Do You Believe?

This weekend I spent the majority of my Saturday eating up the last 100 pages of the third book in Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn Trilogy, The Hero of Ages. The previous book concluded amid the messy aftermath of the final showdown between several warring kingdoms and left the reader with a hopeful but dark sense of foreboding for a far greater threat still to come.

In the last stage of the journey, this superior menace finally reveals itself and is every bit the challenge that we all feared. Throughout the story many beloved characters are led to question their ideals, their abilities and even their own memories in an epic struggle against a deific foe. Although this is a fantasy novel written primarily to entertain, the thoughts and doings of one character caught my attention and made me ponder some big questions of my own. 

Sazed, a kindly scholar and purveyor of the lost religions of the Final Empire eventually finds himself in a crisis of faith and on a quest for universal Truth. Along the way, he asks questions that I’ve come across in my life and reached similar conclusions. 

“It wasn’t the grand doctrines or the sweeping ideals that seemed to make believers out of people. It was the simple magic in the world around them.”

I strive everyday to embrace the small magic of life, although some days, this is more challenging than others. In my experience, people who are not ready to find faith tend to demand extreme and undeniable shows of divinity as proof but, as one character pointed out to Sazed, to seek a religion that requires no faith of its believers is to search for something that cannot be found. A lot of people spend their lives begging for godly signs to put them on the right path and miss all those little, seemingly insignificant moments when the world did exactly that. It is these moments that make believers as Sazed discovered even as the world was crashing down around him. 

“He would believe. Not because something had been proven to him beyond his ability to deny. But because he chose to.”

You have to choose to believe. As humans we are by our very nature unable to comprehend and understand the fullness of God. Yet, people believe anyway. They know there will always be questions and that many of us are ill equipped to answer them. But it’s strange how, even at the world’s ending, those who choose to believe can still find proof of faith.   


5 Mid Year Resolutions

I always thought that New Year was a completely arbitrary time to renew personal goals and never made much of a fuss about coming up with a solid list of resolutions to begin on the first of January. I am constantly creating and revising expectations for myself and the things I want to accomplish. I see no point in allowing the next six months to slip by while we all wait for the clean slate that will be 2021. Why wait until next year to make improvements that you could be implementing right now? Here are some of my current resolutions.

  1. Learn to cook – I do have several spectacular recipes under my belt but it’s high time I added a few new ones. My current dinner rotation doesn’t thrill quite like it used to. 
  2. Start training for a half marathon – I always wondered what it would be like to be able to say that I ran a half marathon. Maybe it’s time I found out. Distant ‘what if’s’ are only far away until you do them.
  3. Be an early riser – There was a time in my life when I only needed one alarm in the morning, set to go off everyday at the same time. The snooze button went unused and getting out of bed didn’t span a 20 minute period. I’d like to get back to that.
  4. Respectably adult – Taxes and doctors and passports, oh my! There are always checkups to schedule, appointments to keep, health and sanity to be maintained. I’d like to make a dent in the seemingly endless stream of bills, forms, phone calls, and follow ups that clutter my To Do list. 
  5. Keep myself in line – Motivation without discipline is doomed to fail. Pride is a powerful motivator which is one of the reasons why I prefer to go jogging outside rather than on a treadmill. If I stop to walk, people will see me fail. However, I’m on the hunt for effective methods of self discipline in all facets of my life, the kind of discipline I had when I used to get up for my one and only alarm every morning. I’m fed up with disappointing myself.

Do Something!

Productivity breeds productivity. Today I went for a jog after work at 7:30pm. I meant to go jogging at 5:30 but I sat on my couch and checked Facebook and suddenly it was two hours later. There was nothing particularly special about today’s run other than the fact that it happened. I’ve fallen into the habit of making excuses not to do things. It’s too late. I still need to clean my apartment. I’ll be too tired to do anything else.

No matter what the reason is, there is always a voice in your head whispering why you shouldn’t do something. Such was the case for me today and I almost listened as I’ve grown accustomed to doing during social distancing. Things left to be finished tomorrow are never actually finished. Although I dragged my feet and wasted far too much time bustling around my apartment in search of socks and keys and running shoes, I did eventually do it. 

What’s more, I didn’t stop or walk for the entire route. It wasn’t much, just a short fifteen minute run through my neighborhood. I didn’t do it for distance or speed. I just did it. When I arrived back at my apartment, my legs and lungs burning from their first real workout in weeks, I avoided the couch. I did the dishes, tidied the living room, made dinner and started writing. I achieved more in half an hour than I often do in an entire weekend.

There are a lot of resources which recommend a full social media detox to boost productivity. I personally struggle with this as many of the groups I participate in communicate via Facebook and it is an easy way to stay connected with family and friends in Colorado. I do agree that this complete detox can be incredibly useful but on its own I’ve found that it isn’t quite enough. Reducing negative habits is fantastic but it is doubly effective when paired with strategies to grow positive routines.

Find something everyday, however small and seemingly insignificant, that you will accomplish. If your fluffy sofa is a regular black hole of well laid plans and good intentions then by all means, refrain from plopping down with your phone for some hypnotic scrolling until all other necessary tasks are completed. But success is more than abstaining from idle behavior. It comes when you create, build, grow, learn. So do something healthy and constructive every single day. Do more than stop wasting your time. Use it with purpose.

Creative Rehabilitation

Photo by Gerd Altmann from Pexels

“It is easier to act yourself into a better way of feeling than to feel yourself into a better way of action.” – O.H. Mowrer

I came across this quote while working my way through Getting Things Done by David Allen. It is incredibly sound advice and yet, much easier said than done. Some of my most productive days occurred when I resolved to stay off Facebook and act like an adult; filing taxes, scheduling doctor’s appointments, maintaining the discipline to actually write everyday like I promised myself that I would. It’s so much easier to keep up the productive momentum once the ball is rolling. 

The tricky part is figuring out how to initiate that motion. There are some weeks when I feel like I could climb the tallest mountains and touch the stars. Then, there are those times when everything seems like such a hassle and I hesitate to start anything because I’d hate to run out of time and not be able to finish. This is a completely useless mentality and one which I regularly fight to suppress. Of course things might not get done on time but if they’re never started, they won’t get done at all. 

I’m not sure there will ever come a day when I feel like I have mastered the art of getting things done. Each time I renew my resolve to stay focused and maintain a constant and steady flow of productivity it feels a bit like being released from rehab again. It is a fresh beginning, full of fantastic possibilities. I am cleansed and refreshed and once again ready to take on the world. Sometimes, the eventual trip to creative rehabilitation feels inevitable and struggling against it seems like a lost cause but I always find my feet again. Today marks yet another new start in which I renew my promises to myself.

I will…

  • Go to bed on time.
  • Read and write everyday.
  • Limit screen time.
  • Actually do the dishes as I use them.
  • Exercise everyday, even if it’s only a 10 minute home workout.

These are just a few of my current personal goals but ones that I am constantly struggling with. It’s maddeningly easy to fall off the wagon and lose sight of your goals. Sometimes the best you can do is slap a smile on your face and go about your day as if you were in the mood to be productive. Fake it ‘til you make it and hold yourself accountable.

POTD: What is Happiness?

This was a question that I came across in the 2014 film, Hector and the Search for Happiness starring Simon Pegg. This is an all around heartwarming story and I recommend it to anyone looking for a true feel-good movie. It follows the journey of a disheartened psychiatrist on his quest to define happiness.  

While highly entertaining, it also left me with a question that I’ve returned to over the years and my answer is a little different every time. What is happiness? How do you define it? I may post some of my responses at a later date but for now, I just want to pose this question. Please share your thoughts in the comments. Everyone has their own brand of happy. What’s yours?  

One Year Ago…

I packed my life into a U-Haul and went for an 18 hour drive with my dad. Thankfully he volunteered to be behind the wheel for the duration of our trip halfway across the country to get me settled into my new life as a metallurgical engineer in a steel mill on the southern tip of Lake Michigan. Watching the Colorado Rocky Mountains shrink in the rearview mirror, I couldn’t picture what my life would look like when we pulled up to my apartment in Valparaiso, Indiana and in all the days that came after. 

Born and raised in Colorado and having loved every minute of it, I never wanted to be anywhere else. I cherish memories of family camping trips to Utah and spring breaks spent on a sandy Mexico beach but we always came home to Colorado, one of my favorite parts of every vacation. Everywhere I went, there was always family a short 20 minutes away and stony peaks to summit if I ever needed to release any pent up energy. For all of these reasons, I never saw myself leaving. 

During my time in Colorado, there was always a plan; a next step to take and more homework to finish in order to one day graduate with marketable skills that would help to land me a job doing something I enjoy. I was so focused on earning the degree and the job offer that I hardly gave a thought to what the rest of my life would look like once I had them. We hit the road and headed East and for the first time in my life, there was no plan beyond the metallurgical position I was due to begin the following week. I had absolutely no idea what was in store for me in the year that followed. 

People like to talk about traveling out into the world to find themselves. I never bought into this way of thinking. Everything I ever needed was just a few minutes away. Why would I need to find myself? Moving to Indiana didn’t teach me who I am. I’ve always known that. But I do think the change of scenery was the fresh start that I needed to begin owning it. I’m still singing the same tunes I’ve always sung but the volume has been cranked up to 100 percent.

After a year in Indiana, I am more me today than I’ve ever been. I’m doing things that previously went on the back burner because there were more pressing uses of my time than checking off a few bucket list items. I’m constantly learning new skills and trying new things and I’ve made so many friends in my Indiana home. 

One of the best things about growing up in Glenwood Springs was the sense of community present in every interaction. It was a place where everyone knew everyone. You couldn’t go to the grocery store without bumping into a neighbor. Backyard gatherings were full of the smiling, vaguely familiar faces of grown ups holding their hands three feet above the ground in front of them and saying things like ‘I met you when you were this tall.’ Everyone had a story about bottling homemade wine with my grandpa or going to school with my dad.

Although I haven’t been here nearly long enough to develop such long lasting roots, the sense of community those roots imparted has followed me to Valpo. I am once again finding myself caught up in conversations after running into coworkers at the grocery store. Sometimes when I go out for dinner with friends I’ll catch one of the ladies from my shooting league waving an enthusiastic hello from across the restaurant. Bumping into friendly faces reminds me so much of where I came from and everything I’ve achieved since then. It never fails to make my day a little brighter.

Playing the Long Game

Everyone always said that I could do anything I wanted. They never promised it would be easy. In my experience, the things that come easy in life tend to be temporary. I think that every person on the planet wants difficult things but many end up settling for short term satisfaction among all facets of their lives; careers, relationships, hobbies. So many people entering the workforce flit from one job to another without really committing to any of them. Everyone has dreams and great big ideas about changing the world even if only in a small way. But for many, these will only ever be daydreams. 

We grow up being told that we can achieve anything, the sky is the limit. But the fact that we can doesn’t necessarily mean that we will. You have to do more than want it. Go ahead and wish upon a star. It might hear you and send some good luck your way. But luck tends to favor the prepared so in the meantime, start planning how you’re going to conquer all of those immense and terrifying dreams. Work to become the sort of person that’s capable of getting the things that you want. 

If you play the long game you will undoubtedly be called upon to do things that make you uncomfortable. You will stumble and you may fall flat on your face once or twice. You will also likely experience a level of happiness that you never knew you were capable of because the joy of achieving your goals is so much more fulfilling than simple external pleasures. Dare to commit to your dreams. Books aren’t written about those who settled for a life of ease and comfort. At best, they are a footnote in someone else’s story. There will be plenty of time to relax in retirement but today you have things to do. 

Go take on the world! I believe in you.

POTD: Firsts

When was the last time you did something for the first time?

My answer these days is usually ‘about 20 minutes ago.’ However, that certainly hasn’t always been the case. I was all for trying new things as long as they were safe, appropriate, moderately low risk and didn’t involve talking to too many strangers. In short, I made a habit of never biting off more than I thought I could chew. I challenged myself to do things that I was reasonably sure I would be able to accomplish.

While this is a superb strategy for many scenarios (academics in my case) there are some situations in which you just have to take a deep breath and jump in with both feet. You’re never going to learn how to talk to people if you spend your evenings holed up in your apartment. You’re never going to feel totally self sufficient until you’ve lived completely on your own for at least several months. 

Setting healthy, achievable goals is fantastic and should be done on a regular basis to ensure that progress is being made. But goal setting and visualization only get you so far. Sometimes you just have to decide you can do something and force yourself to go out into the world and prove it. 

Authentic Conversation (Holy Sacraments)

This weekend I witnessed my first adult baptism, confirmation and first communion at the Pentecost Vigil. As someone who will be completing all of these sacraments at Easter, it was exciting to be able to attend this private ceremony for two of my fellow Right of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) members. It was an opportunity to observe the process first hand before participating in it myself. 

I expected to gain a little knowledge and experience from the event but what I left with was far greater. I went away filled with a new appreciation for the sacraments and even more anxious to complete them in April. It was so refreshing to watch my fellow inquirers declare their faith and be accepted fully into the Catholic church. 

This bold declaration of faith often seems difficult to come by among many of my peers. No one wants to sound preachy or be judged a pious goody-goody. I’ve struggled with this myself, even after my decision to eventually complete the sacraments of initiation. I know what I believe and I’m not ashamed of that. But speaking freely about it to people my own age, knowing that many of them feel very differently, is not something that comes easy. 

However, no matter what your faith, it’s as much a part of you as the color of your hair. In order to truly flourish in life, you must accept yourself in your entirety and that includes your faith. If you are completely honest with yourself and about yourself, you may be surprised at the positive reaction from others. People appreciate genuine authenticity far more than polite affirmation so be authentic. Your faith is simply a conversation between you and God and there’s no reason that it shouldn’t be a conversation among your peers as well.