A Reflection on Comfort

A Reflection on Comfort

Winter is coming. A hallowed house motto signaling a switch of seasons. Bearing down with it a demonic force. Leaving countless lives in peril. Frozen in fear of what lies ahead.

For Southern Californians, winter is full of danger too—but in much less menacing manners. Some will speak of its dangerously fun opportunities, such as the chance to skate on thin ice.

While an undergraduate at UCLA, I, along with mis amigos, bused to Downtown Santa Monica. Greeting the smiles of everyone around me, an ice rink shone bright in the night exuding delight. Family and friends glided under fluorescent holiday lights, which, hanging in thin air, appeared like a finely woven spider web.

I wince. It’s a festival trap and I’m easy prey. With no ice skating experience—and a general lack of coordination—I lace up amid:

“How many laps before we race?”

“Hopefully I’m not rusty after two months off.”

And my personal favorite

“The puffy jacket kid! He’s got it! He’s finally u…down again”

Gulping, I finish with a quadruple knot. Though the laces are long, I’m wearing low socks. Poor choice. The heavy boots dig into my ankles. I conjure this pain to excuse myself from the whole shebang but before I can fully plead my case, social pressure inches me towards the ice. And within seconds, after they’ve joined the clockwise circle of laughter, I’m flat on my face. Or was it my ass?

Doesn’t matter. Throughout the evening, I alternated between the two. Puffy jacket kid, I feel your pain.

However, the night proves not a total loss. With the help of a very patient girlfriend, I manage to stand and “skate” for a few laps by the end of the night without falling. I’m unable to keep up with the zooming hordes of children. My blades smash against ice with such force Apolo Ohno, the god of all things speed skating, rolls his eyes from an ice rink from up above.

Mulling the experience over Thai food—one temperature extreme to another—I look around at everyone’s water glass. They’re full and have been since the start of dinner. Me? I’m four deep and signaling the waiter for another. This ridiculously spicy food is too much for me to handle. It’s uncomfortable. Yet, everyone else enjoys it. They’re smiling like they did on the ice rink.

Then, it hits me. I shovel the rest of my meal down. Knowing I’ll never opt for Thai food. Never ice skate—unless there’s another very patient girlfriend in the mix. And I’m happy I’ve tried both to come to this understanding.

Discomfort creates opportunities for growth and learning. I learned how to ice skate. I experienced the spicy nature of Thai food. I learned that I disliked both. And that’s entirely fine. But it’s not a reason to avoid discomfort entirely. It’s a necessary part of life and something that can be viewed within the frame of comfort.

The opportunity for my friends to ice skate and eat Thai food was a chance for comfort. My friend’s worry of being rusty after two months off illustrates a chance to get uncomfortable within a larger frame of something that is largely comfortable.

Seeking discomfort within comfort. It’s an odd thought but something oddly, well, comforting. It’s something I need to aim for more within my life. Pushing limits, getting uncomfortable within a comfortable activity. I’ll focus seeking discomfort within running and writing. Both are activities I thoroughly enjoy. Both are things I want to excel in throughout life. Therefore, I need to be comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable within these pursuits. For it’s only through discomfort that growth and learning transpire.

And what did winter have to do with any of this? Besides giving me the fun chance to segue from the fictional and heavy threat of white-walkers within Game of Thrones to the mundane and trivial discomforts of ice skating in Santa Monica, winter too is a necessary discomfort within the larger comfort of a consistently temperate Southern California. Just my weird (now very sleepy) mind at work.

A Reflection on Accountability

A Reflection on Accountability

Finishing my first and last beer of the night, I place a brown bottle at my feet. Surrounded by friends who I will not see for quite some time, I happily chat on the balcony of an apartment I’m moving out of tomorrow. It’s a surprisingly cool night in LA. Southern Californians have suffered over the past few weeks with temperatures in the 80s and 90s. Rest of the country, especially those soon to shovel the first snow of winter, please pity us!

Talk of the election, our jobs (or lack thereof) and upcoming concerts mix with music escaping from inside. More friends, and a couple of strangers I’ve never laid eyes on, enter the apartment. A cacophony of high-pitched squeals and deep-voiced approvals drown our conversations and the music for just a moment. Among the new arrivals is my friend Tyler. Excited to catch up with the guy, I leap out of my seat and kick the now empty beer bottle. Instinctively I reach for it and naturally, only assist its path off the balcony. Echoes of shattering glass silence the balcony once again. I brush it and my friends’ jeers of “party foul” off as I take my leave.

Weaving through the now crowded kickback-turned party, I find Tyler and begin discussing life. Within my LA group of friends, there are only a few I consider wonderful conversationalists. The ability to listen intently, provide meaningful and specific feedback and the willingness to do so on a consistent basis are rare traits for an individual to embody all at once. Tyler is one of them. After we discuss his newest position and its benefits as well as pitfalls, he turns the conversation towards me. I relay excitement at the impending reality of moving home. How my productivity has fallen off the past few months. That it’s been an incredible year filled with adventures and experiences I had never imagined unfolding. And that I need a break from it all.

“Shifting gears,” he smiles. My quizzical expression leads him to recount his time working in Connecticut. Away from family, friends and other distractions that occupy—not in a necessarily bad way—a large portion of our lives. He goes onto describe the experience as challenging and sometimes lonely—however, ultimately rewarding. By and for himself, he made accountability a core value intrinsic to his life. Since then, it has paid off with steady and enjoyable work as well as a newfound perspective on the importance of balancing professional responsibilities and social pleasures. The parallels between his experience and my near future excite me.

I thank him for sharing his story and the insight I’ve gained from it. We split into different conversations and carry on until saying goodbyes at the wee hours of the morning. Crashing, I feel light and optimistic about the move. It’s an opportunity to distance myself from unneeded distractions and a chance to zero in on important future needs and wants. Whereas I’ve spent the last few months aloof socializing and having fun with no clear path for my next step in life, the upcoming months will prove the exact opposite. It’s recognizing and being thankful for the fun, growth and lessons learned of the near past and then “shifting gears” by accepting accountability for what lies ahead.

Personal Accountability

One benefit in accepting personal accountability is an increase in personal productivity. For most of my life, I’ve successfully accomplished tasks and goals through understanding the importance of deadlines. However, I realize without some form of structure providing such deadlines (school assignments, project dates, races) I falter in doing work. Thus, after much resistance but knowing its vital importance, I sat down and created a list of personal items (both needs and wants) with dates by which they need to be accomplished or met.

You know when an interviewer asks that abstract and haunting question, “Where do you see yourself in [x] amount of years?” I’ve always hated that probe into my personal and professional life yet finally believe I have some semblance of an answer. Not only for a year down the road but also for the end of the week. I’ve found by breaking down each month into weeks, accomplishing tasks and/or meeting goals becomes infinitely more tangible. When something is within sight, it becomes real. It then emits a needed pressure which compels me to action and thus to do work.

Finishing a task and/or meeting a goal by a deadline warrants checking it off the list. This creates momentum and a high that creates enthusiasm for another item on the list. Lists will act as my means of personal accountability moving forward so that I’m happy with my level of personal productivity. However, it never hurts to have some help along the way.

Friendly Accountability

Remember that beer bottle that shattered both glass and conversation from the balcony? Well, here it is in its fractured glory!

A Reflection on Accountability

The mess I dismissed hours before.

I wish I could say I took that picture and cleaned it up by own volition. That would be a lie. A good friend of mine, Sagar, snapped the picture and sent it my way upon leaving my apartment. His friendly reminder of my accident that night gently pushed me out of bed to clean up my mess. In this case, Sagar’s picture spurred me to action in a situation I should have addressed earlier or may not have addressed at all. He held me accountable and for that I’m grateful.

Having someone to hold me accountable like Sagar did that morning was lucky and convenient. I’d suggest eliminating these two variables from the equation entirely. Rather, look for an accountability partner. Someone to hold you accountable through the good and bad times.

Figure out qualities you’d like today in an accountability partner and start tackling your personal items with some friendly help!

KAABOO Music Festival Del Mar First Music Festival

KAABOO

BEEP BEEP.

“Enjoy your day at KAABOO!” an employee warmly greets as I enter the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Walking beneath a massive turquoise, orange and red painted archway I catch up to my fast moving friends, Jasmit and Kristen. Together, we pace down a paved road catching glimpses of vendors selling food, distributing alcohol, raffling off prizes and giving away free samples between throngs of energetic bodies. As we round a corner, music tickles our ears and a stage comes into sight. Our pace quickens as we weave between groups dancing to the beat. The song concludes, the crowd claps and the band transitions into their next hit. Over the next three days, more music and friends will factor into the equation for an amazing weekend. One that provided countless laughs, music discoveries, memorable moments and valuable lessons. Here’s a few things I learned from KAABOO.

  1. Awkward dancing (a specialty of mine) not only is incredibly fun but also fashions a necessary personal bubble amid a sardine like crowd. Do people really want to stand next to the weirdo flailing his body back and forth not in rhythm with the song (though he desperately tries)? No. Go ahead and dance awkwardly to make space for oneself. Even better, grab fellow awkward dancers to create a space so large one can inhale fresh air during that really popular set.
  2. Friends, both old and new, make one feel glad to be alive. From screaming that chorus everyone knows together to reveling in a newfound common interest to discovering that someone has changed for the better, sharing experiences, words and moments with friends ultimately validates our own existence and happiness. Take the risk of branching out to someone unknown. Be honest and open with those already in your life. Surround oneself with individuals who make you glad you’re alive.
  3. Passion is both infectious and attractive. It’s the fuel that propelled men and women to perform at KAABOO. Further, it’s the reason why thousands and thousands attended the Del Mar Fairgrounds this past weekend. For these artists, creating music and sharing it with the world is their passion. Grasping the joy these individuals receive from pursuing their life’s work as well as sharing it with others was simple. During any given set, I turned around in every direction only to see a sea of smiles. All emanating from the stage to pour over those awaiting a chance for happiness. Noticing this has been a wake up call. A chance to refocus my passions, develop them and share them with others.

Thanks Ally, Alyssa, Dylan, Jasmit, Kristen, Lauren, Marlyn, R.J., Sagar, Sarah, Shanda, and Tyler for a wonderful weekend!

Parks and Recreation

A Defining Episode

Keeping this post short and sweet. Over the past few weeks, I’ve enjoyed catching up on the mockumentary Parks and Recreation. Often times, individuals will point to a particular episode within a series that validates its merit as a whole. A defining episode so to speak. This episode, then, is subsequently used to lure in the skeptic with the aim of converting him or her into a fan. While I wish this were the case with my pick for this series, the episode I have fallen in love with does quite the opposite. Two Parties revels in drawing upon the character relationships, both large and small, fleshed out in the show’s previous seasons. In doing so, minor characters come back in some extremely hilarious circumstances that reward the invested fan rather than convince the distant skeptic. Was a pleasure to watch and an episode I will surely revisit with time. Catan, the Indianapolis Colts and steak dinners surely do come together in true comedic fashion.

San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco | Hospitality, Traveling Alone and Sightseeing

Hospitality

Hugs are exchanged. Kind wishes of safe travels leave lips. I throw my top-heavy pack over my shoulder and step onto the cracked sidewalk while waving goodbye to a carload of friends. For a matter of seconds, I’m alone in a city of hundreds of thousands. Turning around, this feeling washes away. A young man, my friend with whom I’ll be spending the next five days, smiles as he guides me to his second story apartment. Flurries of catch up echo off concrete walls as we climb stairs. It’s been nearly a year since we’ve seen each other. A year since he housed me last. The front door swings open, shoes come off and I nestle my pack into the corner of his room. Fortunately, I may use this space for the coming week. Hunger roars after a long day in the city and we walk to a nearby market to stock up on food to feed the beast and beer to keep it well hydrated. Coming back to his apartment, I meet three gents. Two apartment mates and one roommate. All of whom greet me with a wide smile and a series of questions about my stay in the city by the bay. As day drifts into night, so do I into sleep. Resting comfortably under the cool breeze of an open window, I take notice of what these four individuals have given me. A couch to crash on and recharge my battery, a fridge to store my food and fuel my adventures, a roof overhead to protect me from the elements and a bathroom to shower in and mask the fact I’ve been reusing t-shirts. Over the next four days, however, I discover that they provide me something much more. From Taco Tuesday feasts to nightly Netflix binges to silly arguments and thoughtful discussions, I feel welcome and at home in a city I simply am visiting.

Thanks Brandon, Derek, Delvin, Spencer, and Aaron for extending the wonderful gift of hospitality. It’s a gift I hope to return in full as ya’ll make it down to LA soon. It’s also a gift that allowed me truly to explore the city at my own pace.

Traveling Alone 

Grey hair whips to and fro as he brings the camera up to his squinting face. Finger on the shutter-release, I smile while thwarting my UCLA cap’s repeated attempts to go for a dip in the San Francisco Bay. A strong gust thrusts long silvery strands over the lens. Quickly, he readjusts while elevating the camera back into position. Then, lowers it and finally asks:

“And this is it? Nobody else?”

“Yep” I mutter, caught off guard by his question.

“OK, son.”

As he returns the camera, I thank him and ask if he’d like his own picture taken in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. Passing me his phone, he walks to where I once stood and motions to a huddled group chatting among themselves. The four disband and file in rank around the older man. He stands shorter than the rest yet commands their attention. Framing SF’s icon within the shot, I snap a few photos and give his phone back. He kindly waves as he walks away with his family for the day. Surveying my surroundings, I begin to make sense of his question. Couples, families, friends and tour groups are abuzz in this area. It’s definitely a challenge spotting someone who is traveling alone. Someone who chooses to walk in the city rather than drive. Someone who chooses to get lost in the city rather than stick to a well-defined schedule. Someone who chooses to lay on the beach on the fringes of the city rather than lay on the bed of a hotel room in its heart. Someone who chooses to reflect in the city rather than get distracted by a game on the go. Scrolling through my camera, I stop on one particular photo. I spot a young man who looks happy to be traveling alone. A young man who also chose to see the sights in a different way than most.

Sightseeing 

My legs tire. I breathe harder. With each foot strike to hit asphalt on this chilly Tuesday morning, I continue running towards my final destination. Fascinated, that stride after stride on this steep ascent within the heart of San Francisco envelops me in one of the city’s most distinctive features: blankets of fog. Sharing the road with cars and cyclists alike, I’m careful to maintain a safe distance from the two- and four-wheeled vehicles whizzing uphill. Locals, I assume. Individuals who undoubtedly navigate this winding road with less visibility on a daily basis. Motivated by their efforts to reach the top, I refocus and press forward. Pushing through fog and turning around one last bend reveals a near empty parking lot. A few cyclists snack on energy bars while one couple digs out sweaters from their car. Tower viewers, none of which are in use, typically frame gorgeous vistas granted to those who reach the top of Twin Peaks. Downtown San Francisco, the Oakland Bay Bridge and many other notable sites stand clear from atop this high point within the city. However, on this particular morning I only see fog. And rather than gripe over the weather affecting my view, I decide to take it in stride. There will be plenty more opportunities to visit San Francisco and appreciate its beauty from this vantage point in the future. But for the moment, I enjoy seeing the sights just like a local.

A Reflection on Settling Stress

On Settling

I dislike not working. Similarly, I dislike working an undesirable job. In both cases, an ugly and anxiety-provoking individual makes himself known. Restlessness is the worst of friends and he often accompanies me on the couch between gigs. Whether that be for a few days or a few weeks, his stay is always unwelcome. He’s the type of unwanted company who sours the fun of watching your favorite TV show. The fella who can’t pick up on social cues and continues to remind you that you have no reason to drink and celebrate. One who plants doubt in the back of your brain as you slog through yet another day of unfulfilling work or applications. A jerk who provokes with so many questions yet offers no solutions. How then does one sweep Restlessness out the front door, onto the street, across the lawn of those pesky neighbors, up that long hill (a one time, non-Sisyphean effort please!) and into the dump from where he came? Clearly, through discovering work that cultivates genuine meaning with one’s vision and passion. And then doing so for a solid chunk of one’s life. However, that requires intermediate steps. To reach those intermediate steps, one first needs to learn how to settle. Settling is not a wave of the white flag, the tossing in of a towel or the admittance that a dream is out of reach. It’s simply an acknowledgment that certain aspects of life are firmly as well as temporarily in place. Will I remain unemployed forever? Will I work an undesirable job until the end of my days? Will I ever taste the sweet nectar of the fabled dream job? Settling will provide foundations upon which you build towards that dream job. Don’t be afraid to settle in certain aspects of life. Accepting this fact will provide perspective about the continuous journey to make it to that passionate work. As well as the tools to kindly (or not so kindly) remove Restlessness from your premises. Then, motivation that enables you to continually break that dream profession anew with your distinct ability or vision. So for now, I accept to settle. In doing so, I know that I’m soundly putting myself closer to my goal. And coming to terms with my temporary and current situation of looking for work. Goodbye for now Restlessness. I hope you never, ever come back to ruin Parks and Rec for me again.

Little Things Reflection

Little Things

No major happenings. Simply a pair of memorable little things from the day.

Little Thing One 

Nodding off in the shade of my grandfather’s patio this afternoon, a cool breeze rustles both he and I awake.

“Know what Nick?”

Yawning, I slowly gaze his way.

“What’s that Pop Pop.”

“I’m now three times your age.”

“Three times my age, huh?”

“Yep.”

“Yep.”

I notice how we both cross our legs as we sit. His gray hair parts in the same direction as mine. He’s off in his calculation. And I’m just realizing that as I write this post. He is 92. I am 24.

Little Thing Two 

Taking a break from job applications, I glance at my phone. A text from a dear friend lights up the screen. I shoot a brief message back. Then another message. Much more sarcastic in tone. Shortly thereafter, my phone buzzes. Laughter erupts from the wit of her quick reply. I’m grateful for some sass in my life.

Little things matter. Cherish them.

A Reflection On Birthdays

On Birthdays

A deep breath in and a strong huff out. Candles of green, red and yellow flicker atop a delicate chocolate cake as my family gleefully looks on. Off-key and joyful singing halts around the table. With flames out and cake consumed, another year tallies my total trips around the Sun to 24. Yet, my mind focuses not so much on the present. On this 24th birthday. But racks the happenings of the past year that have led to it. How so much has changed in 366 days (leap year). How relationships form and crumble. How friendships develop and strengthen. How work can bring equal amounts of happiness and sadness to life. How things outside my comfort zone enabled me to grow as an individual. How events unfolded that I never could have predicted. Suddenly, like a candle being extinguished, my burning mental state about the past went cold and prompted thoughts about the future. What events will occur in the upcoming 365 days? What obstacles will I face? Will I be able to conquer them? Will I fail? Luckily, these negative thoughts were as quickly consumed as the chocolate cake laid before my relatives. Reflecting on the past year is helping me frame the upcoming 365 days in a positive light. Can things go wrong? Yes. Will things go wrong? It’s likely. Does that mean this upcoming year will be awful? Hell no. Events are sure to unfold that will messy up well-designed plans and deeply desired wants. However, a host of unpredictable and amazing occurrences are bound to surprise as well. Much akin to my father’s hilarious mishap of thinking today was my 23rd birthday. So with that, I begin my 25th trip around the Sun. Joyful it’s guided by reflections of the past. Grateful it’s propelled by the warmest of wishes from family and friends. Excited to encounter the unknown.

Traveling With Friends San Francisco

On the Joy of Traveling with Friends

The following is a true event. Any similarities to actual persons are entirely purposeful.

Nina and Mike: CONTACT! 1, 2, 3…Boogatoo!

Me: No

Jason: Boogaroo

Me: Nah

Mike: Booga Booga

Me: Guys…

Jason: Boogaloo?

Me: YESSSSS

Eight hour drives involve silly word games, ice cream-fueled pit stops and off key singing. 24 hours in a beautiful city involve breathtaking hikes, mouthwatering meals, bottomless beverages, delicious delicacies and insightful conversations late into the night. Then, 36 hours after departure, traveling with others involves hitting a brick wall. A brick wall founded on lack of sleep, built high with time spent away from home and mortared together by constant social proximity. That is, usually. Break through this wall. Be in the present. Relish one’s company while traveling. In doing so, one will pave new roads to joy. Avenues that frame the beauty of discovery. Boulevards that expose similarities and differences. Circles that come back to favorite topics of discussion. Highways that satisfy a common sense of adventure. Freeways that reveal common held frustrations. Routes that connect memories to time and place. Streets that allow friends to become family, even if for just a weekend.