, was pushing me in this direction. I embraced the single-serving friends that came in and out of my life during this time, yet always kept a distance. We needed each other to distract ourselves from what really lied beneath. I’ll admit, there are a few close friends to this day that stuck with me, and I am grateful for the many happy memories. Yet there was a growing, unsettling pit in my stomach that infrequently woke me in the middle of the night.
Nobody tells you how grief changes the core of your being. I watched each of us children go through different stages and have noticed one thing in common. We don’t like to talk about it. It was too hard for me to just let go and accept he was gone. I was afraid to feel the raw emotions of love and couldn’t bear the idea of losing anyone again. Nobody was going to be let in.
I suppose we are all washed up on an island of our choosing. It is hard to let go of certain memories, and becomes easy to get carried away in the rip tide.
What started as a retreat to the familiar waters of the Caribbean, turned into the realization of a lifetime. I knew the basics of what I was signed up for – living off of the basics, basically. I’ve been running through life, unsure of the destination or why I feel the need to be anywhere but in the moment. It became clear that my past was catching up to me, and for once, I didn’t know how to push it back.
To understand where I am going, I must first acknowledge where I have been. Yet, my journey has been a puzzle, and for someone so strategic in the real world, I throw caution to the wind when it comes to navigating through big life decisions. The heart knows just as much as the mind during the process.
New York City.
I could argue it started many countries and cities before this one, however for the sake of time I will begin here.
New York was never on my mind. Ever. I was perfectly content living a simple life, one in which I could connect with nature and curiosity. I had just spent two magical years in small towns across New Zealand and wanted the extreme opposite to compare. I flopped between Chicago and New York, ultimately deciding I would like the subway system of the east coast. I’ll admit, at this point in my early twenties I was beyond repair looking for a place to retreat; a place where animosity knows every concrete corner and far worse souls than yourself congregate. Self-hatred does not reside in this G–forsaken megapolis. The city knows how to turn a blind eye to all your past wrongs, past hurts, and past dreams.
Like all things in life, irony quickly stumbled upon my temporary doorstep. I had just hopped off the plane, breathed the filthy air of the Port Authority Terminal and sighed with relief. There may not have been much to my name, but man did I have all the guts and guile to replace it. During this first month I was so fortunate as to live on the couch of a kind stranger, an immigrant who single-handedly made his way through University of Texas in Austin. We were comrades from the start, understanding that life does not always deal a good hand, and it takes a certain character to pick up the game so early. Everything was new, chaotic and simultaneously stimulating.
Days turned into weeks when I first heard the news. Yet something deep in my stomach knew months prior when I visited her in Italy. I couldn’t understand why I cried leaving her at the train station and brushed off the departure. The news of her death would come as a shock and foreshadow. I was alone, without a job, without a home, and so far away from anybody who knew me. The news of my best friend’s sudden passing became a cold awakening to the fleeting world we live in. I was numb for an unknown period of time, walking the crowded streets every night with black tear-stained cheeks. The city took me into her enormous, shallow arms and allowed me to shamelessly and aimlessly figure out the meaning of life. Lana Del Rey sang me through endless hours of hot water baths, one of the few things that calmed me. It became clear that I was losing grip of who I was, and who I came here to be.
Truth be told, the only people who reached out was my best friend, Phillip, and my father. Everyone else in my life was going through their own ordeals at this particular chapter. My father came as a shock, because for the first twenty years of my life, we were disconnected. It was only until I returned to America that I felt like I finally had a father who was there. Prior to this part of my life, I didn’t know the man who was around. He was quiet, strict, and taught his children how to fend for themselves. It was during my time in New Zealand that his life (along with all my siblings) changed drastically. My mom left him for traveling nursing, they sold our childhood house, and even put down the family dog, the latter two without my knowledge! It appeared a lot changed during my two years away, but one thing was clear, my father was so full of love for his children and we finally saw it.
Life has a way of closing and opening doors. While I lost a dear friend who can never be replaced, I found a new one in my father. I didn’t know it at the time, but he loved his children more than words could express and made a point to check in on me during the rough months ahead. I would later find out that his search engine had my blog as a favorite and all the years of silence didn’t matter because he was supporting from afar.
Seasons changed and I learned to cope with death, distracted by the harsh reality of living in such a fast city. Winter brought an indescribable, soft surrender; despite the struggle between bar and temp office jobs, I found peace in watching my first snow storm. The fragility of time allowed me to live each moment of exploration. Despite the setbacks and shortcomings, this was my city and she took me in when I didn’t have a home.
Digitally illustrated poster of the Colorado 14ers. Provides rank, height and distance in one neat visual that brings some funk to your space. Question is, are you ready to conquer them all? ❂ Percentage of sale goes toward the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative
✎29x12in. $50 Est. 2017 – these series are ever changing and reconstructing. Similar to the mountains we dwell in.
Cuba marks the end of our long adventure. It’s all uphill from here; packing, driving, and relocation stress as we make our way to the long anticipated state of Colorado. Continue reading “Havana, Cuba”→
Pura Vida; the two words to take away from this beautiful destination. In Spanish it directly translates to “pure life” however this short sang has vast meanings to each individual. Continue reading “Costa Rica”→
If a friend invites you to their wedding in Hawaii, take the excuse and go.Throughout the many weeks trekking across South America, I can honestly say this was the real vacation (from our vacation). Everything for the week was booked, events were planned, and for the first time in months I had an agenda with familiar faces to share it with.
There is something to be said, or often left unsaid, about the people you leave behind.
I’m not talking about the single serving friends you meet on the road, as you are kindred spirits and will most likely wish the best through photos, never physically together again. No, I’m talking about the souls that see you through your dull drums, know your bad days well, and even give you more than companionship to see you through to your next adventure.
These are the people whom you meet “off the road”, which at first never made sense to me as life is a road and we are always traveling toward something. However this reunion of New York friends in Hawaii sent a surge of happiness as I quickly recalled the recent past. In some form or another, they helped me through my path to self-discovery. Seeing them almost half a year later, now that distance and time have fully set in, it all seems taken for granted.
I can recall a similar feeling when my kiwi friend so kindly brought me out to her wedding in Bali 4 years ago; this sweeping emotion of joy for another person. Not just any person, but one you have history with and can truly appreciate the impact of their change. It is so humbling to see loved ones dive into change, whether it be marriage, parenting (babies or puppies), or even quitting a job in search of something deeper.
We often take for granted all the beautiful people in our daily lives while dreaming about our future. These lost souls become apart of the routine which too takes its toll on us.
I guess what I’m saying is it takes meeting a bunch of new faces to realize you cherish the old faces left behind.
Anyway Hawaii is dope. Endless stretches of hikes, public deserted beaches, seat turtles the length of my torso, pods of fifty to a hundred spinner dolphins who will join your swim if you stop splashing and earn their respect, and the poke is almost better than ceviche.
Basically spent seven days in fifty shades of blue, and it still wasn’t even enough (it never is) to explore Oahu. Landed in Waikiki, soaked up sun and caught up with friends for 3 days, among which was my former CEO in New York who I just happened to bump into on the beach at 6am. After the wedding festivities spent two days on the North Shore, which I regret not spending more time in, as it had the best beaches. Finishing up with one day on the west shore and the last back in Waikiki for a nice hike on Koko Head Mountain. There are so many islands to hop and not enough time. I’m not going to dive too far into details on this one as I’m sure you will find your own unique calling here. This island is really one of a kind.