Spain: an Afterward

I’ve spent the three weeks since returning from Spain trying to explain what I feel and how I’ve changed. And after all this time I’m not much closer to an answer. I was warned repeatedly that reverse culture shock coming back can be worse than when you enter a new country. I guess I didn’t believe it.. Missouri has been home for 21 years, how could it hurt me? now I think I understand, because strangely it doesn’t feel like home. These surroundings are familiar perhaps, though certainly not normal.

When I went to Spain the shock I encountered could be attributed to fear of the unknown. Here I can’t do that, there’s nothing new to blame. The result is that I feel absolutely lost. It’s like reaching for something you routinely use and it being out of place; what’s more, you’re not sure exactly where you expected it to be. my whole life is here, yet something is not quite right. Like it’s shifted out of place, and I don’t know how it should be.

I made a mistake. I returned and expected to pick up my life right where I left it in January. The truth is that I can’t because I’m just not the same person. I’ve grown in both perspective and experience. Those are now parts of me that cannot be packed away. Yet these gains have not been without loss. Somewhere outside my comfort zone I surrendered my sense of home. In the long run that will likely be a good thing, for now it’s enough to know that it’s okay.

There’s two things I learned from my short time studying abroad that I will carry forward. The first is that home is a fluid concept. Anywhere can be home if we make it so, it is something we constantly recreate. The other is how concrete our sense of belonging can become. You see, belonging is not tied to a place, rather to the people with which we surround ourselves.

Enough of my rambling writing. I guess what I’m trying to say is that my life is an uncertain balance. I can’t tell you exactly how I’ve changed. I definitely don’t have a grasp of my emotions. What I do know is that I’m capable of making anywhere home; and that if I surround myself with the right people, I can face any uncertainty that each day brings.

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

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…para llevar

Sometimes all you need is

to be in strange places

with strange people.

to go beyond yourself

and discover what comes next.

*

Out there is big, bad world.

one that will inevitably break you.

you’ll find yourself at the bottom

there you’ll also find your demons waiting

But I beg you not to lose hope,

Those strange people

the ones that are always there

will know to stretch out a friendly hand.

*

“Be not afraid” and just go.

See the unimaginable

experience it all

and gain a broader perspective

because in the end

It’s all an adventure

So laugh at everything

Sing like an idiot

and make some mac+cheese “para llevar”


Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

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

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Gentleman & a Scholar

There’s a, shall we say experienced, man I know who when you do him a favor will refer to you as a “gentleman and a scholar.” This is definitely a phrase of the past, one of those expressions we are worse off for losing. Though we brush it off as an oddity, he intends it as the utmost compliment. What does it mean to be a gentleman and a scholar? my belief is that if we can master the traits of these two characteristics, then we can vastly improve our little portion of the world. Let’s see if we can break this down.

gentleman

At a time in history when incredible numbers of people are earning higher degrees, and an increasing number of jobs look at credentials both first and last. We have lost the concept of scholarship. Sitting in a classroom for four years and passing the correct number of tests does not guarantee quality work in a future career. So why do I, and so many others, pursue this way of life? I will not speak for my classmates. Though as for me I study not so as to grasp a choice career, rather with aspirations of knowledge. I want to practice learning. The hope is that beyond my lectures and tests I will be able to continue the pursuit of knowledge. To always remain a student. Being a scholar only requires a slight adjustment of perspective, and is the easier component to achieve. Far more difficult are the traits of a gentleman.

It’s easy to sound elitist with words such as, “pursuit of knowledge” and “practice learning.” Knowing more than the next guy could make you feel powerful. Unfortunately we’ve all met a snobbish academic. maybe that’s why we quit trying to be scholars. This is definitely why it is important to be both a gentleman and a scholar. A scholar is familiar with the world from the inside out. A gentleman is humble about it. He knows his place. And if he finds himself more capable in some regard than another, then he takes it on himself to share what he has. Because a gentle person cares about you. They will tell you what they mean, and they are always true to their word.

So then let’s all attempt to adopt the traits of a gentleman and a scholar. It’s about working hard to Bemore. It’s about bettering ourselves, and giving ourselves to others.

Peace, Love, and Happiness…

–Joe

Author’s note: For my sensitive readers, when I say “traits of a gentleman” it’s not meant to be exclusionary. This applies to all of us

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.

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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

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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

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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 means  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.

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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

Personality and Shoes

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As Forrest Gump said, “you can tell a lot about a person by their shoes.” Well these are my shoes, and they sure don’t hide much. I got these as something to wear instead of my hiking shoes. Though the other night during my commute I pulled into this local Conservation area to check out the river. Of course now they’re dirty. I guess as much as I try to fill the role of a typical university student, I can’t hide that I’m really an outdoors junky at heart. That I belong somewhere else. And I suppose I’m okay with that.
Peace, Love, and Happiness…
–Joe

free writing for better writing pt 1

Authors note: this is the first part of a series of free writing pieces I’ve been working on to improve my articulation and hopefully be able to create fictional characters infused with my personality. All of these posts will be typed using first draft, including possible poor punctuation and random capitalization. It’s a process.

I dream of being a senior park ranger at a remote national park outpost. To get there I need a bachelor’s degree, Federal agent training, and an EMT license. And above all, experience. I strive to build a resume that will stand out above the rest. Everything comes at a cost though. First of all it costs home I will not find my dream job here in missouri. And pursuing my dream will most likely require moving regularly. It will also cost time. no one attains my dream position straight out of college, it often takes 8-10 yrs to be hired as a senior ranger. It costs money and energy. I have to earn my degree while simultaneously attaining several certificates and balancing a part-time job and volunteer work (again resume building). This all takes energy that I cant use for leisure, friends family. I will lose contact with some of those friends, through my neglect. The lack of Leisure time may very well cost my sanity. These costs must be weighed to determine the appropriateness of my ambitions. and these ambitions may change I’m young and this life is an adventure im taking. It’ll be fun

Rules for Taking College Classes

As promised here is the (unofficial) Rules of Taking College Classes. Compiled from my own experience, but also from a well versed group of said students. Enjoy!

1. Never, ever procrastinate! ever.

–unless it’s saturday night, in which case go have fun

2. Don’t sign up for a class before 9am

–It’s a trap!

3. Do the reading

–Netflix is not actually a priority (even grey’s anatomy)

4. Call your mom

–20min a week is the very least you can do

5. In the event of a presentation, learn to pronunciate

–at least know what you copied+pasted into that slide

6. Don’t. Just Don’t.

–courtesy of my currently overwhelmed nursing friend

7. Set an alarm

–you’re not capable of waking in exactly 10min

8. Sit in the same seat

–don’t be THAT person

9. Or be that person…

–monotony is a killer

10. Strive to join the honor society

–courtesy of my Phi Theta Kappa president

11. Be proactive in doing homework

–you don’t want to miss out on something fun

12. Take time away from academia for yourself

–extracurriculars are great

13. Eat (nourish thine body!)

–stress combined with long classes is already bad enough for you

14. Hydrate before drinking

–of course I’m underage. so, this one is not from personal experience…

15. Learn some sort of shorthand, abbreviation, or whatever

–u tire me ot w/ ur lengthy nt takin

16. Above all, simply go to class!

–There is no substitute for effort

abikke