Left of East- An Introduction

new life-450In the summer of 2014, I embarked on a solo backpacking adventure across Northern Michigan.

With no one to talk to along the way, my journal became a powerful and necessary companion. I wrote journal nearly every day, sometimes many times a day, to capture the events and insights of my time on the trail or to just offload the thoughts from my brain so I could move on. One year later, I reworked those entries as a way to remind myself of that powerful, transformational journey and to share the experience with others. This trip was about taking charge of my life by changing myself rather than my circumstances. It was about making life happen instead of letting it happen to me. It was about independence, exploration, recovery, healing, reconnecting and redefining.

For months before this trip, I lived with an underlying vague notion that I needed to do something, but I wasn’t sure what it would be. I desperately needed to recalibrate my life after a particularly difficult year, disrupted by an emotionally traumatic divorce and a physically traumatic car accident. More than anything, I was trying to force myself to recover from many years fighting an eating disorder. After years of trying every conventional method Western Medicine had to offer, I sought out the oldest form of therapy in the world– time alone in nature.

Due to my bare-minimum research and preparation, I had a very few preconceived notions about what this trip would be like, but I had a long list of goals for how it would change, improve, even “fix” me. Of course, the trip absolutely defied those expectations in ways both wonderful and humbling.

Left of East means so many things. it’s the life I left behind on the east coast, it’s the left-handed alternative course of life, its the left-hand shape of Michigan’s upper peninsula on the map and it’s a 90 degree turn to the left from the East: North.

To anyone who has a clear vision for what they want to be but don’t know how to get there, to anyone who struggles to unearth the purity beneath the endless distractions of daily life, to anyone who has been so desperate to change that they wiped the slate clean and started over, to anyone who wanted to but couldn’t for whatever reason, to anyone who has chosen a life of purpose over comfort, I am writing this to you. I am very grateful to anyone who takes the time to revisit my experiences over those many miles and innumerable steps with me.

Next Entry: Day 1-Sutton’s Bay to Traverse City

This is the first entry in the series.

One Cry Fix All


My submission to The Moth Detroit StorySLAM topic: “Blood Sweat and Tears”

When you go through a difficult time in your life, your body naturally deals with it by going into shock. This is a beautiful response because it allows you to go on with your life and get through every day when you’re not quite ready to deal with the emotional and physical trauma of what’s happened to you. The downside, though, is that you don’t actually process those feelings. Sooner or later, you will have to deal with them.

Last year I was coming out of the hardest time of my life and it became very clear to me that the ancient protective shield of “shock” had happened to me. Basically I was pretty messed up and it was time to deal with it. I figured I could either spend a bunch of money on therapy or do something awesome- and that is how I found myself quitting my job, leaving New York City and backpacking across Northern Michigan by myself. Continue reading “One Cry Fix All”



The mathematical symbol for change is a neat little triangle Δ. I can remember drawing it on my notebook with a pencil and wondering why my pencil ended up back where it started. That pretty shape is little more than shorthand for futility, like a dog chasing its tail. There has to be something better.

And yet, I have to admit that the clean little package contains an uncomfortable reminder that most attempts to change actually don’t result in much of anything new at all. How many times does a person have to quit something before they actually quit it? For every last cigarette, every for-real-this-time break-up, every “give it over to god”, there are 500 re-runs of the old bad habits. The cold truth is that most attempts to change revert back to uncomfortably familiar territory. Continue reading “CH@NGE”

Light on Blight

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I grew up in a sweet, serene, safe community: a bastion of purity in small-town Michigan. We had no world-class issues. The police blotter in the local paper was comedically innocent: “raccoon topples garbage can,” “local man double-parks van.” But not too far away, trouble loomed large. Detroit, with its towering tombs was a shame to our state, replete with evidence of poverty, racial conflict, failure. We could not be proud of it so we pretended it did not exist. We could not fix it and so we ignored it.

But it turns out, problems do not solve themselves. Untended, a cancer grows, and a city cannot be surgically removed. Most with the option to do so have retreated and put up a nice tall fence.They take comfort in a combined dosage of nostalgia and finger-pointing- “there’s nothing we could do.” Yet there is a growing coalition of loyalists and adventurers with the temerity to return to that place we have long since disowned. Our denial can only continue for so long.

Not unlike my home state, I have a parts of myself I would rather not face. A rough, unpolished side that, for years, I tried to hide, wish away, bury. The greater heights I reached in my career, in my personal life, the harder it became to face the grit below. But that is part of me too goddammit, and it remains.

With these thoughts in mind, I have taken my imperfect self to this imperfect place, the city of Detroit. I will face and embrace those unpolished edges which I tried so valiantly, so vainly to avoid. New York is a skyscraper, unwilling to face it’s flaws because they seem so far away from such haughty heights. New York is denial. Detroit is a smokestack, honest and brash in the face of faults so evident no one can pretend they don’t exist. Detroit is acceptance.

Detroit and I, we are flawed but full of potential. I cannot take back those years of neglect, but I can try now to make amends. I will shed light on those dark corners, long ago left behind, discovering the truth they’ve waited so long to share.

With my faults I can never be perfect, but without them I can never be whole.

On Solitude

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People, like deer and celebrities, tend to cluster amongst themselves. Anytime you should encounter a sitcom star, be still! Lower your gaze. Chances are good that his Emmy-winning girlfriend and the whole supporting cast will come trundling after. Continue reading “On Solitude”