One of the hardest transitions we will encounter in this lifetime is the “check mate” move out of our comfort zones. Taking a risk involves bravery and, as one dear friend puts it, “The most uncomfortable position to be in – the unknown area of your life.” As such I interviewed this friend, Mr. John Kirwin. Our days go back to our teenage years when we thought we had the world by the tail… as we grew older, we grew apart, but one thing did, and will always remain: a true friendship. His zest for life, his quest for always wanting more – never ceases to inspire me.
Back in April I had the opportunity to sit down with John and catch up on the many years past since he packed up and left the Lou to settle down in a little ‘ol place … Chicago. His journey to the windy city began in 2001, but his adventure keeps continuing. With exploration in one hand, determination in the other, each day he suites up in his climbing gear determined to reach the peak - stopping along the way to take in the world around him, but determined to continue on, to reach the top, and to achieve his dreams …
CK: What prompted your relocation?
JK: One of the best feelings of finally wanting to rid myself of my comfort zone. I was on this awesome path of excitement and optimism about the possibilities that I could have in life if I bettered myself. Plus one of those magical things happen to you when you are motivated to do something -- everything else at that point immediately is solely geared to make those dreams and aspirations come true….
CK: What made you decide on Chicago?
JK: I would say I was grateful to have the opportunity to go to Chicago to visit my best friend or I call him my bigger brother seeming we have know each other for over 26 years now. He was already completing school there and I wanted to pursue my career in the city of CHICAGO ….so we decided to move in together.
CK: Did you have a job and housing lined up when you arrived?
JK: No actually! And that was the exciting part! It was also the best uncomfortable position to be in (the unknown area of your life) See we had to transition to CHICAGO from St Louis and that sounded easy enough but not having any job or place lined up required an open mind and patience to find the right place to live and work.
CK: At any point, did you second guess yourself? Relocating?
JK: YES! Tons of times!! Especially when things were so scary and unpredictable. There was no comfort of having a clear answer on how to fix the situation.
For Example: I moved to Chicago with career expectations on being successful (during that time in my life I did not know what “being successful” was). I was living with my best friend, which is something I learned is not always a great idea. One thing led to another and he was going to move back to Saint Louis for someone in his life…..I was for the first time terrified about this move: I thought I was losing my best friend. Looking back on it, I now know I felt terrified because I was losing my mini comfort zone in Chicago … a city that at the time I was still not used to and was not exactly welcomed in.
After my roommate moved out I began to panic and question why I was still in this city! I had no friends…I had work acquaintances but no true friendships.
Then one day I just got up, and made a decision - I decided to take this as an opportunity to bring back the spontaneous behavior I had when I was with my friends and just starting the adventure around the city. I attended movies and shows and block parties and such just to feel active ….And after awhile I started to realize I love being on my own. Being truly independent and loving the experience even if it is harder than expected and usual.
CK: With this new found zest to conquer the city, did you encounter further “setbacks”? or should I say, “second thoughts”?
JK: I had many setbacks (trying to take care of an expensive apartment dealing with a crazy roommate. Landlord troubles, Loss of jobs or contracts.) But I really wanted this chance in my life. I just remained thankful for what I had and accepted it. And the funny thing is I learned the lesson that when doing this you can truly move forward in life.
CK: What were some of the resources you tapped into while reaching for your dream?
JK: I don’t know if it’s a resource per say, but I took every opportunity I had to talk about my passions with people I met and people I worked for. I wanted to get to a place of comfort on my own, and in turn, “take care of myself”. So I started to research things I did not know, try different things I never tried in the past, just to form my own personal opinion.
CK: What was your dream when you moved to Chicago? What is your dream now? How do they relate?
JK: I totally dreamed I would be successful and wealthy in the city. I still focus on that in the back of my mind but my dominate thought in my life is to work on myself by learning what I can and can’t do. I believe the original dream was too blurry on how I would get to that point. In fact, I never stopped to think of how lofty it was to dream like that. See I totally realized that everything can be dreamed about but its hard work you put into your life that will help that dream come true ….and here’s a secret… sometimes to achieve those dreams you need to start your life over from the point of where you start from scratch and look at another possible path to achieve it.
CK: How have you grown from this experience, besides starting over and achieving past and current dreams?
JK: You tell me! I see I can see myself different in the mirror or how I look and act but the true way of telling how I grew as a person is to hear it from the people I surround myself with all my life.
CK: How has this experience enriched your life?
JK: I have been able to become closer to the friends I already have. I have successfully grew the friendships people thought would not last and I have been feeling more confident about the choices I make with new people I meet.
CK: Would you go again if you knew now what you did not know then?
JK: Undoubtedly, yes! I feel like the true reason I was allowed to move to Chicago is that GOD had wanted me to learn valuable lessons and to grow into the person I am and the people around me would be proud of.
CK: We talked about not stepping outside our comfort zone, and combating our fears – what advice can you offer those who have reservations about taking chances?
JK: Chances are just that …Chances to change…to grow…to cry….to fail …..To hurt …to live ….to remember ….to be different…. And in the end you will look back from a different point of view and see how far you traveled….
Have you ever seen something in your life, like a postcard of a mountain for instance …and you thought it was just breath-taking from a distance ….how could you really say that unless you experience it for yourself??
Now ask a mountain climber to describe that same mountain….he talks about how dangerous some of the areas are in climbing it and how if you reach a certain point on the mountain you can see this beautiful valley, or you can see the border of Canada, or at the very top of the mountain you can see beautiful stars so bright that you could never have imagined from the ground.
So too, as this mountain, you can see your dreams – laid out before you is this breath taking picture of your dream, and it gives you a awesome feeling but unless you experience the real thing… you’re missing out on all the rest and you’re not allowing yourself to form the greatest thing you can do as a person….the gift of achievement, attainment, creating memories and gaining knowledge from the experience.
My advice? Go out there and make an attempt to climb the damn mountain already! So what if you fall and skin your knee … pick yourself up and keep climbing! The journey to the top delivers an adventure you would never experience by sitting at the bottom, scared to try. And the view from the top you can never see, never truly engulf you, from just a snapshot at a local gift shop turnstile. Don’t think … climb. The adventure is worth the view, I can assure you.