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Iíve been traveling for 181 days! I just returned to Nashville after being in Miami for a week for the Winter Music Conference and M3 seminar series. And, I managed to find a place to stay here in Nashville!

Iím converting the diary entries and photos of my travels into a book. Iím still collecting content, too. So, Iím looking for nice, fun people who can put me up for a few nights, host me, and show me their flavor of America. Iím looking forward to learning about your life and writing about our times together! If you think it might be fun to host me for a day or two or three, email me at justingrace AT mac DOT com.

Please make sure to include your address and phone number in your email.

I am especially looking for places to stay in the southeast USA and everywhere on the East Coast. Here are the places I will be in the next few months that I am still looking for a place to stay at:

ē North Carolina
ē Tennessee
ē Virginia/West Virginia

Please contact me ASAP if you want to hang out!

If you believe in what I am doing and want to help support me, please do so! You can donate money to me using PayPal or with a credit card. Email me for more information! Make sure to check out my photo sales page!

US Tour Day 154: My Birthday

I sit in the lobby of a 72 story hotel in downtown Atlanta drinking a Long Island Iced Tea. Bartenders clink glasses together at the bar. Travelers wheel baggage to and from the towering elevators—elevators so tall that my ears popped when I ascended to the top floor to sneak a peak of the city sprawling out below.

I sit alone at a black table—a table empty except for an ashtray and a menu of appetizers that cost more than my food budget for the entire day. And I try to hide the tears pouring down my face from the other people in the bar, except that I look around and see there aren't any other people in the bar to hide them from. I'm left alone with clinking and my drink and my ashtray and my menu. And my tears.

Happy birthday to me.

I turned 28 today. For as long as I can remember birthdays have brought with them a flood of emotions, a mixed up swirl of highs and lows. This February the 15th is no different in that way.

The highs are so high. With each year that passes I find myself full of wonder and amazement at the last 365 days. I wonder, "How could I be so fortunate?" My life is a constant shower of blessings and peak experiences. I remember that during my teenage years I would sit in the shadow of amazement at the fact that my life somehow got even better each year. I thought this for the first time when I turned sixteen and have used my birthday as a chance to revel in it every year since then.

And, this year has been a major milestone in my life. It's the year when I feel I truly embraced the person I want to be. Ejected by my old, comfortable life with a house and a girlfriend and a corporate job, I was put out into a dangerous, scary world to discover my path. I've found this path out here while roaming the Earth for the last five months. And, I've found it in here—in my heart and mind. The path is one of creation and sharing at all moments. The path is one of artful living and building experiences. The path is one of faith, faith that living passionately and beautifully in a way I'm proud of will provide sustaining rewards—rewards that continue far beyond the comfort and paychecks of my old life.

But, this day of my birth has also ushered in moments of sorrow and doubt—some are recurring themes; some are new visitors. There are the usual pinpricks of sadness that tend to visit on birthdays—observations that my life is rocketing towards its end, wondering if I could've done more, questioning as to whether or not this is all worth it. These have been with me for my entire conscious life and I know them well. I've spent enough time with them to know they're just insignificant passing fancies. Such doubts are tiny specks on the wide windshield of a joyous mind in a perfect life.

I didn't used to be so positive about my doubts, though. I used to judge myself for such negative thoughts, thinking about how I shouldn't have them—seeing their presence as a metaphor for my flawed nature. Now instead I seek to understand why I have them. With understanding comes compassion. When given the option, why not choose compassion to all living creatures—even our often overlooked selves on our birthdays?

I see such weaknesses and faithless thoughts as muscles that need to be developed or holes in my education and understanding. As I better understand the true abundant nature of life I will simply find there to be less and less of my energy available to afflictive or critical thoughts about myself.

Today has brought with it some new sadness, though. Every holiday without Andie feels like a cookie without chocolate chips or a summertime without swimming. Don't get me wrong, life was beautiful without Andie. My life before her was perfect. And, my life since her egress has been better than I could have imagined—although I've often joked to friends that this was because I just don't have a very good imagination. But, I feel her absence start to propagate like a wave in the days before my holiest holidays, starting out small and then swelling up and over me on those days I reserve for my loved ones—Thanksgiving or Christmas or Valentine's Day or my birthday.

Dave Marr has asked me why I was sad. I miss Andie. Why else would I possibly be sad with a life as rich and exciting as I have been blessed with? My skies were so blue with her there, my nights so warm, my kisses so much more alive. I miss her, I miss her.

As effortlessly and graciously as a bird glides through the sky, he breathed out to me a gift of his insight. You're sad because you want something you don't have, Justin.

Dave's simple sentence is the logical completion of the idea that it is only when we abandon expectations that we can experience unconditional happiness. And the precondition of this state without expectations is the deep understanding that the only way to get what we want is to actively pursue a conscious, deliberate love and want for that which we actually have. Similarly, we must relinquish emotional connections to and expectations for that which we do not have.

I love my life. I love the world I live in. I love the people I am fortunate enough to be blessed with. I love my last year. And, I am committed to loving the next year even more deeply and passionately—with the reckless abandon of the happiest fool. And with each breath of love I will embrace that which I have. To live this way leaves less and less time to pine after the far–away moments of the past. This is what I want for my birthday this year. This is what I want for every day every year. And, I want to share it with everyone in this world like pieces of cake at a big party.

Happy birthday, everyone.