Posts Tagged With: Life

Day 2: How the Theme of My Trip Started

Despite the many stories I could tell you…I sat here in my chair tonight, in Beaufort N.C, not knowing what to say.

So much to say… and here I sit, feigning a really crappy version of writers block. It’s kind of like the feeling I had in college, when I had so incredibly much homework to do that I watched TV. It piled up, so I put it off altogether. You know the feeling.

I have a migraine and a million excuses I’m making to myself – why you won’t want to read my boring, predictable anecdotes. But Patrick, one of those amazing people I’ve met along the way (letting me crash at his place right now) reminded me to press on.

He said, “DAVID! I live with you now and I still want to see a new freakin blog post! Jeez, would you update it already?!!”  Made me laugh a bit. But he’s right. It’s time you knew the good and the bad. I’m sorry I haven’t been able to yet. It hasn’t been logistically possible, like I assumed. And I wouldn’t have had time to anyways. (chuckle) But now I can!

I’m overwhelmed with where to begin. There are so many things I want to share. But I doubt I have time for the majority of what I want to say on this blog. So I’ll pick and choose a few from each state which you may find relevant, without having to know my whole journey’s timeline.

So, for now, I’ll just approach it like I do on the road: One day at a time, one story at a time. Where it ends up, we’ll see.

Beaumont, Tx

Beaumont, Tx

Day 2.

I had coffee and one last good breakfast before leaving the old town, southern bliss- Beaumont. I walked out the door of that beautiful entry-way, with its embodiment of every warm and earthly comfort, and looked at Ben.

 He gave me a look that was full of excitement and slight jealousy, eyes gleaming like quarters, grinned, put his hands on my shoulders and said,
“Well.   This is it.”

I honestly don’t remember what he said after that, because it was so surreal. Just that line stuck with me. He was right. After all the talking and planning and writing and wishing I’d done, none of that could have compared to this sensation.I could hardly believe it was finally here. The rush had snuck up on me somehow, despite the fact I thought I was more than ready.

I had that feeling you get when you arrive at the airport with a tingly lump in your throat, itching to get through security….and the burning, numb feeling like after you take a shot of whiskey.
I knew I had a big adventure ahead. And it wouldn’t end anytime soon. There was no sentiment of, “Ya, but I’ll be back next week.”

The hugeness of it hit me. There was no going back.

I had already said goodbye to all my friends in Durant, Oklahoma and Dallas, Texas in December. Without notice and only one class left to graduate, I packed up my stuff overnight, put it in storage, and left. I said goodbye to the few close friends who knew I was leaving. I left a town and friends and everything I loved….knowing full well it would be a very long time before I ever came back. If I came back.

And now, I had one friend where I moved on the coast of South Texas. I saw him every couple weekends, as I worked a crap job. He lived about 30 minutes away.

He was the last person I dared to let into my life.
All the walls had gone up again, yet he managed to start prying a few bricks away in a few short visits.

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So here I was. It had all led up to this moment. And I knew it. I was cutting my very. last. safety-net.

Somehow, I found myself walking down the street, looking back at Ben as he closed the doorway.

I waved goodbye to to the last friend I had yet to leave. I knew it had to be done for me to move forward. You cannot live in two places at once. I knew it was for the best, but that didn’t make it any easier.

That was the only hard part.

I say this to relate to you just how sad I was to leave him standing there. I hadn’t expected to feel sad for someone I’d known for such a short period of time. Yet I was.
He had shown me what friendship and unconditional love really looked like, more than most had ever done in my life. And I had only really gotten to know him in the past 3 months. But for some people, all it takes is 3 hours, and our lives are changed. He doesn’t know this. And, once again, I find myself wishing I’d told the people in my life how much they mattered, when I had the chance. I didn’t realize it at the time, my head a thousand miles away (almost literally) though I was consciously grateful. It’s not an excuse, but it’s true.

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Longboarding with Ben on Day 1

So Ben, if you ever read this, I want you to see that you impacted my journey in a bigger way than you’ll ever know. Thank you. The people’s lives you’ve touched as a result cannot possibly be measured. You helped propel me into the next chapter of my life, with clear eyes and a full heart. It would have happened either way, but not with quite the same attitude. Because of that, people got to see a different David, who wasn’t just limping along, but leaping. I wasn’t leeching off other’s passion, I was overflowing with my own. Every person I’ve met now has been affected by you. Just like that, one person made a difference in so many people’s lives.

To list merely a few,

He made sure, every time we were together to show me a good time. We would just cut loose and de-stress. No worries after all the crap that happened through the week.

Other times, he brainstormed with me when I did need to really think hard.

He reminded me that I’m not alone, and that there is hope yet ahead – that there are great things ahead for me.

He helped me plan my route out of town and the train I would catch, as well as other details. We stayed up late, drinking beer and going over the map.

He gave me advice that sticks with me to this day; he endured listening to my rants when I just needed someone to talk to.

Planning the next day's logistics

Planning the next day’s logistics

He didn’t judge me when I opened up to him about my brutally honest, blasphemous questions concerning community, our “great nation”, society’s expectations, disillusionment with the norm, fears, insecurities, goals, God’s existence, church, women, friendship, money, and mythical love.

He didn’t pressure me into his perspective. He never judged my own. He didn’t lecture me about safety; he instead equipped me as best he could, knowing that I’d leave either way.

He gave me his time, a jacket, a knife, food, and a place to sleep.

He never told me not to go, or that I was crazy for doing it.

He never told me how to go.

He was one of only 2 people who encouraged me to do it, knowing it was something I needed to do.

I honestly don’t know how he did it. Because almost every base reason for doing what I’m doing conflicted with his beliefs and lifestyle.
But he understood one simple thing not many other people did before (not after) I left. He got it:
You don’t have to agree with everything….or anything somebody does, to love them and just be their friend. To give.
I had nothing to give him in return. He expected nothing. He just gave and gave and gave, without even cashing in on the age old “well if you’re my friend, you now have to at least listen to my warnings” etc

Sometimes, it only takes one person. One unique person, bold enough to be different and unashamed of it. It doesn’t take hundreds for our heart to fathom that those kind of people still exist. It just takes one.

And that’s the first story of how one person impacted so many.
It set my journey’s theme for whole rest of the trip.

Unconditional kindness and love, in the midst of hard times, in unexpected places, and they expect nothing in return. I’m sorry I don’t have the words to better explain it. But there it is.

Those people do exist. They’re not the majority; they’re the minority. But hey- don’t play the numbers game. Not everyone can play a main character in your story. Only a few.

I can attest to the fact, it takes a while to find them -the one out of a thousand who will stop by on the road to pick up the hitchhiker. And that’s discouraging, of course.  Some days it outright pisses me off how many people and hours will pass before someone stops. Yes, it’s easy to focus on how shitty the rest are. But I’m not so sure that’s the focus.

Those few who do stop are the only ones who were worth riding with, all along. I know, it’s never ideal timing or the faces you’d expect it to be. It’s hardly ever the rich and famous, but they aren’t the ones who make a cliff note in your adventures and struggles. It’s not those kind of people you would’ve wanted to pick you up anyways.

Don’t take for granted the Ben Carpenters of this world.

You may be afraid to spend less time with the thousands of friends you have on Facebook, possibly offending somebody. But I promise, when you focus on those who actually want to be a helping part of your life and surround yourself with people who constantly love on you, it undoubtedly will inspire you to stop rambling about the rest of the those crazy characters who don’t matter and shouldn’t be taking up page space.

You’ll stop worrying about safety in numbers and start taking risks, maybe even taking risks as your own example to other strangers of unconditional love.

And just maybe, as we learn there are those few, it’ll make the world a hell of a lot less scary place.

 

Wasn’t at all where I planned to go with this post, but once again I have remitted control of the outcome. Perhaps I’m learning.

The end.
(for now)

Me and Ben went exploring at the beach on St. Patty's day, doing our best Boondock Saints impressions.

Me and Ben at the beach. Exploring on St. Patty’s day, doing our best Boondock Saints impressions.

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10 Years From Now…[Part 3]

 

So, to recap Part I and Part II of this series,

I basically equated one of my teachers with a well-intended, roid-raging version of Mr. Keating from Dead Poets Society.

Ya, that’s a pretty rough metaphor. So, “Dr. Reality Check,” if these posts somehow make their way back to you…….(as they inevitably do in small towns)…ummmm….you can tell it however you want, when you make your own blog. I’m just doing what you taught me. Sorry, but you knew this day was coming when you enticed me into taking an extra course, “for fun”. Yes, I’m grinning as I write this.

But in all fairness, I’ll admit, it was one of the most important classes I took in college.  And inspired a blog post a year later. I’d call that a compliment. (I see the meaning of it all now. Hey, better late than never)

 

As I was saying,

It turns out, this class had a lot more to do with life than I thought. [See part 2 for backstory]

We only hated him because it resembled life all too well.

 

Life is a lot like Dr. Reality Check’s second question

#1: What do you want to be in life? What are your highest aspirations, if nothing stood in the way?

[Give essay answer]

 

#2:Now list 10 specific steps you will take to get from here to there.

 

We face these impasses, after a ridiculous amounts of training and motivational speeches, without a plan, and go……

“Ohhhh. Shit.     I got nothin.”

Not because you don’t sincerely want a real solution, but because you have always relied on the “right answer.”

Generic quick-fixes have a funny way of never being directly applicable to our life. In the real world, you have to think for yourself and want things for yourself. Nobody else can administer the motivation. There are no presets. There are no fill-in-the-bubble quizzes. And, sadly, the majority of us don’t realize this until its too late.

Way too late.

It sounds simple…because well, it is. The first part always is, remember? You read this and probably mutter, “Yayayah. I know. This is nothing new.” But this isn’t about reading something on a computer screen and changing your life. I’m not that conceited. Hell, I won’t even pretend to give you advice like that. Its near impossible. But mostly, I just won’t. It’s not up to me. You have to want it for yourself.

I will just settle to be your inspiration. That’s it. That’s all I can do for you. I just want to show you through actions and not just words— the important part. The second part. Your goals, dreams, aspirations. And the stuff down deep you haven’t even uttered out loud, much less to someone else. The stuff you think is impossible, so you try not to dwell on it more than a few meager, depressing seconds.

Like the screaming teacha’ suggested,

Write it.

Write all those things down. Even if you don’t show anybody at first.

But most importantly do it. Until you get it onto paper, it’s just theoretical, swirling around with your daydreams of a mid-afternoon nap and Reese’s cups, with hardly a speck of chance to be realized.

 

 

You can’t step forward on stones that haven’t even been laid out!

 

#1 Reason: It stops feeling imaginary. It becomes a possibility.

#2. It reminds you of your goals, everyday. Which you’ll find is really helpful for the times of hopelessness. (Post it on the bathroom mirror?)

#3. It makes it easier to verbalize, to construct, to explain, to share with a trusted and close friend.

Confiding in that someone, sharing your vision is a double-whammy, a 1-2 punch to the gut/ego. They will hold you accountable, but will also encourage you or offer helpful suggestions (unless you have that sarcastic best friend who likes to motivate you by insulting you, calling you sissy and whatnot). It’s a balance. So pick someone who knows you. They’ll be like a doubt-fighting sidekick. But without the tights. (unless you want, ladies)

 

So, this part isn’t even about the faith of “stepping stones”. You aren’t there yet. This is (figuratively speaking) about mapping your route on paper, road by road, instead of just pointing to a state, mouth dumbly gaping, shouting “I want to be there….”.

You’ll be surprised by how it makes those far-away dreams seem a little more real, and just a tad bit closer. And this doesn’t even have to do with your school or job, necessarily. I’m talking about bigger things. What is it you want to do, to make a difference? outside the 9-5 everybody works. [If your biggest aspiration is a job, you need bigger goals. If you don’t believe me, see Kid President.]

What impact do you want to have, beyond just showing up and punching in the right answer, to get you by?

I don’t want to just “get by.” I want to live a radical, interesting story– one you can’t even attempt to nod off to. I don’t want the usual “solution” for my problems, or to embrace the status quo, just because that’s what we were taught. 

 

Following my own advice

Big announcement for my friends (and acquaintances/followers): In the upcoming months, I will be preparing to chase after my dreams, instead of just talking about them. Real preparations for a NON-hypothetical adventure. Rather than just whining about unpleasant circumstances and what I wish I could do, I’m going to make radical changes. I’m just going to do it.

Whether or not I succeed, is not the point. Whether I leave this chair, instead only writing about them, IS.

south Texas.
January 2013

This spring, I’m going to be embarking on an epic, solo road-trip across America. On foot. For a couple months. This is something I’ve been planning for a while now.  

At the lowest point in my life…..l want to show you this leap of faith IS possible.

And I will- show you- not with words, but with actions. I will follow through on my own advice, which as we know is the hardest thing to do. I will abandon all my fears, knowing it “only goes up from here”. I will continue with my project of complete honesty and traversing the unknown, no matter where it leads.

You can keep me accountable and encourage me.

I reached a point where I want to stop talking about my desires in life, and start chasing them.
Funny how, all of a sudden, when you have to flesh out that second question Mr. Reality Check asks, the realization hits:

We’re scared to actually go after some lofty goal. It’s easier to shoot the shit. Trying means failing is an option.

But I’d rather have 1 small dream I’m actually living out, no matter how insignificant, than die having 100 unfulfilled, lofty dreams.

It’s the illusion of actually living that kills us. Sometimes, it’s the talking about dreams that kills us. Because that’s all it ever ends up being. Talk. And more self-doubt. And excuses.

 

But, 10 years from now, do you still want to be making excuses?

 

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10 Years From Now…[Part 2]

Sorry guys. I forgot to upload the video for the movie “10 Years,” which reminded me of this question, spawning this series of blog posts. It may help you get the gist.

 

So, to back up.

The hardest class I ever took in college wasn’t even required for my major. And the worst part of it was… I took it “for fun”. Ya, I was that guy in college. I took extra classes, “just cause”.

[So I totally understand if that makes you want to tune me out right now. But I promise this series of posts isn’t about school. Unless you want it to be. Hopefully, it will mean something different to everybody.]

Anyways, I took this Public Relations course, where your grades were judged from projects like raising money for a non-profit cause, by putting on a benefit concert, or selling raffle tickets. Stuff like that. Very unconventional class, to say the least.

Our groups created imaginary P.R. companies. If we didn’t succeed, we didn’t pass.

Ya, there was no pressure on us or anything.

This teacher was like Mr. Keating, but raging on steroids [Dead Poets Society]. I think I’ll call him “Dr. Reality Check”.

Instead of bubbling in scantrons, I found myself drawing up a business model and creating commercials for TV and radio, to promote our company’s cause. It was almost all out-of-class work.  In class, we gathered around for fireside chats and discussed, realistically, how we planned on executing our business plan – the specifics. No generic fluff. He spotted that quicker than a fat kid tastes splenda in his “sweet” tea. We quickly realized that proposing solutions for problems are easy, when everything is hypothetical and the hot air never rises beyond the classroom ceiling.

With Dr. Reality Check, the usual college-kid bull shit answers were not acceptable. We all feared the moment he lifted his pointer finger to call on one of us. There was never a “right” answer, it seemed. No quoting the textbook. He would pace back and forth, saying, “hmmmmm….does anyone else have a better answer? That’s not what I’m looking for.”

But in my defense, it wasn’t our fault. We had been programmed over the past 18 years of our life in the public education system to give the predictable, textbook highlighted “right” answer. It’s what the teachers have always wanted to see, grading our tests. I think it is every bit like answering “Jesus” for any given question in Sunday School; Yes, it’s expected, but never wrong. But that wasn’t what this teacher wanted. This dude required us to think for ourselves and show how we came to that solution.

We all hated him by the end of the semester.

Poetry would have been a whole lot easier to come up with, on the spot.

We barely slept. My classmates, to this day, will attest to having violent, PSD-induced night terrors, imagining him calling on us. We thought we had the school system all figured out, by this point in our college career. But this random class was more work than all my other classwork combined. This isn’t how it works! We had no clue how far off we were. But none of those are the reasons we dreaded his deep breath, before announcing end-of-class assignments. Well, mostly. I did enjoy sleeping and having a social life, before that semester.

Yes, we loathed, even feared, the inevitable homework  which we wouldn’t humanly have time for. But the real reason for this dread is, we couldn’t stand the fact….. the answers couldn’t be copied, word for word, out of the book. He made us think.

We just wanted our standardized testing back. And his hardest portion of the final test was the question:

 

What do you want to be in life? What are your highest aspirations, if nothing stood in the way?

[Give essay answer]

Sounds easy right? Everybody has dreams and shit– you know, the stuff that keeps you awake at night. Or daydreams at a dead-end job. Either way, we all got ’em. Everyone could write a novel here. But the second part was harder.

 

Now list 10 specific steps you will take to get from here to there.

“Oh.”

Ya, that’s everyone’s reaction. I dare you to get out a pen and paper. Because it’s really hard to commit to the second part, listing verifiable ways to actually see them happen. This is the part that stumps most of us. We have the first part, the easy part down, like our last name. We’ve rehearsed it a million times in our head. But the second part, we’ve contemplated about as many times as Lindsay Lohan has sobriety.

Dr. Reality Check said it is very easy to keep creating these elaborate dreams, if we don’t feel the pressure to follow through on them. No commitment factor= no pressure, basically.

 

Even today, as I write this, the question still hangs over my head.

So, what’s it gonna be? I mean, sure, I have an pretty good idea. But I sure as hell don’t have it all figured out.

There were no easy answers for the “solution” to this problem.

There never will be.

Because nobody can take control of your life for you. It can feel like others are integral to it sometimes, as they help guide you, walking along a similar path, in step, but nobody can walk it for you.

For example, a couple months ago I was sitting in the doctor’s office, waiting for him to show. I asked the nurse, “What kind of vitamin supplements should I be taking, as a 21 year old guy?”

Her response: “Oh, just Google it. I don’t know.”

Gee thanks.

But honestly, the secret is really this: nobody knows. Almost everyone’s faking it. The few who “get it,” have already been to the lowest place, the place where everything is stripped away, where only the bare truth remained, where they were forced to find the answers themselves, because those higher-ups who were “supposed” to know didn’t– a place where there is no Google solution.

We need to learn to be okay with that.

Especially in our (my) generation of get-it-quick-results and Googling damn near ev-er-y-thing.

High school and college can be great times for learning and thinking outside the box. Yes, I know that. I’m not discounting their importance. [More in part 3]

But, after that, what are you going to do–when the regimented structure and prodding is stripped away?

You will only have yourself consult. Only yourself to fault for failure, not the system.

No matter how much other people may want it for you, the choices in life are ultimately yours.

And, as I described in Part 1, not deciding to do anything IS making a choice.

 

So, 10 years from now, where do you want to be?

[To Be Continued……..in Part 3]

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10 Years From Now…. [Part 1]

Where do you want to be 10 years from now?

So I came across this movie the other day, 10 Years [2011]. I was mildly intrigued. At first, I passed it up and looked for another movie. I mean, it’s not exactly a cookie-cutter blockbuster script. So, it didn’t get a lot of attention. But, after a few days, this “10 years from now…” question really started rolling around in my head and gaining traction. It reminded me of something my teacher had asked me last year [more in Part 2]. I found myself daydreaming at work about what my reunion would look like. I wanted a really badass story to tell. Lets be honest– we all do. Would I be single, married, poor, or rich? etc.

The concept was really starting to interest me, and I hadn’t even seen the movie yet.

Well, I finally watched it. And yes, it was good. Remember, the film is NOT set in their high school prime. Which is odd for a plot. Think about it: In casting, they usually like to keep the characters young, healthy, and bright-eyed– in the “best years of their life.” But not this movie. It fast forwarded to 10 years later.

It’s the story of 4+ bachelor dude-bros/best buds who triumphantly reunite after all this time. Some things are the same, but things aren’t as they left them. And a bunch of insane guy-talk, beer, and hi-jinks are thrown in for good measure. And lots of reminiscing on old pictures and scrapbooks and memories.

But I’m more concerned with the reunion aspect.

It’s never how you picture it.

(or in some cases, it IS, because they stayed exactly the same, which is equally as sad)

I imagine, some of us will get fat. Some of us will chop off a foot of hair (some of us will grow it out and do the comb over. It will look horrible). There will always be the inevitable goatee, everyone sports. Which will be a better option than the other half of men, which will own mustaches. Some of us will have kids. Like 5 or 6 by then. But a few will just be getting started with their marriage, due to graduate school or a start-up business. Some people will have traveled around the world, or made a fortune; but others will never have left their hometown. Some will be druggies. Some will be unrecognizable with plastic surgery. The prettiest kids will lose their looks, and others will finally grow into them. Some of us will be famous, finally gaining popularity we never had in high school.

I think it will shock you. I have no idea what your reunion will look like. But I think the lack of nostalgic dreaminess you once envisioned will be what does surprise you. It will surprise you for completely different reasons

When I left for college, I didn’t go back to visit for over 2 years. At all. And, moreover, I can count on 1 hand the amount of times I’ve been back after.

I was only out of high school a couple years when I first got a taste of this. And it hit me in the face. Hard. One winter, after this long-awaited visit, I found myself shuddering in the rain, leaning heavily on a (now long-gone) friend’s shoulder, searching for cover from the downpour on the town square, shaking uncontrollably, whether from the cold or the night’s string of hazy encounters, I don’t know. I swallowed back the dry, inevitable feeling which rose in my larynx, threatening to steal the moisture also from my eyes.  I hadn’t cried in years. And now I found myself trying to hold back all those rising emotions, for fear of embarrassing myself in public.  I didn’t want to leave yet, but I realized I had nothing and nobody to stay for. I didn’t know where to go just yet, so I curled up on the steps of the  courthouse. Shit. I had come back for nothing. It was too late. I felt I wasn’t there when they needed me. Not that there was anything I could do, but it was crushing me anyways. I had found out one of my best friends was a drug dealer, who now hated his life, who talked in a passionless, monotone voice. Apathy filled the slow stride of his walk, like the bottles in his fridge. It broke my heart that night to see the depressing state some of my friends were in.

Anyways, When I did finally go back, I didn’t recognize my hometown. The usual shock I suppose: high school quarterbacks now fat, working minimum wage jobs, your old sweetheart is married, the religious zealots are now drunk dropouts, the nerdy kids became ridiculously successful, and an assortment of druggies, community college cop-outs, baby-mommas, and altogether lost friendships.

Very few of my closest high school friends made it very far. Even fewer had goals, for the next year. Much less 10 years.

I vowed to never let that happen to me.

I wanted to keep moving forward. High school would not define me. I was determined. I believed that. And I still do, very strongly. Your past does not determine your future. No matter how unlikely.

I want you to see that I am living proof of that. I was told I would” never finish college”, and “never make it in the real world,” and repeatedly that “I would never amount to anything”. But I did. And I am. Despite all odds. This is not a Joel Olsteen inspirational speech. I’m certainly not saying its easy. But I am saying its possible. I am saying, don’t buy into the lie that where we grew up defines or limits our future. I’d say more, but that’s a story for another day.

So, here’s a belated “I’m sorry” to those  friends. It wasn’t that I didn’t care. It was just something I had to do. I had to take care of me. I had to go learn all the things that made me the man I am today. Or else I’d be in the same, or likely worse, place, instead of traveling this world and writing to you. I fear what I would have become, had I stayed in that town.  I couldn’t grow, as a person, sleeping in a bed which I’d my feet already hung over the edge. I had to roam and stretch those legs. I still do. I’m not done yet.

I noticed the physical changes of the landscape too.  Even the city was in on the joke, playing along to this giant metaphor. As the city slowly started to creep in on my quiet suburbia. The bike trail I used to ride on with my best friend, taking long day-trips far away on countless adventures, was defiled by a modern transit system which links to Dallas. Well, there goes a piece of my childhood. That’s growing up for you. Change happens whether you like it or not. I will happen with or without you. But that doesn’t mean it has to be a bad thing. Use it to catapult you, to give you the needed shove to move forward, to embark on something much better. (instead of being left behind)

 

 

I’ve been thinking lately,

Where do you want to be, 10 years from now?

Because that will change how you live, in the present moment.

 

{To Be Continued…..}
More on this question in Part 2.

 

 

-Carpe Diem Dave-

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This Year, Resolve to Work Out Your Brain Too: 10 Healthy Tips

 

For those making resolutions to hit the gym this year….

You might want to consider working out your brain too.

Here’s why:

If you don’t start now, you won’t have half as many stories to tell your grandchildren.

You simply won’t remember. Seriously.

In Layman’s terms, our memories are kind of like a huge library. If you keep shoving them into the back of the dusty corner, you’ll eventually forget where you put them.

Now, I’m not talking about dementia or Alzheimer’s. This begins happening as soon as your brain reaches maturation. You are not exempt if you are only 40, or even 20.

Childhood memories slowly begin to fade away, and only the significant events remain.  Sure, some item or person may suddenly jolt your memory, but you will be less likely to remember that on your own.

 

Recognition Vs. Recall

Note: There is a difference between recognition and recall. —-Recognition is the association of a memory with an event or physical object you’ve encountered. So, you might see a baseball glove and suddenly remember how your grandfather took you to a Texas Ranger’s game. Recall is more like a Fill-In-The-Blank. It’s not even multiple choice. You have to remember something, with nothing in front of you to help.

 

So, what to do about this?

Well, the brain is a muscle, like any part of your body. Time to pump the iron.

If you’re looking to improve your memory, with training techniques, there might be far more indirect brain benefits than you realize:

It will keep you telling those hilarious stories at social events, lower your stress, keep you better organized, stay mentally healthy, more alert, and better grasp concepts.

 

My 10 Practical Tips:

Yes, I’m hitting you with the diet stuff first. Let’s get it out of the way. Hey, if it makes you feel better, I’m medically allowed to add wine to this list.

  • Get enough sleep.

(Yes it’s that simple. No, we don’t do it.)   Nothing makes for a foggy day like being sleep-deprived. The reverse is true: nothing makes you feel more alive and alert than a full night’s sleep.

  • Carry around a notebook

Whether you’re nostalgic or frustrated, a new parent- creating a book of bedtime stories, or collecting material for your memoir, ALWAYS carry a notebook with you. everywhere. Best advice I can give you.

  • Exercise

Stimulates production of new synapses, essentially new pathways which are applicable to any situation (whereas learning Sudoku might not help except in number-related puzzles). Also, the increased oxygen to the brain= good thing. Trust me. Last but not least, when you work out, (whether cardio or weights) it releases the feel-good chemical endorphins. (see link for targeted work-out tips)

  • Play video games   (for real)

Neuroscientist Yaakov Stern of Columbia University said in an article, “It requires motor control, visual search, working memory, long-term memory, and decision making,”  [also ability to control and switch attention among different tasks.] “People get better on tests of memory, motor speed, visual-spatial skills, and tasks requiring cognitive flexibility.”

  • Stay creative.

Don’t just do busy-work and boring work. Do something everday you love, for you. Writer Charles Bukowski didn’t believe in the “tortured genius.” He believes our motives affect our performance.

  • Laugh

It’s good for the soul. And apparently your memory retention? Also, don’t forget to laugh at yourself! Many memories are embarrassing, but don’t let that stop you. You might find some of them hilarious now, which you swore you’d never speak of again. In fact, tell it to a friend. Laugh until you cry. You never know, it might bring up other pieces of the event, if it happened with a friend.

  • Drink green tea.

Not only is it good for your brain, it actually has 7 other healthy benefits.

  • No More Mean Girls. Make real friends & real memories.

Surround yourself with healthy relationships. Ok fine, we can still watch the movie. I just mean, friends are the ultimate memory booster. They always remember stuff for you, good or bad. They induce those memory recall situations. Not to mention, people are the most important memories.

  • Try meditation, reading an old book, visiting where you grew up, yoga,  crosswords & Sudoku, using Mnemonic devices, active listening to radio news, trivia games, or (my favorite) photo albums.


I’d love to know:

What proven method did I leave out?

What unconventional method works for you?

What’s your strongest memory?

What triggers your flashbacks?

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The Bigger Picture

A little something to take you outside of your bubble today.

The movie “Tree of Life” (2011).

It’s a tale of “Leave It to Beaver” gone wrong.  (Wait, that show was scripted?! My worldview is crushed.)

Somehow, this decade makes a comeback, offering something for audiences something today?

Somehow, in the midst of this movie’s headache-inducing, confusing cacophony….I found meaning.

(That’s life.)

I believe this a relevant conversation for our generation. Regardless of decade.

Recurring Themes

The recurring theme of the plot is the battle for the characters to choose one of two paths in life: the way of grace and the way of nature.Clear lines of division are drawn between the way of nature’s harsh, unforgiving tactics, versus the learned ways of grace’s gentle simplicity.

You only have two choices in this world. But you cannot live by both. You must choose one.

The chasm dividing these two proposed opposites grows wider as the story progresses, intentionally seeking to highlight and polarize the two.

We see these elements of nature and grace are embodied by the characters of the abusive father and the loving mother, respectively.

We all know and have “characters” in our lives, which very clearly embody grace OR nature.

Most interestingly, is how nature represents what cannot be salvaged – fallen nature (acting upon impulse); grace represents the spiritual and supernaturally learned (aware, willfully reacting with love).

The way of nature

The Way of Grace

I could get further into the movie, talking about the massively unheard of amounts of Carl Sagan inspired, National Geographic rivaling- clips of landscapes and animals.  Despite the irredeemable juxtaposition the movie poses, it at least goes beyond the surface.

There is hope after all. Nature is not simply represented as shots of sunflowers and waterfalls, but clearly alliterates to the way we live our lives, choosing to simply love and follow after ultimate truth, or become bitter and set in our ways. It is posed in a question format. No blanket statements are made. If anything, the film itself is a resounding question, meant to ring in the ears of the viewer after watching.

Whatever that something is, that makes a piece of work transcend eras, it must be universal. I can only assume it must be the very same stuff that makes people still read Shakespeare, Greek Mythology, the Bible,  Walt Whitman, or J.D. Salinger.

Some of my friends hated the movie.

I heard a girl say, just this past weekend, “I don’t want to have to think when I watch a movie. I want turn off my brain &  feel good when the credits roll.”

Unfortunately, that’s not how my brain was designed. I’m constantly thinking about the underlying story.

Thought provoking at the very least, “Tree of Life” promises good things for those who watch it without preconceptions or short-tempered cynicisms.

The Summary

Between the surreal images of nature, microcosms, outer space and the wistful yet tormenting flashbacks to the main character’s childhood, viewers soon find out Jack’s family is less than perfect. A gritty tale of tragedy jump-starts the opening scenes.

     

His brother’s death is told through the voice of maturity — that of Jack as a prospering middle-aged architect haunted by questions bigger than himself. Set primarily in a South Texas neighborhood, the father’s harsh, borderline-abusive relationship of tough love overshadows the teachings of his mother’s unconditional, free-spirited love.

The film leads down Jack’s paths of growing up in the ways of love, hate, rebellion, nature and grace. The plot winds around the way childhood innocence somehow slips through one’s fingers in time and knowledge of the world. It is about a road every young boy must find and follow, only to learn they cannot go back.

The Public’s Reaction

After the initial premiere in select theaters, critics and citizens alike found themselves immediately polarized in opinions of hate and love for it. Perhaps, the only agreeable point was that everybody had some opposing opinion or disagreement about the movie’s worth. It either was bashed as incredibly boring or glorified as infinitely beautiful. At the Cannes Film Festival, it received boos alongside a standing ovation.The deciding factor for people’s reactions has to do with their intentions for watching this film.

Roger Ebert’s Review

Roger Ebert explained his (Tweet) comment about the movie in a similar way: “Many films diminish us. They cheapen us … hammer us with shabby thrills and diminish the value of life some. Few films evoke the wonderment of life’s experience, and those I consider a form of prayer.”

You cannot walk into the theater expecting a 90-minute, feel-good romantic comedy. Malick never intended for his film to be the kind you don’t have to contemplate. If you want that, you’d probably be better suited with letting your brain cells degenerate a bit at “The Hangover II.”

But, you don’t need to be a philosopher or a genius to understand and enjoy Malick’s movie.

For this movie, you simply need to have an open mind and cannot be afraid to actually think about its meaning.

After reading Ebert’s quote, it’s hard to argue. What more could you ask of a two hour movie? I can honestly say that it was one of the first movies which ever inspired me to action, to ask questions, and not to simply drool on my shirt while shoveling popcorn down my gullet.

The movie begs us to live intentionally.

The Perspective it Offers

For the cinematography quality alone, it is definitely a must-see. One thing to keep in mind if you go: Have patience and let its poetry wash over you as a whole, and not critically analyze the meaning of one certain scene.Don’t get frustrated with the plot or the unconventional style of filming. Director of Photography Emmanuel Lubezki provides the rare opportunity to literally look on as an observer of another world instead of from the usual vantage point through one character’s eyes. The script is not linear either. Malick often blended voice-overs with sweeping camera pans of nature and human movement rather than facial close-ups of characters reciting lines.

And yes, I know. Some of you felt robbed after watching a two and-a-half-hour story without a discernible climax or conflict resolution.

But I believe that’s life. And sometimes, the journey is greater than the destination. In this case, it fits. Unlike most movies, if you walk away with unanswered questions, Malick has done his job right.

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Creativity Requires Willingness to Look Silly

     

My writing process is a lot like setting a kid free in an amusement park.

The only difficult part is deciding what to ride first and how to spend your tickets.

I immediately regress to being a fifth grader without a filter, or a concept of what is “appropriate” for that matter.

I guess that’s what I love about writing. It….frees me.

[When you’re truly passionate something, you’ll do anything to achieve it. Nothing will limit you]

You see, kids don’t care what they look like. They just do it. No matter how silly or stupid.

If you look back on your childhood, you know I’m right.

God, if I could remember half the hilarious stuff we got away with…I’d have a bestselling memoir on my hands.

I mean, come on. Do you really think you can grow up in a house with 8 other family members, and not have some wild stories?

When we weren’t organizing our own soccer teams and choosing sides, or seeing how many of us we could fit on a mattress without our grip being jolted loose as we hit the bottom of the stairs…..we were finding new ways to give our parents hell.

Not intentionally. (most of the time).  Kids are just naturally creative and find new ways to do something when you tell them “no”.

They really think outside of the box when they want something. They don’t let obstacles stop them. It’s all or nothing.

Okay….just go with me on this.

Do you have that one memory that just sticks out for some reason? And its random- you have no idea why?

I really hate how we forget the majority of the “minuscule” or “mundane” events in our lives. I put quotations around that because, whatever little guy is up in my brain deciding what’s “important” and what’s not — I wanna punch him in the face.

I think the intro to Donald Miller’s book A Million Miles in a Thousand Years says it best:

“The saddest part about life is you don’t remember half of it. You don’t even remember half of half of it. Not even a tiny percentage, if you want to know the truth.  I have this friend Bob who writes down everything he remembers. If he remembers dropping an ice cream cone on his lap when he was seven, he’ll write it down.  The last time I talked to Bob, he had written more than five hundred pages of memories.  He’s the only guy I know who remembers his life. He said he captures memories because if he forgets them, it’s as though they didn’t happen; it’s as though he hadn’t lived the parts he doesn’t remember”

My examples:

I remember stealing a two-pound bag of powdered sugar from the pantry in 3rd grade, sneaking up behind my brother, Drew, jumping from the top of the couch spread-eagle, and smashing it WWE style on his unsuspecting head. It snowed in our living room that day. Seriously, everything was covered in white. I vividly remember how it was the first time my mother tried to scold me, but couldn’t hold back the smile and enormous laugh bubbling up.

  Drew [right], me [left]

When she asked me why I did it— I have no idea. Probably because I didn’t care about the consequences (just being honest). I was living in the moment.

Yet I do not remember getting attacked by Dalmatian dogs as a child, splitting my face open. (still have 3 pretty badass scars on my face from it). I remember getting my first set of cowboy boots, a vest, a toy pistol & rifle, and the whole get-up – as a 6 year old probably. Yet I can’t remember the name of the guy I taught a Literature Seminar with, just this summer.

Despite what psychologists might say about the reason why certain memories fade and other remain, as due to painful or important events…..I have to disagree.

There’s some important things I wish I could remember, and some random things that always manage to surface.

Frustrating to say the least. And you can just forget intentional recall. Nothing’s worse than when someone says, “Oh do you remember….?!” — and you have absolutely NO recollection. No matter how hard you try.

You see, in our lives — it’s a jumbled mess. It takes old age for us to be able to neatly piece together a comprehend-able storyline which others can smoothly follow in its re-telling.

That’s why we love novels.

They follow rules of concise chapters. An entire year or two is broken down and summarized in 200 pages.

We expect the writer to only give us the most relevant information. But, unfortunately, our brain doesn’t work like that.

Neither do our lives.

So, whether you’re an artist or not,

We don’t get to skip over the embarrassing parts, the screw-ups, and unrelated hardships. (although everyone else remembers them for me. Gee thanks.)

We have to be willing to risk looking stupid, to appear silly, if we are ever to write an interesting narrative with our life.

Somewhere along the way…..we mistook growing up & maturity for the structured & mundane.

Give yourself space to run.  Room to make mistakes. Room to create a story worth living.

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Home.

There’s nothing like walking back through your front door after a long trip away, or collapsing into your own bed after a long day.

Home is a special place.

Wherever that is for you.

No matter how hospitable someone is, it’s never quite the same to be a guest in another’s home. Not quite as comfy or…safe.

I think home is a place where you let down your guard.

So I can see why falling in love  with someone has a lot of the same qualities.  And getting married for that fact.

Home is a hard place to define. We use phrases like “home is where the heart is” to describe the feeling….because it’s temporal. It changes. It’s hard to pin down. It’s not confined to walls.

It’s dependent upon people as much as it is a place.

College is as much about finding your next home, as it is about trying to leave your parent’s. It’s a slow process. A kind of limbo we get stuck in. Between kid and adult.

Dorms don’t really help that.

They’re minimal, whitewashed, impersonal, and void of any semblance of familial warmth.

If you’re lucky like me, you had the chance to “move off-campus” after you’ve done your time in the small prison-shaped rooms, possibly with a solitary window.

But I do see now why most schools require you live 1 year on-campus first. They understand that home has a lot to do with community. Not just a physical place.

Now I live in a 7 bedroom house with my best college buddies. It’s a beautiful southern house (which if you want you can read more about in my previous post).

But the place in that picture…is important to me for another reason.

I was adopted into a new sort of family. The other guy in that picture is one of my closest friends now.

I didn’t go “home” (to my parents house) for two years after I left for college.

When I did finally go back, I didn’t recognize my hometown. The usual shock I suppose: high school quarterbacks working minimum wage jobs, your sweetheart married, religious zealots now drunk dropouts, the nerdy kids who became ridiculously successful, and an assortment of druggies, community college cop-outs, baby-mommas, and the lost friendships.

Not to mention the physical changes of the landscape. As the city slowly started to creep in on my quiet suburbia. The bike trail I used to ride on with my best friend, taking long day-trips far away on countless adventures, was defiled by a modern transit system which links to Dallas. Well, there goes a piece of my childhood.

And finally, when I reach my old bedroom. It. doesn’t. feel. mine.

At night, I lay in bed, on the top bunk, unable to sleep. I jolt awake in the morning, wondering what strange place I’m in. It takes a couple seconds after I rub my eyes to realize the blurriness is just a side effect of unfamiliarity.

All this to say…. it’s a tough journey from 18 to your mid-twenties, trying to find where you belong.

I realized after being gone for 3 months, drifting sleepless through the unforgiving deserts and mountains of Africa, the place I missed most was…..that little ‘ol town in Southern Oklahoma.

Yet, when I am home, in Durant, I am still restless. I must continue my search.

Ethan Cox says it best on his blog http://ethan-cox.xanga.com/,

“Both sides of my grandparents also live in Willis (less than 2 miles from my parents’ house). Needless to say, I feel at home in the Bottom [Willis nickname]. However, I have a certain unquenched spirit that spurs up especially strong when I’m at “home.” It’s a spirit of travel. I have had the privilege of visiting a couple of continents, and now I can’t seem to get my fill. I don’t know what “home” really is, but my spirit feels most affirmed when traveling. Maybe the road is my home. “

I’ll give one last example, because it may do better justice than me.

One of my favorite movies in high school was the movie “Garden State.” It had a clip in it I didn’t really understand… until I had been gone at college for a few years.

Now, I see it. I understand. Destined to forever be in search of that place, until you recreate it for your kids.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qw7Om-7sD48

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