Thursday, January 28, 2010


After being exposed to a continuous array of uplifting advertisements, I was lured to visit earlier this week. As I browsed the pages of The Foundation for a Better Life Web site, the evidence became overwhelming that my visit was predestined. The entire motive of the foundation is to encourage others to do good, through a select set of values. I’ve recently been considering ways in which I can serve my community. I felt compelled to implement their suggested values: persistence, opportunity, inspiration, peace, gratitude, live your dreams…etc. Each value, quote and billboard represents something I personally cherish and instantly became a supporter.

Shortly after visiting, my brother and I were discussing my financial situation. I informed him of a goal that I set for myself when I started college. I planned to put myself through school…and to do so without student loans. At the beginning of last semester, I had to begin relying on the support of my parents to help me finish. I failed to achieve my goal. As I shared with him how it was eating me up inside, he brought it to my attention that I was being prideful. “Think about how it makes mom and dad feel to be able to help you. Have you ever thought about that?” As a parent, he thought of the joy he will receive from providing an education for his children. He reminded me that I will graduate without any debt, and that I have much to be thankful for. The opportunity surfaced to seize the steadfast value of gratitude, but my pride crept in and smothered its invitation.

While I have it, I need to take the opportunity to publicly thank mom and dad for their unconditional support. Their monetary investment has been the least of their contributions. I have encountered extreme highs and lows throughout the years (“violent mood swings” as an old friend used to refer to them). Along the way, I have doubted many things; But never the loyalty of my parents who were there for me every step of the way. They have exemplified the values of devotion, sacrifice, dedication and encouragement.

During one of my breaks at school this week, I was thumbing through a magazine entitled The Writer, when 10 Habits of a Successful Writer caught my attention. I was immediately drawn to the article and after reading it, came to the realization that I possess many of the habits introduced therein. Like author Donald M. Murray, I “delight in anecdote and parable that reveals a larger story,” and I “treasure metaphor.” I can identify with him in that “I am always in the world and out of it.” I am constantly aware of my surroundings, scribbling notes containing “an essential tension that will release a text when it’s developed,” as he so eloquently wrote.

I examined the list and questioned my own routines with intent to implement those gone unpracticed. The only resounding negative response was to the habit of completion—the toughest one to master. Murray considers a piece to be complete once it’s been submitted—for without submission, you can’t be published. I have been published, but I have not made a habit of submission. Therefore, I will practice the values of determination and perseverance, until I develop a routine of submitting my work.

Questioning myself regarding two other habits, I found myself sitting on the fence. They require a sense of change within the individual; the writer must be able to contradict their own writing, admit past misinformation and be willing to revise their own precious material. Considering my new outlook on change, I imagine the “fence” is a hurdle I am soaring above, in mid-jump between a “no” response, and an unmistakable “yes!” I spent nearly the same amount of time editing and revising my last entry as I did writing it. But without those changes, it wasn’t nearly as effective to the reader. Change is good, and I am embracing it, along with the value of overcoming my fear of it.

Please take the time to visit to view a complete list of the values. As the foundation doesn’t receive monetary donations, it’s completely dependent on people sharing them. When incorporated into our communities, these values have the potential to transform our world.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Rainbows and New Beginnings

This life promises a constant cycle of repetition. The title of today’s post reflects how that cycle has gone full circle since my first entitled, “Cornfields and New Beginnings.” Just as I did at the start of that journey, today I face a fork in the road.

Daily, we are summoned to continue along the beaten path spewed before us. The path is convincing, for it is safe, familiar and adequate. Or we can make the courageous decision to turn down one of the millions of branches of opportunity, along the way.

Such was the choice I made to spend last summer in Iowa. Choosing complete unfamiliarity, turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. I have absolutely no regrets about that decision or the effects of it. However, risk-takers are not promised ease or safety along the way. They often face vicious storms much like what I faced upon my return. But there is always hope beyond the storm. We call this a rainbow.

While working on my portfolio yesterday, I looked outside my window to notice the most magnificent rainbow I have ever seen. It was so enormous its entirety couldn’t fit into the viewfinder of my camera. Each hue glowed as if the pot of gold were a lit match igniting it at the end. It felt like the rainbow was inviting me to come explore its colors—promising me a new beginning.

As I begin this, my final semester at CSUF, I feel anticipation similar to what I experienced prior to lunging into Iowa last June. Contentment, excitement and peace (finally) resonate within me. I am still uncertain of what awaits me after I graduate. But I am certain, completely confident, that something does await me. I am ecstatic about the final steps I will take before grasping my degree and finding out what that is.

Classes started yesterday. Not only do I have the best schedule for a senior in their final semester, I have a light load of extremely interesting classes. As an upper division requirement, I am taking a class on the history of rock and jazz. I have always held a huge appreciation for the arts. Today the professors blared Led Zeppelin, Duke Ellington and Chuck Berry through the speakers as they introduced the basics of the course. I swelled inside and lost myself to the music.

I sit here at my desk, inundated with “resumes-and-portfolios-for-dummies” material. I continuously slip red, white and pink M&M’s into my mouth, as I learn how to best expose my talents, abilities and skills to employers. Though I am secure in my talents, I have never been one to flaunt them, so I struggle with the process. I was told for the second time this week that I am too critical of myself. As I sort through this information, I am making necessary adjustments to my resume, portfolio and attitude. I’m enthusiastic about the opportunities these changes will invite. I’m thankful for my new beginning and the rainbow that has finally brought color back into my life.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Eyes on the finish-line

With the help of constant motivation from a few special people in my life, I have spent the last week sitting in front of my computer, for hours on end, determined to accomplish a few key things before classes reconvene next Thursday. My priorities include polishing my resume and portfolio and filling out what seems to be endless applications for scholarships, internships and jobs. The whole process terrifies me! Prior to my internship, I had never assembled a resume for myself. Pair that with a portfolio, and interviews on the horizon (none of which I have any experience with), I'm a bit overwhelmed. Which is probably why I've delayed it for so long. The process is tedious, monotonous, and an extreme bore. It would be completely unattainable without my more-than-occasional break to snack, check Facebook, write on my blog, meet with a friend or play my guitar. The distractions are many, but I will achieve what I have set out to do. Even though I’m accomplishing something, I feel inactive and unpleasant, sitting at the computer—all—day—long.

Christmas vacation has felt extremely long, which I am grateful for. The time I have been able to spend alone has been nice. I feel like I’ve reunited with my old self—the one I've been seeking after since I've been home. But I am ready for classes to begin. I am anxious to attack my final semester with persistence and determination to receive straight A’s. Now that my “semester from hell,” as I like to call it, is over and I’m beginning to feel normal again, I am certain I will achieve this goal, and many others I have set for myself for 2010.

After writing such a specific goal, I feel compelled to share the following. I have been told in the past that I have a fear of commitment. I have come to realize that it’s true. The lack of commitment others have shown me has led me to refrain from dedicating myself to any one thing. My fear is that I will inflict pain on others (and myself) similar to what I have experienced, as a result of my own lack of follow-through. Sharing this blog is an enormous step for me. My heart races every time I hit “submit post.” I worry that one day a reader will come across something I have written and recognize that I have not followed through with my commitments, or find other discrepancies in my writings. Similarly, I struggle with opening myself up to others. I am reminded that, “To get something you never had, you have to do something you never did.” In attempt to defeat my biggest fear, I have decided to allow my innermost thoughts to be revealed through these entries. Aside from my confiding in Cara, this, I assure you, has never been done before.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

World's Greatest Friends

I just got back from having lunch with a friend. Despite our differences, we know, like and trust each other. I am encouraged by simply being with Angie. She knows my weaknesses and lends support for me in those areas at precisely the right moment. She can look beyond herself and into the lives of others, exemplifying selflessness. Our friendship is still young, and there is still so much to learn about one another. Yet even in its early stages, its authenticity is evident. After lunch today, I was again reminded of the beauty of having such people in my life.

Society values the number of friends one acquires in his lifetime. By modern practices, that number is determined by the amount of people stored in your cell phone, listed in your email account, or plastered next to your name on a social networking site as if to advertise your popularity.

But because of my experience with people who truly care about me, I cannot help but deem these feeble attempts at friendship as utterly shallow. Earning “Friend” status on Facebook or meeting someone at a bar and storing their number in your phone does not meet the criteria for a friendship. That is not to say that there is no place for acquaintances. I do believe they serve a purpose of their own. But their worth doesn’t compare to that of a real friend.

I hold some rather high standards for myself. While I don’t hold my friends to those standards, I do expect that they would try to hold me to them. I’ve had “friends” and dated guys in the past who have absolutely no respect for the decisions I’ve made for myself. Rather their motives are entirely selfish, often encouraging me down the path I least desire to tread. It’s no wonder I have faced bitter times of loneliness, as I have depended on relationships that were void of real worth. I want to grow as a person, and I also want that for my loved ones. But these types of relationships will never help me achieve that.

Honesty is a virtue, the number one quality I value in a person or in a relationship. Sometimes it’s hard to see ourselves for what we really are. We need another view from the outside—an honest view—to help us understand ourselves. Angie, in all honesty today, shared with me that I am too critical of myself. She explained that, while I withhold placing judgment on others, I am entirely judgmental of myself. It’s a breath of fresh air for somebody to engage with you instead of offering a smile and nod in conversation prior to turning the subject to something more superficial and comfortable.

It’s been almost a week since I have decided not to drink alcohol and I feel really good about that decision. Last night, Cara and I went to Toledo’s for our semi-regular Margaritas and Botana Toledo’s Nachos. When I got there, I explained my no-alcohol-commitment to her, secretly hoping she would talk me into ordering one. I guess I thought if she did, my “breaking the rules” would have been justified. However, being the good friend that she is, she refrained, leaving me to decide without her input. I ended up having water. And today, at lunch, as I drooled over Angie’s beer, she didn’t say, “Just one,” or “start again next week,” like so many friends would have done in the past. These friends have showed their support of me and my decision. It is clear that they want the best for me. I am blessed to have these friends, and more, in my life. I don’t know what I would do without them!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Past, Present, Future

It feels like yesterday we were bringing in the new millennium and here we are again, well into a new decade. While New Year’s Day is supposed to be a time of joy and excitement, I usually find myself feeling a little nostalgic as the countdown begins. And so it was this year, except I came to a realization about my nostalgic sentiments. The recent television series, Mad Men precisely relayed how we attach values to things by this notion: “Nostalgia—it’s delicate but potent. In Greek, nostalgia literally means the pain from an old wound. A twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone….it takes us to a place where we ache to go again.” After years of approaching the New Year in this manner, I have come to the realization in 2010 that through these sentiments, I stifle my future—by longing for the past.

I am grateful for my past and all of the memories therein, however bright things are in store for me in 2010. I will be the first in my family to receive a Bachelor’s degree come May. I am thrilled to be able to say that and extremely proud of my accomplishments. God-willing, I will begin my long-awaited career soon after.

I have a list for everything. Some are written, some verbalized and still others are floating around inside my head waiting to be released. I am in the midst of fine-tuning the lists that I have compiled. A list of goals that I plan to achieve in the year ahead; a list of places I want to apply to; a list of people I want to thank; a list of things I want to do before I die; a list of qualities I seek in a man. And the list goes on. How many of these things will I get to check off in 2010? How many things will I accomplish that I never even thought to put on a list in the first place? To think that all these years I have yearned for the past when so much awaits me in the future is such a shame. I am eager to see how this new outlook will aid in my growth in the upcoming year.

Since Cara and I were very young, we have expressed our gratitude to one another for the three stages of our lives: past, present and future. Many of the stories we tell each other begin, “I love my past, I love my present and I love my future…” followed by a momentary silence where we both revel in the moment. I don’t think Cara would disagree that this could serve as a motto for our friendship, “Past. Present. Future.”

So, I approach this year with a new outlook on things. I cannot express how grateful I am for everything in my past. I have some of the greatest memories and there are some that I would like to forget—all of which have got me to where I am today. This is my present. It is who I am. I wouldn’t change it for anything, nor do I want to revert back to who I once was. I will soak up this moment, and eagerly await the next.

If it weren’t for my temporary refrain from drinking alcoholic beverages, I would pour myself a glass of Champaign to drink to the year ahead as I offer up this toast:

To the past, to the present and to the future.