34 years ago, in the wee morning hours of March 5th. 1978, I hopped into my jeep with all my worldly possessions, pulled out of my parent’s driveway in Pennsylvania, and headed for Florida. I had about a thousand dollars to my name, no job prospects, and only a vague idea of where in the Sunshine State I was going to end up.
I had been living in Delaware for the past 3 years, working on road construction during the summer and living off unemployment during the winter layoffs. My apartment lease ran out and the landlord didn’t want me back…something about a wild party….so I took this opportunity to take the plunge and head south where I had been wanting to go for years. I had stopped up to visit my parents for few days and let them know what I was doing. Of course they were against the idea of moving to another state with no job or plan. They believed that I should move back to Pa., get the standard factory job and live my life in eternal servitude to the corporate warlords. You can pretty much guess how well that conversation went.
Anyways, when I left Pa. it was 20° below zero with 3 feet of snow on the ground. Despite having little money and no plan, as I set out for Florida on that cold winter morning I wasn’t scared or nervous. In fact I was looking forward to the adventure. I knew that somehow I was going to make it. I was tired of the cold, the dream crushing confines of Pa., and while Delaware was ok in the summer time, it was basically closed down in winter. I wanted to be warm, and near the water where I could enjoy it year round. As I crossed the border the next morning into Florida it was over 70°. It felt like summer and I was one happy guy.
I had been to Florida about 4 years earlier on vacation with some friends from college. We came down, spent some time in Daytona and eventually the Keys. I decided on Daytona as my first stop to see what was what. It was 9 years later when I left. The first couple of years were tough. Daytona is not a friendly town. NASCAR, Bike Week, Spring Break are what drives the local economy. Not a lot of opportunities for career advancement. Knowing what I know now I should have drove past and kept heading south. But what happened is what happened. Eventually I settled in though and made Florida my home. It wasn’t easy but well worth the results.
While 34 years is not a particularly significant number I took some time recently to think about all the things I have done and experienced since moving here. I’ve managed to travel to all ends of the state from Key West to Jacksonville to Pensacola. My scuba career allowed me to dive in some pretty interesting places…reefs off the Keys, wrecks off the east coast, springs on the west coast, and the wall off Bimini in the Bahamas. When I got into motorcycles I met a whole new group of people and made some very good friends along the way. I also lost a few. Motorcycling is not the safest lifestyle around. I got to do some real travel across the country and met people from all over the world when I worked in the industry. Eventually I was able to make my way down here to the end of the world and find my little place in the sun. As for the rest, some memories were good, some not so much, but they are all memories that make life what it is.
So here I sit, 34 years later, living in Key West. Did I make the right decisions to move to Florida? Should I have zigged when I should have zagged? If I was to be graded base on material wealth or financial well being, I would fail, at least by most people’s conventional standards. Financially I’m not much better off now than I was when I moved here in 1978. If I was to be graded on life experience and happiness, it would be a big fat A+. But there ain’t no pass or fail here. I did what I wanted to do. I had dreams and I realized them. They may not have always turned out exactly the way I planned but so what. The bottom line is I had dreams and I acted on them. Realistic or not, I took the chances. Some succeeded, some did not. Few went as planned, few dreams ever do, but that’s part of the adventure of it all. At least I didn’t wind up sitting in some godawful factory or cubicle back in Bugtustle, Pa. wondering what may have been. And at 57 years old, I still have dreams and I still plan on acting upon them. I’ll have dreams when I’m 100. Those dreams may be as simple as making it to 101 but they’ll be dreams none the less. One thing is for sure, I ain’t ever going to be scared of failing anymore.
So where are you today with your dreams? Do you have any? Are you living out your dreams or are you just existing? Are you sitting around wishing you could do this or that? Are you regretting past decisions that brought you to where you are today? First, get over yourself and quit worrying about the past. You can’t change it. It happened and that is that. Second, don’t worry about the future either. Worrying implies that bad things will happen. Learn from what happened in the past and apply what you learned to make the future more to your liking. When I tell people I live in Key West, blog for a living, been scuba diving, riding motorcycles, sailing, and all the other stuff I’ve done they call me lucky. (Actually they call me a few other choice words but let’s leave the ex girlfriends out of this ). Well, there ain’t no such thing as luck. There is timing, good and bad, but relying on pure chance will get you no place. As I have stated in the past, and it’s right up there somewhere in the fritterisms, “You are where you are today due to the combined effect of all the decisions you have made up to this point.” If you are living some bland existence and wishing for something better it’s not going to happen until you decide to make it happen. You have that control over your life. If may not seem like it sometimes but in reality you do.
I can say that I’m proud of some of things I’ve done in my life. And there are a few that I’m not so proud of. But one thing I am proud of is this here blog. For a little over a year now it has provided me with a unique sounding board for a variety of topics. If there is one thing I hope you can find here, in between the snark, the travelogue on Key West, and poking the bears of religion, it’s that you gain some sort of inspiration to get off your ass and make some of your dreams into reality. Sure, you may have responsibilities to take care of…family, retirement, paying for stuff. That doesn’t mean you still can’t live above and beyond the conventional lifestyles that are embedded in our minds. It’s not all about money and posessions. Don’t ever be afraid to take chances, gamble a little, or push the envelope. You may well fail. If so, pick yourself up, learn from your failure, and start again. And when you succeed, it’s one of the greatest feelings in the world. Who knows, someday you may find yourself driving down some lone highway in a cold jeep towards a new adventure. Embrace the unknown and enjoy the ride. Make it a life worth living.