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!

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.

 

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

breakfast burrito

Beer and Breakfast Burritos with Bob

Keeping this post short and sweet just like the time I spent with my big brother this past weekend. Bearing few physical similarities, my brother and I often joke as to who was adopted in our family. My brother uncannily resembles a younger version of my father while I share the same demeanor and Testa looks as my mother. Despite outward differences, however, I have grown closer to my older sibling in the past few years and attribute this brotherly bond to time spent over shared drink and food. Finding time to catch up with Bob is difficult as we both work full-time jobs and live in different cities. Spending cool nights together in the backyard at our home in Newport Beach while sharing a few (maybe more than a few) beers, such as this past weekend, gives us the perfect opportunity to dive into each other’s lives after time spent apart. Although the hours are brief and fade quickly into the darkness of night, I awake the next morning brightened by the host of commonalities I discover between Bob and myself. Similar experiences, coinciding interests, parallel fears and a deep love for IPAs. Put simply, time spent together with Bob over beer makes me happy and strengthens our brotherly bond into something infinitely more—a mutually supportive, respectful and caring friendship that reaps bountiful benefits, such as ridiculously large and delicious breakfast burritos the following morning. Oscar Wilde wrote, “After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one’s own relations.” Mr. Wilde speaks the truth. I, however, prefer to view drink and food as a proactive means of growing closer to the thoughts, actions,and being of my brother rather than distancing myself from any apparent or subtle differences that define us as individuals. For in spending time with and growing closer to a relative, one is able to create incredible opportunities in ensuing days.