Hello again, America. It’s been…….not long enough. I’m staring at the business end of the inevitable slump that comes on re-entry. All I can think about is all of the things I miss about Ireland. I know it will pass – it always does – but I also know that there will now always be a part of me that longs to go back. I miss the streets of Dublin, the pubs, the Guinness, the not-so-terrible people I went with. Minnesota seems so bland in comparison.
Don’t get me wrong…walking through customs and seeing my best friend and his family waiting for me helped me remember why I’m in Minneapolis in the first place. There are things here that I’m so grateful for and I don’t want to lose sight of that, even while I’m missing Ireland something fierce. I still want to hold onto the here, the now, even when it’s not as exciting.
Anyway, there’s a lot more that I want to write about the trip, but I’m still pretty overwhelmed by just being back and jet lag and all of that. So stay tuned…
On our free weekend, finally slowing down for a little bit. After two weeks, I’ve successfully made the change from extreme introvert to only-slightly-less-extreme introvert, but I thought I’d go back to my roots and take a little time to pause and reflect on the trip so far. Also trying to keep up with these kids determined to drink their way through every pub in Dublin has me exhausted. Ah, to be young again.
So anyway, Ireland.
As busy as this trip has been, it could not be more different from my backpacking trip I took with my sister in 2010. Nine major European cities in three weeks…now that was exhausting. Looking back on that trip feels like that scene at the end of Finding Nemo when Dory meets Nemo and suddenly remembers the entire movie in about five seconds. I look back and see an overwhelming blur of historical landmarks, museums, and the best food I’ve ever eaten. I get tired just thinking about it. But staying in Dublin for almost the entire three weeks has been completely different. Class in the morning, movie/play/excursion in the afternoon or early evening, pub (or two or three) at night. Sleep by 1am (ish), wake up by 9am, repeat. I’ve actually gotten to know the streets of Dublin, the ones close to our apartment anyway. Rather than hitting the highlights and moving on, I’ve been able to explore and discover for myself, figure out what Dublin is to me. My other trip was like speed dating Europe, trying to make a connection in a hopelessly short amount of time before saying goodbye, probably forever. This trip has been like sitting down for a pint with a new friend (well, ok, mostly that’s what it actually has been). No pressure, no rush, just finding out what we have in common and how we’re different.
We’ve seen some cool things while we’ve been here. Toured the Guinness storehouse, saw the cliffs of Moher, went to the Aran Islands, visited Glendalough, listened to the bells at Christchurch Cathedral to ring in 2015, watched a play at Abbey Theatre, walked through Kilmainham Gaol. So much history and culture in such a short time; I’ve never felt so immersed in another country before. But the highlight for me so far was last Saturday when we got to the Aran Islands and a group of us rented bikes and rode along the shoreline, stopping every few hundred feet to take pictures and just be generally overwhelmed by where we were and what we were seeing. Seriously, who gets to do this? There’s a quote by Irish author James Joyce that I’ve tried to take to heart during my time here:
Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges into the past.
The future and the past are unreachable, inaccessible for all eternity. All I have to hold onto is the now, the here. There are moments when the now, the here is dull and uninspiring, moments when I strain for the future or long for the past. I’ll be back in those moments soon enough, but for now I’m holding onto the now, the here. I’m getting to know this incredible city and the not-too-terrible people that I’m here with because soon we’ll be separated and I’ll be back at school where holding onto the now, the here isn’t so inviting, where all I’ll want is the then, the there. So here’s to the now, the here. I’m holding on tight.
I watched The Secret Life of Walter Mitty last night with the roomies. Real good. Highly recommend. Today, I’m suffering from an Adventure Envy Hangover. I get these the morning after I watch a movie filled with adventure and excitement and I spend the day questioning my life choices. I’m sure there’s an element of bad mixed in with the good, but on the whole these actually tend to be positive for me. (Quite unlike regular hangovers which tend to be negative for me. Ok, ok, I’ve never had one but I’ve heard they’re dreadful. Not incredibly tempting.) For a few hours, I examine my life and ask if I’m caught in a never-ending cycle. Are my daily actions pushing me towards my dreams or am I just trudging through the day-to-day, paying the bills and trying to keep myself busy?
Today, I’m asking those questions. The answers…are complicated yet somehow paradoxically very simple. When people ask me my major, I answer and dread their inevitable next question. It never fails. “Oh…what do you want to do with that?” First, I repress the urge to punch them in the face for their condescending tone. Then I shrug and respond with some variant of, “I just think it’s really interesting…*awkward pause*…hey, a degree’s a degree, right?” They agree somewhat halfheartedly (just my insecurity expressing itself through my imagination? perhaps.) and I change the subject. But if I were honest, I’d probably say something like…
What do I want to do with a degree in linguistics? I want to go places. I want to go to all the places. I want to go to all the places and talk to all the people in languages they can understand. I want to go to places people only dream about going and do things people only dream about doing. I want to have conversations in languages most Americans have never heard of. I want to go to places white people have never been before and tell people about the things that mean the most to me in languages that are not English. That’s what I want to do with a degree in linguistics.
That’s what I remind myself of to deal with the hangovers. There are days that I dread going to class. There are days when I’m worried about what I’ll do after college (a lot of them). I watch certain movies or read certain books and just want to quit school and go hike the Himalayas, I’ll figure the rest out as I go. A wise man once said, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” But it also does not do to focus so much on living that you forget your dreams. I’m trying to find the balance between the two. When people ask me how I’m doing, I often cynically reply, “Living the dream…”, but in my less cynical moments (few and far between though they may be) that’s what I want to do. I want to live the dream. If I don’t make a lot of money, if I don’t get a job that other’s envy, if I never have a family of my own, that’s all fine so long as I can say I’ve lived a life of pursuing my dreams. For other people, those things are really important, I’m not trying to paint them as negative or wrong. But for me, they’ve always been secondary. There are things I ache to see and places I ache to go. I want to experience life and go on adventures and if the “American Dream” takes a backseat, I’m ok with that.
But maybe I’m just being naive. Dreams don’t pay the bills, after all. And seriously, what am I going to do after college? Luckily, there’s someone watching out for me. He knows all my dreams and He’s got big plans. Not just for someday but for the everyday. I tend to be too cynical and stressed to notice, but He’s there and He’s working behind the scenes. If I try to chase after my own dreams and make them all happen in the timing that I think is best, disaster usually strikes. But when I relax and trust that I am not the only one passionate about my dreams, they usually end up happening in ways that I never could have brought about on my own.
So here’s to trust that looks like naiveté. Here’s to having no concrete plans for post-graduation life. Here’s to living the dream.
First of all, I think it’s weird that I’m writing about this. Deleting my facebook feels like I might as well drop off the grid, throw away my cell phone, and never use a credit card again. I mean, EVERYONE has a facebook. How will I keep in touch with people? What if someone needs to get a hold of me? How will I reconnect with long-lost friends?
But the more I think about it, I realize that I don’t use facebook to keep in touch with people or connect with friends on the other side of the country. I use it to waste time and to feel like I’m connected to people that I haven’t talked to in months or even years. Sure, it’s great to see what people are up to, but it has kind of taken any actual interaction out of a lot of my relationships. I remember when I actually had to talk to people to know how school was going, or where they were working, or who they were dating. Now, I can just scroll through my news feed. They never know I was even thinking about them, I never have to get more involved than I want to be.
I’m not saying nobody should use facebook or that it’s always a bad thing. I know lots of people who actually use it to stay in contact with friends that they might lose touch with otherwise. And that’s awesome. But I am not one of those people. For me, it’s an excuse to remain disconnected from people that mean a lot to me, so I’m just going to walk away and see what happens. Maybe I’ll just have more free time and nothing else will change. Even that would be a blessing when I start school on Tuesday. But maybe, just maybe, I’ll pick up the phone every once in a while when I want to know how someone is doing. Maybe I’ll write an e-mail, send a letter, or ask someone to have coffee. Maybe I’ll let friendships actually require something of me instead of being able to stay safe and comfortable on the other side of my computer screen.
This year, I’ve been thinking a lot about the kind of man I want to be. I’m officially in my late twenties. It doesn’t feel as old as it used to seem, but there’s also a sense of responsibility that I can’t shake. Responsibility to make choices now that will impact how I live the rest of my life. Something I want to choose now while I’m still young is to be authentic. My temptation is to act like I have it together and have all the answers, but I’ve found that that has never helped a single person, myself least of all. If anyone else has ever been impacted by me in a positive way, it’s when I’ve put down my masks, admitted my failures and messiness, and just let them see the real me. Somehow that encourages people, even when I feel like they should be disgusted or disappointed.
It’s easy to look awesome and cool and funny and put-together on facebook. Much more difficult in real life. I choose authenticity. I choose real life.
On a more practical note, I’m hoping to keep writing on this thing so feel free to follow me if you want to stay updated with wherever life takes me next (shameless plug for my awesome, albeit seldom updated, blog). If you want to stay in touch, shoot me a message and gimme yo digits. Last week, I deleted all of my facebook “friends” that I wasn’t still in touch with and didn’t see myself keeping in touch with down the road. So, if you can see this, I’d love to be your real friend and not just your facebook “friend”. Seriously.
Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart that’s frail and torn
I want to know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn
-Worn by Tenth Avenue North
I love songs that take the jumbled chaos of your own thoughts, feelings, and unexpressed emotions and put them into words for you. This song has done that for me lately. I’m not sure what I want to say here on the world wide web, so let’s just say that lately I’ve been struggling. Ok, ok, who isn’t struggling? Even as I say it, it feels so foolish to bring it up. Maybe it’s better to say that lately I’ve been feeling defeated. Somehow this summer has shown me more of myself than I’ve wanted to see. It has been unpleasant to say the least. Two separate people have asked me if I’m still following Jesus, if I’m still a Christian. Both times I said yes, both times I wondered how honest I was being. I mean, hey, I go to church every once in a while. I really try to read my Bible regularly. I pray. Sometimes. Generally they end up being angry, questioning prayers laced with more than a few words I wouldn’t say in front of my mother, but hey, prayer is prayer, right?………right? Either way, I’ve always believed that being a Christian is about more than just doing the right things, so the excuses I make to myself are less than reassuring. Somehow something is missing. Something that makes me unsure of how to answer someone when they ask me if I’m still a Christian.
Anyway, there’s that. Deep, soul-numbing confusion in an area of life I thought I would never be confused about. That I definitely never should be confused about.
So, where was I? Oh yeah, I’ve been feeling defeated. One day, I’m driving home from work and this song comes on the radio. “Let me know the struggle ends…that what’s dead can be reborn”. Suddenly, I’m crying. I was perfectly fine when the song started, now I’m an emotional wreck. What’s going on? Then, I realize that this is all I would ask for if I could have anything in the world. I have lost hope and would give anything to get it back. Hope always seemed like such a fluffy, cutesy idea. Nice in its own way but not really connected to reality. That was how I thought of it until I lost it. Consistent failure in areas that I’ve done all I can to succeed in has stolen it from me. Now, I just want to know that the ending of my story is a happy one. That redemption does win in the end and that failure isn’t the last word that’s read over my life.
Fast-forward to the week before my birthday. The idea of getting a tattoo to commemorate my entrance to my twenty-sixth year had somehow become an appealing one. I wasn’t committed, by any means, but I was thinking about it. The word “Dauntless” had stuck out to me from a book I was reading, but I wasn’t positive that I liked it and anyone else who read the book would know that that was where I had gotten it. I started looking at synonyms to see if anything connected to the same idea struck me. “Undaunted” was one of the first ones that came up. At first, I brushed it off since it’s pretty much the same word but I kept coming back to it and eventually I ended up looking up the definition anyway. “Not forced to abandon purpose or effort.” The example was “Undaunted by failure.” I couldn’t get it out of my head after that. I still wasn’t sure that I liked it, I just knew that it was right somehow, that that was the word I needed to get. A couple days later I saw another definition that read, “Not intimidated or discouraged by difficulty, danger, or disappointment.” And God spoke to me. I can’t explain it. God hasn’t been saying much lately. Well, I should say I haven’t heard much from God lately. I imagine that the problem is on my end rather than his. Anyway, somehow I knew that God wanted me to get that word tattooed on me. Even up until the tattoo artist’s ink-needle-pen-thing first touched my skin, I wasn’t sure that it was what I wanted, but somehow I knew it was what God wanted. He was telling me something important, important enough to have it with me for the rest of my life.
So. Why “Undaunted”? Because I feel defeated. Because I feel hopeless. Because most days I just want to know that it’s not all for nothing. Because I’ve failed in ways too painful for me to write down. And I don’t think any of that is about to change. You can’t be undaunted if nothing is trying to daunt you, right? So I keep going. I don’t abandon purpose or effort. I don’t let myself get intimidated or discouraged by difficulty, danger, or disappointment.
NOTE: I wrote this about a month ago, right after I got my tattoo. I didn’t post it because I wasn’t sure if I was ready to share it but also because it seemed to end on such a depressing note. I’m still not really sure about it, but I feel like I need to share it so here you go. Just know that I’m ok and that God is teaching me a lot. It’s not pleasant, by any means, but I’m learning…slowly.
I hate making weekly schedules. I’m more of a roll-with-the-punches kind of guy, in case you didn’t know. A schedule just stresses me out and makes me feel suffocated. My phlegmatic disposition aside, I also dislike schedules for the same reason I dislike budgets. They force me to confront the reality of how much I waste. If I ignore my time and my finances, it’s easy to believe that everything is basically balancing out in the end and that I don’t really have to worry about it. Sure, I have to put a bill or two on my credit card every once and a while and might miss a deadline or two in school, but everything will work itself out eventually, right? But then I sit down and look at where my time and money are going every week and I have to realize that these resources are limited.
Today, I was thinking about what I would discover if I used a similar approach for my relationships. What if every facet of a relationship could be somehow quantified and the numbers plugged into a spreadsheet? Would I find that I’m being efficient or wasteful? Am I being loving and adding value to others? Or am I choosing selfishness and seeking my own good? It’s easy to take the people in my life for granted and forget that these friendships are a blessing. Friendships can end, feelings can be hurt, people can feel ignored or used, words are spoken that can wound or heal. I want to be a man that makes the most of the relationships he’s been given.
Nothing too profound, just something on my mind today.
There aren’t many things I’ve discovered that I love, but one thing I have found is that I love running. I mean, not always. Sometimes, it’s the last thing in the world I want to do. But if I make myself get out the door, put in my headphones, and start pounding the pavement, somehow everything just makes sense. Everything is suddenly simple and what was once overwhelming is now manageable.
I started running because there was a time in my life that I was required to exercise four times a week and it was either run or work out. There are a great many things I’ve discovered that I hate, and working out is close to the top of the list. So I started running. In the process, I found something that I wasn’t terrible at and even somewhat enjoyed. Most people think I’m a freak for enjoying what is considered punishment in other sports and they’re probably right. All I know is that my head is never as clear as it is when I run.
I process things internally. It’s hard for me to talk to someone about how I feel about an event right after it’s happened. I need time to think, to be alone, to sort out my thoughts. This week, I’ve been stressed out. Probably for no reason. There was just one thing after another that went wrong and I wasn’t sure I could handle anything else. So I decided to go for a run. It’s snowing outside and pretty windy but it was what I needed. I didn’t have any great revelations, no problems were solved, it was simply a relief to put everything else aside and enjoy something that I love. To just enjoy. Not figure out, analyze, or respond to. But just enjoy.