They say “who you were, determines who you are”, and to a certain extent I agree with that; maybe it could be better said, “to understand who you are, you need to know who you were”. To some degree I have always tried to escape who I was so I could be free to be who I am. Unfortunately that does not work. My past will always be a part of me: I can embrace and learn from it, or I can reject and run from it. One thing my brief life experience has taught me is that running does not work, all it does is delay the inevitable. You will face your past. The sooner you can accept that fact, the sooner you can really start living.
Most of my life, I have not lived. Every moment I spent becoming, I could have spent living. I cannot say I did not do anything with my life, around age fourteen I became infatuated with music. I immersed myself in music blogs, I listened to everything I could get my hands on, and I became the go-to guy for new music. The more I listened to it the more I wanted to make my own music. I joined my school band and learned to play the drums, this was not enough: I wanted more, I wanted to sing, I wanted to be in front of people, I wanted them to see me, and I wanted to share whatever creative spark that resided within me with them.
My high school had a mariachi group that held auditions for new members at the beginning of each semester. It was fall, and I decided I was going to join that group come winter semester. I spent hours and hours practicing. I learned every song to perfection, and I even learned to sing. My parents told me, “there’s no way you’re going to learn to sing, you just can’t do it: it’s not a talent you have!” Learning to sing was not easy. I spent a long time working at it, and in the end, I was able to achieve my goal and join the performing mariachi group.
During this time I was also hard at work producing and marketing a music podcast aimed at shedding light on the then new free-culture music scene. I reviewed artists from all over the country, received promotional materials to use in the show, and gained a sizable audience. To make this possible, I started studying web programming, sound production, SEO, and a myriad of other, related topics. My first efforts very clearly revealed my lack of skill but I persevered; this was something that was important to me so I was willing to do whatever it took to make something out of this project I had undertaken. Eventually my efforts were rewarded and I received an offer to have my show syndicated. What I did not expect was what I would do next.
Around the same time my podcast was finally getting off the ground I was doing a few other things: I had been marketing my newly developed web programming skills to startups in my area and received a few job offers, I was considering doing religious service in a foreign country, and I had even considered starting a company of my own. The decision was a difficult one, but I decided my time would best be spent serving people rather than myself. The best reason I can give is that I really wanted to help people and that I felt the need to see, first-hand, the kinds of problems people in developing countries had to face on a daily basis.
Against what may have been my better judgement I decided to dedicate two years to helping people in whatever capacity I was able in different parts of Uruguay. Part of my assignment was religious, but I was also committed to find opportunities to improve peoples standard of living. One experience that stands out to me in particular is the story of a man named Ornoir Orlander Rodriguez, though he was better known as “Denga,” the town drunk.
The day I met him he was sitting, drunk on an old armchair in front of a poorly maintained wooden house. I walked over and introduced myself. We began talking, I told him about my family, and what I was doing in Uruguay, among other things. He told my about his life, how he had always been successful in his work until alcoholism took it all away from him. He had worked for, and partially owned, a construction company, and owned a respectable amount of land. After being injured and left for dead in a tractor accident he decided to try his luck in the nations capital, Montevideo. It was there that he started drinking, at first it was not a problem. The day his wife left him, he said, was the day he became an alcoholic. Shortly thereafter he lost his job and was forced to move back to his home town.
Normally I have a hard time when people confide in me or ask for advice, rarely do I have anything truly useful to say. Thankfully, I did not allow myself the luxury of that excuse. I told him “You should stop drinking. Today.” Terrible advice, I know, but I really could not think of anything else. Surprisingly, he looked at me, and I saw in his face that this was something he had been waiting to hear for a long time. He said he would quit immediately. Unfortunately for him, Ornoir was not one of those people who could stop drinking from one day to the other. He suffered extreme withdrawal symptoms and eventually had to seek medical attention to be able to overcome his addiction. Thankfully Uruguay boasts and excellent public health system and he was able to receive the necessary treatment.
I could not believe how such a simple an invitation could change a persons life. That day something clicked inside my head. If this man could be reborn, could not I also be reborn? I decided to stop worrying about who I was, and to simply enjoy the journey.
This is essentially a long preamble to the following: I am working on re-publishing all of the content I have ever created (whether I like it anymore or not) in a sort of “historical archive”. This includes both content I have published elsewhere on the web and things that never left the comfort of my notebook. This archived content will start appearing over the next few weeks and months.