Craig: The obvious question is, why are you not still in the Middle East [00:12:00] today?
Andrew: I thought I would be. That was the dream. I had this vision of my life and what I was doing. I thought I’d move there. I’d fallen in love with the culture. I talked my wife into-
Craig: Opportunities to help people out.
Andrew: Yeah. I wanted to start maybe a nonprofit or something, helping especially kids in difficult situations, maybe in Palestine or something. It all fell apart. Long story short, I ended up [00:12:30] back in the US and feeling like I lost everything. I’d lost my plan. I’d lost my vision for what I thought my life was going to be. I’d lost this purpose that I had. I lost relationships. I’d made promises to guys over there. I was like, “Hey, I’m going to come back. I’m going to open this gym. Ready to start this thing.”
Craig: Right. You had to walk away from that, right?
Andrew: Yeah, I felt crushed. Coming back, I’d spent all my money. My car had broken down. We’d gotten rid of our apartment my [00:13:00] wife and I had. I had nowhere to live. I had no money. I had no possessions. I’d given away the last of my money I could before we left the Middle East thinking I was coming back and getting a job. I didn’t have my job anymore. I’d quit that. It all really tumbled down and fell apart, and I ended up feeling really lost. I ended up, my brother and I, in a moment of desperation [00:13:30] and-
Craig: Yeah, a journey right, the quest…
Andrew: Yeah, just like, “I don’t know what else to do.” We get in a pickup truck, and we started driving west. Took a road map with us and that’s it and just, “Let’s see where we end up and see what happens.” We drove, and we just kept driving until we got to Colorado. I don’t know, something about the mountains, I guess. We drove there, and we ended up driving up into the mountains and parking the truck on the side of the road, and turning around [00:14:00] and looking up and we were like, “All right, which … Let’s climb that one,” which, honestly, is a terrible idea. To anyone out there listening, that’s not the way to climb a mountain.
Craig: Weather forecast? Nah.
Andrew: We did it late in the evening, so it was a just grueling climb up this mountain with rocks falling and nearly dying on cliffs that we should not … no business being on. Get to the top, and it was sunset. It was a terrible idea, but one of those adventures where it ends up perfect.
Craig: Yeah, could not have planned it better.
Andrew: Yeah. [00:14:30] My brother and I are up there, coming up over the crest and there’s maybe a half mile left to go, and it’s snow at this point, snow and these wildflowers. It was the beginning of summer. I don’t know. I don’t know what happened. I don’t know why I’m saying this on a podcast. I took all my clothes off and I just ran naked up the rest of the mountain. I felt like it was this moment, it was the right thing to do somehow. It was this … I don’t know if it was a metaphor for myself or if it was just how I was feeling that [00:15:00] I had nothing left.
Craig: Catharsis, right?
Andrew: On top of it all, I guess I didn’t mention, my knee was injured at this point, so I couldn’t do Parkour, either, and that’s something I wanted to be doing. I had nothing. I was like, “Okay, might as well take my clothes off, too. I guess I got nothing left.” I ran up this mountain naked, and was at the top. I come up over the crest, and the sun’s setting. Everything’s lit up. It’s all golden, and there’s just the Rockies spread out, just mountains, [00:15:30] as far as you can see. You feel like you’re on the top of the world. The sky’s so big when you’re up there. I don’t know. Here in Ohio, you drive through trees and buildings and whatnot, and the sky’s this blue thing up there.
Craig: Yeah, overhead, not all around.
Andrew: Yeah. You get on top of a mountain, you’re like, “No, the sky’s almost to your feet.” You’re just in this huge dome of the universe, and you feel so small. Just looking out at it all, I just threw my fist to the sky and [00:16:00] let out a yell of … I don’t know, of anger, frustration, of hurt.
Craig: Final fling of a- the last bit of a thing you were holding onto.
Andrew: Just shaking my fist at God and saying, “Why? Why is this? Why am I here? Why have I lost everything?” It’s weird. That moment was rock bottom for me, but it’s also the beginning of moving up, of a change.
Craig: Yeah, the new journey. From there, [00:16:30] you have two choices. You have the dark abyss on one side, literally, and then you have the journey that you chose.
Andrew: Yeah, I did. I felt like I had a choice, and I had to look and choose. Do I go into nothingness, I give up, I quit, I walk off the cliff ahead of me, I just run off it and scream and that’s it, or do I accept that, okay, everything’s been taken from me, but it was never mine to begin with? We come from dust, and we return to dust. We don’t have anything except what we’re given, and it’s a gift. [00:17:00] Life is a gift. Everything, every breath I have is a gift. Every step I take is a gift. If I only get to train Parkour one more time in my life, that’s a gift. It’s not a horrible thing. It’s a beautiful thing. If I’m paralyzed tomorrow, I still have been given so much. I guess in that moment, I had so much clarity of realizing I’ve been looking at life backwards this whole time. I’d been putting my motivation … Finding my motivation in, and putting my hope in, [00:17:30] all these things that I had, all these Parkour abilities-
Craig: Everything’s anchored in the future that way if you’re always thinking-
Andrew: Yeah. My plans for what I thought I was going to do with my life, how I thought things were going to pan out and all these things, and realizing … Yeah, it’s funny. Thinking back to the Daniel Ilabaca‘s words to me about, “Stop focusing on the future. You’re stutter stepping. You’re losing your strength.” I was running up to a precision jump, and I couldn’t hit it because I wasn’t putting my power into each moment, each step. I was [00:18:00] looking ahead of the jump. It’s so true. In that moment, I guess I hit that point of realizing that I can’t put my hope in all these other things because they all pass away eventually.
Craig: Sure. There’s no guarantee.
Andrew: I had to find something else to live for. I chose life. Between the two choices — the darkness, the abyss, and I think faith or [00:18:30] hope or something — I chose that. I said, “Okay, I’m going to believe that I think God has a purpose for me, that’s there some value for my life, that there’s something that was worth living for. I just have to try and seek that out and find what it is.” I put my clothes back on, and had a snowball fight with my brother, and drove back.
Craig: That’s the perfect ending, I was thinking, “I bet there was a snowball fight.”
Andrew: There was. There was a snowball fight. [00:19:00] I came back to Ohio and decided, “Okay, I’m going to be here…
Craig: Be here now for my family, for my community-
Andrew: Yeah, and not for myself and not for my plans and not for what I thought I was going to be done. It was weird. It was a weird moment. It’s all gone, so now it’s a blank slate. I’m here. What do I do? I feel like the answer that I got was, “love people.” You’re here in this place. Why [00:19:30] live here? Why not live somewhere else? It’s not for the weather, and it’s not for the training spots, or it’s not for any of these other reasons. Ultimately-
Craig: Sometimes it’s easy to fall back on and get complacent and say, “I live in this place. The sunset is gorgeous every day, and there are all these things,” and in some ways, the living in an environment where you don’t have any assistance, where things are just natural, just normal, that [00:20:00] requires you to rise to the occasion. You have to find the meaning in the moments.
Andrew: Yeah, I definitely was like, “Okay, I’ve said I’m in this place, so what do I do in this place?” I guess there’s people here, and there’s beautiful people here. They have value. I believe that they’re created with an inherent value. Each person is unique and beautiful, so I felt this calling to devote myself to that, that I should … [00:20:30] in as much as I had lost everything else to live for, that I’d found a purpose in living for love, that I found that I feel that I have been loved. That moment of realizing, “I’ve been given so much-”
Craig: Yeah, look at everything I have. Everything’s been taken away, but I still have all of this, right?
Andrew: Yeah. It’s a gift of, if nothing else, breathing. I’ve been given this gift, so in return, as much as I’ve been loved by God, how can I love others? [00:21:00] That really started digging me into the idea of community here in this place with these people. How can I-
Craig: How can I be a good father? How can I be a good husband? How can I be a good community member? What would that look like?
Andrew: Right, yeah. How can I do that … Even if it’s hard, even if it’s not … Sometimes I feel like people aren’t participating or they’re even fighting me in a way. Sometimes people hurt you in relationships. Sometimes you’re trying … I feel like I’m trying [00:21:30] to build a community and people are almost fighting against me in that, but I think that’s part of it. I think that’s part of loving people, is being able to take whatever they throw at you.