A friend to talk to

The winter holidays can be particularly difficult for some people.

For the third year in a row, I’d like to lend an ear to anyone who could use someone to talk to during the season.

Be it by email, chat, text, or phone, I’m available to be a friend to anyone who wants one. Or more importantly, anyone who needs one.

You’re never as alone as you may sometimes feel. And there are people in the world who do actually care about your well-being, even if you haven’t met them yet. Even if you seemingly have little in common.

I can’t say I can solve your problems. And I’m not a therapist. But I am a fairly decent listener. I can probably make you feel less alone. And I can probably make you laugh.

In any case, whether you’re familiar with me or not, I’m here if it’s helpful. No pressure.

Stay warm. And happy holidays.

Message me directly for any details or contact info.

*This is technically an unlimited time offer as my availability allows, but I make it more obvious during the holidays.

Also, I would encourage anyone who has friends or family who may be going through a rough time or who are spending the holidays alone to let them know you’re there for them if they need you.

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A journey in progress

Note: My “confessions of the day” are part of an ongoing theme on my entertainment blog, but this one seems more appropriate over here.

Confession of the day:

Many of my (serious) posts are written with my future children in mind. Some of my posts are written for friends. Some are written for strangers I encounter.

And some of my posts are written for me as much as anyone.

Or more so.

Because this is not the story of some guy who went on a journey, faced many hardships, and succeeded.

This is not the telling of a tale after-the-fact when all is good and no matter how bad it gets, you know it’s going to have a happy ending.

This is the story of a guy still very much on a journey and still very much facing hardships and a future shrouded in doubt every day.

This is me trying to live some semblance of a normal life while also dealing with one that is anything but.

And if you sometimes forget that, then I am succeeding. Because it is not my intent to remind people all the time. Although sometimes it’s difficult not to (I’m human).

While I often share what I’ve learned after an event has happened or after I’ve bounced back from feeling a certain way, there are times when I feel raw and just need to think out loud.

There are times when I need to ask myself what I would say or do if I was a better, stronger, and more capable version of myself.

And then I listen and write it down.

As I’ve said before, “Sometimes you have to suck it up and be your own champion when no one else will.”

I wrote that for me a long time ago because it was how I was feeling at the time.

And then after I wrote it, people found it something they could relate to.

Which is good. It still applies.

Don’t quit.

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“Dude, are you homeless?”

“Dude, are you homeless?”

It was an unexpected question from a friend I made recently. And I denied it. I didn’t know what to say and I wasn’t ready for it.

It’s an especially tricky question to answer because homelessness has such a stigma. And it shouldn’t, because every person and every person’s story is different.

(How much do we judge the homeless just by looking at them — without ever knowing their story?

I know that’s something I’ve been guilty of. And although I’m interested in their stories, I never have the courage to ask.)

I don’t consider myself “homeless”, per se, but if I am, I volunteered.

My journey from beginning to now is documented extensively on my site (ZDXP.tv | Intro | Backstory), but here’s a summary…

In 2009, I quit my job as a Senior Artist at Rockstar Games, terminated the lease for my apartment, and sold or donated everything I own.

(I say “sold everything”, but I mean everything I couldn’t fit in my car. I do have a small storage unit in Las Vegas where I keep super important things like a really cool garlic press, a coffee grinder, and a really fast desktop PC that I bought in 2007. I can’t wait to boot that bad boy up.

I used to store about a dozen gym towels there, but I really couldn’t live without those.

There’s other stuff in my storage unit, but every time I visit it, I always surprise myself with what I sold and what I kept back then. The “Great Purge” happened so quickly that it’s hard for me to remember what survived.

One day I had a lot of stuff. A couple weeks later I didn’t. And while the stuff I kept is apparently stuff I didn’t think I could ever live without, it turns out I was wrong. Well, except for my gym towels. I was totally right about those.

So it’s a lot like Christmas morning every time I make my way to Vegas and I see what I actually still own.

“OMG, this is like the best garlic press ever!”

Although sometimes as I dig through boxes I’m like, “I kept this!? Why the hell did I keep this?”

It’s funny how what we give value to can change when we spend some time without it.)

So I quit my job, terminated my lease, and sold everything.

Then, as I was about to embark on my journey, something came up (with a friend) and I went and lived with him for 9 months.

This 9 months gave me time to “enhance” my pending adventure.

What was originally going to be a personal journey — some traveling, some photography, some writing — became a project that I would share with others around the world via the Internet.

I wanted to use the experience to connect with people in a meaningful way — not something that’s terribly common through social media.

And then in 2010 my real journey began.

I became part of a real-life choose-your-own adventure — criss-crossing the country and letting people tell me where to go, who to meet, and what to do.

I posted live updates. Let people follow me in real-time on a map using GPS. Accepted personal challenges and more. (ZDXPedia list of challenges and requests)

It was self-funded, so I slept in my car each night as a way to conserve resources.

(I sought out sponsors, but never found one. I guess sponsors kind of have to find you. And aside from being approached by 3 reality TV casting directors, making a couple TV appearances, and being written about in Spirituality & Health magazine, I mostly flew under the radar. And I mostly still do.)

Since I rarely spent more than a couple nights in one place, and covered nearly 60,000 miles in the process, sleeping in my car made sense.

Hotels or even just campsites are expensive. I could have tried couchsurfing, but didn’t because I had a tricky time keeping a schedule or knowing where each day would lead me. And I have to admit, I really, really liked the turn-on-a-dime freedom I had.

But even without the need to pay for lodging, all the driving I was doing still made my adventure very expensive. Not to mention other expenses like food.

As my project (and travels) essentially came to an end about 18 months later, I continued using social media to share my ongoing experience. I had an audience that was still interested in what I was posting — and I’d made some great friends, too. So why not keep doing it?

But because my travels ended, I had to find other things to write about. This is when I started focusing more on humor & entertainment mixed with the occasional life lesson I’d learned. Though the process was sort of gradual.

And then, somewhere along the way, I made it official — I would voluntarily live in my car for 1,000 days. I’d already been doing this, but simply set an end date as a challenge and incentive to go on. Since my cross country travels had ended, it was a way to sort of reframe my adventure.

This became my personal “1,000 days of discomfort challenge” and an extension of something I desired when I started my journey — which was to intentionally push myself beyond my comfort zone as a means for personal growth.

It’s just that somewhere along the way 1,000 days turned into 5 years (this May).

I have volumes of things I could say about this experience, and occasionally it comes out in my posts (I mostly write about what I learn from my experiences, not what I lived through to learn them), but in short, it’s been interesting, it’s been hard, and it’s been rewarding.

But, I don’t want to do it forever.

But until I stop, I continue to learn valuable things. And I share these things with people who follow me.

And I do other things on the side (photography, art…). But mostly, I try to do some good.

Thoreau went to the woods because he wished to live deliberately. I went to my car to do the same thing.

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” — Henry David Thoreau

It worked for him. It’s working for me.

And when I finally give my TED talk for real one day, some folks who don’t get it will have a bit more understanding.

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The explorer

This post picks up from my previous post:In my car“. If you like continuity, you probably want to read that post first.

Why would I continue to explore a difficult path that didn’t lead me to where I thought it would go when I started?

Because not ending up where you thought you wanted to go doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve completely failed.

And depending on what I encounter on my journey and how I use that, it may not be a failure at all.

It may just mean I’m taking the scenic route.

Others may judge me or my efforts a failure. They may suggest that I should’ve been able to do more, do it better, or be much farther along than I am.

But my life isn’t something I live to meet other people’s expectations. But I also don’t believe in not giving a damn about what people think, either.

I think completely ignoring negative feedback leaves open the possibility of missing something that may ultimately lead to self-improvement. Because negative feedback may draw your attention to something you’re blind to.

So I do listen to criticism and feedback as a tool for growth and for possible clues as to where and how I could do better. But I no longer take it personally like I once did. I no longer let criticism affect my sense of self-worth because I know it’s impossible to please everyone.

Call me an “assclown” and I will consider it. Why wouldn’t I? I’ve acted poorly before in life. I’ve made mistakes. And perhaps I’ve made another. And if I have, I want to know. Because I know I’m not perfect, I’m a work in progress. And if I’ve been an assclown without realizing it, I want to know.

I strive to do the best I can with what I have. I am not living the life of the person who judges me nor are they living mine. So I will consider criticism, but it doesn’t mean I’ll accept it.

(I’m not suggesting considering criticism is easy. It sucks. And it especially sucks when you get it from people you’re close to and care about.)

So my journey, a failure? As far as I’m concerned, as long as I’m getting something of value from my journey, in whatever form that takes, then it isn’t for nothing. And it isn’t a failure.

Because despite not getting what I thought I wanted — or having it go exactly as I had planned it — or ending up where I wanted to be on the schedule I set, I’m still living deliberately. And I’m still making use of the experience.

Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted.” — Randy Pausch

And while it may not be easy, it isn’t unwelcome.

Some of the decisions I’ve made on my journey may seem odd to others. But that makes sense. Because without knowing what I’ve tried, what I haven’t tried, what’s worked, and what hasn’t, it’s hard to know what motivated me to make those decisions.

And more so, it’s hard to know what led me to make those decisions without knowing what my values and priorities are.

If you’re not the type of person to quit your job at the height of a global financial crisis, terminate your lease, and sell or donate everything that wouldn’t fit in your car in order to propel your life in a different direction, it is safe to say our priorities are not the same.

So of course not everything I’ve done will be understood by all people. But whether they understand it completely or not, some things I’ve done make much more sense to some people than others. And the people who seem to “get it” the most are the same people who say I’ve inspired them.

So yes, my decisions are “odd” to some, but they are “inspiring” to others. I’ll take it.

One of the things I wanted when I started my journey was to push myself beyond comfort and learn from that experience.

But it’s one thing to imagine what your discomforts will be and actively work to solve problems before they happen. And it’s something else entirely when the discomfort you face isn’t the discomfort you thought you were signing up for.

That’s much more real. And it’s much more uncomfortable precisely because you didn’t anticipate it and you don’t necessarily know how to overcome it.

But it is the process of overcoming challenges and discomfort that provides the benefit of growth, strength, wisdom, and understanding.

But as much as some people may value discomfort there’s a reason most marathoners don’t run marathons every day of the year.

And sometimes I’ve thought, even that would be easier at times because you know exactly what you have to do and how far you have to go to do it.

But even if you love running, starting a run with no idea how far you have to go to finish, that’s an entirely different kind of challenge.

One last thing. I just want to point out that while I may not wish to deal with all these same challenges forever, I’m not complaining when I talk about them. I’m simply trying (_trying_) to make an aspect of my life relatable to others.

Sometimes that, too, is hard to do. People often fear and criticize what they don’t understand. (This was more of an issue when I started).

Many times I specifically talk about me, people have misinterpreted why I chose to do it.

It isn’t for sympathy. And It isn’t for attention.

It’s because I want to share part of an experience that is meaningful to me that I hope might be of value to someone else.

Even if it isn’t in a way that I imagined.

Nearly all the lessons I’ve shared over the past few years are the result of personal experiences. It isn’t that I read about something and wanted to tell you, it’s that I experienced something and wanted to share it with you.

So if you’ve ever gotten something of value from what I’ve written, so have I.

And that’s a large part of why I go on.

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In my car

In my car.

That’s where I’ve slept for nearly 5 years.

Five years.

Not a camper. Not a van. Not a tour bus. Not a hotel. Not an apartment. Not even a real bed.

An SUV full of my stuff. Sometimes with a sofa cushion. Sometimes not.

The last time I was so bold about sharing this information — which was about 1,000 days into my journey — someone scolded me by saying I just wanted attention and then suggested that because I wasn’t “forced” into it, it doesn’t count.

1,000 days of living without a bathroom, running water, or many of the things people take completely for granted and — it doesn’t count.

1,000 days of dealing with the challenges that living in your car presents (many of which people have no comprehension of), while also trying to create a new life, with no blueprint, from almost nothing — and it doesn’t count.

If I simply wanted attention, I’d spend time writing about how…

I tore my calf and ended up on crutches and how awful that was (while living in my car).

I’d write about the following three months where I was hoping to prove the urgent care doctor wrong. Because, dammit, if he was right, I was screwed for life.

I’d write about the doctor screaming (screaming!) at me when I refused his suggestion to seek treatment with a specialist. And how he threatened me with “never being able to walk properly again.”

I just didn’t buy it. I thought he was shady. I think I was right.

And I walk fine, by the way.

I’d spend more time writing about the recurring painful urinary tract/kidney infections I’ve had since I went on antibiotics last spring as a result of dental work. How much it’s messed up my system and how I sometimes wondered if perhaps I really was dying.

I would’ve written more about the bouts of food poisoning/viral infections that caused the most horrific symptoms (use your imagination) — while I didn’t even have the benefit of being able to go anywhere but the back of my car.

I’d write more about the fear that comes with waking up to someone shattering your car window and spraying you with shards of safety glass at 6 in a morning and not just gloss over it with a single post and some silly humor.

I’d also write more about the other 2 times my window was smashed this year. No less frightening. Although you learn to deal with things more effectively when they happen to you more than once.

And then I’d write about the other 5 or so times my window wasn’t smashed when people tried to find alternate ways to get in. All in the middle of the night. All while I was inside.

If the thought of having someone with ill intent try to get into your bedroom — while you’re sleeping in it — in the middle of the night sounds a little creepy to you, you’re damn right it is. It’s creepy every single time.

I’d write about not yet being over a painful shoulder injury I suffered over 3 months ago. And how sleeping in cramped quarters doesn’t help. But yes, I’m getting better.

I’d write about the dark side of humanity. The domestic abuse I’ve witnessed. The fights. The abusive father throwing his young daughter into his car by her hair. The drug deals I’ve seen go down. The pet owner abusing their dog when they thought no one was around to see or hear it.

And all the other things that people might be interested to read about, but that are all the sorts of things that make people feel kind of awful when they read them.

There’s enough of that already. It’s heavy and it’s depressing. If you want more, simply turn on the news. They’re happy to share it with you.

Bad news gets the best ratings, but it’s not my thing.

I see and experience the bad — and I write about and highlight the good. Over and over again.

If I wanted attention and sympathy, my posts would be more about me and my struggle.

They wouldn’t be mainly meant to make you laugh or smile and add value to your day. They wouldn’t be about being kind and tolerant and encouraging people.

They’d be about trying to get something from you for my own benefit.

And if I simply wanted attention, you can be damn sure I’d post more than a single photo of myself every 6 months or so.

But as I’ve said recently, I find writing about the things mentioned above to be a distraction — and not what I want my page to be about.

Yes, they are interesting stories, but they don’t belong here. They will probably be in my book if I ever feel I have a story worth telling.

But my story, if I tell it, will not be about darkness and hardships. It will be about overcoming darkness and hardships. There’s a difference.

And I haven’t even mentioned the most difficult things I’ve had to deal with.

None of those things made me feel like dying would be better than going on.

But I overcame those feelings, too. And it wasn’t easy, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone, but I’m better for it.

So yeah.

Go camping in the woods for 6 days and people will commend you for roughing it. Tell someone you’ve lived in your car for 1,000 days and “it doesn’t count” and “you just want attention”.

Camping, people understand. But living in your car as a means to conserve resources in order to chase your dreams, that is a concept so abstract to many people, that they just don’t get it.

So I stopped talking about it.

Until now.

Today, it’s been over 1,643 days that I’ve lived in my car.

Nearly five years.

And I’m still as “over it” now as I was just a few weeks in. But I’m used to it at this point. I’ve made it work. I’m good at it. People I meet have no idea. But it’s still not easy nor comfortable.

And at no point was it ever my ambition to do it for so long. But nearing 5 years now, yeah. I think I’ll aim for that. But no more than that.

I had a new life I was leaping for — when I left my job, terminated my lease, and sold everything. And this is not that life.

But I keep at it, using this journey beyond my comfort zone as an opportunity for personal growth.

I’ve used it to learn valuable lessons about everything from friends & family, relationships, possessions, jobs, love, persistence, passion, kindness, and personal strength.

And in turn, I share those lessons with others — rarely asking for anything or drawing attention to myself in anything other than a self-deprecating or humorous way.

I want to make you laugh, smile, or encourage you. I want to add value to your life because doing so also adds value to mine. It feels good to make a positive difference.

And that’s an extremely cheesy thing to say. But it’s true.

And I’m grateful for that, because it’s one of the things I originally set out to do.

And I’m grateful for my readers. And grateful for the friends I’ve made along the way.

And I will do this for as long as I am able, because I made a commitment to myself that I would never give up while I was still able to go on.

Not everyone will understand my journey because it represents a sort of obsessive stubbornness most people don’t have. It isn’t “normal”. It isn’t “practical”. And it doesn’t always seem rational to others, but it’s always rational to me.

And despite — or because of — the struggle, I still believe in what I’m doing. And I have no complaints. This has been the most fulfilling time of my life.

But it’s hard at times. Really.really.hard.

And I’ve sacrificed so much. By choice, yes. But it doesn’t make it any less difficult or any less uncomfortable. In fact, knowing you are responsible for your own situation — and taking full responsibility for it can make it even more difficult.

Because you wonder if you are, perhaps, crazy. You wonder if you’ve lost touch with the world by choosing your own path. You wonder if you made the biggest mistake of your life.

But no. I’m not crazy. I’m not out of touch. And it wasn’t a mistake.

And I stand by that. Because I see how I’ve affected people in a positive way.

And I know it doesn’t always have to be this hard. And I hope it won’t always be this hard.

Because I do not aspire to spend the rest of my days working in cafes during the day and sleeping in my car at night.

I wouldn’t mind an income based on content I’ve created. I wouldn’t mind a comfortable bed to sleep in. I wouldn’t mind having a few nice things. I wouldn’t mind being in a relationship with someone I can’t stop thinking about.

But I’m not there yet. And I’m not entirely sure how to get there. But I do know, it’ll take me a lot longer to get there without your help, than it would if I had it.

Thank you.

RE: The follow-up to this post is: The explorer

Afterthought:

Don’t mistake someone’s willingness to show vulnerability as weakness. They’re not the same thing.

It takes a great deal of courage to show vulnerability. And that takes strength.

“Have you ever thought about?”

There is a TON I could do and would do — with the resources to do it. But it’s a lot harder to do it completely on my own.

I’d love to talk with people. Teach people. Meet with people. Share experiences. And would go anywhere in the world to do it. But I need resources or enough people (or a company) to believe in me enough to help support (or sponsor) me to do it.

I don’t like asking people for things. But I will say that I could use your help if you are the type of person who wants to give it.

And if you want to help, but don’t know how, just ask.

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