Tag Archives: Thoughts

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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Undertake the Uncomfortable

Part of doing something like going abroad, and life in general is about being able to look at yourself and evaluate the ways in which you can improve. It is always possible for you to reason and justify nearly any behavior, tendency, or viewpoint of your own. It is not the natural inclination to criticize oneself.

Hubris, as it were. I am guilty of this many times over. It is less about that which you do well, and more about building up those parts of yourself that are not so strong. I read my previous post and am assaulted by the hubris of it. My complaints are of no fault but my own. I have not made the fullest effort to reach out. I have failed to push outside of the path more traveled. I have not had the courage to undertake the uncomfortable.

And that is so crucial to why I take it upon myself to cross both oceans, to three continents. To undertake the uncomfortable. And yet, I fail in this now, I preach on about how simple this is for one such as me, with oh, so much experience and wisdom. Ha, I genuinely hope that somewhere someone has had a good laugh at me for this. What sort of accomplishment is it to be a medium sized fish in a small pond? No one brags about beating a video game on easy.

Now, I must push myself forward. I have to remember that first step into the LAX terminal last February and what growth came of that. I must undertake the uncomfortable.

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Walking

gertrudesSaddleCAFlag“It means something to walk with someone” – Dr. Aaron Bruce

The quote above comes from Dr. Aaron Bruce, speaker at the Lessons from Abroad conference I attended recently. And damn if it didn’t resonate with me. He spoke of what it means when you walk with someone. To walk with someone is to truly be with them, walking allows immersion in the world around, and connection with those you journey with or pass along the way.

Since coming home from the wonderful land of Oz, I’ve been contemplating the experience and putting all of the memories and lessons into some semblance of order. And I keep coming back to one central point.

You see, the beauty of living abroad, and being way out in an entirely new place, is that it frees you. When you are oceans away and know not a single soul, those little boxes you fit into, the labels you wear, the person you have contrived yourself to be, they all crumble away. Daunting to say the least. There is no choice but to express yourself in the truest ways you can, to be free from any preconceptions that shape others opinions of you. Way out with nothing but yourself, any constructed identities hold no water and are quickly discarded. Growth begins.

It can be likened to a potted plant. Life is good, life is safe in the pot. The boundaries are known and life is more or less assured. But growth restricted. And then the plant is moved from the pot to the earth. Boundaries removed, the plant thrives upon the open connection with the soil, expands its being beyond the boundaries of the pot that now seem so arbitrary and limiting. Roots entangle with a myriad of foreign plants, creatures and other things unknown. At first, such contact brings apprehension. But the plant begins to realize not all that is foreign bears malevolent intent. And the plant expands it’s roots seeking, encountering new and illuminating entities and stories all the while. Learning each new sun that by and large the land is populated with bright souls. Before long, the plant finds itself rooted not only to the soil, but intrinsically entangled with others, to the extent that where one ended and another began became rather obscure.

When you get way out, on your own, the walls crumble, the pot is removed and connection happens. These connections are some of the best you will make. Born of a mutual openness and desire to explore. Born by walking in foreign lands with souls previously unknown. The title of “Gone Walkabout” seems ever more prescient with such connections forged walking with others from all parts of the world. To walk with another, it means a mutual openness, an understanding, a willingness to explore, to be well and truly lost, to place faith and trust in a foreign soul.

I suppose this represents the closing of the first chapter of my experiences in the world. And there could be no more fitting title than “Gone Walkabout”, so I implore you to walk, to walk in a strange place with a strange soul. And with this, I begin to look towards the next chapter, a pair of tickets in hand.

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Living Small

You should live small. Live small because everything else is too big for you to understand, too large for you to grasp, too heavy to hold in your hands, in your mind.

Right?

We live small because we have trouble looking at larger scale and context. The here and now and the this and that become each moment of out lives. And we get wrapped up in, and let it overrun us, we stop looking at the stars and telling our parents that we want to be astronauts and presidents and settle for being mid level executives with a good salary and benefits.

And I guess that’s a pretty damn decent life when you put it in the context of so many others in this world who don’t have an education, family, regular food and water and are more concerned about surviving the night than when the next quarterly report is due.

But I want to live in a larger way.

I want to live for centuries, I want to see every country and speak all the languages and taste all the cuisines and sing all the songs. I want to plan a revolution and speak for the souls of the people in need. I want to hear the stories of all those people along the way, to know their own personal world and what makes them. I want to see the rise and fall of cultures and countries and to see great men and women leave their legacy behind. And after that I want to board a spaceship, I want to see all the planets, to see the utterly strange beauty that life is beyond our pale blue dot, to flit through the galaxies, and to see each of the gems in Orion’s belt up close. I want to see what happens when we run into something intelligent and very much different from ourselves, and to see the expansion into the stars. And the evolution of our identity along the way. To see what we can push ourselves to, and to be there for the moment when we realize that what we thought were our boundaries are not so anymore, that we can go beyond the edges of the Universe and be overwhelmed by the scope and size of thing out there. And that we can go beyond what we thought were the limits of ourselves, mind and body and soul.

And I don’t see any reasons that I can not do all of this.

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Boundaries & Bubbles

The point where what should be extraordinary begins to seem normal is a strange situation to find yourself in.

I found myself walking through the Chinatown district of a city halfway across the world. I found myself walking with ease, a certain comfort and poise that would have been unthinkable six weeks ago. Six weeks ago I can distinctly recall attempting to walk down Little Bourke St attempting to find some cheap, scrumptious Asian fare and being quite overwhelmed. Bright neon signs, flashing my retinas with multiple Asian languages, my nose barraged by scents & spices and my ears assailed by a cacophony of languages. Try Shanghai St Dumpling, Ghin Khao, Noodle Kingdom, walk down a side alley for some place called New Kum Den, try our curry, we have the best sushi, freshest fish, spiciest dishes, on and on with the constant siege of the senses. Sensory overload.

The other night, same place, same time on a busy Saturday night in this lively city of Melbourne. Walking down Chinatown in search of some tom yum, pad thai, fried rice or whatever else caught my fancy; except this time I was able to savour all of it, less barrage and more indulgence of the senses. Despite this something nagged at me just a little. A little bug, an itch and a tingle tipping me off. I needed to explore more, push boundaries again. It was still an awesome experience, but this time I felt entirely comfortable. And for some reason this struck me in a not entirely positive light. I don’t think about which way to look crossing the streets (I know, it sounds silly but you’d be amazed how hard of a habit it is to break when you grew up with look left then right and it’s switched on you), I don’t ever need to pull out my phone for directions, it’s all become pretty natural now.

“Natural and comfortable” in a foreign city brings with it positives and negatives. It’s kick ass to be able to know exactly where you are, being comfortable and confident allows you to enjoy the city in many ways. You know some little tricks and shortcuts, you know that you have certain favorite places and sections of the city. It also makes you complacent. Comfortable means that the brand new sheen and excitement aren’t there anymore. Comfortable makes it easy to fall into a bubble, to begin to hit a simple routine and roll through days without the sense of adventure that was a constant during the first months of this adventure. It makes you return to the same few haunts over and over. You stop expanding and growing. Bubble. Not to say establishing certain favourites is bad, just that when surrounded by such a vibrant city it would be a shame to box oneself in. I’ve spent the better part of two weeks mostly within the four block radius of my apartment and the university. Sure, it’s nice to keep a low profile for a while, but I’m not here to be comfortable. Living abroad is not about falling into a routine. It’s about constantly being on your toes and ceaselessly pushing boundaries in some way. So though there is much to be said for some routine and some rest and recharging, it is vitally important to remember why you are abroad in the first place and to take advantage of it to the fullest.

A few more tips for any of those reading this and planning on going abroad in the future:

  • Make a budget, even if you blow it out of the water, and you probably will, it’s a much better peace of mind knowing where your money is going and how you can save as opposed to checking your bank account and seeing decidedly smaller figures than you did a week ago
  • Remember who you are, why you came and stick to these things. Growth is good, change can also be negative and it’s important to recognize the difference
  • There’s a huge difference between dead horse (what they call tomato sauce) and Heinz ketchup. And yes, it is a big deal. I want ketchup, not tomato sauce with my eggs

I would hope that this little adventure bug sticks with me even after I return home. Looking back now, it is easy to see how much I allowed myself to stay inside the box. I fully intend to change this mindset upon returning and believe that this is an excellent lesson to apply anywhere. It doesn’t matter where we are in the world, our hometowns may seem dull and we may feel we have seen it all, but there are always boundaries to expand, new things to try, and bubbles to be burst.

 

Still Walking,

Rug

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Learning Curves

Each and every day is another change in the tides. Some days the energy bursts forth from me, some days I run as a beat up old pick up, all stutter stop and stall outs. It’s all so incredibly volatile, it becomes hard to do much beyond keep moving, keep adapting, learning, and growing.

Such is life I suppose. It’s a reality that all begin to face one day and many quickly come to loathe and dread. As for me, I’ve just begun. Just begun to find my feet in the world, just begun learning how to keep those not so little necessities of life from dropping rainclouds on my big ideas and grandiose plans, hell it’s hard enough from keeping them from raining on my everyday joys. It’s not easy learning to manage your own life for the first time. Any who say otherwise are simply puffing their chests. Add in the small factor of doing it in a foreign country and you end up with a real steep learning curve.

I guess as I’m going about writing this I’m still struggling with so many moving pieces in my head that it becomes so hard not to let them all fall to the ground. Times like these can oft lead me dangerously close to places I’ve been before and never want to be again. It’s hard to fight yourself because you’re not even aware that you’re doing it. You can’t say oh well my enemy will likely make this move or that play; you know exactly what you’ll do, except you really don’t.

I dunno, at this point I’m just chucking words and thoughts out on paper to give myself some sort of release or seeking some inspiration. I’ve hit the point where I’m beginning to feel the wear and fatigue of the last two months. The little boy inside me would love nothing more than to run home to mom and hide in her arms. Hell, part of the 20 year old me feels the same way. I guess when you’re blessed with such a loving family that it makes it pretty hard to be away. It also makes it so much easier. Knowing that you have such amazing support at all times and in all conditions makes it easier to pick yourself up a little bit. 

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So the previous paragraphs were written a few days ago. I’d just gotten back from a whirlwind 12 day semester break that saw me travel to Sydney, Newcastle, and the entire South Island of New Zealand. I reckon it’s worth recounting some of that trip as it was one hell of a trip. I’ll put that in a separate post. The result of that trip and the preceding two months was a burned out and worn down self, something reflected in my previous writing. Since then I’ve picked myself back up and have gotten rest and nutrition to revitalize.

“Do what you gotta do, just don’t stay still, otherwise life moves on without you.”

A little bit of sage advice from an older brother who knows a hell of a lot more than anyone gives him credit for, including himself, and probably me. It’s a small bit of advice that seems to make so much sense out here in this extraordinary world that I’ve found myself in. It’s so simplistic and blunt, yet so effective; certain things have to be taken care of in order to keep the wheels spinning and the engine humming.

It’s a steep learning curve as I said before, and I do believe I’m beginning to reach the top of it so I reckon I’ll leave some things I’ve learned for anyone else who goes abroad,

Lesson #1: Everything is more expensive than you think.

Lesson #2: Nothing will go smoothly, and that is what will make it all memorable

Lesson #3: Every tough experience is making you that much better. Appreciate it.

Lesson #4: You can and will adapt and thrive in any given situation. Just relax, breathe, and keep pushing forward.

Lesson #5: Do what keeps you healthy and happy, don’t get caught up in negative spirals.

Hopefully someone reading this is able to get some guidance and help from these.

Since dealing with a major identity change and depression brought about by post concussion symptoms I’ve taken a vested interest in my brain and how to enhance the brain in general. The latest result of this, following nutrition and proper supplements for my brain, is a foray into lucid dreaming. For those who don’t know what this is, it’s when you become aware that you are dreaming within a dream and proceed to control the dream. This allows you to do essentially anything you want. More importantly, It has been used in the past by Greeks and Romans to allow them to build “memory libraries”. Huge libraries of memories and information within your mind that allow for greatly increased memory and retention. Another result of lucid dreaming is a much sharper sense of the world around you. All of it intrigues and excites me. We’ll see how it goes for me. 

Another note, I may not end up doing all of next year at City University in London and delaying my departure for there until Spring. This being due to a couple of factors. Financially, I doubt I’ll have a whole lot of funds left when I return home and 2 months isn’t enough time to earn sufficient funds really. Academically, I’ve found that though I am adapting to the different style of learning out here, I do greatly prefer the education at Chapman and want to take full advantage of that. Also, another semester at Chapman would allow me to take 18 units and get even more ahead in my program, therefore allowing me to take tea and crumpet tasting in London and having more free time to travel and less stress. It will also be good for me to have more time at home to properly rest and prepare to go abroad again as it is a pretty big endeavor  I’d also like to potentially do an international internship in Summer 2014, possibly in Hong Kong, but that’s a whole other process and decision to consider.

Regardless, there’s nothing I can say except that I am unbelievably blessed to even be here and have begun to rediscover the excitement that I had prior to hitting a wall last week. Excited for what the future holds.

 

Still walking.

 

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