Stay Coreyous In Life
May 04, 2022
Not all of us can be a Mozart, an Einstein, a Michelangelo. Hell, most of us barely have the energy beyond homeostasis: reproducing and working a full time job to do anything of any importance in the world.
Growing up in the US in the 20th and 21st century many of us are told how exceptional we are. How each and every one of us will be an astronaut or accomplished physician or rock star.
Nobody tells their kids, “hey you’re going to grow up to commute to a job you probably hate, to get a paycheck to barely afford a lifestyle of meager existence and be a blip on the radar screen of life. You eventually will have a few mediocre kids who will perpetuate your lameness through their own shitty existence.“ So on and so forth.
So somewhere along the line either :
A. our dreams fade.
B. They change and morph into something you can live with.
C. By some combination of luck and hard work become reality…Unless your dream has always been to trudge through life in cubicle C43 on the third floor, with a view of the break room.
I’m a Gen-X spawn and have not invented anything, I haven’t written the perfect song or fought in any Great War. Inversely, I haven’t caused any Great Wars or written songs like “Party all the Time”. I grew up in a town about 45 minutes south of Boston called Easton.
Easton used to be a middle of nowhere farm town. Today it’s gentrified to the point of absurdity. It is strategically located halfway to Cape Cod from Boston, thirty minutes to Providence, RI and located one town over from Foxboro where the New England Patriots play football. Most of the town is public parks and swamp land.
The town elders in their wisdom chose against allowing things like movie theaters, malls, car washes or other places where kids could congregate get into trouble and drive down their real estate investment value.
Their argument is that the copious amount of public swamp land in historic and beautiful Hockomock swamp, Borderland State Park and other public lands would be enough to supply the juices needed for their offspring to thrive and achieve Greatness. Mostly I believe by avoiding these places for fear of malaria, poison ivy, or lyme disease.
In my experience after watching those around me as I grew up, this type of life lands you squarely in the very middle of middle class with your ambitions ground to a nub, in debt to your eyeballs, living beyond your means where your only escape is a vacation to get drunk on a beach/ski resort bar/casino/pool at least once a year. Everyone I know in this position is unfulfilled. Don’t let their Facebook and Instagram posts fool you.
In retrospect the only people I grew up with who don’t fit that mold either inherited money, won megabucks and took off the mountains of Canada (true story) or died in a drunk driving accident or drug overdose. I can’t count on one hand anymore the people who died in DUI accidents from my graduating class. I was almost one of them a few times in my 20s.
BUT…just because you have been presented with this type of life doesn’t mean you have to live with it. Really what do you have to lose? If you hate your surroundings and have the opportunity to go where you are happy then by all means go do it.
Almost everyone I know is living right in the middle. They’re not making much waves, staying relatively safe, maybe even putting money away for kids or a rainy day. In this culture you are rewarded by keeping your head down and playing the game. You are rewarded for following rules and paying your taxes on time. Society frowns upon those of us who don’t follow the norms. Usually it is only after you have made a difference or created something new and subsequently changed the Norm is when people agree with your actions.
They say , “You’re so lucky!”
They say, “I wish I could do that!”
When I gave up my path and moved to the mountains everyone I knew had an opinion about it. Most of it not good:
“You’re going to Utah to be a ski bum?”
“you are doing what? Utah? I can’t even spot that on the map!”
At that age (34-ish) you are supposed to be firmly on the road to family life or knee deep in it: kids. A wife, white picket fence in the suburbs.
You are not supposed to take off, give up your career to go be a snowboard instructor and work in a gym.
I started snowboarding in the 80s and worked in a kitchen at a Holiday Inn. I worked with Mexican guys who told me how lazy I was and who worked circles around me. I showed up late, stole food to survive in college, smoked pot on the food line and drank cooking wine out of monkey dishes. I tried to sleep with every waitress and front desk girl and drank almost every night. I was shitty at cooking. I had no drive. My executive chef would say I was like a shark “because if you stop moving you are dead”.
I knew I was destined to be good at something else and this wasn’t it. My brother was and still is a successful chef. He had always wanted to be a chef and went to Johnson and Wales and prides himself on making good marinades or picking up ingredients in sauces at every restaurant we go to. We all call him “Chef“. His Christmas card is addressed to “the Chef”, his kids call him Chef. He has always known what he wanted.
At 18 I knew I wanted to be either a rock star, a porn star, a drug dealer or maybe a radio personality. My heroes were degenerate snowboarders, degenerate and possibly dead rock stars, and my pot dealer. I had no lofty ambitions. I was totally lost and escaped when I could. I did whatever drug that came in front of me with the exception of hard drugs like heroin. I tripped on acid or mushrooms on the weekend, did coke when I could, drank and drove and smoked pot 5 times a day. I hated myself and hated what I was becoming. My mom was just starting her third marriage to a guy who would eventually change my life and point me in the right direction but all eyes were off of me and I was spiraling out of control. My brothers told me later, after I moved to Utah, that they didn’t think I was going to make it through my 20s.
I should have gotten out in the late 80s when I could. The chance of becoming a “pro” snowboarder in 1988 was a definite possibility if you could do a 360 and not break your face. But to a small town, blue collar kid raised by his mom, places like Vail, Squaw, Jackson Hole, and Snowbird where just words on a map. None of it was real. I mean who goes to a ski town and cooks at night and skis every day? You want to be a loser? Go be a ski bum! Be a winner and get a paycheck, get married, commute to work.
As a result of my small town short sightedness, the total lack of career or career path or want of marriage, I ended up spinning my wheels and destroying my brain. I got an Associates Degree in Communications at a two year college then switched majors to Exercise Science at a state school. I was good at it. I loved the science of the body. I was playing drums with a band and decided to learn guitar while I was living in a dorm after going back to school.
It was around this time that I started to notice something: I never wanted to be be a Master at something. I was curious about how things worked, or loved the sound of an instrument, or how the body moves in an activity, or what it feels like to surf. I realized that I was told by society that I needed to be amazing at one thing, and dominate it in order to change the world. I started to realize that what made me really happy was just learning little things: a G chord, a new song, writing a cool lyric, riding a bike in a new location. This was in essence my life goal: Be curious.
I remember a girl I once dated chastising me for trying to learn an instrument at 21. “Why are you even trying? You’re not going to be great at it.”
True I would never be Steve Vai but I never wanted to be or expected to be. Neil Young was more my game: chords and songwriting. Now 28 years later I get to play to some great crowds. Because I didn’t listen to naysayers, put the effort in, and stayed curious and inspired I am able to make my childhood fantasy come alive every other week. It’s a blessing I can’t overestimate and it’s a cornerstone of happiness in life.
I was 32 years old and living in West Roxbury, Massachusetts. I just went through a very tragic, public, failed engagement. I just started graduate school at Bentley University. I owned a DJ company and a personal training business and built my business on personality and hard work. I waited tables at a local Ground Round and worked at several Boston gyms at night. I had clients who saw results. I loved my job but I hated living in New England. I didn’t have any sort of plan at all.
As fate would have it I was in Keystone, Colorado with friends when my flip phone rang. It was my ex who was living in Park City. After a brief conversation I decided to change my flight back home and go to Utah instead. A month later I was driving my Subaru with all my life in it across the country. I had $2000 to my name and a job teaching snowboarding at Park City Mountain and managing a gym.
I took a huge pay cut, gave up the businesses I owned I and drove west.
I used to care more about money. It made the world go around after all. Don’t get me wrong you need money to survive in this world. Making it is a good thing but it should be the result of your path and not the reason for the path. Not the Be All End All.
I left New England in 2005 and there have been giant blunders along the way. I have been broke, had multiple injuries, been laid off from jobs, and had very bad relationships. I moved back to Boston once, Colorado once, and eventually returned to Utah. I started two IT businesses that failed and had a career path that abruptly ended. I worked at government agencies with people already dead: Counting down the 20 years to retirement. I’ve worked with so many Mormons and have felt very alone and isolated in that culture.
You can go to a lot of cool places in this world if you are curious and learn enough to do it.
Learn, relearn rinse and repeat. Get better to your satisfaction.
Be brave enough to suck at something.
Ikigai is a Japanese concept referring to something that gives a person a sense of purpose, a reason for living. Did you know there is no actual word in Japanese for “retirement”? You wonder why people in Okinawa live to be so old, and healthy, and happy? Ikigai. Find your passion, your fuel, and you won’t ever retire. For me it is being curious in anything that strikes my fancy and heading down that rabbit hole to learn it. Especially things that have an endless learning curve like the piano, or surfing. Shit that is really hard to pick up and especially hard to master.
I had a puzzle game once that was a spinoff of the Rubix Cube. I figured it out in like four days and never picked it up again. The point being: who wants to do something anyone can master. Something that doesn’t challenge your brain and make you think and ultimately learn something about yourself? To test your mettle? We, as humans, need to stay curious to keep our Ikigai. Being bored at a desk all day is the quick path to death. Plus you will be boring as hell at cocktail parties.
Staying curious will keep you young. Just as eating right and sleeping long enough every night and physical fitness, learning new things will create new synaptic pathways in your brain. Your brain as a child hasn’t changed now that you are a growing adult. It still needs to be nourished with nutrients in order to function .The human brain gets very good at repetition. Scientists call it “synaptic pruning”. Your pathways will prune other forks and roots and strengthen the pathway to efficiency. In my opinion if the human brain stops learning new things it gets stale and weak, just like muscles that aren’t used become atrophied. The old adage “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks” comes to mind.
A Cool Article Written By Someone Else
Taken from Huffington Post(1):
As life spans continue to lengthen, it’s becoming increasingly clear that our brains as well as our bodies are amazingly resilient and adaptive. Even 90-year-olds can build new muscle mass through physical exercise. So can their brains, although what’s being developed is not new muscle but new synapses. And while some of the exercise that produces these effects is physical, most of it is mental.
Last year, when U.S. News reported and wrote the e-book, “How to Live to 100,” expert after expert extolled the benefits of continued strenuous mental and physical exercise into and throughout old age. These are not new benefits. But what is new is the accumulating evidence for how dramatically these activities can promote healthy aging, help ward off physical and cognitive decline and illnesses, and add years to our lives.
Of course, the nation’s free-enterprise system has taken notice and we have become inundated with a flood of “brain gain” exercises and tools. Trying to make sense of them and evaluate their claimed benefits is, as President Obama likes to say, above my pay grade. But we do know a few basic aspects of what our brains “like.”
Most of all, brains like to work. But the work that seems to do the most good entails fairly challenging thinking about new subjects. In learning new things, the brain creates new synapses, or connections, between neurons. And more synapses and a denser web of connections are associated with maintaining cognitive health in older age.
Doing predictable things, even if challenging, appears more likely to use existing neural pathways. This is not a bad thing and being engaged with tasks can be beneficial. But newness is the key here. And as it turns out, it is common for older people to engage in fewer new activities as they age, and even to withdraw into narrower circles of behavior and interactions with other people.
With that in mind, here’s a list of 10 things experts say can help keep your brain young, even as your chronological age increases.
1. Learn a new language. This is at the top of many lists for activities that give your brain a real workout and force it to create new pathways to learn.
2. Learn an instrument. Well, maybe the kazoo doesn’t qualify here. But the combination of learning new physical skills on an instrument and also learning to make music is great mental exercise. Music seems to unlock memories even in people with advanced dementia.
3. Get lost. Go to an unfamiliar area and force yourself to navigate it. We’re not talking about a war zone, but perhaps a new neighborhood or strange museum or other venue that’s new to you. Realizing you have the skills to deal with new situations builds confidence, and gives your brain a workout.
4. Volunteer. Getting involved in a new endeavor will introduce you to new people and activities. Broadening your circle of friends and acquaintances is healthy on multiple grounds.
5. Get uncomfortable. This is another variant of getting lost. If we only engage in comfortable activities we know, part of us stops learning and growing. Accepting the feeling of being a bit uncomfortable — with new surroundings, activities and people — is a good way to help yourself become more open to new experiences and learning opportunities.
6. Be physical. Assuming your doctor approves, aggressive physical exercise is good for your body and, research is finding, also great for cognitive health. Even moderate exercise has big payoffs.
7. Play new and challenging games. Your brain loves to play. In fact, play appears to have a stronger role in human development than for any other animal on the planet. Again, it helps fire up those new synapses if the game is new and not too easy.
8. Take classes. Exposing yourself to new ideas, classmates and even classroom settings hits several of the targets that experts associate with cognitive health.
9. Embrace new technology. Staying connected in a digital world may seem like an uphill slog you don’t want to take. But it can have huge brain-health benefits, as you learn new things and connect with new people and ideas.
10. Keep opening new doorways. Your brain is endlessly curious about the unknown and appears to be a sponge for new ideas and experiences. You should be, too.
It also helps to pick a hobby that endlessly improves. Something you can get better and better at like piano or guitar or skiing.
Written by Corey Smaller Follow me on Instagram