4 Bits of Wisdom from Unexpected Places
I’ve never been one to ask for advice when it comes to my own issues. In fact, I’m one of the last people who would ever ask anything along the lines of “What do you think I should do?”. Every so often though, I come across a valuable snippet from a stranger that I’ll still remember years later.
One of the first was when I was 16. I was back home in Hawaii, visiting for Spring Break, and my mom and I stopped by one of those Maui Divers stands where you can have an oyster opened and buy the pearl inside. We were chatting with the guy – awesomely named “Dino” – and right before we left, he told me “Stay in school – or you’ll be shucking oysters on a sidewalk like me”. It’s not like I was ever one of those kids who contemplated dropping out of school or not getting a college degree, but Dino’s one-liner is probably what got the ball rolling in terms of my realization that a lot of people go through life, not doing exactly what they want to do. He still managed to maintain a “happy local island guy” kind of facade, but I’ve always wondered what it was he wanted to do with his life aside from prying open shells for tourists.
Fast forward to London in December of 2007. A couple of my friends and I finished college a semester early, so we were enjoying a night out with our professors and some alumni, celebrating the end of finals and… well… school. Drinks were on the house but luckily, I remember a little tidbit from an alumni I was talking to before I blacked out. She asked me what I wanted to do with my life, and I told her that I wanted a career in music. I proceeded to say “As a ‘Plan B’, I guess I’ll just –” but then she stopped me and said, “If music is really your dream, you won’t have a Plan B. Do whatever you have to do in the meantime to pay the bills while you’re working on music, but don’t have a backup plan”. It was at that moment that I realized in order to make something seemingly far-fetched come into play, you need to have enough guts not to have a safety net – after all, if you know that there’s going to be something to fall back on, you won’t care so much if you start to slip.
During my first year in New York, we were pub crawling down 2nd Avenue and stopped into Swig, where we met a big group of Irish guys. They were wasted, adorable, and hilarious. Before they left, the guy I had been dancing with gave me a hug and said “Smile – for tomorrow, you may have no teeth”. Need I say more?
This last piece of advice is probably my favorite, just because it was the most unexpected. I was walking to the Subway after a really crappy date downtown, and I was so not in the mood to talk to anyone. The guy was hot, so obviously I agreed to go out with him; but it was hands-down the most boring, painstakingly awkward 90 minutes of my life (that’s how long it took before we both made excuses to leave). He had no personality, his job was boring, his style was too corny for my liking, and all of the silence made me start second-guessing my own “fun” level. While walking to the station with my arms crossed, an older man stopped me. Obviously, he was homeless, so I “just knew” he was about to ask for spare change. But right before he did, he stopped himself short and, instead, asked “Well what’s wrong, honey?”. Not sure why, but I proceeded to tell him the entire date story, sparing him no details – and he actually engaged and listened the entire time. After my rant, he simply replied “All that glitters isn’t gold. Find yourself a diamond in the rough that you can polish to perfection”. Well, damn. I had nothing else to say, so I just nodded. Then he asked if I could spare a dollar. I gave him a fiver.