One Thought: Transition

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Change is a dread all of us feel many times in our lives.  Whether it’s changing a job, dating someone new, or graduating school, change comes during all phases of life.  No one can control change or prevent it from coming, but we can control how we approach change.  It just takes a focused mind and some practice.  Let’s think through a few examples together.

You’re at work.  An email comes through telling you about some new software that is being rolled out.  You LOVE the old software, but your bosses don’t like it and decided to get rid of it.  It’s pretty easy to get upset or just rebel against it altogether.  Who needs the new software?  You’ll be more productive anyway, right?  Maybe, but maybe you’re missing out on a feature you didn’t know existed.  Maybe you can spend even less time on this new software, even if it seemed difficult at first.  But how can you know unless you commit to it?  Here’s a hint, you can’t.

You just graduated high school.  Maybe you had a great time in school, maybe you hated it, maybe you are indifferent. Regardless, maybe you’re nervous about college because you’ve heard of the long papers you’ll have to write, the long chapters you’ll be required to read, the new friends you’ll have to make.  It can be daunting.  But what is the benefit of avoiding the change and sulking into the past?  While that may be a natural reaction, making a conscious decision to dedicate yourself to this new life can have irreplicable benefits.  Those new friends you just made, they’re your friends for life.  That knowledge you forged, that’s the basis for the job you’re about to earn.  None of which would be possible without a commitment to change.

You just had a brilliant idea.  This new business could make it BIG.  Or, it could fall on its face.  Here’s the catch.  You need to quit that cushy job with reimbursed travel, lots of free happy hours, and a great set of coworkers. Interested?  Maybe, maybe not.  A big part of the hesitation is not wanting to deal with the change.  Change in lifestyle, change in people around you, etc.  But without embracing change, you could be forgoing an even greater sense of purpose in building something from the ground up and creating a new team that will do great things.  All foregone because of that pesky resistance to change.

Would we have different reactions to these circumstances if any details changed?  Unfortunately, probably not.  Change, though initially painful, is the breeding ground of all progress and growth.  The next time you find yourself in a state of resistance, remember that the next best version of yourself is just beyond the horizon of revolution.

One Thought: Memories

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Anniversaries have long been a source of nostalgia, remembrance, and reasons to celebrate.  From Christmas to July 4 to the passing of a loved one, anniversaries are our way of acknowledging a significant event some number of days or years ago.  This week happens to be the very week that I quit my job and took off on a journey I’ll never forget, one short year ago.  It is the anniversary of the birth and death of tangential chapters in my life.  But I look back on that time with a fondness irreplaceable, despite its ever lengthening depth in my memory.

The same memories that vibrantly ring in our minds during the moments, hours, and days that follow something memorable will sink back over the weeks, months, and years thereafter.  And so the Andean ridges and mountains and whispering oceans ring heavily in my mind like the echo of a cavern.  I miss those memories as I recall them but I don’t live in them.

Living in the past is not advised, but if we can look to our past to dictate our future, reminisce onward.  In fact, reminiscing is known to give some health benefits if done in the right fashion.  So maybe its flipping through an old yearbook or photo album, reading through your facebook stories of years gone by, or just daydreaming of youthful summer days.  Whatever your memories are, don’t be afraid of them.  Embrace them and make them into greater tomorrows.

One Thought: Positivity

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Optimists, dreamers, idealists, unrealistic, impractical, etc.  Those are a few thoughts some may have applied to those flooded with that positive personality gene.  Positive people can easily be disregarded for their seemingly ungrounded position.  But if you’re a positive person you’re certainly not worrying about these things, because they aren’t…well…positive.

But therein lies the true beauty of positivity.  It’s not about ignoring the important things in this world just to put the mind at ease.  It’s about the focus on what matters in a positive light.  It’s also about putting a higher priority on making life more enjoyable by making the best of even the bleakest situations.

In this world we can be confronted by a range of provocations.  From that guy (or gal) cutting us off on the highway to the roommate who doesn’t change the damn toilet paper when it runs out.  There are so many opportunities to have the negative voice shout louder.  Change the script.  Think different.  Wave to the driver, hug your roommate with a smile, change the interaction.  More often than not that you’ll be surprised by the reaction.  Especially when they wave a smile back.

One Thought: Breathe

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Going to start a channel here to organize different thoughts on improvement and growth. Welcome to the inaugural One Thought!

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy filling every nook and cranny of the calendar with dinners, excursions, etc.  While that can be a great way to expand your friend group or try new things, each wonderful ambitions alone, it can be a choking hazard on your own life and happiness.  Making time for others takes away time from yourself and in the end, that is what keeps you going.

On one of those rare weekends when time to breathe miraculously does appear, don’t be wary of the emptiness by filling it in with a last-second wine and paint night.  Take a walk.  Or a run.  Read a book.  Or write one.  And most importantly, breathe.

The Return: (North) ‘Merica

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Well, it’s late July.  Not sure exactly how time travels so quickly but if we could monetize that speed none of us would need to work ever again.  In this short time, I realized a few things.  First, I kinda sorta needed a job.  Second, a shower and haircut were imminent.  And third, I was BACK.  But what was this strange new world, (North) America?  Whatever it was, it was very welcoming.  In case you haven’t already seen the video, here it is.

For the first few weeks, it was a surreal and very glossy view.  Nothing seemed to fit reality.  Half of my heart and mind sat here at home while the other sat wondering why his twin had left him in South America.  So many incredible memories still do sit down there.  In between jagged peaks and flowing valleys and rushing rivers.  I don’t think I was struggling to come to grips with the realities back home because I was afraid of anything, I was actually excited to start work again.

No, there’s something else.  There’s something about a place that can have such a big impact on who you are and become.  I lived among 6 countries in South America and the Caribbean for 5 months.  I spent 248 hours in some form of transportation.  I visited 27 cities, towns, and villages.  Over 200 miles of hiking trails, roadsides, and city streets were crept across by tired feet.  I took nearly 10,000 pictures and videos.  But does any of this mean anything?

This was always an interesting question I tried to answer, what happens after the trip? I’m still not quite sure how to answer it, but I think I’ve come along a bit further than where my thoughts were on April 9th.  More than ever, it’s about people and how I decide to interact.  Making the most of every moment.  Appreciating EVERYTHING you have.  Because you never know when you might drop everything and search for 5 months for those very things you missed so much right under your nose.  It’s about spending life with the people and things that mean more to you than anything else.  It’s a cliche, but for a good reason.  I knew the cliche before.  Now I feel it.

 

A Reunion in Haiti – vol. 2

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During the week, it was Alexa’s birthday.  She runs the childrens’ home and we all ran to a beautiful farm to celebrate the day.  The farm was organic and used ingenious methods to grow crops and other plants cheaply and efficiently.  It was so much cooler on the top of the mountain where the grasses grew green and winds whispered among the shouldering peaks.  The city of Port-au-Prince below was hot and dusty, a solid layer of beige hovering over it.  Flowers of varying colors scattered the farm as we toured the land.

It was a beautiful day that ended with a humble rooftop party filled with tasty homemade treats and dinner and lots of great people.  White lines of light swung on string around us in the wind as the sun set.  Through laughs and smiles we all enjoyed another successful day in Haiti.

We spent Thursday back at the childrens’ home doing some crafts with the kids and finishing the second coat of paint.  The room looked refreshed and we all spent time with the kids to round out the afternoon.  The following day was spent overseeing a classroom with some young kids taught by one of the people who had worked in the childrens’ home.  It was nice to see that lesson, but it was also an insight into the difficulties some of these kids, even the lucky ones who can go to school, must endure.

It was now Saturday.  The last full day in Haiti and also the last full day of my trip.  I couldn’t stop thinking about all of the people that I was just a number of hours away from seeing.  This day was spent on a trip to the beach with the entire group of kids.  It’s infrequent for the kids to get out of the house for safety reasons and so days like this are precious.  They ran straight for the water and had smiles as big as watermelons striped across their faces.

Jumping into the water myself, I found 2, 3, and sometimes even 5 kids all hanging on my arms and shoulders as I waded around in circles through the clear water.  For several hours, we just played in the water and stopped for lunch and played some more.  It was a beautiful sunny day and I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect day to spend with those incredible kids and for my last day of a miraculous trip.

Emotions swirled around me.  Incredible memories filled my mind as I asked my dearest Sarah some more questions and spent as much time at the beach as possible.  It was a difficult goodbye but of course an inevitable one.  Sarah and the rest of the kids waved as their bus road off into the dust.  We all returned to our rooms and packed our bags, happy, exhausted, ready for home.

After a week spent with beautiful people in a uniquely beautiful place, we shipped ourselves to the airport.  Minutes were splashing past me and I was doing my best just to enjoy the final hours.  Finally, we boarded and rose up into the clouds.  I was on my way home.

A Reunion in Haiti – vol. 1

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140 days past.  Countless memories.  Countless people.  Countless blessings.  It’s pretty incredible up to this point that I haven’t lost anything…or worse.  My mind is everywhere.  Riding a taxi to the airport after a nice final morning walking the streets of Santiago with a friend brought so many thoughts to the fold.  My final hours in this new world, now a very familiar world, were waning down and I was trying to suck up each moment, each sight, each person I met with the absorbency of a thick dry sponge.

Funny enough, that’s how I felt before long in the dusty hot weather of Haiti as I touched down in the airport of Port-au-Prince.  I was the first member of the team to arrive and so me and Alexa, the Haiti Connections Director of the Wings of Refuge childrens’ home.  We went to a brand new cafe that has become a central meeting place for volunteers since I last visited this poverty stricken country.

After running a few errands, we returned to the airport to pick up the rest of the team.  I knew our team leader through some limited meetings, but everyone else was new!  Nothing new for me as I’d been in a similar situation the last 4 1/2 months, but there were plenty of differences in this final week of the trip.

This place, as opposed to all the others I had seen on my trip, was home.   When I returned to the childrens home I felt a coziness that I hadn’t felt since I first embarked to Peru to kick off this adventure.  Walking into the home, a few things had changed but the feeling was the same.  I saw the kids and there were mumblings.  I had doubts.  I wondered if any of them would remember my name or who I was.  How could I doubt.

As we went around the room and all introduced ourselves, I readied myself for my turn to speak.  But as I was about to say my name, I heard it around the room followed by whispers and giggles.  They remembered!  As we all socialized with the kids, I ended up running and playing tag with some of the younger boys before talking with Sarah and nabbing a picture with this young sweetheart.

For those who don’t know, this was the girl who stole my heart by giving me a birthday card on my 22nd birthday during my first trip to Haiti.  It was the precursor to my return for a second trip and the inspiration for this 3rd trip after a 4 year hiatus.  Being surrounded by all the kids on the first day was a dream come true.

Over the course of the next few days, we settled into our new home for the week and also helped a friend living there to move into his own apartment!  It was a big moment for him and we were all so thrilled to be a part of it.  We painted a large room in the childrens’ home and spent more time with the kids.  Running around you in circles laughing and screaming, they make you forget about everyone and everything else.

As we drove around the city those first few days, I noticed less rubble.  Less garbage.  A few more paved roads.  Just a few.  For a country that has been among the most impoverished in the world for many years, progress comes slow.  But progress seemingly does still come, especially with organizations working together to bring benefit to the people.

We met many of these organizations as one of the biggest pushes the childrens’ home has made since I last visited is to partner with other charities to bring greater awareness to various causes.  We visited jewelers who would make beads out of cereal boxes, old glass bottles, and clay.  Ingenious reuse of otherwise indiscernible trash.  We even got to make our own bracelet with a hammer, brass fastener, and some leather.  Far flung from my days of calculating numbers on spreadsheets.

It was a memorable start to an endlessly thought filled ending of the grand adventure that began a short 5 months earlier.  Only a few days remain, but in my mind, it feels like an eternity until I can finally return home!  More on those days in the final post of the trip!

Also, check out this post I wrote for the Wings of Refuge website and some more insights into my trip back to this wonderful world!