Born and raised in Northern Michigan, Zev Lawson Edwards has lived and taught in Australia, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar.
We see things in black and white, winning and losing. But there’s a third option most don’t consider. Walking away, leaving the game unfinished, and starting over. There’s no losing in giving up the fight or finding a new beginning. Only peace and serenity. Sometimes, hitting reset and returning back to zero, life’s humbling starting point, is the only way for us to get closer to the divine without actually dying. Otherwise we grow stagnant.
Starting over can be a terrifying experience, but after that initial step, comes clarity and purpose, only forward motion as you move towards your true calling, your purpose. Zero is the blank page of a 500-page novel; the starting line of a 1,000-mile journey; the nervous silence before an initial hello that results in a 50-plus-year marriage. Don’t be afraid of zero, embrace it.
When you write something down, you own it. You give it life. It exists. Resides in the real world, no longer the imaginary. Moments come at you and you need to have your net ready to capture them. Your mind free to sense them. Your heart open to feel them. Your hands steady to grasp them before they slip away.
Me, I always keep a pen and paper handy, usually a little travel notebook. It’s with me until I completely fill every page and then I start fresh with a new one. I’m sure there’s a metaphor somewhere in there, but for now I’m content with just writing all my crazy thoughts down. Deeper insights can come later.
Vacation for me comes in two forms: relaxation and exploration. Exploration is thrilling. The right amount of buzz, not too high not too low, putting the world at ease. Your eyes view everything with childlike wonder. It leaves you full, but also exhausted. Relaxation is calming. Like having a good book or two and all the time in the world to read them. There is no agenda, no other place to be or other things to see. Napping a viable option. It leaves you replenished, but also restless. Striking a balance is the challenge, but that’s thing about vacation. The time is yours, not anybody else’s. You do as you please without feeling the slightest bit guilty about it.
My life is not always as laid-back as it seems, but if it’s important to me, I’ll find a way. When I fall, I get back up. Learn from my mistakes and defeats. Make adjustments. Embrace the growth mindset. The universe always meddles or interferes, that’s just adversity, but it’s also there to help if you’re willing to listen.
It’s easy to get lost along the way. We lose focus or rather focus on all the wrong things like chasing fame, money, recognition, or immortality, a place that doesn’t exist. We want to be liked and followed and the next big thing. But trends come and go. What’s hot today is cold tomorrow.
So why waste energy chasing forever when instead we can channel our energy into something meaningful. I’m sure if you do a quick inventory, you’ll find lots of things that don’t matter, at least not to you. Ricky Nelson said it best, “you can’t please everyone, so you have to please yourself.” If you don’t like the direction of your life, then don’t make excuses, change it. Nothing is stopping you except for yourself.
I love a good stormy day. One that interrupts the daily, forcing you to be still and stare out the window and appreciate Mother Nature. It’s a call to do absolutely nothing, a nice reminder of just how small and insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things.
We live in a world of endless distractions and stimuli, making it easy to feel guilty about doing nothing. The fear of missing out a powerful emotion. Social media just a click away to reveal all the thing you could be doing with your life at that very moment.
But truth is, we all need a rainy day once in a while even if the weather doesn’t call for it. A day to shake us from our daily trances. To have no plans and no other place to be. To feel our bodies at work. To reconnect with the spiritual—that inner, unspoken magic—that makes living so very possible.
I like to hold on tight to this life. Feel it in my grip. Wrap it snug in a lasso and bring it to submission so that it is still. Then, I feel like I am in control. But like an untamed stallion, it always bucks me loose. Only when I let go and release, does it relax enough for me to get close. Otherwise, it’s always at a distance.
That is the nature of life, reach for something, finally get it, and then let it go. We can never be satisfied or hold onto something for very long. It all goes away in the end. Love. Life. Thoughts. Ideas. Aspirations. Friends. Family. Everything we own is but a temporary possession. One minute ours, the next someone else’s, until it is no one’s, the way it has always been.
Everyone needs to visit at least one developing country in their lifetime. There, you’ll find the hustle is real. People up and moving before the first crack of light hits the pavement. Backs craned. Muscles churning. Faces covered in sweat. Stomachs running on fumes. Daily meals aren’t a given, but a battle, go hard or go hungry.
Where you’re born is like winning the lottery. Born here, you have the opportunity to go to university, maybe become a doctor. Born there, your education is the streets. Born here, you’re allowed to follow your dreams, be a struggling artist out of choice. Born there, you’re a struggling street vendor out of necessity. Born here, you have all the comforts of a place to call home. Born there, home is a distant memory keeping you up at night in your refugee camp. Born here, you’re guaranteed shoes on your feet. Born there, you’re guaranteed nothing.
Most Americans don’t even own a passport, yet they claim to live in the greatest county in the world. It took using mine multiple times before I came to that same realization. Every day I’m thankful for where I was born and the opportunities it gave me, for if I was born elsewhere, the simple act of writing this and sharing it with the world may not even exist.
My favorite countries are the ones I didn’t plan on visiting. That I didn’t see coming. That took me by surprise. Sometimes, life’s greatest beauties are the ones that sneak up on you. That were always there, but needed the right circumstances or little nudge to get your heart’s attention.
They are everywhere, waiting to be discovered. All you have to do is look for them. Keep your eyes open and your ears pressed close to the pulse of everything. Children see the magic of the world and dream while awake. It’s often the adults, too focused on reality, who lose sight of the dream and the beauty we cannot always create but can appreciate.
Home used to be a place to avoid. Now, it’s a place to return. For the longest time I thought why waste money on a plane ticket to somewhere I’ve spent most my life when I could go somewhere new and fascinating. The thing with getting older, it changes you. You spend your earlier years looking at those older and saying no, that’ll never be me, but then you arrive to that very same age and you’re completely content with being that older, wiser, and calmer person.
The idea of home for me is the soothing solitude that comes from listening in on a conversation you don’t have to participate in. There are no expectations. It’s both familiar and comfortable, yet different because I’m different.
I no longer see home through the lens of youth, but rather through the eyes of a seasoned traveler, who left, came back, left again, and will continue to come back because in a constantly changing world we all need something to return to. The past will always remain that one thing that alludes us and sometimes the closest we can ever get to it is coming home.
People often ask how I afford my lifestyle. It’s not a matter of affording, but rather prioritizing. What works for me is that I’m a minimalist. I don’t own anything. No property. No house. No furniture. Not even a car. I can literally pack everything I own into a few bags.
On top of that, I prioritize experiences over possessions. Create do-now lists instead of bucket lists. Ask what I truly want out of life and then plan and take steps in that direction. Investing in myself is a top priority. On a daily basis I try to ask myself: What can I learn? How can I grow? What will I want to look back on while sitting on my deathbed? Is what I’m doing now going to matter 50, 100 years from now? And if not, then why worry about it at all?