A person does not realize their own stagnation until change is thrust upon them.
One year ago today I was living just south of Seattle. My days were filled with the tasks associated with developing and leading Soldiers. My nights were spent playing music and relaxing with friends. Weekends I spent either traveling to play shows, or at home rehearsing. In the summer I had the privilege of working as the Commander of Reserve Forces (USAR) during operations at Fort Lewis, WA.
Things were good. I understood where I was at in life and what my future held (or so I thought). But soon a cascade of events unfolded, some within my control, some not, that have brought me to where I am now. And where am I? I am sitting in Buffalo trying to figure out how Ilife has brought me here and where will it eventually lead me. Was there anything I could have done better, anything I could have changed? Would I have changed it if I had the chance?
Its a humbling experience, walking the same paths that you tread in your youth. Its been over 20 years, and so much has changed. Reflecting on this reality, I know that there are moments in each of our lives that guide us down certain paths. Once we cross these thresholds we can never no back.
For me, one such moment was when I chose to join the Army while taking classes at Erie Community College. Impulsive decisions seem to be my nature, and this was one of many that I have made over the years. Yesterday I visited the very place where I made that decision when I was 18 years old. I stood, silent, in the same small corner office where I spoke with my guidance councilor over two decades ago. Strangely, it still bore the same glass and metal facades worn with age. I could swear that even the chairs were the same. Just outside the office were the class rooms that I sat in, mulling over this decision while discussing trivialities with my friends. There names have faded over time, but I can still see their faces…
This one moment in time, set me along a irrevocable path. A path that has sent me throughout the United States, and to battlefields halfway around the world. Each experience defining me, shaping me, expanding what I thought was real. Was it the right choice?
A second moment, no less poignant than the first, set me upon a far different path. It was the summer of 2007 and I had just returned from Iraq. The desert had changed me, as war changes all things. My spirt was unsettled, and I felt the need to fill up every waking moment of my life to make sure none of it was wasted. I remember sitting in Robert’s living room. Most of the band was there, and I sat as an outsider, having just met each of them less than a week before. A some point during the evening, Kristina said that they were going to be looking for a new bass player. In an almost reflexive gesture I blurted out… “I play bass”. This was, in point of fact, not true. I had never played bass before professionally. In my defense, I had played guitar since I was six, and had kept up my skills over the years.
A short time later, after buying a bass and learning all of Death of Tragedy, I won out during the auditions. I then went on to play for over seven years at nearly one hundred shows on three continents, and recorded on eight albums. Again, an impulsive decision that shaped my life for almost a decade. Far from the rigor of a professional Army Officer, I lived the life of an artist and traveled the world in an effort to inspire others through music. But was this the right decision? Where would I be today if I had kept silent?
By now you may be asking what is the point of all this?
The point is that I have no idea where I would be if I hadn’t made those choices. They were snap decisions at random moments in time, each of which have drastically impacted the trajectory of my life. Each time I latched onto what seemed like a good idea, and stepped out of the familiar into something wholly alien. If I would have chosen to be complacent, or comfortable with the status quo, I would have never experienced the world as I have. The beauty of a sunset on the coast of Spain, the smell of rainforest after a storm, the pain… the pain of losing those close to you. For each decision comes experience, and in each experience is born hope, and regret, knowledge, and loss.
I sometimes long for things that have past, but I do not regret my decisions. What use would it be if I did? I cannot change what has already been decided. Fate has already snipped that thread, and began to weave another.
To each person I say, do not shy away from these moments of transition, embrace them. Within each and every one of us stirs a spirt yearning to know what is out there. A spirt that wants to experience life, and understand what it means to be human….To live.
Do not stand idly by and accept what is. Write your own story, great or small. It is your life to live, time will not wait for you. Take a chance, because you never know what could happen and tomorrow will be too late.