Everyone is Welcome Here

I have a vivid memory. In fact not too long ago I had a good friend say I have a memory like an elephant.

Well there's one memory I have from my childhood, and it's of an artist's rendition of a group of Klansmen throwing a white man, bound and gagged, off of a cliff.

Since the man wasn't Black, and since I learned that the KKK also targeted Catholics, especially in the 1920s, I reasoned that the victim was Catholic. That reasoning turned into a paralyzing fear of these white robbed men breaking into my house and doing the same thing to me.

Now I'm older, and White Supremacists aren't after Catholics, at least White Catholics, but that same anti-immigration rhetoric that fueled these men to participate in such atrocious deeds is alive and well today.

It's that same ideology that drove a man to kill 11 Jewish people in a Synagogue.

The same belief that caused a man to kill 9 Black Christians in their house of worship.

And it's that same fear based hatred to have a crowd of people chant "Send her back," while a man who occupies the White House stands in silence with a wink and a nod.

I shouldn't have to be against this blatant racism because of my upbringing, but I wouldn't be telling the truth if I didn't say that it was a driving force in how I view the world today.

Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "Our lives begin to the end the day we become silent on the things that matter," and it's for this very reason that I will never stop being vocal and annoying my friends and peers by "making everything about politics."

If anyone, especially those who come from a a bloodline who have faced bigotry before adhere to this hateful rhetoric, then they are desecrating the blood, sweat, and tears of their ancestors who came here in the first place. And if they adhere to the belief in an afterlife, which I do, I'd put my money on it that their ancestors and the big guy upstairs are watching.

To all of my friends: immigrants, people of color, and every single group of people marginalized by this administration, you are welcome here, you are wanted here. I want you by my side not just as American but as a human being.

And I'll make steps every day with what little power I have to ensure that my home will be more inclusive than it was before.

Running Into My High School History Teacher

Since I still live in Laguna Niguel, and since I still practice calisthenics in lieu of having a gym membership, I work out at Aliso Niguel High School about twice a week. The grounds have multiple pull up bars, lunch lines that are perfect for dip bars, and concrete pillars that only parkour and calisthenics enthusiasts dream about.

It’s been 10 years since I graduated high school, and I have never bumped into a teacher while exercising, but that changed tonight.

I was doing a light, warm up jog around the perimeter of the school when I saw someone from my past. I couldn’t tell for sure so I took my chance and said, “Dan? Dan Bornfeld?”

Now before I elaborate on how he responded, I want to explain who Mr. Bornfeld was to me.

Mr. Bornfeld was the AP European History teacher for all sophomores at Aliso Niguel. From my understanding, it was the most difficult class out of any class regardless of year or subject.

I didn’t take AP Euro, I didn’t even plan on going to college at this time, but I was fortunate enough to have taken a regular Euro-History class because he was doing it in tandem with a student teacher, but that teacher only lasted for one semester, so I had a whole semester with him as my main history teacher.

He was intense, but he was hands down the best teacher I had in high school, and he’s the main reason I majored in history at UCLA.

I said as much to the man who stood in front of me with a quizzical look, trying to figure out who this grizzly looking former student of his was.

The reason I felt like sharing this is because I did not have the most memorable high school experience, and there were many teachers who treated my peers and myself poorly. A few years ago I would ponder what I would say to them if I were to run into them, but now I don’t think I would say anything to them.

Yet I’ve been waiting to say what I said to Mr. Bornfeld for 10 years, and I am blessed to have finally been given that opportunity.

If you have someone in your life who’s inspired you, there’s never a bad time to tell them.

And maybe if you feel like you’ve never made a positive impact on someone’s life, perhaps that person hasn’t had the chance to tell you yet.

A post-Thanksgiving thought experiment: Practicing infinite gratitude.

When you sit down to eat today I encourage you to give thanks for your food, but right before you take your first bite, take a moment to reflect on how that food arrived to your table.

For example, when I take a bite out of a spoon full of yogurt, I am grateful for the cashier that checked me out, I am grateful for the person who stocked the yogurt, I am grateful for the truck driver who transported it to the store, I am grateful for the warehouse workers who packaged it in bulk, etc.

I believe this practice of gratitude has the potential to go on forever with whatever food you choose to eat because we have an effect on each other's lives and on this planet more than what we give ourselves credit for.

And if you think this is too woo-woo new age hippie hocus pocus for you, do it for the fact that your food will be way tastier after this practice.

Breaking the Cycle Fall 2018

I love fall in Orange County. 

I am sure it is not as beautiful as the seasonal changes in the Midwest or on the East Coast, (although I have never experienced it first hand and only have Google images to prove me correct) but I notice the change nonetheless, and I embrace it. 

The days are shorter, the air starts to cool, and beautiful clouds thick as cotton candy decorate the skies, but being that it’s Southern California, temperatures can still rise well into the 90s throughout the day.   

The average fall day in Orange County consists of cold mornings, hot afternoons, and mildly chill evenings. 

I noticed the first change of the year the as I was walking to the shopping center that’s situated right by my office.  When I arrived on campus in the morning the air was crisp and cool, but by 9 o’clock it was no longer sweater weather and shorts and a tank top could have easily been viewed as appropriate attire. As I walked on the bridge that connected the shopping center to my university, I took it all in:  the perfect temperature, the last remnants of rush hour, the dead leave crushing beneath my feet.  It was a peaceful moment, and one where I realized that just like the seasons, my attitudes have changed with them. 

Something different has occurred this time around.  After the end of every summer since I was 23 or so I would become extremely discouraged by the challenges I had to face. 

 But not this time. 

Now I am reframing my challenges as opportunities, and it was in that moment – walking towards something - that not only had I realized that the cycle had been broken, but that after all this time I was walking in the right direction.

The direction I’m walking in feels right.  I might stumble.  I might go off the beaten path for a while, but I’m walking towards the sun with the hope that I only see it set when I give my last breath.  

And I hope you are too. 

Surfing

Yesterday was the first day in over 14 years I went surfing with my brother James P Goodman and not only did I catch a wave, which was something I could never do in my preteen years, but I caught four (and wiped out in kooks slams fashion in numerous attempts to catch more).

Here's what I learned from the experience:

- Now I know why people surf.

- It's okay to be a kook as long as you're having fun.

- I would never be able to do what I did if I didn't start working out in calisthenics.

- When I was 13 I thought I was "too old and too chubby" to surf because everyone I grew up with was skinny and started surfing at the age of five. Now I'm 27 and will continue this hobby for the rest of my life.

- Don't live a life thinking you're too this or too that in order to try something new. Go out. Do it. And enjoy it!

What Are You Grateful For Today?

Today I am grateful for Trader Joe's.

And no, I don't mean working there, although I am grateful for that as well. I simply mean Trader Joe's the company.

Almost everything I eat at home is from there.

Today I've already had their apothecary kefir drink, eggs, bagels, mangos, bananas, cereal (Trader Joe O's), vanilla coconut milk, trail mix, an orange, their East Timor coffee (which is new and delicious) and a larabar. All from a tiny store that opened 50 years ago in Pasadena, California.

But my all time favorite food From Trader Joe's is their honey greek yogurt. I don't wanna hear about how much sugar, fat, or saturated fat is in it, each bite I take I think that it was either

A. Made by a Greek god

or

B. Made for Greek gods.

A lot of my American friends who live outside of the U.S. say they miss this, and In-N-Out the most.

If you're grateful for Trader Joe's, what's your favorite item they sell?

What Are You Grateful For Today?

Today I am grateful for having anxiety.

Yup. You read that right. I am grateful for something that has haunted me for years resulting in sleepless nights, strained relationships, and oh so much more.

I experienced it today in a meeting with a woman who was going over personnel with a new part time job I took up. It wasn't an interview. I had nothing to prove. And still I got a heat flash and almost forgot to breathe.

That's when I remembered to breathe.

Six short breaths. And then it was gone.

So why am I grateful for something like anxiety?

For two reasons.

For one, it reminded me to be more empathetic to everyone because you have no idea what's going on behind closed doors.

And second of all, because the world is full of White Walkers, and unless we find our own dragon glass or Valyrian blades, we become helpless victims to a long, cold winter.

Exercising. Meditating. Breath work. Therapy. Communication. These have been my Valyrian sword to help me in my fight against a personal Long Night.

We all have monsters to slay, and once we find the right tools to fight them, we become stronger than we could have ever possibly imagined.

I am grateful for having monsters, they've turned me into my own hero.

What Are You Grateful For Today?

Every day I write down three things I am grateful for, so I thought I would share at least one thing I am grateful for as often as I can on social media and ask you all the same. 

I once remembered a question I asked in a Southeast Asian History class at UCLA that had to do with the so-called domino effect and U.S. Foreign Policy attitudes held toward the region in the early 60's.  A student behind me scoffed and said to another classmate, "Why would you ask that?"  I turned around after class and told him to mind his business, and to keep his mouth shut if he wasn't going to say anything kind or productive.  But looking back I wish I had told him that I ask questions because I am a curious individual, and that curiosity has contributed greatly to where I am today.  I've met amazing people, learned astonishing things, even landed a job, because I asked questions.    

For that reason, today and every day I am grateful for my curiosity.  

What are you grateful for today?  

PLEASE READ THIS IF YOU FEEL LIKE A LOSER

When I was 16 I thought I was a loser because all of my friends and peers were preparing their college admission essays and figuring out what college they would be going to, while I was playing music and planning a life on the road.

When I was 18 I thought I was a loser because all of my friends and peers were having the time of their lives “enjoying the college experience” while I was stuck working a job and going to a community college. 

When I was 22 I thought I was a loser because all of my friends and peers were applying to grad school or law school while I was applying for a low paying job and moving back home.

Now I am 27 and every once in a while I will hear that voice calling me a loser because all of my friends and peers are getting married, having kids, landing stable jobs for their careers, and living in big cities while I’m still living with my parents and working three jobs just to stay above water.

Here are some things I have recently realized.

-       Everything I’ve done has been a choice.  I could have applied to college at age 16.  I could have applied to grad school or law school.  I chose not to, and I can choose how I feel.

-       All those times I felt like a loser in community college I didn’t realize I was working towards being accepted into one of the most prestigious universities in California. 

-       All of those times I felt like a loser I was comparing myself to others.   This is a toxic thing to do, doesn’t help anyone, and doesn’t consider all of the hard things your friends and peers have to go through. 

-       And every time I hear that voice calling me a loser now I remember all of the awesome and incredible things I’ve done and continue to do.  All of the places I’ve traveled to, all of the amazing people I have met, all of the opportunities I’ve had the privilege of pursuing are all do to the choices I’ve made and the situation I am in now.

-       All of those awesome and incredible things I’ve done weren’t meant to prove anything to anyone but myself. 

The reason I decided to write this is to tell you all this: if you feel like a loser, you probably aren’t. 

I Need a Partner in Crime.

At least that’s how I feel today.

For the past three years I’ve been doing so many side projects on my own.  I think it’s time I shop around and look for some support. 

I don’t want to disregard my mentors: I have plenty of those, and I am forever grateful for them.   

But I need someone who wants to get dirty with me.  Someone who is just as lost but just as passionate as I am. 

I help out in a few organizations that I am passionate about myself. 

But right now I need to find someone to help me grow in my own personal visions.  It could be for my podcast, my videos, or my website.  Or it could be something else entirely.

But right now this “going at it alone business” is hard and exhausting. 

If you know anyone, please send him or her my way. 

I Quit Alcohol for a Month

William Blake once wrote that you never know what is enough unless you know what is more than enough. 

Well, I’ve got to say that I’ve taken these words to heart, especially when it comes to certain types of food and alcohol. 

I have chosen not to consume alcohol for a month, and that month has just passed.    

I got to say that I feel amazing overall.  I’ve been sleeping better, I’ve been working out more, and I have more energy throughout the day. 

Does this mean I’m going to quit drinking beer?  Absolutely not. 

Not that I was abusing alcohol, it’s just that I realized I was drinking too much of it.  Especially beer. My brother would say that it’s in my family DNA to love it.  He works for a brewery, so he’s always bringing home new beers all the time:  IPAs, Stouts, Belgians, you name it.

But the combination of my birthday, my brother’s birthday, St. Patrick’s Day, and my brother’s bachelor party; I realized I should cut back on that love and give my body a 30 day cleanse.   

What I’ve realized is like coffee, I enjoy the ritual behind drinking beer much more than the buzz it gives me.

And unlike soda, which I have permanently quit, and proudly quit for the past four years, there’s a lot tied to beer that I enjoy too much to quit. 

It’s not just the ritual; it’s the freedom of going into a bar in any part of the world and being able to enjoy a pint with strangers.  I know many people cannot enjoy alcohol to this limited extent, and for that I am grateful that I do not have that issue, especially since it has become such a big part of my traveling experiences. 

And that’s why I believe I am of the type who should enjoy everything in moderation, including moderation.  I won’t go back to drinking as much as I was in the month of March, but I won’t say no when someone offers to buy me a pint of Guinness the next time I’m in Belfast. 

What type of personality trait do you have?  Are you someone who has to quit something cold turkey, or do you prefer to indulge in moderation? 

I don’t think there is a right or wrong way to approach certain indulgences.  What I do think is important is knowing what kind of person you are in order to bring about a higher sense of self-awareness and ultimately a more enjoyable experience to your life. 

I Am Burned Out

I am burned out. 

The stress of working three jobs and four side projects has finally caught up to me. 

That leads me to beg the question: what should you do when you are burned out?

I might have an answer.

I can’t tell you how long I slept the other day, I just know that I overslept, and I was still tired. 

But instead of doing nothing, I did something.

I exercised.  I ran for about three miles, and I felt so much better afterwards.

Mind you, I was still plenty tired even after I had got done with my run, but I felt a little rejuvenated afterwards. 

On some days that is all you can wish for. 

I’m not stating that exercise is the end all be all cure for feeling burned out, but I do think that I am the type of person where being proactive instead of inactive leads to a higher sense of well being. 

I know that not everyone is like this, but maybe if you’re reading this and you are that it inspires you to take some sort of action, or none at all.

The choice is yours and it always has been. 

Today I Was Angry

Today I was angry.

I did everything I normally do to help me subside this emotion, but I was still angry.

I meditated and I was still angry.

I worked out and I was still angry.

I ate good, healthy food, and I was still angry.

I watched funny T.V. shows and I was still angry.

I read and I was still angry.

I listened to music and I was still angry.

I listened to funny podcasts and I was still angry.

And then I wrote, and like leaves blowing in the wind on a cool November afternoon my anger was swept away.   

I made a list of things that help me cope with my anger, and today writing was the one that did it for me. 

Find out what that thing is for you.

Or you can let the anger flow through you and let it pass, instead of holding it inside and letting it burn you up.  

Or you can take a step back and observe your emotions, and see what happens then.

Either way, try something, because trying helps. 

When Writing Becomes the Only Medium to Capture the Essence of the Moment

Sometimes photography, music, or even the spoken cannot capture what I have witnessed and therefore can only be expressed through writing. 

These are actually my favorite moments, and for the past two weeks I have been blessed to witness more than normal, or maybe I am just becoming more observant with age.  Either way, I would like to share some of these moments with you all. 

These most recent moments have occurred mostly in the morning.  When the day is new, the caffeine from my morning cup of joe hasn’t had the chance to kick in, and the possibilities of what is to come are limitless. 

The first moment occurred just a little over two weeks ago. The quickest way to get to work requires me to drive up a long hill that overlooks the ocean once you get to the top.  I was just telling my mom that I used to love waking up early when I was in school because the morning dew and fog made my town look like a whole new world.  I didn’t tell her that I stopped experiencing that when I wake up to go to work.  That all changed on this day when I got to the top of the hill, saw the sun’s reflection on a group of clouds hovering over the ocean, and saw something that would have been described as a fantasy island by Le Guin or Martin.   

The second moment was another early morning.  The sun was already out and cascading down the same hill I was driving on in my first moment, but for the first time in my 27 years I saw two coyotes casually walking across the street.  Don’t get me wrong, I see coyotes all the time, but I have never seen them in broad daylight.  It was a sight I will not forget simply for the fact that every time I’ve seen a coyote prior to this was when the night was at its darkest. 

My last moment is what inspired me to share these moments with all of you.  It occurred this past Saturday, and I was getting ready to leave for work with only four hours of sleep.  Normally I turn on my kitchen light before I leave, but this time I decided not to and noticed the dark grey storm clouds peacefully residing over my neighborhood.  If I had turned on my kitchen light, I would not have seen this magnificent force of nature.I stood there for a few seconds to marvel at God’s beauty and left for work with the realization that when it all comes down to it, no matter what, we are all going to be okay. 

Six Reasons You Should Apply to an International Conference

The alarm rang and I forced my eyes open.  It was 2:45 am, and I begrudgingly crawled out of bed, as I was only to achieve two hours of sleep.  I wasn’t getting ready for work.  I wasn’t going to school.  I was preparing for a Skype interview with someone I had never met before.  They were calling from Lithuania and had a good eight hours ahead of my time zone.  I was positive that when it came to who would be more energetic, there would be no contest. After a 30 minute conversation, I went back to sleep with the dreadful knowledge that I would have to be up at 8 for work. I was exhausted, and I did not know the reward that was ahead of me.

I had been out of school for two years and was looking for options abroad.  I had already applied and been accepted into the Peace Corps, but I knew that I had to go on a solo backpacking trip through the Baltics before I would be stationed elsewhere for 27 months.  

Then one day I was browsing through a website called opportunity desk, (shout out to my friend Kevin Pham for telling me about it!) and I saw that there was a youth conference going to be held in Lithuania.  It was called Youth to Youth International, they were going to focus on youth in social entrepreneurship, public policy, gender equality, and peace building.  This was a conference that was right up my alley when it came to my interests and passions.

Flash forward three months and an epic backpacking adventure through the Baltics, I was one of three Americans in a conference with over 150 participants from all over the world.

It changed my life forever, and one of the reasons why I decided not to go into the Peace Corps. 

Are you in college, or have you recently graduated? 

Perhaps you just landed your first job, or maybe you’re still looking and realizing that your college internship and Linkedin connections aren’t as resourceful as you thought they were going to be.

Well, if that resonates with you, my best piece of advice is to attend an international youth conference.

Here are six reasons why.  

You will enhance your career

First of all, attending a youth conference looks great on a resume.  It tells hiring managers that you are well traveled, work well with others, and most important, that you are involved and passionate.  While it looks good on a resume, there is also an unlimited amount of networking opportunities.  Since I have attended the first Youth to Youth conference, I have written freelance articles for a European based magazine, attended two more conferences, and currently working for Youth to Youth Initiative as their alumni coordinator. 

You will learn about new ideas, cultures, and practices

The second conference I attended is an annual conference called the Muslim Jewish Conference (thanks again, Kevin!).  This one was held in Berlin, Germany.  I learned so much about Islam, Judaism, and Christianity by attending this conference.  I discovered new traditions and customs, and met with people from ethnic and cultural groups I had never heard of.  The whole experience was incredibly humbling and mentally stimulating.

You will become more empathetic

 When you attend international youth conferences, you meet people from all walks of life.  During my attendance at the Muslim Jewish Conference, I was part of a group that focused on marginalization in Muslim and Jewish communities.  I also met victims of terrorist attacks and refugees.  By simply listening to their stories and what they have endured has hardened something I wrote in the past: sometimes it’s not enough to simply walk in someone else’s shoes when you’re still coasting on a soft, flat surface of sand.  Sometimes you need to crawl on the rocks upon which the waves crash to understand why someone’s head is filled with salt, and your conscience is clear. 

You will pick up healthy habits

There are plenty of habits you can pick up from your colleagues at these conferences, for me, it was meditation. I always dabbled in meditation, but did not fully immerse myself in it until I attended a guided meditation one early morning in Lithuania.  Some of the participants had been previous members in a meditative-based conference called Peace Revolution, and one of them was kind enough to volunteer their time and guide over 15 participants in a session.   Since then, I have been an advocate and practitioner.

You will have more opportunities to travel and attend more conferences

 As I previously wrote, since applying to my first conference in Lithuania, I have attended two other international conferences.  I have also met with participants from these conferences all over the world.  Whether it was lunch in Prague, hiking mountains in a village 40 minutes outside of Vienna, staying with friends and given a private tour of their city, or discussing religion with Muslims in Dubai.  You will meet people who will want to host you, and you will want to host them. 

Which brings me to my last and most important reason.

You will make new friends for life

One of the main reasons why I still keep Facebook is so that I can keep in touch with all the wonderful people I’ve met through my travels and conferences.  I still Skype with the friends that I made, whether it’s to catch up, interview them for the Y2Y Newsletter, or to practice my Russian.  I love seeing what they are doing, and I like sharing with them what I’ve been up to.  It’s been a wonderful experience overall. 

I can’t predict what the future has in store for me, but I know that my opportunities are endless because of attending these conferences.

So apply to anything that catches your eye. I’ve applied to numerous conferences and have only been to three, but those three have changed my life for the better.  You have everything to gain and nothing to lose. 

What are you waiting for?  Go do it!

Am I Being My Best Self?

 

I love yoga, but admittedly, I haven’t been to a class in over a year.  That is, until I went with a friend this past week.

 

One of the reasons I love yoga is that a wave of powerful emotions can rush through you when you least suspect it.  During my most recent yoga class, I experienced multiple ego checks, resistance, and acceptance, among many other feelings. 

 

I also had an awesome epiphany.  For the past couple of years, I’ve tried envisioning my best self.

 

What is the best version of me?  What does he look like?  What does he do?  How does he react and respond to situations?

 

Unfortunately, I would usually ask myself this question only after I knew I wasn’t being my best self.  Whether it was an argument with my parents, a friend, or my girlfriend, knowing I wasn’t being my best self was always a post self-reflective thought process. 

 

I was battling with some minor anxiety issues during this yoga class, but then it dawned on me: would my best self be worried about such ridiculous things?  The answer was an absolute no.  And like what a gardener does to a weed before it infects the rest of his plants, my fears, anxieties, and worries were uprooted before they overtook me. 

 

Minor inconsistencies don’t bother my best self.  He doesn’t let fear control his life.  He gives and receives love. 

 

He’s assertive, and not aggressive. 

 

He doesn’t let emotions control him. 

 

And he works through any challenge presented before him. 

 

He asks for help when he needs it, and he only fights resistance when it comes to the creative process, and not his ego. 

 

So if you’re battling with an irrational fear, anxiety, or worry, ask yourself: am I being my best self? 

 

If you answered no, then try and see what happens. 

 

The results may shock you. 

 

Stop Wondering, and Start Acting

I am going to do something I rarely ever do in the written word: curse. 

Well, here goes nothing.

To be blunt, I cannot stand shit talkers.  And no, I don’t mean people who talk bad about someone else (although that’s a toxic trait I try to avoid). 

I am talking about those who say they are going to do something and never follow through with it. 

How many times have you heard yourself, or someone else say that they plan to: travel, quit their job, start project x y and z, learn a new language, start exercising, but never take that first step? 

I once had someone who barely knew me accuse me of being a shit talker, because I had one project go awry. 

Little did they know of the other 10 projects I currently had going on in my life, but I digress. 

The point is, I want to see everyone I know chase after his or her dreams.  But everything worth doing requires that you take action. 

You can talk all you want, but it will be all for naught if you don’t put one foot in front of the other. 

I’d rather see the ones I care about fail in their attempt to try, than never try at all. 

What I Thrive Off Of: Finding My Muse

 

I cannot sit still.

I’m speaking figuratively, of course. 

I can sit still.  I meditate.  I pray.  I sleep.

What I mean is, I always have to be doing something.

If I am not reading, I am writing.

If I am not writing, I am working on my podcast.

If I am not working on that, I am practicing my Russian.

If I am not learning another language, I am learning about digital marketing.

If I am not doing that, I’m working out.

If I am not working out, I am playing guitar.

And on and on and on and on…

I love learning.  I love creating.  Producing new content and gaining new knowledge is my muse.  The very essence of creation is what fuels my inspiration.  I couldn’t live life any other way. 


And I love it. 

The Lion and the Wolf

“I will face any challenge or set back head on.  I am a lion.  I am the wolf.  I will fight with my shield or come back on it.”

This is a personal mantra I would recite to myself every day for almost two years, until about two weeks ago.

Lately, I have been petty, pouty, and definitely not perspicacious.  The personal challenges kept piling up on me like a never-ending line of angry customers.

I couldn’t stand it, and I wanted to give up.  Give it all up. I was sick and tired of being sick and tired. 

Nothing mattered.  No matter what I did, it would all end up the same: I would fail. 

And that’s when it dawned on me:  if nothing mattered, then why not take the greatest risks?  Why not be present?  Why not practice gratitude?  I would always feel better when I did, so even if I fail at everything, isn’t it better to have felt good in the process?

After the apathy eroded away came the anger.  Everything triggered me.  I experienced the shortest fuse since high school. 

I asked myself, why am I angry?  It wasn’t a righteous anger.  It was anger derived from hurt, loneliness, and degrading thoughts about myself. 

Again I asked myself, is this the strongest version of me?  Is this the best version of myself?  What would the best version of myself do in this situation? 

Do that.

And so I have been. 

Today I was went to my second job at my friend’s house, and in his bathroom there is a picture of a lion with its lioness.  That is when I realized that I haven’t been the Lion, nor have I have I been the wolf.

A lion doesn’t lose sleep over the opinions of others.  A lion protects its own.  A lion takes what it wants. 

But you never see a wolf never performing in the circus.

So I take aspects from both animals.  If I want something that is good for my well-being, I will go out and get it regardless of my fear of failure, and I will not conform to a current trend simply because it’s easy.

I will fight on my shield or come back on it. This doesn’t mean that every day has to be a fight or a battle.  In fact, I’ve given up my shield, because armor is what you need when you’re afraid of your own vulnerability. 

Instead, I will derive my strength from my openness and vulnerability.

I won’t go down without a fight.  Just like the lion and the wolf.   

I’m done with the pettiness.  The self-pity.  The woe is me storyline.  Every day is another opportunity to invent your story. 

Let these words hold testament to the fact that when it’s all said and done, I did things on my own terms.  

A Story of Interfaith Collaboration Worth Sharing

A story of interfaith collaboration worth sharing.

Just yesterday I was driving down a main city street doing work for a friend.  I was battling a current bout of depression and couldn’t seem to get out of my rut.  I drove by a church my childhood friends had attended with three people holding signs that read, “Having a rough day? Drive by prayer!”  This was a church that I did not care for growing up.  I grew up Catholic, and many people who went to this church delegitimized my faith.  They said that I was not a true Christian, speculated that the Pope was the anti-Christ, and claimed that I worshipped the Virgin Mary.  For all the love I give to interfaith organizations like the Muslim Jewish Conference, I still struggle with my own prejudice of having an interfaith dialogue or collaboration with this particular strand of Christianity. 

“How stupid,” I initially thought.  Then another thought occurred.  Maybe this was God reaching out to me.  So I did a U-turn, drove up to the church, and prayed with two old ladies who couldn’t have been 10 years older than my own mother. 

As we prayed I thought to myself, “these two women have a concept of God that is entirely different than my own, but they are trying their best, just like I am.” 

For all of our differences, I saw beauty in that commonality.  After we prayed, a wave of serenity came over me. 

So what did I take out of this experience? Be open. Be kind. And don't let your past dictate your present and future.