Thank You 2015

ThankYou2015_Website3Thank you 2015.  You were a great year. You were the first time in a long time where I was my real self. I was able to be myself for myself.  I didn’t do things for other people’s dreams. I did things because it is who I am not what others want me to be.  I began stripping  away the layers varnish that dulled the brightness, color, and texture in my life. I reconnected with parts of me that I thought I had lost. I challenged myself to do something I’ve always wanted to do.  The year two thousand fifteen was the year I started trusting my heart and spirit.

I stripped back the layers of paint and lacquer added every year by various people and groups in my life. It has been a slow process but last year was the first time I saw the beauty beneath.  I lost it a number of years ago. Although I recognized it, it seemed foreign to me.

It felt uncomfortable looking into his eyes but I kept stripped away the layers.  I found pieces of a dream buried inside his eyes.  My hands sweat with excitement.  I couldn’t remember the last time an idea excite me so much. I wanted to hurry the process to see what’s underneath but I reminded myself to be patient. Extracting something so delicate and beautiful takes love and time.

My parents saw me walk up to the stage at commencement.  I don’t have to go to school for someone else’s hopes and dreams. I can finally go back to school for myself. The burden has been lifted. I can learn to learn. I can do it for the love of learning.  I remember the times in high school when I walked through the stacks at the public library and immerse myself in a book to learn about history, finance, economics, and art. I loved learning. I miss that feeling.

Instead of learning from books and about the outside world, I focused learning about myself and reconnecting with a person I barely know anymore. I had to explore inwardly after battling the darkness for so many years. I wanted to do things I couldn’t do earlier in my life.  I began taking dance lessons because I’ve been curious about it. I took a road trip out west.  I learned a lot about myself and how other people affect my life.

The road trip ended up not being the trip that I originally envisioned.  However, it was the road trip I needed to take.  My original plan was to do a road trip from New York to San Francisco via the Lincoln Highway.  My plans changed the closer my departure time came. I trusted my heart and changed my plans.

I headed to the Pacific Northwest. It was a great trip, and my only two regrets were minor.  First, I wish I gave myself more time and resources to roam.  Second, I wish I had more space to help fellow travelers. The road trip stripped away the clutter for a brief time to reveal how my life should feel. There was no external influences second guessing my judgement or gut instinct.  There were ups and downs during the trip but I felt my best self.

I challenged myself to do something I wanted to do when I was a kid.  I wanted learn how to dance. Years ago I saw ballroom dancing on PBS. I found it to be intriguing. The movement of the human body could be beautiful outside of sports.  The guys look pretty badass making their dance partners look good. So… I started taking dance lessons.

I didn’t know if it’s something I’ll like.  How can I know unless I try it? It’s a low risk affair. Ten lessons gave me a feel for it. After these basic lessons, I learned something useful so I can survive a wedding.  I ended up  enjoying the struggles of learning how to dance. Thankfully, I had a good private instructor. I probably would have let go of the idea if I didn’t get paired with her. Besides exercise my mind and body, dancing reconnected with music and art.

I lost my connection with art years ago. Hearing and moving to music rekindled my interest. I’m seeking out new types of music. I listen to past and current musicians.  I’m beginning to wonder around appreciating the art created all around me. I look forward to the day when I start sketching and drawing again. I’m excited to work with my hands again.

As the year approached it’s terminus, I began to see a clearer image of who I am and where I am to go emerge. I finally neared the end of a chapter I hoped to finish many years. I started setting myself up for 2016.  Last year was a year of stripping away what was un-necessary and discovering what’s underneath.  What is in store for 2016? It’s going to be something amazing.

Six Things I’m Thankful For

I have a lot to be thankful for this year that’s beyond the regular appreciation I have for where I am for life.  Here are six things I am thankful for.

1. I am thankful for friends and family members who stuck with me through the highs and lows in life. I appreciate that they stuck around and helped me out.  They didn’t have to but they did.

2. New positive people came into my life that changed my mindset and actions.  Without them, I still would be frustrated with my position in life and remain stuck in a rut.  I see the action in their lives reflects the words they say.

3. My new niece came home healthy with my brother and sister-in-law. She came out of the oven a bit earlier than we expected but she’s doing well.  It’s always a bit nerve wracking when a newborn is exposed to the new world. My family’s world revolves around her.  She’s an awesome bundle of joy.

4. I took the time and resources to fulfill part of my dreams. I rode RAGBRAI, I did went on two road trips, and I started seeking out a career path.  I didn’t do this in previous years because I felt like I wasn’t capable or I’m good enough to do this.

5. My parents teaching me to save and invest my earnings.  Without their guidance when I was young, I wouldn’t have had the resources to tap into today.  It gave me the flexibility and freedom to act upon achieving different aspects of my dream. I was able to go on my road trip to explore and sort things out with myself. I am able to pursue things that I am interested in.  It’s giving me the time to build a third stream of income I’ve always wanted to pursue.

Some may say that I was foolish to dip into my savings and investments now. I think it’s refocusing these resources to earn income so I can start actively investing again instead of just watching money I earned from high school grow.

6. Finally, I’m thankful for being in the position I’ll be able to help others next year. The past few years have been trying to claw out of the hole I’ve been in and save myself.  I feel like I’m in a position where I can help others live a better life.

I am so grateful that this has become one of my better years on this earth.  I look forward to what great things will come next year.

What are the six things you are thankful for?  Leave your comments below and Happy Thanksgiving!

Giving Back and Forward at the 2015 Chicago Marathon

Chicago Marathon F Corral

I have volunteered with various foot races events since I started running.  It’s only right for me to do so. Races of all kinds needs volunteers to function well and smoothly.  Without volunteers, races would either be too expensive to host or poorly executed.  As a runner (and cross country skier), I am grateful for the time and energy volunteers invest into these races.  As a volunteer, I am grateful for the positive energy I get from other volunteers and gratitude I receive from some of the runners.  I get a warm glow from this energy and knowing that I helped create a safe, organized, and quality experience for everyone involved in running.

This year the Chicago Marathon staff placed me at the starting line to help supervise F corral in Wave 2 with another supervisor.  My role in this orchestra is to help lead forty plus volunteers to ensure a safe environment for participants and volunteers, direct participants into their proper corrals, instruct runners and volunteers to race information, ensure a great experience for volunteers and participants, and tear down the starting line. I was lucky enough to receive great volunteers that were ready and willing to help accomplish these race day goals.

I’ve been fortunate the last three years to have a good volunteer crew. During the Chicago Shamrock Shuffle, I was paired with Beta Alpha Psi, Gamma Pi Chapter at Northern Illinois University.  Beta Alpha Psi is a scholastic and professional society for financial information students.  They did a great job Beta Alpha Psi did a fantastic job, they went above and beyond what I asked, and stuck with me until we tore down the starting line. They didn’t have to do more than what was required. They wanted to do more than what was required of them. For the Chicago Marathon, I worked with Alpha Sigma Tau, Delta Delta Chapter at University of Illinois at Chicago, an MBA student from Lewis University, a Cook County prosecutor, and a few random high school students from random Chicago schools. This day treated me to an even better volunteer experience than the last.

My past leadership and volunteer experience created a better experience on marathon race day. I knew volunteers are giving their time without any financial compensation. I attempted to make this experience positive. I didn’t want to be the a-hole volunteer raining on their parade but we needed to get a lot of work done eventually. I told them what the timeline will be and what our assignment was. I also encouraged them to take photos at the beginning of out volunteer shift so they have a photos to reminisce over. I gave everyone their roles and this race I tried something different. I delegated leadership to individuals in Alpha Sigma Tau.

Alpha Sigma Tau was a great to work with. I gave the megaphone to Melissa so she can organize and get her sisters in line.  My co-supervisor Ecat (sp?) and I worked with the sorority’s group leader, Victoria, on assignments and the timeline. They were eager to help out.  I didn’t have a problem with them chatting too much or not working.  The women I placed at the corrals did their jobs well.  Some of them even attempted to be assertive and nice when we needed to move the participants to the front of the corral so we can fit as many people in F corral before shutting the gates.  When we were tearing down the starting line, they worked as hard as the guys I had from NIU. They were pleasant to work and chat with. I wouldn’t hesitate to work with these individuals or this sorority again. If or when I’m in a position to hire good and hard working people, I’d love to pick from this group. (If only I knew how to network effectively…)

One of my favorite aspects of volunteering as a supervisor is that I have an opportunity to meet new people and get to know them during this brief moment in our lives. Of the people that weren’t with the sorority, the person I remember most was Aaron. I really enjoyed listening to him. I wish the public would hear more stories about budding young men like him. If I remember correctly, he’s attending a Chicago Public School high school. It’s his senior year looking into colleges. His top choice is Tuskegee University. He participates in JROTC and appears to be trying to be a good person. As we talk, I can hear the respect have gives me in his words and the warmness in his voice. It gets stronger and more confident the longer we talked. I suggested that Tuskegee is a great school to pursue and a great environment to develop into a good man. I wish him the best and hope he finds a lot of success in his life.

Before tear down and clean up, one of the volunteers from another corral said to me while I was passing by that they wished that they were in my group after they saw how I treated my group. It felt really good inside that my approach can earn the hearts of people I didn’t directly with. I’ve always thought a good leader does more than manage people; they inspire people to follow them. It added evidence to my budding new confidence that I have the ability to go beyond management and lead.

I had a great time volunteering this year.  I look forward to another volunteering experience. I hope to get paired with a group of great volunteers like I did with Beta Alpha Psi – Gamma Pi Chapter, Alpha Sigma Tau – Delta Delta Chapter, and the individual volunteers that came due to the kindness in their hearts. They make the volunteer and race experience fun and enjoyable.

The Solo Road Trip

The Solo Road Trip

I embarked on a journey west of Chicago. I was at a crossroads. I needed to explore. I needed sort things out and determine what path to take in my life. Traveling alone gave me time to reflect and find clarity. It’s a place where influential  voices and opinions didn’t stain my thoughts. I headed west to explore lands on the other side of the Mississippi River and to explore myself.

The original plan was to take the Lincoln Highway all the way to San Francisco.  My heart had other plans. I listened and answered that call. I drove towards Oregon to explore the northwest corner of the lower forty-eight states. I took interstates, US highways, state byways, and gravel roads. I stopped when I was moved by something and curious to explore.  I pushed to the next destination because it was practical and necessary.  I think I am better for letting my heart lead the way.

I found joy and happiness on the road.  I didn’t expect this because solo travel can be lonely at times. Why did I find this warm feeling inside me even when I was alone? I owned my time and energy. It wasn’t shackled and controlled by other people. I had the freedom and flexibility to go any direction I want. I heard the joy and aspirations of people in good and bad situations. I met people who I would not have met if I traveled with a partner. I spent time with my brother when he came down from the mountain and hung out with Joe and Kelly, a couple of friends actively pursuing their dreams in Idaho. Most importantly, I had the ability to walk away from negative people situations and spend time with good people.

I experienced my best sleep on this trip. I woke up ready to explore and learn. I lost weight while eating a mix of McDonald’s and camp cooked meals.  I started to gain a sense of direction by understanding my internal map and compass. I began to piece together what I need to be successful. I know how a lonely happiness feels like.  (Trust me, it’s not a bad thing.  It’s a very good and pure feeling.)

It was a beautiful journey, a journey I wish I devoted more time to. There was so much to explore but so little time. The road helped me strip away the physical clutter and extraneous voices in my life In this short time. After a brief moment of clarity, I found a key piece of the puzzle buried under the other pieces. I have an image of success now.  I also know what I need to nurture the type of success I want.

The process continues at home but I don’t have  the road stripping the clutter away now that I’m back in the Chicago area. What is a guy to do? This guy starts living his life intentionally as he focuses his time and energy on living his life well.

Reflection

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I look at the man in the mirror. His face reflects the life he leads, and the life he witness. Is this the life he envisioned many years ago? Is he living the life he dreamed of? His eyes reluctantly tells the truth. This life is not the life he expected. It’s not as bold, as great, or as beautiful as his childhood dream. It became the life of the status quo, a life of mediocracy. It’s never too late to stop and change the trajectory of one’s life.

Improving one’s life involves accepting where you are right now, knowing where you want to go, and taking small actions focused on the life you want. Small actions creates small accomplishments. Small accomplishments builds momentum to do amazing things. Momentum can pull you through difficult times in order move in the direction you want. Momentum can drive you beyond what you thought is possible.

I feel like western society slowly buries a person’s dreams because it’s not practical or not in line with other think your life should be. People who care about us wants us to play it safe and do it their way. Doing remarkable things are reserved for other exceptional people. My dreams and I slowly drifted apart in order to do what other thought I should do. These notions of what ought to be started grinding at me. Life wasn’t satisfying. It started to be empty. I didn’t feel like myself. I wonder what it feels like to doing what I love and what I am obsessed about. If I know where I want to go in my life, I can create a road map to guide me there. I believe everyone can do great things and are exceptional in their unique way.

What were my dreams, passions, and obsessions when I was young? What did I want to create and build in my life? I need the time to reconnect with my dreams, passions, and obsessions. I decided to strip things out of my life. Stripping things out of my life will focus my energy and remove outside influences that would sway my thoughts.

I feel like I did too many things that spread my energy too thinly. I was unable to create the momentum to build anything meaningful. The tug and pull of each endeavor made me feel guilty that I didn’t spend enough time with it. I finished my formal education last Spring. I took a leave of absence from work. I plan to go on my road trip so it’s only me and the open road.

This strip down life gives me time to stretch my arms wide open and accept things in my life. It feels good like a refreshing rain on a hot summer day. I can choose to bring it into my life or cast it aside. I can assign meaning and a perspective that is uniquely my own, not heavily influenced by others.

I hope I can find direction by stripping my life down as minimal as possible so I can reconnect with my dreams, passions, and obsession. It’ll also give me time to spend time with myself without outside influences swaying my thoughts. I hope I can look at the man in the mirror again and smile because I can see how fulfilled his life is by living the life he wanted to live.

Image Credit: The Man in the Mirror by Rooners Toy Photography

5 Reasons I Bought a Road ID

Road ID Band

I decided to buy a Road ID after my accident last year.  I’ve considered it in the past when I had close calls during road runs. I used to think that I don’t need it if I had state or federal identification on me. Now I realize the benefits of the Road ID. All the past close calls on the road and the incident on the bike trail culminated into my decision to get a Road ID. Here are my reasons why I bought a Road ID.

  1. The Road ID identifies me if I do not have my state of federal identification. There are many times where I go out for a run and I forget to slip my state identification into a pocket. I own running shorts that don’t have good large pockets to put things in. I’ll have ID with the Road ID if I get separated from my gear. During my bike rides, I often keep my wallet in a pannier or saddle bag so it doesn’t get soaked in my sweat or rain.
  2. My emergency contact information is listed. It makes it a lot easier for first responders and emergency department staff contact my love ones in case of an emergency. A lot can happen during a race or an event. Bibs can easily be separated from a participant. If I’m unable to communicate, they can find my info still.
  3. First responders and ED staff don’t have to waste too much time identifying me. When I worked as a registrar in an emergency department near my home, I had to help a nurse lift a body up to find their identification since the paramedics couldn’t find it. They can focus their time on treating me or other patients.
  4. It’s convenient. It’s a bracelet that I can slip on. It can stay on my wrist for the entire day.
  5. I find it attractive. You can customize it with different bands, badges (charms), and engraving. As you can see, bought a Road ID with a red band and engraved “Have faith and believe.” It’s a great reminder when things get rough out there to have faith in myself and believe in my abilities. Other accessories I bought are the barefoot and chain link badges as well as additional band colors.

I think the Road ID is an important piece of gear for anyone with an active lifestyle. It’s something that’s important to have and hope won’t get used for it’s intended purpose.

When you get your Road ID, how would you customize it and what activity would you use it for?