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Archive for November, 2011

Mark Twain once said that “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” Though many travel regularly, for most it is to get from point A to point B or merely for employment. The travel Mr. Twain referred to, though, is the travel that pushes us beyond our limits of comfort, travel for pleasure and for experience, rather than altered physical geographical state. Travel of this kind offers more than entertainment: it offers health benefits multi-fold.

Tripbase.com published an eArticle “5 (Less Obvious) Reasons Why Travel is Good For You” to prove exactly this point. Of the five, the first is that travel “makes you more employable.” To backpack through a foreign country (not pay for a tour or only stay at 5 star hotels) offers opportunities to problem solve and balance a tight budget, for example, which all can be turned into viable skills in the workplace. Why stop there? Through my own world-wide solo adventures, I’ve doubled my ability to use financial restraint and discover solutions to problems on my own without freaking out.

These same experiences also lead me into the second reason: independence. Starting with an experience traveling suddenly alone in New York City when I was 22, I quickly learned how to take care of myself, instead of relying on another person to make plans and decisions. Three years later I applied these same skills to a United Kingdom adventure, and every year thereafter slowly making may way further and further across the globe.

Each time I returned from my lengthy adventures I found myself more content to be at home, which Tripbase claims as the third support for travel. When I return from a trip–whether just a few hours away or a few countries away–I find myself ever more thankful for what I have and where I have it. The first thing I give thanks for each time? My bed.

This reason leads into the fourth: therapy. To remove yourself from current and consuming issues helps attain perspective. With each excursion I go on, I find myself more and more content, able to renew my view of life, my job, my home, my friends with a wider perspective. In fact, a new genre of travel has arrived with the advent of books regarding travel therapy such as this: http://traveltherapytrips.com/book-2/

The final reason to travel, as per the site, is “consolidating relationships.” Though I rarely travel with friends, when I do, I find myself getting to know the other(s) on a level “just hanging out” could never afford. Simultaneously, I’ve never learned so much about myself, my patience, my communication, my expectations as when I have scurried around other lands with a companion. Though I prefer to travel alone, I certainly am open to the right person to join me. I realize I should approach all relationships in such a way, whether family, friend, or romantic. Being upfront about expectations, honest when things go awry, able to give each other space while simultaneously using empathy, are all relationships skills.

So these thoughts in mind, I am currently planning my future trips, which include Chile in July to snowboard, Hawai’i the following summer to surf, and Japan the winter after that to snowboard again. I’ve put off travel long enough to pay a mortgage–now removing said mortgage, I am excitedly and nervously stepping outside my comfortable home into new adventures!

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“Repeat as necessary and rinse.”

We’ve learned, as consumers, that repetition provides entrepreneurs opportunities to generate income. However, in day to day activities routines and healthy habits help streamline the otherwise wayfaring souls. To be clear, “routine” does NOT imply boring, but instead organizing one’s life so that minutia is taken care of in a timely manner, allowing for more activities and people in one’s life.

This said, it all begins with a word. Having a “morning mantra”, if you will, sets a tone of healthy habit and focused, organized life. Aside from the previous discussion, there are, according to dragosroua.com/the-morningphrase/, many reasons for creating a phrase to state and restate at the start of each day. They are:

To unleash your energy in a specific task.
To keep a positive attitude during the day.
To implement a specific habit.
To fixate something in a longer learning process.
To keep you motivated towards a specific goal.

Though reasons shouldn’t be limited to this list, this is an excellent beginning to what can develop into a strong, focused lifestyle. Each morning mantra should be repeated daily, at the start of the day or both the start of the day and before retiring for the evening. The regularity of said repetition depends entirely on your purpose. If, for example, I knew that my day was going to hold a confrontation with a particularly angry and powerful parent, I would create a mantra to repeat for the evenings and mornings leading up to the meeting. I might meditate on, “I will be positive in the face of adversity, find the positive in meeting with parents who care about their children, and learn from this experience.”

However, lets say I was attempting to get myself into a specific habit. For example, for the first three months of living in Park City I worked such long days (12-16 hours) I lost sight of why I moved here–to be outdoors and to be with my friends and to be a part of a community. With this I need both balance and no excuses. Though my mantras for this are not limited to the bookends of my day, I did find a necklace to support my cause. The dangling phrases read exactly what I knew I needed: “seek balance” and “no excuses.” I wear this necklace daily, and will touch the necklace when in a situation that detracts from my goal. I could go home and take a nap after work, or I could use “no excuses” and workout with my coworkers. I could take on yet another project at work or say yes to something when I mean no, but I play with my necklace and remember to “seek balance”.

Though my habits are still forming, the repetitive mantras are certainly changing my daily routines. Every day I work toward being a better version of myself, and certainly these daily goals are getting me closer every day.

 

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Journaling conjures an image in many minds of long-winded emotional rants that end up being more melo-dramatic and angsty than expressive. Those who journal, or worse yet write in a diary, are subject to ridicule either because of their hobby, or the contents if ever seen. It’s a dangerous business, this journaling, but one that is healthy for the mind and soul.

In recently months I’ve taken up the act of journaling again. Though the intention has been for daily use, the reality is “as often as possible.” I know the benefits of expressing those issues that gnaw at me daily. The act allows me to “explore the past to better understand [my] future”, as per Charissa Arsaoui on addingbliss.typepad.com. She also states that ” journaling helps to clarify your relationships” and can benefit your physical health as a form of meditation.

Unclear how to start your journaling? Begin with essortment.com’s article on journaling, and the four basic questions (as follows):

1. What do you want to do (stated goal)?

2. What did you do today about it?

3. What stopped you from accomplishing your goal?

4. What are you going to do about it now?

To continue with more research regarding journaling is the website stevepavlina.com where he discusses the idea that human thought is linear and sequential. In order to digest and organize an issue or problem, one must think beyond this “box.” Therefore, “[j]ournaling allows you to break free of sequential thinking and examine your thoughts from a bird’s-eye view.” (stevepavlina.com 11/6/11)

Though I have found in my creative life many tools for examining the self, journaling is the classic that is not only timeless, but universal. I intend to continue journaling, especially on my quest for a full and beautiful life. There is much for me to teach, but even more for me to learn and discover. Journaling is merely my roadmap to keep me company along the way!

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When making drastic–or even minute–changes to one’s lifestyle, often we require a little energy boost. Though coffee is always a safe bet to get one through the long afternoons, man (and woman) cannot live by coffee alone. The implication of the above title does not, however, only refer to foods. Instead, “diet” in this sense refers to healthful living.

In About.com’s Alternative Medicine post, “5 Ways to Boost Your Energy,” Kathy Wong guides readers through five simple changes to our lives to give that extra push needed to complete new tasks or heavy burdens. In effect, these suggestions I intend to incorporate into my life to assist me making the previous six daily changes.

The premier suggestion is to attempt “diaphragmatic” breathing. In essence, to breath with the diaphragm. This can be accomplished through various meditations and breathing exercises, though a goal of mine is to return to regular yogic study. If yoga is not your “bag”, qi gong (found in Chinese and kung fu practice) also uses this breathing method. There are several yoga studios in Park City (not to mention the grip-ful in Salt Lake); so it isn’t access that prevents my study, but willingness to make time between grading and lesson planning and coaching.

Before I vomit reasons and excuses why I cannot follow through on goal number one, suggestion number two is easy to accomplish: get a good night’s sleep. Of course, yes! That’s all I have to do! Certainly on weekends when I have no early morning engagements and during long breaks from work I feel rested and have more than my fair share of sleep, but once work commences, I find the balance between getting the minimal amount done and going to sleep on time fraught with problems. How does one find that balance between work and rest? Both are necessary yet only one can be put aside in order to finish the other. If only I could call in to work to proclaim, “I can’t come in for another hour or two–I’m not finished sleeping.”

Though I may argue my ability to perform the previous functions, there is one I know I can–and do–control and that’s my nutrition. The article continues by examining those foods that sap energy from the body. To start, not having enough alkaline-forming foods, such as leafy greens and almonds. These I try to eat as often as possible, including my “Green Machine” serving each morning. But there are other energy sappers I often forget about: too much sugar (it’s in everything!) and coffee, not enough protein, and, the one that often becomes my demise, not enough water. Living in dry climates, especially with heaters blaring (such as now) sucks any hydration out of both body and skin.

My favorite suggestion, however, is number four: take 20 minutes just for me. This is brilliant because we need a little time to decompress and reboot. Sleeping doesn’t count! We need time to mediate or just contemplate the universe without television or Facebook. Conveniently, yoga classes are great ways to meditate, are often more than 20 minutes, and would “kill two birds with one stone” so to speak. However, a nice hot bath at the end of a stressful day with a good book suffices when yoga studios aren’t 24 hours.

The final suggestion is one that carries only so much weight: take a stress-formula vitamin. Multi-vitamins are certainly important parts of our daily routines, but I question if this is the golden ticket to extra energy. That said, it certainly can’t hurt. Stress multi’s contain B vitamins for that extra boost. B vitamins work in the body to cope with stress from our daily lives. This wearing on our system,  which reduces B vitamins in our bodies, can contribute to homocysteine increase, which then may lead to heart-disease. However, ample B’s in the diet help to rejuvenate cells and boost energy levels.

Then again, so does coffee.

For what it’s worth, it certainly can’t be that painful to attempt these five suggestions. I will have to abide by my newest daily mantra: “no excuses.” I wear this motto on my necklace so that every day I might remind myself that this is my one and only life. If I put off today what can be done tomorrow, I will accomplish nothing. And without accomplishment, I am nothing, too.

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I think the person who takes a job in order to live – that is to say, for the money – has turned himself into a slave.
Joseph Campbell

Confucius taught that to love one’s job means to never work a day of one’s life. This adage has inspired many, but motivated few. How many people can honestly say they love their jobs passionately, enough so that they would continue doing what they are doing regardless of pay? Though all Westernized humans must name a price in order to survive, at what point does the average person move from “pleasure” into becoming a slave?
Good pay is pleasurable. It is pleasurable to transition from eating Top Ramon because you have to, to having the option to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables. It is pleasurable to go from an untrustworthy car to a shiny new ride. It is pleasurable to finally financially breathe easy, versus the fear of overdrawing or something being repo’d. Yet this pleasure has a price. Money to pay the bills and live for material needs and gains rarely comes from the job well-loved. Often, the grumbles from those in such a predicament reflects feelings of boredom or uselessness or feeling dehumanized. Is the “stuff” or the house or the car worth the pains of said occupation?
It has been my goal, since a child, to find a career I was passionate about, one that positively impacted the environment or my community, one that paid enough to live decently and made me content. For the last ten years, that has been teaching.
Teaching wasn’t the career I dreamed of. I had hoped to be out fighting big corporations in order to save the environment, or something of that nature. I’d hoped of editing for publication firms in New York or London or Paris. There was even a glimmer, for a while, of writing for a living.
I was talked out of the last by my mother, citing that no one ever is successful as a writer. To this day I don’t know if she was making a generalization or was implying my writing skills weren’t up to par. So, when graduating college to find editing jobs scarce and in the armpit of LA, I opted to become a teacher. At first I balked at the notion, being talked into the licensure program by the same woman who talked me out of writing. I was too impatient, too selfish, too immature. Yet I persevered, for one odd reason or another, and fell into a job at one of the nicest high schools in Las Vegas.
After 8 years, I realized I needed a change.
It wasn’t that teaching was less than thrilling–despite almost quitting early into my career, when I stuck it out (thanks to the guidance of a very wise teacher friend) I came to see teaching for what it is. For 9 months (8 months if you count in vacations) I immediately impact the lives of 120-200 children. Though these are the “dreaded” teenagers, I firmly believe that spending enough time with a group of them, showing humility and patience, anyone will find them captivating, funny, and even intelligent (sometimes…). I learned more about myself as a human standing in front of these hormonal landmines than ever interacting with adults.
But it wasn’t until students started graduating…and coming back to visit that I finally saw my impact. Every year the numbers grow of students who visit me, thank me, invite me into their now adult lives, just for a moment. On Facebook now I’m connected with these graduates, and hear from them occasionally with tidbits about their lives: one is finally published, another feels confident in her poetry class in college, another just appreciated being able to express himself in class. You’ll never understand what impacting a community feels like until you get the thank yous!
So, teaching is, 90% of the time, the ultimate career for me. Most times, I wake up in the morning not dreading the day ahead but already bursting (okay, stumbling) into my plan for the day. I get excited to see student projects or to hear their accomplishments. I love seeing kids glow when they earn an A on an essay in my class. It goes without saying I’m not a pushover teacher. I’m tough, sometimes mean, occasionally imperfect, but always passionate. I make them work for their grades, and tell them they “earn” their grades, I don’t “give” them grades.
And so I do make them earn them.
After 8 years, though, that passion was becoming draining. I needed something else, something in my personal life to up the passion. It took a couple years but at the completion of my 10th teaching year is when it happened.
For me, that passion in personal life is snowboarding. So what better plan than to move to the city with the snow I covet (Park City) and work at the gorgeous high school I covet (Park City High School). Almost without a hitch I applied, interviewed, interviewed again, and…got it! The feeling of accomplishment that coupled this hiring was amazing–for the rest of last school year I was the best, most energetic, most kind teacher on the planet! I felt I could accomplish anything, teach anyone! PCHS selected me…ME!…over the 300 candidates who applied. This alone made me stand proud. And then the clamor from my students in Las Vegas, not wanting me to leave? I felt uplifted!
Then reality hit. I moved to Utah officially in August, and started coaching soccer the next day. Then started teaching, two subjects that I’d never taught before, and a third with heavy work load. And coaching debate. And going to all the specified trainings. And…imploding.
Here it is just barely November and I’m already shutting down. As I consider how I felt about teaching when I was hired, I wonder where that rush, that feeling of passionate accomplishment went. I think it might have all been crushed under the weight of a stack of papers I still need to grade.  Using the Internet, I’m hoping to find my dream job writing…and getting paid a great deal to tell the world what I think of it.
But that isn’t the path for me, at least not just yet. Though writing as a career is certainly my dream job, for now I’ll focus on the new job I’ve earned, the position I have to work for, just like how I make my student work for their grades. I know that sense of accomplishment doesn’t come cheap, but it certainly tastes better than being enslaved to a job I hate.

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