Monthly Archives: January 2015

Proverbs

The stars stood as pinpoints of brilliance and possibility above my head. Smoke from the campfire swirling, buffeted by the night winds, up to disappear among them. Out in Joshua Tree, a few hours from home, I could see the stars for the first time in a long while. My gaze was transfixed, probing upwards from the slab of rock on which I lay in an attempt to see every detail on every world around every star. Such discovery may or may not happen in my lifetime. There’s a high chance that our study of the heavens, aided by powerful telescopes and advanced technology may soon perceive a world much like out own. We’ve only just begun to explore. There is little guarantee that I will be around for any of this — despite my full intention to explore beyond our atmosphere one day. For now, all I can take from these pinpoints of wondrous potential is inspiration. Inspiration to discover the wonders and intricacies contained here, on our own prick of light.

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While reading through blogs of Foreign Service Officers in an attempt to better grasp what life is like in that life, I came across what I found to be quite the insight from one:

Travel without contact is just a pretty picture show.

Poignant, and somewhat cutting for me personally. I have certainly been guilty of traveling passively and failing to engage. A good portion of that can be attributed to my naturally inward focused personality. I have never been one to go out and be overly social or engage with strangers. I’m always observant and very respectful to whatever the local culture. This is part of what brings me joy, observation and understanding. So, when I’ve spent no more than three days in most places I’ve been, spoke little to none of the language, and did more observation than engaging, it doesn’t seem a surprise that many of my travels have been closer to pretty picture shows than interpersonal connections. I do think that I have always understood this concept though. It has never been about pretty pictures but about taking in the world, coming to understand it a bit better each time in order to make myself a bit better and a bit more joyful. Which connects into my next adage —

Understanding begets beauty.

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There is undoubtedly a difference between beautiful and pretty. Beautiful encompasses much more than surface level and often can not be captured in a shutter snap. It encompasses all senses, the element of the moment, and what makes up the core. It is rare that coming to understand something at an in depth level does not yield at least some appreciation for it. A language, for example. I can recall sitting on an Air Asia flight from Malaysia to Bangkok, surrounded by what at the time was an incessant and infuriating jabbering of a Chinese bachellorette party. A year and a half later I find myself beginning my study of Mandarin (partially inspired by a lost love of Panda Express). The language seems less harsh, melodic in some ways now, and often elegantly constructed. A beautiful script belies a rich history. A bit of understanding and my entire outlook changes on the language, though probably not on the jabbering bachellorette party. In the same way, coming to understand another person gives them beauty. Knowing who they are at more than a surface level imparts a love and appreciation of their beauty.

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There’s been a recent kick of Anthony Bourdain’s Places Unknown series streaming on my Netflix — I highly recommend it by the way. While travelling in Myanmar he describes his old friend and travel partner as

Relentlessly curious, and without fear or prejudice.

About as damn near spot on description of a good traveler, it’s a small motto to leave in the back of your head and live by. If you travel this way, you will understand, and when you understand, you see beyond the pretty picture show and find the beauty.

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Experience

Experience.

It’s necessary for so many aspects of life, work, school, social life, physical activities, love life, video games, coffee brewing, you name it experience makes a difference. I’ve got this odd complex where I know I need experience but get in my own way when acquiring it. The root of this is that I’m usually supremely confident in my own ability and judgement, and I’m nearly always right in this. Its my own personal twist on hubris. Case and point is any form of standardised testing. Strolling into the ACT 15 minutes late eating McDs breakfast is not supposed to be a recipe for a good score. But my scores were just fine, pretty damn good by most standards.

I fancy myself an excellent judge of character, and despite knowing that this is absolutely arrogant, I go on picking up on who people are in a relatively quick fashion. Pin it to my tendency to be observant and analytical. I know that doing this can be judgmental and generally not a good approach, but rarely am I wrong. Hell, I’d love to be proved wrong more often as I tend to be pessimistic in these judgments. Granted, experiences in recent years have tempered this, but it still remains.

Because of these sorts of things I’ve developed my personal hubris and often find myself disregarding a need for experience in many pursuits. It’s caused plenty of problems in my young life and may well be my greatest flaw. The experience gained in pursuit of one thing can yield many positive externalities that I sometimes miss out on.

Though this is still one of my flaws, living abroad and travelling have done much to rectify this. Especially my time in Melbourne. The people who I met there were of wildly different types, but all shared a common trait. Each person was comfortable and assured of themselves and open to just about anything and everything. New foods, ridiculous adventures, introspective talks, odd cultural events, walking along roads to wherever. Always seeking some new knowledge or experience, it didn’t matter what, they were up for it. Even in their flaws they were comfortable and open. Many of my own flaws were rectified during my time spent down under, and a large part of this was due to them. Though my hubris remains, it has been reduced to what I would call a much more manageable level. I find myself always open to experiences of most any kind. I’m damn grateful of what these travels have brought, they’ve tempered me.

 

On a somewhat tangential note, I’ve always thought the Myers Briggs tests to be a bit of crap. Every time I took a test for it, it spat back some 4 letter type that really didn’t fit for me. But then I ran across a blog analyser for it that takes in your blog and determines the authors type. Seeing as how I express myself better in writing than on multiple choice test, I gave it a shot and found the results actually accurate this time around. I’ve been tagged as an INTJ by the handy Typealyzer tool. See here for a detailed description, which sounds an awful lot like me. Of particular note is the famous people section.

Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Bill Gates, Dwight Eisenhower, Alan Greenspan, Ulysses S. Grant, Stephen Hawking, John Maynard Keynes, Ayn Rand, Isaac Asimov, Lewis Carroll, Cormac McCarthy, and Sir Isaac Newton.

Asmiov and Rand are two authors who I’ve quite enjoyed reading, Keynes is an economic mastermind who I’ve studied frequently, Ulysses S. Grant is an unequivocal badass and American icon, Newton and Hawking are more or less self explanatory, Eisenhower falls into a similar category as Grant. In short, most of these are people I take inspiration on one form or another from.

Popular hobbies for the INTJ include reading, cultural events, taking classes, appreciating art, computers and video games, and independent sports such as swimming, backpacking, or running marathons.

Well, I do like all of those things. And the other good news is that INTJs are

  • One of two types with highest college GPA
  • Among types with highest income

Can’t complain about either of those.

Personal relationships, particularly romantic ones, can be the INTJ’s Achilles heel. While they are capable of caring deeply for others (usually a select few), and are willing to spend a great deal of time and effort on a relationship, the knowledge and self-confidence that make them so successful in other areas can suddenly abandon or mislead them in interpersonal situations.

Well, that fits the bill as well for better or worse.

 

There’s rumors that us Fulbright applicants will hear back tomorrow as to if we made it through the first round of screening. But these are rumours only as of yet, the official date still says the 30th. I want so badly for this to pan out, but whether or not it does, it has been a growing experience and has in helped me define my next steps.

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Pursuit of Purpose

The last three years were a direct result of a sudden shock and subsequent change to initial plans for college. Once it became clear that what I had envisioned my college years as was not to be and I pulled myself back to my feet after taking some shots, I began to plan what the years to follow would entail.

Having such a focus and a plan to move forward was immensely gratifying and really helped me stand back up and re define myself.

Early spring semester of freshman year I for some reason took notice of the words inscribed on the statue of Charles C. Chapman for the first time: “For no ship ever sailed the seas but had to face the storm…If you are strong in faith, clear headed, honest, trusting for divine guidance and with a character built on the solid rock, you will meet all troubles in your life victoriously.” As I turned away, my eyes alit on a sign for a study abroad information session. There seemed no better way to build my ship than this.

What followed has led me here. The course I began plotting then I have since navigated with only a few minor route adjustments. It has truly defined my college experience, my personal development, and as I am coming to realize, the path forward.

Coming home this summer and returning to Chapman this fall, it seemed quite likely that my walkabout was ending and that the definition of my life was to become school, work, and social as is the standard. This past semester was great, it was ‘college’ as I envisioned it before. For once, I could allow myself to be a normal college kid, go to class, hang out, have a good social life, and work a solid internship. I’m glad to have had it, and it has taught me about myself in a different light.

But alas, it seems what makes me tick is something slightly different. Before long I found myself restless, fighting inner turmoil, and losing some motivation and drive despite most things going well in my life. Much of my time over the summer was spent working on my Fulbright application to work as an ETA in Taiwan. I was encouraged to apply for it by a family friend who also happens to coordinate Chapman’s Fulbright applications. I undertook it because I thought why not, nothing better to do over the summer. I did not expect it to really align with future goals at the time. Fall semester began and I enjoyed it, but I found myself signed up for a travel course to Vietnam over spring break by November. It seemed that I could not help but pursue any opportunity to go abroad.

I have always known that any career path or life choice I make has to fit certain criteria. I struggle with work that has little meaning or significance. I want to always be learning, to be gaining knowledge that lights my brain up. I need that. I live for that. It must be more than a four letter word or a means to an end. If I am going going to devote most of my time to something I must be invested in it. And I have come to realize that it must have an international aspect to it.

With these in mind, I set out to determine what ticked all these boxes as I looked over the horizon to graduation and life post college. Software development? Logistics? Writing? Coaching? None seemed to engage me. So I began to look at what might.

And I stumbled upon the Foreign Service, gave it a look, got excited. Slept on it. Did more research over the next few weeks, thought about it, read a book on it, read blogs, slept some more, read some more, and found that my excitement waxed rather than waned. Mayhaps this is exactly what I am seeking.

With this in mind, I begun plotting the course to it in the same way I plotted a course for my college experience early on. I will likely need a master’s in International Relations, internships in the field, learn a language, pass the FSOT and then the rest of the process. The Fulbright is actually run by the State Department, being awarded that is a huge honor, give opportunities for living abroad, and language immersion in a Super Critical Needs Language (Mandarin). If I happen to be awarded the Fulbright, it will be a huge boost and will fall perfectly in line with my rough plan. I’ll know if I was recommended by the end of this month and then know if I receive the grant sometime between March and May. If it comes off, the plan would be to undertake that and then pursue a masters in IR the following year, I like the look of Johns Hopkins SAIS program, internships while in grad school, and then hopefully entry into the FS. It looks a long, potentially frustrating road that will almost certainly takes at least a half decade. But it sure seems that it will be worth it.

I’ve begun to put this plan into motion and damn it feels good to have this purpose again.

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