You never know the role a person will play in your life.
I keep this thought in the front of my mind as I engage with people everyday, whether for this project or otherwise. Your waiter may save your life. You may be fishing next to a Zen priest. A homeless man in a Mississippi diner may teach you the secret to life, at least the one he has found. In the 45 days I have been on this journey, I have learned more than some people will learn in a lifetime and I have so much more to go. I have been reflecting lately that I need someone to reflect with.
Ask and you shall receive.
Frank Martinez and I met at Huriyali, a local spot tucked in on Huger St. around the corner from Hampton Park, down the street from my grad school alma mater, The Citadel. He is a photographer who has, in the last six months, dedicated himself fully to the pursuit. A couple of years ago he worked in tech. The road here has been a bumpy one for him, for both of us, but wisdom doesn't come from smooth paths. Frank is not a fan of networking. It builds anxiety, it's crowded and it's generally fake. It's what drew him to this project initially, my declaration that, while I am actually pretty good at it, I hate networking. I tell him about my game, five business card or 30 minutes, whichever comes first. He laughs. I survived networking events by gamifying them, like a child forced to eat his vegetables. We talk about building relationships, preferring that method to the quick exchanges we both associate with the average networking happy hour.
Then we dive deep.
Looking across the large table at Frank, you can see a peace in his face that is almost envious. It's not that he has the world figured out, far from it, he has just realized he doesn't need to figure it out. It's in his smile, his posture, his eyes. Frank Martinez is who he is, whomever that might be. Where so many people, myself included until recently, see life as the ascent up a mountain, a quest for the summit, Frank understands there is no mountain. I have begun to understand this, but only recently and honestly I can only verbalize it after talking with Frank. The reason for his joy is that he loves what he does, truly, and he knows to stay on his path and not worry about moving from it. He points out to me that the real wisdom of sitting on the fence is that you can see the grass is actually the same color on either side.
We talk about how we spend so much of our youth trying on hats, trying to find ourselves, only to realize none of them fits perfectly so we should wear a few. Honestly, we will end up trying some on again as we get older, revisiting ideas and philosophies with new experiences to understand them. There is never a solitary answer. Frank tells me there is a freedom in releasing the need to find yourself and just accepting the perpetual state of just becoming.
We are always growing, always learning. There is no end to it, no summit to the mountain because the mountain doesn't exist. We never fully become ourselves, but rather we are always becoming. The acceptance of that is a place of happiness, less stress, less anger, because we acknowledge who we are in this moment, that we will change and move forward. As Frank explains this to me I remember the day I left my job, the day this project was born. Before that I was very much trying to be someone I am not, to be what I thought I was supposed to be.
On the morning I quit, I drove to the beach. I walked in the sand and worked my way out of my sandals, closer and closer to the water. Wading in that water was a baptism, a shedding of someone I was pretending to be and an acceptance of who I am. The odd part is, as Frank helped me see this morning, that I was the only one making me wear the mask that was making me so unhappy. All I had to do was admit there is no mountain, head to the beach and wade in the water. Everything since has come naturally to me, not easily, but naturally.
This is the Frank Martinez I know, a man of wisdom and contemplation. We made a cafe into a meditation garden, a ceiling fan into a Bodhi tree, for two hours. I could write a book based on this one conversation. From accepting the state of just becoming to the dangers or accepting a pre packaged identity, we covered a lot of ground and I know we will cover more.
No one journeys through life alone. We simply are not made for it. The path has too many twists and turns, too many things you cannot know yourself, and so we need time in the company of others to talk of our journey and what we have learned. Time to crystalize observations into lessons, to digest lessons into wisdom. You never know the role a person will play in your life, but I know that today Frank was the one to help me put some things together and understand there is no mountain, no summit to reach. I am just becoming, and I am happy.
Favorite DInosaur: Velociraptor
Why: They are hunters; intelligent and cunning. Plus they remind him of The Predator