First Time Here?

Hi and thanks for visiting!

If this is your first time here, these are some links to get you started.

If you want to start from the beginning, click here for #1 Go to a Party By Myself.

If you want to browse some of the best posts, click here for Highlights.

If you want to browse all of the posts, click here for the Archive.

Thanks again for visiting and feel free to contact me.

Epilogue

Well, yesterday’s post was obviously the hardest post I’ve ever written. What did I want to include? How did I want to say it? What should I leave in? What should I leave out? What kind of tone did I want?

It’s like trying to make a series finale for a TV show. Sometimes you get Seinfeld which was utterly disappointing. Sometimes you get Six Feet Under which was utterly mind blowing. Hopefully mine fell in the meaty party between the two.

For my halfway point reflections post, I listed the top 10 most read posts.

Top 10 Most Read Posts:

  1. #54 Finally Talk to that Cute Girl in Yoga
  2. #1 Go to a Party by Myself
  3. #310 Attend No Pants Metro Ride 2012
  4. #127 Take an Aerobics Class with Richard Simmons
  5. #201 Perform in a Live Show Called “Mortified”
  6. #17 Taking it Up a Notch – Exposing Myself on Reddit
  7. #15 Post a Really (really… really) Embarrassing Video of Myself on YouTube
  8. #113 Spend the Day in Solitary Confinement
  9. #56 First Kiss in a Public Place
  10. #154 See Her Again

It’s interesting to see what changed. Clara’s first post tops the list. Her posts also close out the list at spots 9 and 10. Like I said before, people like a love story. Even if it doesn’t work out. Mortified, my reddit video, Richard Simmons and the very first post of the blog were always popular ones. The No Pants Metro Ride post rocketed to #3 probably due to it being mentioned in the Huffington Post. And Solitary Confinement came out of nowhere to land in the #8 spot. I always thought that was one of the most interesting posts of the blog.

Some statistics over the year:

39,971 Visits
19,154 Unique Visitors
100,205 Pageviews
2.51 Pages/Visit
00:03:53 Avg. Time on Site
60.84% Bounce Rate
47.88% % New Visits

I actually fell off pace a bit from the first half of the year with visits but I had such a huge spike from my reddit video I think it’s still pretty good. My pageviews went up however which is a good sign. Average time on the site went up by 20 seconds as well which is phenomenal.

Top 10 countries who read this blog:

  1. US
  2. Canada
  3. New Zealand
  4. UK
  5. Australia
  6. Netherlands
  7. Germany
  8. Sweden
  9. Poland
  10. Ireland

No real surprises there. Mostly English speaking countries. Poland seems kind of random. And Germany?

It’s still cool to think people from around the world have been to my blog. Maybe I’m a rock star in Poland, who knows.

Overall, I never felt the blog was as popular as I thought it should be. Maybe that sounds conceited, but I really believe I had some good stuff here. I think I could’ve worked on the design better and utilized social media more. It’s hard though. Everything took so much time. Time I didn’t have.

The blog doesn’t even feel like it’s over. It took all day to write the post yesterday and today I spent redoing my finale video. I wasn’t satisfied with it at all but this new one is SO much better. I hope you enjoy it.

And I’m going to work tomorrow. Yes, I know. Crazy. But a friend of mine offered me some freelance work at his company. It’s twice what I was making before so I figure work there for a few weeks and really have a nice cushion for the future. I told myself I wasn’t going to turn down any job offered to me. I just didn’t think it would be this soon.

It will be good though. Change is good. I know that now. I just have to keep moving and not get complacent. That’s the death of innovation.

I have a couple of interesting projects in the works. I can’t say much about them now but here’s where you’ll first hear about them. I’m revamping the blog when I get a chance. I’ll keep an area dedicated to the year-long SYED project and then the main page will be the new blog. It will still be focused on scary things but I won’t be restricted to those posts. I’ll have my incoherent babblings and rants as well. I hope you all stay tuned for it.

Thanks again to everyone. This really is the last post of the year-long Scare Yourself Every Day project. Now… cue music…

#365 The End (?)

From very early on, I knew that I wanted to end Scare Yourself Every Day with a big party. I always envisioned it as a huge event. Renting out an entire bar. Hundreds of people. Everyone who supported the blog and everyone who was a part of it. The Scientologists, the Mormon Missionaries. My psychic would be telling fortunes at a table. Magic Mike would be doing card tricks for everyone. There would be pole dancers performing. A buffet table full of weird and gross foods. I would make an announcement that I had a book deal. And everything would resolve to a slow motion scene set to music.

Now that the day was here, I knew it wasn’t going to be like that. I didn’t have the money to rent out a space or hire people to do fun activities. Let’s face it, even if I did invite the Scientologists and Mormons they wouldn’t have come anyway. I didn’t know any pole dancers. Weird and gross foods still cost money. I didn’t have a book deal. And life doesn’t resolve to slow motion scenes set to music.

But if I’ve learned anything from a year of doing scary things every day, it’s that even though things rarely go as you imagined it, they can be just as good or more often, better.

When I was sitting by myself in The Alibi room in the lounge area before anyone showed up, it reminded me of when I started this blog. I started it completely alone. I did a week of scary things before I even told anyone about it. It was my little secret. But when I revealed it, I was terrified nobody would read it. Now I was terrified that no one was coming to the party.

Then Andrzej and Christi walked through the door and I started to relax. This party wasn’t going to be an embarrassing failure.

That’s also how I felt when the first few people started reading my blog. Relief my blog wasn’t going to be an embarrassing failure. And just as more and more people began reading the blog, more and more people showed up to the party.

At one point in the night, I went over to the bar and looked back at the lounge area. A couple of hours ago it was empty. Now it was overflowing with people.

Good friend Bob was there. Nate and Andrzej of course. Nate’s girlfriend Caity who I played D&D with. Christi who was there when I rode the mechanical bull. Casey (aka Susan aka The Brownie Girl). Magic Mike who did his own scary thing by showing up to this party alone. Tim, my camera guy for the Awesome foundation. Kristina aka Kate from dining in the darkChris from the Barmuda Triangle. His wife, Yael who who took me to The Landmark Forums. Erin who encouraged me to write my press release. Matt who suggested a bunch of things to me like writing a letter to my future self. Roy’s who’s kitchen I worked in. And friends who were just readers and supporters of the blog in general.

Maybe the party wasn’t like the fantasy I had imagined early on. But it was better. Because it was real. I used to spend a lot of time creating fantasies in my head. I’d make plans that I’d never go through with. I was always a dreamer and not a doer. But over the past year, I’ve become a person that does things. Because I had to.

I used to always put things off until a “better” time. I learned there never is a “better” time. And if you put something off, it’s as good as never doing it.

I thought of everyone else who was a part of the blog but not at the party. Everyone who read the blog. The people who wrote me emails. Gave me encouragement when things were rough. Told me how I inspired them which is still amazing and unbelievable to me. Even the people who would just ask me casually, “What scary thing have you done lately?” The people who I wouldn’t even have met if not for this blog. They were all a part of this.

I discovered how much my family means to me. I feel closer to them than ever before. My mother and I especially have been through a lot this year but I think our relationship is the strongest it’s ever been. I told my Dad all the things people normally say when a person has passed on and it’s too late. I did a few scary things with my sister.

I feel closer to my friends too. Even though the blog is so one-sided, just knowing that my friends were reading it was a connection between us that we never had before. And that they read it all means so much to me.

I was like Charlie Brown before the blog. Depressed, no self-confidence and always lamenting on what he couldn’t bring himself to do, like talk to his little red-haired girl. But because of SYED, I finally talked to my “little red-haired girl“.

There’s so much satisfaction from confronting your fears. It’s something you have to experience for yourself. It makes you think anything is possible. When you do a scary thing, you discover you’re stronger than you thought. Much stronger.

And those scary things? They’re almost never as bad you think. Except if you get colon hydrotherapy. Then it’s much much worse.

SYED has also helped me find the joy in life that I never did before. It’s an amazing thing to be excited about the future.

I’ve never been more proud of anything I’ve ever done in my life. Whatever happens, I can look back at SYED and say I did that. One day, I said I was going to do something scary every day for a year and I did it. Nobody can take that away from me.

What are you going to do now? It’s the question everyone’s been asking me. Scare Yourself Every Day as we know it is over. The goal was to do something scary every day for a year and I’ve done that. There’s a beauty to something with a start and finish. It makes this past year so special. BUT…

I’m not going to stop scaring myself. It just won’t be every day. I can’t tell you how much SYED consumed my time, thoughts, energy and even money. It’s time for a break. But I’m going to keep writing in my blog and I’ll hope you’ll continue to follow me.

I want to make a SYED community where people can talk and share stories about scaring themselves. A place to trade ideas and scary things to try. To give support to each other to do things they never thought possible.

So today is both an end and a beginning at the same time.

And just because life doesn’t have slow motion scenes set to music, doesn’t mean I can’t make my own…

#364 Last Day at Work

A month ago I quit. Well, gave my notice at least. Of course that was a difficult decision. One of the most difficult of my life. But that whole time after you’ve given notice, you feel as though you can back out at any time. Sorry boss! It was just a bluff to get more money out of you! Clearly you’re not blinking so can I keep working here?

Giving notice so early allows you ample time to regret your decision. But I never did. Not even for a minute. Sure I worried about it. Had moments of sheer panic. Lying awake in the middle of the night, figuring out which possessions I could sell and how much time that would buy me based on my budget. But regret? None. Nothing has felt so right.

This week leading up till today, it still didn’t feel real. I packed up most of my things yesterday. I had plenty of boxes from the numerous Amazon shipments I’d had delivered to work. I defrosted my refrigerator whose freezer resembled the iceberg that sank Leo and Kate in the Titanic. But it still didn’t hit me.

Today, my last day at work, it finally started to sink in. It was the little things. People in my department running around, doing what they normally do but never talking to me about it. It wasn’t, Greg we need this and this and this. It was, Craig, we need this and this and this. It wasn’t that they’d forgotten my name suddenly. Craig was the freelancer who was taking over much of my workload.

While I was so weary and tired of my work, I found it hard to let go. I felt a reflex reaction to try and get projects done. But my project manager didn’t even ask me to do anything. What was the point? I had my exit interview in 6 hours.

It was cleaning out my computer. Really cleaning out. I’ve never seen my desktop so clean except when I first started. All of my personal files, gone. The funny images I sent to my coworkers. My music. Photos. Everything. My computer was now as sterile as a mule.

My coworkers took me out to lunch. It was a smaller group because there were a bunch of fires to put out at work. It suited me just fine. I hate big groups of people. Nate and Andrzej didn’t think they were going to make it but they showed up in time which made me really happy.

Then I went back to the office and started writing my goodbye email. My first version was very short. A few sentences and that’s it. I didn’t want to get too personal. But that would’ve been what the old Greg would do. The new, SYED-improved Greg wrote something a little more meaningful. I tried to make it funny but sincere.

I planned to slip out to my exit interview and then go home. Bypassing any sort of goodbyes. I would see most of the coworkers I was closest to at my party tomorrow anyway. (A funny side note about that is I miscalculated the last day of the blog. I thought it was Sunday. I was having the party on Saturday just to make it easier for people to attend. But I forgot about leap year. So the extra day means #365 is really tomorrow!)

But again, that would be the old Greg. Avoid any tough, emotional situation. SYED Greg decided to come back after the exit interview and make an effort to say goodbye to everyone.

So I started at one end of the office and worked my way down. The first person I said goodbye to was one of the coworkers I was friends with. And I was surprised at how sad I was. We didn’t really say anything and hugged. I was kind of speechless afterwards but managed to say goodbye to a couple of other coworkers who were standing nearby.

I made my way to Nate and Andrzej. It was a brief goodbye. Partly because I know I’ll see them fairly often even though we don’t work together. But partly because it was pretty sad because we had become so close. And no matter how often we did see each other, it wouldn’t be the same.

I was surprised at how hard it was. I guess you can’t work with people 40 hours a week for 4 years and not feel an emotional attachment to them. Even with all the disagreements and fights you may have. Coworkers are like your family. You don’t choose them and you’re forced to have relationships with them. And in the end, it hurts to say goodbye to them.

As I walked to my car, I thought about how glad I was that I did that. Made an effort to say goodbye to everyone. It just shows how much I’ve changed in the last year. It’s so easy and safe to isolate from people, but so lonely too.

When I drove out of the parking lot and down the street to the freeway, I looked back in my rearview mirror. I saw the office disappearing in the distance. Then I realized I wasn’t just driving away from a phase of my life, I was driving towards a new one.

#363 Ride a Mechanical Bull

Riding a mechanical bull was on the SYED list for quite some time now. It seemed like a no-brainer. A scary fun thing to try that was made extremely convenient given there was a place with a mechanical bull 5 minutes from where I worked.

But maybe it was that convenience that made me keep putting it off until I completely forgot about it. That is until Andrzej asked me a couple of days ago, “Whatever happened to riding the bull?”

I quickly mobilized and asked some of my coworkers if they wanted to go with me tonight. Surprisingly, five of them did. While I like to think it was to support the blog, I think it’s more likely they just wanted to see me launched off the bull into the night time sky.

I did a quick google search on how to ride a bull. The only tips I learned were to grip with your legs not your hand and use your hips. But those were vague enough instructions you could apply them to almost anything.

There were two things that scared me about the bull. The first was being embarrassed by not staying a fair amount of time. The second was crushing my skull or breaking my back falling off the thing. The first thing scared me more.

I had a beer and some nachos before signing up to ride the bull. That was probably not the best idea. Add shitting myself as a third fear.

Finally it was time. The bull was surrounded by some pretty decent padding. It was a lot fluffier than I thought. That eased my fears a bit. Maybe I wouldn’t end up a quadriplegic after this. Then I hopped and well, pictures speak louder than words…

I went from “I can do this” to “oh shit” in about 2 seconds. You can see it in the video. When it jumped to that next level I was done. Once you get loose, I don’t think you can get back.

As I walked off, the girl operating the bull reassured me that I had stayed on longer than most. She even encouraged me to come back for the bull riding competition on the weekend though I suspect she said that to everyone to drum up business for the bar.

My wrist was a bit sore after I got thrown off and my inner thighs ached from the death grip I was giving the bull. I was happy to have finally done it. But I was happier that my coworkers were there with me. It was a lot of fun to hang out with them. My last day at work is tomorrow so I’m glad I was able to do this with them.

I might even do ride a bull again. Just call me an Urban Cowboy.

#362 Guest Post – Bonnie

With the blog coming to an end, I’ve been thinking about how SYED started as this very personal thing and has since turned into more of a community exprience. I already had my friend Nate make a guest post about changing his look (which quickly reverted back I might add). But I wanted to hear from a reader, someone I didn’t know personally. I immediately thought of Bonnie.

Bonnie sent me an email back in May about Scare Yourself Every Day. It was awesome. I was completely blown away by it. She talked about how she was inspired by the blog. I’d only been doing SYED for a couple of months at that point and it was the first email that really talked about a personal connection to the blog. Since then we’ve tried to keep in touch every month or so.

I asked her to write about her experience with SYED. She enthusiastically agreed and this is what she had to say:

A little under a year ago, my boyfriend broke up with me. Through a text message. Right before our two-year anniversary. We were so perfectly in love and I was crushed. I never thought I would be one of those pathetic girls who sits around pining over their ex, eating a gallon of ice cream a day. And technically, I wasn’t; it was more like two gallons a day.

The worst part (y’know, besides having all my hopes and dreams shattered) was that I didn’t know what to do with myself. Everyone told me to keep busy, but how was I supposed to do that? My past hobbies included hanging out with my boyfriend, waiting for my boyfriend to call, and texting my boyfriend 24/7. What the hell was I doing with my life for the past two years?

After a sufficient amount of wallowing, I convinced myself that the world actually had not ended and that I should probably get out of bed and re-unite with the shower.

I started making a list of all the things I wanted to do with my newfound free time. At the top of the list was to stop being so boring. I’ve never been one to take risks. I’ve always tried to stay off the radar and, although it may not be the best way to live, at least I avoided being noticed. I would always look at people who were confident and had the guts to try new things and think, “Wow, it must be nice to be able to do that. I wish I could too.” I was so scared to take initiative, because what if I put in effort for nothing? What if I failed? Well, my life had already fallen apart, so I didn’t have much to lose. It was the perfect opportunity to become the person I always wanted to be.

It was then that a friend introduced me to Scare Yourself Every Day. When I first read it I thought the same old “Oh, he’s so great, why can’t I be like him and do scary things?” But when I actually thought about it, there was nothing keeping me from doing just that. So, I made the decision to start doing scary things. Not necessarily everyday, but as often as possible. I used to think of a million reasons not to do something that put me out of my comfort zone, but now I asked myself “why not?”

In the past year I have experienced so much. I overcame my intense fear of heights and went skydiving (I even succeeded in retaining all of my bodily fluids!). I did a presentation in front of a bunch of high school students, and yes, they’re terrifying no matter how much older than them you are. I went rafting with my sister and survived getting stranded on the river for a while (For the record, rivers are very fast the day after a hurricane.). Some things were smaller, like trying a newflavor every time I got ice cream or getting a new hairstyle for the first time since I was about five. Others were huge, like getting my first apartment and moving to the city. For a person whose idea of scary used to be using the Wii controller without wearing the safety strap, this whole experience has been a pretty big accomplishment.

A lot of the things I have done were on a more personal level. Before, I used being shy as an excuse for everything. Once I realized that I’m not actually as shy as I thought (I blame my parents. As a child they introduced me with “This is Bonnie. No, she’s okay, she’s just shy.”), talking to people wasn’t as scary. I’ve changed so much, and I’ve overcome fears that I’ve had for 20 years. I have never been more proud of I guess the most important thing I’ve learned is to just go for it. Playing it safe is risky; there’s a good chance you’ll miss out on so many opportunities. Yes, things will go wrong, but you learn to overcome the disappointment and keep going; it’s not a big deal. Courage is limitless – if you can get past your inhibitions, you can do anything.

Sometimes I still can’t believe how far I’ve come. My first scary thing was emailing Greg and thanking him for being such an inspiration. I don’t think I could have gotten to this point without reading the blog and seeing that yes, it is possible, and I have every intention of continuing this for as long as there are scary things to overcome. Thanks again, Greg!

If anyone has any suggestions for scary things to do around Boston, let me know!

heyitsbonnie@gmail.com

I’m so proud of Bonnie for doing all those things that scared her. It’s inspiring to me to hear about so she’s given that right back to me. And it’s humbling to think I had a tiny part in getting her started. Thanks Bonnie!

#361 Dentists and Taxes

As the end draws near, I’m preparing myself for a big life change. Part of that involves using what health benefits I have while I can.

A little while ago I went to the dentist. What I didn’t mention was that I told him one of my teeth was feeling sensitive and painful. He said it might be because of an old filling. He could drill it out and replace it with a new one. That sounded absolutely horrible. So I decided to wait and see if it got any worse. In reality, I just didn’t want to get my tooth drilled out. This was going to be a novocaine situation. Needles in my mouth freak me out.

But with my insurance dwindling to its final days, I realized how stupid I was being. I should make sure everything was topped off before I quit my job. Who knew how long it would be before I had insurance again? I called for an appointment and they were able to squeeze me in today, knowing that I was practically on borrowed time.

When I got to the dentist’s office, he took a few more x-rays just to make sure that this was the problem. Then he got started. He put some topical anesthetic on my gum and then… the novocaine. I kind of looked away as he stuck the needle into my mouth. I just hate the “squishing” sound as the needle goes in. Of course it doesn’t really hurt but I just can’t stand the thought of a needle in one of my orifices.

Then the drilling. If there’s any sound in Hell it’s that awful sound of a dentist’s drill. It just goes straight to your brain and then spends some time there kicking over trash cans and smashing windows. But luckily there was no pain other than psychological. The whole thing lasted for about 20 minutes. And when it was over, I felt like I had a brand new mouth.

When I got home, I decided to tackle another one of life’s certainties: taxes.

Doing your taxes is not fun. Last year I got a pretty big return. I had no idea what was going to happen this year. I never do. I didn’t have much freelance income which was good. I still had my LLC so I could write off stuff for that. But the tax laws are always changing. With my upcoming unemployment, I was really scared of owing money.

An hour later, I found myself looking at a return almost double what I got last year. Of course given my Asian neuroticism and guilt, I immediately thought I’d done something wrong and would get audited. Well, I did make a mistake. I put down $7200 instead of $720 for an expense. But that really doesn’t make that big of a difference. Especially since I was taking a standard deduction. Still, I got suckered into TurboTax’s “audit protection” service. Basically, if you get audited, they deal with the IRS so you don’t have to. For $40, it assuaged some of my guilt and fear.

After I calmed down a bit, I realized how much this unexpected money was going to help me. Honestly, I could live for a few months off this return alone if I did nothing else at all. Then I still had my reserves and my savings after that. Again, that’s all assuming I do nothing at all which I don’t plan on.

As my last day of work draws near, I feel much better about it than I did. I feel ready for the long haul. I feel prepared. And finally, I feel excited.

#360 Spend the Night in the Wilderness Alone Part 2

Yesterday I went up to the Angeles Forest to spend the night there all by myself. I’d just settled into my tent for the night when I realized I still had my contacts in. I got my contact lens solution and holder from my bag and took them out. Then I reached for my glasses case and opened it. No glasses. Fuuuck.

I was going to sleep but I thought I should be able to see in case something scary and creepy came up to my tent to devour me alive. I considered my options and probably went with the worst one which was attempt to put my contacts back in with only a small flash light and my iPhone front facing camera as a mirror.

The problem was if I lost a contact, I was screwed. I can’t see very well at all without them and I still had to hike 3.5 miles up a mountain and drive 40 miles home tomorrow.

Luckily, 20 years of putting in my contacts drunk/stoned/hallucinating etc. paid off. I did drop one but I found it quickly. Once they were in, I felt relieved knowing I would be able to see whatever horror was out there in the darkness, waiting for me to fall asleep.

It took a good five minutes of maneuvering to zip up my sleeping bag and get everything positioned just so. Then I closed my eyes…

I started to drift off but then I heard a noise outside and I bolted awake. I waited and listened carefully. There it was again. Something moving in the brush outside. I opened my tent and tried to cut through the night with my flashlight. Then, the rustling. Unmistakable.

I jumped out of my tent, grabbed a giant rock nearby and heaved it into the brush, hoping to scare away whatever it was that was advancing toward me. I waited. Then I heard it again from somewhere else. As I walked in the direction of the noise, I stepped on something. I looked down. A pinecone. They must’ve been dropping off the trees above me and making the noise. Much like Tom Hanks in Cast Away, I was trolled by mother nature.

Back in the tent, I attempted to go to sleep but I was wide awake. I tried reading a book for a bit but couldn’t concentrate. I looked at the time. 9pm. The Oscars were probably still on. I thought about everyone at their Oscar parties and started to feel very lonely. This tent was suddenly the last place I wanted to be.

I turned on my phone to see if by some miracle I could get a signal. Then I could call somebody and talk to them. But predictably, there was no service.

I laid down again but couldn’t turn my brain off. I kept thinking about the blog ending. The things I didn’t get to do. Whether I had done enough scary things. Whether it would ever become a book. I thought about the party on Saturday and how it wasn’t turning out at all like I wanted. I thought about all the turning points in my life. Graduating high school then college. Breaking up with my various girlfriends. Moving. Changing jobs. What was going to happen to me now?

Eventually, I drifted off into some kind of sleep. It wasn’t great but I was sleeping. The next thing I knew I woke up completely freezing. Colder than I’d ever been sleeping. I’d only worn a pair of shorts and a tshirt to sleep since my sleeping bag was 0 degree rated, which meant it could keep you warm in 0 degree weather. I was fine when I went to sleep but now I was unbearably cold.

The wind had picked up and I could hear it howling through the trees outside. It was whipping around the rain fly on my tent which did an admirable job of helping deflect most of it. But it was still freezing in the tent.

I quickly threw on my pants and fleece. I laid back down but that wasn’t doing the trick. I put on my North Face jacket, gloves and cap and finally, I began to get warm. The sleeping bag was a liar, I tell you. A LIAR!

Eventually I fell back “asleep” again. I just remember dozing off, waking up freezing cold, trying to curl into a ball to get warm then dozing off again. That happened more times than I could count.

Then the rain started. My pack was outside so I had to get it and bring it in so it wouldn’t get wet. Back inside the tent, I tried to sleep yet again.

It was the longest night in my life. Everything hurt. The sleeping pad helped but I was still sleeping on rock hard earth. 5am couldn’t come soon enough. I packed up my things in complete darkness with only my small flashlight. Then I began the hike back.

Thankfully, I only hiked in complete darkness for an hour before the sun began lighting everything up. Still it was cloudy and rainy and I was hiking uphill. It was pretty miserable.

It was colder at the top of the mountain where I parked. I jumped in my car, blasted the heater and headed home. I made it in time for work, though I struggled to stay awake the whole day.

This was one of the hardest and scariest things I’ve done so far. It took a lot of preparation and required a great deal of physical and mental endurance. I always thought I was fine by myself but being alone, truly alone like being in the middle of the forest with no communication is extremely difficult. It may not be big and flashy, but it was a very personal thing for me.

I’m glad I was able to finally do it. Getting lost up there all those years ago was traumatic. It was good to go back and conquer that lingering fear. And I have to admit, I do kinda feel like a bad ass now.

Self portrait by fire light.

#359 Spend the Night in the Wilderness Alone Part 1

About 6 years ago, I decided to go mountain biking in the Angeles National Forest for the first time ever. I found a trail that looked pretty good online and off I went. I got to the trailhead at 2pm. This was in December which meant I had about 3-3.5 hours of daylight. I didn’t tell anybody where I was going to be. I was only wearing a t-shirt and shorts. I only had an energy bar and some water for provisions. I didn’t have any emergency equipment. No cellphone. Nothing. In short, I did everything you’re not supposed to do.

I ended up getting lost in the mountains. I couldn’t find the trail when the sunlight faded. I thought I was going to have to spend the night there. So I covered myself in leaves and pine needles to try and stay warm. It didn’t work. It was freezing. The only way I could stay warm was to keep moving so I started looking for the trail again. I ended up finding the trail in the dark (thank god for a full moon) and eventually flagged down someone on the highway to take me back to my car.

When I started for this blog, I immediately thought of that experience and how frightening and scary it was. I wanted to return to the Angeles Forest but this time spend the night myself and do it right. This was a pretty big thing for me to do. I don’t have much outdoor experience. I mean, I’ve done a lot of mountain biking and hiking, but never camped in a tent before. Not even as a kid. Unless you count a bedsheet tent in my bedroom. I guess that’s why I’d put it off for so long.

I’d been gathering equipment to do this slowly over the past year. I realized I didn’t that this was really the last weekend I left to do it. I almost said forget about it but it was such a big deal for me I knew I had to do it. So I ordered a sleeping bag and mattress pad, the final two things I needed. They were supposed to come on Saturday but it didn’t arrive until late afternoon. I didn’t think I’d be able to get to the hike-in campsite before the sun went down. And I didn’t want to make any mistakes this time.

There was no way I could this on a Sunday since I had work the next day. And certainly not during the week. Next weekend is the end of the blog and Saturday is the party (which you’re all invited to!).

Another setback and this time I really wanted to quit. But I didn’t. It’s now or never, I told myself. I’ll just get up really early, make it back to my car and home in time for work. I got into my car and was off.

I got to Red Box Ranger Station in the Angeles forest right at 2pm. I started down the trail to Valley Forge Trail Camp. I chose this campsite because it was a hike-in only and 3.5 miles from the freeway. I didn’t want to choose a campsite that was too hard to get to since I’d be carrying a lot of gear. Incidentally, I guessed my gear weighed close to 30 pounds which is not light at all. But that included 100 ounces of water as well as tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad and food. Also, I needed a place I could get to in a couple of hours.

The trail to the campsite wasn’t anything to write home about. It was closer to a fire road than a hiking trail. Here’s what it looked like on the way down:

The whole way, I was worried about finding the campsite and making it in time to set up my tent etc. I knew it was 3.5 miles from the map but I worried anyway. Almost exactly 2 hours later, I found the campsite which turned out to be quite nice. It was relatively small, shaded with trees and next to a babbling brook. Nobody was there. Probably because it was Sunday and Oscar Sunday no less.

I immediately went to work setting up my tent. I found the perfect spot spot under some trees, near a picnic table and close to the brook. I cleared away the rocks and debris for an area big enough to pitch the tent. It only took about ten minutes to setup:

I felt a lot more relaxed now that I was all settled in so I explored the campsite. Like I said, it wasn’t very big. There were 3-4 fire pits and picnic table areas. There were also four pit toilets. I have this weird phobia of pit toilets ever since Schindler’s List so I opted for peeing in the bushes. There were a couple of paths that lead down to the brook which was probably a full stream in the spring.

I sat by the brook for a bit, just watching the water. That sound of water running over rocks is very peaceful. Almost as soothing as the fake brook at the sushi restaurant I like to go to.

Next order of business was gathering wood for the fire which actually was pretty easy. There were nice piles of dry wood all around. It may have been from trail work on the fire roads.

I made a basic teepee fire. I did this by putting dry leaves and needles on the bottom and then adding progressively larger and larger pieces of wood like a teepee around that. Then I lit it.

I made it well. Maybe a little… too well. The thing went up like a roman candle in a few minutes. Then it was like a flame thrower. It actually roared and the flames were shooting really high up. I was actually nervous I was going to set the whole forest on fire.

Eventually it died down as I started adding the really heavy pieces of wood:

Once it was going well, I took some time to do some reading. It was nice and relaxing. I was starting to enjoy myself. I even ended up doing some yoga. Whenever the fire died down, I did another firewood run. It’s amazing how much wood it took to keep the fire going.

Soon it was dinner time. I had bought a little camping stove and pot. I boiled up some ramen and canned chicken. That was the first chicken I’d had in a really long time. But it was protein in a can and fish would’ve broken up in the soup. I was starving at that point and it was one of the best meals I’ve had in awhile.

As the sunlight dwindled, I simply watched the fire like a TV. I didn’t even really think about anything. I guess I was meditating. If it wasn’t for the fire, I would’ve been so bored. And cold.

At around 8, I headed for my tent for my bed. It was kind of early but I figured I’d be tired from the hike. Plus I was going to get up at 5am the next morning.

The tent was quite cozy. But at that point my mind started to wander. Being alone in the middle of a forest alone at night was starting to mess with me. I couldn’t stop thinking of every single horror movie I’d ever seen from Deliverance (yes that’s horror) to The Blair Witch Project. But I was even more worried about mountain lions and bears coming to eat me while I slept. Then I thought, what if rapist hicks and witches riding bears and mountain lions were out there, just waiting to rape and eat me (not necessarily in that order)? I tried to put it out of my mind as I laid down to sleep…

Stay tuned for Part 2…

#358 The Awesome Foundation – Helmet Hero

If you recall, last year I got a grant from The Awesome Foundation to give away bike helmets. I was supposed to make a video to show my experience and it was going to be shown at a party. I was pretty excited about this but it kept getting pushed back and pushed back and now it seems like it will never happen. At least before the end of SYED.

But I also kept pushing back working on the video because it seemed like such a monumental undertaking. There was a lot of video to go through and there was the added pressure of making something good enough to show at this party. I had a lot of lofty aspirations of what the video would be.

As the blog started winding down, I had this horrible feeing of not finishing what I started. Did I have to have a party to make the video? And when one of my readers asked whatever happened to my project, I realized I had to finish it.

I’d fallen victim to the trap that I always talk about: putting off is the same as not doing. Doing something is better than doing nothing. I mean, give it your all but get it done. So I worked all day yesterday to finally finish it. Is it everything I hoped it would be? No, but I’m happy with it. I had a specific idea of what I wanted to make and I did it. Hope you enjoy!

Big shout out to my friend Tim without whom I wouldn’t have been able to shoot most of this video!