One Day

Years ago I made a list of 40 things I wanted to do before my 40th birthday. When I made the list, I thought it was completely feasible to do everything on my list. I believed that I could do everything on the list. But each day I looked at the list, I applied a blanket thought to each item: “one day.”

Some people truly mean “one day.” When a friend of mine says it, I believe it. But when I say it, I know I’m lying to myself. I know I’m full of shit. I know I have no intention of doing it today, tomorrow, or a year from now.

When I say “one day,” I’m often following it up with an excuse of what I have to do today.

I need to learn to change “one day” to “today.”

If I want to run a marathon, that very well is a “one day” statement, but you don’t generally wake up and run a marathon. You have to work up to it. That means you start walking, jogging, or trotting today.

If you act today, every day, the effort and work compounds and your “one day” becomes real.

Overcoming (Software) Prejudice

I recently bought a new computer and I needed to setup my web development tools. One of the pitfalls of modern web design is that there are so many open source tools installed through so many different terminal commands. I couldn’t remember which tools were gems, npm, gulp, grunt, git, sass, compass, breakpoint, minify. I’m sure other developers don’t have this problem.

While bemoaning my frustrations to anyone who would listen (mainly myself), I noticed the Dw icon sitting in my dock. “I wonder what the latest Dreamweaver does?” asked a befuddled self, obviously looking for an easy solution. After a spending a few moments reading specs for Dreamweaver 2017, I thought I’d spin it up and take it for a drive.

Several hours later, I had a basic site built using Dreamweaver to transpile my Sass files to CSS and even tried Bourbon and Bourbon Neat (pretty cool grid framework). The Developer tools in Dreamweaver were comparable to what I was using before and I felt that it was time well spent.

The moral of the story

For years I avoided Dreamweaver. In fact, I despised it. I was prejudiced against the software. Somewhere along my web development journey, I labeled the software as inadequate (probably because of the popularity of WYSIWYG tools in the late 1990s and early 2000s). But Adobe kept refining and building up the program into the competitive package of tools it is today.

In rediscovering Dreamweaver and overcoming my software prejudice, I not only have a robust development tool for the websites I build, but also a software package that I know my students can use to design and develop their websites. A win-win situation.

Taking The Time, Doing It Right

When asking questions and seeking answers, I often find myself wanting to rush to the end so that I can move on to what’s next. I’ve done this in every stage of my life; every milestone in some way was rushed. The results weren’t always bad, but the habit was formed.

I know when I am rushing through life. I’m not spending time with friends. I’m not building the dreams I have. I’m toiling in the grind of rushing from moment to moment. It’s exhausting and nothing reveals the point of balance my life rests upon more than when things go wrong. The facade of success I have built crumbles. My mask shifts revealing who I am: a scared man that’s making it up as I go along.

As I reflect upon my desire to rush through life, I remind myself what it is I want. But instead of staying in that place of self reflection, I must weigh it against the needs of my family and community. I must do the things I don’t want to do, because I am able to do them. I may not like them, I may despise them, but I am able. There may be a time when I no longer have to do those things, but today is not that day. I try to rush through them, but the faster I go, the more impatient I get.

When I hit pause, reflect, and allow myself time to breathe—in both the good and in the bad—I realize that I have been shortchanging myself for a long time. My impatience has got the best of me.

It’s time to do it right. To go deeper, in both skills and relationships.

But that takes time. It takes commitment.

It cannot be rush.

Working Through The Melancholy

Today was one of those days.

I didn’t want to get out of bed.

I was feeling the deep depression that comes when multiple events start compounding in my soul: From the state of the world and my finances, to fighting to stay on my diet and an overwhelming sense that I do not have control of my life.

But as I worked through the day, it got progressively better. I got out of bed. I tried to meet with a client, but the internet decided not to work. I worked on a design, which directly impacted my evening lecture. I prepped my taxes and wrote the checks. Then I drove to class.

I was feeling pretty low by the time I got to class. But then I saw the work that my students were creating. I listened to their excitement. I chuckled at the student who fell asleep. I fought the urge to slam a book on the desk to wake him up. I helped teams learn more about working together. I made up some words.

As I interacted with others, I was able to get out of my head and listen. I wasn’t worried about tomorrow. I wasn’t worried at all. I was present.

Perhaps that is the best way for me to work through my melancholy: be present.

The Worst Case Scenario

I thought I would start the blank page with a little clickbait: The Worst Case Scenario! I think about how much mental energy it takes to imagine all of the horrible things that could happen. I let the depression sink in; the melancholy of destruction.

Then I think about dog smiles, the smell of dryer sheets in the garage, the sounds of Metallica and Neal Morse, the way freshly cut grass smells, the taste of chai tea, the way my wife lightly touches my back to say hello, my dad’s voicemails replacing words in a song with poop, the joy of reading, the love of writing, smiling at strangers, and the smell of cooking meat on a barbecue. I think about that damn blue turtle shell in Mario Kart and the way my wife and I spend time talking about dreams and ambitions while we play. I wonder how other people find happiness and joy in the midst of sorrow.

I spend time thinking about the best case scenario. It’s not because I want to be ignorant to what is going on. It’s because there has to be a better use of my energy and strength. I’m not trying to manifest something. I’m just trying to stay grounded in hope and peace.

Creativity, Curiosity, and Culture

Chris Guillebeau is one of my favorite writers and earlier today he wrote on Twitter: “If you don’t use your voice now, why should anyone listen to you later? What will you tell a future generation that asks ‘Where were you?'”

This isn’t the first time in the past week I have seen the call to speak up. Each time I read these calls to action, I ask myself, “Am I speaking up?” I often feel like I am not. I feel guilty for not posting my thoughts on social media. I feel judged. I feel forced to say something when I’m not certain what is going on yet. I am uninformed and doing the best I can to stay informed. I feel out of place in the conversation. I feel inadequate.

“You’re on the wrong side of history, Chris.”

“If you aren’t condemning, you’re condoning, Chris.”

“You don’t have time to consider what is going on, Chris.”

“Look at all these people protesting, Chris. Why aren’t you there? Don’t you care?”

“It’s either-or, Chris. There is no middle ground. Remember what Jesus said about spitting out lukewarm food.”

I am speaking up because I’m showing up for the people who matter most in my life.

Through my reflection on the subject of speaking up, I came to the realization that I am speaking up, but in different ways. The most important way that I speak up is that I show up for my students, ready to teach them, to guide them, to give them everything I have, to learn from them, and to serve them. Regardless of their politics, gender, religion, sexuality, beliefs, I show up for them. I care for them. I want them to use the skills I teach them to make the world a better place.

I show up for my wife. I show up for my family. I show up for my business and clients. I show up when I don’t want to. I show up when the world is going to hell. I show up when the world is at peace.

To allow myself to be provoked into other areas of speaking introduces the possibility that I dilute myself from my area of influence and importance. I am able to affect change in the lives of those closest to me. I may never change a life expressing my beliefs online, but I have an opportunity face to face.

My Manifesto for Life: Creativity, Curiosity, and Culture.

I offer myself a reminder of how I should operate in these troubled times. I suppose it is my creative manifesto for life. A belief in creativity, curiosity, and culture.

Creativity

I believe that the point of creativity, apart from making a living when possible, is to make the world a better place.

It is to express beauty and hope by shining light into darkness.

To tell stories of hope, peace, and transformation by overcoming adversity.

Curiosity

I believe that curiosity is paramount because I don’t know everything. Curiosity keeps me humble.

I want to understand those who are not like me, which is everyone. Without curiosity, I will always assume that people that look like me are the same as me and the people that don’t look like me are nothing like me.

Without curiosity, growth and transformation is impossible. There will be a lack of depth and substance.

Culture

Diversity of thoughts and ideas is of utmost importance in my daily life. I learn when I listen. I grow when I share and discuss. Without dialogue and discussion, I might as well stand in front of a mirror yelling at myself. When I hear something I don’t like, I have to remind myself to listen. When I hear something I agree with, I must pause from letting it enter my heart so that I don’t stop listening to those I disagree with.

Culture is an expression of arts and humanities, of science and religions. It is a place where the Earth is both thousands and billions of years old. It is a place of faith and reason. When I listen to the stories of old mixed with the moments of today, I grow and learn.

Welcome to my idealism.

These thoughts and ideas can easily be dismissed as utopian and farfetched. They are almost impossible to instill in a society because they require sacrifice, compromise, patience, and hope. They require context, fact-checking, and belief that there are such things as facts. They require faith and kindness. They require moments of correction and the expression of anger. But never is there a place for hatred and fear, manipulation and lying.

As I speak up, I think about the world I want to create with my art and life. As I pursue projects, as I teach others, as I live and celebrate life, as I pray, as I weep, these are the thoughts I think about.

When leaders act in their own best interests, these are the thoughts I think about.

When the world crumbles and all hope is lost, these are the thoughts I think about.

As the sun sets and rises again in the morning, these are the thoughts I think about. They motivate me to get out of bed. They fill me with hope for the future.

This is how I will show up each and every day.

To Be Kind

This morning, I had coffee with my dad and all we could talk about was the division in the country. He asked me what I would do to bridge the divide. I couldn’t think of the best answer at the time (I don’t think well on the fly), but after some reflection, I think it would have to be kindness.

To be kind to people I agree with. To be kind to others I disagree with. To be kind when people are angry. To be kind when people are happy.

Kindness is a simple answer to a complicated reality. Will kindness really help? It certainly has more of an impact than anger and fear.

Today I am wearing a shirt that says, “Keep calm and shoot film.” A woman on the college campus I teach at said, “Keep calm, I like that.” I started saying something while walking away and reminded myself to stop, turn around, and have a brief conversation. I ended it as I often try to, “Have a nice day.”

Have a nice day. Smile. Thank you. You’re welcome. Eye contact. Kindness is to recognize the humanity in others and embrace it.

I choose kindness.

I Don’t Know

I have a  simple response when I don’t know something: “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

But is it that easy to find something out?

Research is time consuming and involves wading through academic papers, stories in newspapers, journals, and books. It’s easy to fall victim to confirmation bias: “the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses, while giving disproportionately less consideration to alternative possibilities.”

I remember being taught in middle school and high school about how to interpret the news. It involved looking at multiple sources to see how each newspaper interpreted events. It involved research in order to get the full picture.

Research in today’s world is automated and simple. We can search for just about anything while on the toilet, and that is often the same level of regard some people hold to its importance and validity.

I don’t know everything. In fact, there is a lot I have no understanding of. That is why I rely on the research and experience of others to educate me and transform me into a better person.

I often find comfort in a shared link because I don’t have to research. I don’t have to spend the time in the vacuum of opinions found between two extreme ideologies. I can revel in my ignorance.

But eventually, I have to say: “I don’t know, but I’ll find out.”

The Battle for My Attention

I find myself glued to the screen. Looking, watching, waiting. I read the comments. I see what people are saying to each other. I feel the pain, the hatred, the sadness, and the pride. I feel my focus and attention moving from what I have control over to arenas I have no experience in and little say into how things should or actually work.

I see the world showing its true colors and it demands my allegiance, focus, and attention. If I don’t say something, I don’t care. If I don’t speak up, I have no voice. If I don’t show up now, it’s too late. The world is demanding; the sacrifices it expects are to be offered in real-time, all the time.

The battle is for my attention. To take me from where I can thrive and make a difference, and to send me into a fight I’m not prepared for. The battle is for my focus. To take me away from providing for my family, caring for my friends, and educating my students. The battle is for my mind. To flood my thoughts with things I must have an immediate opinion on. The battle is for my intelligence. I must deny what is true in order to find acceptance. The battle is for my ignorance. I must be educated in what is going on because the world does not sleep when I do. The battle is for my freedom. I am not afraid of a physical wall. What scares me are the walls around my heart, the walls around my mind, the walls that make me blind, deaf, and dumb to the emotions of others.

The battle is for my attention. And I am losing.

 

What am I going to miss?

As 2016 draws to a close, the hot topic seems to be about social networks and their impact on the world. Recently, I have been toying with leaving Facebook. Not for political reasons or because of a lack of privacy, but because I don’t like how I feel after spending time on the social network. I feel that I have wasted time. I feel that I have seen a side of my acquaintances I didn’t really want to see. I feel further away from my friends.

As I thought about leaving Facebook, I worried about what I was going to miss out on. I worried that people wouldn’t be able to find out about the work I was doing. I worried that the videos I created wouldn’t be sharable anymore. I worried that my friends and I wouldn’t connect anymore.

Then I hit the button. All of those feelings were replaced with logical responses.

What am I going to miss out on? Friends and family will have to connect in new ways through text, phone, or face-to-face. I’ll have to actually go to family events or parties, instead of living vicariously through Facebook, if I want to participate.

How will people found out about my work? Facebook is not the only place to learn about me. I haven’t left social, I have a newsletter, and I have a public email address. Yes, I won’t be found on Facebook, but 99.9% of my work the past 10 years was not discovered there. Only a handful of videos really found an audience on Facebook. But those videos are in multiple places, not just Facebook. I’m okay with that.

Will my friends and I connect anymore? We never really connected on Facebook. Sure we had small conversations, but we didn’t go deep. And that is something that is valuable to me. My friends and I will need to connect in person or on the phone when it’s time.

It’s weird how addicted to Facebook I got. It was hard to say no, to turn it off, to think I was going to miss out on something. Ultimately, I became a junkie, looking for my next fix. Perhaps it is time for me to go to Social Media Anonymous?