Tag Archives: learning

“Unthinkable”

The dictionary defines the word “unthinkable” as follows: UNTHINKABLE, adj. (of a situation or event) too unlikely or undesirable to be considered a possibility.

An act of “Unthinkable” and unspeakable evil – this is often how right-wing politicians phrase their empty apologies every time school children are slaughtered in mass shooting events. But if I am being honest, throughout my brief lifetime there is only one school shooting, the effects of which I remember vividly, and believe deserves that particular term.

On April 16, 2007, the unthinkable happened, on April 16, 2007, a single gunman used a semi-automatic weapon to gun down 32 people and injured 17 more at Virginia Tech.

Back then, school shootings were nowhere near as commonplace as they are now. Back then, that act of violence lead me and my fellow students who attended a elementary charter school in PA to have a very serious assembly, but unlike the kids today – I don’t have memories of active shooter drills before I reached high school. And why? Because in 2007 and even 2010 school shootings were relatively unthinkable, but today and in some schools, it’s all kids can think about.

Our kids are speaking, but the ones with the power to change things won’t listen

Yesterday I saw a tiktok where a teacher was asked by an elementatry school student “are you scared, like my mommy” and the teacher answered honestly saying, “yes, I am scared, but I am scared because I care about you and want to keep you safe.” and do you know what the child [THE CHILD] said as a response, “it’s ok, that’s why we do the drills, so that when [YES, THE KID SAID WHEN] it happens, we will be ready and we will be ok.” — So if our idea of protecting children starts and ends at drills (drills that some of these gunmen have been trained with) (or arming teachers???) and doesn’t include us allowing them to be a part of the conversation that they are already having with eachother and in their heads, then we are failing them. If we prioritize paraphrased rights over young human lives, we are failing our kids. If we continue to allow semi-automatic weapons to be so readily available to a general public who is not fit to use that kind of weapon, then we are failing our kids and we are failing ourselves.

“But my second amendment…”

19 elementary school children – dead. 2 teachers who tried to protect those children – dead. One 18-year-old gunman – dead. The death toll of the recent (mass) school shooting totals 22 (not including the shooter’s grandmother). And every single one of those lives lost – they were not victims of an “unthinkable act” but an entirely preventable one.

I can see the headline now “the founders continue to fail the American public 400 years after their deaths” – obviously accountability isn’t America’s strong suit.

Now in the event that someone excessively pro gun comes accross this post LET ME MAKE ONE THING ABUNDANTLY CLEAR – I personally do not like or agree with guns in any context and I personally don’t think guns should be a household item. BUT I also firmly believe that in certain households where children are taught gun safety and firearm respect, those are not households I hold issues with – with one exception – I personally don’t believe that any household needs access to a semi automatic weapon and this is quite simply because, in my mind, semi-automatic weapons are weapons of war; and while I don’t agree with that level of violence in any context, I do understand that for every tool there is a time and place, and I can understand that tool within the concept of that specific (and only that specific) time and place. IN OTHER WORDS, I don’t like it, I don’t agree with it, but I understand a context where it does make sense.

People love the idea of freedom but most don’t understand the cost

You see – When the founding fathers wrote the original documents by which our country governs itself today, they had muskets. To them, all of the happenings today were “unthinkable” because never in their wildest dreams could they have imagined half the things that have happened. BUT flash forward to today where – in 2022 alone – (mind you we are only 6 months in), there have been an estimated 214 mass shootings (IN THE UNITED STATES). And because google defines a mass shooting as an event that takes a minimum of three to four lives in a short period of time the bare minimum toll of those combined events is equal six hundred and forty two (642) lives lost — but according to insider news the death toll due to gun violence in 2022 ALONE currently sits at Seventeen thousand, three hundred lives lost (17,300 – dead) — that’s a little higher than the definitions minimum isnt it?

But in a couple of weeks, the dust of this will settle, Texas reps will stop their press conferences and their empty apologies and we will have some quiet time to reflect until the next shooting happens… This is the cost of freedom in America. This is the cost of maintaining the value of the second ammendment. This is the debt that we pay and in my personal opinion, it is disgusting, the cost is far too high, and it is the furthest thing from “unthinkable” that I can think of.

Look, at the end of the day, I don’t think we should take anyone’s right to bear arms away, but I think we should consider re-establishing what arms they have access to and how easily they are granted access to them. And the reason this article focuses on school shootings rather than the dozens of other mass shootings is because our government has shown time and time again that they won’t change no matter who falls prey to these attacks, but discussions where children are involved are much more likely to garner support. And don’t get me started on how angry it makes me that that even needs to be said or the fact that the absurd levels of inequality in this country span accross all kinds of labels and personal identifiers.

but I digress… where was I, oh yes – “at the end of the day, I don’t think we should take anyone’s right to bear arms away, but I think we should consider re-establishing what arms they have access to and how easily they are granted access to them.” —

If you want a pistol or a riffle or even a bayonet to defend yourself – I am all for it, after all that is what the founding fathers intended, but with what is happening and what continues to happen things can not and truly should not stay as they are. And to be clear, that’s not a political opinion. The stance I take isn’t because I am a democrat, it isn’t because I am a woman and because my rights have been threatened recently, it isn’t because I am anything – it’s simply because I am a person and because if I am lucky enough to have kids one day, the last thing I want is to be scared to send them to school.

In this life or any other – the last thing anyone wants is to live in a state of fear, but for our country, for the minorities in it, that’s all we and they know.

So stop claiming that very preventable acts are “unthinkable,” stop apologizing to and praying for the families who continue to lose everything without bearing responsibility for what is happening to them, stop allowing this damn country to be like the freaking wild west, and stop allowing any old person above the age of 18 to buy a semi-automattic weapon — because by now, and when it comes to gun violence in america, too many of our kids (and citizens) have not only thought of it, but they’ve lived it – and that should be enough insentive for real change to be made.

An open letter to the class of 2022

To the class of 2022, by now most of you have graduated from your respective institutions. You have done it. You have finally earned your degree. (Or at least they’ve given you the paper for it) And hopefully, you have earned the chance to pursue your career-centered dreams.

Years of sweat and blood and tears have finally led you to this moment and as glorious as it is, it’s slightly tainted by the moment where your institution, the place that has been your home for the past (+ or -) 4 years, said (in not so many words) – “congratulations, you did it – now go home.” (As closing time plays “closing time,you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here”)

Suddenly your mind races, “Home? What home? This is my home. This is my friends and my favorite/least favorite food and the place my stupid ex broke my heart before my friends (who are really more like family) put me back together again. Go home? What does that even mean?”

Maybe it hit you this weekend or maybe it’ll hit later but the moment you received your diploma everything changed. And it did, because… I guess… because it has to? See when I graduated with my bachelors degree 4 years ago, before I started this blog or even really knew who I was, I was terrified. I mean that’s quite literally the reason I continued my education and my track career – because I wasn’t ready to leave my home. And the while all the analogies about birds and nests rushed to mind more than they had the first time I left “home” I knew that this was different. This was different, because this home, felt like so much more than any other.

Now I realize this post is bittersweet because while I feel like you will identify with it, it isn’t necessarily what you want to hear right now. You don’t want to hear “everything changes” even if you know it will. You don’t want to accept that your people won’t be a couple of doors or even a couple blocks away, but possibly a couple of states or more. You don’t want to accept that this chapter is truly over, but as third eye blind once said – “every new beggining comes from some other begginings end” and if you don’t know that song then please follow the dotted line to hand your diploma back in.

Look, at the end of the day, I know this next phase will be different and it will be hard. Whether you are moving home for a bit or moving somewhere new – bills suck, work can be tedious, and last night’s drinks rapidly become all the more unforgiving when they are served by a new bartender who makes their drinks differently than you are used to. But this time will soon become the best time of your life – as will every phase to follow it. (Insert Miley Cyrus “The Climb” Lyrics) And that is the way it should be – because while the last four years were the best of your life, don’t forget that they are merely the best of your life SO FAR and that the best is still yet to come.

All jokes aside though, as a sister of a brother in the class of 2022, I cannot be more thrilled at the lives I see unfolding. I could not be more proud of the voice this generation is cultivating, and I could not be more excited to see what you all do next. The world around us is changing – and it needs to continue changing — so I for one, am excited to see what you all bring next.

Anyway!

Cheers! To the Class of 2022 – may your voice be loud and your hangovers quiet and here’s to the next best years of your life.

No Buts

I know it’s ok, but…

I know it’s ok, but I’m not where I thought I’d be by now.

Its psychological you know

When it comes to expectations, we approach them from what we already know and what we see and experience around us. So, we can’t actually picture what our life will look like – yet society and pinterest tricks us into planning it all out and pretending that the best we can do is white weddings and trips to the hamptons with our two and a half beautiful babies. Big houses, and little league and – clearly I grew up very lucky because I know how much privilege comes with those dreams.

And it’s funny because these expectations, they aren’t unlike how we view happiness because subconsciously we all have a level of happiness that we can rise to, before we believe it’s “too good to be true.” So we expect what we already know to happen again, just as it has, and when it doesn’t, it jars us. We grow up expecting what we think we deserve, but at any age we are still learning what we deserve based on our own developing definition of worth so — in short, we can’t fathom what the future looks like, but we honest to goodness believe we can. And then we get disappointed when it doesn’t happen.

Back then I had it all figured out

Or at least… I thought I had it all figured out. Typical youth dilemma, I know.

Anyway…

Lately I’ve been excessively retrospective, telling my friends that “I had a better idea of what 26 would look like when I was 16, than I do now.” Which is somewhat a lie, because back then I didn’t think I’d make it this far but also true in that – when I skipped to this part of my story, being an adult and having freedom etc. it did look a lot less complicated. But back then, so did life.

A decade ago, in 2012, my future looked a lot less complicated and a lot more straight-forward. And despite what you may assume, it wasn’t because I was young. It’s because the world we know now, was just getting started.

[Insert HUH?]

Let me explain…

In 2012, I was 16 years old, just over 3x the age of the first iPhone, which was made in 2007. And this was also the year, most of us thought the world was ending, not because we had real proof, but because at least 4 movies came out saying that it was going to based on a calendar that was thousands of years old. In 2012, the music industry was much harder to get into. Like a lot harder, and it wasn’t because the talent wasn’t there but because the technology needed to make an EP was much less accessible than it is now. In 2012, I was still watching the Disney channel… and all the shows were still irrefutably iconic and High School Musical wasn’t a remake it was still a story being told for the first time. In 2012 I was binging the vampire diaries, and writing the first draft of my novel. I was grieving, and living with it, and praying to a godless sky that I could find answers that I knew wouldn’t come. In 2012 I had no possible idea of what my 20’s would look like beyond fiction and fantasy – but in that way, I suppose a part of me then, knew more than I do now. Because that’s exactly what the concept of our twenties is before we actually get there… it’s fiction, and fantasy, and excessively hormonal teen dramas with all the sex and none of the quarter life crisis that we all inevitably go through.

So yeah, a decade ago I had a more clear picture of what 26 would look like, but 5 days out from my 26th birthday – I have no recollection of what I could have been thinking at 16.

I know it’s ok… but – no buts

I know it’s ok, but yeah, I’m definitely NOT where I thought I’d be by now… and that’s hands down the best gift I could have given myself this year because when I say “I’m not where I thought I’d be” it’s not a feeling of inadequacy, and, surprisingly, it’s not even a feeling that I’ve fallen short of my own expectations, because frankly those would have been with me, buried 6 ft in the ground or scattered across the lake that my dad and his siblings grew up on. Truth is, if I had ended up where I honestly thought I’d be now, at 16… well let’s just say I’m really glad I didn’t. And this life, it’s not a fantasy, and it’s not a show on HBO and I don’t have a super sexy vampire boyfriend [or girlfriend] – but I am figuring it all out, day by day, and on my own time.

So yeah… when I say, “I know it’s ok… that I’m not where I thought I’d be,” I mean it. Not because I never wanted to be somewhere else, not because I never wanted someone else’s life, not because I wish I had become the princess of Genovia living in a castle with Sandra O answering the queens calls [although, that would be pretty damn cool]. I say, “it’s ok” because I’m here. Because I made it. Because I kept picking points on the path to run to and telling myself, “Rachel, if you make it there, you can stop. If you make it there, it’s not giving up… but also, keep going.” And honestly, the more I think about it, I love that I am not where I thought I’d be in my imagination ten years ago, because when things get hard now, and when someone tells me it’ll be ok… I believe them. And the rest? Well, that’s all just part of the ride.

Getting Honest [With my Watch Lists]

Most people take their honesty hour with a side of 4 vodka crans, but today (and since its not mid day) we’re gonna do this one with water.

Dear Netflix,

I am sorry for my false promises. Sorry that I have lead you to believe that I could consume the amount of content I have saved – I realize now, that I could never maintain the rouse I have created for myself. I am sorry. Please forgive me. Or don’t… Look. to be honest, I’ve never said that follow through was a strong suit. I mean look at this blog… on the year I had barely anything to keep me from writing I avoided it like the plague. Back then I just thought I had nothing to talk about – or, at least, nothing I felt really comfortable sharing. ANYWAY, I am getting way off track so — reeling it in. I’m sorry – I probably won’t do better, but who knows… maybe this is the year I grab my watch list by the … titles? And finally tackle some of the shows that have been building up dust. [but like probably not…]

Some could call it a gateway drug… but… that’s definitely too dramatic for this context…

It all starts with a peak into the rabbit hole

Look, you don’t need to be ashamed, we’ve all done it. We’ve all been scrolling through social media or on netflix and clicked the little (+) or the “save for later” bookmark – and then never revisited that page ever again. Hell, I mean, are you actually alive if you didn’t once have an entire pinterest board dedicated to fancy recipes that you NEVER actually made. [or maybe that’s just me….?]

Point is, it’s easy to get drawn in by the exciting trailers and the rave reviews, but sometimes time and follow through are just hard set realities that we all have to deal with… and if no one else has told you lately. It’s ok, I accept you.

Talk about toxic

I often joke that my longest relationship is with Netflix, which is fitting because as someone who was typically afraid of relationships – it would make sense that the thing I was in bed with, was also in bed with most of America (and beyond). Now, despite our differences and daliences (I can’t blame netflix, I understand that it is their job and we both knew that they wouldn’t and even couldn’t always meet all of my streaming needs. So, while unspoken, we both understand that I have had to step away from our relationship to pursue others with other services like Hulu, Amazon Prime, Vudu, Apple Tv, and even HBO… but upon recent reflection, I suppose my major discretion is not how I juggle these platforms, but rather the false promises I have made to each of them. False promises, in the form of… my watch lists.

Jokes aside

No, but on a serious note, let’s talk about this, because I know I cannot actually be the only one that has dozens of titles in their watch list that they added in the moment, but later realized that they would never get to it (or even that they didn’t want to). And as I get older it’s less about having all the time in the world to explore these things and more about developing the ideas of what I actually want to explore and what I’m trying to convince myself that I want to explore.

And this would be fine if I didn’t also do this with shopping carts on websites because while my mother thinks that I have a lot of packages coming, there is a whole other world of impulses I have proudly (or maybe shamefully) talked myself out of. But that is an aside that will have to be dug into on another day.

I’m not indecisive, nor loyal, I just don’t want to have to click through everything to remove them from my list. (so, basically, I’m just lazy)

Anyway, so look, I get it. People change. We grow, and for some of us – especially me – and my ADHD, I grow and I change but I also often struggle with object permanence (aka. if I don’t see it, it doesn’t always exist,) so, if I am being honest, this issue is usually out of sight and out of mind. I mean, these days our streaming services cater the experience to us and our habits, so half the time I don’t even think to look at my list to figure out what to watch next – it just shows me something fun, hot shiny, or new and whoop! off we go…

Maybe it’s just me

When it comes to lists, and old scraps of paper, and yes, even my streaming services. Those histories can tell us a lot about where we’ve been. Looking back can help us remember those times we needed someone, the times we didn’t, it shows date nights and nights in and even times when we thought we could stay up all night — but definitely shouldn’t have.

And sometimes, like last night, I spent 30 minutes (probably less) adding old disney titles to my disney watch list because seeing them again gave me a boost of nostalgia. So sometimes things are there not to actually be seen, but to just trigger old happy memories. Which is crazy and probably another cornerstone sign of a mentally ill person but hey, if “the fox and the hound” makes me smile – who is to say I shouldn’t embrace that?

And sure – it’s trivial but it also speaks to something bigger. Like, universally bigger. It speaks to the fact that there are few types of people in this world, the least of which may or may not contain – people who have watched everything they’ve saved, and those who really have not. And I for one am someone who most definitely has not and most likely will not. But at least that has taught me something about how my brain works and hopefully it’ll continue to teach me that time spent with ourselves and with others is and always has been about choices. That it is and always will be a question of, will this add to my life, or could this time be better spent somewhere else – and for learning that, I place no apologies… but on a completely unrelated note… I fully intend to do some decluttering this weekend, you know, just because I can.

Time wastes for no one.

This morning I woke up with an almost unshakable belief that it was Saturday. I think checked my phone three times to look at the day and the date before convincing myself to get out of bed and get some chores done before work…. And while this was undoubtably just a byproduct of the self care and Benadryl I partook in last night, this isn’t the first day I’ve woken up thinking it was another time.

When it comes to wasting time, to wishing time away, to looking forward and wanting to fast forward moments of my life, I haven’t always been innocent. To be honest, these days it’s usually more of a subconscious thought than one I’d actually wish on stars for, but nonetheless it’s there, in the back of my head, reminding me I am human and that there are no shortcuts to life’s great successes. But I’m also equally guilty when it comes to wanting to rewrite time, and while neither actually move me forward I don’t think I could put a finger on which is actually worse.

See, I find it funny that time moves slower on the days we wish it wouldn’t, and faster on the good times to remind us how fleeting things are. Last night I was watching my favorite show, and every week that it’s on I have to remind myself that it’s an hour-long program, because it never seems like it is. I find it funny how time is constant, but the feeling and the passage changes constantly. How a hard mile can feel like an hour but 10 seconds or less in a hundred dash can be long enough to change history. And don’t worry – I’m not going off on this tangent to be prolific, I promise, I’m just thinking aloud so I can get to my point — so here it is.

Time isn’t linear,

It’s cyclical.

But not for lack of trying, but because we, as societies, are constantly trying to best the plans that time has for us. Because we are so often too power hungry and privileged to realize that consequences don’t always affect us, but they do affect someone.

So——? So, we wake up, we go to work, we count the days of the week and whether we want it to or not we always get to Sunday night wishing we had two more days of rest over a Monday that we have to slump through. The days of the week rotate, the hands of the clock rotate, the whole damn world rotates, and our actions fall into cycles and ruts and sometimes we break it only to end up in a new cycle that may or may not be better than the last.

So, you see, one could argue that all things in the natural realm turn on a forward moving axis and that we are just along for the ride… so yeah, this morning I woke up thinking it was Saturday, but it wasn’t and maybe that can happen without consequence considering I was able to right what I thought I believed, but on the other hand, just last week the Supreme Court woke up thinking it was 1973. So while I sit here, contemplating how I could have missed a day, they’ve missed nearly 4 decades… which honestly is less surprising when you take a pause to note what motivates me and what motivates them.

See it’s one thing to look back at “simpler times” where we’ve contemplated and rewritten our youth to fit the narrative of who we are now. It’s easy to gaslight ourselves because frankly, the rest of the world has been doing it to us for years – but who is it actually benefitting? When we put ink to paper in these history books, when the victors claim truth in a boy who cried wolf situation – who actually benefits? Because it isn’t women, it isn’t democrats or republicans, it isn’t politicians, or anyone with or without a uterus. It isn’t minorities or people of differing genders and sexual orientations. Hell it isn’t even people who follow a particular religion or have spiritual beliefs.

See all of us are familiar with the phrase, time waits for no man. But the truth is, time doesn’t waste for us either. We don’t get to pick and choose how it moves, or chase alternate realities because time doesn’t forget injustice, it doesn’t sugar coat politics, it doesn’t provide power. Time is not to blame for the choices man makes and the time man wastes. It just moves – and it always moves forward. So why can’t we?

Music is art

Whats good, my names Kevin also known as KevinXI. My purpose here is to spread mental health awareness through, music, culture, and basically anything related to art. I believe that music can bring people together, as well as split them apart, so it is important to keep that in mind when creating any track.

I want to let everyone out there to know that there is hope. I have been struggling with depression and anxiety ever since I was 14. I am now 22 and trying to bring awareness to these disorders so that further research can be done in order to gain more insight on them.

Hopefully this insight can lead to some sort of solution, but for now we are all just trying to survive. Live on and be grateful 🙂 Attached below is a link to my music and merch. Lets start a movement; Lets end the stigma associated with mental health disorders; Lets build a community were people can be open without judgment.

Music and Merch –

https://linktr.ee/KevinXI

peace, love, and positivity

KevinXI

Words I have heard in my yoga practice that you might need to hear right now

First of all… this poem called Joy For No Reason by Danna Faulds:

I am filled with quiet joy for no reason save the fact that I’m alive.


The message I received is clear – there’s no time to lose from loving,


no place but here to offer kindness,


no day but this to be my true, unfettered self and pass the flame from heart to heart.


This is the only moment that exists – so simple, so exquisite, and so real.

woman wearing grey long sleeved top photography
Photo by Artem Bali on Pexels.com

Secondly…

…You are beautiful, inside and out.

…Sometimes it’s tough.  Mentally.  Physically.  Emotionally.  But you push through it and the relief at the end is a feeling unlike any other.

…The most valuable gift we can give our bodies is time.

…This breath in…this breath out.

woman in black bikini underwater photography
Photo by Engin Akyurt on Pexels.com

…May you be happy, may you be safe, and may you live your life with ease.

…We always seem to be tied up in what has happened and what is happening later.  But when we lock into our breathing, we are in the present.

…You are here, you showed up.  You did the hard part.

…Appreciate that you are alive beneath your hands, that you are the only person under your hands that matters right now.

Image result for supta baddha konasana with hands over heart

And don’t forget…

…If you can balance your body in here, you can balance anything out there.

…It’s okay if you fall.  It means you pushed it to your edge, and you get right back up.

…You’re the most graceful fall-er I’ve ever met.

…Your pose is not going to look the same as any other pose, because every body is different.

…Every day, your body needs different things.  One day you may be able to hold a headstand for 10 minutes, the next maybe you need to lie down into child’s pose most of the practice.  Wherever your body is, is perfect.

man standing with two hands
Photo by Zsolt Joo on Pexels.com

…If you are really stressed or overwhelmed, try doing a few handstands.  They take conscious effort and focus, so it diverts your mind for a minute, and brings your attention to your balance and breath.  I think of it like hitting a mini restart button on whatever you were doing.

…We all know about the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would like to be done unto yourself.  But did you know it goes both ways?  You should do unto yourself as you do unto others.

…Find comfort in the discomfort.

…Whatever it looks like right now is beautiful.

…You’re sweating and you’re breathing: that’s all that really matters.

..Nothing changes if nothing changes.

…When the merry-go-round of thoughts come in, let them.  But don’t get caught up on any that don’t matter in the right now.  Just let them keep going around.

carousel at the park
Photo by Salma Smida on Pexels.com

In case you need a reminder…

…You are enough, you do enough, you have enough.

…Practice self-compassion.  Compliment yourself and appreciate your body just as you would another person.

…If your loved one was going through this, what would you tell them?  Sometimes what we tell others is what we need to hear ourselves.

…Find softness in your edge; the furthest point you can push your body.  Then exhale, soften, and push just an inch further.  That’s where the change happens.

…Sometimes what we need is not what we want.

…Heart open, back straight, booty low.

…It’s so easy to just send a text, or post a photo.  Showing up, being present – that’s showing passion, commitment, appreciation, drive.

…Just being here, right now, adds to the dynamic of the room.  If one person was missing, this whole practice would be different.

And finally…

…The light in me sees, and honors the light in you. Namaste.

brown and blue polka dot textile
Photo by Vinícius Vieira Fotografia on Pexels.com



Special thank you to The Yoga Shop of Salem (well the entire TYS community, for that matter) for allowing me to grow in my practice, my mind, and my life.  Thank you for sharing these words with me in and out of our practice.

If you would like more mantras like these, I highly suggest getting yourself a copy of  Journey to the Heart by Melody Beattie. (Shout-out to Amanda for the best Secret Santa gift this year.) Some of these words came from this book, as many of my instructors use it for their opening meditations in class.

Or, better yet, come join a practice sometime.  I promise you won’t regret it.

Hello Neighbor

One of the top books trending on Amazon, and was recently named a New York Times Best Seller, is The Good Neighbor by Maxwell King. The book by King is an in depth biography about everyone’s favorite person growing up; Mr. Fred Rogers. Chronicling the life and times of this almost saintly PBS star, we get a really close look into an adult figure that basically shaped the modern times through his unconditional sense of nurturing and embracing the love of helping others grow. Even thou he is gone, that cardigan and simplistic smile still represents so much today.

i was fortunate enough to grow up in the time frame when Fred Rogers was producing the famous PBS show directly day in and day out. Although i was younger and started to watch the show and Mr Rogers in his later part of his legendary broadcasting career, i still loved to rush to the TV back in the day and wait to see the friendly neighbor walk through his door. i feel now that i am 24 i look back and become enthralled with what i learned from the show. Even if we did not know we were learning the skills to be a good human being, Fred Rogers always knew his audience was learning. Through his teachings and time with us, we learned what Fred Roger’s idea of being a good person was and how very simple it could be.

Be Kind.

It has been nearly sixteen years since Fred Rogers left our neighborhood, a new generation of children have come and started to learn of the lessons he gave us, but what if i told you that we need to revisit the episodes of a simple man ourselves?

It seems these days we haven’t been the friendliest of neighbors to each other. Building walls, hurting one another and not simply being kind when we need it the most. We know that this world is not meant to be perfect, nor is meant to be catastrophic in nature, but what we should start as 2019 is in its infantile stages is to be more like Fred Rogers and take up his Good Neighbor mantle he left behind for us. I like to believe that the world could use a good neighbor like Mr. Rogers these days. He was imperfect and that’s the way we all are, he loved unconditionally which we all have the potential to create, and he never created a persona for himself to supply the audience, in short terms he never stopped being who he was a rare, authentic form of a man.

 “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” – Fred Rogers

Fred Rogers always tried to bring the best out of people, even adults. In times of hardship and tragedy, we always looked for comfort in the things that are familiar to use and our childhood usually makes an appearance. In recent years, we have had things happen in this world that should never happen to anyone under our sun and stars, unspeakable acts and disasters that have rattled us to our very core, that have changed us in ways we wished we weren’t changed. But even in the 21st century and almost two decades since he passed away Fred Rogers is still helping us even in adulthood. As he said before “look for the helpers”, but i think we can do better than look for them. Lets be the helpers in times where things are not so good. It doesn’t have to be on a cataclysmic scale but we can be the ones that help others day in and day out even on the smallest things. Lets be the ones the next generation looks to in times of strife and say “Yes there they are, the helpers”.

I like to think this will be my goal for not only 2019 but in the years to come as well. We can all use a neighbor during our life, to help us on both our bad days and to help celebrate the good ones. i challenge those who are reading this to be a little more neighborly this year and it doesn’t have to be on a major scale. It can be simple and sweet and still have all the value still to it. If not the most important challenge i ask of those who read this is very simple and honors Fred Rogers the most; be kind.

A Good Man

A Good Man goes through life with no expectation of rewards or praise for the things they find should be common. They do not want the pomp and circumstance that comes with the deeds they do because its not what they were put on this Earth to do. They were not put on this earth to take medals and prizes, they are here for the people and progress of humanity.  A good man does everything for someone or something else, dedicating his values to the needs and desires of those he serves in what ever way that he finds serves the many. No matter the days, the hours, or service, a good man is always there for his people.

It seems today, i see less and less good men in this world. Too many spotlights pointed on people who don’t need them, too many awards for people who only served themselves. Too much stolen glory that the good men didn’t want, yet deserved, be given to the lackluster members of humanity. These are not good men of whom i write about.

Its not a sin for a good man to take some credit in some instances, its not a sin for a good many to accept some of the glory that comes with life. Its a sin when you don’t attempt to recognize their efforts of being a good man once in a while. Even if its minimal, its something for us to give back to them.

This past weekend, it was veterans day.

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A day where we honor those men, and women, for their service in the armed forces of our land and for our people. This day, is our way of saying thank you.  These good men and women never asked for praise, glory, or medals. They signed up to serve there nation without complaint, without thought, but with all the sacrifice. From the greatest generation, to Korea, Vietnam, and the Gulf Wars and everything in between, they didn’t sign up to fight wars, they signed up to protect us from enemies foreign and domestic.

They signed up to be Patriots.

My entire family served, from Dad and all the way up. Navy and Army. Two legendary branches. There was a time even when for Christmas and thanksgiving that there was always one Gill deployed, the holidays weren’t complete. But they were and are good men. My father is a good man. He helps where he can, teaches when he can, and loves no matter what. He never asks for praise, never takes the glory of extra money when he provides for others, and he never asks for anything in return. A good man you see. Although he will never read this, my navy boy dad will be one of my examples of what it means to be a good man in these days where i can not seem to find people like this anymore. I have known great men.

In addition to veterans day, it is also a day of sorrow. Its a day where i remember another good man. Today is a day where a good man got called home.

Now, i don’t say much to outsiders about Brother Oxx simply because remembering hurts too much, it stings the fingertips as i write these words down on digital paper. He was a man who could command a room of testosterone fueled high school boys with a simple look. Not many people earn the respect like that in a lifetime.  He was the one in our darkest hours, both as a community and our personal matters, whom we looked up to and asked for guidance when we could not see ahead of ourselves. He, one of the best men i have ever known. Unfortunately, time waits for no man. No matter how good he or she is.

Br Oxx passed away almost six years ago on November 12th 2012. Not a day goes by without me missing him in some way.

In recent years, i find myself stumbling upon  asking a question that pops in my head.

“Am i a Good Man? “

i always ask myself what makes me good in the eyes of the world, especially with so much to live up to, especially after these great men i have in my life. i sometimes feel as if i can not compare to them and that i don’t measure up. I feel as if i can not contribute to what is already good in this world. Even tho i am told by people that i am kind in a world of hate and i am caring in times where it is overlooked, i feel i do not do enough to be a good man. I know to measuring a mans worth is never a good idea, but i like to know my worth is, so i can see that i am on the right path, the good path, to becoming a better man.

But these men that i have known, who have set an example for myself and all those who come after them, i hope they have an express ticket to heaven, for they have done well in life and deserve so much.

For they, in my eyes, are good men

and in the darkest of times,

good men shall always rise.

I am the Traveler

Lost man’s journey or true adventures wonder.

what i cant find is what i cant see

Blind man, sour man, gone man.

 

I am the Traveler

The one who does not stay in one place,

who stays without a trace

yet longs for a home.

He does not stay for long like a paper cut in between fingers.

Stings but not for long.

Why cant he stand to stay?

 

Is it the people?

He knows once the journey resumes, they forget him

Some don’t but who writes to a man on the road?

 

Is it the places?

With such exotic beauty and diversity decay

He does not like to become a statue in such a state.

Not left to stain the ways of where he is when he could be away.

 

What is it then?

 

I am the traveler,

I move because i don’t want to be entombed,

by the people and their places.

I hate to be the stain that can not be cleaned. 

I wish to tend to my fires and have them come to me.

Its pure that way.

I give them my knowledge, in return they nurture me, feed me nourishment

So that i may travel wider and further 

To build fires for others to gather around, to kindle stories 

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I became the traveler, 

to ease the minds

calm the hearts

and to carry on.

 

I am the traveler, for the love of the journey.

 

 

 

 

 

See the person next to you? Wear their glasses.

Into adulthood, almost 22 years into life, I’ve learned many things.

I’ve learned how to walk, and talk, and write letters.

I’ve learned how to make those letters into words and those words into sentences that sometimes make sense.

I’ve learned (miraculously) how to let the little things go and live life like a wave (and have always had a love for alliteration).

I have taught myself the virtue of patience, and 8-hour bladder control (thanks to teaching the young children), and how to carry things on my head for all of 7 seconds.

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But of everything I have learned, the most important take away, I think, is to never stop learning.

About math, science, geography, and the people around you.  They often have the best stories, and the best knowledge.

I am fortunate to have been able to immerse myself abroad, in a new country, town, culture, and standard of living.  I am far from an expert on these countries, and far from truly understanding what life is like there, since I was just an ‘obroni’ traveler volunteering my time for but a couple of months.

What I do know, though, is that what I learned from the people I met there will forever exceed anything I have learned, and will ever learn, in school.

People are your best resources.

If someone is around you, that means they somehow, someway, ended up in the same space.

You all ended up in the same place at the same time, and are likely now doing similar things.

And while you ended up together at this moment, your paths leading up to now were so, so different.

You grew up in different households, towns, states, countries.

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You have a different set of relatives living in your home and different relationships with those people; you may even speak a different language with them than you do at work.

Maybe the person sitting next to you speaks 3 different languages, with English being their second or third.

Maybe you are the one with a rich background – the one with a story to tell.

Or maybe the girl down the hall has family members in the country you’re travelling to on your next vacation and can give you the inside scoop.

What if the boy you sit across from grew up learning math using a different method, and can help you solve the problem you’ve been stuck on for hours?

How do you know the woman who just got promoted didn’t grow up bouncing from foster home to foster home, until she was able to pay for school and work her ass off to get to where she is now?

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All of you have had life experiences that lead here, yes.

But those experiences have also taught you differently than the person sitting next you, and has shaped your mind in a unique way.

I think that is the most beautiful thing about humans: we are so incredibly unique; we have such an amazing mind filled with memories and choices and viewpoints that allow us to see the world through a new set of glasses.

We have had a different set of family, friends, mentors, and way of living.

Different resources and standards of living and values that have shaped the way we live on this planet.

So talk to the people around you.

Wear their glasses for a while.

Can you imagine if we could see through everyone’s glasses all the time?

I would want that would be my superpower: to be able to communicate with everyone on this planet, so I can learn about how they perceive everything around them.

I think that’s way more fun than walking a mile in their shoes.

You may just learn something about yourself you didn’t realize before.

 

Welcome Home

Could a phrase mean more than just that?

(First off, i would like to thank Kenney, Shannon, and Campus Ministry for allowing me to experience Nazareth Farm, now on with the regularly scheduled blog post)

We commonly hear it during the times after a long vacation, or coming home from college, or even in sarcasm (Yup that is my mom alright). But what it could mean to a select few, means an experience unlike any other?

In Early 2018, a group i was very fortunate to Co-advise for an Alternative Winter Break to Nazareth Farms ,West Virginia. (Yes, i already know as I said this you are looking up John Denver’s hit song ” Take Me Home, Country Roads” I mean its a jam anyways.) The Alternative Break was designed to give back to communities within the Appalachian mountain region of West Virginia. Sounds straight forward right? Seems like a 2-D Service Trip through a service site?

Wrong…

Nazareth Farms was one of the best sites for service i think students can go to. First off, the staff is one of the most welcoming you’ll ever meet. Basically right when you get off the van you are greeted with a hug and “Welcome Home”. You do not know this person or this place (especially if you get in at 8 pm and in the dark like we did) and they welcome you home like a long lost family member. It is interesting to say the least. You find out as you get there that other schools alternative break programs and your instant thought is ” Oh, well i guess then i may just introduce myself to the them then ill stay with my group.”

Wrong again.

Instantly you just start talking with the different student and staff members and find similarities that start long conversations that last well into the timeless night. Oh yeah time, forget it, you do not need it when your down here, or phones, or any technology for that matter. You are enjoying yourself so much that you do not need this stuff. (Also there isn’t any WIFI but that is beside the point.) The experience of staying up late, talking, playing guitar and singing along. Its one of the greatest times i think a student can have during their down time.

The work you do with Nazareth Farms is unbelievable, you do so much in such little time with such diversity of tasks. One day you may be ripping down old dry wall and setting up new stuff, you may be painting, you may even do minor electrical work, or you could be cleaning Nazareth Farms and preparing the meal for the night. Its such a different way to give back than i have ever seen. Its really rewarding that although the families that may have been less fortunate, they are appreciative and always believe they are more fortunate with Nazareth Farms around and when students and staff like us take time that we could be spending with our loved ones after the holidays and spend it giving back to the community that was not our own.

For those who have gone to down to “NAZ Farm” its one of the best experiences we got to have within the realm of service. The loving nature of the staff and crew to the people who help serve the community to the families we work with. Everything seemed magical during this time and it really created a sense of bonding both between the individual school and the community as a whole group. I think everyone would agree that the hardest thing is leaving this great place and going back to ordinary life. What the Farm teaches you is that everyone has to “come down the mountain” or end their experience at one point or another, but they are always welcomed to “Come Home.” I think this was one of the best wrap ups to the week of service i have ever seen. The idea of you have to go but you can always come back is one of the best send off messages i have ever received on a service trip. It is one that will stay with a lot of us for a while.

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The picture above shows a group of students that made me stay within Higher Education. When i accepted the opportunity to Co- Advise on this service trip, i had a lot of questions that i needed answered for myself. Am i a good leader?, Am i someone who people will follow, Am i respected, the list goes on and on. Basically i viewed this trip as a gut check so to speak. I figured i am so high strung about the future that i needed a test.

THIS WAS A SELF-PROCTORED EXAM

What i felt at the beginning was anxiety that i was not a good leader that i was some what doomed to fail. Nazareth Farms was the turning point for me. I can remember during a time where i was the driver of the van, that i was in control and the people within the van trusted me to drive the van safely. That meant the world to me. People trusted me to get something done. Then as we left the farm, i drove all the way from West Virginia to North Andover MA with everyone trusting me to get them home safely, I considered this the passing of my own test, and it was all in relation to the Farm. Even today i start my staff meetings with ” Its Good to Be Here” “Its great to be here” Shout Out. (You know the call 🙂 )

 

Nazareth Farms, it is home to me and so many others because of what it can do for a person. It can re invigorate you to continue the great work you already do, it can create new thoughts and ideas, or can change you to be a better person in a world where you can make a difference even if its just a day of honest work. Service trips are designed for students and others alike to get the taste of what its like giving back without really feeling the presence of the work they do. Nazareth Farms Brings a community to surround you, welcome you, and to add to your own sense of belonging both in a wider range of the community and within the Nazareth Farms community. I do not think you can get service trip like this very often. If you have the opportunity to visit please accept the moment you are able to,  you will never regret going.

Even after so many months away, As i sit here writing this i can not help and think of Nazareth Farms and what it as able to do for both me and everyone else who was able to attend this wonderful place so thank you to the great staff that runs this place day in and day out.

SO to those who have been and those who will go

Welcome Home 26814895_565130677155706_5042406003603574494_n