A Big Change. I'm Choosing Happy.


This is my first serious blog attempt. I am still wrapping my head around all the customizations, themes, and privacy options for the web page. Honestly, I'm not even sure any of this is working as intended!

I'm starting anyway, since I am tired of menus and email verification and ..... argh.


I am the proud new owner of my first real web page! How cool is that? I had a geocities website way back in the day, along with everyone else, but never a domain of my own. I think I got a good one:


I really like that! I think it perfectly captures what I am trying to do with my life right now. Which, what is that anyway? Why are you reading this?

A Big Change

I am trying to keep my life simple by owning fewer things and reducing stress. I am going to be good to myself and set out on a new course. I guess I'm diving into a minimalist lifestyle? Whatever you call it, I'm making a number of people very unhappy with me. My family tells me that I'm ruining my life, and that I'm throwing away my education.

I'll get into more of what's going on soon. Right now I want to get into why I'm deciding to choose happiness. I've never thought of myself as a very stressed person, and have been told before that I am "chill". That all changed for me in Law school.

Where I was

I graduated from Law school in May of 2016 with my Doctor of Jurisprudence Degree (we call it a J.D.) after three years of school. 2016 marked the end of 19 years of straight schooling. Four years of university, culminating in a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy, had its difficult moments. The three years of Law school were torture. 

Eight hours a day reading and briefing cases for my classes. EIGHT! That's on top of going to a couple of hour and a half long classes every day. I've never worked that hard at school in my life, and I started to feel the effects of it as early as my first semester of my first (1L) year of Law school. 

I'm laying bed in my girlfriend's dorm room 1L year, having driven up to my Alma Mater to visit her on my first real break in the semester, and all of a sudden I can't breathe. My first full-blown, out of nowhere, bona-fide, no-shit, honest-to-goodness panic attack. I throw in all of those descriptors because I haven't ever felt anything else like that. Man, I couldn't believe it. Yeah, sure, I've gotten a little anxious about stuff in the past but nothing like that. I am so sorry for anyone that experiences panic attacks more regularly. 

So, intermittently over three years I experience bouts of extreme anxiety. I gain some weight, my school work suffers a little at times, and then by the last semester of Law school I've shut down almost completely. I had no motivation, I was extremely tired all of the time, and I was too anxious to leave town to visit anyone or go do anything because I felt like if I did, then I would fail right there at the finish line of the last year in school. Thankfully, after being in school for my entire life, I was able to get decent grades the last year of school just by going to class and taking notes. For three years though, it's like I'm just waiting for myself to fail. It was awful.

Now, don't get me wrong, school just about killed me with anxiety but I'm not a bad student. Heck, I know I did well in classes and could score a job. For most of the last two years of school I worked for a Judge in the neighboring County's State Courthouse doing actual work and got paid pretty well. I was reading case-files, researching case law in motions, writing orders for the Judge, reviewing and writing default judgments, and doing some pretty cool stuff. 

A turning point

Everybody was so happy when I graduated, congratulating me and saying that I'd have a great career. I was just glad it was over. I mean, I really was just glad that it was over. I had nothing else going on in my head, no aspirations, no future plans for my career. Everyone kept asking me, over and over, "so what are you going to do?". 

Man, what a big question! "Personal Injury Law and/or Products Liability", I'd say while somewhat hollowly watching their faces for a reaction. No one ever seemed satisfied with the answer. Maybe they didn't understand, or really only wanted some kind of general answer that they could parrot to someone else in the family, but no one ever really delved into the why and the what of my answer. No one really ever got into a discussion with me over my motivations for practicing in a certain field, or dug into an engaging conversation. Maybe it was me. Maybe I was just so exhausted at the end of everything that I wasn't any good to talk to like that.

Good thing, too. Honestly, I was lost in a flood of relief at being done with school. I have a terminal degree now! I've done everything I've ever been told to do with my life, and I'm done forever with school and relying on my family's support. There was nothing more there for me.

In my greatest moment of triumph and accomplishment, there was an incredibly powerful emptiness. The next thing to do was take the Bar exam. My Grandfather told me on the phone that I should take the Florida, Georgia, and Tennessee Bar. My parents told me I needed to take at least the Georgia Bar, and maybe the Florida bar. I wanted to move to Chattanooga, Tennessee and I wasn't thinking about taking the Bar yet at all.

You know when you just get burned out on what you are doing? It doesn't really matter what, if you do anything long and hard enough I think you'll get tired of it. I knew I needed a break, and that if I dove into studying eight to ten hours a day for a bar exam being administered in under two months time I just wouldn't have the motivation to study. Bar prep isn't going to class and listening, just to regurgitate it on the final. I'd have to study on on my own, and I knew that I wouldn't right now.

So, for the first time in my life I told everyone to back off. When pressed on the issue, maybe my phrasing wasn't so kind in retrospect. I had money in the bank from working for the judge, savings, and some stocks. I could afford to take off until the next bar exam prep course, and that's what I was going to do. Man did I get hounded by my family.

It got so bad at one point between my family, my girlfriend, and myself that I cut off contact with my family. I thanked my dad for helping me out so much with everything up to this point and then asked him to hand over control of anything he still had access to. Usernames and passwords for bank accounts, investment accounts, insurance policies, health insurance, filing cabinets of records and paid bills, and the like. It was a lot, and getting along with my dad during the process of getting everything under my control was tough. I think a lot of the strife between us was probably fueled by a kind of shame that I had relied on my parents and Granddad's help for so long.

It was like he was mad with me for trying to be more independent. I felt awful taking any more help from my parents and I just couldn't do it any more. Going straight through school there was no way I would have had enough money to pay for everything without going deep into debt, so yeah my Grandad and parents put up a lot of money for me to get through school. Honestly, I wouldn't have done any of this if the offer to pay had not been on the table. I never liked school, and I would have started working out of high school if not strongly encouraged to go to university. Grandad paid for all of my university and law school. My parents put me up in an apartment in the town where I went to Law school, starting at around $550 a month, and paid for groceries until I started working for the Judge and making my own money. Dad continued to pay for my apartment even after I started working. The effect was that I was making pretty good money and not really spending it on anything other than food and gas. My savings built up pretty quickly. (EDIT: I don't want to sound too ridiculous here, I know I've had it extremely good. There was just something missing for me.)

As my family pushed me harder to sign up for the next bar exam our relationship suffered greatly. The strife spilled over into the relationship with my girlfriend of three and a half years, and at one point I even got a hard talk from her that she didn't think she could be with me if my family kept being like this. My girlfriend had a strong sense that my family blamed my current state of inaction on her. Honestly, I don't think that was the case, but it was a bad time for everyone connected to the issue.

 Wanting to take time off without sitting around doing nothing, festering in the discontent of those closest to me, I decided that I was going to follow a life-long dream and through-hike the Appalachian Trail.

The Change 

Two weeks after deciding that I was going to undertake this months-long adventure, I was out the door. I had read posts online, dreamily looked at pictures, and perused gear-lists for hiking for years. I had thought about hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) since I first heard about it freshman year of university. Nothing I had read, packed, or practiced prepared me for the reality of the AT.

My experience on the AT is a whole blog post, probably several, on its own. I'm 1700 miles into the trail with about 500 miles left to go. The trail has turned me into an eating, sleeping, and walking machine. I've done a 40 mile hiking day, I've easily eaten over 3000 calories in a single sitting, and best of all I feel like a real person again.

Ninety percent of my anxiety, tension, concern for my future, and self-doubt was just erased by the AT. Carrying everything on my back, spending very little money to feed myself, and basically just existing as walking homeless has been the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. There's a kind of clarity in your self image, and a confidence that comes out of long periods of time spent like this. I'm not worried about the future anymore. I love myself. I love moving and using my body. And most liberating, I have learned that I need very little to be happy.

I've been going out for months at a time, coming home for a month long break here and there where appropriate, and staying with my girlfriend over the winter in her apartment. In the last years of law school my girlfriend started Nursing school and has since graduated. The first time I came off trail, I got off almost a month earlier than planned, and proposed to my girlfriend.  I can happily say that she agreed to marry me, and she recently picked a date for us. Maybe I'll go into other topics if there is any interest in any of this later, but for now just I'll settle for a simple "Life is good".

What now?

Well, that's just the thing. I still have money in the bank as taking most of a year and a half off and spending months in the woods doesn't really cost very much. I have done a lot to bring my monthly expenses down: I've worked with my agent to lower my insurance payment on my car as much as I responsibly can, I changed my smartphone plan to bring costs down a little, I've cancelled almost all of my video and music streaming accounts, I'm buying very little that I don't need, I'm trying to spend less on gas, and I've invested most of my savings.

I'm feeling great right now, and I feel so happy and fortunate to be where I am in life. My fiancee is starting to get very into the idea of living in a tiny house of some kind, and has been doing plenty of her own research. It looks like we may be living on a boat soon.

I have started reading books and writing stories for fun again, something that I haven't done since freshman year of high school, and I'm getting close to finishing a writing project that I have been working on for the last couple of months. I'm spending more time outside for fun and entertaining myself by involving myself in creative projects during the day.

The next few months are going to be interesting. I want to write what's on my mind as I go forward and to document significant events. I am hopeful that I can continue to live a simple, little life and keep focusing on doing what makes me happy.  I have no idea what's going to happen, but I'm more curious to see how this will turn out than I am afraid. After my time on trail, I know that life will only need to get as complicated as I make it.


Thanks for reading this, the first post in my blog. Hopefully my writings will be useful to some of you. Maybe these posts will give a warning to tread carefully? (Hopefully not!) Maybe they will serve as encouragement to follow suit?

As happy as I am right now, I do still have a lot to work through and I'm definitely going to have to figure it all out on my way. I am interested to see how these writings will turn out, coming back one day to watch what happened.

I hope you have a good day and that you can take a little time for yourself sometime soon to relax. You can choose to do something, or stop doing something, to make yourself happy. It is so absolutely worth it.