Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Are you an Ark or an Anchor?

When it rains it really does pour, and sometimes a lot of bad things happen to really good people - but no cliché can accurately describe what it’s like be in the eye of the storm while its raging. I’ve recently watched several friends endure storm after storm after earthquake after tornado after, well, you name it – it’s probably happened. Even as a mere onlooker I’m being blown away by the whiplash of impact after sudden impact and yet the grace with which these blows are being taken in stride is both dumbfounding and awe inspiring at the same time.

I have a lot of friends under black clouds right now – loss, uncertainty, injury, betrayal, sickness, and disappointment are plaguing way too many of the people I care about. Practically, logistically, and morally it has been easy to the point of being involuntary to push back against the wrecking balls that have been swinging violently in my par view. In doing so, I’ve gotten a lot of the “I’m sorry to ask you this, but…” or “I know you’re busy but…” or “I’m so sorry – I know this puts so much on you…” or “Thank you so much, you’re a life saver” or “You’re a saint”. No I’m really not… in fact, no to all of the above. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that my friends are appreciative – but it actually strikes me as alarming - since when are such basic acts of human compassion perceived as acts of valor?

 As a society, have we fundamentally become so far removed from the “do unto others” mentality that it’s now considered an incredible act of kindness to actually come through for people? That’s incredulous. I really did seriously contemplate the opening of this can of worms, but decided after investing over twenty years into the art of saying exactly what I think, its not worth employing the filter now. I have always been of the 'pay it forward' school of thought – you do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, for all the people you can, for as long as you can. Period.  Why wouldn’t you? Because its not convenient, because there’s nothing in it for you, or because you're just too busy? Shame on you…

I have both weathered and witnessed many a rainy season in my almost twenty-two years of living, and for every monsoon, I can think of two kinds of people: the ones who built the arks, and the ones who dropped the anchors. The ark builders are the ones who see the red sky in the morning, have an ark built by high noon, and are dragging you onto it come hell and high water. The anchor droppers are the ones who see the same sky, run for the hills, and drop their anchor – pleading themselves as a source of stability from a distance, but never gaining enough mobility to come through for you: AKA the textbook fair weather friend. I’ll tell you a little secret – 90% of my ark builders have no idea that their support was an ark in a flood of biblical proportions – but you can bet your bottom dollar I’d do the exact same for them on any given day without giving a moments pause to consider the storm I’ve just decided to weather. Maybe that makes me crazy and irrational, but I’ll take that over the shallow apathetic alternative.

It all comes back to how your treat people. I have seen marriages fail, friendships destroyed, love lost, and reconciliation denied all because self-absorption and complacency takes precedent over basic human compassion. You take care of the people who take care of you… Perhaps that is the point at which grace abounds.

So when the monsoon comes, which are you – the ark or the anchor? 

To all of my ark builders, thank you… and to my anchor droppers, thank you too – you’ve taught me twice the lesson.

Love fearlessly.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Apocalyptic Revelations

So, just in case you haven’t been in tune to the greater portion of the east coast – we have endured an apocalypse of sorts. A Derecho storm ripped and roared through here on Friday night, rivaling the tornado producing storms I used to only encounter living in Oklahoma, and leaving comparable damage in its wake. So much so that walking out the front door of my house the next morning – one of the only few with power in the entire Commonwealth – was like a bad combination of “Twister” and “After the Storm.” News stations reported the storm as “the most damaging storm in Virginia history.” You don’t say…

The day after was a day like any other – the sun came up, people had to go to work, cars were on the road, and a weekend full of weddings was upon us. My friend was one of the lucky ones getting married the day after the apocalypse. Little did any of us know, there was no power at the venue. That little detail seemed to escape the list of important things to tell the bride. Oops. Moving on – through an act of God himself and a hard working staff, the venue was beautified by the time we arrived, and despite no running water or electricity of any kind, we were off to a good start. Heading down the road to get the bride ready and what do we see? None other than a car EXPLODING into the air on the side of the road. No lie. Dodged that bullet. I forgot to mention the record-breaking heat wave we were encountering simultaneously with the storm. I am beginning to think the Mayans are onto something - it was literally so hot I saw the devil seeking shade. But, let me tell you what - for no power, no prior natural disaster back up plan, and with absolutely no warning - that wedding was absolutely breathtaking. I mean, would you look at that picture? Just look at it. No one would know it was no less than 100 degrees outside. I wish this beautiful couple all of the endless happiness they deserve - Mother Nature ain't got a thing on their wedding day.

So, while the world was busy surviving the apocalypse, I was encountering one of my own. The kind that build up inside when you let something fester, or when you’re about to make a potentially life altering decision. My dilemma was the latter. You see, I took this job working as a Public Relations associate at SAKinterMedia in April. I knew I would like it, but I have actually found myself hopelessly in love with this type of work. Let me preface the eye of the storm by saying I am about to be a senior Music Education major who has devoted the last 3.5 years of my life pursuing an education that prepares me for what has now been an 8 year burning desire to teach music… And guess what I don’t see myself doing anymore – teaching music. Therein lies the problem.

This personal apocalypse lies in the current war within myself to pursue a Masters in Education. I have sold my soul to grad school this summer to get ahead on my degree so that I am free to travel next summer. In doing so, I’ve sort of hit the career decision accelerator. I have to be pretty committed to being a teacher to purse a Masters in Education – the problem is, I’m not. Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE teaching music, always have, always will – but I think I falsified an illusion that teaching full time would be comparable to what I do in the summer when I teach leadership camps and band camps.

The intensive week-long camps where you get the kids at square one and by the time they go home they’re leaving with a sense of accomplishment, empowerment, and enthusiasm is where it’s at for me. I have always had a passion for those kinds of intense bursts of instilling positivity and cultivating change. I am a chronic people pleaser: I motivate others, I am constantly seeking new sources of inspiration, I strive to enable the dreams of others, and I experience success of my friends, family, and co-workers as equal to my own, if not greater. I am a people person – period.

I think my biggest fear in life is a 9-5 cubicle job. I am simply not cut out for it. I have nothing against those kinds of jobs, but personally, I’d be miserable. I am a creative person by nature; I am a seeker of solutions and a defiant of the impossible. I take it personally when people tell me something cannot be done. I need to be in an environment where I can apply creativity, work with people, and contribute positively to the world around me. I believe I have convinced myself that teaching music was the only way to ensure I could really do that – until now.

When I started this job in Public Relations I was handed a book called Idea-Links: The New Creativity by Jim Link. I read it, and it rocked my world. That book single-handedly instigated a complete metamorphosis of the way in which I experience life. The author talks about how every experience is a lesson, each relationship is a network, and that the secret behind every success is an Idea-Link. For clarification here is his definition: Idea-Link: (noun) a succinct insight or realization about why or how something works or succeeds that is stored into memory. He breaks creativity out of the confines of stereotypes and shows you, through experience and practical application, that successful creativity is achievable in any capacity. I salute you, Jim Link, that was news to me. 

Post reading the book I have consciously and perpetually logged all of my experiences since starting this job and have been absolutely stunned by the inter-connectivity of all of the things I love to do. Everything can work together: writing, music, photography, graphic design, networking, interacting with countless incredible people – it ALL links together. Music will always be a huge part of my life – it just might not BE my life in the way I have anticipated… and as foreign as that is to admit, I’m okay with it.

I am beyond over school, but I am committed to setting myself up with my best foot forward. Finishing a Masters in Education is not wasted time even though it feels like it – in fact I bet you I’ll have my own book of Idea-Links by the time I’m done. Every experience is connected, and I might have found my calling too little too late in the degree seeking world, but better late than never. It’s a good place to be when you have to pick between things that you love – I’m simply trading an old dream for a new one.

As for the revelations part of this - I said at the beginning of the year that I was setting out on a truth-seeking journey, externally and internally, called the Physics of the Quest – and I have. If you are truly willing to regard everything that happens to you on that journey as a clue and if you accept everyone you meet along the way as a teacher and if you are prepared, most of all, to face and forgive some very difficult realities about yourself, then the truth will not be withheld from you – and it has not.

This “truth” is perhaps a revelation of apocalyptic proportions in the small picture, but I can’t help but feel a sense of liberation because the big picture has such unprecedented potential. I have the best job in the universe with the most incredible people I could ever imagine working with and simply could not have asked for a better introduction into a field I think it’s now safe to call a new career path. This is not a door closed – it is a door opened, and I am beyond thrilled by the endless opportunities at every turn. The only things worth regretting in life are the chances you didn’t take – this isn’t going to be one that falls through the cracks. I fully believe in seizing opportunities when they present themselves – I have found a passion that I never saw coming and I intend to dive into pursuing it headfirst. If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you’ve always gotten. On this Independence Day I am exercising the freedom I have to change my mind. Carpe Diem.

Live fearlessly.