“Whereas the average individuals “often have not the slightest idea of what they are, of what they want, of what their own opinions are,” self-actualizing individuals have “superior awareness of their own impulses, desires, opinions, and subjective reactions in general.”
“You will either step forward into growth or you will step back into safety.”
Of everything I have written this has taken the most thought. How do you describe who you are if you really don’t know yourself yet? I can tell you about me so far:
I was raised in Cleveland, Ohio. My mother had 9 children starting with me at 13. I grew up in a huge family of siblings, cousins, aunts, and uncles. Although we all grew up the same I seemed to always standout. I preferred reading and writing to sports. While my friends were running the streets I was in the library trying to figure things out. However, regardless how hard you try sometimes your environment wears you down. Cleveland in the 90’s wasn’t exactly the safest place. Shoot outs, robberies, and drug deals were part of everyday life and to be honest it still is there. No matter how hard our lives were we survived and made a way. That’s who we are. Survivors.
When you are in the isolated environment that the inner city is, you lack perception and understanding of the outside world. My world consisted of Section 8 housing, Welfare, WIC, and schools falling apart. My world consisted of clear racial dividing lines. You knew that black people live on the east side of Cleveland and the whites lived on the west. I was taught that life is hard and you deal with it. The problem with growing up the way I did is your voice as an individual is drowned out by the collective. You have to walk, talk, and think a certain way. It wasn’t until I joined the military that I started to realize this point.
Once I got my girlfriend pregnant with my first son in 10th grade I had to figure something out. I accelerated through high school while working and living on the couch of a friend so I could stay at my high school. I joined the military soon after. I served nearly 11 years. I fought, cried, and laughed. I was shown a world I had only read about. I was also shown a world I wasn’t ready to accept yet. A world where I had to accept killing, homosexuality, other religions, and several other things I never had to. I was raised with very specific views and the military replaced those with their views. It wasn’t until college I realized I was being brainwashed.
I left Active Duty and join the National Guard to finish school at The University of Texas at Austin. It was in this environment I realized that I had never been my own person. I had never actually made a decision of my own free will. Everything I had done was because someone else believed that’s what I should do and I did it. My time in college was the least educational academically but the most educational personally. I forced myself to question my “beliefs and values”. What were mine and what were implanted. Do I agree with these ideals? Why or why not? And this is the place I find myself.
I have had a remarkable life so far. My military service is still one of the most important and influential times in my life. I have an amazingly supportive family including two awesome sons. I have great friends that believe in me. And I have a vision of the future that will help inner city kids like myself see the world they are being denied. This project is not only an effort to show people that you don’t need to fear the world or have to be rich to see it. It’s also a mission to discover who I am and where I fit in the world. I hope you’ll watch because I’m an open book for better or worse.
So what makes me different than any other travel writer/photographer? Well, not as much as you would think. The underline desire for travel and education bonds us all. We are the same in that aspect but as I started to search for inspiration I noticed most bloggers fall into a few select categories. 1. Gap year from college (mostly middle class) 2. Decent job break (i.e Lawyer, Office Manager, business owner) 3. Amazingly poor backpacker nomad (i.e hippies). So where do I fall? A little of all actually. 1. I was heading to law school, started other studies, and quit to do this because school seemed like a waste of time and money. 2. I could have easily found a 50k+ job and was offered great opportunities but I realized while working in an office environment over the summer I absolutely hate working for someone else. Uncle Sam was my last real boss and will stay that way as long as possible. 3. I’m very much a minimalist. If I don’t need it I’m probably not going to buy it. I’m fine in a 5-star hotel or ditch in the sand. Spent quite a bit of time in both.
When it comes down to it I’m out here in the wind. I can’t run home to my parents if I fail. I don’t have a huge 401k or bank account propping me up. This is my journey and I’ve set fire to the bridges behind me so there is only one place to go. FORWARD
ARTICLES ABOUT ME (Apparently people like me. Go figure):
Speaker Spotlight: Erick Prince-Heaggans