when you come to the fourth week of any semester, something just short of amazing happens. time slows to an almost imperceptible crawl and somehow, there is still not enough time to get everything finished.

i have hit that point where i am about to give up on the majority of my classes and my workout plan may as well just run itself. and yet because i only have a year and a half left, giving up is not really an option. this week i have found myself searching for “motivational memes” to cheer me up in the midst of my WWII reading assignments and experiments for critical practices.

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so far, this pumped up leslie knope is what has pushed me through this tuesday afternoon.

in spite of dragging my college-worn body through the halls of my university, i am really getting excited for my travel abroad trip that will be happening in may of this year. fifteen days in europe with 14 other students and  our professor. reality finally kicked in when my passport arrived last friday and i realized that i really am going to be able to go out of the united states for the first time in my life.

if you’ve followed some of my previous posts, i am new to the whole world of travel. until this past summer, i had never even been on a plane so you could imagine my anxiety when i realized that the plane ride will be over 14 hours when we leave this may. as you can imagine i have been searching almost neurotically online to find ways to handle leaving the country and  basic comfort zones behind.

i am hoping that when i get there i am too focused on experiencing it all to worry about what could happen while i’m gone. i hope that i don’t have time to wonder if i’m making the right choices in life. we are going to be experiencing some amazing things while we are there. heartbreaking things, like the sachsenhausen concentration camp that held mainly political prisoners at the beginning but quickly was utilized as a holding cell for people of jewish decent and other “undesirables” of the time such as homosexuals and gypsies.

we will be visiting the site where the final solution was designed and seeing the beaches of Normandy where the beaches were stormed on D-Day. we will be visiting the Anne Frank house and more of amsterdam. we will be seeing so much history in two weeks that my heart speeds up just at the thought of it. this is a trip that i have dreamed of for years, ever since i first read “night” by elie wiesel in junior high. the thing is, my generation can’t even imagine being involved in a war like WWII that completely disrupted a generation’s lives. in a way, i feel like it is my duty to go and experience this trip and share the experience because so many people do not have any idea the things that that generation went through just to survive.

our class is not focusing on the “main events and people” of WWII. we are keeping the focus on the “every day” person in the second world war. we are discussing what children and women went through and we are looking at those who served who may not have gotten every major award in the military for their time served.

this class is the only one i am constantly excited about this semester. this course is heartbreaking, difficult, and absolutely necessary in my opinion.

here’s to understanding. here’s to history, and not wanting to repeat the past.

turkey on a thursday

today is january 7th. a thursday. the first thursday of the year actually.

it is the seventh day of the year and i feel like somehow i am already letting this year down a little. my goal for the year is to get something published, somewhere. preferably in print but i will take anything. when i think about all the things that i used to dream about doing, it’s amazing how quickly i gave up on so many of them.

at different points in my life i wanted to be a photographer. a pediatrician. a writer. no, an author. i wanted to be something that i could be proud of. i wanted to do something that felt authentic to me and that somehow i wouldn’t be embarrassed to tell others what i did. i used to chase what i was passionate about and then hide in books because that was how i found what i wanted to experience in my life.

if i do nothing else in 2016, i want to pursue things that i love. i love stories. i like hearing someone tell me about their live and i love to see lives played out in photographs. i want to find a way to connect with people and i want to tell stories.

think back to times before we could tell a five second story through a video or post a quick statement about your day on a social media site. people used to talk about what had happened to them in their lives. they would share oral stories and connect with each other through old myths and fairy tales.

i want to do that. so, i am going to be scouring the internet and any other outlet available to find any writing contest i can enter. i don’t particularly care if what i submit is perfect, my goal is to just get my name out there. i want to start submitting pieces as often as i can and soak in all of the probable rejection letters. i want to say “yes please” to criticism and keep getting better. i may be going to school for english, but i want to educate myself through other people.

here’s to not being afraid of rejection. (and when i am afraid of it, embrace it like that old friend we try not to miss.)

 

“Often, you have to fail as a writer before you write that bestselling novel or ground-breaking memoir. If you’re failing as a writer – which it definitely feels like when you’re struggling to write regularly or can’t seem to earn a living as a freelance writer – maybe you need to take a long-term perspective.” – J.K. Rowling

as for the “turkey” part of “turkey on a thursday”, who says a big meal with a big ol’ turkey is meant for days like christmas or thanksgiving? from where i sit typing this i can smell my bargain turkey cooking and all of the fixings are almost ready. we’re trying a new thing where we celebrate each day and just find reasons to make grand gestures over just having a good hair day or for taking a big step and applying for a passport all on your own for the first time. life is remembered in the small moments.

in the woods

Turkey Runwith the cold weather finally settling in for the winter here in Indiana, my daydreams of hiking outside are back in full swing. endlessly look at pictures from the trails i got to experience last year and searching for the best state parks to check out in this coming here fills my free time. i am no experienced hiker by anyone’s standards, but i do enjoy being out in the woods with just a vague map and plans to go off the trails at some point in the day.

i got a late start experiencing hiking in Indiana last year but i did get to check out Turkey Run State Park, Salamonie State Park, and Shades State Park. all three had gorgeous trails and i definitely want to go back and visit them again in the next year.

i’ve been looking at some of those lovely lists online about top trails to experience in Indiana and this is one that is convincing me that i need to expand my range for places to hike. it’s a simple list of 12 parks, but the fact that they agreed and put Turkey Run as the best made me want to believe the rest of what they have to say.

first on my list for 2016 is Clifty Falls State Park. located in Madison, Indiana, it has roughly 14 miles of hiking trails that vary in difficulty and runs through different canyons and streams. it also features what seems like several different waterfall areas that just add on to the beauty of these trails and i love hiking in and around water so i think it would be perfect for me. the photos i have seen from the trails alone make me dream about wanting to hike here.

the next state park i really want to check out is actually not a state park but the Indiana Dune National Lakeshore. i have visited the Indiana Dunes on a couple different occasions, but never strayed far from the lake and the dunes immediately off the beach.

realistically, there are tons of other parks in Indiana that i can explore this year, but i just want to get some recommendations before i set out this spring. if any of you have a favorite place to hike in Indiana, please let me know in the comments below or connect with me on one of my other social media outlets! anywhere in the state would be perfect but if you have hiked any other amazing state parks in the surrounding states i would love to hear about that as well!

here’s to a year of exploration.

2016

hello from the new yearrr (because lets face it, we’re still not over this song)

so it’s now 2016 and it has literally been months since I have posted anything to this blog. in fact, it has been just about as long since i have written anything besides some sort of an assignment for the paper and/or one of my classes. in a conversation with a friend today i realized that i hadn’t even thought about writing anything non-scholarly or original in so long that i don’t feel like i can even claim to be a writer. so here i am, on the second day of this new year, hoping to start again.

this year has already started out with many cups of tea, cold medicine, and a day spent cleaning out my room to get rid of things that had stacked up over the last 12 months. the one thing i haven’t done this year is the cliche making of new year resolutions. while i think many people just want to make resolutions about losing weight, changing who they are, or traveling more, i hope this year i can just adapt a new life motto.

2016 will continue the concept of my life as the work in progress as that it is. it is what this blog is built on and it has been a great reminder for me this last year when difficult situations have come up. my life is and most likely will remain a work in progress as i figure out where i am going.

in addition to looking at life as a project that is a work in progress, i am also going to be attempting to live out a “yes please” life. i recently reread Amy Poehler’s book yes please  and it knocked my socks off once again. i want say yes more and no less as i take on this year. i will be going to europe in may on a trip through my university and with that is going to come a ton of new experiences that i would have never been able to experience if it weren’t for me saying yes to this opportunity. i’m going into my senior year of college and i don’t want to miss out on opportunities because they scare me or intimidate me. i want to say “yes please” when something comes up because 2016 is going to be a year of hopefully humble acceptance of this next chapter of my life.

here’s to another year as a work in progress and to countless more chances to say yes please to stepping out of my comfort zone.

how are you going into this new year? what are your hopes?

“Great people do things before they’re ready. They do things before they know they can do it. Doing what you’re afraid of, getting out of your comfort zone, taking risks like that- that’s what life is. You might be really good. You might find out something about yourself that’s really special and if you’re not good, who cares? You tried something. Now you know something about yourself”
―Amy Poehler

This one’s for you…

When something major happens in your life, those who are involved in some way will look back on the moment and say the age old adage of “I remember where I was when…”

Today I found myself thinking the same cliché thing. Three years ago today I lost a mentor in my life that I was not yet equipped to handle losing. It was my senior year, I wasn’t yet 18. And yet me and my fellow classmates were learning how to handle knowing that it was only a finite amount of time left in our band directors life. He had brain cancer which later metastasized and formed pancreatic cancer that ended up spreading to much of the rest of his body.

As a senior in the band, my friends and I were the ones who were supposed to be making sure that the rest of the band was dealing with everything okay. We were supposed to be looking forward to performing that years marching show. We were all trying to be positive and hope that maybe this new experimental drug would be the one that works on his cancer. We were supposed to hope for some sort of miracle.

I remember the day before he passed away. It was September 29th. A Saturday. It was the District marching contest, the first official contest of the year. He wasn’t able to be with us that day because he was too weak. He hadn’t been at practice for the majority of the week before that either.

When the other director started his weekly talk with us about what this show meant and what we were trying to do, he told us that our goal for the day was to play in a way that would carry on the wind enough to reach our director where he was. He wanted us to know that our director was there with us in spirit and that when we walked on that field we needed to remember that this show was a way for us to show our director that we are carrying on his legacy while he isn’t there.

I can’t tell you if anything went wrong on that performance. If you asked me what I was thinking when I got off the field that day, I would tell you the only thing I knew for sure. Mr. Clark heard us that day. It didn’t matter how far away he was, our sound carried to him.

Sunday morning, I knew the moment my mom sat on the side of my bed that he was gone. I don’t remember who it was that called my mom to tell her, but I know that when she told me, when the words were out of her mouth, I just cried. I didn’t know what else to do.

At some point, my drama director who I was extremely close to, called me. I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t know what I was supposed to say. I felt like I was ill equipped to deal with everything that comes with death and whatever else comes with that.

My band director played trumpet. When they opened up the band room as a sort of memorial for all of us band kids to come to that afternoon just so we didn’t have to deal with this alone, the first thing we saw was his silver trumpet sitting down in the front of the room. Seeing that was enough to make the driest of eyes cry a little.

I know that that drama director was there for us that day. Basically all of the seniors who were in the drama club were in band as well and she was the rock that we needed. She made us laugh that afternoon. She let us cry. I’m pretty sure we watched the performance from the night before on the big screen. Maybe we didn’t watch anything. Maybe we just sat in silence.

Looking back on that weekend from three years ago, I didn’t know what I would hold on to and what I would forget. I remember feeling the love from a teacher who took time out of her weekend to be there for those of us who were feeling lost. I remember thinking that grief is a strange thing. The freshman who didn’t spend the last three years with this man weren’t effected the same was as some upper classman.

Three years later, I don’t think about that loss so often. Now, I think about how much those four years in band meant to me. I think about the music that quite literally kept us together so many different times over the years. For the rest of my senior year marching, we wore green sleeves on our shoulders as a reminder that our director was still there with us.

You don’t get to choose what things bring you to your knees. You don’t get to decide how long someone has left. You don’t get to know where life is going to take you or what lessons you are going to learn from who.

But Mr. Clark, this one is for you. I’m still just the work in progress you taught back in high school, but I’m working every day to live up to the potential you saw in so many of us. I miss you.

under pressure

it’s monday. i’m sitting at the welcome center at my school. sun coming through the wall of windows on my left. a light flickering just over my right shoulder. girl on her phone walks into a chair in front of me because she didn’t see it coming. a professor to my left appears to have lost his keys in his pocket.

i’m sitting here making these observations with the knowledge that i should really be spending my time being more productive because lord knows i have enough to do.

it’s the second week of the semester and that dark cloud of doubt is starting to seep in. now is the time that i start to realize that i may have bitten off more than i can chew and that i probably shouldn’t have signed up to volunteer for this or should have turned down that invitation. classes aren’t impossibly hard this semester but i can tell that a couple of them are going to be all too easy for me to casually ignore, as if they don’t need the attention that my other classes demand. for someone who loves learning and loves getting to help others, this stuff wears me out beyond belief.

i have an awesome opportunity to be in a leader position for a club on campus this year and i am so afraid that i am going to drop the ball. already i have been struggling to come up with the ideas that we need to get the semester kickoff going and i have been stressing every time my email *dings* with another message from a professor or staff member needing me to do something.

in spite of these things wearing on my mind, i want to be a part of it. i love working with the people that i work with and i so enjoy being a part of the three literature classes that i’m enrolled in this year. it’s that self-doubt that creeps in and totally knocks my feet out from under me.

I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am. -Sylvia Plath

i’ve been thinking about this quote a lot this past weekend. thinking about how sometimes i find myself doing the same thing; when i get too stressed and too weighed down by things in my life i stop and -often while laying on the ground somewhere- listen to the pounding in my chest. it feels like both a warning and a reassuring sign that i am still me even when the things in my life are out of control.

here’s to a new semester. here’s to once again realizing that i am not superman, but i am me. and sometimes that can be enough.

identity part one

i tried to come up with some particular theme for a post today, but after my two hour walk i still couldn’t think of something that i thought needed said. so instead, today’s post is just going to be a general mess of things going through my head.

first and foremost i have had the word “identity” coming to the forefront of my mind an awful lot lately. what makes up a person and what effects who we become is such a complex thought that i have gotten lost more times than i would normally like to admit while thinking down the rabbit hole of personal identity in the twenty-first century.

the oxford english dictionary gave me this definition:

personal identity n. (a) Philos. the condition or fact of being one person, or remaining the same person throughout the various phases of existence; continuity of the personality; (b) gen. the essential or intrinsic character of an individual.

what caught me about this definition was part “b” when it says the essential character of an individual. i’m in a class right now that is focusing on this concept of identity and we were just speaking about whether or not we as humans have a core self or whether we are just a constantly flowing body of decisions that doesn’t have any real solid place that the other changes within us happen from.

i happen to be from the school of thought that we do, in fact, have a core set of ideas or beliefs or what ever that make up who we are. but i also believe that we are meant to change. i think we adapt and grow and change our ideas of the world around us while our innermost stays basically the same. that’s not to say that we can just never have our worlds shaken to the point that it cracks away at those core values and core identity, but i don’t think those things change at the drop of a hat.

but back to the essential part of things. i think i like this definition because it coincides with my thoughts on how we all have these parts of how we identify that kind of serve as a ground point for when we get lost. i have spent my fair share of time feeling like i would rather hit rock bottom than stay where i was at and it is normally when things get that way that i take notice of the way that who i am is not dependent upon how others perceive me. does the opinion of others have some sort of weight sometimes? of course. especially when they are focusing mainly on negative things. that being said, the essential part of who i am is what i continuously look to when i am feeling completely lost. everyone talks about how your twenties are the time to find who you really are and i think that is where i am stuck right now. constantly looking back to see if things could have gone a different way and then looking forward to figure out where i want to stand.

college has a lot to do with who we identify as. not only in coursing that are aimed to pointy out identity in small and large scales (like in certain time periods in literature and in different groups of people) but also in how we start to build our lives and what direction we decide to take.

identities are messy and complex and it has a whole lot more defining it than just what books we read and what kind of shirt we put on in the morning. i think that’s why i enjoy this whole writing thing so much; it gives me a chance to find my own identity through the use of twenty-six characters on a white blank page (or in this case, screen).

here’s not not panicking when lines get blurred. here’s to knowing where we stand.

road trip daydreams

i was talking to a friend today and they asked me what i daydream about the most. at first i wanted to answer that i don’t daydream as much as i just space out and panic about one thing or another in life because my brain basically never shuts off. but that thought immediately took my to the fact that the only time that my thoughts slow down is when i’m experiencing something for the first time or when i am in a new place.

besides my love of trying to express the thoughts in my head in ways that make sense to other people, i have a deep passion for seeing the country i live in. something about going to a place and soaking in what the earth has made and the way that humans interact with it just makes me feel like hope is possible. which that thought takes me to a vlog brothers video in which john green famously said:

the world may be broken but hope is not crazy.

for me being able to go on a road trip and see this country would be a dream come true because it is so incredibly easy to get caught up in all the bad that is happening around us and around the entire world and we can so easily miss what is right in front of us. and being able to see that beauty and being able to see the parts of the world that may be broken but are still good is something that i wish that more of us had the chance to experience.

when my friend asked where i wanted to go, all i could think to say was everywhere.

i want to go see both coasts. i want to drive up highway 1 in through the coast of california and see the lighthouses in maine. i want to see the cherry blossom festival in washington again for the first time since i was six.

i want to watch the sun rise over the skyline of new york and i want to see the sun set over the grand canyon. i want to hike beneath the great redwoods and watch the stars in yellowstone national park. i want to go white water rafting in colorodo and see the mountains in utah.

i want to know what it’s like to be in a car for an entire day and still end up on the loneliest road in america. i want to know how it feels to wake up in your car in a parking lot somewhere and shake the sleep out of my eyes before i keep going to see the what the next day holds.

i want to see more than just what my little midwest state has to offer. i want to see hope in our country. i want to see light.

here’s to day dreams and road trips.

here’s to hope.

motivation-schmotivation

lately i have been struggling with motivation. i know this is a common occurrence among people who consider themselves creators, so i’ve been looking into ways that other people deal with this lull in creativity. the lifehack website had a really good blog with seven steps to overcoming being a lazy slug who can’t seem to string three words together (okay, i might be paraphrasing here but it was actually a really good article). and on my way to work today i listened to the Hank and Grace episode of Hank and John Green’s podcast and they talked about what they do when they lack motivation too (check out their podcast link, definitely worth it). turns out, even the people i look up to in the content creator world get burnt out and question everything they do. and their ways of breaking the cycle of no motivation are pretty similar to what ever website will try to tell you too.

whether your tactic is looking at old things you’ve made and thinking “wow i did that thing. that’s a good thing. maybe i can make more good things?” or looking at videos or other forms of content from your inspirations there are countless ways of getting back on track. recently i’m learning that the best way to get back on track is to try to remember what the track you’ve been trying to get on looks like.

what kind of content have you been wanting to make? what is your motivation for wanting to make that thing? is it for yourself? solely to put it online? or are you looking for something that serves a bigger purpose?

without further hesitation, here are my (slightly sarcastic) top five ways to push past a motivation block:

1. envision a puppy sitting in your place. are they sitting at a desk? on the floor? is it a big puppy or a little puppy? really put thought into what that puppy looks like sitting how you are right now. next imagine that puppy worrying about whatever it is you’ve been worrying about when you have tried to make something in the last few days. would that puppy actually care if that sketch of a toucan only gets three likes? or would puppy just be happy to be able to make a perfectly decent toucan without having thumbs to assist it?

now, you’ve spent the last minute and a half imagining a puppy trying to do you type things and you’re trying to tell me that you don’t have any creativity? you’ve got this! let that inner puppy make all sorts of puppy style toucans.

2. so, i hear you’re feeling unmotivated. well the second best way to deal with that is to go into your personal archives (this may be the scary pile of stuff you’ve made that’s been collecting in the corner, the file on your computer marked ‘stuff’, or the notebook you’ve been avoiding on the side of your desk) and pick one piece to critic. look at that piece of work as if it is the newest new york times best seller and you are a snide internet comment guy that is always unnecessarily harsh on the work. be hard on yourself. look at that thing and decide if it’s what you love to do and you wish you could get back to doing that stuff (spoiler alert: you CAN start making that stuff again) or if it’s something that you made but it gives you an idea of how to make it better or how to make something that is the complete opposite of whatever that thing is. the point is, look at stuff you’ve made in the past and try to get in the mindset you were in when you made it. maybe it’s something that you just forgot where you were going and looking back will show you how to move forward.

3. finally, talk to people. it sounds terrifying, right? the thought of someone else speaking words to you and you’re expected to speak words back? the HORROR. but really, some of the best ideas that i get come from random conversations that i have with people on a daily basis. whether its that coworker that you normally talk to about what you’re eating for lunch or if it’s the actual guy who is making your lunch for you (hey, just because some of you have time to make lunch, does NOT mean that i am capable of that kind of responsibility. don’t give me that look), talking to these people and collaborating with them on things you’re interested in can be a great way to push past the mental block of being unmotivated.

 

maybe this list falls short of what you were hoping for. but quite frankly, the only person who can pull you out of your mental funk is you. what, were you hoping that i was going to be able to give you some sage advice and everything would be fixed? sorry, but that’s not how things work. writing this post helped me push past the nothingness of creativity that i was dealing with. maybe reading this will help you somehow.

here’s to messing with motivation and getting stuff done.

traveling to find something

currently i am sitting in my living room in a chair that i always sit in, watching tv that i always watch, wearing pajamas that i always wear. it doesn’t exactly sound like someone who is working on pushing their personal limits, but surprisingly enough i am sitting here reflecting on the thing that was this weekend.

i should probably start by saying that i am so glad that i got to go down and see my cousin for those four short days because that was really the reason that i took this trip and i don’t want to seem like i’m taking that for granted.

but this trip also made me realize some things that i wasn’t really aware of about myself. my cousin can attest to this first part, which is i realized just how sheltered my point of view can be when it comes to safety because i was a little paranoid about the safety of staying in a hotel by myself. i have no reason to believe that any new place is more dangerous than the house that i am currently sitting in, but as part of my lack of travel experience my imagination went into overdrive.

once i got myself settled in though and started to actually watch what was going on around me, i realized that i just really needed to slow down. and maybe that is part of why this trip was such a good idea. in my “normal” day to day life i stay in  a pretty standard routine that doesn’t allow for much adventure. or maybe it does allow for adventure but the introvert in me has a pretty strong voice in saying no to new things. i go to work, go to class, go home, read, go to bed, wash, rinse, repeat. so stepping onto that airplane by myself was a big step for me into this life that i am  trying to build for myself.

here’s to slowing down. i was thinking more about how i need to slow my life down and allow time for new things like hiking and writing and actually pursuing the things i love. and it’s a bit ironic to be thinking about slowing down while you’re 39,000 feet in the air traveling at an average of 500 miles per hour but as things go, that’s exactly what was on my mind. what would happen if i rescheduled that meeting and went for a walk down a path i had never gone before? what if i took the day off and went to explore with a friend in a new city? what if there was actually more for me to focus my passions on than just getting a decent grade in that anthropology class and hopelessly trying to impress my boss?

i think with social media today it is all too easy to covet the people that post exotic photos from places you’ve never even heard of when really you could be experiencing more meaningful things if we stopped staring at other people’s photos and starting living our own. that being said, i love reading through travel blogs. i think it’s inspiring to read about someone experiencing something for the first time. but i’m learning to not spend too much time wishing i was experiencing that too because it turns out there is a lot i haven’t seen in this world. heck, there is a lot that i haven’t seen in my own county. and all those things are waiting there for when i decide to take that first step to find them.

i realize that this post lacks focus and that there are several things that i could have taken the time to improve upon, but imperfection is okay sometimes. i think wednesday’s post is going to be about something completely unrelated to travel so you guys can get a break from this for awhile. this trip taught me some things about myself…

i guess the biggest thing i realized was that there’s a lot that i have to learn.

here’s to travel. but not just traveling to say we’ve traveled. here’s to traveling to find something.