Entry 97: Prudence

Photo taken in Tennessee, USA

Photo taken in Tennessee, USA

“The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible - and achieve it, generation after generation.”

- Pearl S. Buck

Be careful. These are always the last two words you hear before setting off towards a new experience or adventure. With these two words is supposed to come the connotation of how much the person speaking cares about you. They are saying that they would like to see you again, that they don’t want you to get hurt or that they do not wish for you to be overly changed upon your return. I get it. It’s innocent enough if you are leaving to drive in a storm. At that point, by all means, be careful, but I’m not sure we are sending the right message when it comes to most situations. In reality, when we say be careful, we are telling somebody to play it safe.

“The young do not know enough to be prudent, and therefore they attempt the impossible - and achieve it, generation after generation.” Notice how age is specifically pointed out by stating the young. In saying this, Pearl S. Buck infers that prudence is learned over time. I would go as far to say that prudence is taught over time. Risk, rejection, and failure are treated like the plague instead of a necessary way of learning. When we tell someone to be careful, we reiterate this, either out of genuine concern or the selfish hope that the experience does not change the individual.

It is odd how some things stick with you. I’ve been given a lot of great advice in my life. Some of it I remember, I’m sure other parts are locked in subconsciously and the rest is lost to time. One piece of advice that I do remember is just like those two words above. It’s something my Dad told me right before I got on the airplane to go to France for a year, easily the greatest experience I would have at that point in my life. There was no speech or list of rules, just like “be careful,” the advice was only two words. Be smart.

Neither he nor I fully knew what I was getting myself into that year, but living an ocean away always provides its opportunities for trouble and change. I do not know if my Dad chose those words specifically, but I remembered them the whole year through every character-forming experience and each daunting situation. Be smart.  

I would not argue that every time we set off on some new experience that we are going out to make change, but by creating a culture of prudence, we mold a personality that becomes less and less likely to create change in the future.

I never advise friends to be careful anymore. Normality is the result of prudence. If you want to grow into the type of person who attempts the impossible, be thoughtful, be kind, be smart.  

Entry 96: Windows

Photo taken in Sorá, Panama

Photo taken in Sorá, Panama

“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.”

- Ernest Hemingway

Do you drive with the windows down?

There is something so freeing about driving home after a long day with the wind ripping by. For this reason, it always amazes me how many people drive with their windows up, even on a beautiful day. Can somebody give me a reason why, because as far as I can tell there is no reason other than requiring something physical to separate you from the outside world.

Who needs a bubble when you can stick your hand out the window and glide all the way home? I look at people with their windows up and wonder what we are hiding from, why we want to experience the day from inside the glass.

Though I may drive with the windows down, I still find ways to shield myself. The person who deserves the real recognition is the guy with his windows down dancing and singing to his favorite song. He experiences life, no glass required. Me, I find myself turning down the music at stoplights and quietly whispering the words to the song when I really want to be singing. All the sudden I am shielding myself from the world because it allows me to be seen through the lens of composure and control.

To the guy who stays in his raw form, I salute you. You probably look at me in the same way as I look at people with their windows up. You know I was singing my heart out at 50 miles per hour but went quiet as soon as I slowed. You wonder why I stop, shielding myself from judgement and people I may never see again.

Do you keep the windows up?

Humans were meant to live in their raw form, proud of their personality. How you live defines your existence. When you shy away from who you deny that version of yourself.

When we talk with children we always make sure to emphasize how special they are. We believe it for them, but we forget to believe it ourselves. We fail to distinguish ourselves and lead by example, speaking something we do not believe. This world needs more people who sing with their windows down. These are the ones who lead by doing, showing what it looks like to be special.Maybe you aren’t the type of person to sing in the car, but I’m sure you still find yourself shielding your personality.

The most interesting thing to me is how often we celebrate people who aren’t guarded. For whatever reason, we think they are special, different from ourselves. We love how unique they are and how they stand out from the crowd. Of course, we could never be like that, we aren’t interesting/exciting/cool enough. Not true. The only difference is that we don’t see them through a lens. They have their windows down and they don’t whisper when they really want to sing.

How do you want to experience life? My guess is that you want to be seen in your raw form. It takes courage to show off your true self. When you are 100% you it can’t be taken back. You won’t get to say you were only kidding or lost in a temporary lapse. Being 100% requires a type of honesty that can be uncomfortable. You’ll have to commit, distinguishing yourself and discovering that you are still as different as you were told as a child. You’ll have to sing with the windows down.

Entry 95: Rut & Routine

Photo taken in Tennessee, USA by Julia Bonney

Photo taken in Tennessee, USA by Julia Bonney

Location: Tennessee, USA

I always wanted to work at a coffee shop before I graduated from university. I imagined the job was like being a bartender, well, maybe a bit less dramatic. This, I knew, would be perfectly suited to my sociable personality. When I came back to school to finish my final semester, I got just that chance.

Being a barista came naturally in the fast-paced environment. The friendly faces of southern Tennessee made it easy to be social  with people from all walks of life. Working at a coffee shop also gave me a sneak peak into people’s lives in a way that I had not considered. Lots of people have a routine and standing behind the coffee bar made this evident.  

I could tell you who would be first in the door, who would order what drink and when students came in I could tell you which ones actually got work done and which ones just came as an excuse to be social. This people watching made the job more interesting, but it also started to make me keenly aware of the difference between a rut and a routine. Just for clarification, routines are good, ruts are not.

The place where this was the most evident was in what people ordered. Drinks were almost exclusively rut or routine. In this entry I want to break them down how we approach routines and ruts.

The Usual:

The Rut -

This person was usually rushing in; the 9 to 5 came a lot quicker than they had anticipated this morning. Actually it had come a lot quicker than they anticipated yesterday morning as well and probably would again tomorrow morning. Out of breath they order their usual. Work may have started 15 minutes ago, but there’s always time for coffee.

The Routine -

It’s not all about what your order. To the early riser who gets a cup of black coffee, way to go, but that is not the only way to do it. It’s not even about what you order. I know baristas have a stereotype for judging people on what they get. It’s kind of true. But when you come in at 7am after your 10 mile run to grab “the usual” which is essentially hot ice cream with caffeine, I’m still impressed. Creating a routine where you get up early to read or exercise is the best kind of habit to have.

The Student:

The Rut -

Coffee ordered, headphones in, oh wait, I know that girl. These people get nothing done. I’ll be honest, I’m this person. I might have been there to study, but I actually spent 3 hours socializing and meeting new people.

This almost always leads to the late night order; it’s inevitable. I’m behind the bar getting ready to close up and you come to order. “I need to be up all night, I have a paper due tomorrow.” Before you know it, I’m handing over a drink that most would agree contains an irresponsible amount of caffeine, knowing that tomorrow you will come in telling me how you got a C on your paper and asking if the coffee I served you might have given you heart palpitations. This is not a good way to live. And by the way, the answer is yes.

The Routine -

Coffee ordered, headphones in, and hustle. I respect these people. Whether or not they need an excuse to see the light of day, get out of their room or just get a cup in their hands, these people get it done.

The Wild Card and the Fearful:

The Rut -

“What do you recommend?”

What is interesting about these people is when the rut becomes evident, it’s not until much later. They come in seeking something new, what they normally get just doesn’t cut it any more. They trade back banter on likes and dislikes, but right when they get to the tipping point, the moment of fruition, they get something they know. It’s the moment when they decide it’s not worth the risk. Afraid of the new, they keep the old.

The Routine -

“Surprise me.”

It’s not a question, it’s a statement, a moment of trust. I used to have a few people come in all the time with this one request. The best part was their honesty. On occasion, they would take a sip and look at me, “Not your best work today,” but they still came back the next time, bearing the same request, “Surprise me.”

Conclusion:

This isn’t all about coffee. When you stop to take a look at how you engage in life, there is a big difference between rut and routine. Does your usual involve constant tardiness or do you wake up to dominate the day, working so hard within the first few hours that you need more fuel? Is it your routine to put your head down and work or do you often get sidetracked, forced to operate with a “desperate times and desperate measures” mentality? How do you take control of your day and the way you feel? Do you take risk or allow others to give you input?

So, who are you? I’ve already admitted to myself that I’m often the student in a rut. It only takes a nudge to move from rut to routine. It isn’t bad to do the same thing every day. It is, however, important to consider the ramifications of consistency. Good or bad, habits shape our personality, health and more. Take control of your day by establishing routines, working hard and listening to the input of others. Seize the day and consider that maybe you should change your drink.

Entry 94: Mischief

Location: Palmerston North, New Zealand

I’ve never seen more mischief than I did in New Zealand. Why? Not for any cultural reason, but because I spent nearly all my time with people under the age of 17. For whatever reason, we have tied mischief with maturity, thereby creating an age limit for high quality tomfoolery. This, I believe, is not ideal.

One of my duties in New Zealand was cafeteria set up for breakfast. I completed this duty diligently several mornings a week, setting a wake-up alarm for roughly four minutes before my intended arrival at the cafe. On one particularly memorable morning, while dragging myself to across campus, I noticed traffic cones on the top of several buildings. Rather quickly, I realized that this must have been a senior prank by the soon to be graduates. I gave the orange cones an approving nod, knowing that several of the buildings would have been relatively difficult to climb.

To me, this was good mischief, the kind that reminded me of my younger (and current) self. Other faculty members were not of the same mindset. Within a few hours of the first class, the “culprits” were in the admin office receiving their punishment. I realize that actions have consequences, but some of the staff were absolutely livid in their disbelief about the whole situation. How could these kids committed such an heinous act?

As for me, I was satisfied in not having to be a part of the disciplinary process. The only consequences I discreetly distributed were a few low fives to the guilty students. This is when I realized where I stood in the student to staff distribution. At the age of 22, I only had five or six years on the guilty students. The rest of the school’s staff were at a minimum mid 30’s. I clearly remembered being 17, loosing a snake in the library only to watch it fall off the balcony in front of a librarian. Or being 21, just a few months before when a friend and I displaced a painting from our school, replacing it with our own four-foot masterpiece. I do not think that the rest of the staff remembered the mischief.

Perhaps adults lose a little too much of their childhood selves. A lack of time, level of importance, or responsibility seem to almost always edge out those child like attributes. Where does our curiosity go, our desire for that which is new, our mischief? Remember that for as much as we might like to shun immaturity, our experiences as kids shape the people we become. Curiosity can turn into knowledge. Innocence can become a kind heart. Mischief, when properly guided, grows into intelligence.

Mischief is not without its consequences. I support consequences, but the punishment should never be an attempt to remove the mischief from the child. Consequences show how every action has a reaction, providing a new opportunity to grow. But mischief? I support mischief too.

Entry 93: Flats

Somewhere outside Cienfuegos, Cuba

Somewhere outside Cienfuegos, Cuba

Location: The Road from Trinidad to Havana, Cuba

“Come on, shake off the covers of this sloth, for sitting softly cushioned, or tucked in bed, is no way to win fame.”

― Dante Alighieri, The Divine Comedy

180 miles never seemed so far away. Before we had even begun the day’s journey, Jeremy and I knew we were in for trouble. While eating lunch in a 400-year-old house, we reflected on how likely it was that we would make it to Havana tonight. Unfortunately, neither of us had a positive outlook; the sentiment shared because of events that had taken place the day before.

Jeremy and I had woken up early with excitement for the coming day. Soon our driver, Santiago, would arrive with a car to take us to Trinidad. I doubted that he would arrive at the appointed time, but we still waited outside in anticipation. I could envision him on his way with his black Nissan, a new car by Cuban standards, with tires bouncing and the clutch slipping as a comical cobra-head stick shift was forced into gear. But that wasn’t what I saw driving up the road.

Our “new” car had become an older version of the same Nissan, minus a few key amenities. Some of the more obvious losses included the door panels, a dashboard and the gas tank, which had been switched out for a plastic jug in the trunk. With no other option present, Jeremy and I hopped into the parted out car and headed south to Trinidad with Santiago, impatient to arrive at a new city.

Only an hour into our trip we lost a tire. The aged rubber came flying off the wheel, leaving the tire inflated but useless. We replaced the tire with the help of a taxi driver who let us use his jack. I also took the opportunity to do a quality assessment on our four remaining tires. The results were less than comforting.

This quality check was why Jeremy and I struggled to remain positive about our trip home. Miraculously, we had made it the rest of the way yesterday despite tires so bald they had wires poking through the paper-thin rubber. But that was yesterday. This was today, a 180-mile trip north through battered roads and rainclouds.

I dreaded the ride home. There was little to no chance we wouldn’t burst a tire on the pothole-ridden roads of Cuba. I chose to sleep, hoping in vain that I would wake up in Havana. My eyes were barely shut before Jeremy was nudging my shoulder. “It happened,” he said. We were on the side of the road in a car with three tires and no jack.

I will spare you most of the details, but over the course of the next 12 hours we rode several miles in the back of a tractor, lost two more tires, shattered a rim, patched 17 holes with a hot clothes iron and had the pleasure of being placed on a Cuban police report.

At 2am, no less than 12 hours after we left our pleasant lunch in Trinidad, we fell into our beds, exhausted from a journey that should have taken three hours. Throughout the entire journey home I asked myself the same question over and over. Should we have even tried to come yesterday? I had not been blind to the missing gas tank and bald tires, and yet I still chose to get into the car. I had control over the situation. I could have chosen to stay, but together Jeremy and I chose to take the risk.

I could lay out a list of quotes about taking the risk, climbing the mountain, etc. but for now I’ll leave you with the one at the top. There is a difference between being foolhardy and taking a risk in order to achieve an experience. Without risking that car ride Jeremy and I would have never seen so much of the Cuban countryside, a place that few Americans have seen in the past 50 plus years. We would not have met some incredible people or eaten on a rooftop or swam in an incredible reef. Either of us could tell you a dozen things that we were able to do because we took the risk.

I could think of dozens of other stories where I was risk averse instead, but I choose this one. As always, I share this story because it is as much a lesson to myself as anyone else. To be risk averse is to be success averse, leaving opportunities to never be known. I want to see this version of myself more often. The one who takes the risk.

Entry 92: Never Have I Ever

Photo taken on the road to Havana, Cuba

Photo taken on the road to Havana, Cuba

“Experience is the teacher of all things.”

Julius Caesar

Have you ever played the game Never Have I Ever? It’s meant to be an icebreaker, though there are a few less wholistic versions as well. The game is meant to help you get to know intimate details about somebody without all the small talk normally required. It’s more of a quick fix for that awkward first conversation, requiring the honesty to reveal some surprising detail about oneself.

In order to play the game, a group would normally stand in a circle with five fingers raised high. The first person then starts, “Never have I ever….”, filling in the blank with an activity they have never done before.

While playing you will find that some immediately run to the adventurous side. “Never have I ever swam with sharks!” The exclamation normally followed by peering eyes, seeking to find the person in the room that has swam with sharks and hoping for details of their adventure. Other times you will find a shockingly mundane thing is somebody’s truth. “Never have I ever eaten a carrot.” Usually these people are alone in their experience.

In either method, the people who have participated in the aforementioned activity are required to put one finger down. Sorry all shark swimmers and carrot eaters, you’ve just lost a point. Now the next person in line proceeds to share their never have I ever moment.

At the end of the game, one person is left standing, with any number of one to five fingers raised high. This person is your winner.

This is also where I am confused. The person who has done the least is the winner. It makes me question the game. Do I want to win? I don’t think I do. I’d rather eat carrots or, more specifically, swim with sharks than win a lousy icebreaker. I’ll let somebody else take this win, my ultimate goal is to be the first person to lose.

No matter who you play the game with, you will always find those who have different experiences from you. No one man will experience all that this world has to offer. But, there is one who knows all the experiences this world has to offer. The good and the bad.

The message of this game is twofold. First, experience life with those who seek experiences. There is a wealth of knowledge to be gained from those who see the world through a different lens. Whether their difference is defined by culture, age or experience, seeing the world through the eyes of another opens your understanding of how vast and complex our own world is. Secondly, seek knowledge from the one who made this world; the one who has designs set in place for your life. There is no temptation and no experience that God does not understand. His wisdom is all encompassing and you are eligible for a sneak peek of it if you seek His plan for your life.

Never have I ever, but He has.

Entry 91: Lost in Translation

Jeremy and Santiago in Havana, Cuba

Jeremy and Santiago in Havana, Cuba

I love languages. So many little things get stuffed into a conversation that can never be teased out in translation. Nuances of culture and figures of speech are only the beginning of what comes through in another tongue. Knowing this is exciting, but can also be a bit disheartening every time I speak with somebody in a language other than English. For as much as I can understand, I know that I’m always missing the details of a quip or the heritage of a reference.

This was equally true while travelling in Cuba. My friend Jeremy and I managed to get a driver named Santiago to take us to various parts of the country. It was going to be perfect. Except not quite, because Santiago did not speak a word of English. Originally, I didn’t think this would be an issue because Jeremy had spent a year going to school in Spain. Unfortunately, Jeremy’s “year” in Spain turned out to be a six-week summer stint that I had somehow created into a year with my own imagination. Combine that with the fact that my Spanish was learned by reading Harry Potter in New Zealand and you don’t come up with fluency even if you add the two together.

Jeremy, Santiago and I spent so much time toiling over basic conversation topics. Half of every sentence would be lost in translation. We would start a conversation then rephrase, repeat and carry on. Santiago was patient, even as he explained the simplest concepts while Jeremy and I either pretended like we understood or often took a meaning that was never intended.  

This has made me consider the way we communicate with God and made me ask the question; how often do we just not get it? On one side God is painting a picture for us and on the other we start to make assumptions before the painting is complete. Rephrasing and repeating wouldn’t help because we quit listening after the first time through. To communicate with God, we have to not only learn to how he speaks, but to truly listen to what He is trying to tell us. No matter how many times we must hear it.

The other part of this whole situation that hit me at the end of the trip, was the relationship that formed, despite all the confusion. By the end of the trip, Santiago, Jeremy and I all had inside jokes and crazy references. We could laugh together and make up songs. We had fumbled through life stories and even created some pretty good ones of our own that week.

Though we may lose sight of what God is trying to tell us, we can still build a relationship with Him if we share a part of our life. We can tell stories and make stories, laugh at jokes and sing out loud. All the while building the basis of a relationship. Intentional friendship does not get lost in translation.

Entry 90: Matters of Consequence

“But you are of no use to the stars…”

Le Petit Prince

What is your most common excuse? I would venture to say that for most people it’s that you’re too busy. Between work, school, family, friends, or laundry, I’m sure that it’s true. You are busy. But what I have also discovered is that everyone is. It’s part of being a grown up. Being busy isn’t a competition or a rite of passage and it’s definitely not the first thing I want to bring up when somebody asks how I’m doing.

Children’s books are a fascinating way to refresh your perspective on being a grown up. I particularly enjoy The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry. In this book, a young boy spends time visiting different planets where grown ups live (this is when you remember it is a children’s book). The little prince reflects on why adults do the things they do and how they define purpose. It’s enlightening.

You can find The Little Prince here, I recommend reading chapter 13 specifically: http://yoanaj.co.il/uploadimages/The_Little_Prince.pdf

On the fourth planet he visits, the little prince finds a businessman. The businessman spends every waking hour counting stars. He has also decided that he owns the stars, and because of this, the counting of them is very important. The little prince is confused by the paradox of owning something that you cannot possess, but the businessman is convinced. He uses the phrase over and over, “I am concerned with matters of consequence.” But, what he does is alternatively of no consequence at all. He is just busy being busy.

I find this happens to me too. I feel this need to be busy, to occupy my time. Perhaps I even say no to something because I can’t imagine that I have time for it when I know for certain that I do. I should be busy after all, I’m concerned with matters of consequence.

In Luke chapter 10, Jesus goes to visit Mary and Martha. While Jesus is sitting with his disciples, Martha is running around, distracted with preparations. Mary, on the other hand, is sitting at the feet of Jesus, the place of disciple, listening to his words. When Martha tries to point out how inappropriate this is, how Mary should be helping her, Jesus responds, providing an answer to the question of how important being busy really is.

“Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Mary has chosen what is better. She chose not to be busy but simply to be with Jesus. She was not concerned with her own matters of consequence as Martha was.

We shouldn’t be fooled by our own agendas, there are fewer matters of consequence in this world than most of us prefer to admit.

Do not be fooled by your need for riches and importance. Do not call the stars your own.

Entry 89: The Noise

Photo taken at Niagara Falls

Photo taken at Niagara Falls

Location: Niagara Falls, US and Canadian Border

In an attempt to fulfill my desires for more weekend excursions a few friends and I decided we should tiptoe across the Canadian border to Niagara Falls. Somebody organized a house, another friend the car sharing, and before we knew it we set off.

As we eagerly looked for a parking spot the next day, I grew slowly more troubled. Despite the roar of the falls, I could not see them. My vision was blocked by something dreadful.

Tourist attractions, I hate them. I’m talking, the believe it or not, the unsettling wax version of Johnny Depp, and the 7D (or however many D’s technology now allows for) theater. As we pulled out vast numbers of dollars from our wallet just to park, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of dread. I don’t hate many things, but I realized that day that I hate the city of Niagara Falls. The whole place seems more like a zoo animal than a wild wonder.

What I love are the things unseen, the places underappreciated, and areas that still hold onto their mystery. This felt the opposite in every possible way. Truthfully, I hadn’t expected Niagara to be a place yet uncharted or anything like that, but I had hoped for something more. Maybe a bit more honesty.

The one thing I did remember from my childhood was the boat ride up to the falls. Deep down, I knew that I loved it my first time, but now my gut feeling was leading me to a less than optimistic point of view. As we stepped onto the boat, jam packed with what seemed an almost unsafe number of people, I waited to realize how what emotions would come out.

The boat charged into the storm created by the water and slowly everything else was drowned out. The 7D’s and the figurines were gone, an incomprehensible power looming over any noise they could hope to make. And it was good.

The world we live in is full of noise. This noise surrounds the things that are important to us and causes us to lose sight of what they are. Friends, family and faith are all too often edged out of our line of sight by some pollution. Finding the way to cut through the noise is the hard part. But the base of the falls, it is hard to miss the magnitude.

I want to cut through the noise, walk down the river and drive right up to the reason I’m here and bask in all its glory. Forget the city and forget the noise. I came here to be engaged. I didn’t come for the noise, I came for the falls.

Entry 88: Ingredients

Now more than ever, truth is right in front of us. If we want to know something, the answer is in our pocket. It’s immediate. In many ways, this immediacy is utterly fantastic. I, for one, revel in the opportunity to prove somebody wrong immediately. A little selfish, I know. The thing is, I also have a huge problem with this immediacy. I think it corrupts the opportunity to have vision, to understand what it really takes to achieve something long term.

This instant gratification leads us to respect the product or the outcome which we normally define as some form of “success”. But we fail to acknowledge the ingredients. I realize that everybody reading this is smart enough to know the age-old clichées of judging books by their covers or to be wary of the get rich quick scheme. It may be common knowledge, but I would confidently argue that it is not universally applied.

One of most humorous examples I’ve ever seen of this was in a cartoon where in one block a character was at the pump complaining about gas prices as he filled his car. In the next block was another character yelling over to the first guy, “Can you believe that our cars run on explosive dinosaur remains shipped all the way from the Middle East and they only cost $3 a gallon?!?” The second character respected the ingredients, or the process that it took to get gas into his car.

On a more serious note, I believe this applies to people as well. When you only see somebody’s success without their process, it’s a lot easier to judge. The guy with a six-pack immediately becomes a douchebag instead of the guy you respect for waking up at 4:30 every morning to exercise before work. The successful woman becomes bossy instead of the little girl who read a book just so she would have a chance to jump over the gender gap when she got older. The goodie goodie Christian is “probably judgemental” instead of being the person who didn’t know what being loved felt like until they were 30.

Ingredients make the outcome. And yes, people are people, by definition imperfect. Looking to success requires looking to process, to ingredients. You have to understand the story, not just the ending.

Entry 87: Wonder

Photo taken at George Rogers Clark Park, Springfield, Ohio

Photo taken at George Rogers Clark Park, Springfield, Ohio

Before we get ahead of ourselves, I’m going to need you to reread that title. Because we aren’t talking about curiosity or a question that starts with “I wonder what…” We are talking about awe.

Have you ever met somebody that you found to be incredibly cool? The kind of person that just astonished you. From the moment you met them you couldn’t stop thinking about how amazing they were. Why aren’t you more like them. Maybe they had amazing stories or were ridiculously talented.

I’ve always been fascinated by this idea. What makes characteristics about somebody so intoxicating? Is it wrong to desire these attributes? I thought about writing about these questions, but I’m not going to, because at the end of the day, it’s not that important.

I’m reminded of a picture I’ve seen in several versions. All of them include Jesus surrounded by super heroes, famous people, or important historical figures. Each character, who is already fascinating in their own right, is staring up in awe at Jesus. And out of the mouth of Jesus is a little word bubble that says, “…And that’s how I saved the world/turned water into wine/created the universe.”

No matter what it is that makes us marvel, it pales in comparison to what He made possible. You can be caught up in fascination or being the Most Interesting Man in the World, that’s fine. But don’t forget about the truly wondrous things that have been done and who did them.

Entry 86: More than Fine

Photo taken at Matamata, New Zealand

Photo taken at Matamata, New Zealand

Location: Matamata, New Zealand

How many of us have the tendency to temper ourselves? Perhaps we do it naturally without even thinking. In order to explain, allow me to ask you a question. When you woke up this morning and prepared to do whatever it is that you do, what was your state of mind? Were you annoyed that you had to go to work? Were you excited? More likely you were just ‘meh.’ Today was another day.

I am equally guilty, but why do we do this? In all honesty, we have no idea what the day will hold and that in and of itself is kind of exciting. Nevertheless, many of us remain unmoved. How’s the day going to go? Probably fine…

Unfortunately, I’ve caught myself taking this one step further. In November of 2015, I prepared to realize an exciting dream with mellowed temperance. I made an actual effort to tell myself that this day would probably not be as exciting as I thought it could be. On this day, I was visiting Middle Earth, and more specifically, The Shire.

As a massive nerd for Lord of the Rings, this should have been a pretty big deal. For whatever reason, though, I felt a need to tell myself that today would be just fine, not great mind you, fine. After all, I wouldn’t want to get too excited and end up disappointed.

How often, on an average day, do we unconsciously tell ourselves the day will be… fine? Most likely, there are a few too many days when we don’t have to. We need to shake off this temperance, this muted version of our own personalities.

Fortunately, on this day in Middle Earth, my calmed emotions fell away from me as I ran through the rocky gates of The Shire screaming about having an adventure. My temperance unconsciously fell away as I accepted that this day was going to be absolutely stunning and that I was living the adventure.

What would it feel like to have just a sliver of that excitement about each day? What would it look like if we got excited about the day’s potential. How different would today have been if you started with the idea that something great (if even just maybe) occur? Screw temperance, today is going to be magnificent.

Entry 85: I Have (some) Idea...

Photo taken at Noris Lake, Tennessee

Photo taken at Noris Lake, Tennessee

Almost a year ago I wrote an entry called “I Have No Idea…” Needless to say, it has been a fascinating year with immense amounts of learning. Because of the various the various changes that have occurred since then, it only seems appropriate to update this entry. Allow me to update my mental state: I sort of have some idea...

Congratulations to me, I am an “adult!” I’m still figuring out what that means. In April of 2016 I was a dual degreed college graduate working at a coffee shop. Though I was having a lot of fun, I wasn’t exactly progressing how I wanted. Fast forward a year, I have moved back to my home state of Ohio. After 6 years of university interlaced with extended travel to various exotic locations, this is one place I never intended to return to. Nevertheless, as I drove back towards Ohio in August of 2016, I knew I was fortunate to return with the experiences and opportunities of past and future.

I think back to April, attempting to take my own advice: “The truth is that I have no idea where I will be in six months. Is it terrifying? A little. Is it exciting? Yes, extremely, because He does and I know that it will be exactly where I am supposed to be.” Perhaps I was being a bit idealistic at the time, but now I’ve found out that I was actually right. Most likely this was divine intervention and nothing to do with myself.

So here I am, though more than 6 months later. I’m (almost) confident that I’m where I need to be. And though Ohio used to seem like the antithesis of progress, it has actually been quite an adventure so far. Though I am constantly impatient for what comes next, I am also learning to enjoy the present. The fact that I am constantly thinking about things I want or want to happen not only motivates me, it reflects the fact that I have the fortune of spending time thinking about what I want, not what I need. The more I have thought on this, the more I realize that these thoughts and feelings of impatience are some of the greatest indicators to how lucky I am.

“Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” Matthew 6:34.

Entry 84: Flight Plan

Photo taken in Panama City, Panama

Photo taken in Panama City, Panama

Location: Over the Pacific Ocean

It seems to me that some things in life should be certain. When I go to sleep, I want wake up in the same place. If I turn on the faucet, clean water comes out. And if I’m on a plane, it lands at its destination without cause for concern. What’s funny (and often what’s not) is that these things I wish to be certain enjoy their uncertain state more frequently than I would prefer.

Last year I got on a plane in Los Angeles destined for Sydney, Australia. As is normal with any flight, I expected to arrive at the destination. This seems fair right? After all, if I found that I wouldn’t make it to my destination beforehand, my imagination would run wild mostly with negative outcomes. You know, death, destruction and a surprisingly gruff airhostess yelling brace for impact. Nevertheless, my flight did not and could not reach its destination. At least not at first.

I’d been on this flight at least half a dozen times before. Flying to Sydney from LA almost felt normal, but this flight hadn’t been quite as pleasant. Turbulence has a way of losing its ‘fun factor’ sometime after the first hour of inconsistent air density. Somewhere near the middle of the flight, our pilot came on over the loud speaker. Now I don’t want to paint this story as if there was any sort of mass panic or chaos, but no matter the delivery, it’s hard not to feel a bit helpless when your pilot says that you cant make it to Australia with the current fuel reserves.

It’s also hard not to question how well plane rafts actually work, how strong of a swimmer you truly are, or if you truly understand the contents of the safety handout despite not reading it since the first time you entered a plane. I mean I know it’s bumpy, but should I get up and start doing some stretches before we go in the pool?  Luckily, the situation was even less catastrophic than the pilot had calmly stated. In fact, this alternative sounded kind of fun.

“We will be landing in Fiji to refuel.” Now, I don’t know about you, but that doesn’t sound like a bad deal.

Several hours a few gallons of jet fuel later, I was back in the air delighting in how disrupted my flight plan had become. This actually happens to me quite often. I’m sure other people think I’m a bit off, but I actually get really excited when something has gone wrong.

Sure, it can be nerve-racking, or down right scary, but it can also be fun. Out of nowhere you are thrust into a new experience in which you could not have possibly placed yourself. If you’re really lucky it’s an overly brief trip to a tarmac in Fiji. 

More often than not, it’s at least good story. All this for an off-chance upset to your routine.

It seems to me that without these little upsets we would miss out on a whole lot of life. As a matter of fact, I strongly believe that if everything went exactly as we thought it would, most of us would be so deeply stuck in a rut that we wouldn’t be able to see over the edges.

Take these little hiccups in stride. Be thankful for the flat tires and the road closures.  Praise the disruptions.

Entry 83: A Fool's Errand

Photo taken in Innsbruck, Austria

Photo taken in Innsbruck, Austria

Location: Collonges sous Salève, France

Christmas 2012 was unique. For the first time ever, I would be out of the country for the holidays. Fortunately, the French believe in Christmas and actually do it quite well. Nevertheless, my dorm room in France was less than festive. My roommate Jonathan and I hadn’t gone out of our way to put up lights or even cut up some paper snowflakes. Within our room it was business as usual.

On a rainy December day, Jonathan and I took notice. This lack of decorations was unacceptable. We didn’t want to be those guys. As a matter of fact, we took pride in being overly extravagant when it came to room decorating, having spent the better part of a year living in an overly crowded Tibetan forest styled room in 2011.

Based on this precedent, we decided to take quick action. The heavy afternoon rain did not deter us as we carved a path up the mountain in search of a tree.

As we drew closer to a small outcropping of trees, the rain turned into lightening and heavy wind. Armed with only a pocket knife, we precariously crouched on the steep and soaked terrain chipping away at the base of our perfect tree. The slow progress was made ever more frustrating by the heavy storm, but determination and will kept us going.

By the time the small tree finally fell, we were soaked through and through and our return path was made even more difficult by the six-foot pine we now carried. With joy in our hearts, we snuck across campus until we had reached the back of our dormitory. Here we faced a new challenge; how to sneak a tree into a dormitory with one entrance.

As a matter of fact, we faced several new challenges. Mainly these consisted of: how to get the tree inside, where to put it in our small dorm room, where to get tree decorations, how to clean up sap off our floor, how to keep the tree from immediately dying, how to make it stand up straight, how not to get in trouble for cutting a tree down, how to remove the tree, and so on. Our plan, though powered by determination, had not been well thought out. In a last ditch effort, we chose to hide the tree beside the dorm until we returned with a better plan.

To make this long story a little shorter, we never returned.  We’d had what you can fairly call, a bad idea.

This is the point where I tell you that this isn’t exactly a Christmas story; it’s just a story about bad ideas. It is easy to tell somebody to stay determined or to defy adversity. However great these qualities are, they don’t much matter if you are on a fool’s errand. As the new year approaches I want to encourage you to stay determined and defy adversity, but also to make sure you know what you are pursuing and why you are doing it. Take a second to make a plan, preferably one that doesn’t rely on shear willpower and no brains. Don’t waste your determination and will on an errand made by a fool. 

Entry 82: A Tale Worth Telling

Photo taken in Hong Kong

Photo taken in Hong Kong

“Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a good deal of telling anyway.”

 - J.R.R.Tolkien

I can admit that I am a bit of a Lord of the Rings nerd. (Secretly, I have several blogs stashed in the background that pertain to LOTR, but I want to space them out so I don’t seem too crazy.) Over the years, various points have been taken out of the movies to prove different points about God, the battle of good vs. evil, or the almost exclusive reason most people visit New Zealand.

All of the aforementioned goodness aside, I feel as if one of the most important messages of the story has been left in the background. This is likely due to the fact that it is only truly mentioned in one brief quote… one of many that didn’t make it into the films.

“Now it is a strange thing, but things that are good to have and days that are good to spend are soon told about, and not much to listen to; while things that are uncomfortable, palpitating, and even gruesome, may make a good tale, and take a good deal of telling anyway.”

I know that I am guilty of daydreaming of various adventures. The kind of adventures that take you to far away places and give you new experiences. I always find myself wondering why I don’t actually end up in those situations. This quote doesn’t make my excuses any more valid, but it helped me to understand. Getting into real, true adventures isn’t easy. Often it means leaving from a place of familiarity to a place that is sometimes uncomfortable or even gruesome. We romanticize adventure for its brief moments of glory, forgetting the arduous hours it took to achieve the moment.

So why don’t I find myself falling into escapades? Maybe it’s because I drive the same roads every day or because I don’t talk to strangers. Maybe I don’t want to take the time for a caper. Perhaps I simply don’t take enough advice from wizards…

It is easy to be comfortable. It is quite nice to settle for things that are good to have and days that are good to spend, but they are soon told about and forgotten.

Now how to end this? Most of the world will never step out to find that true, palpitating part of life and be good people all the same. But, will I? Will I place myself on the edge? Will live a story worth telling? Will I suffer the struggle in order to do something life changing?

Entry 81: I Will

Photo taken in Minnesota, USA

Photo taken in Minnesota, USA

Location: U.S.A.

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

- Howard Thurman           

I will love.

I will not forget that this world is made of real people.

I will not complain about problems without trying to create a solution.

I will continue to learn.

I will work harder.

I will always be an American.

I will create.

I will remember our history.

I will be specific.

I will learn from past mistakes, other’s or my own.

I will not fear.

I will vote.

I will not leave just because people don’t agree with me.

I will do unto others as I would have done unto me.

I will share.

I will accept you.

I will open my door.

I will do better.

I will not sit back and wait for the world to change.

I will not usher in evil so Jesus can come back.

I will leave the world better than I found it.

I will daydream.

I will be ruthless with my kindness.

I will make it count.

I will endure.

I will be still.

I will take action.

I will be a peacemaker.

I will come alive.

Entry 80: El Picacho

Photo taken on El Picacho in Panama

Photo taken on El Picacho in Panama

Location: Sorá, Panama

“Whoa, how do we get up there?”

Our eyes immediately fell upon the highest peak we could find. El Picacho towered over the rest of the hilly terrain. It didn’t take but 2 minutes for us to decide that the summit was our goal for the week. None of us knew how to get there, how tall it was, or if it was dangerous or safe. Nevertheless, after those two minutes, it was decided.

Something that nags at me is the fact that if I was alone, I could have shrugged it off. El Picacho didn’t have to be a big deal to me. If it would have become a big hassle to get to the top then I probably would have dropped it. Fortunately, Aris and Emmanuel - my fellow travellers for the week, weren’t going to drop it so easily. To those guys, seeing was achieving. There was never a question of if we were going to make it.

Our plans were quickly spread amongst the neighbors in an attempt to find the surest route. Several discouraged the steep climb, but one suggested a guide. Early one morning, she took the liberty of calling a friend who could take us up. Peter, who we soon met, agreed to take us to the top if we could leave in fifteen minutes. The three of us weren’t close to ready to go, but it was now or never.

Fifteen minutes later, Peter pulled up in his car as we shoved water bottles into our packs and laced our shoes. The hike ended up being a scramble through the jungle over loose dirt and rocks. The humidity hit us instantly, but the sweat was well worth it at the breezy summit. From the top we looked out over the foggy hills.

In three days our idea became a reality. A mountain I’d never heard of four days ago in a country I had no plans of being in four weeks before. Often times we have no clear vision of which mountains we will be climbing or where we will face them. The challenge might be a welcome one or dreaded. The fact is when you see it you have to face it. Fortunately, I had a couple of guys with me who were driven to face the challenge and because of them, I’ve seen a new mountaintop with new rocks under my feet. El Picacho: seen and achieved. 

Entry 79: Purple

Photo taken in Paris, France

Photo taken in Paris, France

Location: Paris, France

“It only lasts a few days.”

I’m ashamed to say that I definitely believed that lie. Not that the end result was devastating, but I definitely got conned by choosing to believe a this statement.

Has a doctor ever told you that ‘this won’t hurt a bit’? Did you secretly know that he/she was lying, but chose to believe it anyways to make yourself feel better? Is it possible that sometimes we choose to believe lies because we want some form of justification, something that would make us feel better? In the case of the doctor, it’s a mental game that keeps us calm. Other times, it can be a little more damaging.

During a short trip to Paris in 2011, I believed the lie that “it” would only last a few days, no big deal. Maybe I really did believe it or maybe I just wanted to do something dumb and justify it by blaming somebody else. Either way, by the end of the night it didn’t matter, a short tuft of my hair had been dyed purple.

I no longer blame anybody for my punk rock purple tuft besides myself. Nevertheless, I believe there is a question within this story that I want an answer to. What else do I choose to believe that isn’t true?

I’m don’t plan on providing any other examples beyond my formerly purple hair, because I think everyone has a different answer. It’s an answer that we should all spend more time thinking about. Do we take the time to believe what is true and honest or do we believe the easy lie in search of justification? 

Choosing to be blinded by small and seemingly insignificant lies can shape our reality. Little by little these small justifications hinder our view of what is true and honest, creating a distilled version of our true world. Closing our eyes to the reality of how blessed we are, what we need versus want, what is truly right and wrong, who our friends are, or where true beauty lies are all little things that bend our reality and takes it further away from God’s intention for our lives.

My choice in Paris didn’t ruin any realities, but what else do we choose to believe that is more important than a couple months of purple hair? I suppose what I’m telling myself through all this is to be conscious of what I hear and accept as truth. I do this for a couple of reasons, one, I want to consciously look upon the world I live in and two, I like my hair the way it is. 

Entry 78: Waffles

Photo taken in Bruges, Belgium

Photo taken in Bruges, Belgium

Location: Brussels, Belgium & Ohio, USA

I Love Waffles. I’ve taken pictures of waffles (see above), made videos about waffles (check it here), and hosted waffle and pancake parties across the U.S., France, and New Zealand (I promise to invite you to the next one). Before you begin to question my sanity in writing a blog entirely about waffles, allow me to explain.

Some time ago I would have described myself as a waffle liker, not a lover. After a short trip to Belgium in 2011, I changed my mind. To avoid talking solely about breakfast food in this entry, I will refrain from a full description. Let’s just say there is a reason they call it the Belgian Waffle. This entry, however, doesn’t have as much to do with Belgium as it does with the aforementioned locations, most recently Ohio.

Near downtown Cincinnati, I gathered with several friends at a Belgian restaurant; I’ll let you guess what I ordered. After the meal I had a brief conversation about my blog with another member of the table. I joked about running out of ideas and stories, mentioning how my next blog would probably have to be about waffles. I had no true intention of actually writing that blog, but then I started to think.

One of the main reasons I am so fond of waffles, beyond their obvious taste appeal, has to do with the memories that I have attached to them. For me these Belgian delicacies have become as much of a community activity as they have a food.

I had a few reservations about moving back to Ohio. I only knew so many people and despite having moved much further away on other occasions, figuring out who my community or group will be is always a little unnerving. But as I sat at the table with several new and old friends at I wasn’t worried about any of that. We were having a wonderful time. The current emotions we were feeling didn’t have as much to do with the food as they did with the community. The waffles obviously helped, I’d go as far as to say that they were the main draw.

In truth, however, the only thing that waffles did was facilitate a time and space where a group of people could be a part of a community. To be fair, I love anything that helps me draw closer to people. It can be food, an activity, almost anything. Finding a strong community is what builds us up and provides us with support. It gives us somewhere to run to or somewhere to let our guard down and relax. If you seek community you will find a sanctuary; and if you’re lucky, that sanctuary will also provide waffles.