it finally clicked–just took a couple of boats, a few friends, and lots of water

August 14, 2016 By Tom

Sometimes movement is just to move, without direction or even purpose, but simply because I didn’t know what else to do.

a perfect view from behind a speedboat as the sun rose at 5:15 this morning

It’s before 6AM and I’m watching the sun rise on a house boat floating away on Dale Hollow. It’s the last morning of a much needed vacation and disengagement from the entirety of society. We wound up in a holler with barely redeeming cell phone coverage and after a short adjustment period and Boss K telling me to quit checking my phone, I quickly adapted to being disconnected.

And, it resulted in meeting some new friends, laughter with old friends, a ridiculous number of adult beverages of which I only consumed a responsible and reasonable percentage, and some of the best conversation I’ve had in months. Conversation I needed to have. Conversation I didn’t know my soul and spirit was craving.

It started with the company on the ride down–someone who lost their best friend in a car accident years ago and the bond we were able to pretty instantly create as we were talking about coping and processing. It continues with me looking down at the Free Will tattoo on my arm representing the accident and JBD, the date forever inked into my body and simultaneously representing the only permanent mark/scar from that day that I chose to have.

And as the week continued, surrounded by a mix of people who not only knew me, but knew Den—and a new group of fast-gained friends that didn’t—it was a gentle reminder that we all have our own stories; I felt like for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t constantly around people who were either trying to skirt around the realities of loss or people who were trying to handle me with white gloves to shield themselves from the realities of life. And somewhere over the water as the wake boat skipped along, I traced the outline of the tattoo on my left wrist, the e.e. cummings inspired/Speak Easy designed/simply understated ink—-and knew that no matter how many times I’ve had to pick myself up off the ground this year; I am at peace.


And along the way, in this blissful paradise of clear water and perfect sky, among the boats and bikinis, a tattoo caught my eye. It was two perfect circles on an arm that just barely crossed their respective geometric shape. The simplicity and symmetry stood out to my inner design and UX nerd, and I wanted to know more. I wanted to know who designed it and what it symbolized to her.

But, I didn’t ask….because I know that tattoos aren’t for the world, but for one’s self. It wasn’t about what it meant to me, but about what it brought to her. And carrying on my rule of not asking about the meaning behind their ink—I just made a mental note and mental compliment and moved on.

However, somewhere along the way the day after it first caught my eye, the meaning came up, and she talked about her past and her divorce and the intersection of lives, sometimes for brief amounts of time that overlap and are shared. It gave me goosebumps on the middle of a 90-degree sun baked boat deck. A perfectly simplified visual example of my twenties that resonated.

I turn 30 in 30 days. And I’ve not been in control when it comes to the major life events of the last decade. It’s absolutely why I am Type-A on the things I can control. It’s probably why I can be both incredibly stubborn and often, sometimes simultaneously, overly coddling, to others around me.

I feel fortunate, for the lives of others I’ve been able to cross with: for the hard lessons learned. For the successes and failures, for the friendships and family gained, the love and the heartbreak endured.

For the first time in years, I’m not dreading turning 30 next month or actively avoiding the processing of grief that Jim nor Denver never made it to 30 and being unsure on why I deserved to be the one to carry on the torch of life instead of them.

I’m pretty sure Boss K knew exactly what she was doing when she invited me down. She’s been one of my most trusted and valued friends over these last 8 months and has been my moral compass and sounding board when needed. And her and Mr. Boss K were willing to share their place of peace and reflection with me. I realize now that she knew I needed this more than I did.

And for the first time in a very long time, I feel like myself again. And I feel like I’m not just moving to keep momentum pushing forward, but I’m ready to move with purpose and optimism in a focused and deliberate way.

It just took a mix of friends and strangers, a whole lot of floating with a beer in my hand, and the most beautiful place in the world to figure it out.

But, it’s figured out. And it doesn’t really matter how I got there/how long it took to get here/the choices I made before getting here….it just matters that I’m here.