If You Only Knew

If You Only Knew

When I heard those four words I knew I’d never be the same.

Let me start from the beginning. I used to have this awesome job working on an Air Force Base. I was a civilian contractor for the base itself. I did not serve. Forever indebted to those who have. Basically, our team was responsible for the function of the base so the military could do…well, military shit. I felled trees, cut lawn, drove tractors, dump trucks, front-end loaders, Bobcats, plowed snow on the airstrip, poured concrete, built shit, demolished shit, painted shit; awesome fucking job. I had that job for a solid 8 years all through my 20’s. In which I was a wayward son. Some good years. Some bad years. Such is life I guess. 

At any rate, I had finally gotten my shit together during one of those years and life was starting to level out. I was progressing in my work. I was working toward a degree in Environmental Studies that was to be a catalyst for a promotion. Had a girlfriend. Rock climbing and hiking on the weekends. Shit was clicking.

In lieu working toward my degree I was working with the base’s Environmental Engineer. Awesome dude. Funny as hell! I was taking care of a lot of EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation) busy work that he didn’t have time to deal with. Enter Earth Day, every year on April 22nd when people post on FB and Instagram about… The Earth… and how much they love it. How we shouldn’t litter and should eat organic. All jokes aside, it is a day to demonstrate support for environmental protection. During this time of my life I may or may not have been on a plant based diet. Big earthy vibe. Hiker, climber, plant based, kale, goji berries, ADK stickers on my rear windshield and I ran in those Vibram Five Finger shoes LOL 


Okay okay, back to Earth Day. The way the military demonstrated their environmental support on Earth Day was to get their soldiers out on the streets with trash pickers in hand cleaning up the trash of the immoral filthy civilians. The Air Force has it own “news” reporters squadron. Air Force News. I was outside running point of all the trash picker-uppers. Next thing you know I have a camera and mic in my face and a soldier asking me to say a few words on Earth Day and the importance of military contribution. I can’t recall exactly what I said, but it was something to the effect of “reduce, reuse and recycle.” And “the importance of fulfilling our duty as stewards of the land all year round.” Profound right?! I was big into Aldo Leopold at this time so I did my best.

Welp, they printed what I said in their newspaper! No big deal. There wasn’t a ceremony or anything. It was just surprising. Honestly, to me it was comical. In my mind I’m like “they got the WRONG guy.” I jumped on the phone with my sponsor, who was Irish Chris, at that time. I’m going on and on telling him about this event. Now, it’s important to note at this time in my life I had years of gnarly addiction behind me. I was sober at this time. I Can’t remember how long. Anyways, back to Irish Chris. I’m telling him “Dude, you won’t believe it! They printed what I said in the newspaper! Man if they only knew. If they only knew who I really was.” Next, Irish Chris uttered the most powerful four words that have ever been spoken into my life:


“No no, Scotty. If you only knew


I am not sure I truly digested what he meant at that time. But, it is certainly in my cells now.

How I saw myself was different than how the world saw me. I didn’t like what I saw and I was barbed wired in it. The world liked what they saw and I was ignorant to it. “No no, Scotty. If YOU only knew”. Damn man. Makes me tear up. 


What he was saying was the narration I had about myself was not serving me. It was tying me to a man that was no more. The world, my family, my friends did not see him. To them he was a stranger. To me, he was under the skin. What if the narration we are telling ourselves right now is wrong? Or maybe just a few shades off the right color? What could we be keeping ourselves from? From freedom? From joy? From truth? For me, that was the case. It continues to be the case, for that matter. I am eager to move through life saying “what else am I wrong about? What perspective needs to be challenged?” Irish Chris gave me this principle to walk with. I didn’t hear it at the time. It sprouted years later. Four simple words from an Irishman shifted the course of my existence. Who said that us Irishman were only good for drinking?


Scott Russell

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