The Ties That Bind

The Ties That Bind

(NEW POST COMING THIS SATURDAY APRIL 19, 2014)

I’ve heard it been said that you get more of what you focus on in life. As I thought about that quote this summer, I made a point to distinguish the five most important things in my life and devote my summer towards them. Lucky for me, all five of them were right in my very home. Mom, Dad, Emily, Grant, and Katherine.

I can honestly say that I love my family more than life itself. I have found that my fondest memories were those spent with my parents and siblings, sitting under a tree for half of a day chatting to one another. Many people would probably call that wasting time, but in my eyes there has always been value to it. Believe me, I am well aware that maintaining family relationships are a tremendous challenge. When it comes to cooperation, my family has always been both my greatest strength as well as my greatest weakness. And as fate would have it, those are the people with whom I act the worst yet am loved the most. This is exactly what a family is about though, not just sharing the same genes and blood, but letting others know that I’m watching out for them. It’s about having a group of people who know me better than I know myself. Nothing else will give me that. Not money. Not fame. Not power. Despite years of arguments, picking-on, and attention-grabbing at the dinner table, I know that there will always be more than enough love, grace, and memories to last a lifetime.

I do admit that I found it incredibly tempting this summer to invest every extra hour of time or ounce of energy into whichever activity yielded the clearest evidence that I’d achieved something. But too many high-achievers focus a great deal on becoming the person they want to be at work—and far too little on the person they want to be at home. We cannot recycle or save the time allotted to us each day, and unfortunately not everything is worth the portion of our life we give to obtain it. We all want affirmation that our lives have meaning, and nothing gives a greater affirmation than the love and meaning that goes into a family. My bucket list accomplishments may give me a sense of confidence from time to time, but it’s the relationship I have with my parents and siblings for which I am most proud.

“When you talk of family life
Or how it used to be
Though many had more money
None were as rich as me.” -Jeanne D. Rhein

Jar of Marbles

Jar of Marbles

When it comes to school, my biggest motivator is the deadline. No matter how difficult the task, my schoolwork expands to fill the time available for its completion. This makes those easy two-hour tasks seem a lot more daunting and stressful when I give myself a week or two to complete them. It wasn’t until this summer that I learned that assignments without deadlines are a lot like goals without a plan; if you don’t have a set time frame for the end result it is much easier to procrastinate. That’s why as of recently, I decided to set a deadline for completing my bucket list, and began applying a new strategy to help me conceptualize the time that I have left.

According to the calculations, I have 143 Saturdays left before I reach my deadline and graduate from college. Rather than crossing off days from the calendar, I carefully counted 143 marbles and put them into a jar. Each Saturday I pull one marble out and am reminded of the importance of investing my time in the places that matter. It is inevitable that I will lose my marbles, but this way I get to decide where they go. One of the aspects I love most about this deadline is that it brings order in awareness. With a visual reminder, I have become much more focused on the journey and pursuit of my goals rather than on the goals themselves. Another great attribute of this deadline is that it has caused me to look hopefully towards the future and it has kept me from binging on all but one thing—life itself. We always hope for the easy fix; the one simple change that will erase a problem in a stroke, but few things in life work this way. Instead, success requires making a hundred small steps go right – one after the other, just like my 143 Saturdays. As soon as the small steps start adding up, we begin working with time instead of against it.

It is not enough to be busy…the question is: what are we busy about? There is no use being “efficient” if what you are doing lacks meaning and some sense of importance. Do something that adds value to who you are and inspires you to appreciate your ordinary day. One of the greatest lessons that I have learned from this jar of marbles is that we cannot fully inhabit the life that we live unless we start developing a sense of urgency. It is my belief that everyone should have some sort of reminder to measure their days and encourage lifelong curiosity. Some use calendars; some use journals; I use a jar of marbles. How will you measure your life?

“When one has much to put into them, a day has a hundred pockets.” -Friedrich Nietzsche

Cohorts and Comrades

Cohorts and Comrades

Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that gives value to survival. It provides fellowship, dependability, camaraderie, collegiality, and community. Without these things, we’d not only be helpless, but hopeless.

Friendship is something which nearly everyone agrees is worthwhile in life. It’s like we were born with an instinctive urge to communicate, to speak about life on the edge, life in the shadows. With my two best friends, the conversation is never over. Before them, I can be sincere and think aloud without guarding my thoughts. They are the ones I take on the world with, the ones helping me achieve my dreams, the ones that bring out the best in me. There’s a lot of ‘why’ people in this world, but my best friends are the ‘why nots’. We became friends not because of perceived advantages but because of our admiration of each other’s virtues. But over the years, I have found that there is not one type of friend that is best on all occasions and in all situations. I have some friends who I’ve known since we were wearing braces and knee-high socks. I have some friends who I met last week, who I’ve shared beers with, laughs with, or challenging times with. Some are like brothers and some are my ‘sit around and contemplate life’ friends. The great thing about friendship is that no two friendships are ever going to be exactly the same. Different people are in our lives for different reasons, and our relationships with them are reflective of that, so don’t resent a particular characteristic in one friendship, or attempt to make a friendship something that it’s not. Instead, appreciate that friendship for exactly what it is. With that said, many of us have gotten used to living without “friends of the heart” and instead passing our time with “friends of the road” — friends that are good for a laugh and a beer, but not much else. Everybody should be searching for a friend of the heart; someone who—if you just admit that you don’t know how to do something—-will fall over themselves trying to help. Some people spend their entire lives looking for these people without any luck. In your search do not be short-changed by choosing personality over character, and in a group of friends, make sure that every voice is heard, every question is asked, and nothing is taken for granted.

My friends know that I am always out looking for the next adventure or the next opportunity to get myself into trouble, and as a result I’ve ended up with some pretty great stories. I love to tell stories; stories about experiences, accomplishments and all kinds of failures, and for some reason I always figured my best friends would be the ones who were willing to listen. I finally gave up that philosophy when I realized it wasn’t true. The truth is, my good friends already know all my best stories, but my best friends don’t need to be told, because they were the ones that lived them with me.

The Little Things

                          The Little Things

        Given the hectic nature of our lives, it’s easy to overlook the little things that make it all worthwhile. Sitting with a family dog on a hillside, listening to music on a back porch, fly-fishing in the middle of the Colorado River, and being un-regretfully lazy. Life is many-sided and there are infinite ways of experiencing it, but many times we are blind to these blessings. We should insist on playing life to the fullest, but play it based on our own sense of value. Ask yourself what the ingredients of a good life are and make a point to focus on those things.

        If you haven’t noticed already, life can get away from us even while we are still living it. Too often we act as if the world lost its luster when really we just stopped giving it our undivided attention. Sure, there is always work to be done around the house or in the yard, but finding enjoyment in life is so much more important, healthy—and fun. People don’t put enough emphasis on the joy of everyday living, and we rarely pause to savor the gifts of our present moments. Eating a home-cooked meal, being outdoors, wearing clothes softened by age, reading all day, running in a familiar neighborhood, and breathing deeply are all simple pleasures that satisfy our longings for liveliness. Happiness isn’t in the future, but in this afternoon’s meal with a friend, in this evening’s bedtime story with a child, in tonight’s curling up with a good book. We need to appreciate the things which help us stay balanced, which keep us from being crushed under the weight of seriousness, and which we can use to maintain our sanity.

        I will always encourage setting new goals and searching for the next bucket list adventure, but in between goals is a thing called life, and it must be appreciated and admired with all of the simplest amusements. The tricky part is mastering the happy art of attending to things temporal with a mind intent on things eternal. Try embracing happiness as a moral obligation and you will always have an abundance of it; seek out the good in life and you will soon find it everywhere. If you don’t listen to anything else I say, please just remember this: the secret to life is simply enjoying the passage of time. Don’t let this lifetime pass you by.

Extreme Sports

Extreme Sports

         Most of us never dare to act on our dreams and we scarcely even admit to greater inner yearnings. It’s as if we are addicted to security and terrified of risk. In my eyes, the most dangerous risk of all is the risk of spending your life not doing what you want on the bet that you can buy yourself the freedom to do it later. Anybody who is close to me knows that I’m always seeking out an adrenaline rush. When the dust settles, I want to have three lifetime’s worth of memories, friends and great experiences.

        When it comes to extreme sports, it’s hard to tell if the adventure seekers are crazy or enlightened. In my eyes, they’re wired to experience life a little bit more. Pushing the potentials of the body is a natural fit in a world that is turning people into sedentary and slothful creatures. It’s almost a reaction to the fact that our human existence is inside a box staring at a computer screen. Seek to escape the tedium of the daily grind by tackling a marathon or jumping out of a helicopter with a pair of skis on your feet. Lust for experience. Sometimes all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage. 20 seconds of brash bravery. Remember that courage is one of the most essential human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all others. No one is born with it.

        I like to think that when the time comes, God will not look you over for medals, degrees or diplomas but for scars. From what I’ve learned so far, it is the experiences, the memories, and the great triumphant joy of living to the fullest extent in which real meaning is found. Part of loving life is doing everything you can to appreciate it while you’re here. No, I do not have a death wish, but I imagine that I have known too much of the depths of life already, and would prefer anything to an anticlimax. When your time is up, two dates will be chiseled into rock and separated by a dash. A whole lifetime reduced to one glyph (-) carved in stone…one uncomplicated dash. Make sure you have no regrets when that day comes. Be bold and up for adventure. Opt for the good life. Live out the dash.