Dear 16 Year Old Me…
There is so much that I want to tell you right now. I can’t and won’t spoil all the surprises but I think you’d benefit from knowing a few things. First and most importantly, you are currently dwelling on certain things that will inevitably fade into obscurity:
- In less than two years, you will have nearly died three times. These near-death experiences will teach you the value of life and permanently curb the childish lack of responsibility you feel now. No, I won’t tell you how to avoid them. They are some of the best things that ever happened to you even though they won’t feel like it at the time.
- The girl you’re with now… she’s going to wreck your perception of life in a way you can’t even begin to imagine. Your friends will all tell you how horrible she was, at the posthumous memorial of your relationship. Sorry Don, she really is that fucking crazy, but you already knew that and at 16 it’s already too late to avoid it.
- Your heart will be broken more than once. You will break a few hearts. Your best friend will betray you. Don’t worry, it inevitably bites him in the ass and you’re still friends today. He will always need you even if he doesn’t think so for about 5 years.
- Your mom will suggest a hairstyle involving a curling iron. She is crazy, avoid this at all costs.
- You really don’t need that extra slice of pizza in the cafeteria line. Stop eating so much! Did anyone ever figure out what they put in school pizza? It can’t have been sanitary.
- Your family will separate into factions and acclimate for war. You will remain neutral. Stay that way because it is not your fault.
- You will never have the relationship you want with your father. He is incapable because his father was incapable. He will pass away without ever having known you and frankly, it’s his loss not yours.
Secondly, without spoilers, these nuggets of knowledge might help you along the way.
- You are going to have this amazing idea of becoming a writer. You will fail to follow through with it until you are 30 years old. Don’t give up your passions so easily. You are full of great ideas; you may not have faith in yourself right now, but for me, for us, pursue them.
- Not everyone is worthy of your faith and trust. Give yourself honestly and fully only to those who deserve it.
- When a girl suggests you get a tattoo while you are drunk… just say no!
- You should enjoy the company of Donja, while you can. She will not last forever but you will remember her always. Especially on very dark and stormy nights.
- At some point in the future, you are going to have to acclimate yourself to alcohol for a second time. You are going to do it wrong and embarrass yourself. Be thankful for the great friends you have to save you.
- Don’t feel guilty about not knowing what you want to do with your life. You won’t figure this out for some time. You’re not the only one who doesn’t know. I still know people who don’t really know what they want to be. When you do figure it out, it’ll have made sense all along. Your passions will guide you.
Finally, a few things you might have sincere trouble believing but trust me. I am, after all, you.
- You are uniquely talented. Stop questioning it and just believe it.
- You are not as clever as you think you are right now, but you will be.
- You aren’t always right; however, you are most of the time.
- You will eventually meet a woman worthy of your affections, you will not be good enough for her but she’ll forgive and marry you anyway.
- Vegetables are not disgusting; you will learn to like many of them including zucchini.
- You will become the man most women wish they had, short of the harlequin obsessed ones.
- You will grow into a confident, successful and generally great guy.
- The anger will fade and you will be loved for your even-keeled sensibilities.
- You will get published, small steps first!
- You are never further from your dreams than the exertion of a little effort.
I realize that you are 16, you know everything, you’re cocky and arrogant, maybe even a douchebag by my standards today. You will humor me by reading it to the end only to respond with a sneer and a laugh at the audacity that I make such claims; but one day, not long off, you will sit before this keyboard and type an “I told you so.”
With love and understanding,
What would you tell yourself if you could send a message back? Tell me about it!
We all try desperately to make sense of the world. We’re frantically seeking patterns and shoving pieces together in an effort to complete the puzzle that represents our lives.
Unfortunately, almost all of us have a self-centered view of reality. It’s not that we’re selfish, sometimes. It is merely how our perception works. It’s not such a hard leap to understand why a few thousand years ago we believed we were the center of the universe.
“The truth knocks on the door and you say, “Go away, I’m looking for the truth,” and so it goes away. Puzzling.” – Robert M. Pirsig
Our consciousness is based inside our bodies looking out from our eyes and experiencing the world through our human form. It makes logical sense to think in a very self-centered style because that is how you experience the world. It takes a stronger will to expand your character beyond the confines of your vantage point.
Your friends and family members matter more to you than a perfect stranger. This is once again because of how your cone of attention works. You expand outwards through family, friends, acquaintances and strangers. There is a great difficulty in expanding beyond this bubble because our little world is so fragile in our eyes. It’s all a giant house of cards ready to fall apart because only the pieces in our world matter. It’s not true, but try convincing yourselves of that.
“Hello Darkness, my old friend, I’ve come to talk with you again.” ~ Simon and Garfunkel – Sound of Silence
We’re all part of that darkness that Simon and Garfunkel sing about. We all do our part in a failure to communicate with our fellow humans. Whether it’s racism, sexism, classism, the Internet or any of the other barriers we’ve set between ourselves. The only truth that is self-evident is that many things we separately believe are truths are in fact only beliefs.
There is a difference. You may believe in God, but it is not necessarily a truth that God exists. You have faith, it’s great that you believe in something greater than yourself and that you will be rewarded for being good in this life. You may believe that you are going to Heaven because you’re a good Christian, but God might not agree. Once again, not necessarily a truth. I know a lot of people who refer to themselves as Christians only because they attend church on Sundays and they are in for a rude awaking if God turns out to be a truth.
Bear in mind, I’m not picking on Christians here. I’m using them as an example. Insert your deity’s name, final destination and rules for better living here. They’re all beliefs and they are all equally valid as beliefs. However, many wars began because these individual ideas are confused with truths.
So what are truths?
Truths are facts that hold their value once they have left your bubble of reality and permeate throughout human culture. Think about that for a moment. How many truths can there possibly be that circumnavigate the globe despite our many different cultures and belief systems?
So, I ask that you take a moment of humility and think about this for a while, what is really true?
Recently, I have fallen victim to a personal belief of mine. It is has always been my belief that when it came to Social Media there was nothing wrong with being yourself and putting it out there. This is true to a certain degree. You must also accept the consequences that stem from conflicts where others may not agree with your thoughts, lifestyle or even simply misunderstand your intentions.
Gladys Kravitz Syndrome: In the sitcom, Bewitched, the Stephens lived across the street from Gladys Kratvitz. Gladys was the quintessential nosey neighbor. Gladys was sure that something was up with the Stephens and more than a few times blew situations way out of proportion. Gladys didn’t understand the Stephens and that lead to many comical exchanges.
Does a lack of understanding excuse the Gladys Kravitz’s of the world for causing trouble because they don’t understand a situation and the separation between work and personal life?
That’s part of the difficulty of generating content. What makes perfect sense to you as you write it may not make sense in the same way to the next person. After all, they are merely deciphering your words into their understanding of their inherent meaning it stands to reason some things can get lost in translation. You can be a most careful editor and still leave some ambiguity on the table.
A Gladys Kravitz assumes the worst. Ambiguity can be dangerous. If there’s room for interpretation your social media posts can lead someone to believe something entirely untrue. Take for example a recent post I made on Facebook: I love you fortune cookie. “A good position and comfortable salary will be yours. Keep eating.” This is a stretch but this could be misconstrued as I’m not happy with the job I’m currently in or that my salary isn’t adequate.
Social media can be dangerous. I have just over 200 people friended on Facebook. There comprise my family, friends, former professors, former and present co-workers and members of the Rotary Club of Indianapolis. Any of these groups could spawn a Gladys Kravitz to cause trouble for me. It could happen to anyone. If someone decides to talk to my boss about my very public commentary it could impact my relationship with my job, especially if the person is dead wrong. It’s not just jobs but reputations could be harmed if information is handled improperly.
Are you a Gladys Kravitz? If you don’t understand something that has been said or posted and you take it upon yourself to make wild assumptions about the posted items, then you could be a suffering from Gladys Kravitz Syndrome. What’s the cure?
Social media is meant to be a conversation! I’m posting things with the hope of engagement, wider discussion, growth and intelligent discourse. You’re defeating that purpose if you choose not to participate in the conversation with me to increase our collective understanding. You should participate in the discussion, if you want to know the reasoning behind a post or you disagree please feel free to email and start the discourse. I’m always open to questions. I began writing this post in an effort to say maybe I needed to be more guarded in what I put out there but upon following this train of thought I think we all need to be better about conversation.
Don’t be a Gladys Kravitz! Converse!
Those of us with an excess of things to do almost invariably end up generating a ‘To Do” list in an effort to keep things straight. I imagine there aren’t many of you that actually generate a To Don’t list. It’s great that we remind ourselves to complete our tasks. But what about those habits, tics, mistakes and general issues that prevent us from experiencing the width of life along with the length?
So how do you provide for your expenses and fulfill your passion? You first have to accept one very simple fact. It does not matter how hard you work you can never get it all done. You have to prioritize and get to the important things. Sometimes that will be your job and other times it will be your life. You can have many jobs but you only get one shot at this life.
Your To Do list and your To Don’t list should be joined at the hip. They are the most inseparable of friends despite being enemies in their goals. If your To Do list is wild, imaginative, ambitious and driven then your To Don’t list should be responsible, practical, grounding, or perhaps a culmination of lessons learned.
Here’s why I find this idea to be compelling:
- We find obligation in a “To Do” list and in most cases obligations become resentments.
- We do a good job of not thinking about the changes we wish to make in ourselves.
- We need a reminder to avoid destructive patterns.
- Writing anything down helps commit the thought to memory.
- Stop thinking about it and just do it.
What belongs on a To Don’t list?
That’s where you come in. This list is going to be different for every person. This list speaks to your personality, interests, values and desires. You know the items when you think about them. “I wish I wouldn’t…”, ”I wish I were…”, “I need to stop doing…”, etc. These thoughts are the core of your list.
What about the things you’ve learned along the way? Those lessons learned the hard way. You have undoubtedly learned much in your life and many of those items make great To Don’t list items. The list can be as short or as long as you need it to be.
Sharing your list
While it’s not necessary to share your “To Don’t” list with anyone, it can certainly be helpful to have someone to hold you accountable. Especially when items on your list are the embodiment of self-imposed roadblocks you put in front of yourself.
My To Don’t List? (I expect the question sooner or later)
- Do not be satisfied with mediocrity when you are capable of being the best.
- Do not allow your creative ideas to carry with them doubts.
- Do not stop short of creating because you’re afraid of how your ideas will be received.
- Do not create for them… create for yourself the only person who matters to your creation. Without you, your creation might never exist.
- Do not sell yourself short. You have a unique skillset that many people would love to have.
- Do not put off doing that which is important to you.
- Do not avoid making your own needs a priority.
- Do not be so selfless that you lose track of self.
- Do not go more than a week without writing.
Do you have a To Don’t list already or did you just make one?
What’s on it?
The hands move gracefully around the numbered face.
Slivers of light break violently into existence.
Shapes move in patterns barely recognizable.
Sensory input floods the soul.
Words form, dreams solidify, passions populate the mind space.
The mind is thrust forth into thought perpetually creating relationships.
Learning, always learning, new ideas combine with old.
The world and all the vast libraries of textures, smells, tastes, sounds and visions are judged, dreamed and adapted.
Knowledge is gained and parsed; it becomes religion, faith in understanding.
Mingling experiences test the mind, tempt the heart and guide the spirit.
The mind begins to comprehend, to understand, to believe.
First words and lucid dreams are always full and vibrant.
Violently tumbling, first down and finally out.
Lights pierce the fabric of existence finding purchase in the darkness.
Tick, Tock, Always.
write a book.
publish a book.
publicly admit that I write poetry.
own an antique typewriter that works.
leave a letter in a book at library for someone else to find.
start my own business.
successfully run a business.
use my successful business to give back to the world in some way.
learn to play the guitar.
relearn to play the piano.
start my own web community.
write over 500 blog posts.
give a TED talk.
own a record player.
run in and complete a 5K.
quit a job that I really hate. link
climb to the summit of a mountain.
travel to Egypt and see the pyramids.
graduate from college.
survive student loans.
find a job where I can wear jeans and comfortable shoes to work.
buy a house.
build an old fashioned library for my office.
fall in love.
married. (in progress, thanks Laura!)
fly a plane.
fire one of the rifles from my video games.
ride a gondola in Venice, Italy.
ride every adult-sized roller coaster in the United States.
have a vegetable garden.
have a vegetable garden, successfully.
send a message in a bottle.
pay for a random person’s dinner without waiting for the thank you.
learn to paint on canvas.
pack some clothes and go on a random road trip to meet random people in random towns all while writing a book incorporating the stories of little American towns.
utilize the same trip to find the best local food.
dance in the rain.
wait for life changes and the list will update.
I thought this would be an excellent way to highlight why I would be an awesome addition to any organization. Want to know my qualifications? Find out below.
I get things done.
I love scratching off my to-do list items. There’s nothing more satisfying than strike-throughs followed by the squiggle of death to an action item. I prioritize, I conquer and I think of better ways to do repeated tasks next time.
I don’t miss deadlines.
There’s nothing worse than letting someone down. I prefer to surprise people with efficiency. No matter what, even if I have to stay awake all night. It will be done.
My professional and personal networks are amazing.
I have developed a network of individuals who are both great friends and themselves well-connected. I probably know someone you need to know. My work with the Rotary Club of Indianapolis, IUPUI, IU Kokomo, and The Writers Center of Indiana have allowed me to develop many strong relationships. I’m also pursuing a membership with the Speak Easy thanks to one of connections I’ve made. I love connecting the right people to the right ideas.
I am never satisfied with mediocrity or monotony.
You have probably sat through a movie and wondered what happened to the last 2 hours? That’s mediocrity. If it is not quality, it’s not coming from my desk. I strongly dislike repeating the same tasks over and over without room for improvement. I prefer to refine, re-envision, recreate and develop ideas until I reach the optimal conclusions. I can be prone to boredom. The trick is making mundane work interesting or to always pursue a new idea. I prefer an ever-changing work environment and if that isn’t possible I will create an ever-evolving solution for the work that I do.
I adore change.
Nothing excites me more than learning something new. If you want to change anything in this world, count me in. I love having multiple avenues to explore simultaneously in the workplace. Side projects are exciting changes of pace, keep them coming to keep me engaged!
My ability to solve problems creatively works in your favor.
Challenges really energize me. Problem-solving is second nature. In all of the jobs I have held, I have become a fixer. I have resolved problems with people, programs, communications and more. The opportunity to provide troubleshooting and problem-solving is what I live for.
I love a good challenge.
You could call me a masochist. I specialize in creativity. I relish the opportunity to expand my abilities to try something new or to tackle a difficult problem. The harder the challenge the happier I am. Sure someone might shrink away from complicated problems, but not me. I absolutely love puzzles.
Puzzles make me tingle.
I strongly believe one should invest time in to personal creative challenges. The more you challenge your mind the stronger the creative temperament will be. So yeah, I said tingle. Give me a puzzle!
I am an adult, as often as I need to be.
Adults are responsible, timely, respectable, trustworthy, and capable of prioritizing things in the workplace right? I am all of those things. However, it’s not always good to be an adult and well, there are some very good reasons to act like a child too. When you were a child you were equipped with a couple of beautiful things that you may have forgotten about: imagination and curiosity. Logic and reason can sometimes get in the way of forging ahead; imagination is where you create new ideas that you later use logic and reason to develop. Without the curiosity and imagination to question the ideas of today, how can you build tomorrow? So, I say act like a child once in a while.
My commitment to personal growth expands your organizations capabilities.
I am way too curious to stop learning new things. I learn them quickly and adapt them into my existing knowledge base. One of my favorite things to do is listen to TED Talks and jot down all the ideas that I want to know more about. My interests include anything from social media, marketing, history, website design, human-computer interaction, informatics, writing, creativity and so on. I can’t get enough education, and that can only help your organization in the long run. My mind rarely stops working and it is very likely that even as I fall asleep I’m exploring yet another idea.
I am not a “YES!” employee.
If you’re the kind of person whom is insecure about having someone challenging your opinions respectfully we might not get along so well. However, if you can handle someone who is willing to share ideas with you, share the same goals and interests as your organization and is willing to express his opinion then we will get along famously. That being said..
I am not afraid to admit that I am wrong.
We are all wrong occasionally. The trick is having the guts to admit it. I’ll admit it and then fix it. You can’t ask for much more.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for reading, I hope to provide creative solutions for the future, with you. If you’d like to see my résumé, please click here.
Blogger and Working Professional
Creativity, Technology, Writing
It’s never what you expect. You have high hopes. You suffer from what is known as “optimism bias.” Somewhere in your mind, it’s all going to work out, until, it doesn’t.
That’s a tough pill to swallow even if you coat the pride with sweetened acceptance that “it just wasn’t meant to be.” The truth is, not everything is meant to be and not everything has the will to be. We would all be rich, beautiful, famous astronauts with a side job as President of the United States or whatever your dream is.
So how do you, being the creative person you are, deal with rejection of your ideas and creations?
Do you give up or keep on trying?
To put this in perspective, thousands, maybe even millions of people, have moved to New York City, Hollywood, Nashville, and <insert creative Mecca here> to try and make it in their given industries. Now how many names can you think of that have become really inspiring and successful actors, writers, dancers, etc. It’s a teardrop in the ocean.
Sometimes, it’s who you know, what your moral standards are, right-place…right-time and other times it is simply being yourself. We have a tendency to imitate (steal) what we are most familiar with. How then do you stand out? Hi, I’m writer X, who writes like writers A through W, my replacement Y will be along shortly; buy my stuff before she gets here.
I had a hard time finding my voice. I still do from time to time. There’s an immediate desire to play to the crowd and write what is popular, trendy, or just plain controversial.
I find that when I do this I get hung up on a particular post for days at a time. How does that help anyone?! My latest fascination and entrapment has been in writing a post about agnosticism. I started working on the post a few weeks ago and just kept reading different opinions about what it means to be agnostic. While fascinating, and I did learn more about not knowing anything than I did before, I didn’t accomplish anything with this blog, and really, what does agnosticism have to do with creativity, technology, or me in this context? Nothing.
Laura and I were recently on vacation. We decided to spend a week in a mountain cabin in Tennessee. Our families had both spent a few vacations in the Pigeon Forge area when we were growing up. On our way down, we discovered that an entire section of I-75 had fallen down the mountain into the abyss.
It was extremely frustrating at first going from 75mph to a meandering 30mph. We were subsequently rerouted over 30 miles through locals-only territory. The detour easily added another hour or two to our journey. We were moving around crazy turns that left 6 inches between us and a straight down the mountain drop and look “Ma! No guardrails!” Scary, huh? I’m from Indiana. We have cornfields and micro hills, nothing remotely mountain-esque.
But then, I started looking around and the beauty of the area started to sink in, in between the cars on blocks and the other picturesque trailers of course. We passed mountain churches looking like they had fallen right out of the 1950’s. We drove around winding ridges with beautiful views of untouched valleys and nature, you would never see this from the interstate at 75mph. We began to feel privileged to be detoured.
What started out as an inconvenience turned into an experience littered with photographs, conversation and excitement. We found something out there. A natural beauty of culture, structure, and things that most people missed now that I-75 carved its way through the mountains. The detour opened up our eyes and minds to a scenario we would’ve missed.
Recently, I had a very painful experience. I learned that I was literally 5 months from graduation and found out simultaneously that I was no longer eligible for financial aid. There’s a long story here, one that involves prior medical issues and emotional constructs and really doesn’t matter. Suffice it to say, I’ve been in school for too long without obtaining my degree.
I attempted and failed to find an alternative means of paying for school and my rent. (I would have to quit my job in order to complete my degree due to class schedule conflicts.) I am at the end of my ability to obtain financial aid from the government and also only 24 credits away from completion. I have to withdrawal from classes at least for this academic year in order to eventually pull this off. I could see the finish line and the dream failed to launch. That’s tough to face. I’m angry at IU Kokomo and IUPUI for not having schedules that are more convenient to a working adult and angry at myself for all the things that slowed my education and now has stalled it completely.
Noticing my malcontent, life decided that I might need some incentive or reminders about course correction. I’ve since garnered some sound advice from working professionals that I respect. A couple of experiences, networking and potential opportunities later and I realized that like I-75, my path to graduation had fallen into the abyss. However, just like I-75, it will reopen again soon enough, and the beauty of it is that the path less taken created more opportunities and ideas than the path of less resistance. I’m reminded of a Robert Frost poem…
One final bit of random advice for you creative-types, one of the worst things I can do is type anything on a computer first. I wonder if any of you have this problem. Do you find that you spend so much time self-editing that you can’t quite get your original ideas out? Since I have discovered this problem, I have started writing with pencil and paper, that’s right, old school. I write and write some more without regard for proper spelling, grammar, punctuation or even cohesion of thoughts.
Your mind doesn’t work in proper grammar because you are an individual and your mind is only adapting to the language rules of your respective society. You format it for other people… but you have to get it out of your head first.
Now get out and there and start creatively rebuilding your bridges!
Thanks for reading,
I apologize for the long wait between posts. I’ve been dealing with a little extra stress in my life and took the appropriate break to try and sort some of it out. Hope you’ve all been well and that the forthcoming content appeases your appetites. As always, I look forward to hearing from all of you.
My spring semester recently ended, a little more than recently now, but when I started writing this it had been recently. I met with an academic advisor at IUPUI to discuss my diploma requirements and discovered that I had 59+ credits to complete before I could graduate. That’s all well and good, except that I’ve been going to school part-time since 2008 and to be honest I’m tired of it. When I moved to Indianapolis, I transferred from IU Kokomo where I was about a year from graduating. It just goes to show some of the absurd policies of colleges. Why my credits wouldn’t transfer to the same school, albeit a different campus, is very simply beyond me.
Out of curiosity, I contacted IU Kokomo and met with an advisor there. Through their helpfulness, I discovered that I could definitely swing graduation in within 24 credits and they were willing to accept the credits I took at IUPUI.
I could technically graduate in December. IF(big if) I quit my job at the end of June and bust the coursework out. However, Laura is also doing an unpaid practicum this fall and we certainly cannot afford for us both to be unemployed. There’s an even bigger catch, almost none of the classes are available to me at a reasonable time for the gainfully employed. What an impossible situation!
I am left to choose between my job and my degree. I can *maybe* squeeze one more part-time semester before I run out of scheduling options that allow me to continue pursuing my degree while employed. However, even then one of the classes I need for graduation is only offered in the Fall semesters and only scheduled at the unemployable time of 11:30am-12:45pm, Tuesdays and Thursdays.
What would you do?
I have a great job with decent pay. It’s certainly not the last station I want to hold. How do you make a choice like that? It would be different if I really hated education or truly despised my job. I, however, enjoy them both. Not to mention, the incredible financial impact of being unemployed for even 5 months. Laura and I were just married last September and we are still slightly recovering from that expense.
So where’s my gorram cheese? Which path is right path? I honestly don’t know. The thought of never finishing my degree disgusts me. I have worked too long and too hard, for far too many years to just quit now. But, how would we live? How would Laura and I pay our bills?
Loading Kobayashi-Maru simulation…