Julian vs the alligator

Feeling the fear

About a thousand miles stood between me and my destination – the RV Entrepreneur Summit in Fredericksburg, Texas. A lot to drive in one go, but stopping to sleep meant unloading the SUV, or risk leaving the packed vehicle unattended. Or sleeping in it in some strange parking lot, somewhere.

I decided to keep driving as long as I felt up to it.

Boosting the odds I’d make it to Fredericksburg in one go: Two Thermos containers full of bulletproof coffee and a smartphone loaded with my favorite podcasts.

I love a good podcast and subscribe to several, but don’t usually listen when they’re released. It’s impractical when I spend most of my days with my brain and ears otherwise engaged. The opportunity for focused binge-listening was one thing about the drive I actually looked forward to.

17+ hours of audio went into my Podcast Addict app playlist. Freakonomics. The RV Entrepreneur. Side Hustle School. Personality Hacker. WP Elevation. A couple episodes of my friend Brett’s healthy eating podcast, You Can’t Outrun the Fork.

Maybe an odd mix at first glance, but some of the seemingly disparate podcast episodes in my playlist dovetailed into one another in interesting ways.

At Enchanted Rock with RVE Summit peeps

Surprise: Entrepreneurship is a catalyst for growth (and vice versa)

One episode of the psych-focused Personality Hacker podcast distilled the essence of entrepreneurship – almost as a side note – and related it to maturing into adult life.

I almost didn’t listen to this episode, because it was titled something like “Making Peace with Your Parents,” a topic I’ve dealt with successfully (no, really – I swear I have). I let it play, though, because every Personality Hacker episode I’ve ever listened to has been at least interesting. Sometimes mind blowing.

Personality Hacker focuses on personal growth through a lens of personality typology, maps, and models. Seriously fascinating stuff unless you hate introspection 😉

In the “Making Peace” episode, the podcast hosts – Antonia Dodge and Joel Mark Witt – framed the transition to adulthood using something called the Graves Model. The model, which describes stages of maturity, has dependence and immaturity at its lower end. Higher levels indicate the opposite. The model can be used to provide context for both individual maturity as well as the way populations evolve.

One of the markers of a transition between the second and third levels in the Graves Model is the ability to add value to the world. In other words, becoming entrepreneurial.

This transition typically happens during the teenage years. It’s also labeled ‘Warlord’ or ‘Red,’ suggesting the rebellion that often occurs here.

Sometimes this move to psychological independence happens unceremoniously early. Or unnaturally late. Either of these poorly-timed (or nonexistent) transitions tends to cause mommy/daddy baggage.

At the point in the podcast I heard the whole ‘Warlord’ thing, I started psychoanalyzing our entire family, whilst conducting a self-analysis for good measure. 😀

The whole entrepreneur deal, though – whoa. That the ability to create your own financial stability indicates personal evolution was a blinding flash of the obvious. Geez I have those a lot. Better late than never?

I started making money at the age of 12, when neighbors needed childcare and appreciated my experience as my younger siblings’ second mom. Being an in-demand babysitter enabled me to provide for myself (and sometimes my sisters) in ways my parents didn’t.

Earning my own way inevitably led to my eviction from the house at 17, when my dad wanted to confiscate a portion of my meager pay.

Pops argued that he provided a roof over my head. He was right. However that was all he’d provided since I was about 15. Pointing out that fact, as well as that the roof leaked (a direct result of yet another botched DIY job) onto my bed didn’t go over well with the old man.

The only thing more annoying than a smart-ass teenager is a smart-ass teenager with a valid argument. Am I right?

Needless to say, my entrepreneurial bent ground to a screeching halt. I had to learn to survive before I could think about how to thrive.

When you can’t count on Mom & Dad

In the “Making Peace” podcast episode, Antonia Dodge talked about a period of time in her early life when chaos and anger dominated the home. At the age of seven she decided she didn’t need her parents anymore, and announced she was leaving

“Fine – go,” her mom replied. As Antonia started out the door her mom added “But not with anything you didn’t earn.”

Antonia stripped off her clothes and walked out of the house, naked as a jaybird.


Most of us would agree that a seven-year-old should be able to count on a parent to keep her safe and provide for her needs. At seven virtually no one has the maturity and experience others value enough to compensate her for – at least, not in a healthy way – so she can earn her own way in the world.

I’m not saying a person needs to be an independent entrepreneur his or her entire life, but he/she must develop a sense of their value to others else they’ll live life feeling and being less than. Can you appreciate how bad that sucks?

Antonia rejected her parents at seven because she recognized that they weren’t doing their job. Fortunately, they weren’t so dysfunctional that they didn’t provide any safety or guidance. I got the feeling that they’d have gone after her if she hadn’t returned on her own. Her bravado lasted until she made it to the main road near her house, when a stark naked Antonia spotted family friends on their way over for a visit.

Even though she returned home and her parents continued providing for her material needs, seven was where the psychological break with her parents occurred.

As I listened to Antonia talk about the fallout of a premature transition, I reflected on my own life as well as the lives of our kids.

I’m not sure when my “break” happened, but I can tell you it was long before getting thrown out of my parents’ house. An incident at the age of five comes to mind. I think that’s too early, then realize I never felt safe after that. By 17 it had been years since I expected anything from my parents. Trouble was I didn’t expect enough of myself.

The upside of crazy

Premature adulthood for me came with two serious long-term side affects: Fear that kept me from fully living, and a continual quest for someone else who’d keep me safe.

What a combo, right?

Can’t feel bad about it, though. It’s crazy, yeah. Volunteer for it again? Nah. But boy did it make me resourceful.

The occasional day (or week) without electricity or water growing up mean I know how to improvise. Hell, I did it this morning when a transformer blew before dawn (because COFFEE). The sometimes bizarre and always limited food supply in my childhood home helped me develop an ability to make something out of practically nothing, and make it taste good, too.

Well, usually.

I wouldn’t trade this MacGyver-esque ability for anything. My only regret about the whole dysfunctional childhood experience was that its most debilitating aspects carried over into adulthood for way too long.

I was probably in my mid to late 30s before I started making moves that broke what might as well have been actual chains of fear that shackled me. The hunt for security continued long after that, though.

Thank god no one ever lived up to my completely unrealistic expectations or Brian and I wouldn’t be together.

Beer, B's 2nd love


Wouldn’t trade Brian for anything. If the universe is a jerk and takes him away prematurely, I won’t be seeking a replacement. I won’t like it, but I can take care of myself. If I have to 🙂

This girl

At the Summit, I sat in the audience listening as 13-year-old Abby Holcombe recounted her experience kayaking the Grand Canyon’s entire 280 mile length. It’s a feat she accomplished at the age of 12. That’s right – I said 12. Before she was even a badass teenager.

If you’re not a kayaker or wise to the Grand Canyon, you might not appreciate how parts of it could actually kill you if you’re not careful. Or sometimes even if you are careful.

Abby was the youngest (at the time and maybe still) to kayak the whole thing. Even without knowing this about her I’d be impressed with how happy and confident a kid she seems to be.

As she got further into her tale about the expedition, she talked about how fearful she became when she realized the difficulty and danger present in certain stretches of the river. Abby had the option of getting out of her kayak and instead riding the relatively stable 2,000-pound raft that accompanied the family. No one made her do the whole thing. She recognized, though, how upset with herself she’d be if she took the easy way out instead of paddling her kayak. She’d miss out on being able to say she’d paddled the entire river.

Abby had to psyche herself out some, but she did it. She felt the fear and did it anyway.

Here’s Abby kayaking the campground pool!
Photo Credit: Joe Hendricks

Hearing Abby talk about confronting fear head-on gave me flashbacks. I wish I could say it was because I did the same, but no. It was actually a look in the mirror at my 12-year-old self and an acknowledgement that I was Abby’s polar opposite.

Fear ruled. Fear paralyzed.

I wouldn’t ever have had the opportunity that Abby did, because we grew up with very different parents. Even if I hadn’t I’m not sure I would have seized the chance to do what she did.

Am I crying about that? Not at all.

I wasn’t Abby then. I’m not her now. But what I am is more fearless than I’ve ever been.

I can’t waste time grieving for something I never could have had at Abby’s age. There’s no point. Especially when I can have it now if I choose.

Check out the video below to hear Abby’s talk; Heath and Alyssa’s introduction of Abby begins around the 14 minute mark.

Side notes

  • My appreciation of and respect for Heath and Alyssa Padgett has only deepened since meeting the in person and attending the event they organized.
  • Jill Sessa’s talk follows Abby’s. Jill is a solo traveler who has lived – and is living – an amazing, ballsy and not always comfortable life. Keep watching after Abby if you can. You’ll see.
  • That fearlessly crazy kid with his head in the alligator’s mouth in this posts featured photo is my grandson Julian. I love his indomitable spirit.

2 thoughts on “Feeling the fear”

  1. What a great way to write about the conference. When we did the evaluations, I have to say Abby’s was in my top two presentations. You were very brave to come to the conference alone, driving so far, AND staying in a tent. Congratulations! Your accomplishment proves you are ready for the next step in the RV journey!

    Liked by 2 people

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