I was in the middle of shooting a vlog on the revitalized Bishop Arts District, in my hometown of Dallas, when I got an anxious call from my girlfriend.
She’d just returned home to our Brooklyn apartment from an appointment with a surgeon regarding an upcoming operation to remove a small bit of precancerous tissue.
If that weren’t scary enough, she discovered that her computer was missing. She frantically scanned our place. Her go-to camera and lenses were gone too. As a photographer only starting to financially recover from the professional disaster of COVID, this sent her into full-on panic.
I took a seat on a curb in the Texas summer sun, trying to process what I was hearing. I wanted to calm her but instead tumbled down the hole of hysteria behind her.
Turns out my USA-made Fender Stratocaster that had seen me through countless gigs was another casualty. “Call 911,” I told her, followed by an expletive-filled inner monologue of judgment.
Fifteen minutes later, the NYPD is in our apartment, and I’m still on a curb 1,500 miles away not giving two poop sticks that ants were crawling on me, or that the boiling heat had me sweaty.
I just sat there, helpless. My wanderlust and joie de vivre had completely evaporated. Rage simmered under my skin.
I’d just started to come out of the COVID funk that kept this extrovert from social engagements and traveling freely.
Back inside my quarantine-like headspace, the crisis of faith in humanity that had bludgeoned my natural optimism returned like the forest fires in California. The spiritual virus of cynicism polluted my veins while pondering the pecker-headed douche nugget who had stolen an irreplaceable instrument and further wrecked my girlfriend’s livelihood.
I abandoned my plans for the evening and raced back to my childhood home in the suburbs. In the intoxication of my anger, I paid little attention to my driving. It had only been a year since I had a home again (a self-important side note), and now my nest had been violated. My girlfriend sobbed on the car speaker as I tried to hold it together.
A car whizzed by on my right, snapping me out of my downward spiral and back into the world around me. I recognized how haphazardly I was blasting down the highway, thinking to myself, I’m probably fantastic road rage inspiration right now.
An epiphany struck—we have no idea what people are going through as they pass on their solo journeys from here to there.
Maybe that Honda Civic just received a diagnosis that’s malignant, or perhaps that POS with the broken tail light is eyebrows deep in debt they’ll never escape—it put my current suffering in perspective.
My softer side returned, and I took the awakening a step further—the possibility of compassion for my burglar. What is their story? We can only assume.
What seems clear to me is that to become a villain one must first be a victim. Hate perpetrated is hate cultivated, and the viciousness continues. My burglar is just another baton bearer along with this relay race of bad karma. Whatever their reason, I have a choice to drop the baton.
Even if you perceive this mindfulness as mumbo jumbo, it’s true that we learn much about ourselves in how we respond to our enemies. Though it makes my stomach turn to think I will likely never play my beloved Stratocaster again, and I still feel resentment as my girlfriend faces the practical reality of a pandemic-affected photographer without her gear, I reach for the best version of myself.
As for my burglar, it isn’t hippy-dippy to assume that when the teacher asked, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” they didn’t say, “A petty criminal!” Somewhere along the line, they were the victim.
Suited up in super me, I recognize that all my girl and I have lost is stuff. That feeling of violation will pass. We still have each other.
I still have two hands and my wits to play music. Soon, I’ll be back on my wanderlust adventure with a selfie stick (it’s called a boom, gosh).
Now I sit on a plane back to New York. My bougie loyalty program member pass lets me board first and sit in complementary economy plus.
A dude twice my size sits down next to me. Younger me might have gotten all butthurt. Ugh, this guy is gonna take up the entire armrest. Full stop. Perspective. This flight will be far more uncomfortable for him.
I’m going back to this new Bo Burnham flick, “Inside.” It’s a bloody brilliant take on quarantine life. When the world gives you lemons or something.
And, man, it feels good to laugh.