I am Christopher L. Harvey, and I see the world a little differently. Life is my story, and I live to share this story with others. From experiences traveling around the world, to waking up and walking around town...
...there are things I observe that compel me to process the world in a different way. It is my hope that you will enjoy the way I see the world, and will take part in my journey as I strive to share it with you...
(This time last year I was finishing up a long stretch of work on the road. As the weather still feels the same, overcast and cold, I can’t help but to remember how wonderful the feeling of anticipation is for a weary traveler)
Life on the road is tough, even for a single man with few tethers to tie him down. Twenty-three days on the road, and truth emerges from the routine that develops on the road. I always thought it would be exciting to spend each day in some new place, wandering, stopping only long enough to get a taste of each new place. But hotel rooms all feel the same, dry and musky and uninviting. Jet fuel fills my nostrils as I bounce from city to city to city on one plane or the next, and the dotted lines on the road all turn solid when there is no moon at night to separate them. There is no reason to speed any faster, or to pass; I will get there sometime, and soon enough. But never soon enough.
I long for home, and for the arms of a distant lover. I long for the simplicity of waking up without gasping for air, as I have each morning on the road, frightened that I have somehow lost everything of the most importance to me. I sometimes feel I need arms to hold me, to calm me down, to take breaths with me as I remember why I have left in the first place - to build something bigger than if I had stayed.
I miss my hometown, though so many swear of her unremarkable existence on a map. I miss the short drive north, windows cracked to smell and taste the salt air in my inhalations, through the old Florida wetlands, the sound of the ropes that tie my kayak to the roof of my truck flapping against its steel frame. I miss the feeling of floating, in or on the ocean, of closing my eyes and knowing that the world could end in this moment, sunshine illuminating my face, and everything would be just fine.
But now, three more days, two more flights, one more hotel room… and the anticipation in my heart to return that is unexplainable. Were the separation not such a burden, this feeling of hopeful anticipation would be the most beautiful feeling in the world, to know love renewed in each passing moment, to see past senseless arguments and disagreements, and to appreciate the touch, the taste, the companionship of the one you love… these are my thoughts on coming home, and I will be there soon enough… but never soon enough…
I am reminded, in small towns like the little central Maine town I visited recently, that this life is not about me. But it is so easy to forget this truth when I am in a rush to get from one place to the other, for no particular reason sometimes other than to simply go.
But when I get a chance to slow down my pace, to breath in a place like this town, I realize that it is kindness that lacks when I feel so overwhelmed.
I stood by the side of the road watching traffic pass through the main street and four lanes of traffic stopped for me to cross, though I was only standing there with no intention of crossing in the first place. But I crossed anyway because the people were so kind and waited for me.
And I entered a store across the street and held the door for a local man who was quick to thank me.
And this continued, as I walked along the sidewalk and passed strangers in this small town. They looked at me and smiled and warmed a heart in need of warming.
I have been stressed over things I have the control to not be stressed about. And when I get this way, I have a terrible tendency to shrivel up and protect myself by being short with people. I become snappy and self-defensive, looking out for the interests of my own small little world. But you can’t do that in this town. You have to let out your pain and frustration and embrace the kindness of the people here.
So I ran for six miles, and I would have run six more if my legs would have carried me. I ran through town, and on to the other side, and out of town along the river and into the rolling hills and farmland. Cars slowed to make sure I was safe as they passed, and people I passed in their yards and along the road smiled and waved as if I was one of them…
And I would have run six more, and kept on running, to feel the kindness melt away the worry in my heart.
I am selfish, and this has not changed, despite brokenness over time that convinces me to give up my life for others in the name of kindness. But I like to hold onto my pain and brokenness. I like to think that the more I hold it, the more I will someday appreciate a life of less pain… whenever that might be.
But kindness guides me back to the place where I am to be - selfless and entirely in love with the people of the world who need me to be strong for them. For I was not created to love myself, but to love others. And when I come to this slow, but startling revelation, I cannot help but to think that one day I will figure it out - even if I have to return to this small town and cross the street time and time again…
A little while back I spent my day exploring the ruins of what was once one of Detroit’s largest steel mills. In its hay days, the mill would take clumps of rock mined several hundred miles away and shipped down the river and turn it into some of the finest steel used for building some of Americas greatest buildings. But for the last fifteen years the mill has been closed, and there are layers of dirt and dust and asbestos to attest to its lonely decay.
When I wasn’t needed, I found myself wandering through the shadows of one of the grandest factories of America. The sun snuck through thick and rainy clouds and penetrated broken or missing windowpanes to provide enough light that I didn’t impale myself on one of the many snags that stuck out of the melancholic ruins. A deer wandered through the remnants, leading me forward into the darkness, and I swear at some point I was no longer in this present moment, but somehow transformed to a different world.
I imagined the mill in all of its glory, six thousand and four hundred bodies moving tons of liquid iron from one place to the next, a city of its own, and I looked around and saw only the skeletons and ghosts of this better time now gone.
I amassed oil on my sneakers from several decades of leaking machinery and smelled the unique scent of rusting metal and stale air in each breath. I found it ironic that all that was left of this steel mill was the metal frames and rusty machinery from what once produced the same steel. It was as if ghosts had both built and destroyed the mill, all in good time.
And as I sat still long enough, or wandered after that seemingly misplaced deer, the profound nature of this massive building crept into me. A small city had once occupied these ruins. In one year twenty-nine people had lost their lives. In another, two dozen. In over sixty years, hundreds of people had given their lives in the pursuit of building America literally from the iron ore in the ground on up. And now only shadows and smells and broken pieces of brick and steel machinery remained.
What ghosts had entertained me today, I could only speculate. I later stood outside of the building and breathed the fresh Michigan air, and there was a sudden difference in the way I thought and felt. But inside that skeleton stretching across 200 acres of land in south Detroit, there was a reminder that every good thing must come to an end.
We spoke with people who had given thirty years of their lives to the mill, and had lost handfuls of close friends over that time, and they all said essentially the same thing. The mill closed down because it did not rise to meet the changing demands around it. And so a once spectacular steel city turned into skeletons and ghosts that would remind the tiny Detroit suburb of good times gone.
Beneath the wings of this decrepit old steel mill I thought about my ghosts, and wondered what would come of me in the next fifteen years. I thought back to where I was the day the mill first shut down, in 1996, when I was halfway through my present life. If life had stopped then, what ghosts would remain of me today? And if life stops tomorrow, what ghosts will emerge over the next fifteen years?
I am learning to let go of the things that have caused pain and regret. But, as lives were lost time and again at this mill, so too have I lost pieces of myself. Still, I am fighting to remain alive amidst the ease of living through glory days. It would be easy to look back on this mill and see it the way it once was. There are pictures and paintings of the days when thousands of tons of steel would move through its doors each day. But now even the best of the mill was left to decay in the wind and rain and snow.
What happens when we stop improving ourselves? We become the past. We look back on our better days and, as I walked through this skeleton of a building, we remember what we believed were once capable of achieving, and not what we have become.
This mill serves as a reminder to me that I am capable of great things. Enough steel moved through this factory to build several of the largest US cities in their entirety. But it also serves as a reminder that every day must be my best day. I can just as easily fall apart if I stop focusing on what I can do to improve myself.
We all have ghosts in life. But we should hope to never meet them. For what will we say to our ghost when it asks us, “What now, dear friend, since you have become as me? Will you ever be what you know you could have been?
I will become my best, tomorrow, because today I was only good enough to be better than yesterday. And tomorrow my ghost will have to wait one more day, because I have not even begun to live…
I admit, I shop at Big Box stores. At this point in life it is not too practical for me to shop many other places. I mean, when I get a chance to buy fresh produce at a farmer’s market or to buy things in a boutique store when I am traveling or looking for a gift from time to time, I do. But, to some degree, I buy into the simplicity and the savings… I know, I’m a walking commercial.
And while there are all kinds of stigmas from people who do not like the Big Box stores, the truth is that there are also a lot of lessons to be learned while shopping there.
Parking, for instance.
I usually try to get my shopping done on off hours, whatever those may be for a 24-hour megastore that prides itself on low prices and the convenience of one-stop shopping. I will go on a Monday, for instance, around ten in the morning. I figure that’s a safe bet because most people should be at work or at school or anywhere, really, except shopping. But that’s not always true, judging by the parking lot.
And it always makes me wonder about people and the conventions we have established for ourselves in a place like the parking lot at the Big Box stores. I am usually discouraged when I arrive at this time to find that I am not the only person trying to avoid the peak hours. But, in my discouragement over time, I have noticed that most people will choose to park in the center three rows directly in front of the store.
I park instead three or four rows further to the side. And when it comes to distance to the front entrance, my choice is almost always the closest.
So why do people wait for spots sometimes thirty or forty cars deep in these prized center rows, when they can be three cars deep just four rows to the side?
I think the answer has everything to do with the concept of human conditioning: the choices we make when we aren’t even aware we are making them.
When I chose to quit teaching, for instance, many friends and family members advised against it and told me that teaching was the “safe, convenient career.” It offered health insurance and retirement and job security. It was honorable and it paid well and gave me ample time off to wander and explore the world.
The problem was, as much as I wanted to believe that I could spend thirty or forty years in the classroom- parking in the center three rows so to speak- I really wasn’t content. I felt there was something different for me, perhaps full of struggle and regret or, perhaps, simply a closer parking spot to the big box store that was my calling in life.
Maybe there is a reason why many people park in the center three rows at places like Big Box stores and movie theaters. Maybe there is some advantage to it that I have yet to experience. But as long as I know that I have a choice, that I can take a chance and think and live just a little bit differently than other people, I am inclined to think that I can find a better parking spot somewhere else.
Perhaps I will find myself back in the classroom, or in another similarly “convenient” career, seeking the comforts and security of the safe, honorable life. I certainly don’t judge those of us who make the decision to build perfectly acceptable careers doing the things we love to do. So I think I will consider these options if and when I ever get there. But for now I would encourage you to take a look at the parking lot the next time you pull into your favorite Big Box store and ask yourself where you want to park.
Of course, there’s no wrong answer. There is simply the choice…
When my grandparents passed away, each in the own time, their secrets were revealed. This, of course, is an entirely other topic as I think about how open and exposed we are when we die and leave our lives behind. But what I found, in letters they left behind, absolutely amazed me.
I am a romantic, which means I do not belong in this present moment. I belong somewhere in the past, when times were simpler. But I am a realist at the same time, knowing that in each time period I might be dropped, I would always long for a previous, simpler time.
I never read my grandparents letters. These were their secrets, their conversations that no one else should read, and I respected that. But I held them in my hand and I thought about the purity in which they communicated with each other. Words will always find a way to lose their meaning, or to be distorted. But words written with the hand stand a better chance, since there is a particular attention that is required to write a hand-written letter.
This is what I crave… this is what I long for… to be able to communicate the way we were intended to communicate - face to face or, all distractions aside, as close to that as reasonable.
Reason is a good word to use, because a 24/7 method of communicating is not reasonable. With friends and family scattered across the world, it is nice to think that we might communicate with each other at the same real time, though several time zones apart. But at the same time, we are choosing to be apart for our own reasons, and we should evaluate communication as one of those factors that we would need to address in our decision to move.
I long for simpler times. I am ashamed that I contributed to the rise of AOL but am glad that I boycotted the MySpace era. I was late coming to the Facebook scene and have relatively little idea at all about how to Tweet, but am embarrassed that I have at times allowed these to come between relationships, instead of to build the relationships it was supposed to build. I want to tell my friends and family how I feel in spoken word face to face and, lacking that ability, I long to have to take the time to sit down and to write - not to type and to edit and change what I say, but instead to let me heart be freed upon the paper.
I am a puppet of modern times, but my intention is rather simple: I will harness the modern ways to communicate, in order to build a simpler life. I will use technology as necessary, but build and sustain my escapes. I will speak in person with those who mean the most to me, and find ways to reach those with whom I cannot see in person. I will use these modern times to find a way to live a simpler life…
I have nearly lost relationships that mean the most to me, simply because I did not take the time to appreciate how each of these people communicated with me. I refuse to let this become standard practice. And now, as I write a letter to an invisible audience, using an invisible connection to an infinite world beyond, I know that I have learned my lesson. Just because we can, doesn’t mean that we should. And as long as we can use less personal ways to communicate with each other, we should be mindful of the consequences of our dependence upon them.
We might think that we are coming closer to each other through virtual social networks. But the reality is, as long as we are virtually connected, we can never truly communicate with each other. And if we cannot truly communicate with each other, then are we ever truly connected…
In an effort to engage the public in conversation about the need for immigration reform in America, through the telling of The Lonely Girl’s story, two newspapers in Jacksonville, Florida will feature articles that I wrote in their next two publications! Make sure to check out and support The Folio Weekly and Hola Noticias!
Right now, behind the economy, immigration reform is of top priority in US Politics. Please leave your comments and get involved in the discussion of your idea on how or why immigration reform should take place.
I am a planner. Which means I am also a worrier, because everyone knows that plans never go the way they should. And when you spend any amount of time planning, it becomes almost necessary to spend equally as much time worrying that the plans come true.
Of course, I could always plan for contingencies… such as… my entire plan falling through. But those aren’t the kind of plans I like to make. With as much as I like to think I am an optimist, I realize that planning for failure would make me the epitome of pessimism… So I try to remain optimistic… or stubborn… in making plans.
I am a dreamer. Which means I also have the highest of expectations. This is great for me though, because I am always reaching and stretching. Whether my plans fall through or follow through, there are always dreams to be dreamed. And this is what makes me both the best and worst kind of person. My dreams, my expectations for the way that life should be, place tremendous strain on anyone unfortunate enough to garner my attention, or worse, my affection.
Of course, I could always live a simpler life, one that perhaps leaves me striving for mediocrity. But those aren’t the kind of dreams I like to dream. With as much as I like to think I am “Everyman,” I realize that living this kind of life would make me the embodiment of complacency… And for some reason I just can’t come to terms with that. So I try to remain a dreamer, even if that means I don’t feel I can always relate to the world.
I am also slightly obsessive-compulsive, with a handful of prescriptions I refuse to take to prove it. Which means I like things to line up perfectly, like the toy soldiers I used to line up as a young boy in the driveway of my childhood home. I like to wash my hands, sometimes twice, because clean can never be clean enough. I like to know that there is always some order, regardless of the chaos that might arise. But this is just the cause of all of my plans, compounded upon my dreams, leaving me desperate for a deep satisfaction I cannot realistically ever expect to achieve…
So, in the comfort of my plans, I find myself lost sometimes. In the middle of something good, I make plans for something better. In the midst of loss, I plan for substantial change that leads to gain. Surrounded by failure or fleeting moments of pleasure, I anticipate the need for something more…
So how does an obsessive-compulsive, dreamer with the highest of expectations for himself and others plan for his future? I think it starts first with letting go, and then with accepting whatever might come of it… And that scares me, more than anything else… But the anticipation of all that might be excites me more than my fear of failure. So I think, life is good, and that’s the one thing I can always plan on…
I once interviewed an expert on diversity. And what I found through this interview has come to challenge who I am, or at least who I think I am.
I have traveled the world fairly well. I have fallen in love with a people so different from my own in so many of my journeys. And yet I find myself falling into two simple traps the same as most other people I know.
First, I allow stereotypes to dictate my attitude and behavior. I make comments, in jest, that are hurtful toward others and claim the cover of my humor. I converse about the reasons why stereotypes are perpetuated with those who are so like-minded that I should expect no resistance in argument, instead of trying to identify with the struggles and injustices of those who I think against. I claim that ignorance keeps people down and that ignorant people cling to other ignorant people out of comfort, as I keep the company of those I know to comfort me. I could go on about the behavior that I allow to dictate my thoughts, instead of the thoughts that should dictate my behavior, but I would only look like more of a hypocrite than I actually am. But at least I am honest about it.
Second, I do not humble myself to the extent that I can truly learn from others. Diversity breeds strength, and yet I find myself thinking that I can become strong in and of myself. But as any great community has learned, it is the strength of diverse individuals that come together for a greater good that bring about change and revolution. We have the tendencies of sheep and lemmings when it comes to change. We would rather be led to slaughter, or to jumping off of cliffs, than to stand out and seek the council of others who stand out. Someone is always going to be better than me at something, and yet I find myself resisting this company because for some reason I feel I can find a way to do everything better. So I become a jack of all trades and a master of none because I am afraid to let down my guard, to admit that others around me might be masters of one and can teach me, and I become bland in my pursuit of greatness.
Don’t get me wrong. I am not unnecessarily hard on myself. In fact, I think I let myself off easy sometimes. If I was honest with myself, I could not do so publicly, for my pride is far too great to accept that I might, in some ways, actually be a contributing problem rather than a solution for the world. But at least I am honest about it.
So, diversity should encourage us, inspire us. And yet it causes fear, which then drives hatred and prejudice. We are afraid of what we do not know, and what we do not know - or at least fail to realize - is that we should simply be afraid of ourselves, at times. We are capable of far worse crimes than any racist or extremist of historical significance when we fail to recognize the need for diversity in every aspect of our lives, and that should strike fear in our hearts.
So, as I begin a new day I wonder, will old thoughts dictate my present attitudes or will old attitudes dictate my present thoughts? I have a choice, I know. But what is easier, to remain a sheep or lemming, or to stand out among the rest and seek my council among the best of any group? I think that we should all choose our council wisely, and preferably from among those most dissimilar to ourselves. In the end we will be better people for this, and the world will remember us for our wisdom, and not our folly…
THE LONELY GIRL, a biographical narrative as told from the standpoint of a Mexican immigrant living in the United States, is available for purchase on Amazon Kindle. During its five-day promotional release, beginning October 24, it ranked #2 for ALL Free Children’s Nonfiction and #7 for ALL Free Biographies and Memoirs categories.
Jacksonville, Florida – November 5, 2012
Author Christopher L. Harvey has released THE LONELY GIRL in efforts to bring awareness to the need for immigration reform in the United States. The story speaks to the heart of readers who may or may not understand the struggles that immigrant children face, both in coming to and in living in the United States, and is a call to action to address immigration reform from a personal, not necessarily political, point of view.
Relating the real-life events as told from the perspective of a teenage Mexican immigrant, THE LONELY GIRL is a story of rejection and love, fear and courage, struggle and hope as a young girl pursues her dreams in the Land of Opportunity. Through the course of telling her story, the Lonely Girl comes to symbolize that which many Americans can relate to: a hope that this world can be a better place, if only we would begin to become this change in ourselves.
As immigration ebbs and flows with the media cycle and both major Presidential candidates have pledged to address reform during the next term, current immigration legislation is confusing and sometimes contradictory. In efforts to find a temporary remedy, President Obama initiated Deferred Deportation to address the estimated 1.7 million illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as minors. THE LONELY GIRL gives readers a chance to get to know the person, not the politics, which should drive immigration reform.
Christopher L. Harvey is a native of Jacksonville, Florida and former high school teacher. As he related more and more to his students and their challenges, he desired to help others in their struggles. He became a voice for students and teachers who felt that their voices went otherwise unheard when he began to write editorials for local newspapers. In 2011, Harvey left the classroom to work as an Assistant Director on a feature documentary and has since branched out to pursue a full-time writing career.
For more information about THE LONELY GIRL, please visit www.christopherlharvey.com or contact Christopher Harvey at email@example.com