By Adam Gnade, Author

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photo: Adam Gnade

I don’t know about you but I’m friends with a lot of heartbroken, frustrated people. Good people, smart people, but people who can’t pull their lives out of the muck and thrive no matter how hard they try. I’m that way too sometimes. I’m bad with money. I get fatalistic and confused and I forget half of what I’m supposed to remember (and remember half of what I’d rather forget). I have shit luck and I suck at life but I’m trying to live better. I want all the things I dreamed of when I was a kid. I want victory and satisfaction and rest, and I want to have a cleaner, easier time of it. “It” being everything, the whole damn ride, birth to death and all points in between.

A few years ago I gave away all my things and left Portland on a Greyhound bus to help start an animal rescue sanctuary in rural Kansas. My friends and I run a publishing house from the front room to pay the bills and keep us in chicken feed and t-posts and dry corn and fencing wire. The cats and rescue pitbulls sleep in the house and the farm animals (goats, chickens, ducks, sheep, and one mini pig) sleep in the barn and graze in the lower acres below the house. The goal is to live beholden to no man; to be free, wild, an outlaw; if living outside the law means cutting ties with a thing you don’t believe in enough to obey.

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photos: Jessie Duke

It’s been four years and we’re not “there” yet but we’re getting close. Which feels good, but it can be a struggle. From dealing with ex-livestock death and endless winter to learning to build structures sturdy enough to keep out the coyote packs, responsibility weighs heavy. Now, there are struggles that wear you down and there are healthy struggles that build you up and (I think, I hope) this is one of the latter.

Regardless, life out here can be heavy and dark and mean. It’s the Real Life and sometimes Real is anything but fun or easy. It’ll smack you the fuck down. You’ll go to ugly places; to the very bottom of everything, but sometimes that’s just what you need to shape up and rise above the shit-storm. One thing I learned this past year is that every once in a while you need to get your ass kicked in order to see clearly and get back on the right path. You’ll get tough and if you can get tough without getting bitter or closed-off then you’re better off than most.

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photo: Jessie Duke

This new bimonthly column will be a series of notes on finding a better, kinder, smarter way to live, on finding your place as a good man in a mean world. The thing is, life is too short to waste your time on a decades-long losing streak. I want more than that and I hope you do too. Maybe we can figure out some of this together. Forget the romanticized “rugged, American individualism,” a search is always better with a fellow searcher.