Photo credit: Robin Malmanger

By Dave Markwell

“I am full of mistakes and imperfections and therefore, I am real.”

– Shaun Hicks

I found this quote last night while mining for a writing prompt for these words. Following my walk by the sea, I sat on my bench and flipped pages in my blue notebook, looking for something to wrap some words around. This quote hit me square. I lost myself in it for a few minutes as I waited for a steel drum band to begin their show at my little boat bar in the harbor.

The words have a haunting quality to them, but also a hopeful one. It’s an acknowledgment that real is kind of ugly. It’s flawed and busted and troubled and scared and sometimes sad. It’s also beautiful because of these things. I like real. It’s human.

As the steel drums played, I sat on a stool at the bar rail and was happy. It’s hard to not be happy listening to steel drums. They are warm and inviting and not-too-serious. They sound like a beach on an island with a cold drink and a slight sunburn and a soft hand. They smell like brine and hot sand and coconut lotion and sweet fruit and smoke from a grill. They are soothing.

Looking over the crowd by the sea as the steel drums played, I lingered in my thoughts about the quote. I wondered about the happy people sitting in the grass – their mistakes, their heartbreaks, their big losses, their joys, their triumphs, and their hidden little secrets that make them smile or cry. We all have all of them. And, they make us real. If we let them.

None of us are unique. We are all blessed and scarred. We are damaged and golden. We are full of mistakes, but also goodness and greatness. As I scanned the crowd and imagined their stories, I loved them. They were real. With a cool sea breeze in my face, I felt a universal kinship. I felt open and gracious and brave. I felt real, too.

Sitting now in my black chair, I write my words and think my thoughts and feel my feelings. I see a big blue sky and a sunrise hitting a big mountain. And, I still feel real. I still feel open and gracious and brave. I accept my mistakes and imperfections. I am at peace with them. This is a nice place to stand. It feels like steel drums playing at sunset on the grass by the sea. Real is good.

Dave Markwell is a life-long Des Moines liver and lover. Former owner of Waterland CrossFit and the Waterland Arcade, Dave is now using his unique story-telling voice to help small businesses tell a better story, and his love for people to help folks live bigger and better lives.

For more info. check out his website:

He can be contacted at: [email protected].