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10 of the Most Important Lessons From the Craziest Year of My Life
With 10 pictures of pizzas that I ate this year.
This year was the year of the tiger — according to the Chinese calendar.
That’s pretty cool. Tigers are one of my favorite animals.
However, for me, 2022 was the year of the pizza.
Pizza is my favorite food. It always has been.
There’s just something about bread and cheese and sauce that wreaks joy and happiness for me. I almost like pizza as much as I like Jiu-Jitsu and writing.
In 2022, I had the opportunity to travel a lot (I went on 21 trips), compete in a lot of Jiu-Jitsu, and eat a lot of different post-competition pizzas. It’s been one of the craziest years of my life.
Here are 10 important things that I learned this year, paired with pictures of 10 delicious pizzas from my travels in 2022.
1. The more you travel, the bigger the world gets.
I went to the birthplace of pizza this May during my trip to Europe, where I visited Poland to compete in Jiu-Jitsu, Italy to eat everything, and England to see the place of my birth.
I’ve always loved traveling and I’ve been on many trips for Jiu-Jitsu over the years, but going overseas is a different animal entirely.
Each trip introduced me to new friends, new food, new ways of thinking, and of course, new ideas.
The more stuff you see in the world, the more you realize how small your world used to be.
What you do with this newfound knowledge is up to you, but I try to use it to adopt new habits and mindsets from the new people I meet. Because of this, I feel that I return from every trip I go on just a bit wiser and a bit better than I used to be.
2. Traditional does not mean better.
After a few days of eating Roman pizzas in Italy, it finally sunk in that I was on vacation and that I could eat as much pizza as I wanted.
I had an abundance of pizza, so I decided to take myself on a little “pizza history tour”, and try as many different pies as possible. I ordered one pizza from a restaurant that didn’t have cheese on it.
“Pizza Marinara” is just pizza with marinara sauce, oregano, garlic, and extra virgin olive oil.
It’s not bad, but Raffaele Esposito (the alleged inventor of the Margherita pizza) definitely made pizza a lot better when he decided to throw some cheese and basil on there so that he could make it look like the Italian flag.
Old friends are not necessarily better than new ones. The classics aren’t necessarily better. The old pizza recipe you use might just be missing some cheese.
Try new stuff. At the very least, you’ll learn what you don’t like.
3. Good company makes good things better.
When I went to Italy, I went by myself.
That is my only regret from that entire trip.
The food was amazing, the sites were beautiful, and I loved the feeling of “being on an adventure”…
For like a day and a half.
By the end of the trip, I missed my friends. I missed talking to people in English. I missed doing Jiu-Jitsu and talking crap with my friends at the gym.
All the travel was great, but in my opinion, experiences like these are best spent shared with close friends.
That doesn’t mean there’s no use for solitude—I love solitude — it just means you should be thoughtful about what you do alone.
This pizza above was one I had with my friends Jen and Jay when I was in Washington DC in March (although, I’m pretty sure I ate most of it).
The finer things in life are finer with fine company.
4. Travel is great, but it can get exhausting.
I went to the pizza restaurant above in Chicago a few weeks ago — my last cheat meal before I competed in England — and I loved it. This restaurant has 2 locations. One in Italy and one in Chicago.
The food at this place was incredibly reminiscent of what I experienced when I went to Italy, and it brought back some nostalgia.
My Europe trip cost me about $3000 altogether, whereas this pizza outing was like $50 total, factoring in the gas I used to get there.
Like I said above, I went on 21 trips this year alone. I would love to go back to Italy one day, but I honestly don’t want to go back right now.
I’m tired of living out of a suitcase, spending all my time in airports, dealing with jetlag, Googling if it’s safe to drink the tap water, and walking ungodly distances just to find a bathroom.
All my travel this year helped me realize that I like being at home too.
5. Sometimes, what you think you want isn’t what you really want.
After I competed in Los Angeles back in July, I drove down to San Diego for a couple of days of training and to see some friends.
I was also actually hell-bent on moving to San Diego for about 3 months this summer.
When I got to my Airbnb (that was actually a camper van), I was craving pizza. For whatever reason, after a competition, bread and cheese are all I want and can think about.
The problem was, well, San Diego isn’t exactly known for its pizza. Because of this, I ordered from the first place I could find that was closest to my van/BNB. I picked up the pizza, and I also went and grabbed a tub of ranch dip (I’m sorry — I’m a Midwestern kid through and through) and a Diet Coke from the Walgreens up the street.
I knew it wasn’t ideal, but I was determined to make my pizza cheat meal work.
In the end, it was fine (there are worse things in life than bad pizza), but I was unsatisfied.
Sometimes, folks, you’re just better off getting a California burrito. Sometimes you have to just flow with the go.
6. Fuck it — embrace your inner weirdo.
The pizza above I had with my friend Jack and his nephew after I competed in Los Angeles in November.
It was weird. It was spicy and full of ranch (as a sauce!) and completely different from what I expect out of a typical pizza.
That being said, it was definitely the best pizza I have ever had in the state of California. It was a weird pizza, but it’s a pizza that knows who it is.
That pizza was bold, and I like that — from a pizza and a person.
The older I get and the more I grow, the less I really care about what other people think of my quirks. It’s exhausting to maintain an image of a tough guy or a smart guy or any other type of guy, and really, your obsession over the maintenance of your image says more about you than it does anyone else.
Be weird — it’s better to be weird. It’s easier, more fulfilling, and of course, a lot more fun.
It might not always be “cool” to go your own way, but authenticity is the quickest way to escape constant social comparison. I like that.
7. When you fail, it’s okay to eat your feelings. Just get back to work afterward.
This pizza I had in June, the day after I lost in the semifinals of a competition in upstate New York.
After the competition, I went to the Canadian side of Niagara Falls with my friend Katie for the day, and we walked around, explored, drove go-karts, and ate a bunch of food.
It was a fun day, but deep down I was really bummed about my performance in the competition.
I’d been feeling a bit burnt out leading up to that competition, and though I had wanted a break, I decided to cut 11 pounds in just a week and compete anyway.
I didn’t realize just how burnt out I was until I was halfway through the match and thinking about how much I didn’t want to be there anymore. I lost that match. I broke.
That was the most upset I’ve been after a loss in a long time.
I had to build myself back up after that one.
I went to Canada, ate a weird pizza with Canadian bacon, flew home, and the following day I was back in the gym and more focused than I’d been in months. That loss was a huge kick in the butt for me personally, professionally, and athletically.
It reignited the fire inside me to work hard at my goals.
The pizza helped me be gentle with myself when I was having a hard time. That’s important too.
8. You can’t always have your pizza and eat it too.
I cut down to 170 to compete 3 times this year.
The first time, in April, it wasn’t so bad. I also had a great competitive performance that weekend. The second time, in May, was absolutely brutal and I almost broke trying to make the weight. The third time, in June, was tough, but I got there alright.
I naturally weigh about 181, so making 170 requires me to either be disciplined with my diet for weeks on end or to do a drastic water cut where I lose all the weight in the last 24 hours.
If I could bum around and eat pizza every day, I probably would, but I can’t. Sometimes in life, you just gotta go with the cauliflower pizza.
Sometimes, you gotta do the hard things. Deal with it.
9. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, but don’t try to be a Roman.
Something I’ve struggled with a lot over the years is allowing my ego and my anxiety to dictate the choices that I make in my life.
Looking back, I honestly think that’s part of the reason I kept getting lost in Italy. I didn’t want to be wrong. I didn’t want to admit that I had fucked up.
I didn’t want to be “a lost tourist”, but I was a lost tourist.
When you travel, you should observe the customs of the land. Eat pizza and drink espresso and say “Grazie” in Rome, but don’t pretend you’re Roman. When you’re lost, it’s better to own it and admit that you fucked up rather than wander aimlessly through a foreign land.
The same is true in life. Being aimless is overrated and romanticized.
When you’re in Jiu-Jitsu class and you don’t know something, have a beginner’s mind so that you can learn more.
You don’t know everything, and that’s a wonderful thing.
10. The only commonality in your shit relationships is you.
I used to go through relationships with friends, girlfriends, etc, and think that the problem with the relationship was that I and the other person were incompatible.
“I’m this way and they’re that way, so we will never get along.” — me, for most of my early 20s
This is a very alienating way of thinking, but I think a lot of people do it nowadays because, if I’m being honest, I think a lot of people today are entitled.
Or at least, they seem entitled.
They seem entitled because they’re afraid of being vulnerable, so they shut themselves off.
Or maybe it’s just me and I’m projecting. Regardless, I think that many people today (including myself) struggle with appearing in ways that make them look less than perfect or strong all the time.
You can thank social media for that — it gives you the ability to paint yourself in the perfect light every time you post.
Dare to not be perfect. Dare to make a weird blog post about pizza.
Outside of doing Jiu-Jitsu and writing, I guess food and travel are the closest things that I have to a “hobby” — something I do for fun that isn’t a job.
Traveling for Jiu-Jitsu has allowed me to see new countries, meet people from all over the world, eat some amazing food, and make memories that will long outlive my career as an athlete.
I thought this article would be a kind of fun way to go through everything I learned this year on the road while also including photos of some of the tasty pizzas I got to enjoy this year.
I hope you enjoyed this article, and that if anything I’ve inspired you into ordering/making something delicious for yourself to eat tonight.
Bon Appetit 😊