My Creations, Places I like

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Prelude, Part I

This post is dedicated to the close friend 
who listened to my story
and told me to chase
my dreams

(Play me if you want music to go along)

    I read a book some time ago that would later become an underlying reason why I choose to do the things that I do. One dreary afternoon I stumbled upon a cardboard box of books that was tucked away in the back corner of my brother's closet. Intermingled with an extensive collection of philosophy books written by Nietzsche, and Stephen King's The Stand, I found a book with dark blue and violet water colors on it. The words The Alchemist appeared at the top as I brushed away the dust that had collected on the book's cover. There was something alluring about it. I couldn't help but feel drawn towards the mysterious item I had found. Why I was even in my brother's closet to begin with is something that to this day I still don't have an answer for. Maybe it was one of those bad weathered days where you were looking for something to do because all of your friends seem to be occupied with other things and nothing was on the tube except bad midday Judge Judy

    Sitting Indian-style in my brother Chris' small attic closet I examined the back of the book for clues on what in the hell this book was actually about. I can recall a few paragraphs discussing a character by the name of Santiago and his journey through the unknown to discover the hidden treasures of life. Each night thereafter I laid in bed with a flashlight at a time of the night where most of the world had gone to sleep, reading The Alchemist chapter by chapter. My initial fascination quickly blossomed into full fledged obsession. Soon the old pages were covered in sticky notes and neon yellow highlighter. There were days I would sit in class slouched down in my unforgiving steel chair and daydream about what could possibly happen next in the book. What was Santiago looking for? The text was as mystifying as its dark, unassuming cover, and I craved for more...

    I found Paulo Coelho's book at a time in my life when I too was searching for answers. Adolescence was walking out the door and the next chapter in the epic saga that is life needed to be written. Seemingly overnight I had to decide on a college and major to pursuit that would ultimately determine the outcome of the rest of my life (that's not quite how it works, but no one ever really tells you that). That's a tough pill to swallow for an seventeen year old kid who's biggest decision in life up to that point was which sport to play in the Fall. Sitting at my desk reflecting back on my teenage years while drinking vitamin water I can tell you I eventually chose a general business degree at the University at Buffalo because at the time I thought it was the safe bet, but I would be lying to you. What ultimately swayed my decision to attend a state school to study accounting, consumer behavior, and micro economics was the two men I shared a roof with.

    My dad went to UB some years ago to go on and spend six years in Rome studying to become an ER doctor for which he has been mastering ever since. My older brother had just graduated from one of the best colleges in America and was transitioning into a business field that would have him employed by the New York State Assembly with notions of big city living under the bright lights of New York City and company names you would find in the Wall Street Journal. On one hand I had a father who worked his ass off everyday so that his family could live comfortably in a safe neighborhood with a swimming pool; and on the other hand I had an older brother who was successful with everything he set his eyes upon: music, school, sports, and girls. I made my decision in hopes I could emulate the paths they had chosen, because in my eyes they represented the very essence of what success was.

    What I would discover, however, is that the more accounting classes I took and all the career fairs I would attend talking to suited business professionals about things I had known next to nothing about, the more I realized that being a desk jockey in an office somewhere was not the life I wanted to pursuit. I had traveled so far down the rabbit hole looking for answers only to ask myself: "why in the hell didn't I take the blue pill..."

"What I'm not going to tell you is that either way, you're f@%ked"
    Once again I found myself on the outside with no door to get back in. Over the next several weeks I thought more and more about The Alchemist and how Santiago was able to see the signs camouflaged by the world in order to find happiness. The book had religious undertones about finding the "omens" God leaves each of us to find the path we are destined to take, but for me it was less about destiny and more about finding the courage within yourself to navigate a sea of uncertainty in order to do what makes you happy. Through fear and necessity my passion for food and cooking was born like a phoenix rising from the ashes. An obsession with the Iron Chef, the Food Network, and taking summer jobs that always seemed to relate in some way to food were the hidden signs I was looking for.

    Akin to the way Dave Kujan discovers that Kevin Spacey is Keyser Söze in the classic film, The Usual Suspects, I was starting to put the pieces together and see the whole picture. Sgt Kujan was searching for answers about a crime only to find out that the clues were all around him the entire time, but by the time he discovered it, it was too late.

(SPOILER ALERT if you haven't seen this movie)

    Unlike Sgt Kujan, for me it wasn't too late. I was fortunate enough to see the signs early on and make a change to something that has brought me a mountain of happiness the likes I cannot begin to describe. With the support from those who are closest to me and the guidance of an old book found in a box on a rainy day, I am able to embark on a new journey, and continually be surprised every step of the way. If there is one thing I learned on my quest for answers it is this: "Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail". 

  Do what you love.