Friday, August 19, 2016

So It Has Come To This

A few things have happened in my life since the my last post.

To summarize, I finished acquiring my Bachelor's of Business degree with a concentration in Accounting back in December. Then, in early January, I started what was supposed to be a three and a half month internship at the large accounting firm, Crowe Horwath, LLP, in the tax department. After the three and a half months were up in April, I was offered a full-time job starting next October and was given the opportunity to extend my internship through mid August. Shortly after that, I popped the question to my girlfriend who then turned into my fiance and who will transform again in October of this year. In May, I started taking the first of the classes for the Masters of Business Administration degree that I hope to finish by the end of next spring. Fast forward to the present, I just wrapped up the last day of my internship at Crowe, and earlier this week, I finished my fifth graduate class. On Monday I begin the fall semester and start working as a math tutor and business teaching aid again. Today, I was also offered the opportunity to work at Crowe again for part of next spring and through the summer of next year leading up to my full-time employment as my school schedule and studying for the CPA exams allows.

If that paragraph felt like a lot to read, trust me, it felt like a lot to experience. Needless to say, 2016 has been a wild ride and we still have a third of it left to go.

Today, as I packed up and turned in the work equipment from my internship, I reflected back on the last eight or so months and looked forward to what appears to be coming down the pipe in the next twelve or so. I have done a lot of things in the last year, and a lot of things have happened to me. Even so, it doesn't look like the upcoming year is going to be any quieter or less eventful. Remarkably, however, nearly every major event that has recently occurred in my life or looks to be coming up in the near future, has been resoundingly positive. Sure, there have been days and weeks where things didn't seem to be going quite as well as I would have liked, but those days and weeks have been the exception. Overall, the progression of events in my life has been overwhelmingly positive and forward moving.

I was given pause as I contemplated just how lucky I've been, and I realized that it really has nothing to do with luck. None of the things that happened to me in my opening paragraph just happened because of chance. Over the last year, and really over the course of my entire life up this point, I have been exceedingly blessed by the opportunities and people that have surrounded me. Part of me wants to give myself a pat on the back and congratulate myself on accomplishing so many remarkable things. The truth is, however, that while none of these good, momentous things just randomly happened, none of them would have been possible if I was just left to my own devices and made all the decisions I would have liked to make over my lifetime.

So many things have brought me to the point I am now and continue to push me in the direction I appear to be headed in. None of the things I've mentioned were accomplished independently, and none of things I hope to accomplish in the upcoming years would be possible if I was facing them on my own and without the support of the people that have been placed in my life. My life has been the farthest thing from a solo mission.

Since the beginning, my parents have been there guiding me, teaching me, and when necessary, disciplining me. (Also, as a side note, it was necessary on a rather frequent basis for a very, very long time.) My parents set the foundation for my education, both academic and theological, my work ethic, and my approach to life in general. My dad taught me how to be a man, a gentleman, and a professional. My mother taught me to be independent, bold, and assertive. Throughout my childhood upbringing, they set the tone for everything that has followed since.

My siblings, all nine of them (eleven if you count those that have married into our ranks), have taught me more life lessons than I care to admit.They've taught me humility, compassion, patience(ish), and more importantly, they taught me what it means to be a piece of a whole. When you are growing up as the third of ten, you cannot help but learn what it is like to be part of a team and something bigger than yourself. My two older siblings have also given me incredible examples of what it means to be spouses and parents as they have grown their own, wonderful families.

There are more friends that have played instrumental roles in shaping me and preparing me for adult life than I could ever hope to mention in the span of a single post. Some of the standouts include the woman who taught me math and science through high school, and who adopted me as part of her family and acted like a second mother throughout most of my teen years. Her husband also stands out for giving me what was basically my first job as a farmhand chucking hay, logging trees, and building footbridges through swampland. Both of them taught me perseverance, dedication, and commitment to my work and the people around me. Several of the men who, in a couple short months, will stand alongside me as groomsmen and my best man have shown me what it means to be a loyal and steadfast friend. They've listened to my plights and complaints, they've been there for me when I needed a hand, and they have shown me what it means to stand up for an ally and companion.

During my first round of collegiate studies, my employers in both the university Box Office and Math Tutoring Center were remarkable role models and excellent friends as I learned to navigate the labyrinth of higher education and formal employment after seventeen years of homeschooling and working only for family friends. They helped turn me into something resembling a professional, and they showed astounding patience and cooperation in helping me learn how to be a reliable, professional, and semi-competent employee. Next week I will be returning to the employ of the tutoring center, but even after I was no longer employed by either of them, both of my former bosses showed an interest in maintaining a relationship as friends. They taught me that your place of work can also be a place of enjoyment and camaraderie.

Then, when I transitioned the big boy world of professional, public accounting this spring, I once again found myself surrounded by superb mentors and coworkers who made my internship one of the most enjoyable, as well as one of the most educational, experiences of my life so far. In the eight short months that I worked at Crowe, I had the opportunity to befriend and learn from some really amazing people. Even knowing that I will be going back before too long, I was sad to leave the office this afternoon knowing also that I was leaving behind friends as well as a place of employment.

Last, but most certainly not least, I can hardly go through a list of people that have positively influenced my life without mentioning my lovely, bride-to-be. Honestly, my fiance and I have not known each other for that long. Eighteen months ago, she was a complete stranger, but that rapidly changed when we went from not having spoken a single word to each other ever to spending ever single night talking and messaging each other until two or three in morning in the space of something like four or five months. There is no way I deserve a companion as intelligent, industrious, and dedicated as my spouse-to-be. She's constantly pushing me to do my best and not slack off, but she also always lets me know when she thinks I'm doing well and that's she's proud of me. There's hardly a motivator in the world greater than a woman who loves you. 

A lot of really, really good stuff has happened to me in the last year, but I only reached this point because of all the people who helped me and guided me along the way. A couple of weeks ago, when I was talking to one of my coworkers about my plans for the next year, they commented that I seem to be an ambitious and non-stop kind of person. All allusions to Hamilton aside, I suppose she was right. I am relatively ambitious, and I really don't like to stop and sit still, but if it wasn't for the crowd of people at my back cheering me on and pushing me to go further, my laziness and fallen, sinful human persona would have me sitting on a couch playing video games, binge watching Netflix, and mooching off my parents' good graces.

Whatever comes my way in the next twelve months or the next sixty years, God has showered me with an abundance of gifts and blessed with me with far more wonderful people than any man deserves. Even though there are plenty of days when I fail to appreciate it, and even though the road won't always be clear and smooth, God has made me a very blessed man.

A few things have happened in my life since my last post; for that, I give thanks.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Waging the Wrong War: Syrian Refugees Are Not Political Tools

The Syrian refugee debates that I see flying back and forth across the online world make me depressed. Everyone has something to say on the topic, but apart from a very small portion of what I'm hearing, what everyone has to say, quite frankly, scares me.

There is not an easy or clear solution to what is happening, and there are a lot of moving pieces in play. We're facing what could very well be world changing event that will impact millions and millions of lives across many generations to come. No single country or civilization's well being is at stake, and any decisions made by the powers that be will have a dramatic, lasting impact that will likely extend far beyond what we can readily predict.

Precisely because of this, I am stunned and seriously disappointed by the fact that the overwhelming majority of arguments I'm hearing are based on opinions that swing toward one extreme or the other. The discussion has turned into a political  battleground where the only two sides to be taken are "Shut the doors and lock them tight," or "Open the floodgates and let them in." The discussion hardly seems to be about the safety and well-being of anyone. Instead, the plight of the refugees seems to be twisted into a political weapon wielded by talking heads as a means of leveraging their personal agendas. Whether or not we accept refugees into our country is an issue that now serves as a rallying point for the drawing of political battle lines. So much breath is wasted on sorting people into the pro or anti refugee sides of the arena that very few people actually seem to be at all interested in finding a middle ground that will result in people being safe and free.

By no means can I claim to be an expert on anything political, economic, social, or religious. I am an inexperienced and relatively ignorant individual simply struggling to understand the enormous complexity of what all is going on. However, I believe that how the people of the United States respond to what is happening right now with the Syrian refugees is going to play a major role in shaping the kind of people and nation we will be for years to come. Even if my voice is simply one more to be lost in a shouting crowd, I think is important that anyone who cares about the value of human life and the future of this country should speak up and do what they can to ensure that we do not damn ourselves by making wrong choices.

As I survey the all too heated and emotional debate field that Facebook has become, I see three major battlegrounds upon which the refugee situation is being discusses: politics, economics, and religion/ethics. In order to try and be as rational and clear as possible, I am going to try and weigh in on the arguments I have heard across these three areas one at a time.

Political Arguments
The fact that this issue is a political issue at all turns my stomach, but I cannot say that I am surprised. We live in a political world, and there is no way something of this magnitude was every going to be apolitical. That being said, I understand that there are some genuine and recognizable concerns being raised when it comes to how accepting Syrian refugees into our country would change the culture and dynamic of the United States.

It seems somewhat naive to deny the fact that opening our doors to so many people from an environment so vastly different from our own would do anything but change the underlying culture and community of our nation. This understandably is frightening to people, and I won't pretend that it makes me doesn't nervous as well. At the same time, it also seems ignorant to turn our backs on these people and say that they are not welcome in the U.S. because they do not belong here. The United States became the United States in the first place because a large group of people chose to try and escape the tyranny of an oppressive government. Even after the revolutionary war, the "New World" was long perceived as a place where people could come and create a new life away from the horror of their homeland.

The United States is supposedly a melting pot of cultures from around the world. Particularly during periods of history such as the era of the Nazi regime in Germany, many people saw this country as a safe haven and an opportunity to start anew. Admittedly, the already established residents of this nation haven't ever seemed to appreciate large migrations of newcomers. The Irish weren't particularly welcomed at first; nor were the Chinese. At the same time, we are a country with a history very much founded upon the idea that this is where people seeking to find a new home could find one. Claiming now that we have our own established nation and culture with no room or place for these refugees spits in the face of that heritage. It is not only naive to say that these refugees need to simply fix things back at home for themselves, but it is hypocritical, and hardly more reasonable than telling Jews fleeing the Nazis that they needed to go back to Germany and Poland to fix their own problems.

Even if we, as a nation, choose to completely throw away our historic reputation as a land of opportunity, I don't see how it actually makes good political sense to turn away the Syrian refugees completely or claim that "they are a problem for someone else." The people are fleeing for fear of their lives from people as evil as the Nazis or Soviets. Syria is a war-zone such as the United States never has never seen, or leastwise not since the Civil War. The front lines are where these people actually live and where they are expected to raise their children. If they are not welcomed anywhere else, they will be forced to return home, and if that is all that is left to them, they will be faced with joining the enemy or being killed. If the rest of the world does not provide some kind of shelter or safe haven for the endangered people of Syria, they will be forced into a corner where their only remaining hope of survival is in the ranks of our common enemy. No doubt many of them would rather die than join ISIS, but desperate people resort to desperate measures.

There seems to be a lot of evidence that suggests the attacks in Paris were not actually carried out by refugees at all, but by ISIS members and/or sympathizers already living in Paris. Even if this isn't true, and even if a handful of refugees did commit such heinous crimes, accusing the entire fleeing Syrian population of being part of ISIS makes ISIS the only group left willing to accept them. Does that really make sense or advance our efforts to defeat the enemy?

At the same time, there are legitimate security and safety issues caused by unquestionably welcoming in anyone and everyone who claims to be a persecuted refugee. That would give enemies like ISIS the prime opportunity to plant soldiers and suicide bombers among the innocent, and there is a very real risk to the lives our people present in presenting such an opportunity.

Opening our doors in the name of compassion sounds wonderful, but it cannot be done recklessly without creating the potential for more harm to be done. One of my Facebook friends suggested that we should prioritize families first, and I think that is certainly one step among many that could and should be taken along the path of trying to prevent the enemy from slipping through. Anyone coming in should be vetted and they should be vetted thoroughly. Obviously there is no way we can guarantee that someone won't turn out to be a killer or a madman, but honest efforts can be made to ensure that the people coming in are truly in need and not hellbent on killing U.S. citizens.

Yes, such a process and system would limit our ability to help people, because there are only so many individuals that we can put through said process at a time. At the same time, even while we want to help those seeking refuge, we cannot needlessly or recklessly endanger our own people and families while we do so.

Now, I have heard a lot of people insist that there is no way we have the resources to vet incoming refugees sufficiently. Like I said, I am no professional, and maybe I am wrong, but I don't actually believe that is true. However, issues pertaining to resource availability fall into the next field of discussion...

Economic Arguments
There seems to be real concern that letting refugees into the U.S. would cripple our economy. The claim is that there simply aren't enough resources available to handle such an influx of people, and I've heard numerous accusations that the Syrian refugees would simply expand the welfare portion of the population leeching off the government. I honestly don't buy all of those arguments, and I think they actually speak more to flaws in the way we run our country more than the dangers of letting in refugees.

For one thing, our nation is wasteful beyond belief. We waste so much food and so many resources, it is truly astonishing. This country has so many resources that we apparently don't feel the need to use them efficiently or wisely at all. Food is thrown away and left to rot in the field, because we're too picky or too lazy to preserve it. Products are thrown away and discarded because they're not good enough for us or because we want something new and better. We demand spacious living quarters and extravagant homes because we can, and because there is a lot more room here than there is in other parts of the world.

Claiming that we don't have enough resources to support refugees is either lazy or selfish or both. We can have more than enough resources is we just learn how to not be so wasteful in our actions. Even if letting in these people meant accepting less for ourselves, we can handle it. Very, very few people in this country are actually living in anything remotely close to the horrid conditions these people are fleeing from, and if things get a little bit more crowded because of their presence, we can suck it up and deal with it.

As for whether or not the Syrian refugees would all just become welfare vampires sucking the life out of the hard working and ambitious people of this nation.... maybe we should just not have a system in place that makes it so easy for that to happen? I know that changing the way our welfare system works in this country isn't going to be easy, and honestly, it probably isn't ever going to happen. However, that isn't the fault of the refugees, and that is another thing that we, the people of the United States that are already living here, are responsible for fixing.

These refugees actually represent the possibility for an inflow of hard working, dedicated, and (in time) well educated and skilled members of society into our economy. They represent potential doctors, engineers, scientists, musicians, and business people as much as they represent potential welfare dependents. If we welcome them into our country, our responsibility doesn't end when they cross the border and/or set foot on our soil. However, if we can make sure that they are given the chance to learn and to work by encouraging them to fight for their new lives instead of making monthly checks from the government the easiest and safest choice, our country could actual benefit in the long run.

The problem is that no one wants to look at the long run, and no one wants to honestly accept the fact that job competition is good for the economy as a whole.

Going back specifically to whether or not we have the resources to sufficiently vet incoming refugees, something I'm hearing a lot of people say is that we already can't keep people from getting across the Mexican border. I also keep hearing people say that we can't take care of our own poor and homeless people. Again, these are issues that we have internally that we need to solve ourselves, and they are not the fault of the refugees who are looking for a place to live without the threat of a bomb being dropped on their house or their children getting blown up in the street.

Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm pretty sure all of those problems are just most examples of how we are not using our resources efficiently rather than proof that we don't have enough resources or the means of getting the job done. Maybe we should reconsider our priorities and reevaluate where we are spending our time and efforts before complaining that our money is spent and our pockets empty.

Religious/Ethical Arguments
I have seen people argue that the United States has no moral obligation to lend aid to the Syrian refugees. I agree.

Our country, as a country, is obligated to care for its own people and look out for the best interests of its citizens. There is no moral obligation for our nation to try and fix problems for the rest of the world, and the mindset that the U.S. should serve as the nanny and savior for the entire planet has landed us in trouble in the past. The government's job is to ensure the safety of its citizens; not the citizens of the rest of the world.

However, that doesn't mean that we, the people of the United States, do not have a moral obligation to help the people of Syria in desperate need. If you are a Christian, and I'm sorry to say that many of the people arguing against the refugees are Christians, then I honestly do not understand how you can claim that this plight is not our problem.

We have needy and endangered people coming to our door begging for aid. There are numerous accounts in the Bible spanning both the Old and New Testaments that honor those who open their doors to the needy and provide assistance to the poor and hungry. Time and again, God's people sought refuge both from one another and from strangers, and those who took on the burden and the danger of providing that refuge were always counted blessed for doing so. Generosity and compassion, even tot he point of endangering one's personal safety and well-being has played a crucial role in the history of Christianity four thousands of years.

The fact that many of these refugees are Muslim in no way diminishes the need for compassion and self-sacrifice on our part. For one thing, not all Muslims want to see every non-Muslim dead anymore than all people claiming the name of Christian share the same confession. For another thing, we are not in a position to declare that some people are more worthy of receiving compassion than others. When someone calls to us for help out of fear for their life and the lives of their family, why is it OK for us to decide whether or not we help them based on their religion? These are human beings and the lives of those fleeing Syria are just as valuable as our own lives. Particularly anyone in the pro-life community arguing that we should deny refugees a safe haven based on their religious beliefs should be ashamed of their hypocrisy.

The questions we should be asking are "Do these people need our help?" and "Can we provide that help?" not "Are these the kind of people we want to help?" The lives of innocent men, women, and children are at stake, and they are specifically coming to us asking for help. That's all we should need to know before we start looking for ways to help them to the best of our ability.

Maybe this isn't a burden that our government is responsible for taking on, but can we really say that it is not one in which we all hold a stake as individual human beings? What moral or religious justification is there, really, for turning our backs on the Syrian refugees? If you set aside selfish political and economic concerns along with personal vendettas, what arguments are left to keep the doors shut to the refugees?

There is a video that I've seen getting passed around on Facebook that attempts to use gumballs as a means of constructing an argument to explain why immigration is not an effective means of helping the impoverished people of the world. The argument essentially boils down to "Even by accepting millions and millions of people into the United States, we wouldn't be able to make a dent on the overall poverty in the world." That, in and of itself, is probably a fair statement. The U.S. can't and shouldn't try to solve all the world's problems.

However, every life that is changed for the better through immigration is a victory. Every family that finds an opportunity for a new and safer life in this country is an opportunity to give thanks. Every human life is precious regardless of what corner of the world it comes from, and we should not diminish the value of a life saved or spared even if it is just one among billions. There is much than we cannot change in this world, but that doesn't mean we should turn our back on the opportunity to do good when it is presented to us.

Syria is a country being torn apart by more than just poverty. The lives of these refugees are at risk, not just because they are poor, but because their homeland is literally being reduced to rubble. If you look up pictures of war torn Syria, it is not hard to understand why these people are desperate to find a new land to call home. Even if the United States and other nations of the world go in and try to overthrow the violent and oppressive powers at play within Syria, anyone who chooses to stay behind will be living in the middle of a literal battlefield.

It is undeniable that these people are in need of help and that they are coming directly to us to ask for it. That alone seems to me like it should be enough for us to decide that we should be doing something, and our debates and discussions surrounding this issue should be focused on "how" and "to what extent" can we help rather than whether or not we should.

I don't have a solution. I don't know why kind of an arrangement could best help these refugees without needlessly endangering others. I don't know what needs to happen before we have the ability to handle a sudden inflow of refugees, and I'm not sure where in this country they would be best situated to start fresh and begin the process of becoming productive members of society. I don't know, and I'm not sure anyone does right now, but that's why we should be talking about it. That's why we need to stop using this issue as a podium for lambasting one political nominee or another and why we need to start having serious conversations about whether or not we are equipped to lend aid to those calling for it. If we're not equipped, we need to be asking why we aren't and what we can do to change that.

If you ask me, we need to help them people to the best of our ability; not because the United States is the shining savior of the world, but because their lives are worth it. We should be smart about. We should be safe, and we should be careful, but we should also be generous, compassionate, and focused on preserving life above preserving personal comfort and culture.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Adventures of Dexter the Dinosaur

      It has been some weeks now since I, Daring Dexter the Dangerous, Distractible, and Daunting Dinosaur returned from my first great adventure. Up until a little under a month, I lived my whole life trapped and caged as a prisoner to a people tribe. To these people, and particularly their younglings, I was little more than a plaything. They afforded even their feline pets more respect than me, and when I was not being abused through some rigorous torture known as "playtime" I was left forgotten and alone in some corner of their dwelling.

     Then, towards the ending of the month of July, an opportunity presented itself to me. I heard whisperings throughout my captors of a great journey to some far off land referred to simply as "Misery." It seemed that some of my captors, along with fellow peoples from other local tribes, planned to sally forth and explore the great rivers in this land of misery. Dangerous and daunting as this journey sounded, never before had I been presented with the opportunity to explore unknown lands outside my captors' territory let alone the wild and untamed waters of a foreign land. I did not know whether or not I would ever have another chance to seize freedom, and I did not hesitate.

     Unknown to the peoples, I slipped aboard their transport before they set forth and stowed away among their feet for the journey. By the time they discovered my presence, it was too late. I had made it! Even if I was still in their custody, I had escaped their boundaries of their territory and I was on my way to a new, exciting, and dangerous land. They couldn't turn back, and they couldn't risk abandoning me for fear that I would escape to my people and lead a rebellion against them. instead, the were forced to accept my company and include me in their exploration.

     The journey was much longer than I anticipated, but as soon as we arrived in the land of Misery, I knew I had to act quickly. There were many peoples present not from my captors' tribe, and I knew that they would soon also try to assert some form of foolish dominance over me if I didn't establish myself in a place of authority within our gathering.

     Those who expressed displeasure with my inclusion in the mission were quickly dealt with. Freedom comes with a price, but it was a price I was willing to pay. Never again would I allow myself to be mistreated and looked down upon by the peoples. My own cleverness and quick thinking had brought me to land of Misery, and my natural survival instinct and fighting prowess allowed me to quickly rise through the ranks. In the great scheme of things, what did it matter if a few whining and complaining peoples were displaced along the way?

    Despite my innate talents, however, I knew that I wouldn't be able to overcome the united forces of all the peoples. There were simply too many of them and they are, quite frankly, just too large. So, I knew I would also need to establish a following within their ranks that would support my rise to power. After careful consideration, I determined that PJ, a.k.a. the man with the funny hat, to be the most likely candidate. Like me, he is merciless in his leadership and unwaveringly stubborn. Indeed, I saw much of myself in this aging people, and I knew that out of all his companions, he was the most likely to aid me.

    It did not take long for me to win both his trust and his friendship, and together we managed to thoroughly establish our dominance among this new tribe of explorers as the irrefutable leaders. Our plans were great, our methods ruthless, and our determination absolute. When we finally set out upon the waters of Misery to begin our expedition in earnest, I could taste my newfound freedom and power in the air around me.

     The journey through the winding waters of Misery was admittedly difficult, but this was due primarily to the fact that the paddle give me was designed for people sized hands. Of course, I dared not allow the peoples around me to witness my struggle, and despite the challenges I faced, I managed to perform quite admirably. We made great progress throughout the first day of our expedition and saw many rather extraordinary sights along the way.

    The more ground we covered, the more I realized what all I had been missing in my captivity. So far, our surroundings failed to live up to the name of Misery bestowed upon them by the peoples, and I was constantly in awe of the beauty surrounding me on all sides. The lands we passed through were not simply aesthetically pleasing, however. They were all filled will all manner of delicious insects and delectable fishes for the eating. While many of my people companions were irked by the constant buzzing of the local bugs, I remained quite content and satiated for the duration of our journey.

    Unfortunately, our progress was hindered somewhat by the need for my people companions to consume things other than insects, and there were a number of times each day that we would have to shore our vessels and wait until all members of the party had sufficiently gorged themselves. One thing I will say about the peoples' peculiar choices in food, however, is that there red, sticky sticks are quite enjoyable. My ally PJ generously shared some of his catch with me, and I while I initially accepted merely out of politeness, I found his offering too be most satisfying.

     From there on out, I was more willing to experiment and expose myself to the people food all around me. During our morning meal one day, I stealthily commandeered an entire plate of people food right from under the nose of a particularly unobservant and wayward people. By the time he realized what had happened, I had eaten my fill of his portion and once again found it quite to my liking. The peoples' primary hunter and food supplier proved to be rather skilled at his position within our company, and the meal I consumed that morning was made all the sweeter due to my skill in swiping it out from under the less than watchful eyes of its owner. The poor fool attempted to accuse me of taking what was his, but by that point, I had earned the love and respect of the rest of our company. He complaints went unheard and his belly went empty until the next meal thanks to my cunning.

     As I said before, we passed through many remarkable locations during our exploration, and I thoroughly enjoyed the multiple opportunities we had to bank our vessels and trudge through the unknown woodlands and outcroppings beyond the river's edge. At one point we found a large, or at least large for me, waterfall cascading down rather stunning moss covered stones. My longer legged companions were able to clamber up their wet slippery surfaces with ease, but due to my size, it took all my substantial cunning and dexterity to traverse the uneven terrain. It was certainly worth the effort, however, because the resulting views were superb.

     At another stop, we found a wonderfully quiet cove fed by an underground cold-water spring that sat at the base of a great rock face. Unfortunately, many of my less mature and rambunctious companions failed to appreciate the tranquility and peacefulness of the cove and proceeded to prance around in the water for the duration of our time there. Thankfully, I did get the opportunity to bask in its quiet beauty for a few moments before they disrupted my meditations.

     While my peoples party members frolicked about in the spring water, I ventured up to the top of the cliff face to admire a more undisturbed view of the land. Along the path leading up to the overhang, I discovered an old abandoned peoples hospital built near the spring for its supposed healing properties. The hospital was crumbling and overgrown in many ways, but its dark and spooky appearance appealed to my inner warrior and hunter spirit.

     Continuing up the path toward the top of the rocky overhang, I discovered that once again I was put at a natural disadvantage due to my size. There were several places where I had to clamber up sheer rock walls more than three times my height that one of the peoples could have crawled up with minimal effort. Thankfully, nature is not entirely unkind and my smaller size was is made up for in my greater ingenuity, speed, intelligence, and agility. After some time and a few creative jumps, I managed to overcome all the obstacles standing between me and my desired view.

     At the top of the cliff were a number of trees whose peeling park offered me excellent hand and foot holds. I managed to climb up onto the branch of one with a particularly convenient shape and was offered a most excellent view of the river and woodlands below. While my childish companions enjoyed splashing about in the cove below, I had an opportunity to marvel at the great expanse of unexplored and unconquered land below that stretched out for miles and miles in every direction.
     I realized then that my mission in Misery went far beyond simply exploring the unknown. No, it dawned on me that I had escaped the captive confines of my oppressive peoples tribe for a reason. Misery was a land that needed as master, and who was better suited to be its master than I, Dexter the Dinosaur? Already, I had proven myself more than capable of overcoming its threatening terrain on several occasions, and if I chose to establish my dominance over the land, there wasn't a single people or creature that could stop me as long as I timed my plans perfectly.

     It was there on top of that cliff that I realized what my destiny truly was. Deep down, I knew I could never have gone back with my companions to their land, because there I would be once again pressed into a slavery that I would never again tolerate. No, instead, I would rise to a position of authority and power within this new land, and all who dared to oppose me would come to learn what it meant to invade Misery, territory of the great Dexter.

     I spent the remainder of our travels carefully laying the groundwork for my plan. Most of my companions would either never see my move coming or would ultimately be willing to hand over control of Misery to me as long as I let them leave alive. There were one or two peoples that I knew would object to my power play, and so they had to be removed. Like all who dare oppose me, they met a quiet and subtle end. The rest of our party hardly even noticed they were gone.

     At long last, the day before we were supposed to finish our expedition and leave Misery behind, I set my plans into motion. All of the peoples were gathered in our campsite; they were cornered with nowhere to run without me noticing, and I revealed to all of them that I would be staying behind as the official dictator of the newfound lands we had explored. Several of them objected initially, but with much growling, snarling, and flashing of my pointed teeth, I managed to intimidate them into silence.

     After they gave up on beating down my resolve through shouts and complaints, they resorted to begging. Clearly they understood that once I was in charge of Misery, I would have the time and resources to build up an army that would eventually allow me to conquer all the lands of the peoples. I will admit that this is what I planned to do in time, but I wasn't about to admit that to them. Instead, I assured them that those who peacefully accepted my new position as Supreme Overlord of Misery would be allowed to depart with their lives unsoiled and their limbs attached to their bodies.

    Eventually, they seemed to accept the inevitable and their complaints quieted. I was feeling quite please with myself when one of them suggested that, if I was truly about to become a Supreme Overlord, we should celebrate. Truthfully, I had not been expecting any of them to embrace my declaration so fully, and I was more than willing to accept a feast being thrown in my honor.

    For the first time during the journey, I was offered some of the peoples' favorite elixir. There was a beverage they carried about in sealed metallic cases that only eldest and most highly respected peoples of the company had been allowed to consume during our exploration, but in light of my new position, the peoples wisely decided that I had earned the right to participate in the consumption of this elixir. As it turned out, the strange beverage, like most the peoples' food had proven to be, was quite desirable and strangle addictive. Over the course of the celebration, I consumed metallic case after metallic case of the substance and enjoyed myself greatly.

    Little did I know that it was all an unusually clever ploy of the peoples to thwart my grand plans. Apparently the human elixir is not meant for dinosaurs for it did something very peculiar to me. After some hours, I felt the beverage begin to have strange effects on me. My normally razor sharp cleverness was dulled, and my keen senses felt muffled after the fourth or fifth case of the beverage. At some point, the effects of the drink proved too strong for me to handle, and I actually lost consciousness.


     Those traitorous peoples had tricked me. My mysterious coma lasted just long enough for them to break camp and trap me once again. When I finally awoke and regained awareness of my surroundings, we were already speeding back to the home territory of my captors. My brief glimpse of freedom and my fleeting bid for power had been once again snatched from me by the oddly resourceful peoples.

    Since that time, I have been recovering from the ill impact the elixir had on me. I have no wasted that time with wallowing in my own grief and ill fortune, however. No, instead I have plotted and planned. I refuse to give up on being free of the peoples' control now that I know what it is like beyond the boundaries of their land and how it feels to freely explore the unknown. Some day, I will find another opportunity open to me, and next time Dexter the Dinosaur has a chance for an adventure, it will not end in captivity.

     This has been the account of my first great adventure but not my last!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Only 10%

This started out as a Facebook status. Then it turned into a Facebook note. Now it has turned into a full fledged blogpost. It has been a long while since I put anything on here, but I want to dissect a philosophy I've encountered several times in the last few weeks.

"It is only 10% of the grade; it isn't that big of a deal. I am not sure I'm even going to bother."

Now, I know that I'm an overachiever and that I annoy the heck out of a lot of people for being so particular about grades, but I feel anyone toting this philosophy should take into consideration several things.

To begin with "Only 10%" is actually a full letter grade (believe it or not). This means that, even if you get 100% on everything else in the class, a 0% on this item that is "only 10%" would result in you getting a 90% for the class. True, this would still be an A, but it would be an extremely low A and if you get docked for having an A- instead of an A, your GPA just suffered unnecessarily.

Now, let's consider the assumption that you got 100% on everything else. If that were actually true, that would typically mean you are generally a good student. If that is true, skipping an assignment worth a tenth of your grade and accepting an A- instead of the A or A+ you could have earned makes any sense.

Let's also acknowledge the fact that very rarely do people, even very talented and intelligent people, get 100% on every assignment they complete. If you got anything less than 100% on even one other assignment, ignoring an assignment worth 10% of your final grade means you are allowing yourself to get a B instead of any kind of A. So even a student that typically performs at the A or A+ level with 95's and the like would end up getting a final grade a full letter below their regular performance. This again doesn't make any sense to me.

So, let's consider the likelihood that most people with this philosophy aren't typically A students. Instead, let's consider the possibility that they are B students who perform in the 85% range most of the time. You're a hard worker and you know your stuff, but you aren't obsessed with perfection. Most likely, you care about what you are doing, but you just don't have the time or will power to put in the effort necessary to get an A on things. Overall though, you're a good student and you want to perform well. Except, if you are willing to shrug off a 10% assignment, all of the hard work you do put into getting those B's is wasted because you're almost definitely going to get a C. Maaaaaaybe you'll manage a low B if you end up doing really well on the final. Someone who is dedicated enough to consistently get a B on their work doesn't seem like the type of person that would simply shrug off an entire 10% assignment.

Well then, it looks like we are now looking at the "C's get degrees" students. We are looking at those who just want to get through the classes and don't give a flip about how well they do as long as it is "good enough." OK, I can see how you would be willing to disregard an assignment if your goal is to just pass. Here's the problem though. If you totally disregard the assignment, you have to actually put more work into the things you do do in order to get that C you're aiming for. If you take a 0 on a 10% assignment, instead of getting C's on everything else, you actually need to be getting B's or A's. Your personality, however, would suggest that you aren't really interested in putting in the work necessary to get those B's and A's on everything else. So why would you just shrug off an entire assignment?

Who is saying this kind of a thing? Please don't tell me there are people who honestly don't care at all about what grades they end up with. Are there really people who don't care about passing? If they do care, how are they really justifying the blatant disregard for a whole tenth of their final grade. Most exams are "only" 10-20% of the course grade. A lot of the time, all of the homework assignments combined are between 10-20% of the final grade. Would these people really justify not doing ANY homework or completely skipping an entire exam?

Oh, wait, I know they do.

If you are the kind of person who can look at a school assignment and say "It is only 10% of my grade. Why bother?" then I don't want to say that you're stupid, but I don't want to suggest that you reevaluate your worldview. You are wasting your time and money, and you are wasting the efforts of your professor when you adopt that kind of a mentality. You are doing yourself no favors, and beyond the money you are giving the school and textbook publishers (assuming you bought the book), you aren't benefiting anyone at all.

This kind of "I'll do the bare minimum and slide through to the end" mentality is dangerous. If you, person who thinks this way, don't stop thinking this way, you are setting yourself up for a lifetime of disappointment. We should always aim for 100%, not because we can always reach 100% or because we are arrogant and prideful, but because 100% is best. It is best for us. It is best for our families, and it is best our community.

If you start telling yourself that 10% of an assignment isn't worthy worrying about, eventually it won't be hard to tell yourself that 10% of your class isn't worth your concern. If you can justify blowing off 10% of your class, after a while what is going to stop you from abandoning 10% of your classes? Once you graduate, why would you bother caring about 10% of your duties at work? Why would you care about 10% of your spouse's needs or the needs of your children? Maybe I'm stretching things a little thin here, but the little decisions we make in life find ways to become our overarching life philosophies.

College should be viewed as the training grounds for later life. The way we, as students, treat our vocation will change the way we live the rest of our lives. The way you view grades doesn't just impact your GPA. It impacts the kind of person you will become because it impacts the way you view all of your responsibilities in life.

When an employer looks at you, are they going to see someone dedicated to their path in life or are they going to see someone who shove aside anything that isn't absolutely mandatory. When you are looking for a husband or wife, are they going to see someone they can depend upon when the going gets rough, or are they going to see someone who will take every opportunity to push the workload onto them. When your kids look up to you, will they see a role model that encourages them to be the best they can be in life, or will they see an excuse to ignore their own responsibilities?

It doesn't matter if you are a student taking classes, an employee working a job, a parent raising a child, or anyone else. I encourage you to value every percentage point and to give every assignment that comes your way all that you have to give. You don't do it to be perfect. You don't do it to be the best there is.

You do it because it makes sense and because it the right thing to do.

After you've tried, after you've taken every assignment seriously and given it your all, the final result is something that you can take pride in. Even if you don't perform as well as you might have liked, you tried and you worked for every point you earned. You don't have to ace everything to be a good student, you don't have to do everything right the first time to be a good employee, and you don't have to make all the right decisions to be a good parent or spouse.

You do have to try.

It isn't just 10%. It is an opportunity to be a better person.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

The Trail We Blaze

I am not an overly sentimental person.

There are definitely times where I can be caught reminiscing over something or another, and there are certainly a handful of things and places to which I have attached moderate to severe sentimentality, but overall, I tend not to be a terribly reflective individual. While my mother points out occasionally that I always have demonstrated a tendency to recall very obscure happenings and details years later, it is also incredibly common for me to forget rather significant conversations and events that one would typically expect to leave a marked impression. More than once I've had someone make the comment in the course of conversation that they "will never forget" when I did or said such and such. These comments often leave me feeling fairly awkward since whatever it was I said or did clearly left an impression them, and typically I have zero recollection of whatever it is they are referring to.

I just don't spend a whole lot of time looking back at what has happened and what I have done in the past. When I do happen to glance at the rear view mirror, I tend to feel more than a little overwhelmed and it boggles my mind to look at how much can happen in a very short span of time. However, as fun as it can be to compare how much everyone's grown and how far everyone's gone in the last couple years, I have a hard time walking away from my irregular bouts of sentimentality feeling like looking back on the good ol' days does a whole lot of good. Sure, I am all for learning from past mistakes and using days gone by as a stepping stone for bigger and greater things, but frequently dwelling on what has already been (and more specifically what could have been) strikes me as a fairly unhealthy mental occupation overall.

See, while I have yet to participate in anything unspeakably horrible (not that I'd speak of them if I had), it is hard for me to look back at even decisions I was making last week without wanting to kick myself for making stupid decisions and calling all the wrong shots. The farther back you go, the easier it is to start getting hyper-critical of my ways of thinking and acting. I have done a lot of stupid things, and I've said a lot of even stupider things. Very likely I am still doing and saying a lot of embarrassing, awkward, and offensive things. (Sorry mom!)

It seems part of human nature to Scrooge things up on a regular basis, and while I am certainly no exception to this rule, I imagine it would be extremely difficult for anyone to dwell extensively on the past without reliving more mistakes than success. That's not to say that there aren't people who have done a great deal of remarkable things with their lives, or that most people looking back are going to regret life choices like getting married, buying their house, or having kids. What I am trying to say is that, no mater how many good choices we've made, there seems to be a very good chance that in most scenarios we could have done better and, looking back, we know it.

The risk to start asking "What if I had only...?" or "How would things be different if I had...?" and I feel like those are very dangerous and (mostly) unhelpful questions to be asking in the great scheme of things. Certainly, we want to learn from both our accomplishments and our failings, but the temptation to get caught up in where we might have been had we gone with some other life choice rather than where we really are is, at least for me, very strong.

Not only does living in an alternative version of your life damage your ability to live the life you have actually been given to the fullest, it becomes easier and easier to go from thinking "If only I had done such and such!" to "If only so and so had done such and such!" and "If only I'd been raised under such and such conditions!"

When you're acting out a life scenario different from the one you would like to have, it becomes oh so easy to start blaming the rest of the world for it. Well sure I could have made a better choices back then, but I didn't because Mr. Yahoo ruined my life by telling me X, and Ms. Whatsit always got whatever she wanted at my expense. Oh, and don't get me started on how much I lacked growing up because my current status in life is totally the fault of my upbringing, the government, religion, and the fact that they started hooking up the alphabet with math once I reached high school. 

As usual, I am probably wrong in making a blanket statement, but I'm inclined to say that asking what could have been is never going to be beneficial in the long run, because you don't get to live in what could have been. We get to live in what is, and if we waste our time reminiscing about what has, hasn't, and never will, we aren't really taking advantage of what is actually available to us.

 (That's probably all just my attempt to justify forgetting everything.)

Mostly though, I think tend not to dwell on the past because I am too busy focusing on what's going on now and what's coming down the line in the immediate future.

When something unfortunate happens, I tend to panic, or get depressed, or otherwise get upset in some fashion, but fairly quickly (I think), I start asking myself "Now what?" My mental state tends not to be too stationary, and usually my reaction to a new, unfortuante development is something along the lines of "Ah, well, shoot... That sucks... But what does this mean? What happens now? Where do we go from here? Can we fix it? What has to happen?"

Now, I'm not trying to brag about my superior ability to respond a crisis, because, well, because sometimes (usually) my performance is pretty sub-par, but I like to think that at least my mind starts to go in the right direction.

Dealing with life isn't about determining what could have been. It is about discovering what's next.

Over the last year, I was bequeathed the title Mr. Plan by a friend of mine because of my tendency to respond to everything with either "What's the plan?" or "Sounds like a plan." At one point in time, I consider myself a pretty spontaneous individual, but that point in time has since vanished into the distant horizon. I can still appreciate the concessional last minute spur of the moment decision to do something entirely unplanned, but for the most part, I am rather predisposed to knowing what on earth is supposed to be going on.

Last week on my way to visit some friends my car broke down within minutes of my getting out of town. The engine overheated and my gas peddle ceased to function (just for kicks). As I rolled down the road (which was thankfully empty) into some random soul's driveway, I was totally freaking out. It was pretty obvious that I would not be making the two hour drive out of town in my vehicle. Thankfully, this was the first time I've had to deal with my car dying on me while driving (the bottom of my vehicle started falling off on the highway one time, but that's another story), but my mind was racing 100 mph, and consequently a lot faster than my vehicle, as I tried to figure out what to do. 

Thankfully, after I called my dad and he drove out to where I was pulled over, we determined that after the car had cooled down, it could be restarted and could operate normally...ish... long enough for us to get it to the mechanic about fifteen minutes away. Unfortunately, once the mechanic had a chance to look the car over, he determined that the issue was directly tied to a malfunctioning/broken/whatever head gasket in the engine and would require a rather pricey fix.

I spent the last several days trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my car. If it was worth the cost of the repair, if I really absolutely needed a car right now, and if I could maybe afford a replacement, but when I finally made the decision yesterday to just pay for the repair, I stopped worrying about the problem completely. Yeah, the cost is still going to suck, but now at least I know what is going on. I have a plan, and while everything obviously doesn't always go according to plan, having one in place makes it a lot easier for me to be at peace with my decisions and be comfortable with moving forward.

Just as spending too much time looking back makes me feel depressed and discouraged, trying to look too far forward without any kind of battle strategy in place is overwhelming and petrifying. Life's too complicated and demanding to try and just float through hoping for the best, and it is too precious to waste it wishing things were different from the way they really are. I would much rather spend my time figuring out how to make the most of what I have actually been given, and for me at least, that means looking at what I have now, where I want to be, and how I am going to get there.

Undoubtedly, many of my plans and especially those covering what I'm going to do a year or more from now when I'm graduated, are going to end up playing out very differently form how I imagine them now, but in my mind, at least I know I'm going somewhere and I have something to work towards. Whether or not the place I'm driving myself to is exactly what I imagine it to be is not really my concern. Instead, I'm just trying make sure that I'm moving toward something, and that the journey getting there is worthwhile.

Maybe everything I've just said applies only to me, and maybe it is all rubbish, but I really feel like there is something to be said for focusing more on where you're going than where you could have been. I want to be able to appreciate what I've managed to accomplish with my life, but more than that, I want to be able to enjoy accomplishing more.

Life isn't stationary, and it certainly isn't moving backwards. I don't know what's going to happen, I don't know what could have happened had I made some different life choices, but whatever comes, at least I've got a plan.


"Don't do what you can't undo, until you've considered what you can't do once you've done it."
~ King Shrewd in Robin Hobb's Assassin's Apprentice 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Growing Older if Not Wiser

With the first week of my third year of college behind me, there is more that I could talk about than I would typically like. Between waking up Monday morning with a cold, an in your face professor with a hostile political agenda, and getting the time for my Friday classed mixed up so that I walked in an hour and twenty minutes into the lecture, things got off to a pretty rough start. Each morning I woke up with some new mutation of a cold and felt less and less like actually showing up to my classes with each progressing day, but I'm a stubborn and persistent fellow so I forced myself and my fellow classmates to put up with and endure my sniffles all the way through the week.

Thankfully, I feel essentially recovered from the obligatory beginning of the semester illness, and Labor Day is extending my weekend long enough for me to get stuff done, get my feet back on the ground, and come back to week two with a vengeance.

So, instead of spending an entire post listing off my beginning of the semester woes, I'm going to focus on a peculiar phenomenon I've been experiencing since Monday morning. I can't recall whether or not I mentioned this in my last post or not, but I have a rather abnormal class schedule this semester compared to the schedules of days gone by. In the past, all of my schooldays started with a class at 10:00 am and ended before 5:30 in the evening. I did this on purpose because I don't like evening classes, don't like super early classes, and really don't like online classes. Unfortunately, going hand in hand with entering into the upper level classes, my choices as far as days and times for the subjects I wanted to take were fairly limited, and as a result, my first class of the week doesn't start until 5:30 PM on Monday. Consequently, the first day of school was primarily taken up with me not actually being in class and I had plenty of time to mull over this strange realization that dawned on me as I dove into the beginning of my fifth collegiate semester.

Even though I didn't have class till 5:30, I got to campus at 9:00 Monday morning so I could print out syllabi and then assist in manning the Honors Program table at my university's welcome week event. As I sat in my folding chair on the mall of my university campus and watched student walk by, I was struck by two conflicting thoughts. 1) It felt like was returning home, and 2) I felt totally out of place and like the coming to campus wasn't the same anymore. The first thought caused me to realize that my school , despite all my frustrations with it and how little I actually want to be there some days, has actually become a pretty significant part of my current life. After four semesters and quite a few 12+ hour days on campus, I suppose it isn't entirely surprising that a part of me has grown attached to the place, but I have also developed some good friendships and met some rather enjoyable companions over the last two years. Running into many of these people over the course of my first day back felt very refreshing and helped me to realize just how much my life has changed and how much I've developed in so many ways since beginning my adventures in higher education. Jumping back into the swing of things felt almost seamless that first day in many ways, and I could hardly believe that I hadn't been on the campus more than a handful of times since the end of June.

However, at the same time, I could help feeling like some things had definitely changed. For one thing, the fact that I am a junior and more than halfway through my undergraduate degree hit me in full force for the first time. After this semester, assuming I pass all my classes, I will have only thirteen subjects and thirty-seven credit hours left standing between me and my degree. It isn't even accurate to call this my junior year, because I'll be a senior, God willing, come December. Realizing that I was farther along than fifty percent plus of the student body milling to and fro around me was no small thing for my head to grapple with, and it set all sorts of fireworks off in my head. Being halfway done means that I need to actually start looking at internships and graduate school with increased fervor and focus. It means I need to actually start acting like an adult and begin getting things mapped out lest I run full speed into graduation and the future without a satisfactory contingency plan.

All in all, something felt off. I'm not sure if it was my new upperclassman standing, the fact that I am now taking classes all centered around my major, a schedule with two online classes and none in the mornings Monday and Wednesday, the pesky cold that plagued me all week, some other unidentified variable, or some combination of the above, but I passed through the last several days in a dazed stupor at times. Together, all of these things led me to a single extremely obvious but extraordinary epiphany: I'm getting older.

Life is not, in fact, standing still, and while I am most certainly still a sprouting youngster, my twentieth birthday is coming up right around the corner and before too long I will be entering the grown up world for real. Not long ago, the idea of going to college, getting a driver's license, and turning eighteen were all awe inspiring concepts that marked my crossing the threshold of child to adult. Now all three seem terribly mundane, uninteresting, and things of the past. Instead, completed degrees, graduate school, jobs and internships, a living space of my own, and, God willing, a wife and family are all milestones that are not only fast approaching but will probably also seem incredibly normal and routine before too long.

The fact is that adulthood and the real world are hot on my heels, and while I like to think that I have not been idle or negligent in preparing for their arrival, it is time that I actually start thinking in concrete terms and begin making plans to actually handle them when they get here. Applying for jobs and looking into purchasing living quarters will not remain hypothetical situations to be examined in the future for long. Life's rolling forward and I'm getting older.

As I have told my friends and peers many times before, I don't actually consider myself an adult yet. Sure, I am eighteen, I vote, I attend college, have a part time job, can drive myself to and fro, manage my own schedule, and am responsible for getting myself up int he morning and putting myself to bed at night, but I honestly don't feel like any of these things are really signs or indicators that I have shaken off the title of child and grown into the realm of "grown ups." I still live with my parents, they pay for almost all of my food, my dad still cover's my car insurance, and I do not make enough money that I could fend for myself if my parents chose to kick me out. Thankfully, I have been blessed with absolutely amazing parental units who have graciously allowed me to save quite a bit of money by inhabiting their basement and consuming their food while I tackle this thing commonly referred to as college, but as long as I take advantage of their generosity and remain dependent on their finances, their home, and their edible products, I am not entirely comfortable calling myself an adult.

My reluctance in calling myself a fully fledged grown up extends beyond the fact that I am not self sufficient at this time. As I read the news, look at the parents and adults around me who have to deal with the trials and tribulations of world, and as I sit and think about all of the demands upon my time and attention that will come hand in hand moving out, getting a career, and starting a family, I cannot help but feel woefully unprepared for the responsibilities that will be laid upon my shoulders. Not because I feel like my parents, friends, and society have failed to train me and give me the resources necessary to take on life, but because I feel like I have yet to fully grasp that mysterious beast known as maturity by the horns and embrace the necessary mindset in becoming a real adult.

However, as I wrestle with these thoughts of inadequacy and the impending demands of the real world, I have found myself panicking far less than I would have previously predicted; this whole being adult thing is actually what I have been trying to work towards ever since I figured out that I could graduate high school in three years instead of four. All my efforts, not just academically, but in finding campus jobs, in learning how to drive, and in getting involve in school activities have been focused on reaching the point where I can confidently call myself a grown and meet the world head on.

I told a friend earlier this week when discussing a particularly frustrating professor that I have this semester: "I've got too many things to do and too many places to go to let a professor stop me." Likewise, at this point, the issues and responsibilities that will come with graduating, moving out, and coming into my own are part of the package deal and even though they often seem overwhelming and positively crippling, they are part of life. I will handle them, one way or another, because I have to. After all, I've got bigger fish to fry.

All of this is not to meant to be an attempt to brag or show of pompous self confidence, but rather a recognition of the fact that I am coming to terms with the fact that the up and down roller coaster of life is no longer a distant image on the horizon and that I am genuinely eager to start tackling it. More than likely, I will trip and fall on myself numerous times along the way. Honestly, that seems pretty inevitable, but that's all part of the process.

I'm growing older whether I like it or not so I might as well choose to like it, make the most of it, and be as prepared for it as possible.

Looking forward, I have three regular semesters counting this one before I get my undergraduate degree in Accounting. After that I plan on nabbing and internship before coming back to school for a graduate degree also in Accounting. Between now and then, a lot of stuff is going to happen, and a lot of it is going to be entirely out of my control, but by the time I graduate with a Masters I plan on being able to finally call myself an adult.

After all, you only live once, and while being a kid forever might sound awesome, ain't nobody got time fo' dat. 


(Note: I should write these things before midnight... not after)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Epic Summer Adventures of Me (aka, making up for lost time)

After fourish month hiatus, I felt like it was time to return to my neglected but not forgotten blog. A wide array of variables resulted in nothing getting posted here over the course of the summer, but I haven't been entirely absent from the blogging sphere. Back in June a new blog titles The Conciliar Post went live and I have penned two full articles for that blog since it got up and going. The CP is a series of writings collected by Christians of various denominations across the States on anything and everything from ethics in the workplace to relationship advice. If you're interested in checking out the thing you can traverse the interwebs via this.

Anyway, now that the sales pitch is aside, I shall get to the meat of this post.

This past summer has been a rather unusual one for me. Not only did I find myself with a car and driver's license for the first summer of my life, but I also had my first go (and hopefully last) with summer classes. A week after the spring semester finals were completed with my usual grace and humility (read whining and moaning), I began an online course in Nutrition alongside an physical course in Political Science. Both courses led by helpful and engaging profs and managed to prove both mildly interesting and fairly informative, but they were still school and they were still taking place during the summer. During this time I was also working a very modest 8 hours a week as a math tutor still and the consequence was that my weekdays were not exactly the dog days of summer freedom that I have grown to appreciate over the course of my life. However, I knew this was going to be the case and chalked it up to this whole adulthood thing that I am still getting used to.

I was determined not to let my education and employment get me down however and I managed to make several trips to visit friends and attend graduations in another city. Oh, and I played quite a bit of video games too... still haven't shaken off that childish past time quite yet. All in all, the first two months of my summer were a slightly less demanding and hectic version of the school year and hold a relatively straightforward "meh" rating in my memories.

The second half of my summer was significantly more eventful and nomadic. Less than a week after I finished my summer term, my family set off in our caravan for not one but two family reunions out on the great plains. Unfortunately for us, the day before we were to depart, a storm passed through our neck of the woods and managed to drop a particularly vindictive piece of said woods upon our house. With a tree sticking out of our room, a vehicle shorted out by electrical damage, no power, and a street covered in wood chips, we spent our last day at home attempting to patch things up to the best of our ability before abandoning the premises for a week. Thankfully the storm didn't end up delaying our vacating as we feared initially but we are actually still waiting on a final fix to the hole in our roof...

Vacation consisted of two weeks with more relatives than I can recall ever seeing gathered in a single place before... at the very least since my older brother's wedding six years ago. My dad's parents were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary and we were able to gather almost all of their children, all of their grandchildren, and all of their great-grandchildren under one roof for a whole week (there were something like 35 of us I think). It was a magnificent experience that will continue to live on in my memory for a long time, but even that big party wasn't quite the size of my mom's grandmother's 90th birthday celebration a week later. While the full gathering for my mom's family reunion was not nearly as lengthy, it was more than twice the size with somewhere between 70 and 80 of my great-grandmothers descendants gathered on a single farm property.

Less than 24 hours after returning home from our adventures out west, I headed a few hours out east to visit some friends for a week. On the drive over however I discovered that a tree branch had apparently fallen upon my poor vehicular unit. Said branch had apparently hit with enough force to leave a crack in my windshield in addition to a dent in my roof, but the crack was small enough to begin with that it did not immediately catch my attention. After being on the road for two hours, however, it took up about half of my windshield. Unfortunately I didn't think to get a picture, but the crack was a pretty intimidating thing to behold when driving 60 miles an hour down the highway. Thankfully my friends on the other end of my destination we able to help meet get my vehicle to a very friendly and efficient window repair shop several days into my visit and the whole things was solved with minimal effort and only a couple hundred dollars out of pocket. (Oh cars...)

After returning home from that trip I was back on my family's turf for a few days before heading up north to the not currently frozen wild lands of Wisconsin for a long time friend's wedding. I car pooled with a handful of other excellent friends and while I felt like I had spent enough time road tripping to last several summer by the end of it, I enjoyed myself very thoroughly.

After the wedding I was home for two and a half days before driving down south to the watery lands of Missouri for a four day canoeing trip with some of my church's youth group. Another epic adventure for the records, I managed to canoe for hours and hours with only occasional whining and a single flipping of my canoe. I also learned how to canoe by myself standing up in the middle of the boat so that was pretty awesome.

After an entire 48 hours of rest back at my primary place of residence, I headed east again for a several day conference visit with friends again before heading slightly more east and kinda north for yet another friend's wedding. The day after wedding number 2 for the summer I had to head back home speedy quick so I could make it to a third wedding that evening. (This one was only 45 minutes away from home so it was practically in my backyard compared to my trips this summer).

Since wedding number three I have remained pretty stationary. The last two weeks have taken longer to pass than the entire month of July it seems. I acquired my textbooks for the fall, gathered the necessary educational resources for maximum learning potential, (read pencils) and played more video games. Last week I participated in two days of training for my position as a math tutor, and while the training was not actually mandatory (I've been tutoring for three semesters and two summers already at this point), I was told that I would get paid if I chose to show up. After very little deliberation, I determined that two days of pay and two free meals were worth sitting through a handful of tedious training exercises.

That pretty much brings us to today. At some point in the next week or so I have another blog post I want to write, but I figured a filler post to make up for the silent summer was called for. Tomorrow I begin my fifth regular semester of college. I still feel like a newbie, but when I consider the fact that I am actually 20 credits into my junior year already, I don't think I can really claim new student status any longer. Looking forward, I am estimating two more semesters after this one before I can actually call myself a college graduate.

I don't know how I feel about that yet.

Either way, this semester looks to be the most challenging and complicated yet. With only one class on Mondays/Wednesday, three on Tuesdays/Thursdays, and two online classes, my schedule is completely different from any of my previous escapes into higher education.

In case anyone is interested, this semester I'm taking six classes:
BUS A311 or Intermediate Accounting I
BUS A325 or Cost Accounting
BUS B399 or Business and Society
BUS D300 or International Business Administration
BUS K321 or  Management of Information Technology
SPCH S223 or Business and Professional Communication

Gone are the days of Geology and Sociology. My last two general education classes were vanquished over the course of the summer months, and I only have upper level business and accounting classes left to go. This is both highly intimidating and extremely refreshing. While I expect this semester to be extremely challenging, I look forward to actually learning more about the field I actually plan on going into. This is the semester where I will likely figure out whether or not this whole Accounting degree idea was a big mistake or the right choice.

No pressure.

In any case, after all the curve-balls and new experiences I've seen over the summer, the fact that my life is going through a rapid series of growth spurts is really hitting home. I can't even begin to guess where I'll be two years from now and I expect the coming months will hold plenty of change and new adventure for me.

Here's to Fall 2014 and the class of 2016!