Hello, my name is Zev. I’m a writer and world traveler. Originally from Northern Michigan, I have lived and taught in Perth, Australia, Gyeongju, South Korea. and Jazan, Saudi Arabia. My debut novel The New Punk is available on Amazon. You can catch me on the road, wherever life takes me.
Shedding old skin can be hard. All births are painful and messy. The new, in its excitement at being born, tears and rips and cares less for what came before, while the old holds tight, clinging to familiar ground. Dylan said it best: he not busy being born is busy dying.
I often find myself stuck in the middle. Not entirely the old person and not yet the new. Feeling the pull of both future and past. Unsure of myself, I feel lost, confused, and lonely. In a lot of ways, I am like water. One moment hot, the next cold. High, low. Sinking, floating. Heavy, light. A single, solitary drop, yet part of an entire body, a whole ocean. Liquid. Solid. Gas. A shapeless being, taking form and filling into whatever environment I currently find myself in, constantly shifting and changing yet under the illusion of being in only one place.
With a little over 24 hours in Singapore, I had only one goal in mind: follow in the footsteps of Anthony Bourdain and try some of the same culinary dishes from his show Parts Unknown—a trip I had planned months before his death.
His untimely passing shook me for strictly selfish reasons. I was sad because I knew I’d never get the chance to meet him in person or share a burger and drink at my favorite hometown dive or have a roundabout conversation about life. It hit home because it was yet another artist who had lost their battle with the abyss; a struggle I’m all too familiar with. But unlike most, I don’t have a negative connotation when it comes to suicide. I see at as a way of going out on your own terms. When you’re ready, you’re ready. Neil said it best, “better to burn out than fade away.” Read More
Sometimes you have to venture and see yourself with the stars regardless of gravity or the obstacles along the way or whether or not you’ll ever get there because it’s not the getting there that counts, but rather the being there, in the moment along the way. The journey has all the plot points and action, but it is the lull—those moments of stillness and unexpected silences—where most of life’s intricacies are revealed and we find that most sought after inner peace.
I am often torn between the stillness of the present and the thrill of movement, but when there is no going and only being, it’s easy to take in the endless barrage of motions swirling around me and to be content with having no other place to be. It is in these quiet moments that I feel somewhat invincible, while at other times I feel that at any given moment I could shatter and splinter into a gazillion pieces. Life both moves and destroys me. Inspires and frightens. Uplifts and flattens. Exalts and humbles. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Earlier this year, I quit one of the most toxic work environments I have ever experienced and I can tell you firsthand, there’s nothing more liberating than walking away from something that no longer brings a sense of meaning or joy to your life. When you stop going through the motions, you start becoming the motion. Your life picks up speed, builds momentum.
Often, we have a long-distance relationship with ourselves and the only way to bring us back to our true inner selves is to disturb the universe and listen to that voice that screams for you to quit that passionless job, leave that unfulfilling partner, and risk everything for the sake of feeling alive again.
True freedom is living your personal truth. Doing the path that is right, not the one that’s convenient. We tend to forget we are in control of our own lives and come up with a thousand different excuses to hold ourselves back. The timing isn’t right. Don’t have the money. What if I fail? Well, what if you don’t? If you’re a lion, then be a lion and roar.
There is something about the unknown that is both thrilling and terrifying. As a child, I longed for the familiarity of home, and dreaded change, that great disrupter. Slight changes—new scenery, staying the night at a friend’s house, or an impromptu adventure—were always welcome, but lasting change, one hinting at forever or no turning back, was the monster sleeping beneath my bed at night. Divorce. Death. Moving. Growing up. Those fears were real and far more frightening than any scary movie.
As I’ve grown older, I find it easier to embrace change. Experience breeds confidence. But even now, whenever I embark on a new journey, I still feel a sense of my old childhood fears. What am I doing? How will this turn out? Taking the first step into the unknown is always wobbly at best and all you can ever hope for is that no matter how old you are or where you end up in life, you’ll always be willing to take the path closest to your heart, not the one closest to comfort.
That you will dare. Get back up from your failures and defeats and endure. That, when faced with unfamiliar crossroads and no easy direction, you’ll step out of the ordinary and discover something new about yourself. And when you stand atop that beautiful mountain you once feared climbing, you’ll look back and think to yourself, what was all the fuss about?
Instead of age, I have a new way of measuring my time on this earth. Countries visited. In that regard, I turned one with Canada. Started Kindergarten with Australia. Entered double digits with the U.K. Began my teens with South Africa. Reached legal driving age with Greece. Became a voting citizen with Spain. Closed out my teens with the U.A.E. Started my twenties with Turkey. Turned twenty-one with Ecuador. Reached the milestone of a quarter century with Sri Lanka. Survived the musician’s unlucky curse with Lebanon. Rounded out my twenties with ancient Egypt. I’m looking forward to seeing how my thirties will turn out . . .
Be here now, you can be there later. The future will always replace you so be present while it lasts. I know it’s tough. You can’t always be here. You can’t always be present. We live in a complex world of a billion distractions, all pointing elsewhere. All pointing to the other side, where the grass is supposedly greener, instead of here, instead of now.
The other side is so enticing, such a pleasant escape, but as soon as you get there, there is only another and another and another and another. The other side goes on forever. It’s a never-ending facade; infinity masquerading as finite. The other side sees grass in a million shades of green. Don’t buy into it. Grass is always just grass no matter the color. When tempted by the other side, come back to here and look around. I’m sure you’ll find plenty.
If life throws you lemons, don’t settle for lemonade. Be creative. Make something fresh, new, and exciting. Something that’s distinctly you. Who cares if it’s weird or different or not liked by everyone else. That’s not the point. The point is to not give two fucks. Because what makes you weird and different and uncool is what makes you beautiful. What makes you shine. The alternative? Conformity, a sure way to live a life of repetitive doldrum.
For the longest time, I’ve felt like a square shape trying to fit into a round hole. But the truth is, I’m not a round shape or a square shape or a triangle shape or any other shape that can be made with a ruler or compass. I’m my own shape. One that’s constantly changing as the world around me changes. I don’t need to fit in anywhere, anywhere can fit into me.
What I like most about traveling is that it reminds me just how little I know about the world. You can read about something in a book, but experiencing it in the flesh adds a whole new color and dimension. One that makes you feel both in sync and out of place, lost and found. It’s easy to pretend we have all the answers, but in truth, all we have are a lot of questions. It doesn’t matter if those questions ever get answered or not. It only matters that we keep asking them.
When faced with the infinitude of the cosmos, it’s important to take a moment and pause and appreciate what’s going on around you. To make poetry out of simple things. To discover a song in the daily noise. To find wholeness in broken pieces. To take currency in everything easily overlooked and misplaced that has the potential to make memories out of our days.
There’s a story there. A lesson there. Some tiny insignificant insight that sheds a little more light on the world and opens our eyes to the beauty that sleeps in garbage cans, wades through puddles of muck, and shifts through the unceasing seas of time like frolicking dolphins whose only pleasure is to swim and let the world pay witness.
Something so beautiful that even though it’s not yet fully realized—only on the cusp of revealing itself—it’s something you still feel even after the feeling has gone. And once you have it, it’s yours for the moment, for eternity, to be held, to be appreciated, but most importantly, to be shared. For nothing is truly in our possession though we like to trick ourselves into thinking so. A sunrise. A sunset. A rainbow. A song. A story. A piece of art. A city street. Home. Love. Life. All fleeting things that paradoxically belong to no one and everyone.
Whoever said live each day like it’s your last got it all wrong. If that was the case, I’d be impulsive, squander all my money, and make a bunch of poor choices all in the name of YOLO. Instead, I think it’s better to live each day like it’s your first.
Beginnings, not endings, are where the magic lies. Think about it. Your first kiss. Your first love. Your first road trip. Your first time overseas. Your first time staring up at the stars. The first of everything has all the wonders of a miracle, packed with the freshness of a child’s perspective. That’s what we should strive for; to be born again each day and see the world with virgin eyes.