Tuesday, February 28, 2012

He sees the world in color

Five years ago, some friends and I went to Venice Beach, CA, where we met some new friends with a refreshing perspective on life. They lived on the beach all day, surfing working out, smiling, but barely getting by. A simple verbal exchange led me to realize that our new shirtless barefooted friends lived in a completely different world than we did.

“Where did you get that shirt?” the free-spirited Kai burst out.

“Umm, I bought it in New York,” so boring, I had no interesting story behind this particular purchase.

“Wait! You bought it? Did you guys hear that? She said she BOUGHT it…” I felt increasingly uncomfortable, now.

…in NEW YORK.”

While they were sharing a laugh, I looked at their young eyes and dirty feet. In this moment, it became clear to me that we had chosen a different path in life. I chose education, a career and the endless circle of consumerism; while they chose to keep their young eyes and live completely detached of all material goods…and without shoes and shelter. But were they really so apart from my world that the simple idea of exchanging goods for money was so foreign to them? And would I ever understand? I couldn’t fathom what kind of answer they were expecting.

Kai stopped himself in his state of laughter and explained.

“I’m sorry. It’s just; we don’t get people from New York that often. In Venice Beach, we say BOUGHT.”

This is where I realized in my time in New York, I started to acquire a Brooklyn accent. I retraced my words that started it all.

“I BWOT it in New YOWAK.”

Despite these little misunderstandings, Kai and his friends became our premier tour guides, inviting us to local-only events that I couldn't find on web sites when I got back.

Although concerns of job security, career life, planning and societal pressure will always keep me from being able to live a carefree lifestyle like Kai's, there is that tiny piece of me that wants to surf all day, live off of breakfast burritos and not be so connected to money.

If I ever feel stressed out or anxious, I know that somewhere, Kai and his friends are sitting on the boardwalk telling some wound up tourist, "It's life. It's great. Relax and enjoy it. That's what it's for."

If you hang out in Venice Beach Park long enough, you’ll see Kai skateboarding, doing handstands and flips and just being happy. No education, no career experience, no tangible collections of a past, just a boy who always wanted to live on the beach and play all day.