My last written post was a talk that I had given on my senior retreat. Before the talk, my friend Bri introduced me. She said some very flattering words and then gave me a photo of the two of us and a jar. Written on the jar was the following, “Do not go where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail” -Ralph Waldo Emerson. Inside the small sized glass jar were what seemed to be a few dozen slips of paper. She knew that two of my passions were writing and taking photos. Each slip of paper had either a journal or photo prompt. The jar sat on my desk for the last few months of school and after I had graduated, moved home and unpacked, I took the jar and placed it on my desk. I don’t like to put meaningless things on my desk, that way whatever sits upon it has my focus.
With the first few weeks of summer spent doing little besides working out, relaxing and recouping after a very busy semester, I found myself sitting at the computer with blank word documents struck with writer’s block. I really wanted to write. I wanted to do nothing but write. I hoped that perhaps in the first few months of post-grad I could spill out the great American novel. But as a lot of writers know, sometimes the words just don’t come. Finally I forced my hand to reach into the glass jar and pull out a prompt. The slip of paper read,
Journal Prompt: “If you really knew me you would know…”
I thought a lot about the prompt. What did it mean? I put it aside and walked away. But as the week went on, this idea kept coming up in my head.
“If you really knew me…”
Who is you? Who am I answering? Who is it that knows me? Is it my friends or family? Is it people I’ve known for days, months, years?
“…you would know…”
What would you know? How do I sum up who I am in ONE entry? I think its impossible, but I also think that isn’t what Brianna wanted me to do. Last week was a really long week. It seemed like day-by-day I was getting hit back and forth with unfortunate circumstances. So by this morning, it finally hit me. How could I describe myself in one post? So I thought of the top 5 things most pertinent to who I am today and why I find them to be so important in knowing me.
(In no particular order)
1. Time is irrelevant.
In four years of college, I came to admire many people. I had a lot of inspiring professors and mentors over the course of my education. But one stood out. Him and I were often spotted bickering back and forth about silly nonsense. He was a priest and campus minister named Father Dinh. Many on campus knew Dinh. He was a very loving and gentle man. His words were often very inspiring.
An example of his wisdom? One time in conversation he stated, “Your heart is your home. What do you see when you walk into a home? Pictures, photographs, memories of loved ones. In your heart rests the images of those you care about most. You choose which photos you hang up, which ones you take down, which ones you throw away. You choose which ones get the best light and which ones sit in the darkest corners.”
He is a very prophetic man. But one of the most common things you will hear come out of his mouth is, “Time Does Not Exist”. Anyone who knows him well has heard him say this. It is something I agree with. Perhaps not 100%, but I believe there is a lot of truth in it. Last spring I spent some time working in Pine Ridge, South Dakota on the Oglala Lakota Native American reservation. While we did a lot of good labor work to help them during our time there, we also spent a good portion of our timing learning about their culture. Something that was stressed to us upon our arrival was to leave our watches and our phones in our rooms, basically any device that could tell time. The Natives of the land strongly believed that there was no need to follow the strict rules of time. Time is constraining. The length of a conversation does not make it a good conversation. Spending long hours doing hard work doesn’t mean it is good work. It is purely the quality of things that make them good.
I am a big believer in this concept that time is irrelevant. As a journalist, I have to adhere to deadlines. I am not speaking about time specific to one idea. This world is so wrapped up in time, always needing to know how long its been, how long they have to wait, or how long things will take. I like to believe that there is a beauty in timelessness. Especially after just graduating, time is simply the greatest commodity one can have. Why waste time counting it? Why not just be timeless?
2. I HATE social media.
When I publish a new post from this blog, it gets sent to my twitter account and followers of the blog. I can count on one hand the amount of times I go on twitter a week. But there is no Facebook in my life. In September I found that I was traceable via my Facebook. At first I didn’t think this was a big deal. But when people knew where i was ALL the time, it creeped me out. When it started affecting my relationships to the point that I couldn’t go out with a friend without someone asking why they weren’t invited, it got very irritating. At one in October, my roommate and I sat at our desks and were on our laptops. We were both on Facebook and he commented how much time we waste on the site. We sit down at our computers and the first thing we do is check to see if we have a notification and then get caught up in browsing the newsfeed. I took it to heart and started considering deactivating my profile. I talked about it with a few friends and the consensus stated I would probably not do it. I heard comments along the lines of “you won’t be able to see pictures of yourself and how will you keep up with your friends?” These things made me want to deactivate it more. Do they really think I am that conceited that I need to constantly check pictures of myself? I have over 600 friends on Facebook, I talk to maybe 10 percent of them. If we are really friends, we’ll still keep in touch. So one night I finally deleted it and it felt so free.
A few months later I found out I needed to get a Facebook for a class I was taking. It was a student run show and we needed Facebook accounts to keep in touch with one another. I agreed and said I would make a fake one. I didn’t want a Facebook. I had a life free from it. Why was I going to let it tie me back down again? So I created it. I loaded ONE picture and posted a status that said it was a fake page that I was using to stay in contact for my class. Well the kids in the class friended me so I accepted. Then mutual friends of theirs started finding me. Quickly all my friends started finding this fake page. I started getting accused of hiding from them. People actually got angry at me for not friending them with my FAKE FACEBOOK PAGE. Some people grew suspicious as to if we were friends at all because we weren’t Facebook friends.
DOES ANYONE ELSE SEE A PROBLEM HERE?
To quote one of my favorite films (Zoolander), “Does no one else get it? I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!”
In the last two weeks of school, I started saying to people that I would be deleting the fake page soon and they were all surprised. Why are you deleting it again? Clearly they didn’t understand that I was serious when I said it was fake and I would be deleting it when I was done with the class.
While my posts have been scarce in the past few months, I love having a blog. Because as a writer, I feel like I’m actually expressing real emotions as opposed to depressing one line lyrics via Twitter (which I am guilty of). But I hate what texting, Facebook, twitter and other social media have done to human interaction. People don’t know how to interact anymore and that is just sad. When you can’t hold a conversation, write a letter or just express emotion without the help of technology to do so, something has gone wrong.
3. I LOVE wearing suits.
Since my last post was about hating something, this can be about loving something. I love to wear suits. My roommates and close friends used to tease me because if an event was ever slightly upper scale at college, I suited up. Quoting one of my favorite characters of all time, Barney Stinson, “Suits distinguish”.
When I was in high school, I participated in an extracurricular called Forensics. It was the process of speech giving. We competed locally and nationally. These competitions were judged and we were ranked based on presentation of both speech and self. Our coach who was one of the biggest assholes I’ve ever met, taught me more than anyone ever has. He drilled this concept of professionalism into our heads. Our school was known as the black suits. As long it was a black suit with solid colors, he approved. For six years, I sported solid black suits with an assortment of shirts and ties. While at first it was an irritation, I came to find that this level of professionalism paid off. Not only was I winning competitions, I found it to be a highly respectable choice of attire.
The concept of professionalism never really left me. In my last year of college, I was very strict to separate my personal and professional life. A close friend commented once about half way through the year that despite trying to consciously separate the two, we were at college. This didn’t really offer a huge opportunity for keeping two separate. So if I had to pick one over the other, I was going to pick professionalism. While this is not a fact that I want to bullet as a fact one might know about me, it deserves mentioning. I hate being intoxicated. When I got to college I had no desire to drink. I didn’t for a year and a half. I started it because of personal insecurities and hardships I was going through at the time and it got out of hand. But when I started realizing more and more that I was going to have to choose either a professional lifestyle or a reckless one, I was going to choose professional. Any problem I’ve had in the past two years has involved alcohol. Professionalism has always lead to scholarship, never problems. Suits are merely a metaphor for my personal preference to appear and preform on a professional level, and I love them.
4. I define the word PROBLEM different than most.
When I came back from Ecuador, I had seen a lot. If you aren’t sure what, read my Ecuador stories. I had been living in one of the poorest cities in the world. Between that, living on a suffering Native American Reservation in South Dakota, WHICH IS IN OUR OWN COUNTRY, and dealing with poverty and disability in Washington DC, I had seen a whole new scale of what problems were in the world. Ecuador had the biggest effect on this scale for me. When I had landed in America after the trip I turned my phone on for the first time. I had many messages from the week. Most of warm wishes hoping I was doing well. But then I started getting messages reading, “PROBLEM, get in touch as soon as you get back”. Obviously this made me nervous. I had just come from a place where if someone came up to me and said they had a problem it probably meant a loved one just died or they lost their home in a fire or they didn’t remember the last meal they had eaten. The problem I had been messaged about was in regards to planning a spring break trip.
As the past few months passed, I noticed it became something of an issue. One major problem was with my sister. She is a teenage girl in high school. Being a male, I don’t understand what a crucial and stressful time this is for women. I would come home and hear about her problems from my mom and laugh at them. I would get mad and say that her problems weren’t problems. The suffering I had just witnessed in such a desolate land was an actual problem, that is what needs solving, that is what needs to be fixed. When I would hear people muttering about problems at college, I would get angry and frustrated that they couldn’t see how meaningless their problems were. A professor once quoted a famous historian whose name escapes me saying “It is a sad day when the comedians of the world are the one’s speaking the truth.” One of my favorite comedians, Louis CK, stated “If you are white and American, you cannot complain about life. You have such a leg up the world.” I agreed with him a lot. Especially since in Ecuador a very formidable woman sternly spoke about how we had no right to fail at life or let the issues we witnessed go unnoticed because we were white, American and had an American passport. It took a lot of patience and discipline to learn and respect that people have very different definitions of the word problem.
A few weeks ago I was talking to a very close friend and she asked how I can be so nonchalant about life. I don’t think I said it in so many words, but I am about to dedicate my life to trying to solve major social injustices in the world through whatever means I can. Fretting over insignificant matters is a waste of time and energy.
5. I fall back on my faith, A LOT.
If you read my senior retreat talk entitled, “Fall Forward”, you might know the concept the one should never fall back, unless it is on their faith. When I first heard this statement, I quickly took it to heart. I think that is a beautiful way to define faith, something we can fall back on. I remember since I was very young up until last night at dinner, my grandmother has always pushed myself and her other grandkids to fall back on God’s love when we need it. When I talk about how I let a lot of problems go because I consider things like poverty and hunger to be the more pertinent issues in the world, I don’t do it without faith.
I’ve been asked many times to define faith. I believe faith is knowing that when something positive happens, it is a blessing. When something negative happens, it happens to teach us a lesson. Ever since I developed that definition and committed to believing in it, I have found myself more informed of who I am as well as to be more grateful for a lot of things. The simple warmth of a home and comfort of a bed is such a blessing. The complexity of friendships and relationships has taught me so much. Faith in God is a vehicle to learning what we are meant for in this world. I believe there are many who are meant for greatness. I believe that faith is the most powerful force one can have. I believe that it is the only thing we should fall back on. As Denzel said “everything else is waiting for us to fall forward.”
That is my list. If you really knew me you would know those five things. While there is probably more, those are the ones that mean the most to me. Thank you for the prompt Bri. I hope much more comes out of this tiny glass jar.