I anxiously drummed to the beat of Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off” on the bottom of my red plastic chair and made small conversations with the ECU grad next to me until the whole room went black and I could no longer see her anymore. Spotlights and noises boomed all around the arena before I could make out the words…”Spread the love…All over the world.” I knew right then what was happening, and I was on my feet quicker than the woman next to me could finish her sentence. Images of Kenny Chesney flashed on the three jumbotrons along with clips of Kenny hanging with locals. I could literally feel my heart moving closer and closer to my throat as the clips went on. The poor people next to me must’ve thought there was a trampoline planted beneath my feet because of how high I was jumping. The clip must’ve gone on for about 8 minutes, and at this point my heart IS in fact in my throat, and I am surprised the people next to me didn’t pull out an inhaler or a brown paper bag. Listen carefully, Daddy, these are tips for May. I don’t want to spoil the whole introduction for the people reading this that are planning to see Kenny this summer; but I eventually a black silhouette of Kenny holding his guitar appeared before my eyes. I am very surprised I didn’t pass out. Although watching the video I have, you may think otherwise. The curtain rose as the lyrics to “Til Its Gone” left Kenny’s mouth. The crowd erupted…and I literally mean erupted. The crowd was electric and almost as excited as me. There was a girl behind me, probably about my age, who claimed to be the biggest Kenny Chesney fan in the world. Obviously not true…but we decided to agree to disagree. We had made plans with the man next to us (who had had a few to drink) that he was going to be our distraction while we we rush the stage when Kenny came on. Don’t worry, mom and dad, he promised he’d bail me out of jail. Fast forward a few songs, and my feet already feel like I had just ran a marathon (jesus sandals might not have been my best idea), and my throat is already on fire. The man next to me kept going on beer runs, but all I wanted was a big tall glass of water. And, maybe, a glass of Blue Chair Bay rum and diet coke. But I couldn’t bear look away from the 5’7-cowboy that changed my life who was literally a few feet away from me. Kenny’s energy is incredible. He performed for about 2.5 hours, and I swear he was more enthusiastic when the show ended than when it had started. I know for a fact that I got tired about 3/4 into the show, so it’s almost unfathomable to me how his energy stays that vibrant and joyful for that long. Kenny slowed it down a few times…enough to bring tears to my eyes more than once. He started with an intro about how he was going to take us back to a certain new years night…where he passed out from too much Cruzan and diet. Any Kenny fans know what I’m talkin’ about? If you said Old Blue Chair, you’d be right. Immediately I pulled out my phone and called my daddy. Soon after that, I found myself completely lost in Kenny’s voice and presence to the point that I was moved to tears. Absolutely beautiful. But, later in the show, Kenny stabbed me i the heart in the most beautiful way I could imagine with “There Goes My Life.” Again, I lost myself in his presence. I closed my eyes and sang along to the song that I’ve heard for at least 10 years. I looked up at him, as he took a break to swallow his tears. To say it killed me is an understatement. My eyes filled with tears that I didn’t even bother to wipe. I told ya’ll…I’ve seen the man 6 times and I undoubtedly cry EVERY time. Well, as I said before, I don’t want to ruin the whole show for my Kenny fans that are seeing him later this summer. So I’ll keep the rest to your imagination. Last night at the ACMs, Kenny won a milestone award and thanked his fans for letting him do what he does. You’re welcome, Kenny. But, I think that I owe a thank you to Kenny Chesney. For giving me ANOTHER night that I will never forget. For letting me come to a place that I’ve never been before but make me feel at home in your presence. For giving me a night where I can forget about all my worries for a few hours. For taking the time to come out and give thousands of people a reason to dance. For giving me assurance that music changes lives. For changing mine. For those 2.5 hours, I didn’t have a worry in the world. And when I watch the videos of that night, all my worries tend to fade away as well. Kenny… I can’t wait to see you on May 27th in Columbia, Maryland with the most important man in my life, my father. I say that because daddy….I am getting on the stage with Kenny no matter the obstacles, so you better be ready. It’s going to be a night we never forget.
Art is a powerful thing. Too many times I think that people overlook the power that art can have on an individual…or even the world. WIth that being said, I must say that I am a firm believer in the notion that music can change the world and change lives. And maybe thats because I’ve experienced the power of music and it’s ability to change someones world first hand.
And that is exactly what Kenny Chesney does for me, almost every single day. Never in my life has a musical soul touched my heart as deeply as he has. I can remember sitting in my “computer room” of my house in about 4th grade when my dad played me Kenny Chesney’s song “Anything But Mine.” In that song, he says “in the morning I’m leaving making my way back to Cleveland. . .” and it was about the same time that my best friend Isabelle was getting ready to move to Cleveland. So right away, I was drawn to Chesney’s words. I might not of known what exactly what he meant or what his message was, but there was something about his music that had me hooked from day 1.
After that day, I also remember sitting in “the computer room” looking through my dads wall of CDs and gathering all the Kenny Chesney CDs I could find. Be As You Are, Lucky Old Sun, No Shoes No Shirt No Problem, When The Sun Goes Down, The Road and the Radio, and Just Who I Am are the ones I remember piling together begging my dad If I could keep them. I think he said no. Jeez, daddy.
In fifth grade, I saw Kenny Chesney perform in nosebleed seats at M&T Bank Stadium for his Poets & Pirates tour on a whim with a long time friend of mine. If I wasn’t hooked already,then that’s what did it.
Fast forward almost 10 years, and here I am, drinking coffee at The Scullery with Kenny Chesney’s “Island Boy” blasting through my headphones as I reflect on the incredible impact he has had on my life.
I’m sure some people who aren’t a fan of the arts are sitting here thinking…really? How could a 47 year old man who I’ve never met change my life? Well…
Kenny has put smile on my face when I thought smiling was the last thing that was possible. After I got my heart broken to pieces by some stupid boy when I was 17, Kenny helped put it back together. (That is not to put down the amazing patience of my friends at that time, though). But when nighttime fell, and I found myself alone and awake at 3 in the morning, the only person who was undoubtedly there for me every time was Kenny Chesney. I could blast his music throughout my entire room and it would ease the pain or put a smile on my face. I listened to his song “Time Flies” on repeat for days where he says “So you’ve got a little heartbreak…Everything going wrong, but you’re listening to the right song…Grab yourself a cheap seat, anything southbound, headed to the islands.” His lyrics would almost always brighten my mood; or make me forget about the searing pain that I felt in my heart so often. And looking back, that’s all I was really looking for. Something to make the pain go away. And when I constantly searched myself inside and out to find something to make myself feel better, I couldn’t…But thats when I turned to Kenny as my saving grace. His words touched my heart; and I think thats when he taught me that I am young and beautiful and more importantly, too young and beautiful to be wasting months crying in bed about a stupid boy. He has a lyric that says “Sherry’s livin’ in paradise…Chasin’ something or runnin’ from something…” and it taught me that maybe that’s something we are all doing in this life. And it’s easy to do that. I was running away from my broken heart…but somewhere along the lines, I found a way to patch it back up and enjoy life as it comes.
Probably the most thing I admire about Kenny Chesney is that he seems to be the most genuine person. He never seems fake, and nothing he does or says ever seems forced. He seems to love truly with all of his heart, his lyrics seem authentic, and he seems to do everything with pure raw emotion. I think this is something a lot of people, not just artists or people in the public eye, struggle with. We, as human beings, are terrified to make ourselves vulnerable to other people. But Kenny Chesney isn’t. He has this ability to express his raw emotion in his music and he takes searing pain and turns it into beauty; and that’s something that I find to be very powerful. It was powerful to me when I needed it the most, and it’s powerful for me now. It’s a beautiful thing to listen to and to me, it’s a beautiful thing to look up to. I’m inspired by his bravery and vulnerability daily. I’ve learned through Kenny Chesney that is okay to hurt, it is okay to not to be okay at times, but it’s not okay to do nothing about it. Like he said…”If I”m gonna be down…I’m gonna be down..Way Down Here.”
But, Kenny Chesney isn’t just about depressing-heart-break all the time. He’s uplifting, funny, and light-hearted. But, he never ever becomes fake or pretends to be something or someone he isn’t. And that is an absolutely beautiful thing to watch. It’s a beautiful thing to watch someone who leads his life with genuine love for those surrounding him. It’s a beautiful thing to watch…just an artist being REAL.
Kenny Chesney also taught me that a place can mean so much more than well…just a place. A place can be filled with love and family and it doesn’t matter if that place is where you grew up or 2000 miles from where you grew up. He taught me that an island can be much more than a vacation spot; it’s a way of life that we all are embarking on together. It’s about the simplicity of life and being still. It’s about love; being with the ones you love, in a place you love, doing what you love. Sitting on the beach with a drink watching the sun move across the sky, or driving a boat into the sunset, or diving down into the coral reefs. Whatever it is…Be as you are.
So, if Kenny Chesney ever ends up seeing this (which would literally be my dream come true), I want to say THANK YOU for everything that you have done for me in these 19 years, and also A VERY SPECIAL HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOUR BEAUTIFUL SOUL! I cannot wait to see you in a few short months!
P R O V O –
4 flights, 8 nights, 789 photos, 8 unbelievable sunsets, 23 miles, 192 hours under a blue sky, 10 outfits, 4 pieces of grouper, numerous cups of coffee, many new friends, countless memories, immeasurable emotions, and one amazing island I get to call home.
I feel so grateful every single day that I can not only visit the breath-taking islands of Turks and Caicos, but actually, truly, call them home…call it a second home, call it a home-away-from-home…but this little stretch of beach teaches me about life, love, friendship, myself, and adventure more and more each day.
The people you meet, the friends you make, the way you are. It’s all different down here. It’s slower, it’s easier, and it’s a beautiful thing to witness. Kenny Chesney talks about this all the time. It was one of those things that I didn’t really understand until I experienced myself. And after 5 years, I think I’ve figured it out. This is a place where I’ve truly learned that you can, to quote my favorite, ‘be as you are.’
It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, where you’ve been, or what you do. All that matters is that you’ve made this choice to embark on this life on an island and you are ready to embrace every part of it.
This is a place where I have found an overwhelming sense of peace, a sense of solace, and a sense of freedom that I have never found before. It’s where I learned that sometimes, it’s okay to sit in the sand, watch the sun move across the sky, and not have a care in the world.
It’s also where I learned to enjoy life as it happens and see moments as they come. So many times in life all I want to do is plan plan and plan. So many times in life my mind seems as if its parked in the future; worrying about what is going to happen or what will come. But that is irrelevant; because every single person on this earth, the only thing we all have, is right now. It has taught me to truly soak up the HERE & NOW. Tomorrow doesn’t matter; it will come as it does. The only thing that does matter is right now, because I’ve got a sunset to chase and a pina colada to drink while I chase it. And Lord knows I don’t want to miss that.
It’s about being at a place where you have the freedom to live high or live slow. Have the freedom to be wild and bold or be still and at peace. It’s where we learn that to “be as you are” is really quite simple; it’s about finding a place where you can combat crazy, spontaneous, and silliness with patience, silence, and serenity. When you find that, this world is yours to write.
“Be as you are” is not only a song lyric to me, but a way of life. It’s the way that I live when I’m down there. It’s the simplicity of embracing who you are and how that can affect the world around you. It’s about finding pure joy in simple moments that happen everyday. It’s about seeing the love that surrounds all of us. It’s about finding spontaneity in life and living for just TODAY, the here and now. Because at the end of the day, all I know that’s for sure, is who I am and the love that’s in my heart.
I am writing this ironically right after I just threw back a shot of salt water and swished it around my mouth for 30 seconds…and let me tell ya, that’s not the kind of “salt water therapy” I am talking about.
But, that brings me to my point that I am in desperate need of some REAL salt water therapy. I am talking about the kind that I can pair with a blue strapless bikini, bare feet, and a pina colada out of a STRAW.
If you can’t tell by now, I am a little sick of this whole wisdom teeth thing, and I am suffering from SERIOUS post island depression. What is post island depression, you ask? Well, simply put by the man himself (Tom Tewksbury), post island depression is whenever I leave Provo. (#TRU #TTM).
Post Island Depression is that empty feeling in my stomach I get when I’m sitting on the roof of the Provo airport sipping on a Heineken, looking at all the sun kissed faces of my fellow plane mates that are about to endure whatever the hell awaits them back in the states. It’s when I come home from a long day at school and lay in bed and look at the picture of Provo I have hanging on my wall and wish to be laying on my blue towel with one foot in the sand.
I have deemed Post Island Depression as a real disease.I may not be able to get a doctors note or a drug prescription to cure it, but I’ll tell you that the only cure is going back. Which is something my family knows all too well.
Lucky for me, though, as I am heading back to my favorite home away from home in less than two weeks, where I am meeting the rest of my family.
I am also writing this as snow is falling to the ground, so if that doesn’t scream a need for salt water therapy, I don’t know what does. Throughout this whole surgery and recovery, both my parents just kept reiterating the fact that I should “think warm thoughts” and “imagine palm trees and clear waters”. Imagining these things doesn’t really do me any good, mom & dad, but it does make me realize that what I long for is this island. The love I feel when I step off that plane. The pure, raw happiness I feel when I open my condo door and throw on my bathing suit just to walk down to Seaside and am greeted with “Welcome Home!” or “Oh boy, she’s back!”‘
Jim Morris said it best, really, in his song when he says “Sometimes I wish I never left the island…the piece of mind, my crazy friends, the things we did down there.”
Ya’ll probably also know the quote that says “The cure for anything is salt water: Sweat, tears, or the sea.” And, boy, how true is that. Another way to say…salt water therapy. That’s all we really need.
And I need some, right now. Like Zac Brown said, “Bikinis and palm trees danced in her head and she was still in the baggage line.”
So as the lack of teeth in my mouth and jaw continue to heal, I will imagine palm trees and clear waters, mom and dad…& I’ll see you soon.
A huge thank you to my best friend Kathryn for being my guinea pig and amazing model this afternoon! There wasn’t a ton of light and it is February, so a lot of things were dead, but Kaz looks alive as ever. She looks beautiful and photographing her was not only easy, but a whole lot of fun! Today was filled with crazy picture ideas, shivers, and lots of laughs. No surprise there, we are dealing with me and Kathryn here. I can’t wait to explore Greenville and see where else this takes me! Here is a taste of today:
10 and a half years ago, I was sitting by the pool at Springdale sporting a blue and white one piece bathing suit. When I looked across the pool, there was a girl wearing the same one. Unknowing to me at the time, that bathing suit would spark one of the best friendships I’ve ever had.
That day was the first day of my 10 and half year friendship with Jenna. I don’t remember the exact details of it, but it doesn’t matter because the rest is history.
The world has thrown me and Jenna more curveballs than I could’ve ever imagined. We’ve withstood tragedy, heartbreak, and thousands and thousands of miles. Whatever the world threw at us, we were strong and willing to face it. And when the world separated us, it was only physical. California to Maryland? Not a freakin’ problem!
I’m pretty sure we even “hated” each other for a few months and don’t even think I could tell you why. But when it came down to it, I had Jenna’s back and she had mine. Whether I needed a tanning partner, a third wheel, or a dinner date, she was there. Or someone to call me McNugget or Spaghetti Head.
I could go and on and on (and on…) about the amount of crazy, spontaneous, and really really stupid things that Jenna and I have done, but that would probably take me hours. Besides, everything Jenna and I have done has all been captured on camera. It’s out there somewhere. Anyone remember our trips to the Outer Banks when we were 15? Oh right…what happens at OBX…stays at OBX!
But today, Jenna turns 20. I can remember our 12 year old selves sitting at my kitchen table drinking propel, eating chicken wings and talking about who we were going to be and what we wanted to do. I remember planning our perfect boyfriends, our perfect proms, and our perfect weddings. I can attest to the fact that my life has gone in probably the complete opposite direction of what we said that day; and I’m sure Jenna can too. But one thing is for certain: Jenna and I had every intent on remaining best friends.
When Jenna came to see me and my family last summer, my mother said something to me that made tears fill my eyes and gives me chills as I type it.
She said, “You know, Rob once told me that ‘no matter what, no matter how, no matter where, these girls will always come back and be best friends.
And Mr. Rob, boy were you right. I could text Jenna after months without talking and ask her opinion on a boy or a sweater or a hairstyle. When we saw each for the first time after way too long, we still sat at my kitchen table and talked for hours while my mother made us dinner. The only thing that changed was the refridgerator that was normally stocked with Propel was now stocked with Heavy Seas.
And I hope that is making Mr. Rob smile really big up there, because there is nothing I’d want more. Well, maybe some of his Christmas Fred.
I want to wish one of the most hilarious, loving, and generous people I know the happiest of birthdays today.
Happy birthday Jenna and I can’t wait for what life brings us next!
“Run from what is comfortable – live where you fear to live.” -Rumi
I’m POSITIVE ya’ll have heard all the clichés about how life begins at the end of your comfort zone. But, thats the thing about cliches. They are cliche for a reason, and it’s because they are so damn true.
I have realized pretty recently that I am in love with the comfort zone. Things in the comfort zone are easy, simple, and relaxed. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t love things that are easy, simple, and relaxed? Exactly…everyone does!
But, the truth is, there is N O such thing as “too hard.” That’s just another way of saying “I’m lazy and comfortable and I don’t want to work for that.” In my opinion, people who say that things in their life are “too hard” are taking the easy way out. We naturally want things to be easy. So of course when things are too hard, we choose the thing that is too easy; walking away. You know the saying “When the going gets tough, the tough get going”, right? I think a lot of us, including myself, live more like “When the going gets tough, the tough runs like hell.” See, I believe that all of us are still tough, we are just a little too used to sitting back and watching life pass us by.
Why, though? Why is is that we choose to walk away in those circumstances? Why do we choose to watch life pass us by? Because it’s comfortable. When we stumble across things that are hard, our minds and bodies have the opportunity to choose to be comfortable (walk away) or uncomfortable (rising up). And the truth in that matter is that being uncomfortable is hard. No one wants to be uncomfortable. Except for me. And so should you.
Sure, being comfortable is cool for a while. It’s safe. But I promise you, being safe will get you no where. Michael Jordan didn’t play it safe. John Lennon didn’t play it safe. James Dean didn’t play it safe. Nathan Scott didn’t play it safe. (You know you’re addicted to One Tree Hill when…).
I read this quote somewhere online… “Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.”
And man, was it a wake up call. Life is precious, and I don’t want to turn something so precious into a routine. Into a habit. I don’t want to live a life I am used to. I don’t want live my life in certainty; how boring is that. I want to live in uncertainty.
So today, and everyday, I make the promise to get out of my comfort zone. While it feels nice on the outside, nothing grows in the comfort zone. Things die there. Life dies there. Adventure dies there. It holds you back and holds you down. You want to move forward and up. So, do something crazy. Get out of the comfort zone. Everyday.
Last month, when I was looking at a piece of raw octopus that I was supposed to be putting in my mouth, my good friend Francois told me that “Life is just one big experiment.” And he is very right. Our lives are shaped by the experiences we have. And it is up to to us to decide what those experiences are. I want to experiment with life. It would’ve been the easy, comfortable way out if I refused to eat that piece of octopus. Yea, sure, I could’ve gotten sick, I could’ve thrown up, I could’ve embarrassed myself. But living life scared of the unknown is no way to live. Choose to be uncomfortable!
Here are things I (and you) should do everyday to get out of the dreaded comfort zone:
1. Try something new. Whether it’s eating raw octopus or reading a book you never thought you would. Anything.
2. Push yourself to run for 5 more minutes. One more set. 30 more seconds.
3. Strive to wake up earlier. If you’re like me, start with 9am. Then 8:30 am.
4. Read. A chapter, a paragraph, a sentence. Doesn’t matter. But read.
5. Change something in your daily routine. Never listen to rap? Try it.
6. Face a fear. Hate heights? Ask a friend to go rock climbing.
7. Dare to look stupid sometimes.Something wonderful may rise from it. And if not, have fun doing it.
Those are just a few things I came up with after racking my brain, but there are a million ways to leave your comfort zone everyday, and they are all relative to the individual.
The key to life is discomfort. You won’t move forward by sitting back all comfy in a lounge chair. But that doesn’t mean we all can’t afford to do that every once in a while.
Enjoy life, take risks, and love deeply.