The Monster

My byline sat atop every story I wrote for the past two-and-a-half years but with each edition I slowly lost a part of myself.

The reporter was stealing my life. There was a monster inside of me, in my mind, always lurking above, below the surface. I was afraid that if I didn’t kill it, it would kill me first. [REDACTED] stopped being a reporter so I could live. By the way, who am I?


There was a day that [REDACTED] couldn’t go to work. He couldn’t be a reporter that day. He couldn’t stop thinking about suicide. He was trapped in his bed, filled with anxiety and depression and fear and guilt and so many emotions that ended in hopelessness. He didn’t want to go back to the newsroom that another called suffocating or that courthouse where poverty, mental illness, substance addiction and overwhelming sadness are always present. I imagined what it would be like for my Mom and Dad to travel to Colorado from Virginia and walk into the duplex where their son died. I told my Editor I couldn’t go to work that day.

[REDACTED] stopped caring about covering these fucking redneck assholes who can’t seem to understand the concept of returning a damn phone call. They all love their guns and spreading fear more than they care about living. There is a victim mentality, a sense of entitlement, in rural, white America.

This is our land. We’ve been here for four generations. If you don’t like how we do things, then leave.

And we leave our shotgun shells and beer bottles whereever we damn please.

Excuse me, sir, but the land itself has been here for many, many more generations. What even is a generation to nature? You do not own it. You have no claim. Your rights do not exist. You follow the law of man but you seem to have forgotten the laws of nature, my friend, and what about the Natives? Or the Anasazi? The ruins are right over there, but, I am sorry, you have been grazing and homesteading this land for the past four generations. I should step out of your way. Sorry. I don’t belong in the world you stole.

Hey, [REDACTED], stop thinking that way.

I want to get back to that feeling of standing in the kitchen of my childhood home knowing I would never step foot in that house again, as my Dad kicked me out and was going to sell it, and that I might go to Australia. A beam of energy surged through me —  as I thought about the possibilities of life — from my feet to the crown of my head. I want to find that feeling, harness it. Untethered freedom.

That feeling of sitting in the dirt on the side of the rough, two-lane road beneath the Southern Alps with my thumb out, heading further south further south further south more south than I have ever been. Back then, I was on the spiritual path. I was trying to figure out who I am, but I lost all sense when I became a reporter in chains.

For the first time in two-and-a-half years, I feel like I am back on track. Me. Not [REDACTED].

Page views is all that matters here. Shock and awe. Death and disaster. Chaos. Staff cuts. Newsroom consolidation. Parent company sold. Publisher fired. Editor quits. HR rep quits. Reporter quit. Everyone quits. Downsize. Misery. Two papers. Two-and-a-half years. The train never stops so you better keep up.

Car crash on the bridge, fatal, run past cars parked on the highway. Take a picture, not knowing someone died in that classic yellow pickup. Call sheriff. Call fire chief. Call state patrol, fatal, he said. House fire, fatal, interview the man who just lost his partner, burned. Take a picture. Call sheriff. Call fire chief. She died and you interviewed a man who just lost everything except his dog.

Do you hear that siren? It’s snowing. Turn on your police scanner app. Dispatch just said what mile marker the semi vs. subaru crash is at so you better get your jacket and and grab your camera and start driving. Is was fatal, later, after a coma. I didn’t follow up.

Drive to three car crashes in one day and send your photos and info to the Editor on his day off, but he never takes a day off. Chaos. Protect yourself. Don’t get sued. Don’t get in a car crash. You should just stay in your house where it’s safe and you can smoke weed and perseverate about your stories.

It’s dark in the newsroom when you come back from the last crash and the Editor is sequestered in his office. I’m on two hours of overtime now, so I shouldn’t work anymore. I gave him everything but the story isn’t up. I can tell he is sad, maybe frustrated, definitely lonely, when I leave. He is alone with his newspaper. I felt guilty, leaving him there with the car crash and Facebook.

Now I’ve completely abandoned him. [REDACTED] had to do it so I could live. I’m sorry.

My first day as a housekeeper at the Holiday Inn Express by the National Park was unusual.

Me and Patrice — who commutes one hour from the reservation in Utah for a job that pays Colorado state minimum wage for five or six hours a day — were supposed to watch Cory, the veteran, clean the fuck out of a hotel room like she has done for 20 years, but Maintenance was going to turn off the water in an hour so we had to clean all the bathrooms first. I didn’t really get the whole picture of how to clean a room. It’s not rocket appliances, though.

Yeah, definitely a metaphor.

I quit being a reporter on a Friday, had a job interview at the hotel on Saturday and started cleaning on Monday. I have worked in hotels and resorts before, in food and beverage, but they were all in Australia so now I constantly fight the urge to call everyone mate and say, “How ya goin?”

The work isn’t bad but it gets stressful when your cart wasn’t refilled the day before and Laundry hasn’t restocked the storage room. It’s not bad if you’re assigned to the first floor, but when you’re on the far side of the third floor and have to briskly walk across the entire hotel to find a queen firm pillow case and you’re supposed to clean a room in 25 minutes, the stress can build. Breathe.

Today, the first day of week two, went swimmingly. Everything was in its right place. Rooms not too messy. Satisfaction. Clock out and there is no monster lurking because I killed it. I’m still lonely though. It’s hard to meet people out here in this isolated town — especially if you never try. Change that, please.

I have now returned to the spiritual path and I already remember what I began to learn in New Zealand. I have time now for it and space in my mind, now that I’ve killed the monster.

They, the unnamed spirits, have already reminded me that if I ask for help, they are there. If I slow down, if I listen, if I am willing to accept spiritual knowledge, they will provide it. They provide happiness, affirmation that you and now are all you need.

Go for a walk, clear your mind, they will drift in.

How the fuck did I end up in southwest Colorado?

I started reading a book called “Meditation,” by Eknath Easwaran. He told me to wake up early and don’t be rushed. He told me working constantly, eating unhealthy foods, smoking cigarettes and giving your body little to no exercise is a recipe for a heart attack, which is something I am concerned might happen to the Editor.

Easwaran told me that the first stage of meditation is to realize that you are not the body. The second step is to realize you are not the mind. So what are you then? That’s the third step. Figuring that part out. I don’t know where it leads.

I am starting down a long path that I believe will help me control my mind, control my emotions, manage my stress, manage my depression so that [REDACTED] can someday be a reporter again. Journalism needs me, at least that’s what a reader told me once.

My therapist said today that he is excited for me. I am excited too. I don’t think I’m crazy.

I jumped off the train that never stops. Journalism is grueling, toilsome work with pay that doesn’t match the emotional damage and mental stress. You finish a story that took several days, hours and then all you hear is negativity. Nothing changes. Your story doesn’t matter. And tomorrow you have to find something new to write about that won’t matter.

You never hear from the print readers who genuinely appreciate your work. Reporters only hear the anger and hatred. They are forced to live in it.

[REDACTED] had to stop being a reporter so that I could live. The spirits have told me that [REDACTED] is a powerful creator, but I need to work on myself before he can save the world, save humanity from itself. 

Yes, the stakes are that high.



I wish we didnt have so many screens. Or any screens. I think its making everyone depressed. Or maybe its just me. I want to go back to the forest. To sleep under the pines and feel the wind pass over my face. Now its all walls and ceilings. They are meant to keep us in. To separate civility from chaos. It makes us forget what we are. Be wary of the illusion. The ducks play in the water all day because they can.


Not Even Worth A Title

I should chill on this wine, I haven’t been drunk since I moved to Utah. It’s new year’s eve and I’m alone just like I was alone on Thanksgiving and Christmas. And I will be alone on my birthday in 22 days. It’s OK. Last year on Christmas I was at a pool party at a hostel in New Zealand and on new year’s eve I was at a friend’s wedding in Australia. Now I’m here. Listening to Childish Gambino’s new album. James Franco is the white Donald Glover don’t you ever forget. He said he just makes everything for everyone. That has stuck with me. I just write shit and see what happens. God damn he is so creative. Best TV show of the year, great music and he’s going to be fucking Lando. No one can just be one thing these days. You have to be a powerful creator. Powerful creators can do anything and everything. It’s something inside your bones that radiates electricity. I remember the last time I felt electricity. I was with the one I pine over and it was years ago. She was right though she saw the future and I have no control.

I am just a breathe.

That’s what yoga has taught me. I am just a breathe. My legs are different lengths and nothing is perfect I have a scar on my back from the same cancer that took the Singer. When I walked into the surgeon’s officer he said, melanoma, that’s what the Singer died of. Did he know that I sing his songs or did he just assume since I have long hair and a beard? Some things just can’t be explained. I just wonder sometimes if this is all a game and things are thrown at me, no they are thrown at everyone but most people don’t listen. They are distracted, busy dealing with what is placed in front of them. I found this notebook full of drawings when I worked at the recycling plant. I don’t understand how people can throw away such meaningful, inspired pieces of art. Some artists just create and create and create and then their final work of art is to throw it all away. But I found it and they have no idea. They don’t know that everything people throw in the recycling bin floats by on a conveyor belt and humans watch it and some let if float by but sometimes these humans feel something. Cardboard, newspaper, plastic bottles, a lawnmower, and then a beautiful work of art. How did that get there? Why did someone throw this away?

The book is full of cathartic sketches. The one I can’t stop thinking about says: “a fox contemplates the skull of his dead mother in his den. he resents death and is trying to justify to himself his existence as a meat eating creature.”

Someone threw this away.

Why am I here? I don’t eat meat anymore but I still consume. I have to consume. I have to bend otherwise I would break. I don’t want any of this. I am surrounded by humans who ignore the truth. They don’t think about what I know. They didn’t sit under the mountains in New Zealand for hours just staring into the eyes of the world. They didn’t grab the calves and throw them into the trailer an hour after they were born. They didn’t hear their mother’s screams. I’m sorry. I’ms ororry. I;msorry. I didn know. I didnlt kmnownijsdfjf HOw can I eve be forgiven for thes etransgressions. This is the way I was raised and no one told me what it was I just consumed. I;m sorry. WE are the same. I would graldy give myself for your life. I am sorry. Esther forgive me. They don;’t know. They don;’t knoe waht I feel inside. They didn’t hitch hike up and down and up and down the south island and they never talked to the people I talked to and they never stood on the street with a backpack and a guitar and they never stuck out their thumb and waited. Just waited. In the rain. I just waited and then a sweet little old lady picked me up and she said she just lieks driving. I love you. I love everyone. I love you all. Hitch hiking gives you so much overwhelming love. SO many strangers that touched me and I know I touched them. Thanky you all. It’s 9:59 it’s almost a new year in Virginia where all of my family lives. Happy new year.

There’s a good chance the world as we know it will end in 2017. I am a journalist how do I inform the public of our wrongs? I can’t. It’s a losing game. The Earth will always win. Let your climate anxiety go the Earth will be fine. Everything will be fine. Animals, humans will die off, never to be seen again. But the past 100 years is a blink of an eye. The Earth is strong. The Earth will prevail. Us? These human bodies that we occupy? ha. hahah. Yoga has begun to teach me. I know nothing, I am nothing. But I am on the right path. Yes, I know that. I am sure of that. It takes years and years and years and life times and life times but eventually a human can come face to face with god. A human can become god with enough patience. It takes time. I am nothing. I am nothing. I am just a breathe. My guru is tough. She pushes me and I don’t even know if she knows. But I know.

My aunt wrote me a Christmas card and said she hopes I find true happiness in 2017. That was the best Christmas present I received. I grew up with a living room full of things on dec. 25. So many things that I didn’t even really want or need. I mean I wanted them at the time. But that was before I was me. I didn’t know we are in a crisis. How can I justify my existence now? I need a new laptop I  need new gloves and I need new boots but do I really? The harddrive is dead and it’s not working right now and my fingers and my feet were freezing this morning when I woke up at 5:30 to ride along on a snowmobile with a cross country ski trail groomer and I saw the stars twinkle above and the foot of snow sparkled below and he yelled back at me telling me facts about skiing. The wind was whipping and biting my fingers and legs and all I have is the 30 dollar steel toe boots I bought for working at the recycling plant. But do I NEED anything? Hitch hiking taught me that everything will be OK as long as I’m not going to die. It taught me to wait in the rain because eventually someone would see me and accept the quest that I presented. I am a quest. I didn’t need anything. I gave away the clothes that I spent 100sand100s of dollars on because I was rich with Australian bartending money. I had so much money from Australia and then New Zealand taught me that I don’t need anything. I bought so much shit from Kathmandu and then I gave it all away. I was buying life lessons. If I had never left the cave I would never be sitting here in a Mormon’s living room writing these words on new year’s eve, alone. But that cave was so comfortable. I never knew that an entire world existed outside of that cave. We should have never left that cave.

But it is selfish to stay in the cave. And it is selfish to reproduce in multiples of threee. I want to reproduce too but you guys are clogging up the world with all of your babies. Please, stop. Every organism wants to carry on their genes, but not when we are in a global crisis. And, no, I won’t write run on sentences, thank you very much even if you expect that since I am drinking wine and I have a very low tolerance. I have style, OK? I refuse to be predictable. But maybe you already knew I would do this. WTF.

Wine is a high functioning drink for me. Beer makes me annoying. Liquor makes me blackout and do dumb shit. But wine, wine gives me a clear head. At least I think it does when I drink wine. I wish I had some friends around here. But I chose this fate and I write things in the newspaper everyday and writing about people makes it hard to make friends. I have a coffee date with a 29-year-old single mom next week. Tinder is fucking lame.

OK, you’re losing steam here, buddy. Find where you were. I wasn’t anywhere, man. There is no point to this. You were watching King Ragnar Lothbrok drink wine with King Ecbert and speaking in kings’ riddles and you were drinking wine with them and laughing and jesting and enjoying the company of two old friends and then King Aella killed Ragnar.

God damn I fucking hate how Macs had to make everything different from PCs.

Past, Present, Future

Two years ago I studied abroad in Ireland for six weeks to finish my remaining two university courses. I wrote the following reflection paper on my last day:

July 23, 2013

Dublin, Ireland 

This is the first time in my life where nothing is planned for me. My future is a blank canvas. The thought excites me. I honestly have no clue where I’ll be in two weeks or two months or two years. I don’t know what to expect or what will happen or where I will work or what I will do. My life is mine to be molded. I’m ready to find out what I want to do.

I’ve always thought I would get a job in the D.C. area and eventually move out of [REDACTED] when I have enough money, but I don’t have to limit myself to that. Ireland has opened my eyes to the world. There are so many opportunities to consider. I’m willing to try anything and everything. Maybe I’ll look into seasonal employment or some kind of work experience abroad. I just don’t think I’m ready for a 9-5 for the rest of my life.       

Ireland has renewed my love for nature. My favorite times on this trip were spent wandering through fields and mountains with cows and sheep. I want to hike part of the Appalachian Trail as soon as possible. I don’t need much to be happy. I’m a simple man. Hopefully I will find something to do that satisfies that desire to be outside.

Getting lost in Connemara. July 10, 2013.

Even if I do end up working and living in the D.C. bubble, I will definitely still want to travel. I’ve realized that traveling can be easy and affordable, if you know what you’re doing. Nothing is stopping me from going wherever I want. Well, maybe money, work, bills and commitments. But that hasn’t hit me yet. I’m still a college student for one more day.

When I walked out of my last final exam in May, I felt a strange sensation. Of course I was happy that I was done with finals week, but I felt empty. I wanted to keep learning. My time in Ireland has made me realize that learning out of the classroom is just as important as formalized college classes. Traveling through Ireland has taught me how other people live. I’ve learned more than history books could ever teach me.

Ireland has been everything I needed it to be. I wanted to travel and find adventure, and I needed a break before I start working. Now that it’s over, I’m looking forward to finding my place in this world. I’m ready for the next chapter.

Past [REDACTED] certainly was bright-eyed and optimistic, Present [REDACTED] thinks, looking back on the past two years. I was completely broke when I started working on Terry McAuliffe’s campaign for Governor of Virginia — earning a monthly salary which amounted to less than minimum wage — a few weeks after I left Ireland. For the next 11 months I became entrenched in job applications, failed interviews, unpaid internships, temp jobs, suits, ties and endless commutes around Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C. I was too lost in trying to save enough money to move out of my old man’s house to even think about traveling.

As months went by my resume and job experience grew stronger. I was getting used to the formulaic interview questions and was firing off answers from the hip. I walked out of every interview feeling like they would be crazy not to hire me, but as the rejections started crowding my inbox I thought they must be going for candidates with a stronger personality or better qualifications.

My spreadsheet filling, key-word searching temp job at the Bipartisan Policy Center was set to end on Friday, May 30, 2014. My Dad, with the new Step Mother, told me he was kicking me out of the house on June 1, 2014.

I had been Facebook messaging my long-time friend, [REDACTED], who was living in Alice Springs, Australia. His Dad got a job at Pine Gap, the super secret satellite tracking station in the middle of the desert, and relocated there about three years back. [REDACTED]moved there in January 2014 to get away from some legal trouble in the states and found a bar tending job at the casino hotel resort.

May 13, 2014

[REDACTED] : my new boss is Scottish and tonight was his first night and he got so drunk he had to be carried to his hotel room by security lol he is like 50

Me: is he like craig ferguson? cause hes a really funny Scottish man and that who Im picturing

[REDACTED] : actually he looks quite like him it was just funny to watch this guy it was his second night in alce first night working and he got fucking trashed with all of us the F&B workers plus i got to hook up with this french chick which was dope lol

Me: hahaha thats awesome congratulations on that. im jealous man it sounds like youre having a good time. im getting kicked out of my house at the end of the month.

[REDACTED] : wtf?!? r u serious

Me: yea I dont fit in with andrea’s ideal life

The Step Mother was constantly complaining me slamming the front door and the kitchen cabinets. I never noticed I was doing it and it wasn’t on purpose. She sat up in her jewelry studio and said she was startled whenever I left the house or made some food. One night I was watching a TV show in my room. As she was going to sleep she told me to turn it down, a very reasonable request. I was in the process of getting out of bed to lower the volume when she naggingly told me to turn it down again. I walked out of my room and slammed the door as loud and hard as I could. She did not approve of my flagrant act of rebellion. I was so frustrated with her constantly asking me and my family to change. Why can’t she change? It was clear we could not continue living in the same house.

May 30, 2014

Me: so ive had 5 job interviews in the past 2.5 weeks. i got 2 rejections yesterday and im like 95% sure im gonna get rejected from 2 others. so now i have one possible job that i have a chance of getting an offer from. so im pretty much fucked. how is it in australia? easy to find a job?

[REDACTED] : man two days and y can find a job

Me: really?

[REDACTED] : really and 22 dollars an hour

Me: do you need a visa or some shit?I think they are going to kick me out this weekend so im trying to think of my options and going to Australia seems like a pretty good option.

[REDACTED] : yes u need a visa i got a work and holiday visa it took me like three days to get it it wasn’t hard but ye man really consider it we could get a place some jobs and we could just see the world money is great here jobs are everywhere its paradise

Over the next week I was offered a second interview for Communications Assistant with Chesapeake Public Strategies, and first interviews for Assistant Press Secretary at NextGen Climate and Communications Assistant position with American Farm Bureau Federation. I declined. I was so close. I gave up. I was sleeping on my college buddies’ couch with no job, no car, no savings.

June 3, 2014

Me: ok so ive been homeless for a few days and Ive talked to kerri and my mom about going to australia and they both said they dont want me to go and i was hoping my mom would pay for my plane ticket and i dont think shes willing to do that. i think im going to stay here and apply for jobs and work at my moms house shes gonna pay me to help with her kitchen and other jobs around her house and ill do that for a week or so and i really want to do a trip on the AT like a ten day hike or something. sorry man but i dont think australia is in the cards for me. if i wasnt dating kerri and if i had more money it would be a no brainer though.

[REDACTED] : mannn no worries just know uf u come over here things would be dope man but do whatcha gotta do bro but it was funny tonight… wait so i fucked this tiny lil asian chick pretty cute but today i found out she has a girlfriend and literally today a gir came up to me and told me back off her woman it was one of the most backwards things i have ever experienced

Australia felt like too much of a stretch. I couldn’t leave my girlfriend who, I thought, was O.K. with our current arrangement. She was, is, a nurse and she was, maybe still is, living an hour away. Sometimes our work schedules overlapped and we couldn’t see each other for a week or two. We didn’t communicate well. Our personalities were too similar. Opposites attract.

Deep down I knew it was inevitable. That it wouldn’t work. One night she called me and we talked and cried and expressed what we had repressed for so long and at the end of the conversation I asked, “Did we just break up?”

“I think so.”

June 7, 2014

Me: I’m coming to Australia. Kerri and I just broke up so I have nothing here for me.

June 9, 2014

Me: i dont know what the fuck im doing man this has been the craziest week of my life. i just want to get out of here for as long as possible

[REDACTED] : man i get what u are saying before i came over my life was going fucking insane an honestly this place has given me an incredible amount of self worth and purpose plus i got to get away from the most fucked up situation in my life. to me this place is an eden man its perfect i get that u don’t really know what is good for u but this place…. its perfect if u focus urself on coming over here it will be rewarding in more ways than u can count i promise

I felt so lost at this point. [REDACTED] was my best friend and he told me he found paradise. I would be crazy not to trust him. Reading back on our conversation I realize that everything he said was right. Alice Springs is good for the soul. Especially for someone who was content with spending a total of three hours and $15 a day to catch the bus to the train to arrive at an unpaid internship for a United States Congressman. Life is easy in Alice Springs. The arid heat, the diverse travelers, the hardened locals, the misunderstood Aboriginals. Transplant anyone, from anywhere, there for a year and they will grow into a better, more complete person.

I realize now that being forced out of my childhood home — the most difficult decision a parent can make — was the best thing my dad has ever done for me. He gave me a beautiful gift: Freedom.I remember walking through the kitchen checking for any leftover possessions. The kitchen where years ago my Father, Mother, older Brother, baby Sister and I recorded a home video of a peaceful Saturday morning making scrambled eggs and bacon with smiling faces and laughter. I will never be with family like that until I have my own wife, children, house, scrambled eggs and bacon.

I stood in that kitchen for the last time and thought about the far off possibility of going to Australia. I felt an incredible wave of euphoria pass over me. The Past [REDACTED] on his last day in Ireland knew exactly what Future [REDACTED] would want. Now the Present [REDACTED] is in New Zealand wandering fields with cows and sheep still thinking the same thing: Where will I be in two weeks or two months or two years?