Monday, April 14, 2014

Change, Change, Change, is not just a misheard Aretha Franklin Lyric...


Love it, or ultimately despise it, change is a reality we all deal with. Obviously it can have good or negative connotations like everything else on the planet, but depending where you are in life details exactly how we deal with it.
Recently, I heard Dave Grohl (the former drummer of Nirvana & now front-man of Foo Fighters) explain his perception on this topic, “When you’re young you’re not afraid of what comes next. You’re excited by it.”  If you’re older than 35, you’ll know exactly what that means. If you’re younger than 35, well, be patient Grasshoppa! It will make more sense later, long after you’ve forgotten this article.
At 40 years old, looking at the world through a windshield or an airplane window, leaving everything else behind, limited funds in the bank, fear of change is more real than most of us in the western world can fathom.  When we are young, we don’t fear failure, we instead still cling to those loose childhood ideologies that our daydreams can come true, if we just try.  As we get older, and inevitably have fallen face first into a pile crap a few times, we become more cautious about how our lives begin to unfold.
When I was 15, a friend’s father (he was the CEO of ACL in the 80’s before his untimely death) said something to me that I have never forgotten. “If you want something, you need to be willing to risk something in exchange. If you want something bad enough, you need to be willing to risk everything, and that will yield the greatest reward.” I’ve tried to follow that advice the majority of my life. Although admittedly, the older we become, the less willing we are to risk everything. It may seem like a gamble, but in reality I just personally doubled down, and if I win this next opportunity (which starts tomorrow), I get exactly what I’ve always wanted occupationally.
From the east coast, via Costa Rica, I came to San Francisco with the intent on changing the world. While my lofty ideas spin around inside my head, I can’t change anything without risk, but alas I have opportunity on my side due to having an insane passion for wanting to change how the world sees things. I work in the A/V world now, and we have that exact ability­– Every presentation, event, or you name it, occupationally vision can look differently in a myriad of ways.  However, I don’t want to completely focus on work in this article.  Life is less about work, and more about living out the greatest lottery ever won.  Let me explain…
You sitting or standing there reading this are the aggregate of what Professor Dawkins would call “climbing Mount Improbable”. The number of events that had to occur for you just to exist in the first place, mathematically, is mind-boggling. Forget for a moment what it would be like to win the Powerball (a 1 in a 100 million chance) for example, and think of the improbability it took just for your parents to meet, court, mate, and then out of millions of semen, thousands of eggs, and you’re the one that made it.  You have already won the greatest lottery in existence.
Everything we do with this life, no matter the change we encounter, every step should be one of gratitude. When we were children, our parents asked us, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” The truth, behind each answer we gave, be it garbage man, fireman, or like mom & dad, etc. The real answer is happy.
I’ve been fortunate enough in my life to see many places around the globe and one of the things completely universal across the board, is everyone has a goal, or a place they would rather be in their life to achieve the position of happy. If you’re not happy in your current position in life, change it. Start today. Make a plan based on your means, and execute it.  90% of us, including myself, were not born into unlimited resources. If you desire something else, somewhere else, what can you do today to get there?
For those of you in the midst of change, it can be a daunting task to swallow the little things we used to take for granted in our old stations in life. Hold on tight, the world is still spinning. As much as you really want to punch the guy in the face who said, “Patience is a virtue”, buck up buttercup, because once you find your stride; take a moment to look at the positive things you have around you.
Since I have a goal I need to search out today myself, I am going to leave you with a quote I shared before, but incase you missed it:
“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: “If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?” And whenever the answer has been “No” for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something…almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose.” ~Steve Jobs
I’m not saying enthusiasm fixes everything, but moping around because something sucks, does for a fact make things worse psychologically. I can make you a profound and certain promise; It doesn’t matter how rich or poor you are… Not a single person on this planet is getting out alive.
Accept love. Accept peace, and above ALL else be grateful. Change is a fact of life, point your arrow toward “happy”.
Northern California Sun

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

6 Pro Job Hunting Tips


Sitting in your sweat pants waiting for the phone to ring while job hunting is a daunting task.  Tossing out your resumes into the wild blue yonder, yielding a myriad of rejections emails, from employer after employer can leave you (a tech professional or any professional for that matter) a bit discouraged at times.  The economy crash a few years ago didn’t make this any easier, sadly.
Lets face the actual truth that many employers, due to the technological age, if they are behind the times, have a “candidate black hole”.  You know that place, the mystical, magical place, where your work history, and personal information goes off to die on some server where once glanced over information failed to make the proper impression?  Over qualified, under qualified, salary requests too high, equal immediate black hole resumes.  It makes you wonder if the magical porridge will ever be “just right”.  I can promise that Neil deGrasse Tyson won’t show up in that black hole with your resume/ CV, nor will the 3 bears give a crap about your porridge.
Being recently back in the job market myself, and now on the West Coast, I have had the ability to see both sides of this amazing process.  Some companies have an expedited process that either parses your resume for relevant information, or some Universities, that have the MOST time consuming and atrocious processes for applications I have ever seen.  Companies like Facebook, Apple, Google, Microsoft, and EA have very expedited processes, where you can create a basic profile, apply, and move on.  Their HR people simply don’t have enough time during the day to process the amount of information they receive, although they have the means to track it fairly efficiently.
In 15 days, I have had 2 phone interviews thus far, both positions I’m very qualified for, but then the clock ticking begins, and the inner pressure builds as you wait patiently for the next response (if any).  Of course, the initial phone call after your first 100 resumes, no matter how quickly it comes, puts a bounce in your step, a beat in your heart, and music straight into your ear buds! It’s happy dance time!  Of course, these feelings of emotion spring to exhilaration on the 2nd call, or absolute despair when the email arrives you’ve been shot down, because somehow you managed to answer the irrelevant question, “What is your inner power animal?” incorrectly.  Don’t say squirrel. Seriously. Don’t do it.
Personally, my favorite interview questions are the technical ones; that no one is prepared to answer. In my mind, if you have solid references, a good work history, the technical side will be apparent in your history. Of course, NEVER say, “I’d stab the guy who logged into the VCS for no reason!” It’s kinda like telling airport customs in Europe, “The reason for my trip today is so I can take a dump in the EU.” It’s just not going to go over so well.  The truth is, while you can log into a device, and find out what damage was done, there are a million correct answers to this obvious hypothetical technical question.
One of the jobs I am currently in the running for REQUIRES 10 years of experience in a specific area.  Which is kinda silly. The technology they are using didn’t really even exist in the fashion it does now.  Sure, I had experience in working with that technology back then, but I used it to make phone calls home while traveling for a different career. 10 years ago, the iPhone didn’t exist. A blackberry was a separate device than your phone. Flat panel TV’s weighed a ton, and they cost the same amount of money as a cheap car. I’m still qualified, and hope I’m their guy!
My point is, in some cases, some questions just aren’t realistic, but if your still waiting for the phone to ring, chances are your more worried about your wallet, bank account, family, or the fact you’re staying on a buddies couch because somehow you’re back “in the market” for a new job.  You don’t want to sound desperate when the phone does ring, and it will eventually, be sure you let the recruiter on the other end of the phone know how much they brightened your day.  I’m sure they often forget you’re shoving out resumes like your kid is about to go hungry, and you don’t always remember which position you applied to where.
Sometimes it’s not easy, but me for example, if I put all my skills on paper it takes up 8+ pages.  No HR person would ever read that crap.  Ever.  Hell, I have friends in HR that would rather stab you with stapler than actually answer a, “How’s my resume look?” question.  They deal with 100’s of people, 100’s of attitudes, and send out 100’s of rejections regularly. Just let that sink in a moment.

Pro Job Hunting Tips

  1. Write a solid 1-page resume. If you work in a specific field, highlight the high points, software, hardware, or being able to read blue prints… whatever it is you do.  Enter an executive “Summary” where the “Objective” used to be. Drop the “Objective” nonsense. Planning for 5 years down the road is nearly impossible in this economic climate anyway.  In 3 or 4 well-crafted sentences you should be able to state, what you do, have done, worked with, and your basic skill set. They’ll call and ask for specifics of you fit the bill.

  1. List your last 10 years worth of career work. If you don’t have 10 years, then     make sure you list your education specifics. Beyond that, its silly, and unless you saved the planet, an HR person doesn’t give a crap. They’ll especially not give a crap if it’s over 1-page.  Two pages are a maximum. Even then you’re possibly playing catch with a trashcan.

  1. An HR person should be able to determine in less than 5 minutes whether you’re qualified for the open position. Don’t apply for things you’re not qualified to do. You’re not only wasting their time, but your own.

  1. If you do multiple things (like I do), make multiple resumes/ CV’s and also make different formats. .docx, .pdf, .doc, ect. It is not unusual to show that you care enough to tailor your resume to a specific position. Look like you give a crap. It shows! You have to sell yourself on paper to someone who doesn’t know you in less than a minute. You may be clever, witty, and possibly even the best in town, but if you skimp on “the awesome”, someone else already beat you to the job.

  1. At the end of the day, it can all be VERY discouraging. Even after all this work, days, weeks, sometimes, even months can go by. Rejection after rejection.  Be persistent, and don’t give up. Some people may forget you’re human, and going out and waiting tables while trying to find real work is just as tough. Because that temp job knows you’ll leave once something real comes along. I know many IT nerds, and most of them would suck in retail, or customer service.  They are better off web building, directing your calls, or fixing your laptop, I promise.

  1. Most importantly, when the phone DOES ring. Be polite, answer the questions as best you can, stay calm even though you want to climb out of your own skin you’re so happy.  When it goes well, be sure you tell the recruiter how much they made your day.  They’re human too. If they can make your dreams come true, they are also rewarded emotionally.  So, be kind first.  Be memorable. If you make it to round 2, you’re doing super.

Like most of you reading this, I am in the trenches along with you. Fighting for my next chance at where I hope will be my home career for years to come.  I am supposed to have a 2nd phone interview with the huge global company tomorrow. Wish me luck! I need it, but most of all, I’ve learned quite a bit about this process over the last couple weeks from the corporate side of the house.  I have hired many people in my life as well, so I hope all of you can learn something from my own trials and failures.  Find something you love, not just a paycheck.
Lastly, and most importantly… DO NOT GIVE UP!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Seeking Redemption (Not Religious)

Disclaimer- this is NOT a religious post.

Seeking Redemption-
Everyone is searching for some sort of personal redemption. A few weeks ago I left my family in Costa Rica and returned home to the United States. I had received some information that my former employer was ready for me to return to Washington DC.  I came home to what inevitably turned into a 1099 contractor limbo.  I love my employer in D.C. more than any other career location I have ever had. From the CEO on down, the staff is nothing short amazing. However, the recent snowstorm weather, HR being out of the office, and just overall limbo, I have been forced to go out to look for more steady employment.
In the meantime, I drove down to Central Georgia to visit my high-school friends whom I hadn’t seen in many months, while patiently waiting for a call from work. I received a call from a friend on the West Coast who has just landed a new job with Microsoft in San Francisco.  I rented out my condo in Costa Rica, and I booked a ticket to San Francisco from Atlanta.  
In my life, I can honestly say I’ve lived a pretty charmed existence. I’ve been fortunate enough to see the world and do nearly everything I’ve ever wanted to do. Don’t get me wrong, not every scenario is a winner. However, this past week in San Francisco has been one of the best weeks of my life. I sincerely feel like I have won the lottery, and having a friend gracious enough to let me surf his couch for a few weeks while I work on building a new life is nothing short of miraculous. 
Now, let me point out, that starting over is not an easy endeavor. It involves a tremendous amount of wear and tear on the mind, body, soul, and lets be honest—“The worst part about having a job, is finding one.”  I must have sent out 100 resumes over the last week, and of course, being a bit of a perfectionist, I’ve redone all of my resumes about 20x each.  It is necessary to have several different resumes, and occasionally having to mold it to an actual posted position.  My resume, if I actually put all of my skills, and background history on it, is about 8 pages long.  Thus, I’ve made a single summary page with the basics.  HR managers simply don’t care if you once saved the planet if it’s more than a page long. Chances are someone else did too, and it was only one page.
I had a great interview with a company yesterday that caught my attention in many ways, but most of all the recruiter herself was Hungarian. What a phenomenal phone interview. Not only because I felt it went well and I was qualified for the position, but I was talking with someone else who came here to this city, and made it her home. She also loved her employer and found joy in what she did everyday. There’s not many people who can say that. 
About the same time I was leaving Georgia, another acquaintance of mine was doing the exact same thing.  He had spoke to me on Facebook, a few months back about Seattle. I had told him I lived there for a short time before, so he had plenty of questions. He was looking to escape the great southern stigma against people with tattoos and piercings, among other things.  He works in the restaurant industry as a chef, and in our conversations, he told me he was leaving for Seattle the exact same day I was flying out to San Francisco, except he was going by bus. He had no one to meet him when he arrived there, no friends to speak of in the city; only a dream of a better life tucked away in his back pocket, next to a handful of hope. 
We chatted back and forth via text message the majority of his trip, and since I have driven that route a few times, I gave him a few tips of when to keep his eyes peeled out the window. I wanted him to look at how beautiful the countryside is and the mountains along I-90, especially in the Idaho panhandle.  The roads twist and turn as they wrap alongside snowy mountaintops as if they were out of a postcard in a roadside Howard Johnson.
I told him I would connect him with a few friends of mine who live in the Seattle area so he wouldn’t be alone.  As I am a firm believer, there is nothing worse in this world than being in a huge city with no friends, no place to live, and having to find a job starting from scratch.  Within his first 24 hours my friends came through in FINE style. They fed him, got him a few drinks, and even a job opportunity working under a Su Chef there, in downtown Seattle.  I’m not 100% sure, but I hope I helped Chris find his internal redemption. 
Redemption means many things to many people. To me, personal salvation has nothing to do with religion at all.  It is finding your direction wherever it points.  Like the needle on a compass spinning under a magnet, where the staccato notes are slowly swept into chords of memory making a new resonance that firm us onto a new foundation, now supplanted into our collective reverie.
Right now, I am living vicariously by the grace and kindness of my friend Dan and a little bit of money I have saved along the way. Wish me luck my friends and fellow travelers. I believe I have finally found where I am supposed to be.
Life has a way of taking us places we are meant to go, and with kindness in my heart I hope the Hungarian recruiter who made my day yesterday has a new occupational home for me as well. 

Cheers from San Francisco!!!!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Adult Runaways and 927 Union Street


In 1997, in prelude to a harsh breakup with a girlfriend, I was in the small town of Brunswick, Georgia.  At the time, I was living in the historic district of town in a huge pink, wood chip, and rust colored Victorian pastoral at 927 Union Street.  I assume it’s still there though it’s continued existence has very little relevance to my story.
The house itself was enormous.  From the outside looking at the front it didn’t appear to be much, but the house was very long and deep.  Once you stepped inside, it was separated into 4 separate flats.  Each flat had something unique to it.  Mine in particular was a sun-room with 4 full windows in the front of the flat, and an outdoor balcony in the front of the house.  My flat in its entirety was likely about 2000 sqft.  (The house was enormous and there were still 3 more flats in the house and mine being the smallest of the 4.)
927 Union Street Brunswick Georgia USA
927 Union Street Brunswick Georgia USA
As if it were straight out of a Norman Rockwell print, the exterior gave way to an interior having never been remodeled.  It had heavy mud lathe walls with oversized moldings, thick with years and many coats of paint.  The once sharp corners were ridiculously rounded by many tenants before us.  The hardwood floors were worn with days you could remember the years by.  The traffic patterns, in the deep cascading indentions, clearly hadn’t changed much in over 100 years.  There were built in china cabinets with glass in the walls that did not close well due to the paint binding the hinges.  The windows in the front of the house were small, but on the sides of the house the windows were at least 13’ tall.  The ceilings were about 15’ high so that gave about a foot of wall space above and below each window.  From what I can recall there were maybe only about 3 or 4 feet between windows.  They lined the whole side and rear of the flat.  For an apartment of this size it was amazing that there were only 2 bedrooms.
It was a blustery cold December day with virtually no heat to speak of.  The coal fireplace that was there was had a large build up of creosote that could easily set the whole house alight.  However, that fear didn’t seem to bother the previous tenet as we found an entire stash quick start logs in the foyer coat closet.  I’d wonder around the flat, drink hot cider, and daydream of a life far away from there.
Being young and broke, I remember not having much in the way of furniture.  Our first get together at the house we all sat on the hardwood floors with a single candle. Later that turned into a couch, a coffee table, and a mattress on the floor.  However, I saw this entire event in life as a drab adventure.  I had moved here with my girlfriend shortly after my music career had come to a close.  Looking back on this experience, she was running away from a rather unfortunate legal event that took place while we were back home.  Never the less, in my youth, I decided to runaway along with her not considering any consequences.
We weren’t in this house 3 months before we broke up and I remember being devastated.  Young love always has its misgivings and I was certainly no exception to this rule.
During this time, a dear friend of mine named Marty came to stay with me.  On the weekends we would drive up to Savannah and visit a co-worker of mine from Russia, her boyfriend from Sweden, and their roommate from Ireland.  They were students of SCAD (Savannah College of Art & Design), but their stories of life abroad mesmerized me.  It was then, on a whim, I decided I would move to Sweden.
The idea of being footloose and fancy-free is exhilarating on it’s own accord.  Leaving out the gory details of the breakup, she had broken my heart beyond measure.  However, I simply decided just to keep to myself, save my money, and dream larger dreams.  We later made peace and laughed at our combined ignorance about young love, but our friendship never did regain traction.   Marty played a huge role in my grieving the loss of my relationship.  To this day, I will always love him for being like a brother to me.  He also is a bit of a runner as he has resided in Beijing, China for the last 8 years.
My memory and backstory in this case is almost cliché.  We all runaway from our own prisons we lock ourselves in.  It’s more a question of when. Even if it’s only a dream of doing so.  We are the very makers of our very own catastrophes.  While at the same time the lone builder of our own redemption.
As I’ve been living abroad in Costa Rica for the last 4 months, I’ve met quite a few “runaways” in all age groups.   Here in my little condo community the personalities range from owners, to eager vacationers, divers, photographers, locals, nut cases, tax dodgers, criminals in hiding, prostitution Johns, cokeheads, enough Quebecois (French Canadians) that Montreal must be half empty, and then a lone writer, ME.  There are no shortage of people running from failed relationships, job loss, home loss, and even people merely regretting they hadn’t done something in their life much earlier.  I’ve been to 22 countries in my lifetime, and in that time that I’ve learned that everyone is on their way to somewhere.
Consequently when I return to Georgia, the majority of the populous are still the same people I went to high school with.  The American South is like a vortex in this regard.  The people don’t change much; even some of the homes are still the ones I visited when I was 16 years old.  This is decidedly convenient for me.  Whenever the watercolor pastels of memory paint nostalgia into my mind, I just go to my teenage hometown.  Most of my friends had families early in life.  Some are terrified to leave.  Some escaped, and I’ve bumped into them across America.  The irony being most are on their way back to the South.  My point being that even they chose their destination long ago.  Albeit, the 3 towns they are scattered against like rocks in a tiny ocean have very few good occupations so the ability to escape becomes even more complicated, however not impossible. Their prisons are mostly stretched between love and money.  Their desires remain mostly homeward bound.
I made a post a few weeks back about “The Trap” by Wilhelm Reich.   We build our own traps and prisons.  Homesickness is merely a longing for an old prison.  Even prisons have relationships we long to return to.  While I would never want return to the relationship I had when I lived in that Victorian home in Brunswick.  I so loved that house.  However, when I lived there it was poisonous to my entire existence, but how I adore the memory of drinking hot cider in that old prison of mine.  It was familiar.
Through familiarity we lock ourselves in perception and hinder our future desire.  I’ve watched my fathers friends work their entire lives at jobs they hate to save for a retirement they never got to experience, because they were DOA.  I’ve seen people in 3rd world countries who have almost no chance of escaping their own life in tragedy have more hope than those in the West.  Our first world problems tie up our minds so that escaping our known realities to dreams we had as children hold ourselves back.  What happened to daydreaming?  We’ve built such prisons in our Western lives that people attempting to live their dreams is considered fool hardy. Yet, we cheer those that make their dreams reality.  We lose hope so quickly.  I’ve seen hopeless people, and in Western life, there is always hope for a different life.
I refuse to see “Runaway” as a negative term.  We all have dreams.  A runaway should be commended for thinking outside the trap.  Children runaway because they think they can runaway to better life.  The grass isn’t always greener, but the grass is most certainly different.  This maybe unacceptable as a child, but as an adult, why sit in a prison everyday wondering what is outside the door?  Don’t you think it’s about time you stopped running away from something, and start running toward it?
©2014 Christian’s Theory

Friday, January 10, 2014

Destination Where?

Destination where?

It’s true we all live in some sort of turbulence.  The air is not always graced with success, hope, and satisfaction, but just like basic physics; every action has an equal and opposite reaction.  Choosing drastic changes in ones life, even if for the better, doesn’t always lead to the readily seen, or pleasurable results.  It doesn’t mean they don’t exist, as with any dedication, perfection comes with a tremendous amount of persistence, work, and due diligence.

While traveling this past year abroad, I’ve found and met many people seeing the world.  Some more amiable than others, but moreover I’ve met hundreds of people who have no idea where they are going in life; wherever the wind blows is fine with some of them and others who require a defined direction.  To those people that know me personally, I’m sure I’ve appeared somewhat haphazard in my travels over the years.  However, there’s always been a method to my madness, maybe I’m too stubborn to look past my own ideologies and find contentment in more simple happiness’s.  Then again, maybe it’s my desire for the extraordinary, or the idea of destination unknown…  There is no question that I’ve had an interesting ride thus far around this globe of ours, and I certainly haven’t seen enough. 

"Lemme show ya something'!" 
One thing is for certain though; money clearly does not buy happiness.   That age-old adage has been proven true far too many times, from lottery winners, to even myself pre-2008 recession when I went from financially secure and solvent, backwards to paycheck to 4 days before each paycheck!

I run a forum on called “What am I doing with my life?”  It has members spanning from teenagers to middle aged people in their mid 60’s.   I’ve personally watched many people transform their everyday lives into long held dreams as well as others who remain hopelessly stagnant.  While Couchsurfing is predominantly a shoestring budget travel oriented website, it is an excellent resource for simple philosophical conversations as well. 

As I do every year, I write an end of the year editorial, and as I’ve done previously, I poll social media on a couple of questions, and base my article on the data results I glean.   This year’s questions were:

#1. If you had only 6 months to live, what would be the most important thing for you to do in that time frame?

#2. If you could know the exact date of your death, but not how, would you want to know?

I had quite a number of responses. Well, 5 of which were anecdotal, or arbitrary responses that had nothing to do with the questions.  Surprisingly enough only one person said he would “go on a killing rampage and murder everyone he hates, and then go down in a blaze of glory”.    Now, personally, I don’t think that blowing people up like a religious whack job with a bomb strapped to his chest is a quality way to leave the planet, much less hurting others, but I should have expected that from at least one or two people.   I doubt he was serious, considering the person seems to be quite successful, and has no real issues apparent of concern, but who knows?  Maybe he’s a secret nut job, rubbing himself in peanut butter planning the next big Smucker’s Jelly Plant heist, but he’s not the point of my story. 

From a strictly mathematical position for question #2: 97% of responses said that they had no desire to know the exact date of their passing.  The other 3% either wanted to know the exact date so they could use their 6 months as efficiently as possible plus the 1 person who “wanted to go down in a blaze of glory” (possibly strawberry is his flavor of choice…).

The first question was considerably more complex.  91% of the responses were in regard to making sure they gave their friends, pets, and family the love they deserve in preparation before doing anything else.  Then the remaining 9% wanted to live their life free of the bonds fear.  Let me reiterate; that 9% gave the typical response “to live each day as if it were the last”. 

A few years ago, a US based movie, called The Bucket List (2007), starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman, portrayed a pair of unlikely would be friends dying of cancer, who go off on several adventures before they “kicked the bucket” and died.  Short of the movie being fairly well received, I’ve seen more people actually take a cue from Christopher McCandless (John Krakauer’s non fiction book “Into The Wild” and later made movie by Sean Penn) where the young McCandless seeking his own adventure unfortunately proved fatal in the Alaskan interior.  In McCandless’ final weeks, the only regret he appeared to have was not showing the people he loved how much they meant to him, and he underlined “Happiness is only real when shared” in his copy of Family Happiness by Leo Tolstoy, in his final days.

What surprised me, and has surprised me over the course of the last year while my own life has been in constant flux, is that it’s extremely easy to say, “Maybe one day I’ll do  (Insert variable here)”.   It doesn’t matter.   It absolutely baffles me that people assume that money will bring them happiness, and that time is some sort of limitless black hole that in our daily Western lives we will always have the ability to “eventually get around to it”.  “It”, being the variable.  “It” could be: Visit distant friends, see the world, get a different job, make a new friend, find something that’s missing, or find a solution to a problem long ignored, etc.

I always seem to harp at people and remind them that this life, is the only one you have.  As comic and musician Tim Minchin coyly states in a poem called Storm:

“I am a tiny, insignificant, ignorant bit of carbon. I have one life that is short and unimportant, but thanks to recent scientific advances I get to live twice as long as my great, great, great, great uncles, and aunties. Twice as long…to live this life of mine, twice as long to love this wife of mine, twice as many years of friends and wine…of sharing curries and getting shitty with good looking hippies with fairies on their spines, and butterflies on their titties.”

In the last year, I have had many great things to be grateful for.  While, even on grander days, I still attribute 2013 to be a not so pleasant year overall for me personally, but what I did do, thanks to a number of amazing people; was leave the US and relocate to Costa Rica for a time and spend time with my aging father and step mother, who when I arrived deeply needed my help.  I have been living each day exactly how I please, in the meantime I write with the deepest passion I’ve ever had, and eventually I will return from whence I came with a deeper knowledge of myself, my craft, and my father.   How could I regret any of that?

When I left the US 4 months ago, my entire life was put on hold.  I gave the majority of my possession’s way to charity, moved out of my condo in Washington DC, and due to my employer being the best company I’ve worked for allowed me to leave indefinitely till it was time for me to return.  (On a personal note:  I will forever be grateful to Tony & Tim for guiding my career path, and their compassion, and humanity toward me.  My employer never treated me like a number. Ever.)

In conclusion, people have told me a million times in the last 4 months; “I give anything to do what you’re doing right now”.  My response is always the same; ‘I gave EVERYTHING to do what I am doing right now, but you know what?  Not a single one of us on this planet are getting out alive’.   We meander, procrastinate, postulate, and pretend there will always be a tomorrow.   For millions globally, tomorrow will never come.  If you have a dream, or someone you love and need to tell them so —What the hell are you waiting for?  It never required a possible death sentence for a reason to follow through.  It’s 2014.  I’d like to say make your dream a reality this year, but if you haven’t started it yet, you need to live like there is no tomorrow today.  If you think you have something to loose, there is no greater loss than gaining the regret of not being what or where you want to be today.  

New Years Eve Sunset on 2013 in Playas Del Coco Costa Rica   ©2013 Christian Ernst Photography

©2014 Christian’s Theory

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Senses, Memory, and Building Metaphor

In our universe, there is an infinite number of possibilities, some filled with mystery, others well known, and again some to remain finite.   However, our five senses are majestic in their power to drive our emotions far beyond what is just a simple mindset.  As a writer, I often have to dwell on emotions in order to convey them in metaphor, thus what is written becomes a complete memory and not just a simple fragmented thought.

A dear friend and fellow writer sent me an audio recording yesterday of him talking in his slow southern drawl, about the sound of a slow rain across a tin roof and how it invoked past memories of his mother Pearl and her once notoriety as a singer in early radio.   As he continued, he made a metaphor of the sound alone "is like the crackling of a campfire".  Anyone who has been camping in their life knows that sound, late at night, when there is the dead silence, where it's only you, the sounds of the forest, and that crackling of a campfire; those who are city dwellers-- or those from the north may not have heard the sound of a slow rain across a tin roof.   It is a mesmerizing sound; so loud that it will overwhelm the senses.  "A man can get plain lost in that sound" as my dear friend had so eloquently expressed.

As a young child, I remember my mother taking me across the deep south, across Alabama, into Mississippi, and eventually ending up near Biloxi, on the Delta.  We were visiting her old friends, and family members that I haven't seen since.  Most of whom, when I was a child were already in their 70's and lived in old Southern, rural homes.   I have fond memories of those times, but alas the only sound I truly remember is the amazing sound of rain on the tin roofs.  The soft, slow, and steady rain wraps your mind around a peacefulness, and a hard storm, creates a drowning roar, that can consume every worldly thought.

As a teenager, once moving formally to the Deep South to live with my father and my beloved step mother MK.  I had already come to realize how music was more than a dream that I wanted to play professionally, but I deeply loved how the sound of a particular song could evoke deeply held emotions, and a resonating longing toward almost any kind of personal nostalgia.  However, at this age is where moving from the city to a new place in the south, I became aware of another sense that became one almost as captivating.

During the summer in central Georgia, the dusk is an amazing time.  It releases all the smells from the heat of the day, as if the long grass were a type of pie in an oven, and just as sweet.   It permeates the air, consuming the mind and body, and still to this day, when I return there, the smells instantly fill my mind of that happy youthful time when riding in the back of a truck wasn't considered dangerous, driving tractors (as I grew up on a horse ranch) was a daily occurrence, and sitting on the porch playing blues on my guitar with my next door neighbors in my first apartment I had at 17.  I mention that time, because my first apartment was in a poverty stricken area in Warner Robins, Georgia. I was the minority in this predominantly African-American neighborhood, but as people sat on their front porches, I would bring my guitar outside, play some 12 bar blues, and this old man, probably in his mid 70's would play harmonica.   We kept our neighbors consumed, singing & dancing, and it was probably one of my most memorable times at that age.  Even now, thinking of that smell of the grass deep in my nose reveals so many memories, I wouldn't be able to capture them all here if I tried, but it warms my heart with a whirlwind of all that was at that time.

It is phenomenal to me that how the slightest sense of one immediately becomes the sense of another.  For me, the smells and sounds instantly bring back visual memories of a time that was much more simple, less the digital and wireless leashes that tie us to our occupations.

In 1991, traveling back to Virginia Beach after being away in Georgia for a little over a year and a half.  As I entered the state and began getting closer to the mouth of the James River; I could smell the salt of the ocean as if I were a long time mariner pining for the calm of the still waters, but still weeping the emotions of the amazing power that is the sea.

It was during this time I had had a deeper longing for my first true love, one that would play a true game of attrition with me over the next 20 plus years of my life.  Many people hold dear to their passions for the past, or the people whom have helped shape their life.  She was absolutely no exception to this rule.  In later years it would prove fatal to many other relationships of mine, mostly due to the jealous nature of others and their propensity in belief that everyone is at heart dishonest.  Sadly, that is untrue and jealousy simply distorts reality.

In the late summer of 1994, I returned to Georgia where I had went to high school, and reconnected with my first love.  Her touch was as soft as the autumn winds, caressing each leaf, whispering on the air in a careless flow of acrobatics, and then at last returning to the ground to become stable with only the memory of a time when life was more carefree. Moment to moment we live on the touch of others in our lives.   I was fortunate that she impacted my life in such an amazing way in those formative years.  Perhaps it was the innocence of the time, but moreover it allowed me to appreciate the other people I have had in my life since and possibly in a more equitable way.

Love and hope are two of the most under estimated emotions.  They both miraculously have the ability to make, or break a persons spirit.  We can easily wrap our entire consciousness in our 5 senses.  Just like the taste sugar or salt on our lips; our memories glide back and forth swinging from memory to heartbreak like Newtons cradle, exhibiting the 3rd law of physics as if each memory was as physical as the neurons that shift from receptor to receptor in our brain.

Not every memory we carry is one filled with pleasant nostalgia, but often many memories can swing us to the darker times when mourning the loss of a relationship or loved one is as devastating as the initial grief that created the memory.  We are a complicated species after all, but the only one on this planet capable of deeper reasoning.

Your life is an amazing story, one you control with each of your five senses, even being born with or now living without, another skill will always present itself, and bind your passions into a physical manifestation of neurons in a wisp inside your brain.  It will, after all leave an indelible mark on your life.  If all the time you had left on this planet was today, would your last thoughts be a memory worth dying for? You have at least 5 senses-- don't waste them or the small amount of time you get to experience what they are capable of.

The most terrible mistake one can make is to delay what you want to do in your life with the presumption you'll have time to do it later.

©2013 Christian's Theory

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Trap

After a brief conversation I had today, I was instantly reminded of a post I made 3 years ago, after a dear friend of mine, Mattias, shared a book with me.  

Every single one of us lives inside of our own self-made trap.  Our walls can have an indeterminable number of sides, some may even have windows looking into the world we wish to see, or a life we would rather have.  The only reality we actually own is the one inside, or outside of "The Trap".  

Instead of my regular Tuesday blog post, Today I will concede to Wilhelm Reich:

"It IS possible to get out of a trap. However, in order to break out of a prison, one first must confess to being in a prison. The trap is wo/man's emotional structure, her/his character structure. There is little use in devising systems of thought about the nature of the trap if the only thing to do in order to get out of the trap is to know the trap and to find the exit. Everything else is utterly useless: Singing hymns about the suffering in the trap, as the enslaved Negro does; or making poems about the beauty of freedom outside of the trap, dreamed of within the trap; or promising a life outside the trap after death, as Catholicism promises its congregations; or confessing a semper ignorabimus as do the resigned philosophers; or building a philosophic system around the despair of life within the trap, as did Schopenhauer; or dreaming up a superman who would be so much different from the man in the trap, as Nietzsche did, until, trapped in a lunatic asylum, he wrote, finally, the full truth about himself—too late. . . 

The first thing to do is to find the exit out of the trap. The nature of the trap has no interest whatsoever beyond this one crucial point: WHERE IS THE EXIT OUT OF THE TRAP?

One can decorate a trap to make life more comfortable in it. This is done by the Michelangelos and the Shakespeares and the Goethes. One can invent makeshift contraptions to secure longer life in the trap. This is done by the great scientists and physicians, the Meyers and the Pasteurs and the Flemings. One can devise great art in healing broken bones when one falls into the trap. The crucial point still is and remains: to find the exit out of the trap. WHERE IS THE EXIT INTO THE ENDLESS OPEN SPACE? The exit remains hidden. It is the greatest riddle of all. The most ridiculous as well as tragic thing is this:THE EXIT IS CLEARLY VISIBLE TO ALL TRAPPED IN THE HOLE. YET NOBODY SEEMS TO SEE IT. EVERYBODY KNOWS WHERE THE EXIT IS. YET NOBODY SEEMS TO MAKE A MOVE TOWARD IT. MORE: WHOEVER MOVES TOWARD THE EXIT, OR WHOEVER POINTS TOWARD IT IS DECLARED CRAZY OR A CRIMINAL OR A SINNER TO BURN IN HELL.

It turns out that the trouble is not with the trap or even with finding the exit. The trouble is WITHIN THE TRAPPED ONES.

All this is, seen from outside the trap, incomprehensible to a simple mind. It is even somehow insane. Why don't they see and move toward the clearly visible exit? As soon as they get close to the exit they start screaming and run away from it. As soon as anyone among them tries to get out, they kill her/him. Only a very few slip out of the trap in the dark night when everybody is asleep."

From The Murder of Christ, (1953) by Wilhelm Reich.