Last month, an old high school classmate of mine posted this (epic, glorious) Facebook status:
Hey Everyone. So I’m going to be driving from Austin TX to Portland Oregon starting Tomorrow. It’s the hipster Oregon Trail, I’m pretty excited. I’m going to be in the car FOREVER for the next couple of weeks, and I’m going to be bored out of my mind.
SO HERE’s WHERE YOU CAN HELP. I want people to call me. I want you to call and keep me company, I want you to entertain me, I want to catch up on anything you want to talk about. I want anyone to call, but I would definitely prefer if it were someone I haven’t talked to in a super long time. Did we go to middle school together and haven’t seen each other since? Call. Did we meet once at a party and never think about each other again? Call. Did we leave our last conversation on bad terms and you’re still mad at me? Definitely call. Do you have no idea who I am or why this is appearing on your facebook feed? Oh, you better call. Do you think this is crazy? Call.
I will talk about anything you want to talk about for as long as you want to talk. Anything to keep me going. I won’t hang up until you do.
Anyway, I’m going to be leaving tomorrow, and I will update when I’m in the car and when I’m not available until the trip is over. Looking forward to whoever takes me up on this. Talk to you soon.
Naturally, I called. Naturally, it was a wildly entertaining 51 minutes and 37 seconds of humanizing, soulful, crude conversation.
Little backstory on Kyle: Kyle is absurd. He’s been both a stand-up comedian and a professional whiffle ball player. In high school, his parents once gave him some money to buy a pair of pants (he was wearing the same beat-up, holey pair of pants to school every day). Instead, he used the money to buy a hedgehog. He then named the hedgehog, “Pants.”
On our seventh-grade basketball team, I was a 4 foot 9 child; Kyle was a 5 foot 11 Monstar. He and our starters would BLITZ other teams, sprinting out to some cartoonish half-time lead like 40-8, and then our Mop-Up Duty Scrub Squad would come in. One time, I scored three consecutive, uncharacteristically difficult shots in garbage time. Kyle then picked me up and carried me around the court. It was awesome.
Kyle didn’t grow a whole lot in high school but was our league’s MVP in soccer and a two-time basketball captain. I saw him once in college when he was playing soccer against Middlebury. Other than that, I hadn’t seen or talked to him in ages. But, because it’s Kyle, we jumped right in.
There was no small talk. He filled me in on what he’s doing (living in a hallway in Portland, Oregon with a bunch of musicians. Playing open-mics.). Like me, his soul shrivels up in most work environments. Like me, he loves talking with strangers.
We talked Celtics (I’m 100% sure Kevin Durant is gonna be a Celtic. It’s gonna happen! Trust me – it’s gonna happen! Boston would love him! He’d love Boston!), Patriots (I’m not a religious person at all, but I would kill somebody if Tom Brady told me to kill somebody. I worship that man.), and TV (Mike Judge is a God. I love that man and everything he makes.). But, mostly, we talked about living a creative life—about autonomy and creative control; about patience and earning money; about expectations and reality; about day jobs and sacrifice.
We both quit our jobs recently. For me, it’s been terrifying, liberating, and incredibly productive. For Kyle, it’s been clarifying:
“Right now, I don’t know what I necessarily want. I mean, I know I love playing the guitar— I have since I was 13—but I mostly know I what I don’t want. I know I don’t want to be in an office. I know most jobs eat me alive. I’m trying to close the doors I don’t want open. I’m trying to keep the doors open that I want to be open. I also might start driving Ubers once I run out of money.”
I loved that.
“I mean, I’ve never been that great at the guitar. I haven’t. People have probably told me to stop playing more than they’ve told me to keep playing. But guitar is just something that works for me. I know it’s a door that I want open. I don’t know what’s on the other side of that door, but I just know I want it open.”
I think Follow Your Dreams is lazy, bad advice. It’s too vague and intimidating and vast (not to mention most of my actual dreams are way too messed up to “follow”). I’m a fan of Follow Your Curiosities. Kyle’s doing that. I’m inspired.
Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.—Gandhi
If there’s a book you really want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.—Toni Morrison