I am 36 years old and have long felt disconnected from the world. Not so much the natural world — that I’ve been lovingly drawn to and constantly in awe of as far back as I can remember.
As a surfer I’ve often felt a puppet to mother nature, struggling like a drug-addict to resist her calling when the stars align and the waves/winds/tides/current/weather are in harmony. My so-called “adult priorities” are quickly pushed aside, along with my personal relationships (and the kitchen sink) as I slip into her embrace.
In my life I’ve gone through many phases of crystal-clear clarity followed by what I can only describe as fog, emptiness, and apathy. I don’t feel crazy. I don’t feel sad. I just don’t feel like I have much control and in those times motivation is hard to come by.
I’ve never felt like I belong.
I’ve been lucky to call many beautiful human beings my friends, but I’ve felt socially awkward as far back as I can remember. I’m not a weirdo (I hope? 😂) but I’ve often left people confused or offended by my words and actions in public (including last night when I was at Kona Brewing with some good friends of mine and tried to get a photo with one of the servers — for another friend — only to find her utterly offended that I even asked 🤦 after which I made my friends there with me feel totally awkward as they watched me apologize to her two separate times).
I have also struggled with anxiety.
I hated giving speeches in school. I have distanced myself from lifelong friends for fear they may ask me to give a speech at their wedding as their best-man. I sabotaged my brother’s desire to apply to Techstars and Y Combinator when we started Kumu years ago, for fear we may get selected and — god forbid — I have to get up on stage in front of thousands of people. (Sorry Jeff never told you! But I’m sure you already put the pieces together…)
And yet, despite those struggles, I have been incredibly blessed in this short, beautiful life of mine on this earth.
I have been married to a strong, beautiful woman for 13 years. I have three healthy, happy, beautiful, confident, and funny children. I have parents and aunts and uncles and siblings and cousins and friends that care deeply about me. I freakin live in Hawaii! I bootstrapped and run my own business with a brother I love and hold in the highest respect, frequently looking to him for guidance in my foggy moments despite him being three years my younger. For reasons I can only explain as divine intervention (and that means *a lot* coming from someone who openly doesn’t believe in God) I was given the opportunity to steward a four-acre organic farm in Hawaii Kai through 2034. Coincidentally, that’s the year my youngest graduates high school and I plan to buy a sailboat and disappear over the horizon for a while with music blasting, a pirate hat on my head, and a bottle of rum in hand. 🏴☠️
Many people are far less fortunate. And I know that statement doesn’t even remotely do the struggles they have — and continue to live through — justice. I am sorry if you are one of those people and I apologize that we earthlings collectively have not done enough to resolve the grossly misbalanced inequalities that have put you in the position you are in. Please know that there is hope and that Trump is not the solution you thought you were looking for. Help is coming. (As long as you don’t re-elect him in 2020. 🇺🇸)
So why am I writing this? And why now?
Up until a few days ago I’ve always thought I was normal and this is just how everyone feels. If it weren’t for a good friend calling me out and offering support I would still be stumbling along in the dark and hurting others unintentionally.
Once I realized I might be different, I learned from my folks that my grandpa was bipolar and that my great grandpa killed himself. That was enough to put aside my stoic pride and scare me into action, seeking professional help a few months ago (along with trying sobriety for a month which, I’m thankful to say, didn’t make a damn difference 🍻).
For the longest time it felt like nothing was getting better. If anything I sunk even lower, realizing things were not improving after now admitting to myself that I am wrestling with something out of my own control.
But this week something powerful has awoken within me. I have been reborn in a sense, surviving an experience so soul-crushing that most people would not have made it through to the other side. Some people call it the dark night of the soul (please read about it, if only to be aware that it exists and that you or someone you love may have to endure it at some point in your life).
The craziest part about coming out on the other side of this is there’s not an ounce of me that feels like I have a “disease” or some sort of mental health issue.
What I’ve been given is a gift. A gift of clarity. A gift of purpose. A gift of empathy. A gift of a second chance that few people are fortunate enough to be given.
Despite how hard the experience has been for me, my family and my friends, I feel fortunate to have gone through this. The only regret I have is the harm I caused to the ones that stood by my side as I self-destructed. I am deeply sorry and want you to know I love you, appreciate your support, and never meant you harm.
The ones that abandoned me can fuck off.
(Just kidding 😂 love you guys too and I can’t imagine how difficult it was.)
I’m writing this therapeutically for myself and for others that may be going through something similar that they haven’t been able to put their finger on. If that’s you and you are reading this please realize that help is out there and you can ask for it if you need it. Do not feel ashamed.
I am also writing this to ask for your help, if/when this tide I’m riding turns and I fall back into the fog. My wife has carried this burden for me on her own for far too long and I now realize how unfair that has been to her. If it were not for her unwavering love and loyalty I would not have survived this darkness. She should not have to do it alone and I don’t want my kids to bear it either. I will not ask them to carry this burden any more than they already have and I need all of you to step up and support me when you see me slipping so they don't have to.
I also want to say that wherever I’ve been and wherever I go from here, I am genuinely happy now. I am also willing and eager to help if you need it.
The original title for this article was going to be “From zero to meaning.” After writing it, I felt it wouldn’t reach the people it needed to under that title and decided to change it. Please help me share it with the people you love that may be struggling with something similar.