No, I'm Not Afraid of the Dark

9125 days. That’s how long I’ve been alive. 

It's 7:30 AM on a Wednesday morning and I'm curled up under a down comforter… I realize it’s my birthday, then wonder why the hell it’s so cold in the middle of March. 

My tabby, Caspian purrs softly beside me as the dusty fan whispers quietly overhead. 

From beyond the cardboard walls of my downtown apartment, I hear distant sirens echo against high rises like tenors inside a stone-walled cathedral. 

I’m groggy and hit snooze, rolling back onto my side. Within moments, the borders of my consciousness flutter away and, as often happens on birthdays, my mind recedes back into the past.

I’m gliding across a clear glass lake in Alaska April, our inflatable Zodiac boat drifting toward the remote, rocky shore. From nowhere, a Grizzly bear club leaps from the water and across the bow, a shiny silver salmon clasped within her teeth. I blink, and before I know it I’m 7,000 miles away. 

I find myself in the center of a narrow street in the dead of night, a sinister, sniper-topped wall to my back. A boy, not much younger than me describes his life on the wrong bank of Jerusalem, trapped in a prison without a roof. 

Tears sting my cheeks like nettles.

I fast forward, my mind blending memories like a river meeting the sea… 

Suddenly, I’m hiking 100 miles in the Rockies, stumbling over my feet as I learn to use my gangling legs and pubescent body. 

I trip on the rocky soil and I’m falling - but I’m not in New Mexico anymore, my legs are above my head and I’m bungee-jumping off a bridge. Screaming, petrified, falling across the Zambia / Zimbabwe border - the rushing Zambezi River below and crashing Victoria Falls behind. 

I hear the memory of my own profanities as I close my eyes tight, but when I open them I’m at peace, watching a rainbow of hot air balloons rise across a Turkish plateau from a sleeping bag inside an ancient cave.

Like the Soviet train that took me across Eastern Europe, my thoughts pick up steam, memories flying off the dusty shelves of an ethereal library in my mind… 

Falling asleep in a hammock on the side of a Nicaraguan volcano, struggling to breathe in an unpressurized Vietnam-era turboprop landing in a Sudanese desert, fishing a black mamba out of a latrine in Kenya, reef diving in Maui before four-wheeling across Kaui....

I feel the heavy rain assault my face, the roof of my Arctic fishing hut torn off in the throes of a Norwegian storm. 

The lyrics to “Wildest Dreams” play in the background as the storm dries up and I’m curled up on the floor of Taylor Swift’s home listening to her play an unreleased album. 

Forty countries. Five continents. Four businesses. One lifetime of adventure woven into less than three decades. 

Caspian paws at my face, clawing me from my thoughts, scowling in admonishment over her empty dish.

I roll out of bed to fill her ceramic bowl before padding to the bathroom. After brushing my teeth, I crack my black journal and flip back through the pages. 

The tattered Moleskine in my hands contrasts the narrative of grand adventure, my inky black handwriting paralleling the inky black places I once found myself. 

In spite of my achievements and laudable successes… for years when I tried to find dreams at night, I found myself instead swallowed up in nightmares; afraid if my demons left me, the angels would too. 

Silently, for many of my years, I struggled with self-doubt, depression, and anxiety. I’d spent so much of my life traveling the world, telling other people’s stories… but struggling in silence to believe in my own. 

In the last twelve months though, I’ve started sharing more-and-more of myself - slowly at first, and then all at once. Before I knew it, those monsters inside me turned out to be nothing more than trees. 

And so, as I reflect on the first quarter of my life - I remember my extraordinary adventures, but mostly I think about my shadowy canyons… and all they’ve taught me about the light. 

When I think of luminescence, I think about all of you: friends and family, counselors and coaches, mentors and advisors…  and the fleeting glimpses of eternity revealed to me in the courage, forgiveness, hope, and laughter you’ve offered so freely. 

I can say, for the first time in my life, I’m not afraid of the dark anymore… because I’ve found, when you sit it long enough, your eyes adjust and you start to see all the people sitting around you, and realize they’ve been there all along. 

I can't tell you how grateful I am to know and be known by you. 

Courage dear heart, 


Kittens & Cardboard

The gravel crunches under my tires as soft, grey dust flies up from the road; rocks periodically shooting out from the unpaved street, rhythmically knocking the underbelly of my Volkswagen.

I pull down the well-trod driveway to a shuttered house surrounded by 25 sweeping acres. Pastures with waist-high alfalfa grass wait to by cut and baled out front. The air somehow feels clearer here- sweetly tinged with the scent of new-cut wood…  sharp & clean. 

There’s a fondness- for the slightly dilapidated fence, it’s well-worn boards smooth from battering winds and rain of a hundred summer storms... for the grouchy mare grazing peacefully in the pasture, her tail flicking left and right in a bereft attempt at preventing flies from getting too close. 

I slip off my shoes in the cluttered mudroom as the grumbling garage door slams shut behind me. I’m barely inside the house when several cats slink in to join me, purring softly, clearly hoping their affections will impel me to refill their vacant food bowl. 

As they glide in-and-out of my legs however, my mind begins to wander from the Georgia countryside. 

I’m younger and beardless; naively wandering through a yet-to-be gentrified section of Brooklyn. Not far from the Utica Avenue station I stumbled across a box of kittens sitting under a dim streetlight near a shabby apartment complex. I paused for a moment; swallowing in the sorrowful sight. However, as I attempted to formulate a plan to smuggle the kittens across the East River and into my midtown hotel room, I noticed something. 

They were happy… or, if not happy, at the very least exceedingly contented; as if the damp, recyclable carton had always been their home. Realizing even Manhattan has its limits- and not feeling like explaining to my Uber driver why I was toting a box of cats into the Marriott Marquis, I decided to keep walking. 

Not far behind me, a stranger- a Brooklyn local judging by the deep v-neck t-shirt and suede argyle vest- stopped at the furrowed cardboard emblazoned “Free Cats” and picked out the runt of the litter. However, crafting artisanal cheese platters at the organic Food Coop in Park Slope hadn’t prepared him for what happened next. As he lifted the tabby from the box, she became erratic- crying and clawing, desperately trying to fight her way back to the place she knew to be home. 

I didn’t realize it at the time- but that’s what an in-between feels like. It’s a disorienting space wherein everything you’ve known gets stripped away. 

Whenever you enter your in-between- whether after college, or later in life- it’s often more than a simple change in scenery… it’s a seismic shift in all you’ve been defined by. 

When you pursue individualization and the truth of who you are- whom you were always meant to be- the extraneous labels and superfluous aspects of self all get removed, peeled away, killed off. 

You’re free for the first time, but also left floating in empty space… like New York at night; there's no stars, no moon, no sense of time or direction.

You're also alone... for when you stop letting other’s projections of you dictate your identity, there’s a chance the people you’ve been surrounded by might reject you. As you move on, the rest of the proverbial kittens in the box don’t understand where you’re going, or why you’ve left. 

But… back to the tabby for a moment. 

The man behind me on the street in Brooklyn looked like a pretty nice guy- he had well-manicured facial hair, a handsome, if unnecessary fedora, and slid into the passenger seat of a Subaru- the crying kitten wrapped in that suede argyle vest. 

What strikes me now, as my own cats wind between my legs, is the simple fact…. in that moment, the kitten had no idea she was going to a better place. 

Shivering beneath the cotton folds she was terrified- everything she had known had been taken away and she hadn’t the faintest idea where she was going next. 

Now…. I don’t know if my in-between ends in a Brooklyn brownstone with a hunter-green Forrester & a nitro cold-brew tap in my kitchen.  I certainly hope that’s the case… but right now, I feel like I have more in common with the kitten wrapped in the vest than I do the beautiful bearded man. There’s a large part of me that’s scared and wants nothing more than to run back to the box- everything I’ve known- the structure and security I found in my cardboard identity. 

The drive between the place and people I called home to my destination seems like a lifetime- yet in the grand scheme is nothing more than a quick hop across boroughs. 

Perhaps these are nothing more than the esoteric ramblings of an enigmatic twenty-something with too many thoughts & feelings. Yet, if growing up has taught me anything it’s that I am not the first, nor the last, to feel this way… and neither are you. 

In this season I’m finding to build is to first destroy, to know truth is to grieve the past, and to let go is to leave room for joy. 

To quote eternal Hunter S. Thompson, "never forget you come from a long line of truth-seekers, lovers and warriors" and you're so brave for leaving your box behind. 


My 2015 "spirit animal" was a box of Franzia. 

I mean, I knew post-collegiate life wouldn’t be a fairy-tale but I thought we would have gotten past, “once-upon-a-time…” 

The year started with interviews at Google; but quickly my standards fell simply to “job.” By June, I couldn’t get my local Barnes & Noble to call me back.

There were many days where I watched the sun rise and fall without leaving the house… or even my room. 

I listened to a lot of Noah Gundersen. Drank a lot of boxed wine. Spent a lot of time on Tinder. Adopted two cats.

Then autumn came, school was back into session, and I watched voyeuristically through the lens of social media as people I loved moved on with their lives… their stories continuing to be written, only this time, I wasn't in them.

I had my own business, but entrepreneurship can be a lonesome existence, especially at first. My lack of traditional employment and solitude, coupled with a biological predisposition for depression led me to the darkest place I had ever encountered.
By winter I felt utterly alone… A place past lonely. A place off the map- somewhere I had never been before.

I knew cognitively I was smart and gifted and talented. I had been given tremendous opportunities, I had (& still have) incredible parents and supportive mentors… but instead of helping, that knowledge only made me feel more guilty and ashamed about my present circumstances. 

Alone. Afraid. Anxious. Depressed. 

I felt hidden; as if there were an unconquerable canyon between my capabilities and the reality I now found myself in… an insurmountable valley separating the man in the mirror from the man I wanted so desperately to be. 

I’m not sure if panda’s hibernate but that’s what it feels like- a bear during winter, left deep inside a dark cave wondering if- and when- spring will come again. 

I've spent most of life looking forward to spring.... forever waiting for whatever it was I thought I was going to become. Faced with my immaculate, futuristic daydreams, my current, lonely reality always paled in comparison. 

Spoiler alert- there’s no resolution at the end of this page. My proverbial spring still hasn’t come but my perception of "hidden"- both a place and an adjective has shifted… 

I used to think hidden things were unimportant, but now I know that they’re just unseen. 

Character is formed in hiding. It is the dark places and empty spaces that ultimately shape us. What we do here matters. Winter seasons, lonely nights and awkward in-betweens should be celebrated not wasted. 

Of course, I still dream about the future.

But at the end of the day… my only “dream” now is to start valuing each one of the millions of moments that make up life as more than just a tedious overture leading up to a singular “main event.”

They say that life comes in seasons. There are seasons of sadness. There are seasons of sweetness… but I don’t think this is either one of those. 

This season is about becoming.

The Land Between

Somewhere in Northern Zambia there is a one-lane bridge that spans the Zambezi, one of the largest rivers on the planet. Halfway out this connection between Zimbabwe and Zambia is a scraggly metal scaffold. A few years ago, I stood on that scaffolding. Wearing pink Banana Republic shorts and a striped button-down, wondering what the heck I’m thinking; halfway out on a bridge, in a third world country, thousands of miles from the closest decent hospital, preparing to jump. I’m ashamed to say, as I was pushed from the platform, for the next three hundred feet a mixture of profanity-laced prayers were all I could manage.

Little did I know the next few years would be eerily similar to that very free-fall. I thought when I turned 18, when the acne died down and my voice stopped cracking, the roller-coaster ride of puberty was finally over. But at 22 I’m just as “happy, confused and lonely” as I was when I used ProActiv every night and sprayed myself with Axe before I went to school (for the record, I’m an Old Spice man now).

Filled with emotion, uncertainty, anxiety, and yes, the occasional expletive, the season of the early twenties is aptly named “quarter-life crisis.” On one side sits adolescence and dependence, while on the other rests this nebulous term “adulthood” (what does it even mean??) and independence.

As I sit in this space now and reflect on this past season, I think back on one of my favorite memories. It was a fall afternoon and I was going on a drive with a friend when we spotted this old cell phone tower high on the top of a mountain outside of town. Naturally, we decided to skip class and figure out how to get up there. Waiting for us at the summit was a rocky outcropping covered in colorful graffiti with stunning views of the entire Lynchburg valley.

In the years that followed, many of my favorite nights were spent there. Sometimes my friends and I would pile in the car at 1 AM and drive up just to lie out under the stars. There was something about that spot. Thinking. Dreaming.  Wishing. Staying up all night, bundled up, sharing our passions, talking about who we wanted to be and where we wanted to go.

Up until now, I got to experience the best of both worlds; the excitement and joy of the things ahead, and the comfort and security of those I love most. Now, with commencement only days away and bags packed, I’m getting closer to leaving behind the people I’ve come to know for ones I haven’t met.

I sing lyrics in worship like, “Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders”, which sound great sung from the safety of a sanctuary filled with close friends. Now that it’s time to go though, I’ve realized I’m quite fond of living life within the borders of Virginia and Georgia.

If I had things my way, I would move back to Atlanta, date the girl I really like, work for a Fortune 500 company in Buckhead, shop at Billy Reid in the West End and get a sweet loft (with a husky puppy) off Howell Mill next to the Italian restaurant I love. Seriously, I’ve already pinned the furniture on Pinterest.   

I say to Jesus “Be thou my vision” but in all actuality, I’m quite fond of the vision I already have for my life.

Instead, I’m exploring the opportunity of joining the team of a nonprofit in Colorado.

Whether I move to the Wild West or not, this next phase of life is, frankly, terrifying. I think it’s terrifying not so much because of what’s next, but because of what has been.

You see, I’ve discovered it’s not the fear of the unknown that holds people back from dreams, risks and calling but rather the pain of leaving the known; especially when what you’ve “known” has been so good.

“It’s not that the future is hard to face, it’s that I’ll no longer be facing the blessings of my present… “

And it’s because I walked out.

Is it harder to be left, or harder to leave?

Caught somewhere between who I am and who I’m going to be, I'm taking what I know about Jesus and what He says about me and leaning into… the land between.