As I write this, I am sitting on a boat dock in Newport Beach, CA. It’s really not so much a boat dock as it is a yacht dock. These boats have 30-foot masts and massive cabins. As I look around at all of the beautiful wood grains and spit-shined chrome banisters on these lavish vessels, I can’t help but think about the tremendous amount of maintenance and upkeep there must be to keep them looking so pristine.
Boats always make me a little nostalgic. Growing up, my dad owned a boat dealership in west Texas. It was bass boats instead of yachts, and the desert instead of the beach, but I spent a lot of my Saturdays as a kid spit-shining boats.
People thought my father was crazy. We lived in the middle of a desert, 200 miles away from the nearest lake, but he liked to fish and he figured other people did too. So he opened that little boat dealership and I’ll tell you this; he sold the hell out of those bass boats. People came from all over the region to buy them.
It wasn’t long before he realized there was one problem. All those people buying boats needed to get them worked on from time to time. So my dad went and got a proper certificate from the manufacturer and he built a big bay in the back of the dealership where he also did maintenance and repairs.
Those were some of the happiest years of his life. The shop was always buzzing with people. There were always men sitting around talking, smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee or beer out in the bay under the hum of a cheap radio. Their wives and girlfriends gossiped & chatted in the main office while us kids ran around playing in the boats, pretending to be sea captains or fishermen.
West Texas is oil country and when the OPEC deal went down in the 80’s, the rigs stopped pumping and the whole area dried up. Along with it, so did my dad’s little business. He never really let it show, but I know we struggled for a while and I know that a little part of him died when he had to go to work for someone else.
After a few years and a nasty divorce, he left west Texas and moved to Carlsbad New Mexico to work in the potash mines. Then he went into sales for a while and later he moved up to a little ski resort village in the mountains. He got a real estate license and actually made a really nice life for himself. These days, he is a HAM radio operator, travels with his wife, pursues things like building huge outdoor pizza ovens, adding on to his dream house and he continues to perfect his recipe for Texas brisket. “Now Stacie, next time you do it, slice up some jalapeños and add them to the marinade”. He also still loves to go fishing.
My dad and I are very similar creatures. Just ask my mom. She loves telling me “You are just like your father.” Most of the time she says it to be ornery when I do something stupid, but she’s right. I am just like my father. My dad is stubborn and hard headed, but he is a fighter. He’s never let anything stop him from doing exactly what he wants to do and he has reinvented himself more times that I can count.
I lived here in Southern California for almost 15 years. To anyone looking in, it seemed like I had a good life here and I did. I loved living out here, I made some friends that I will carry with me for lifetimes and I got to do and see things that most people never will. I’ve seen the green flash with my own eyes, I bought out Disneyland for a day, I’ve scaled cliffs, been stuck in a monsoon, made love in the sand (not recommended, by the way. Ouch!), coordinated parties for 100,000 people, started a non-profit organization, fell in love and collected memories that I will cherish until I die. I also went through some tragedies.
For a long time, I thought those tragedies were what defined me. I thought that those tragedies were the reason I picked up and moved. I thought that all of my unhappiness lied in the fact that some bad shit happened to me. But what I’ve realized sitting here listening to the water splash up under me and feeling the sway of the dock, is that whole concept is just a load of horse shit that I sold myself so that I didn’t have to admit the fact that I wasn’t living for myself. Bad shit happens all the time and it happens to every person on this earth. Deep down, the only reason I wasn’t happy was because I wasn’t doing the thing that drives my soul.
There were people who thought I was crazy for quitting my job and moving to Tennessee. But what they didn’t realize, or maybe they did, is that I was miserable inside. I knew if I didn’t do something drastic, I was going to die. So I sold pretty much everything I owned and packed what was left into a Nissan Pathfinder, loaded up my dog and drove 2,000 miles to a place where I didn’t really know anyone and just like my dad, I reinvented myself. That was almost a decade ago.
I came back to Southern California this week to film and interview Bill Medley of the Righteous Brothers and Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Of all of my memories of Southern California, this is the sweetest.
It’s not the sweetest because of the rock stars, or cameras, or even the prestige of the client. It is the sweetest because I created this life. It is sweetest because I realized on this trip, that I am truly happy.
I’m not trying to tell anyone that I just packed up, moved away and everything was dandy. Hell no, it’s not that simple. It was hard and I’ve struggled. And I had to do a lot of work on myself too. I looked inward and I didn’t sugar coat my situation or try to blame other people or circumstances for my unhappiness. I owned my own shit and took accountability for my life. But mostly, I followed my heart and focused on doing what I love. I put everything I had left in the world into that one thing.
Right now, I am just about the age my dad was when he had that boat dealership and just like my dad, I am happier now than any time I can remember. I am happy right now for the same reason he was then. I figured out what it was I loved to do and I did it.
As you get to know me and begin to follow this blog, you will realize that I talk a lot about artists. I am one and I live and work around them everyday. I have always believed that there is an artist living in each of us. You may not be a painter, or a photographer or a songwriter or a writer or a dancer. Maybe you’re not an “artist” by anyone’s standards at all; maybe you’re just a guy who really loves fishing. I don’t know. But I do know this, there is a thing in you that drives you and your one mission on this planet is to find it, follow it and do what you love.
Epiblog: A place for paying it forward and supporting artists, entrepreneurs and people who inspire me. I hope you find some inspiration here too.
This weeks epiblog is dedicated to John Moreland. If I’m going to talk about people doing what their soul calls them to do, I have to give a nod to John. Songwriters are special, but every once in a while a songwriter comes along that all of your favorite songwriters lose their shit over. This is that guy and you’re gonna lose your shit too.
John Moreland, In The Throes: http://www.johnmoreland.net/records/inthethroes
First published on the Huffington Post at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/stacie-huckeba/do-what-you-love_b_5630404.html