After talking to them, they all say the same thing, write! OK, so just write. What am I writing about? Right now. What is happening right now? Ok. Well I updated my Couchsurfing profile.
Here is my updated Couchsurfing profile:
Puerto Rican born and raised in the Northeast USA (Holyoke, MA to be exact -- no, not Boston lol). I love meeting new people, hearing about their background, and how they got to where they are today. Everyone’s life is a story and it’s interesting to see how our stories cross paths.
TRAVEL / COUCHSURFING HISTORY:
I went to college in Rhode Island, where I was able to visit the Galapagos, Quito, Panama, and Dominican Republic through student programs. After graduating I lived a couple months in Boston, then Orlando and Tampa for a little bit, back to Western Mass for a year in Springfield and a year in Holyoke, and eventually found my heart and voice in NYC where I was for 2.5 years. I tried out LA because the sun attracted me, but it did not make me happy. A couple depressive episodes later and with nothing but my clothes, yarn, crochet hooks, and relying on my final work paycheck - to journey across the USA and make it back home to western mass seemed like the right thing to do. For some it may seem like I had nothing, but for me, it was exactly what I needed at that moment.
I remember one of my former employees back in 2013 telling me, "get bored, like do absolutely nothing. Don't take on a job or anything and you will figure out what it is that you want to do. Don't worry about 'money' as what you need will come." Well finally 5 years later I took this advice, I guess to the extreme -- I didn't just get bored, I got broke, I got homeless. And like my former employee told me, I figured out what it was that I want to do.
As I made my way across the USA, taking the Greyhound city to city for a week at a time, relying on the kindness of strangers (mostly Couchsurfers) for a place to lay my head and pleasure me in conversation as they open up about their life's and me about mine, the following is what I wanted to do: crochet, volunteer, fundraise, and see the USA, and yes, eventually the world. Everyone I met along my journey received a small crochet heart, I yarnbombed different cities, sold items along the way, if a room was secure -- I volunteered at one or two local organizations, I fundraised for Casa Marianella in Austin by selling the crochet hearts I was giving out, and I did all of this with little to no money (although once I realized I wanted to volunteer, I reached out to some connections and they funded the buses between the cities, the rest was up to me). It was tough, there were moments that I was going to take my mom's offer to buy me a plane ticket back home but I stuck it out. I needed to do this.
I traveled from February 1, 2018 to June 10, 2018 and went to the following cities: San Diego, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Tucson, El Paso, Dallas, Austin, Houston, New Orleans, Atlanta, Nashville, Louisville, Columbus, Pittsburgh / New Kensington.
I volunteered at the following organizations during that time for a total of 50 hours: Andre House (Phoenix), Ben's Bells (Tucson), North Texas Food Bank (Dallas), The Stewpot (Dallas), Casa Marianella (Austin), SouthWest Ecumenical Emergency Assistance Center (Atlanta), The Shepherd's Inn (Atlanta), Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee (Nashville), Neighborhood Services Inc. (Columbus), Knead Community Cafe (New Kensington).
I got back home with the biggest culture shock of my life, but with a mission: I need to do this again, but not like this. I am beyond thankful for those who I met along my journey and offered a place to stay, the meals provided, the warm showers, y'all kept me alive. Along my journey I realized the power of a simple thank you, so just want to say THANK YOU! When I got back home to family, I found a couple part time jobs and been saving up for another journey, and here we are.
I decided this time around to devote all of 2019 to see as much of the US as I can, but in 3 / 4 week tours. One lesson I learned from hosts and fellow couchsurfers is that it's ok to feed a little into the system, as long as you know how you're using it to your benefit. So Holyoke is my homebase, but I want to travel and volunteer and leave my crochet pieces all across the USA!
I will be posting my itinerary as I book my enter and exit strategies from each city. Feel free to reach out if you're able to host or would like to meet up when I'm in your city. I'm planning on spending 1 - 2 days sightseeing, 1 - 2 days volunteering, and then the rest of the time I like to station myself at a place with a view while I crochet whatever project I'm working on.
You can check out my website at www.allofjose.com or follow my IG for more info - @allofjose. I am able to host in Holyoke, MA, but I do live with family (no worries, they're super cool), just would like more than a week's notice.
"What lies before us and what lies behind us are small matters compared to what lies within us. And when we bring what is within out into the world, miracles happen." - Henry David Thoreau
I'm also fundraising. Make sure to check out my page on 1/10/19 to see how and for who.
This morning I outlined the number 45 with the hearts I am selling in support of a local organization in Austin, TX. Twenty minutes later I looked at the photo I posted and realized, wait, I just made the number “45” in hearts. And for a minute I thought someone may think that I’m in support of the current president he-who-must-not-be-named and some of us just call 45...
But there is one thing I keep saying to people and in conversations I keep having is this, if there is one good thing that came from electing this person into presidency (yea, I’m saying there is something good), is that aside from the wave of evil, there is a wave of good coming along. Growing up I was always taught to just do good, from my mother, to my grandparents, you do good. Not because you expect something in return, but because that is just the right thing to do.
And at some point, maybe it was attending a business school or just the society that we’re in, doing good meant “well, how are you going to make money off of this?” And when the conversation comes to money, I shut down. I despise it. I believe it to be an idea made by humans once to create order and is now used to have power over others. It’s stupid. There was almost like a, I can’t do good because if I’m doing good that means I have to expect something in return. That is how my mind started thinking. I needed to stop.
Even as I make my journey across the US and I tell people, “I’m traveling and volunteering at different organizations, also crocheting” I would say 95% of the time I get a ‘oh, you’re writing everything down, right? Oh, you’re gonna write a book, make a movie, be rich, change the world.’ Ahhhh. So I stopped listening to those comments. Because in all reality, I’m doing what I am doing because for me, at this present time, it feels like the right thing to do, that’s it. Am I keeping notes? Yes. Am I keeping a journal? Yes, but that’s something I’ve been trying to do regardless of what I Was doing with my life. Doing good because it is the right thing to do. That’s it.
So when it comes to the money, to show you how much I really don’t care for it, I’ve been selling these little hearts for $1.99. A dollar of each one will go towards the organization I’m currently trying to fundraise for. And then there are shipping costs, material costs, and etsy apparently has a bajillion fees I didn’t know were charged (live and we learn). So after all is said and done, I’m really not making anything off these hearts. BUT what I am reaching is my goal of $100 to donate to the organization. And now you may ask, well if you despise money, why are you trying to raise money?
Because I’m also not stupid. The way society is currently set up, money does equal power. And for me, the money I am able to acquire I want to give to organizations I want to have power in this society -- that means homeless shelters, soup kitchens, food banks, in the arts, doing good, creating a different world, organizations that are here to tell other humans that they do matter, that we all are humans, and that all humans have a right to live and prosper and LIVE.
So with that said, I unintentionally made the number “45” in hearts to show how much more I needed to sell, but now it means that yes, this dude is an asshole, he’s evil, the whole administration is evil. But, good will always overcome evil. It seems like some have forgotten their history lessons.
A blank page, that's all I have in front of me. And as I write these words, marks, sketches, no longer a blank page. I can go back and cross out certain parts but it remains.
I think that's why I liked math. It was always suggested we use pencil when it came to math. It all had an answer. And when there was no answer, that was the answer, it simply did not exist.
But you can't use pencil in real life. Every breath, heartbeat, blink, twitch, all a part of your story called life. And then we ask, what is life? But why ask? It's already happening, spending time waiting for the answer instead of living the answer.
One thing that is promised to all when we receive this gift called life, and that is that this life, our physical time, will come to an end. No one has been able to escape it. Sure, your spirit, your legacy can live on, but your physical being, the only time you're able to take action ends.
And another blank page, another minute, another moment, another..... life keeps going.
Three times. That's how many times I went into the darkest of places in my mind. The first time I forced myself to go for a run. As I approached the bridge, zooming cars under me... was this it? How can I feel this low? But I looked down and thought 'well you don't have to feel low at all every again.' JUMP. Snapped out of it. Apparently running helps with your mood. Keep running. A great run.
Second time. I am so freaking happy. Ahhh. Another bridge. As I see cars zooming past again. Wait, this can be the last feeling you ever feel. Never would you have to feel low again. Yes!
too easy. I laughed. Keep running.
Finally, inside the prison apartment. I can't. Yes. NO. YES! JUMP. Go to that bridge. NO! YES! NOOO! Ahhhhghhgggggh. Tomas looks at me. Keep running. Run away. Run. Move. Keep moving.
I write the words "keep moving" down, a truck passes by, a "moving" truck. Keep moving I shall.
They say you have to face problems. You can't keep running away. But what if the "problems" you keep running away from are not real problems from within. Instead they are things, ideas, of a "reality" that has been put in place by other humans just like all of us.
"I can't have you face the realities of the world, you're going to have to figure that out for yourself" words from a former friend. I am well aware of the realities of this world and I'm here to call bullshit on it all.
A reality of a society only stands when members of it continue feeding into it. But if you continue to complain about how fucked up it is, don't you think it's bullshit?
So instead I wander....
Not lost, wanderer, what does it mean?
Wander, To wander. Not lost. Lost makes you frantic, makes you nervous. I haven't been nervous in a really long time. Goals? Goal? No, nothing. Purpose. Yes.
I wander city to city, decide where I can help. I've given back to homeless shelters and food bank. Soup kitchen. And an organization of spreading kindness. But one of the most memorable was the week I spent with someone on the hospice program. Dying they call it. I saw him living. Doing. Until his very last breath he will be working. And working a way that benefits all of us. Take a step back. How much of your daily routine have you absolutely 100% control over? Probably not a lot. That's when the reality voice kicks in and you realize I can have control. Your reality is not my reality. My happiness is not your happiness. But strive to be happy.
So service. That's where my happiness comes in. Service for organizations that are doing good. Volunteering. Service to people that help provide me with food and shelter. Crocheting. Service to the world. A different life.
Wanderer. Not lost. Wander.
I had this interesting interaction with someone at an event I attended last night. We introduced each other, I told her I was a crochet artist and then she asked me about activism. I told her that I made hats for the Women’s March. She responded with “oh YOU started that?” I was like ummm, no. She then asked “so like what activism do you do?” in a rather condescending tone. I thought on my toes and responded, well I mean I crochet in public, break gender norms, etc. She just sort of looked at me like “okkkkk sure”. Needless to say I left that interaction feeling like “wtf?” It bothered me all the way until this morning when I realized the event WAS for “activists” to get together and network. So her tone made a little more sense now.
But anyways, the point I want to make today is that activism comes in many shapes and forms. When I was in NYC, I tried marching, standing outside the Trump building for hours, yelling, chanting. All I got from it was me yelling at a building, while passerby’s took photos to document “life in NYC”, and 45 tweets about how amazing it is for people to gather outside of his residence. I mean, the Women’s March happens this year and his tweet response was: “Beautiful weather all over our great country, a perfect day for all Women to March. Get out there now to celebrate the historic milestones and unprecedented economic success and wealth creation that has taken place over the last 12 months. Lowest female unemployment in 18 years!”
So instead of trying to fight this delusional monster, I want to create something different for the world. I have been couchsurfing / slept on the streets / fasted, all so that I can attempt to show people that this life they deem as “reality” was created by “leaders” that don’t even believe ALL its citizens should have access to healthcare, don’t believe on enforcing a living wage for all, and shit, don’t even truly believe that all (wo)men are created equal. So my activism? Giving the people in 45’s administration a big fuck you by not feeding into their bullshit. And since I can’t keep my hand in that position forever, I made a piece that can.
If you are interested in purchasing this piece, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Well, yes, ma'am, I do... I mean, I got everything I need right here with me. I got air in my lungs, a few blank sheets of paper. I mean, I love waking up in the morning not knowing what's gonna happen or, who I'm gonna meet, where I'm gonna wind up. Just the other night I was sleeping under a bridge and now here I am on the grandest ship in the world having champagne with you fine people. I figure life's a gift and I don't intend on wasting it. You don't know what hand you're gonna get dealt next. You learn to take life as it comes at you... to make each day count.”
― Jack Dawson
Yes, I just quoted Titanic and yes, that is one of my favorite lines from the movie. A flashback to my life -- times when my mother sent me to the corner store to ask for food on credit, times when we would sleep with no heat, times when we would have no electricity, no phone. Through all of these moments though I learned that the sun will set, it will rise, another day, time keeps going, and we are still alive today.
February 1st I embarked on a journey, I'm going to travel the world (or at least make it back to the east coast). "Oh, you must have money saved up." NOPE! By every definition of the word -- homeless. The way I choose to look at it -- a traveling crochet artist on a very tight budget. As money came in for orders, I have used it to pay for a night or two at hostels (Between $24 - $35 a night with breakfast included, not bad). But even that little bit of money seems like a fortune in my current situation.
And then last night happened, February 17th, when I finally decided NOT having a place to stay is ok. So I dug into my arsenal of skills and went with the idea that an all nighter was in order (thank you college and NYC life). As I walked around for a place to hang out and do some writing and thinking, I found a long wall to sit on. It was close to 1am at this point, "damn I'm tired" I thought. Then a guy walks by, with a cast around his neck, and his mouth just starts going.... for the next 4 hours to be exact (I was able to get two words in). Needless to say, he kept me up the whole night.
For me, he was sent to keep me awake and accompany me. For him? He called me an angel. He told me stories about his alcohol and drug abuse. I told him I don't drink nor do drugs (I haven't in months) except for weed (which I only have access to when invited for a smoke session, remember, broke). He told me about his family issues and every other personal issue you can probably think of. He poured out his beer. He showed me his meth pipe and thanked me. If it wasn't for me, all he was going to do is find a corner to smoke what was inside that pipe. For those four hours together he only took it out once to show me. Towards the end of our time together, he dug into his wallet and handed me a picture of the Virgin Mary. He said he couldn't believe he was handing me this since he never wanted to part with it, but decided to give it to me anyways. The prayer in the back goes like this:
"Prayer to Our Lady of Guadalupe: Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mystical Rose, help all those who invoke you in their necessities! Since you are the ever Virgin Mary and Mother of the true God, obtain for us from your most holy Son the grace of keeping our faith, sweet hope in the midst of the bitterness of life, burning charity, and the precious gift of final perseverance. Amen."
Persevere. Every day, another interaction, another lesson, another day of being grateful. There's a certain happiness that comes when you forgo every expectation that has been set on you and decide -- I'm just going to create the world that feels right. Every day I am creating something new without the question of "is this going to sell well, does this make sense, will the people get it?" None of that matters when you have faith that God and the Universe will provide you with everything you need at any moment. And when the prayers your family has in your name is to simply keep me safe, I know I have to persevere because I know any obstacle I face is just a lesson in the story that is my life.
My sister Lola asked me if "I was going to be like this forever". My immediate reaction was "no!" and now my answer is "for as long as the Universe puts it in my gut that this is the right thing to do."
I made a video two weeks ago talking about what "the plan" was. It was a great starting point towards how I believe society can live. But I only have one plan right now, have faith, have trust. As people order pieces and I see the happiness it brings them I know this is the purpose I am presently given. It may change tomorrow, heck, it may change in the next minute. But don't get hung up on the change, go with it, trust in the process. As I mentioned before, the sun will set, it will rise, another day, time keeps going, and for as long as I am still alive, the best way to honor this opportunity called life is to live it.
It's only been a little under three weeks and I feel like I have learned a lot and I cannot wait to learn more. Life. Gotta love it!
So here is my first blog post of my new adventure. (sidenote: I think I need a name for the adventure. Crochet Around the World? 3C's for a Cause? This Broke Ass Motherf'er that Thinks the World is for Everyone? Haha. I'm sure something will come eventually but Billy's Crochet World I think encompasses it all because that's the world I want to live in for the rest of my life.)
There is one question I have been asking the Universe lately, "can you give me a sign that I am on the right path?" I have stopped asking for anything because what I have realized is that the Universe really does give you everything you ask for, the problem is that it won't tell you how we are getting there. For example, many years ago I asked to move to the West Coast. Many years later I got that wish granted, but the process of how I got here was partly a shitty one. Hence why I just have to trust that everything is happening how it should be, but I figured if it could at least give me some sort of signs along the way, then that'd be dope!
The week leading up to the day I left LA, my mom's cousin Herbert was on my mind a lot. I don't believe I ever met him, or if I did I was a baby so I was wondering why he was on my mind. The story with him -- he disappeared and no one really knows what happened. To this day the family seems to have their head wrapped around the fact that he may be dead, but a part of all of us hopes that he is still alive and we will be able to see him some day. Without even telling my mom that he was on my mind, she posted this on her page:
Translation: Wow! Dreaming with my cousin Herbert is priceless. That hug he gave me, I woke up with my eyes watered. In the dream I asked him if he thought about us, the family, and he told me, "I think about you all the time and that is why I am always watching over all of you"
Disappeared so many years ago.. all my life I will miss you Herbert. How much I would love for you to give me that hug in real life. I never lose the hope that one day you will appear
My reaction to that post was, "THANK YOU!" I still haven't told my mom he was on my mind and this will be the first time she reads it. I already have her blessing on this journey, but maybe this will help her further understand that what I am trying to accomplish is bigger than me.
The next two signs came within 3 hours of arriving to San Diego. The first one was when Google Maps suggested I take one route to get to my first Couchsurfing host, but at one point I was like nah, I'll take this street instead. A couple blocks later I see this:
For you that is just a street sign, a green light, and a walk sign. For me, 500 Beech St is the address of my high school, one of the last times you feel like anything is possible. The green light and walk sign? Keep going.
Finally, I got to my host and once I was a block away, I realized the address of the host was Essex St. Again, for you, possibly just another street. For me, it is the intersecting street of my grandparent's house, the place I always feel safe no matter what is going on in the world.
I have no idea what is waiting on the other side of this, but I do know two things:
1) One of my final days in LA I sat on the metro and looked up at the clock, it said 9:17pm. I just stared, tried to focus so hard for it to stop, but 9:18pm still came. So the first thing I know is that I cannot change the past, the present is the only thing I have control over, and the future is coming regardless. Try that simple exercise yourself. That night, 9:17pm already passed and I will never be able to do anything to change it, 9:18pm was happening right now, but if I all I kept was worrying about 9:19pm, then I have spent the 60 seconds 9:18pm gave me on worrying about 9:19pm.
2) I also know that everything that has been created beyond the elements has been created by humans like you and me. A friend told me (as I was going off on how I no longer want to live this life of being slave to money) that they cannot make me accept the realities of the world, I will have to do that on my own. The thing is I did accept the realities of the world and the reality is that this idea of money, this idea of "the job", the standards, customs.... all created by humans.
So if those are the two things I know, I have a choice... I can either be the human that keeps feeding into the current system, knowing from past experiences that it is a shitty one, but still hoping for a better future. Or I can be the other human, that sees another way, and decides to do something different in the present. The fact remains that I do not know the future, but the beauty of it all is that no one does.
I hope that you are interested and decide to get involved! Go to "Get Involved" tab to see the many different ways you can do so. And if you are currently in San Diego, would love to catch up / wanna host me? :)
The last 24 hours have been an emotional roller coaster. I have decided to end one of my longest relationships, 10 years to be exact, to drugs and alcohol. Boom.
There comes a point when you evaluate and see that there are certain things holding you back from the man you can become. Now, before you think I am going to be all anti drugs and alcohol, please know that I am and will always be a believer in the legalization of marijuana and have no actual ill thoughts towards any drug or alcohol! But as with anything else in this world there are things that work for some and not for others. It is fun to see people that can go out all night and the next day get done whatever needs to get done... good for them! However, I am not one of those people and I have to be honest with myself and the affect these things have on my overall well being.
When you flake on plans to go workout with your little brother because all you wanted to do was nap your high away. When you don´t follow through on client requests because you were too high. When you do not make it to a friends dinner because you were too high. When you do not remember that kiss, that (was it safe?) sex, that comment. When you have to stay in bed all day to get over the hangover. When Mary Jane seems to not be enough so she invites her friend Tina and sometimes G(eorge) makes an appearance. When Tina and G(eorge) leave, you think how is this come down even possible. When you realize and see that everything you want out of life is right on the other side of this decision, then it just feels right.
¨Ummm José, you already tried it, remember, you were 6 months sober.¨ Right, but back then there was a timeline. I wanted to give it up for a year knowing that it will come back to me. That year was reduced to 6 months due to a couple of things:
1) I was at a job I grew to hate. Right around this time I was ready to take a trip to visit my brother in LA and then...
2) he says ¨you´re not coming to LA and not do anything.¨So I went to LA and drank and smoked and boom, back to the start.
There are three things I learned from this situation. One, if you are not happy... GET. AWAY. This may be a millenial comment, but there are literally a million different types of jobs out there with technology adding even more every day, but you mean to tell me I am going to spend my time being miserable? Nah, fuck that. The second thing I learned is that your actions, your thoughts, YOU are what determines your happiness. If you are letting others influence you away from decisions you have made for yourself, then you have given up. Plain and simple. The last thing I learned is that people change and that is perfectly ok. This is not a stab at my brother, but at myself for being afraid to show him ¨the new me.¨ To not having the strength to be like, ¨nah I don´t drink or do drugs,¨ next topic.
Why has this been such an emotional roller coaster? Because it has been a crutch for a third of my life. My first drunk night and the first time I was high I was 17, in college and already out of high school. I come back home and I felt like all of sudden the alcohol and drugs made people like me. The white kids that would show up to our AP Calculus class high out of their minds finally had something in common with me. The Latinx kids that would smoke a joint in the back of the bus finally had something in common with me. I was liked, I felt (ugh its annoying as fuck to say this because it has D.A.R.E. program written all over it).... I felt cool. Eventually I could not do xy or z without a blunt first. I did not want to go to an event unless I knew there was alcohol there. So I start thinking if I am even showing the world the real me anymore. Or better yet, do I even know me anymore?
So yes, my ¨relationship¨ with drugs and alcohol has come to an end. I even wrote a nice break up letter to it to make it official.
This post is not meant to make anyone sober, but to make you evaluate your current situation and be truly honest with what may be holding you back from your full potential. Whatever it may be, do not be afraid to part with it. Keep in mind that part of your life will always be a part of your story, but it does not have to make it to the back cover.