We are only our causes and conditions. What I’ve been through has established me as the person I am right now. There are hundreds of thousands of people who have crossed my path, countless words that have been spoken to me, a multitude of places I have been and sensations that have, and continue to, sculpt my mind and personality.
I like keeping objects that represent some of these experiences. Call it hoarding or being too attached, whatever. I have plenty of objects in my room that mean something greater than just what it is. Everything is a hunk of junk, a worthless piece of crap; only when meaning is given to it can it become beautiful.
This is a Yamaha guitar, the specific model I couldn’t tell you from memory. I often forget exactly how I got it, but to my recollection it was a Christmas present. These more recent Christmases I often just have one bigger item that my parent’s and I will split the cost for. Anyway, I got it soon after sitting down and struggling to learn with my best friend’s guitar. Another Yamaha.
I didn’t think about it much, just wanted a cheapish guitar and went ahead with this one. The desire to learn how to play resulted from my early piano lessons. I took about five or so years of sessions starting when I was a real youngster, throughout my elementary school days. Those lessons were dreadful to me back then. I would never practice at home. I’d get nervous to prove my mettle in front of the teacher every week and then I’d shakily stumble my hands across the piano for my recitals.
We canceled both my lessons and my sister’s due to money reasons. The cost just didn’t justify what we both were getting out of them. God, that was a mistake.
My sister and I regret stopping. Now we play the piano with a rigidness that laughs in our faces. We both get back on the ivory keys and practice, hoping that there will come a time where the tune is smooth and beautiful.
And maybe a guitar was a compensatory purchase and maybe it wasn’t. Either way the experiences it afforded me, the outlet for my emotions as well as the bond that strengthened with me and my best friend is something that I couldn’t have gotten in many other places. Like the piano I feel I have one step in and one step out. I’m an alright wielder of the instrument, but nowhere near what I want to be.
As I grow as a human and begin to focus I spend more time with the guitar and more time with the piano. The current level I’m playing affords me a level of self-doubt when strumming in front of others, and I’d like to get over that.
I found this crusted ol’ bastard in the sands of Santa Barbara. About a year back my four best buds and I decided to go on a road trip for spring break. One of the buddies, Jack, had a connection with a beautiful shack on the beach. We drove through Utah’s national parks, hiked around, took pictures, had laughs, and eventually got the coast in a couple of days.
Being with those three other fools, Jack, Mitch and Trent, is something that I often take for granted. Never had I thought I’d become so close with these three men. Reminiscing about this trip puts a smile on my face. The goofy impersonations of a tour guide I would do, the “oops I shit my pants” moment that one of us had in Arches National Park, the car-ride laughs and stunts we’d pull, they all have a clear place in my heart.
Few other times has it been just us four on an adventure together. I remember we were all walking on the beach. It was gorgeous, we had Brofie the dog running around with us, the sun was setting and the weather was cool. It was the best sunset I’ve ever witnessed. We all walked slowly westward, moving with a stop-and-go tempo caused by us whipping out our phone cameras.
The first day we were at the beach I found this watch lying around near another sculpture of some sort. It was kind of like a small pipe man sitting on the rocks, looking out at the sea. I was so enthralled to stumble upon the watch and the sculpture, because it connected me to a whole other experience, one of a man, down trodden and angry, crying at the beach and throwing his watch in the sea and shouting at the gods. Or maybe a happy mother swimming with her family, the first vacation she has taken in a years and being in such bliss that she did not care about losing her watch, about the passing of time. Experiences just like me and my three best friends were having on the beach.
And of course I don’t know for sure what this watch has been through. I don’t know what led to it being on that rock, placed with delicacy. I will never know, but I can wonder.
Letters are so much more than a piece of paper. They are time spent diligently putting thoughts on paper, the conscious effort to connect across vast distances and a blessing on tough days when nothing is going right. What is written in a letter is often the truest of sentiments. Few other methods of communication afford such intimacy and trust. I find that I can divulge what would usually be too deep of thoughts when writing letters.
Anyway these compile mainly my second year at college. They’re a mix of letters from my sister, my parents and other friends. I write my sister quite frequently, and thus the collage of letters is becoming more dominantly her writing.
The avenue of written letters has given me and my sister a way of connecting that we would not have otherwise. Both of us are quite shy people and reserved in many ways, we love to connect, but often don’t. I can’t express how glad it makes me to know that we can connect in such a deep way over snail mail.
The letters are often pages and filled with ramblings about various ongoing thoughts. They are a way to express, as an introvert, the love for one another.
Then there are the cards from my parents, which are brief and always enjoyed. The cards uncover a bit more of how my parents feel about me and who they are too. It’s a rarer occasion, which makes me even more happy to be surprised by an announced envelope with my name scribbled down on it.
And of course the letters from my friends, from Mitch, Taylor and Karissa. I would love more, and surely I’ll begin to write more letters and hopefully receive more. I think it is so rare, at least in my life, that someone has laid their thoughts bare to me. These letters give me that, I can see and connect with my chosen families in a way that, while by no means impossible, is much harder.
In a blizzard, swept with danger and a broken leg, a person is in need of help and a closer friend is there to help everything fall back into place. I don’t know at all if that’s what the picture’s story is, it’s based off of the movie “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” with Jim Carrey. It’s my sister’s favorite movie, at least one of them. This is her painting.
Before I went off to college I wanted something to take along with me that reminded me of my sister. She had just done an art exhibit, composed of larger pieces and then these smaller ones. This one resonated with me.
Its face-value message of assistance strikes me and my values. The cold barren landscape tells me of a time of isolation and a past that represents something, though I can’t pinpoint exactly what. The small size works with my understated way of going about life.
And its place, right above my bed, hopefully assists me in my sleep.
In my house back in California, the single story, suburban nest, my mother has decorated it profusely with Buddha statues and icons. As you walk up to the door a Buddha fountain sits covered in moss, and as you stand at the door waiting for it to open there is another resting in the corner. Inside you would be hard pressed to find a sizable part of the house devoid of a Buddha.
My family never intentionally practiced Buddhism. My mother once said that if we were any religion it would be Buddhist. The values and the style of the religion greatly connect with me. I love the self-improvement, compassionate and selfless ideals that it focuses on. I love the dedication and mindfulness that must come along in fulfilling that. And I think that, though we never practiced, my family has become a bit more in-line with those values.
I’m trying to practice more, ever since my religions in the east class that I took. You can read it in my post about purpose, but the main result of that class that it gave me a sense of what the path forward was for me. I was able to discern from all the class’s content something that stuck with me and, at least for now, leads me and my way of life.
The other objects are not quite as obvious in their meaning. I also don’t quite remember what their societal meaning is. The one to the left of the Buddha was sent to me from my parents when my mom got to live out one of her dreams, traveling Europe and living in Paris. The objects to the left I bought from a local store. One is a three-legged pig, a symbol, if I recall correctly, of luck to whomever it is given to (I still need to give it to someone). The hand that holds it is a symbol of wisdom and connects back to Buddhism as well.
I think these items comprise a solid summary of my spiritual identity.
Iceland, Vietnam, Thailand, New Zealand, Chile, the rest of the amazingly beautiful places that this world is composed of… I want to go to them all. If you met me during sixth grade you would be surprised. I was a homebody, more like a couch body actually, and sank my eyes within the television screen and my hands into the controller.
I loved to play video games back then, on either the Xbox or the computer, and that was essentially all my free time. I feel that I at the very least got a sense of adventure from those games. Pair that with my privileged experience of traveling to Europe and Asia with my family I have grown to love and desire travel.
I’m just getting into the swing of living that out too. I’m beginning to understand that the only thing stopping me from doing so is not saving up money… and so I begin to do so.
Connecting with others and seeing new things does so much for the mind and soul. It creates an adaptable person, one who is flexible and empathetic to others. Not only does it do that, but it shows a variety of cultures, a variety of lifestyles that one can choose.
You may grow up in a western, industrialized America, but your true identity may lie in more other places. There’s so much to be gained and discovered.
And when I think about the reasons we exist on this world, seeing as much of it as possible is surely one of them.
The Framed Picture
One of the more recent items to land upon my desk is this photo. This is the group that I was with for the past spring break trip. We all went to the redwoods of California, a YMCA camp in order to be camp counselors for a sixth-grade science camp. Each one of us had a nature name to avoid being stalked by children on Facebook. Mine was Beans.
I’ve never lived by another name for that long of a time. I was not Troy and nobody called me by that name, in fact everyone at the camp, but my group, only knew me by the name of Beans. And I learned that I don’t have a deep connection with the name Troy. I love the name and I like that I have it, but never would I have thought that there were more fitting ones out there.
That’s what the trip did for me. It gave me new experiences, not just in the sense that I was somewhere, doing something I’ve never done before, but in the sense of new thoughts and outlooks on life.
I did not look at my phone, or any other electronic thing, for about seven days. That is such a rarity in this day and age. It was a freeing experience, one that allowed me to escape the hard pressed grip of my responsibilities that waited for me back on campus. I met such beautiful people too. All with their unique quirks and eyes.
It affirmed my sense that the most beautiful thing on this rock is the fact that we are sharing it with others, all unique and deeply interesting.
This experience is still with me and has, more so than any other, fundamentally shifted my thought process. I cannot wait to live more, experience more, see what more of humanity, and the world, have to offer.