Spain: a new Self

I’ve been living in Spain for nearly four weeks now. And it has been a rollercoaster of an experience so far. I have seen more fascinating sights than I could’ve expected, and I’m nowhere near done. These ups have not been without their downs. Seemingly everything is different than life in my small midwest town. My senses constantly overwhelmed. As of yet, there have been a few really bad episodes of culture shock. At a certain point you become physically done with the novelty. For me, it usually centers around my lack of language skills and the necessity to rely on other people. The reality of vulnerability. It has been painful at times.

One thought that is comforting is the vast new perspective I’m gaining of myself. It reminds me of a quote from Doctor Who,

“We all change when you think about it. We’re all different people all throughout our lives. And that’s ok; that’s good. You gotta keep moving so long as you remember all the people you used to be.” –The Doctor

There’s no doubt in my mind that I’m leaving bits and pieces of who I was all over Spain. This semester is taking from me, and that is the best situation I can hope for. It allows for a new mindset, gives me a chance to fill in those holes with what I need to carry me forward.

Soon I’ll find myself back at that beautiful, familiar farm where I grew up. Will it recognize me? I know that I’ll be a different person. I know that everyday here, all the way to the end, will be a struggle. When I return to Missouri it will also be a struggle. I’ve learned there is no such thing as normal, and that is what I wake up every morning to face. Knowing that I am constantly recreating myself for the better.

Peace, Love, and Happiness… blogdoctorwho

–Joe

Save

Save

a short note to self

Beyond what you know lies a whole new world. Beyond one’s comfort zone is the realm of infinite possibility. It is ours for the taking, all that is required is that we agree to take each step anew.

Comfort is an illusion. What is there if we do not push the boundaries? Where we sit offers nothing but decay and more of the same. Now full disclosure, pushing the envelope will hurt. It’ll push back, and you’ll discover pain. Always the best we can do is simply keep trying.

travelpretty

Your journeys will earn you scars. Pieces of you left behind, and experiences carried onward. Sometimes it’ll be tangible changes; a face worn by the sun, or a tongue with a hint of another language. Often they are less apparent and yet more powerful. Perhaps you’ll have a new perspective, or maybe you’ll encounter an entire paradigm shift. With certainty, travel makes you a different person.

Change is important. It helps us understand better who we are. Change allows us to discard that which pollutes us, and is the lens through which we may focus on that which remains important. It is easy to become dismayed by the anxiety and hurt we feel, exposed as we are. It’s in these moments that I strive to remember why I do this. It is not for myself now, rather I continue to Bemore for the person I will be tomorrow. Always tomorrow.

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

Spain: beforehand

spainflag

Occasionally life throws you a curve ball that you’re just not quite sure what you did to deserve. Often they can be amazing opportunities, and sometimes the hardest part is simply to say yes. It’s so easy to remain skeptical and watch a chance pass you by.

Back in September I was walking through the student union; earbuds in, ignoring the world. Fortunately there was a professor intent on making sure I knew about a certain study abroad program. I tried all the excuses, and he shot them all down. The cost, the language barrier, too late in my academic career, etc., etc. He countered it all. So I took a flyer and agreed to speak with my advisor about it.

Short version of this story is that I’m going to Spain next semester. I’ll be studying for three months at the Instituto Franklin UAH just outside Madrid. The decision came after a good long bout of personal turmoil, discussions with some people I trust for advice, and great deal of prayer. You see I had ruled out the possibility of studying abroad early in my collegiate studies. Of course, one of my more immediate faults is that once my mind is made up I have trouble going a different way. Yet here I am.

Fast forward to now. It’s December, I’ve finished my fall semester and the full notion that shortly I’ll be living in another country has really sunk in. Everyone keeps asking if I’m ready for my trip, the answer is always no but I am excited. Scared shitless is a more proper description of my state of mind. But I guess that’s okay. Being a little uncomfortable is how we grow. This will be so many things, I just hope that I can find the words to tell the story.

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

spainlearn

a deliberate life

I’ve always love the idea of living deliberately. Admiring those who seem to find purpose in every action and in every moment. I used to always strive to carry myself with the same demeanor; attempting to foresee the full impact of my every move. Turns out I had it wrong, in fact I had absolutely no idea what it meant to live deliberately.

“You don’t know in December who you’ll be in July,” sings The Suitcase Junket. Almost a year ago now I turned my life in an unplanned direction. I had no idea who I was or what I would become. I was lost, and at the time I viewed my choice as a panic reaction. The uncertainty of it forced me out of my comfort zone and into a year that I would not trade for the world. And now looking back I can see that every moment, every risk, every bit of that uncertainty was necessary. It formed me into who I am.

a4fff66b2a003e846467c690b7bac9b2

Deliberate. The word haunts me as something I lack. How could I claim to be living deliberately if I had absolutely no idea what I was even doing? The truth that I had to learn, and that I still am, is that “to live deliberately” is rarely synonymous with “to act with full knowledge.” A deliberate life is not one of knowing the full impact of your actions, rather one of confidently stepping forward while still pausing to see the ripples stretch out. In his book Dynamic Catholic, Matthew Kelly asks his readers to be bold but never rash. I begin to understand that just a little more, and take it to heart as I boldly look for who I’ll be next July.

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

“Staffers” aka Crazy People

This summer I once again have the privilege of serving at a Boy Scout Camp here in the midwest. Of course, as the staff gathers we only have a vague idea of what the summer holds for us. And yet we cast ourselves headlong knowing that in less than two weeks our camp will be fully alive with activity.

We’re staff. We’ve given up our summers, time with our friends, and good paying jobs. We’ll push ourselves to the breaking point and then carry each other over the edge. We do it all for the camp we love. And facilitating a great program is never easy; we’ll be working in less than ideal conditions, and by the end the stress will break each of us in some way. But when we fall we always catch each other. Because as staffers, we’re so much more than coworkers, we’re family. And that’s why I know it’s going to be a great summer.

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

13055353_1012902065446125_4190352803306095572_n

Save

embracing uncertainty

2efe8eed6a912f86d9c7a339f11d01a1

news flash. I don’t know what comes next. I know what I’d like to happen, and I know what direction I’m heading. But I really couldn’t tell you where I’ll end up. I am a dreamer lost in my mind. I’m a traveler on foot, I’ll get there even if it takes me awhile. Where I go from here is enticingly undecided. And if I’m being honest, I’m absolutely okay with that. my goal is to simply keep going. I will live adventurously embracing the uncertainty that is thrown my way.

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

a discourse in experiential learning

I’m graduating with an associate’s degree next week. I can’t begin to express how awesome that feels. And even though it meansĀ  I’m only a little over halfway to my bachelor’s, it’s still very important to me. It is a tangible accomplishment that can never be taken away.

aaa

But what does it really mean? Physically it is a piece of paper that declares my successful completion of enough credit hours in the requisite categories. But it is really much more than that. It’s laughing in the hallways with my Phi Theta Kappa friends. It’s countless hours spent commuting. It’s the anxiety of balancing work and school. It’s the bond I formed with classmates while suffering through the lectures of a terrible instructor. It will forever be an experience that means more to me than what I learned in my classes. My perspective is based on more than the credentials, and so society will always put a different meaning to my degree than I do.

I’m a strong proponent of experiential learning. I hold faithfully to the notion that many concepts cannot be taught in a classroom. Wisdom is decidedly different than knowledge. As a society we put a great emphasis on learning through exposure, especially with increasing numbers of college graduates. In our obsession of experiencing things, we’ve forgotten their value. Too often we pursue experience solely for the sake of building a resume. We must return to accomplishing tasks with the intention of living in those moments.

So yeah, I’m excited to receive my degree. Excited because it marks what I’ve been living the past two years. Though I’m far more interested in what I will experience moving forward.

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

Be Still

 

Sit here and listen with me for awhile. What is there to be heard? From the other side of the hill a cow is lowing. Above the devil’s cross roars across the blue sky. Down here below the wind wisps gently over the hill I’m sitting on, the last few dead leaves rustling in the tree line. There is a crash as a dead limb falls to the ground. A squirrel chatters at me from the brush. And an owl hoots from high up in some tree. In the distance I hear the sound of a tractor as a farmer prepares his field for the spring planting. Then this little song bird lands on the rock beside me calling out. He seems to beckon his comrades home from their winter’s flight. And if you listen carefully on this cool February afternoon, you can hear God at work in his creation. So, what do you hear?

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

Speak now

I’m trapped within my own humanity. Therefore every experience is personal. It’s true. Though we all try to distance ourselves from our surroundings the thought comes lingering back. I’m here, I exist, I must engage. Far too often we remain silent, a fly on the wall simply watching. What if everyone of us chose to take the next step? Let’s learn to communicate just a little bit more. Share the joy of the good times, and embrace the support through the rough times. We are social creatures, we need this. I tell myself that maybe if I learn to do this someone will see a light. They might just see a way to rise out of the muck of this life. Maybe they’ll see that I’m just like them. That I have joys and sorrows, passions and struggles. That I most always have butterflies in my stomach and that I still find courage to say what I do. If I can inspire but one person and show them why they are meaningful, it will all have been worth it. We are capable of doing so much with our short lives. So I encourage you, Be more.

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

Regarding an Affinity for Stars

I stand here on this crisp winter’s night simply me, my thoughts, and countless stars. may I ask a favor? Allow me to borrow your glow for a short while. There is a burning desire to be a light in the dark. Free from restraints, an honest inspiration for any willing to see it. We are all the same. All formed of the same bits of stardust. Yet we are all so distinct.

Why can we not get along? What is it in you and I that prevents us from truly understanding each other? There is a bond waiting to be formed between everyone of us. If we made an effort to be present, to simply exist, and opened our ears to listen what would we hear? Would we observe the similarities that connect our eccentricities? We would certainly find that we are all congruent, and that we are all varied. Forming a shimmering mat of beauty, billions of individuals coming together as one.

endings

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe