Tag Archives: Influence

25 Years

Turning 25 is a milestone, but unlike others (18, 21), 25 has catapulted me into a different mindset. All of a sudden, there is a significant part of my life behind me. This is not to say, however, there aren’t more defining moments ahead (I can certainly stand to change. Okay, okay. I can stand to change A LOT). Anyway, what I mean is, this is really the first time in my life I can look back on the choices I made over the last decade as well as examine what I saw, failed at, and accomplished and I can do all of that with a sense of here and now because, hey, here I am – this is where all of those decisions got me.

Now it’s time to chart a new path, though it’s more confusing now than ever. With school and finding a first job, things were a bit more obvious. As I look forward, though, it’s been difficult to see through the fog. The milestones I create won’t have deadlines or, for the most part, a sense of urgency attached to them. This is both invigorating and scary. Aside from goals, there are a lot of things I’d like to make a habit of, like reading and writing more. Perhaps now more than ever I should concentrate on refinement instead of picking up new things. Yeah, I like that.

Here’s to another year.


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El Salvador Journal: Part IV

(3/19/2014 2:00pm) “Today, Wednesday, was a day off for our group. I woke up and I seemed to have lost my voice. Not sure how, but it’s already pretty annoying. We slept in a bit, had some breakfast, and packed up for a hike and an afternoon at the beach. 1236390_10152274893066550_1770760958_n We drove about 40 minutes away from where we were staying and up part of a decent sized hill. From there, we climbed up this narrow path through the rocks.   10013925_10152274899311550_183851315_n Eventually, we got to the top and enjoyed the view. 10153249_10152274894446550_791144158_n At the bottom, there were some souvenir shops, where I bought some gifts for myself and Leah- a wooden coffee mug for myself and a bracelet with Leah’s name inscribed. Part of the group had already started making their way up an adjacent hill and soon we followed. This hike was a bit more difficult, but it was worth it. Everyone was posing for pictures at the top and, of course, I needed to get mine taken, too. 1964899_10152272882311550_673637948_n

(Note: I don’t look happy, but I am. This was a really cool part of the trip.)

The sites were amazing and it made me want to go on more hikes when I get home, something Leah will like a lot. The views were unbelievable and despite my fear of tumbling don the massive hill, I enjoyed the climb. The sun wasn’t too bad and, knock on wood, I still haven’t had any sunburn. Now we’re off to the beach that happens to be near our first worksite, about an hour and half away from the hiking spot.

(8:00pm that evening)

The rest of the day was spent at the beach. We hung out at a hostile, which I learned was $8 a night, and despite the really American style lunch that was served, it was a good time. We ate and hung around until everyone was ready to head down to the water. People rented surfboards and others just went for a swim. I tried to surf for the first time, and even though I was unsuccessful, I had a good time trying and look forward to doing it again soon.

10014629_10152274892876550_1619989194_n  1977338_10152274892911550_1357780044_n

As of now, we just got finished with dinner (spaghetti and sauce) and now everyone is sitting around a bonfire on the beach. I talked to Leah for the first time since I left today. Decided to eat the cost of a few texts and let everyone know I was ok. It was nice to see her name pop up on again on my phone. Back to work tomorrow right and early. Hopefully my voice comes back.

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El Salvador Journal: Part III

10154141_10152274903221550_1206239181_n3/19/2014 (This post will be split in to two. The first will be 3/17 and 3/18 and the second will be 3/19. All of this was written on 3/19.)

“Hopefully I can remember the last two days, they’ve been pretty long.

Monday, St. Patrick’s Day, we went to our first work site at about 8am. Our job was to build latrines (bathrooms, which are more or less 15ft holes in the ground with cinderblocks and cement on top) for the people in this remote mountain area, about 45 minutes from where we are staying.

The ride wasn’t bad other than the swerving around crater-like potholes and nearly in to oncoming traffic. The highway followed the shore pretty closely. It reminded me of the Amalfi coast in Italy- large cliffs, vein like roads connecting each little town along the way with the occasional orange roof in the distance.


Eventually, we got to a dirt road with a bodega in front of it and the nearly 40 people in our groups exited the vans and into the back of a 1950s era Mercedes pick-up truck and up the mountain we went.



Unfortunately, our site was only about 20 minutes up the road. Now, I say unfortunately because we passed it and went another 20-25 minutes up the mountain, nearly getting stuck and having to go backwards to try again, only to turn around and find our site. To help put this all in perspective, we couldn’t have traveled more than 7 miles all together. To say it was a slow, bumpy, and scary ride may help put this all together. Most times we wondered if the truck would make it up the suddenly steep hills of loose rock and dirt.

Anyway, on the way up, Andrew  noticed a cemetery. It was much different than what we are used to seeing in the United States. It was colorful, as if truly celebrating a person’s life.


At the site, it was a long day of mixing concrete on the ground, moving cinder blocks, and avoiding falling into the 15ft whole while carrying buckets of cement and dirt.



At lunch, Courtney, Tim, Andrew, Ryan and I went down to the river to cool off. Andrew and I dunked our heads in the cool water and climbed some rocks while the rest of the group sought out an entrance to this old, rickety, Indiana Jones type bridge.

Here’s a not so great picture of Courtney on the bridge.


Lunch was PBJ on subroles and a lot of water. The school kids were huddled around most of the girls as they attempted to speak with them, only to get laughs in return.

After lunch, we were back to work. We were able to finish two latrines for the day, though we cut out pretty early, probably 3:30 or so.

Overall, it was a good experience. A first hand account of the extreme poverty helped to put a lot of the problems we face in the United States into perspective. A large portion of the country deals with these kinds of conditions. What amazed me more than anything was how happy the people, and especially the kids, were. I tried to play around with the kids as much as possible, though I was very determined to finish the task at hand. That is, after all, why we’re  here.


At the end of our work day, we piled back into the truck and off we went back down the mountain. Here’s a video of us on the way down.

The bodega at the bottom had 40 cent sodas, which were half a liter by the way. So, as most of us did, I enjoyed an ice cold Pepsi on the way home, though I didn’t realize the size until I wasn’t feeling so well.


By dinner time, my “not feeling so well” turned in to nausea, so I gave the rest of my dinner to Andrew and walked home to see if I could sleep it off.

Spoiler alert, I couldn’t.

A combination of some fruit I had before lunch (cocotte, photo below), the heat, dehydration, exhaustion from the flights and lack of sleep, and the giant soda I had turned me in early, only to wake up every two hours to “pray to the porcelain Gods,” “Drive the big, porcelain school bus…” you get the picture.



The following day it was hard to each much of anything despite the amazing breakfast that was being prepared. I have to admit, I don’t remember what it was because I couldn’t even look at food. I tried to drink as much water as we could before leaving for work- another day of latrine building. I can’t remember what lunch was, though I think it was what was for dinner the night before. I forget.

I started to feel better throughout the day, which was good. I was able to eat dinner when we returned for the evening after a nice shower and my forming post-work ritual of a 20 minute nap. Our nighttime routine had us turn in at about 9:45 to prepare for the next day. Our walks back to our place were pretty scary, but no one was around, or we just didn’t see them.”

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Outside of the box: Forming a new perspective

Before I start writing, I want to make it clear that I am only 5 chapters in to the book I am about to be commenting on, though I am in love with it already.

I recently started reading, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, after hearing some good things about it. I was a little hesitant at first, mostly because the title led me to believe I needed to have some sort of knowledge of motorcycles or maybe even own one to understand it.

This was dismissed immediately.

The book centers around the idea of motorcycle maintenance, using the ideas associated with it as metaphors for life philosophies that the author, Robert M. Pirsig, has picked up over the years.

Early on in the book he describes the feeling of riding a “cycle,” as he often refers to it, as a means to get to a destination as opposed to a plane or a car. The cycle allows you to be in the scene. You get to conquer the space in between where you are and where you’re going. “The concrete is just inches below your boots,” Pirsig says. He goes on to mention how a car has a compartment, separating you from the space around you on your journey.

The following is an excerpt from the book that struck a chord with me:

“To arrive in the Rock Mountains by plane would be to see them in one kind of context, as pretty scenery. But to arrive after days of hard travel across the prairies would be to see them in another way, as a goal, as a promised land.”

This isn’t the first time I’ve heard a “It’s about the journey not the destination” line, but for some reason, this quote in particular got me thinking about more than that; more than the journeys you take in life.

I want to live my whole life outside of the box. I want to have the freedom to learn and explore, even if it’s not a physical journey. I know I’m not very exciting; I don’t take crazy trips; I don’t jump off of cliffs or out of planes. I know that’s not a bad thing, I enjoy living a simple existence with room to expand at my leisure, however, I do want to make sure I’m putting my life experiences in a context that allows me to truly understanding the things I’m going through.

With all that being said, I do want to take more trips to places I’ve said I want to visit. As Pirsig says, having a good time means concentrating more on “good” and less on “time.” To me, that means not worrying about how far it is to your destination is and how long it will take to get there, just that you got up and went.

Every couple of chapters, or when I come across something I find interesting, I am going to try and do a write up to make sure I really understand what I’m reading. Wish I had this kind of focus on school work. I’d have a PhD in a couple of years if I did.

On top of all this, now I really want a motorcycle. Maybe one day.

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Being responsible for your emotions: A rant

We’ve all heard the saying, “Control your own happiness,” but what about other emotions? Sadness, regret, and anger are all things we humans experience on a somewhat regular basis. Why should we let other people have such a huge influence on the positive or negative aspects of our lives? I recently figured out a little bit about myself and started understanding why it is I do what I do.

I want to control my ALL of my emotions. If I’m going to be happy, I want to be the reason I’m happy. Whether it’s surrounding myself with family and loved ones, playing hockey or music, or just having a couple beers with some friends around a bar or a fire. I answer to no one when it comes to my happiness.

This goes the same for my occasional err…somewhat constant anger and aggressiveness. I choose to let it out when I want, which is probably healthier than keeping it in. Meh, what do I know, I’m not a doctor, nor is yelling at someone from my car for cutting me off going to change anything. Anyway, I want to be in control of those emotions, too. I’d rather get in trouble for something I did and be mad/embarrassed at myself than let someone else make me feel helpless and have anger towards them for something I can’t control.

I want to make my own messes and I want to clean them up.

I want to make my own mistakes and I want to own up to them.


I’ve been called abrasive, aggressive, angry, unorthodox, told that I worry too much and to slow down…yada. yada. yada. You know what? (Cue hardcore lyrics) “I’ll keep my failures. You keep waiting.” (Call It Fire) In other words, keep it to yourself. I’ll be over here learning something from what I just did.

I don’t mind being the guy who tells you what you don’t want to hear. I don’t mind being honest.

I do mind when people don’t do their jobs and I catch the raw end of it. I’d rather let them know and skip a few rings in the “chain of command” to make people aware of the problem than sit there and have no control and be miserable. Too many people sit idly by and let things happen to them. They get stepped on or skipped over all together. I want to learn from mistakes, because that’s what life is all about, right?

Sometimes bureaucracy is helpful, but most times it isn’t. For what my jobs have been and what I hope one day they will be, and that’s helping or educating others, we don’t have time for it. Face problems head on. Take ownership of the problems and mistakes made along the way. Then, move on. Put your pride away and learn something to help the people you’re supposedly in favor of.

The moral of this rant is, control your emotions. Not in the, “keep them in check” kind of way, but in the, “take them by the horns” kind of way. Be happy, be sad, be angry, cry, punch shit, be alone or with others, write a blog post about it, laugh SO loud, scream your face off – be emotional on your own terms.

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Inspiration: Fuel for the mind and body

Inspiration sparks the flame of motivation. It allows your mind to think of all the possibilities that are available. You dream. You process. You go forth.

This may be one of the most important things I learned in college, and no, I didn’t learn it in a classroom. Surprise!

There are a lot of things that I do and people that I interact with that give me the inspiration to go out and accomplish things. At the same time, there are a lot of variables that push me back to square one; things that ground me; things that discourage me.

Lucky for me, those aforementioned things that I do and people I interact with allow me to get back up and continue on my way. But things don’t just work themselves out, you have to make sure they work out, and your personal motivators help you get there. Those things and people put gas in your tank; they give you that extra push when you sit there staring at a computer screen wanting to smash your face into it.

So what’s the point of all this?

In your life there will be a lot of things that bring you down, your job is to find those people, those things, or whatever it is that inspires you to be whatever it is you’re shooting for; whatever you want to do, be it professional or personal; for work or recreation.

At the same time, be open to potential influences, even if they seem bad. Let them teach you something about who you are and that will lead you to finding out what you want to do, or not do, with your life

When something influences you and you get inspired, then the next day you get up and are motivated to go out and do whatever it is you’re thinking about, you’ll find out if that is a passion of yours or if you need to find a different path. But don’t get discouraged. Keep looking.

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A Rich Diet of Endless Endeavors

“my eyes are too big for my stomach
it can’t process all that i do
a rich diet of endless endeavors
at the expense of me and you
there’s a thousand reasons why I can’t open up
every combination is one turn off
there’s no rest for the weak
I need a week’s rest desperately” – Sesame,  Touche Amore

I always found it strange, and at the same time comforting, that lyrics can connect with people the way they do. It’s hard to put words on paper, or a screen, to properly convey the way you’re feeling at a particular moment.

Right now, this is how I feel. I’m trying to rich this “goal” and I occupy myself with as much as possible to reach it. At the same time, I can’t realize that I’m too busy for my own good; that I can’t handle (or process) everything that I have going on in my life.

I realize it has a negative influence on other aspects of my life and it’s something I know I need to change. I’m just not sure what happens when there isn’t anything left to do: No work. No extra activities. No end goal. It just seems foreign to me. I don’t get it.

Maybe I should concentrate more on what I do have going on already; change the focus of my life so that I get better at things that are the most important to me and that don’t just give me something else to do. I need to slow down and not make every idea I have some grand scheme. I need to practice what I preach, which is, take small steps/strides in the right direction and see where it goes.

There’s a long road ahead of me where I’ll be able to grow and learn. But for now, I need to shrink my life a bit and focus inward.

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