I was eighteen. Headed for trouble and built for nothing more than a strong wind. We had just ended high school. I had no woman. I had friends. I had a vehicle. And we had booze. There wasn’t anything that could stop us.
It was late August. In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, this is the kind of night you live for. The sun was out until 10:30 pm. It was 80 degrees and sunny. Even after the sunset, it didn’t cool off. The kind of night you didn’t want to be inside for, and you certainly weren't planning to go to bed early on.
On that night there was a party out at the beach of a local campground that a couple of guys were putting on as the end of the summer blowout before we all went off to go to college, or work, or whatever we chose to do. This was really it. Our last taste of being kids.
After this we were adults. We’d earned it. Or at least we felt like we did. And we acted like we did that night.
I grabbed my boys and dragged them out to the woods to link with a crew that wasn't really in their wheelhouse -- but they would be on that night. They drank like fish. I was the designated driver for the last time of my life (by choice). And let me tell you one thing….screw that job. It wouldn't be often that I’d signed back up for that position. I’m a born beer drinker and on a night like that… let’s just say that the next time I’d be choosing to drink beer.
There’s a lot to say about the way I felt about that night, but nothing would do it justice more than the simple fact that I was fine. Perfectly fine. I was there. I was present. For the first time in my life, I wasn’t anything but there. I talked to everyone. I was everyone. I was their friend, therapist, butler of beer, or chauffeur if they needed. I was there and I belonged to every moment.
It wasn’t long into that night before myself and several friends gathered up and headed to the beach for a couple of smokes. We were alive. The guys were rolling. I was the safety button on their fully loaded pistol ready to let loose. But I was ready to fire just as quickly.
As we stepped out onto that beach something happened that none of us will ever forget. Time stopped...each and every one of us just stood still and witnessed it. And as we all looked up: no words, no noise. It was just us and the world.
It was the clearest that I had ever seen the sky before. Midnight. Not a single breeze of wind near us. Looking up we could see every star. Whether it was there or not... we saw it. We felt it. Each and every one of us. The sky was filled with diamonds. Everything from the Big Dipper to the entire Milky Way -- stars lit the night and they lit us.
A mile down the beach to the right, fireworks launched. Now, I don’t know how you feel about fireworks, but if they were nothing to me before, after that moment they became poetic. The sound. The colors. The shapes. Perfectly timed bangs in between the laps of water rolling onto the beach.
You couldn't see anything that the butts of cigarettes didn't light up or that the Lake Superior water didn’t reflect. But you knew you were there. You could smell the wet sand that we stood on. All that you could do was enjoy it and for some reason that didn't feel like it was enough. For the first time that entire summer, not one of us reached into our pockets to grab a phone. We didn’t speak.
In that moment we only existed. There weren’t rules for us to follow or expectations for us to live up to. We were in the moment. We were that moment. Nothing existed before, and I didn’t care what happened after. For a single moment in time, the only truth in life was whatever happened right there with us.
If pausing time would have been an option I would have never left that beach. And I would still be there right now. Not sitting in the sand…but standing. Watching the sky rotate around me, and seeing just exactly what I am looking at. For a time in my life, nothing was different than what it seemed. No hidden messages. No cover-ups. Just exactly what I was looking at.
I chase these moments. Where I’m someone that matters, and no one to anyone else all at the same time. The moments where I am uniquely present in life. Free from fear and free from judgement. The moments where everything that normally matters become stripped from my identity, and the only things that truly matter are the things that are right in front of me, and the space that I’m in. That single moment is what life is all about. Feeling that way. Being in that moment alone would have been surreal. But being in that moment and getting to share it with my closest friends was powerful.
Be present. Patient. Know your surroundings and get engaged with your life. Don’t allow action to be the end all be all. Become engulfed with thought, and ask questions. Become self-aware. Conscious. Lose your ego, but create an identity, style, & authenticity within yourself. Become who you are, and understand who that is at its deepest level. You are the thing that matters. Sharing who you are is what changes the world. And you should share it. For you. Because you want it to exist, and because you want to create. The way you want it, and never the way anyone else tells you to. Then own it. Live it. Make it yours. This one is mine.