I have a somewhat complicated relationship with the American Holiday of Thanksgiving. Emotional, political, and personal influences seem to rule the day. Over the past few years I have been trying to look at the whole situation a little bit differently. Focusing on the things throughout the year and my life that I should be thankful for, and in doing so, doing a deep dive into some of the harder things to be thankful for. It is easy to be thankful for good health, a roof over your head, and love in your life, but what about the things that test you? What about the problems, the struggles, the lost hours of sleep, the cold hands, the broken kite spars? There is something to be thankful for in embracing the Buddhist idea that all of life is suffering. In that you can see that there is no positive or negative, just opportunity to grow, to learn, to discover.
While I wax poetic about the whole idea, there is a kernel of truth that is resonating with me regarding my 'kite life'. Starting and running Fortuna Found has not been easy. I didn't have any preconceived notions that this would be a cakewalk, I actually envisioned this to be a struggle, and that is exactly what I have. I struggle with content, with ideas, with ways to grow the Fortuna Found community. I struggle because I desperately want to see those things myself and noticed that they simply were not there elsewhere. There are bits and pieces here and there such as via John Barresi and kitelife.com or via Kite Addict; and I am definitely thankful for them, however the picture doesn't feel complete. I have said it for a few years that there needs to be more 'kite/kiteflier' content, and last year I finally took the leap and decided to help fill the void.
So keeping in mind the two things above (being thankful for struggle, and my journey in kites via Fortuna Found) here are some things I am thankful for over the last year.
1. Low reach/engagement on content, posts, or blog entries.
Grrrr, I don't want to be thankful for this, I really don't. But after I publish something I watch how others react and perceive it. Did it fall flat? Did I appear genuine? Do others have better advice/insight? Are there areas of opportunity to learn more about something? The non kite-boarding kite community is not all that active on social media or on the web these days (one can argue this is a result of demographic/social shifts), and so it becomes this interesting balancing act of trying to be interesting and useful to those in the kite community online and those outside of the community. Every bit of feedback someone sends me, and even 'no feedback', I listen to and try to better myself and my content.
2. Lingering or residual complications from the past.
These either directly, or indirectly involve me. Case in point a recent, nearly year long, frustration with some local kite enthusiasts and my previous position as President of the American Kitefliers Association. The initial frustrations had nothing to do with me, they were reflections of past encounters and relationships. I simply became the focal point because of the position. I tried to be supportive where I could, offer help, and most of all offer an ear to listen. This was a common complaint during my term, folks felt that they were not listened to in the past. This is not meant to slight those that have gone before me, this is a common complaint in any organization when folks feel differently than leadership. As I saw it, I was being lambasted for the wrongs of the past and not fixing them, although there was no way I could turn back time and fix the past. I was trying to march ahead with a new vision, and a new relationship. I hate to admit that some of these conversations and comments in the public sphere led me on more than one occasion to standing on the beach alone yelling into the waves in frustration.
I finally met one of these folks in person by chance after I had finally given up trying to be helpful. Admittedly, I was taken aback when they apologized right off the bat. They apologized for being so brash in public (which I had excused to some degree as part and parcel with this particular group/style of kite fliers, but this did go above and beyond). It took me a bit to process the apology, but we did end up talking a bit more and having a very productive conversation after that. Upon further reflection I realized something that has helped me refine what I plan on doing going forward. While I believed I was in the right by allowing people to voice their frustrations, I had been asking them to effectively not only forgive the past but forget it and move on. There is some good that can come from this approach, but it neglects the pain and frustration that tends to linger. It is hard to let go of that pain. Hell, I am dealing with it when it comes to my previous position at the AKA. I am having a hard time letting go... :'(
3. Not being able to do this full time, this doesn't pay the bills, any bills really.
Another one that I hate to accept. I really would love to do this full time, this is my passion project, this is where my heart is happiest. Flying kites, talking about kites, being around kite fliers.... I feel the most complete in that space. The sad reality is that this doesn't make me enough money to quit my regular full time job. In all honesty, this actually costs me money to do it, and I am on some level okay with that. Where the problems lie are in time and energy. Trying to fit in all of the kite flying, content generation, planning, designing, and everything else involved with this endeavor around my regular job and my commitments to my friends and family is difficult. There simply is not enough hours in the day to fit it all in. :( But, I am thankful for that struggle because not only does it afford me the opportunity to afford a home and food on the table, it also keeps me grounded in the desire to fly kites. Most people are not able to fly kites as often as they want. They have to figure out ways of fitting it in here and there, of tucking it around their other commitments. Whether that is hanging a kite as a piece of art in their home, or spending their break time at work reading reviews on the next dual line purchase.
By the way, shameless self plug here, but I do have a simple t-shirt for sale that is a print on demand shirt. Sales from the shirt help to cover the cost of all of the free kite giveaways I do at Maker Faires, Schools, Scout Troops, etc.... $20. Perhaps consider purchasing one? ( Click on the photo or follow this direct link: https://www.fortunafound.com/online-store/Short-Sleeve-Unisex-kite-T-Shirt-p148762868 )
4. Mentors that call me out on my bullshit, and that remind me to be better.
Who loves being told they are wrong, or that they are being an idiot? Sigh.... Well, people that I consider mentors have come into my life because of my involvement in the Kite community, and while a bulk of our interactions have to do with something kite related, the truth is that their wisdom has run deep into my life elsewhere. I am reminded of this every time we see each other on the kite field, or in our chats. 'Don't be a dumbass'. 'Why are you stressing, it is just kites'. 'Really who cares, you're making this bigger than it needs to be, go fly a kite'. 'What has more impact, the kite still flying at the end of the day, or the pissed off person stomping around the beach'.
5. Lack of precedent/inspiration
This is a bit of a weird complicated one, and I am going to try my best to explain what I mean. As I said earlier, there are a few people out there doing something similar in the kite world (and arguably for longer and with better success) but there really isn't many, and there is really nothing like what I want. This is a double edged sword then.... I really can push forward and fill a niche and do it how I want. On the other side, there really is no one to mimic and say 'hey that worked really well for them, maybe I should try it'. So yay!!! This one forces me to look at other hobbies or avenues for inspiration.
Well, there you have it. 5 struggles I am grateful for this year. This feels like a rather abrupt ending to the blog post, but, I will admit that I am writing this from a hotel room in the off season in Ocean Shores, and the frost has just melted on an otherwise sunny and beautiful day. I really need to get out and fly a kite. That's part of the reason I am here anyways.
Thank you for taking the time to read this.