You Hope the World Says Yes: An Interview with My Older Brother Reia Li
I say, I'm Gretis. I’m a 23-year-old tennis coach, older brother, quirky, introverted, deep-thinking, raving, rapping, weed-smoking, overthinking, vibrant person. Don't ask me how many hats I have. I couldn't tell you. I think around sixty. I store them. Display them. Contemplate trading them, or selling them, but I never do. Not yet. But I can wear all of them. Well, I can't wear them all at once, but I like switching it up. I like wearing different hats every day. And sometimes I wear multiple hats in a day if I change outfits. And I always try to match my hat with my outfit. It's a fun test to see if I can. Usually, I can.
You want to have the hat that everyone else wants. You want to have the hat that makes everyone else jealous.
I started seeing Facebook ads for [Findlay brand hats], and they got me for sure. I liked the designs. I was gonna just be a moderate collector, have a few, but then I discovered there was a Facebook group for the collectors. That was game over because I discovered that's where they're keeping all the really cool hats, the really cool old collectible hats.
This is my pineapple hat. This was one of the first ones I paid big money for. I'll tell you: $222. This is a limited release they did with a California dispensary. And for some reason, I just really wanted this hat. I really vibe with the sub—this is called a sub rim, where the brim is different from the main part of the hat. It's got a leather patch with a pineapple. I got the pizza clip on it. So, pineapple on pizza. It's very limited edition.
Collecting is like an addiction: the harder it is to get, the more you want it. The more desired something is, the more you want it.
I bought this knife in Golden, Colorado, the headquarters of Spyderco Knife Company. I have exactly 20 Spyderco’s, I believe. This is the Spyderco Nirvana. I like the word Nirvana—that drew me into the knife. It has a blue anodized handle, which means someone took a flame thrower, and made the titanium really hot to give it the cool blue color. It has a re-ground blade: someone, by hand, made the blade even thinner.
This is the Spidey Hole. It's Spyderco’s trademark. It’s the hole that allows you to open and close the knife with one hand—that was their main goal when they first started: they wanted a knife that someone could comfortably close and open with one hand.
I got this knife and one of my other favorite knives in the mail at the same time. And then I got one of my other knives to open both the packages. But I was on my bed, and I was a little too excited, and the person had been very careful wrapping up the knife, and they had put many layers of duct tape on it. And for some reason, the knife just slipped off the tape and went right here. I had to go get stitches.
You gotta show them respect, and the knife will respect you. There's something powerful about a knife—the potential for violence? I like the elegance of them. I like that they're a tool that can be used for good or evil.
What else am I obsessed with?
I'm obsessed with money.
It's like I'm damned if I do, damned if I don't, at this point. I got into investing because of the Gamestop fiasco, but I felt like I missed that boat, so I bought AMC stock. I got frustrated because AMC wasn't doing anything, so I got into crypto. I started buying coins that these people in a Facebook group were recommending, and they did okay.
And then, one day, I got the feeling to buy this one coin, SHIB. I buy a bunch for eight hundred bucks. I buy twelve billion. And then I forget about it. Then, out of nowhere, it starts going up like crazy. It goes up to $5,000, $10,000, $20,000. Everything started moving so fast for me, and I started getting emotional, doing bad trades where I would sell when it went down and buy when it went back up.
So, basically, I started with twelve billion SHIB, did some bad trades, and now I have four billion. Right now, what I have is worth, like, $115,000. I should be happy about that, right? But in my head, I’m beating myself up, like “You lost eight billion. You sold it too early. You lost all this money.” I just keep thinking: How many hours at a normal job will I have to work to make all the money I lost?
Before this investing thing, I was never that involved with my money. It didn’t determine my happiness, and I miss that. I see how rich people could get consumed with worrying about their net worth all the time.
Obsession is a funny word, you know, because it's almost like it's good but it's also bad. Because do you really want to be obsessed?
I’m obsessed with my music, even though sometimes I might go long periods without making any music. It's always something I think about.
You have to have thick skin as an artist. It's a paradox in the sense that you're sensitive and you care about what people think, but at the same time, you can't care what people think, because you can't make music just for other people. That's not how good music is made. [Performing] is kind of like asking someone out. You're putting yourself out there. That's what you're doing when you're performing: you're asking the world out, and you hope the world says yes. The summer before junior year in high school was when I first started making songs. “They Always Told Me No” was the first song on my first major album, 2018. That was the start of my serious rapping career. It starts off:
“Sixth grade cafeteria looking for a home, Young boy in America lost and all alone.”
And that's kind of how I felt for a lot of my younger life. I felt like I was the odd one out. I was the one who didn't have a place to eat lunch at the table. That song really gave me closure in the sense that it was okay that that's how I felt.
I remember having a lot of anger in my body. And I didn't know how to let it out. I remember being an angry little kid.
[My first year in high school], I remember playing too many video games, staying up too late, falling asleep in my classes, playing frisbee at lunch—that was a bright spot. I miss that. I remember just not having much joy in my life. I felt low energy, you know, in a funk, not having much passion for life. I guess I had my baseball, but then I kept getting frustrated by that.
My arm—it was like a cycle. My shoulder would start hurting. So I would stop playing for a little while and then I would come back thinking it'll be good, and then it would start hurting again. And then I would stop playing again, and it just repeated, repeated. Maybe that was why I didn't make varsity freshman year. That bummed me out. I didn't even make the JV team. Technically, I was on the alternate JV team. So I just did club ball instead. But it kept hurting. And then I tried playing left-handed, and that didn't work out. It just got to the point where I kind of gave up on it.
It was my identity. It was who I thought I would be for the rest of my life. I thought I would be a professional baseball player. It’s hard when you see a dream slowly disappear in front of you. Because reality sets it, you know, and I started to realize not even that I'm not good enough—my arm isn't gonna let me have a chance. That was sad to me, and maybe I could have tried harder, but maybe, maybe it just wasn't meant to be. It was my identity for a time and then I had to lose that identity. And it hurt.
[Around that time], I remember riding with a police officer, and he took me somewhere. I remember living in the mental health place for teenagers for a little bit. The holes in the wall [in my bedroom] were usually when I didn't do well in the video games that I liked playing.
One specific time, I remember when Mama was really concerned about me. She told me we were going somewhere, but then she told me in the car that she wanted to take me to a mental health place for troubled young teens or something to check up on me, and I got really mad about that because she deceived me, you know. And I threw a temper tantrum. And that's how the van—the AC thing on the passenger side in the front: it's all broken down because I hit that. That was one time in particular and I remember Mama looking so hopeless and so...sad. That really affected me. I realized that my anger is out of control, or it can be if I let it, so I need to not lose control like that.
I wasn't really too motivated to do well in school. I don't know why. I was just rebellious and low energy and I just didn't feel motivated—and at a smart-person school, you have to be motivated to do well. So, after my first semester sophomore year, I felt like I needed a change. [My friend] Chris was at Flowing Wells [High School], and he told me that I should come back there, and I agreed. But I had to get my credits right, so I went to Sentinel Peak first.
Sentinel Peak is a credit recovery school for kids who are falling behind. It looked kind of like an elementary school. It was that size (it was pretty, like, intimate). There was a small cafeteria in the middle, and then there were three or four classrooms around it. That was it.
I still have nostalgia for that school because everything was so simple. I would do my work in like half an hour, and then—I don't know how or why I got into it—I started watching this show called The Americans. It was about this Soviet era couple who were spies for the Soviet Union, but they lived in America and no one knew that they were spies. The acting was so good, it took me outside of my issues. It was an escape, an outlet.
There wasn't any pressure at Sentinel Peak. It was [for] all the troubled kids, you know. I'd already messed up to be there, right? Now, all I had to do was my work, and I'd be back on track.
I got all my credits looking good, and I was good to go to transfer to Flowing Wells for my junior year. That's where I had some friends to hang out with.
[One summer], Chris came back from Tennessee, and he hit me up to hang out. I hadn’t hung out with him for a while. So we went down to Pima [Community College] to hit and play tennis. And then we went to his place. And we're just chilling, you know, playing some video games or something. And then he looks at me and asks if I want to smoke weed.
I was so surprised. I didn't know what to say. So I was like, “I don't know, maybe next time. I'll think about it.” And then we just go back to playing. And then...I don't know, I guess a part of me was curious about it. I was interested, but I didn't know enough about it. A little later, I was like, “Yeah. Okay, why not? Yeah.”
We went into his closet, and he had a little Gatorade bong. A Gatorade bong is made using a Gatorade bottle, and an empty pen cap and pen. You get the [ink stick] out of the pen so you just have the pen and cap, and then you get a paper clip and you light the paperclip with a lighter to make it hot, and then you melt a hole in the plastic of the Gatorade bottle, and then you stick the pen in, and then you get a drill bit, a metal drill bit, to put inside of the pen. And that's where you put the weed. It's not the safest, healthiest thing, you know, to use plastic, but that's what we did back in the day.
He put some weed in for me and helped me light it. I took a hit. And pretty soon, I was feeling it. It was an immediate rush over my body. It felt so good; it felt natural. It felt like a whole new world to explore.
[After that], I would smoke in the morning before school in a wash, near our house. I would park my car and rush to the wash. Smoke real quick, rush back to my car, and go to school. That was my routine. It would make the whole day a lot more interesting. I guess I was lucky that I didn't really worry about my classes, to where I could just do ‘em all pretty easily, and still be high. Why go to school sober when you can go high?
People started looking at me different. Being the quiet, boring guy—that's a little boring. Being a stoner, that’s something people could identify me with, not just a little depresse-y guy who didn’t talk to anybody. They were like “Oh, he’s not just a quiet, quiet nerd. He's a stoner.”
I don't know how I always had my bike around, but I just remember, near the end of both junior and senior year—you know how school gets towards the end of the year, when kids stop caring as much, and things are looser? I would, I just remember biking around campus. Exhilaration. No one around, just biking so fast, listening to music without a care in the world.