It was a split second decision. I headed towards a run down gas station with chipped paint and ugly fluorescent lights. It wasn’t the type of place you typically want to stop in, but I had decided to stop and grab a drink and snacks before I got back on the tour bus to watch a movie.
As I pushed the old beat-up glass door of the gas station a blacked-out sportster Harley Davidson motorcycle caught my eye. It was parked in the handicap space right near the front of the entrance to the gas station, defying anyone who dare challenge why it belonged there. Eyeing it over I admired the long, black hand grip tassels and big, black leather bags that were also dressed with tassels. A “weekend warrior” definitely didn’t own this bike. This was a bike owned by someone who lived and breathed motorcycles.
It didn’t just catch my eye because it was dressed to the nine’s with accessories (along with a screaming eagle kit that makes the bike louder and faster), but I, too, had also just bought a Harley Davidson Sportster. I’ve always been the type of guy that’s interested in motorcycles and growing up I always thought they were cool, but was always scared to ride them…let alone mustard up the strength to commit to riding. But, this being my new found hobby I was interested to know who’s incredible Harley was parked outside such a dumpy gas station.
I took one step into the old, rusty and hollowed-out building to find only one other person, the cashier. He had long hair, was relatively skinny with dirty looking skin, and had a little scar on his face. I could also see he had some old faded “jail bird” tattoos underneath his tattered blue work shirt. His demeanor and appearance seemed to fit the mood of the place and almost blended in with all that had surrounded the store. If the store was already rough looking and dangerous, you can only imagine how much more he did.
I got up the nerve to speak with him and headed over and politely asked, “Who’s bike is that sitting outside?” Eyeing me for a moment he answered, “It’s mine. Why…you ride?” Trying to build some credibility, I let him know I was in a touring band and had just gotten a bike a few months back, but, unfortunately, hadn’t gotten the opportunity to ride it often. I also wasn’t a fan of taking it on the highway yet. He smirked and chuckled like he was dealing with a small child and it was then I realized something. I was probably the weekend warrior that the hardcore motorcycle enthusiasts despise. However, I knew it wasn’t my fault that I tour six months out of the year and haven’t felt comfortable yet to get my bike up to 80 on the open road, so I kept talking.
“Do you have friends you ride with?”
“Yup, I sure do. More like family than anything, though.”
I’ve never being able to ride with people when I’m home and being new all of this only made me ask more questions.
“So….is there like a large group of you? Or is it just like a few buddies from around the area?”.
Another slight chuckle and then he slyly replied “I’m a Bandido.”
My jaw dropped a little and I might have even backed away a bit. The Bandidos are one of the largest motorcycle gangs, and are known to be some really tough dudes that I personally would never want to cross (you’ve probably even heard about them due to the massive shootout recently in Waco, Texas). I wasn’t sure what sparked this within me and even had the potential to get me in trouble, but I had to ask more questions. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to hear how he ended up joining such a notorious biker gang.
He kindly obliged telling me his story and began by stating he had kind of just grown up around the Bandido Biker Gang. He grew up poor, in low-income housing, and didn’t have a father figure. The lack of a father figure drove him to want to be part of something strong and united. The group was attractive to him because of their camaraderie. If he made the cut, they would take him under their wing and watch over him.
However, first he had to prove that he was worthy of being a Bandido. This process is called “being a Prospect.” Basically, he had to do whatever the gang wanted him to do. Kind of like a grunt work. He would go out and runs errands, watch over things, but wasn’t allowed to attend any meetings until they decided he was worthy of the patch.
So how did he make it in? He wasn’t allowed to tell me but apparently there were some things that really drew a line in the sand for the type of person he was going to become and what he felt “only a real man could do.”
At that point, I put two-and-two together and backed off of the questions. He did go on to explain that he had been married and divorced twice but has a lady friend currently. He also has two sons. One is in prison and absolutely hates him. He acknowledged his life wasn’t the prettiest but that it was his life. He made it and he was proud to be a Bandido.
What Am I Running After?
When reflecting on this man’s story it’s easy to see he was attracted to something that he didn’t have and was willing to do anything to get it. He found what he was looking for, but sadly had to sacrifice everything to be a part of it – two marriages, a son, and a respectable lifestyle. He didn’t become a lawyer or anything else because he didn’t want to. He wanted to be in a biker gang. But look at the expense of what he gained versus what he lost. While it’s good for us to have single goals and passions we work towards, sometimes we have to ask, “Is the life or thing I’m running after worth the cost?”
It’s great to want to succeed and good to work hard towards our ambitions, but is it worth losing everything else in life to get? And once you’ve obtained it, are you truly “living” or has it consumed you to the point that you are nothing more than the identity you’ve consumed?
There’s an amazing author on Twitter I follow named Donald Miller. He’s written some fairly popular books like Blue Like Jazz, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and a personal favorite of mine called Father Fiction. A month or so ago I read a tweet that got me thinking and writing this blog. The tweet stated that:[clickToTweet tweet=”How we live is who we become [email protected]” quote=”How we live is who we become [email protected]”]
I resonate with that. All the little things I do, what I say yes to, what I don’t, who I love, what I do…all of my daily life decisions impact the person I become. And then there are the bigger decisions that truly impact our direction and life.
For example, when I joined August Burns Red, I left my family, friends, job, lifestyle, and home to be part of a band. I toured for months before I ever came back home and even now I don’t have the opportunity to go home as much as I’d like. I had to make a huge sacrifice for what I desired. I got the gig, in the band full-time seeing the world and writing music…but the cost was my family. I’ve missed family gatherings, holidays, and birthdays. I’ve had family members die and couldn’t attend the funerals because I was overseas. I’ve missed weddings and once-in-a-life-time events with family and friends. There was a time when I hadn’t seen my own sister in a few years and my mother and father for over a year. Touring put a huge amount of distance on building and strengthening relationships. And when I am home, I have to fly out to visit family or drive down the coast to spend time with loved ones. Family is important. Our social lives are important. But we can’t be consumed by one thing or the rest of our life will fall apart. It’s been a lesson I’ve had to learn touring in order to balance my desires and my needs.
If you’ve ever seen a horse hitched up to a wagon or buggy you might notice they have a type of covers or blinder on the sides of their eyes. The reason they do this is so that the horse only focuses on what is in front of them and doesn’t get spooked by what’s beside them.
While this may be good for a horse, if can be detrimental to become so single-minded to become blinded to everything else going on around us. If we remain solely focused on one thing, and one thing only everything else in our world is shut off from us. Our relationships become weak, we become flakey to friends and family, or we start to break promises because our time is already taken up by the one and only “priority”.
If you’re in college it can go one of two ways. Party Hard or Study Hard. If you spend all of your time partying and not balancing out your time for school, studies, work, and family there’s a very good chance you might end up flunking out of college, moving back in with your parents, and playing Halo 5 in your underwear. And if you continue that lifestyle even after college where it’s all about the party, you’ll neglect important responsibilities to just have fun and party.
On the other end, there are those who have the “Study Hard” mentality. While a good quality, when it consumes you it can quickly destroy your relationships and leave you feeling vastly lonely while you envy those around you having fun. Post college you work, and work, and work and maybe climb the corporate ladder reaching the job you so desire. But at what expense? Friends? A family? Being alone at the top?
There’s an old Native American parable that goes like this:
An old chief meets up with his grandson to pass on wisdom. He tells his grandson of two wolves that live within him.
“Grandson, there are two wolves that live within us. One wolf is full of selfishness, resentment, hatred, pride, fear and anguish. The other wolf is full of gentleness, love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and humility. These two wolves fight within me everyday.”
Curious, the young grandson asks, “Which one wins, Grandfather?”
“The one I feed.”
If we end up feeding the wrong wolf even under the pretense of good intentions, we might just end up celebrating on top of a mountain alone. The things we chose to do and act on (the wolf we feed) can either bring balance to the important things in our lives or put blinders on our eyes and let the rest of what we have in life pass to the wayside.
Feed the right wolf.