The Jungle

2022 was one helluva year, to say the least. A lot of incredible things happened in my life, as well as some things that were less-than incredible. Looking back at the year, I think it was one of the most pivotal and important years I’ve had as a hue-man being. In a lot of ways, it felt like a ‘growth spurt’ for my life.

When I was a teenager, I remember having the biggest growth spurt of my life. I was stuck in bed for days with excruciating back pain. By the time I got out of bed, I had grown several inches. In similar fashion, I grew dramatically in 2022 despite many moments that felt as painful as my teenage back.

In the fall of 2022, I moved back to the United States after living for a year in Tulum, Mexico. I can’t say the move was an easy or pleasant experience, as it felt like I was packing up a significant chapter of my life in exchange for one that was far more difficult; transitioning from single world-traveler that answered to nobody, to convert to life as a Dad where great measures of responsibility were required.

That was probably the hardest transition I’ve made in my entire life, because every aspect of my life changed. Change, in this case, meant growth and responsibility. Just like a toddler learns to use a toilet and say goodbye to diapers, I had to learn how to stop making ‘messes’ and embrace a different lifestyle that was more predictable, repeatable and sustainable.

As a solo gun, I often felt unsupported in my journey. Client work always fell on my shoulders and required a 1:1 effort in order to get jobs completed. For a time, I considered building a larger agency team and managing it from the top. I quickly realized that managing people comes with similar complications as managing my own workload – and still required a significant time investment.

As a Dad, I was determined to find the right balance where I could maintain a comfortable lifestyle while also spending as much time as possible with Atlas. As a result, I recruited a small team to work alongside me that helped me take on projects and deliver them in a timely manner to my clients, while reducing my own work hours to a part-time basis.

At the time, I felt like I was taking a gamble by bringing on a team. Payroll wasn’t always easy to make, and I often found myself the last mouth to feed during the process. Yet, that gamble paid off and 2022 was the year that Tripleskinny finally managed to live and breathe of its own accord, freeing me to do what I do best; consult with clients, lead design projects and map out solutions that met their needs – and budget.

I reflect a lot on this experience because it’s one of the ways I feel I’ve improved the most in the last year, because its required me to manage my time, delegate and scope out projects in a way that ensures a win-win for all parties involved.

Freeing my time also allowed me to pick up new interests and hobbies that existed outside of the home office, namely playing guitar and creating new artwork.

Last December, I bought my first electric guitar; an Ibanez Gio. I had absolutely no idea what I was doing, but I was determined to learn how to play like the guitar greats; Slash, Nita Strauss, and John5. I didn’t just want to play guitar, I wanted to develop a relationship with it.

In the bible, there’s a phrase that says “line upon line, precept upon precept”…and I begun to understand this wisdom as I learned to play.

It’s taken me one year to learn how to play the introduction to ‘Welcome to the Jungle’ in a fairly mediocre way. One year of playing the riff over and over again until I thought I never wanted to hear it again – then, I’d play it some more.

That repetition taught me something important; you can’t shortcut excellence. You can’t simply hack together something great and expect the outcome to be anywhere near mastery. 2, 0, 4, 0, 2, 0, 4, 0….

Playing guitar, I learned a lot about my own life. Some things take time, and the only way to put them together is to do it one piece at a time.

When I moved back to the states, I didn’t have the luxury of time to put things together in an ordered way, and I felt like I landed back with the grace of a crash landing. I moved back in suitcases and quickly needed to get the basic elements of my life together so that I could be a competent Dad for Atlas; home, car, tools to work and all of the needs for his provision.

Looking back, I don’t know how it all came together. Perhaps it wasn’t as graceful as I would have liked, but I managed to get on my feet, buy the safest car money could buy (My beloved Volvo Xc90) and continue to deliver great work for clients.

Throughout the process, there was one thing I had to pay attention to; my own wellness and mental health. I think that’s where guitar really helped me the most, because it gave me a healthy outlet to unplug during moments I felt overwhelmed, and gave me brief moments of respite in a turbulent time.

When people lose a loved one, they’re often expected to perform a variety of duties that are themselves a full-time job; estate planning, funeral preparation, processing grief and figuring out the ‘new normal’ of living their life after their loved one passed away. Oftentimes, these responsibilities are superimposed over ‘normal’ life – work, family and day-to-day obligations of being a human being.

I didn’t bury anybody last year, but I did have to pick up the shovel and dig a grave for the family life I hoped I would experience. I became a Dad, but I wasn’t expecting to be a single Dad and split custody of Atlas, which has caused me more pain and suffering than I know how to write.

It’s hard to be a parent. It’s even more difficult to be a single parent and not know where to turn for help during moments I need them. I had to quickly learn how to manage and care for him. There were many moments where I cried out to God because I didn’t know who else to turn to. Those prayers never went unanswered, though I didn’t always ‘like’ the response I got, which oftentimes reminded me to be patient and to grow from the process.

There are a lot of shortcuts you can take as a parent. One of them involves sticking your kid in front of a screen and letting the characters on the screen raise your child instead of you. In September, I decided to turn off the screen permanently for Atlas and instead take the time to give him my undivided attention and care.

That bet paid off instantly, as I immediately noticed an improvement in his behavior and overall temperament. Instead of the screen, I introduced Atlas to musical instruments, outdoor activities, gymnastics class and a whole bookshelf of incredible books that he now loves reading with me. We get to grow together – and it is incredible to watch him develop. He could barely sit through one book when he was exposed to screens – now, he and I read an entire stack of them.

I don’t know where 2023 will lead. I truly don’t. However, I feel as if my life is turning around and taking noticeable steps forward in all elements of my life. I feel like a more complete human being, badass Dad, business owner and artist.

Here’s to the year ahead.


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