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

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!

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.

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.

 

Five Quotes

I struggled to title this post. Thoughts ricocheted around my head. Phrases plopped out of my mouth. Cliches fell deaf on my ears. Nothing felt quite right. “Five Quotes Every Runner Will Understand” was too specific. “Five Quotes for a Meaningful Life” was too vague. Surely, all quotes contain meaning. But why should these five be the only set to guide one’s life? Why should this set target only a small portion of individuals? Ironic that a post about quotes, the encapsulation of so much meaning with so few words, is taking me so long to unravel to you. At the same time, that’s exactly my point. Quotes astound with immediate connections and clarity. No one needs to deconstruct a quote. The words speak for themselves and directly to you. As such, here are five quotes you may or may not have stumbled upon in your time stumbling through life.

Five Quotes

“The best way out is always through.” —Robert Frost

“The more you know, the less you need.” —Yvon Chouinard

“Always do what you are afraid to do.” —George Bernard Shaw

“Don’t work towards freedom, but allow the work itself to be freedom.” —Dōgen Zenji

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” —Ernest Hemingway

Las Vegas, Nevada | Opportunity, Risk, and Reward

Opportunity 

Approximately forty-two million visitors traveled from around the world for an opportunity to stay in Nevada’s most populous city in 2015, and I numbered into that statistic. Driving back last year on I-15 after my brief thirty-six hour trip’s end, I vehemently vowed to never return to that desert city. Yet, I just contributed to the grand total for 2016 and found myself reflecting on an amazing experience full of fun times with old and new friends. Had the city changed? Or had I? In truth, both.

As in travel as in life, change is truly constant. Like a river transporting water slowly shaping its environment, change creates new opportunities out of the familiar. A wise old Greek philosopher once typed wrote “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he is not the same man.” Although Heraclitus might frown at the lack of running water cutting through Las Vegas today, adopting this attitude underlines the importance of opportunity in revisiting familiar locations. Besides, with opportunity comes something more compelling than water that gushes throughout this arid desert city.

Risk

Coursing through shimmering pools towered by glass hotels that reach for the bright sky to neon lit streets bustling and capturing the night, Las Vegas flows with an undeniable frenetic energy. At the heart of the city one will not discover a casino, day pool, night club or restaurant that pumps such vitality to the body of Sin City—one will encounter risk. Risk embedded in these various institutions is equally exciting and terrifying. Will I win or lose money at the casino? Will he/she notice me at the day pool/night club? Will I be happy or sad with the cost of my buffet (Bacchanal!)?

Such conflicting thoughts surround risk. How, then, does one capitalize on the opportunity of risk and overwhelm its negative side? Take a leap in doing something meaningful outside one’s comfort zone while surrounding oneself with good friends old and new—go ahead and gamble. Take a risk that excites you and offers the potential of a positive experience. Overcoming risk while traveling, particularly with the support of close friends, infuses a sea of electric energy into every aspect of a trip. It also produces an incredible, individual present.

Reward

Letting the unknowns of tomorrow and the complexities of yesterday yield to the realities of today. Simply existing while dancing in the here and the now surrounded by many of my favorite people this past weekend truly was an incredible reward. The present of being present. Gained through overcoming risk inlaid in opportunity. Afforded to me by a desert city from which I was self-exiled. Purposeful in its shared quality and euphoric nature. Thanks Las Vegas.

On Weekends

“Thank God it’s Friday” — Restaurant and phrase expressing gratitude for the end of the week

“Working for the Weekend” — An anthem to Saturday and Sunday sung by Loverboy

“Ready for the weekend” — A verbal shrug and common sentiment shared by millions

Including myself. Why are weekends held in such high praise? More importantly, how does this perception affect our understanding of the week? Hopefully, reflecting upon these questions will yield a healthy discussion on the nature of weekends as well as insight into how to positively change perceptions of the week.

An Extended Metaphor 

As of late, weekends have been the light at the end of the tunnel. Distant yet within sight. Holding promises of excitement and joy. Bright opportunities with friends and loved ones. Entirely framed by the damp and restrictive walls of the week. Stumbling through darkness with head held low a puddle comes into sight. Catching just enough light to create a reflection. Revealing a face. A fatigued face weighed down by engulfing shadows cast by Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. This face and its owner trek the dark tunnel towards the light each and every week. Hoping that a brief stint outside will rejuvenate, reinvigorate and inspire change in this cycle. Yet, as Sunday bleeds into Monday, this face reenters the tunnel once again. Quickly consumed and lost within the darkness…desperately looking for itself in the light of the weekend.

This face belongs to me. Perhaps to you as well.

Guiding Light 

Running, hiking, writing, reading, exploring, volunteering, family and friends. All parts of my identity guiding me through five days of work. All parts of my identity that brighten my day and put a smile on my face. All parts of my identity primarily reserved for weekends. Weekends are amazing periods of time when we can invest in things that truly make us happy and feel alive. Time away from heavy responsibilities and pressures. Time away from school. Time away from work. Time to act on the light within ourselves while enjoying sunshine outside. It’s time well spent. And all too short.

Thus, a call for change is necessary. A change that undermines weekends as the be-all and-end all of the week-weekend cycle. This change, of course, involves math. Conducted by an expert such as myself with the utmost qualifications.

Math by a History Major

Math has never been my strong suit. Numbers are strange. Beyond analyzing charts, calculating rent payments and figuring out Venmo charges, I’ve had very little interaction with anything resembling math in the last four years. Despite this, I’m able to do some basic arithmetic that supports framing the week in a more positive light.

Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday = the week = five days

Saturday, Sunday = the weekend = two days

5 > 2

More days. More time. More life. Chock-full of opportunities, the week should be cherished rather than endured. This, however, is rarely the perception adopted by many in life. The length of the week often becomes its greatest hindrance rather than its best feature. Yet, as indicated by the intricate proof above (and some personal experience), I refute this claim and mathematically argue in favor of the week holding incredible potential just waiting to be unleashed. To positively perceive and make the most of the week, consider any (or all) of the following:

  1. Forty Hours. Dedicated to work, studies or skipping either of the former, forty hours a week generally contribute to professional or educational development. Almost matching the length of an entire weekend, these forty hours preciously shape who we become and how we experience life. Spending forty hours on the weekend (leaving only four hours of sleep per night) on things related to your current job or area of study? Most likely not. So why invest such a hefty amount of time during the week to such things? Use the freedom of the weekend to discover your light. From there, let it radiate your week through aligning it with the forty hours you already dedicate to self-development in its various forms.
  2. Five Sunrises. Millions despise mornings. Mornings involve cold showers after late nights, only to arrive late to an 8 A.M. class with an unknown quiz thrown in one’s face…again. Or to sit through unwanted traffic on the way to an equally unwanted job bound to produce unwanted results by day’s end. Break the cycle. Wake up early. View the sunrise. See beauty begin each of the five days of the week. Visually understand the importance of starting anew with limitless possibilities. Refresh the mind, body and soul. Watch five sunrises each week.
  3. One Life. The simple truth that binds all humans together. We all have one go at this lovely, beautiful, chaotic, mundane and paradoxical experience called life. A majority of this life will be lived during the week. Make the most of the week and one makes the most of life. That’s it. Start now, champion life during the week and live to the fullest.

Yosemite National Park | Snow, Boots and Socks

Snow

Crunch, crunch, crunch. Treading along Valley Loop Trail, the foreign sound of snow beneath boots rang through my ears arriving at its final destination. A SoCal noggin near the brink of disbelief, grinding gears to process the c̶h̶i̶l̶l̶y̶  freezing reality of weather that actually fell below 32° Fahrenheit. Brain freeze! But more so numbing beauty. Topping rocks, trees and everything in between, snow powdered Yosemite Valley like sugar on a cake. Making the feast before my eyes white and sweet. Perhaps this unexpected appreciation for the cold stuff explains my blissful ignorance regarding my boots. Perhaps it was the cold truly getting to my head.

Boots

Boots are amazing. Boots insulate feet. Boots provide traction. Boots fall apart. But not all at once. Returning from Mirror Lake, an odd plop accompanied a now familiar crunching of snow. Behind and rushing to catch up with the rest of my group, I paid the sound no real attention (the reality: it was cold…got to keep moving!). Thankfully, an astute companion noticed I dropped something. Except…my camera and its case still snugly hung from my neck. Confused, I turned around to see my friend examining a dark object. He tossed it my way. A connection was made. A disconnection between boot and sole left me in aid. Without traction on one foot and about two inches shorter to boot!

Socks

The fuzzier the better. A phrase aptly used when discussing puppies, dogs, blankets, kiwis (what just me?) and of course, socks. Little did I know how important the fuzzy factor would be in saving my feet from frostbite one particular morning. Waking up at 2:30 a.m. to use the restroom is never fun. The timeless inner battle of deciding to leave the comfort of one’s bed against the off chance one falls back asleep only to hurry to the restroom upon awakening. Neither is a pleasant option. Now imagine the same situation but in a four person tent packed with five people, boots wedged in a distant corner, pitch black darkness and a temperature of 19° Fahrenheit standing in between you and relief. Clearly, two reasonable options arise: get the boots and wake up tent mates in the process or struggle to join the other slumbering souls in an attempt to fall asleep until morning. Fuzzy socks, however, granted me option three: walk through the freezing darkness and snow of Campsite 4 without the fear of frostbite and more importantly wrath of friends awakened. Fuzzy socks, I thank you for all our good nights’ sleep (and the warmth too).

 

On New Year’s Resolutions

New year. Fresh start. Resolutions abound. Endless possibilities. All to begin on the first of January. And surely to end before the close of the month. Why are resolutions difficult to keep? More importantly, why do so many wait such a long period of time to better their lives? Hopefully, reflecting upon the questions posed will yield a healthy discussion on the nature of resolutions as well as insight into how to best set resolutions for oneself.

The Difficulty of Keeping a Resolution

Waking up at 6 A.M. to stumble out of bed and go for an hour-long run. Squeezing breakfast in between a cold shower and a traffic-heavy drive to work. Teaching kindergartners addition while doing some math of my own to figure out rent payment. Writing for hours on end to publish an article to an invisible audience. Scarf down some leftover pasta, drink a chilled beer, sneak that extra oatmeal raisin cookie, brush teeth (don’t forget to floss!) and crash. Now repeat.

Life is busy. An enjoyable busy full of enjoyably busy moments. Creating time and finding energy to accomplish resolutions in between these busy moments often is challenging. This challenge is where most resolutions unravel into a general compliance with the norm of life. And the point at which a resolution is ironically made to make next New Year’s resolutions truly stick. How can the difficulty of keeping a resolution be overcome ensuring that the now, not next year, will yield results?

Take a deep breath. Clear the clutter from your mind and travel back to the origin of your resolution. Remember that spry smile that crossed your face when the first fleeting images of your goal appeared in your brilliant head? Good. Now, recall how that smile instantly deflated into a frown accompanied by a furrowed brow when obstacles on the way to your goal became apparent? Better. Switch things up and jump forward in time. Visualize successfully keeping your resolution. Take notice of the arrangement of muscles on your face. A wide smile reflective of accomplishing your goal, perhaps? Best. These manifestations of inner emotions guide or dissuade individuals from completing their resolutions. Two are positive and one is negative. Focus on the two positive. For in them one can find the proper motivation, the desire to make time and find energy, necessary to traverse inevitable obstacles on the enjoyable journey to success.

But even with the proper motivation, keeping resolutions can be difficult. Fear of failure and exposure of flaws compound making the process of beginning an experience unfortunately brushed off until the start of the new year. To best keep resolutions, consider these three key elements while making new resolutions.

The Three Key Elements 

Write. Put pen to paper or finger to computer key. Make the resolution real through inscribing it in one form or another. With precision. Rather than writing “Run a marathon” relate something personal like my own resolution to “Run the LA marathon in under three hours and five minutes.” This makes the resolution tangible, feasible and obtainable.

Form. Invest in the necessary materials. Gather supportive friends. Reach out to like-minded strangers (who will become friends). Cut out those distracting things and people that are more hindrance than help. Form the person you need to be and the groups you need to be involved with to ultimately keep the resolution you desire.

Act. Now. Don’t wait until the start of the new year. Or the beginning of the following year or even the year after that. Act upon the desire for improvement and change in your life through creating a new resolution in the here and the now. Millions will wait until New Year’s Day to begin anew. Why wait and deny yourself (as well as those in your surroundings) the incredible person you are resolved to become?

A Final Note 

To any who may need more encouragement to begin, or simply to continue, with their new resolutions before New Year’s Day, be sure to check out this video (and look at its date of publication): An Invocation for Beginnings.