Fear Itself

You and I know this feeling very well and often run away from it. We sense it in our throats, sometimes our chests and sometimes our shoulders. When we feel it, our instinctual response is to turn around and run away from whatever is causing this feeling. As living creatures, this feeling is one of our greatest teachers. It can teach us discernment, it can sharpen our moral compass and even show us where we need to move forward.

Taken by Emilie Skladzien

The feeling I’m referring to is fear. When we feel it, we instinctually want to run away. Like when we were kids, we were encouraged by our mothers and
fathers to turn the other way when we felt fear. Fear is an instinctual response that has kept us alive for, well, up until now. Fear has served us well, letting us know when predators are approching and when we are lacking vital necessities, like food and shelter.

Perhaps, though, not all fear can be treated equal. Perhaps, the fear that we were once trained to run from isn’t the same kind we should embrace and move towards. But is there such a thing as fear that’s worth moving towards? Am I supposed to tell my kids not to run away from a stranger who’s coming towards them? No, of course not. In that situation, there is an actual threat. That’s the kind of fear that’s worth running away from. But what about the other kind of fear, the kind that arises when we do something different, when we change a pattern or have the opportunity to go deeper into something. For example, going deeper into ourselves. This piece of writing is just as much for you, the reader, as it is for me, the writer. I notice how often I feel fear and how easy it is to be controlled by my instinctual response to it. Sometimes, I run in the other direction before I differentiate which fear is present. When I ask which fear is present, I realize I’m often dealing with the kind that is showing me where I need to move forward. Fear was what made me realize I needed to let that relationship go. Fear was the feeling that told me to leave Portland to travel to Peru. Fear was the feeling that encouraged me to go on that date. Now, fear is what’s telling me to go deeper into myself. So, perhaps, it’s not a matter of asking if we feel afraid, but about which kind of fear we’re dealing with. If we treated fear like a tool, one that shows us where to go, perhaps we could change our reaction to it and more easily go where we needed to. Instead of fleeing from everything that scares us, we could use fear as an indicator for change. We could celebrate when fear arrives to show us where to go.

~ Emilie Skladzien ~

Many Voices

If you have been a patron of this Blog for any amount of time, you may realize that while my intentions to get regular content up here are good, sometimes real life stuff gets in my way.

As last year came to a close, I started realizing how many of my friends and fellow artists have their own blogs with their own messages and their own personalities, and as a part of my 2018 intention to find ways to lift up those around me, I wanted to be able to share their content with you in a way that was not only consistent, but also engaging and inspiring.

Thus, each month, regardless of whether or not I have the time come here and say something that I believe needs to be said, I will be having guest bloggers come to this platform to impart some bit of their experience, knowledge, or life to you. I hope that, through this, readers and bloggers alike can find and be inspired by one another.

I will not be releasing a schedule at this time, not because I can’t, but because I want you to come back here each month, hungry for a taste of something new, fresh, and interesting, for as Carl Jung once said, “Ultimate truth, if there is such a thing, demands the concert of many voices.” So listen up.

New Year, Same You

“New Year, New Me!”
We say it every year. But how many times has that actually been true? Is it every truly true? What makes it so we can only think about going to the gym, starting up a new hobby, breaking a bad habit, or starting a new list of goals, when one calendar year flips to the next? In all honesty, it is because we are all too damn comfortable in where we are now.

We may know in our hearts that we need to stop smoking, lose a few pounds, eat better, stop talking to that one girl who broke your heart in high school, go to the gym, start calling our parents more, or whatever it may be, but don’t have the actual desire to change our ways, so when January 1st rolls around, it is said to be a fresh-start.

That being said, if you have to wait until the calendar says you should make a change in your life, don’t bother. And if you really want to make a change in your life, dont wait. Change is inevitable. But that doesn’t mean it will just fall into our laps. True, real, lasting change takes work. It will not always be easy. Somedays you’ll want to quit because it just feels like nothing is working, or nothing is getting better. Those, especially, are the days to push through. Progress is not a straight line, but it is up to you to keep it headed in the right general direction: forward.

So as this you look ahead to this new year, I wish you all the best, but know that if you truly want to make a change in your life, putting it on your New Year’s resolution list is not enough. Progress takes consistency and consistency takes practice and practice takes proactivity. So, if you’re going to make a New Year’s resolution this year, make it this one:

“I resolve to take what life gives me and make the best of it & cherish all that life has to give to me.”

Don’t Miss The Magic

I have been trying to find some clever hook to captivate you into reading this. I have been trying to find one for weeks now. I have written out more ideas than I can even count, and yet all of them, so far, have been erased. I think that might be just because 2017 has been a year that it almost impossible to put into words, but so utterly worth sharing that it bears trying.

This is not to say, at all, that 2017 has been an entirely easy year, or anything close to a perfect year. It hasn’t been. Not for me, not for the world, not for probably anyone. But, in a time when I am sure each one of us is being bombarded with clickbait articles and memes trying to remind us of why 2017 is a lost year, or just a year worth forgetting, let me counter that and say that 2017 has, in fact, been a good year. 2017 is a year I will never forget.

This year started, as so many others have before it, with me, sitting in my living room, listening to a livestream of a band I love, streaming from a venue I love in a town I love, and it will end with me standing amongst my friends in the very same venue, listening to that same band. If that isn’t the definition of full-circle, nothing is.

But there has been so much more. From getting to see one of my favorite musicians of all time, Molly Kate Kestner (who you may remember from a Blog Post earlier this year), not once, but TWICE, to finally seeing artists like Macklemore & Panic! at the Disco live in concert, to going to a new music festival with some dear friends, to seeing one of my favorite bands, The Lil Smokies (about which I did another Blog Post), not once, not twice, but FIVE times as of tonight. (Can you tell my life revolves pretty heavily around music?)

But it was not all good music and easy living. In June, my grandmother passed away pretty suddenly. In July, I had all my camera gear, and my laptop, and a couple bags of mine stolen out of a rental home we were staying in while my family was out to dinner.  And then, this past semester took a deep toll on my mental and emotional health. That on top of all the pain and crap that our world has dealt with would be enough for someone to think that I might be one of those in the “2017 is a year we all want to forget” camp. I promise you, I am anywhere but there.

I went into 2017, looking at it as the year I wanted to be unabashedly myself. I didn’t really know exactly what that meant for me at the time, but I knew it felt like “the next step” (whatever that meant…). As today, 2017 ends, I can say that I feel like I did that. Sometimes that meant stepping out of my comfort zone or being alone for a bit, but all in all, when you don’t expect anything from life and just learn to go with the flow, life has a way of working out well, if just not always in the way you expect it to.

While in the history books, some people might look back on 2017 as the year the world started falling apart, I will look back on 2017 as a year that I grew into my own. Not entirely, of course, one grows and learns each and everyday of their lives (if they are paying attention), but in a way that I will look back and realize that this year was the start of something. For lack of a better term, one day 2017 will be the good old days.

I know there are many of my readers out there that can’t stand living in their parents house, or in a certain city, or just can’t wait to grow up, but I am here to tell you that there is good in everything. You just have to be willing to find it and use it to grow. Whether it is that nine-to-five job that you do just because you need the money to fuel the life you one day want to achieve, or you’re trying to create something out of nothing and run a business on your own. Whether you look at where you are now and are proud of it, or you look at where you are now and you can’t wait to see what’s next, know this: as long as your goals aren’t just hopes and dreams and you, even in a small way, keep yourself aligned to whatever path you believe will get you there AND are willing to listen to the universe when it presents something new for you, know that whatever you are doing is worth it.

Someday soon your whole life is gonna change. So, don’t miss the magic of the good old days. Keep your chin up. Keep your head down. Keep grinding. Keep striving. Be mindful of the world around you. Know that whatever you are doing, you are good enough. But most importantly, don’t let life pass you by. Go camping under the stars. Stay up late talking with the ones you love. Take a roadtrip. Smile regularly. Know that you are loved.

Here’s to a 2018 full of taken opportunities, grand adventures, and creative confidence in whatever it is you do.

Blog Post Musical Accompaniment:
Macklemore (feat. Kesha) – Good Old Days

Before You Dig In

Earlier in the week, I was a part of a team of 120+ people who helped out at a Food Drive at Faith Lutheran Church, in New Providence, New Jersey. Being someone who can’t be on their feet for a very long time, lest they get quite sore, I have to say that, coming home from 5+ hours, most of which I was on my feet, it felt like I could have kept going for hours. There was some sort of beautiful common energy in that room. People were there with the sole purpose of unpacking, sorting, and repacking each and every item donated. People of all races, ages and backgrounds, together in one place, with one common purpose, to help, not for some selfish self-interest, but for the sake of others.

Once home, I, being the millennial that I am, was scrolling through Facebook to see what I had missed (probably nothing) and one Post caught my eye. It described that person’s experience as, in their hotel, the fire alarm went off, and as they were walking out of their room and through the lobby toward the door to go outside (as a sane person would when the building you are in is potentially on fire), they could not help but notice the amount of people milling around in the lobby. As my friend was passing through the lobby, the hotel staff began ushering those people that were milling around to the safety of the outside, so my friend, held the door open. As they passed, no one said “Hey, thank you for holding the door for us.” or even anything close to that. Well, almost no one. One, as my friend described “older teenaged boy” did in fact, say thank you. Besides that, the only other person of note was the older white gentleman and his lady-friend who were seemingly swearing out the hotel staff for such the terrible inconvenience that the fire alarm was (as if they could do anything about it).

All of this in the week leading up to one of what I believe to be America’s lost holidays. I say Thanksgiving is a lost holiday, not just because by the time the fourth Thursday in November rolls around the Christmas products have lined the shelves of almost all of America’s stores for multiple weeks, but because on a holiday called Thanksgiving, all we seem to want to do is indulge ourselves.

Okay, so you know how on Christmas, everyone is in the kitchen, the food is cooking, and the Christmas music is blaring? Well, that’s the way m family does Thanksgiving too. But not Christmas music (it is much too early still for that), mostly just one song, Peter Mayer’s ‘Bountiful’. Either now, or before you leave this page, please go take a listen to this song, Not just on Thanksgiving, but every single day of our lives, this song has a place and a message for us. The link is at the end of this post, at the bottom of the page.

Growing up, in a good home, with parents who taught me well, not just through what they said, but how they taught me to interact with others, and through the music which was almost always flowing through our home, I feel as though I have grown up, knowing that helping others is important, and that when you are helped, a simple “thank you” does a lot of good (amongst many other life lessons). But not everyone grows up that way. I am not saying that one way is superior to the other, but what I am saying is that we seem to be losing those who have been raised to be thankful for what they are given, and the world instead is filling with those who expect that the world will be at their fingertips as the speed of a fast-food meal or a tap of a screen. On a phone, you don’t have to say thank you. At McDonalds you don’t have to say thank you. While it seems like that trend is still spreading, all is not lost.

Just like the one teenage boy who took just two seconds out of his day to say “thank you” to my friend for holding the door for a whole lobby, full of people, earlier in this week, let us not just today as we sit around the dinner table with family and other loved-ones and over-indulge ourselves, but every day (and multiple times a day at that) take the time to say “thank you”. It is one  small thing, and it may not solve world hunger or create world peace, but if we as parents, cousins, brothers, and sisters, take the time to say “thank you” we can be a model for those still learning, and them, in turn, a model for others.

2017 has not been the easiest year for me. Stress & anxiety have been through the roof, due to school, I went through a break-up in the spring, I had my laptop & camera gear stolen in the summer, and in between that, my grandmother passed away. That all being said, I have had an incredible 2017. I have been able to travel all over the country, spend time with loving friends and family, see some of my favorite artists and bands live-in-concert, and just all in all, create memories that will last me a lifetime. So for that, I say ‘thank you’. I say ‘thank you’ to you because whether I went to a concert with you, stayed at your house this year, have only ever talked to you through Instagram or Twitter, or see you every single day, you have helped craft this year into what it has been. You have been a part of helping me out of my hardships, you have been a part of the memories I have created, whether big or small, you have made an impact on my life, and for that I am grateful.

So, what are YOU thankful for this Thanksgiving? Comment something down below, and lets start a Thankfulness List!

It’s Just A Day

Over the past few months — really since summer started, I have been in this ‘work-grind’ mode. If I am being honest, that is new for me. I cannot really describe what the other way of being was for me before this point, except to say it was more lackadaisical. But since the beginning of summer, I have just felt more driven to work and to do things.

Since the beginning of the school year, this has transformed itself into throwing myself deep into my studies and my extracurricular activities, something that I do regularly, but now with newfound vigor. Being involved with as many things as I am, it is no wonder at all that with this newfound determination, I threw myself deeply into everything I’ve done. As time went on, and stress took its dark, grey hold on me, I went from passionately busy to just busy. And I stayed there. I was happy in the things I was doing, but looking back at it now, I wasn’t truly, completely myself. Or maybe I was. Maybe that greyness is just something I just deal with. In fact, I know it is. And I should not be ashamed of that. Yeah. I am not always totally happy. No one really ever is, and if they say they are, they absolutely are trying to sell you something.

But whatever I was going through, I knew there was a balance. I knew that somewhere between lackadaisical and overly busy, there was a happy medium. I just had convinced myself I was already there, that this was as good as it was going to be. Then I went to a concert.

Imagine that first breathe as you come up for air after being underwater for just a split-second too long. That is approximately how it felt to get out off campus, out of town, and to Portland, in months. I had been to the next town over a couple of times, but that being just a handful of miles away, this felt much more like escape than that ever could. It is partially because of this escape that this show meant to so much to me.

Ironically, it being on a Friday evening, I had to miss my radio show, which is named Eclectic Oasis, yet the show for which I missed my own was more of an oasis than I could have imagined.

Before the music even started, before we even got inside the venue, I was already surrounded by familiar faces, gathering hugs like coins on the sidewalk, kept and treasured for the next time I needed one. There is no greater feeling than being with people who understand you, and the things you love, and that was only the beginning of my night.

With three bands taking the stage, I knew pretty much what to expect, since I knew two of the bands. Or so I thought. When the North Carolina-based band Mipso (the one band I did not previously know) took the stage to start the night, I knew this night was going to be one for the ages. I had heard from people who had been at the previous few shows to begin the tour that this tour was something special, but it was not until the first notes struck that I knew that for myself.

I could go on for pages and pages about the intricacies and experiences of that night. I could tell the story of the very drunk girl who tried to shove me from my rail spot that I had had for hours since the doors opened, just because she felt in was uncool that I was somehow unwilling to share the approximate 20 inches of space I had nestled in for myself on the rail with her AND her friend. The reason I won’t go into the semantics of that night are because of one song, by one band, played on that night that really sum up just exactly what I want to focus on. If you wish to, pause reading this for a moment, and go listen to Track 1, titled ‘The City‘ in the link below.

If you, like me, are struggling with the hundred-and-fifty-seven things you have to do before you go to sleep tonight, or before Monday, or before the end of the semester, just remember, that just because you have all these things, does not mean that you have to do them all at once. In fact, by taking things one at a time, taking each chore as its own, each day as its own, each hour as its own, it makes it easier to do the things that need doing.

Its just a day. Whatever is bothering you now, whatever is weighing on your mind, whatever thing you just did that makes you want to crawl into a hole never to be seen again, remember that tomorrow really is a new day… if you let it be. But you do need to let it be. If we hold onto the things that make us hurt, we will not heal. But if we learn to let go, to take each new sunrise as a new beginning, we are given a clean slate from which to begin, knowing that each small thing we accomplish today, really is an accomplishment.

So whatever you’re going through, step back, take a moment to remember that you are bigger than your problems, no matter how monolithic they may seem, and that by breaking down those monoliths into cobblestones, we can pave incredible pathways to wherever the world leads next.

To listen to The Lil Smokies new album, and especially the companion track of this Blog post, Track 1: ‘The City‘, click below!

The Lil Smokies – Changing Shades
(on Spotify)

Do What You Love/Love What You Do

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been thinking into my future, looking at possible career opportunities and job ideas for after I graduate in the Spring of 2018. Being a sociology major, I have been looking at possibilities of going to graduate school and going into some sort of social work or advocacy position. Being the son of two Lutheran pastors, I have debated the possibility of going to seminary and following in their footsteps as a pastor. Being a social media director for multiple student organizations, I have even looked into the possibilities of pursuing that deeper in my future. Being a photographer, I have begun to talk to people deeper in the field of professional photography to see what opportunities I can take advantage of before I graduate so that I can pursue professional photography in some way after graduation.

Suffice to say, I have a lot of different directions I could follow. With so many possibilities I have had to prioritize and decide which I wanted to follow first. Living and being a young adult in this generation, I have felt sort of pressured to find something I can be successful at soon after college. But I have also had a wonderful team of support behind me helping me wade through all of these options.

But, while doing all of this soul-searching, I ran across one video on a friend’s Facebook Page earlier in the month entitled “Purpose” and it just connected with me. So if you are struggling to find something you are passionate about, or you feel that the work you are doing is mundane or the life you’re living isn’t worth it or isn’t all you want it to be, I urge you to watch the video linked below.

One thing I know for certain I want to do with my future is help people. Growing up I didn’t always have a good self-image, and I know a lot of people who feel the same way. I have talked to people about sitting for a shoot with me and they would say, “But John, I’m not pretty enough. I don’t look good enough for that.” Yet, the few I have been able to sit with me anyway come away from it looking at their pictures saying, “These are amazing. You are amazing, John.” I always turn it back on them. “It is not me in those pictures. I only captured what is already there to be captured.” Right now that is my purpose. It may change, but I know that I want to make a difference and this is how I can see to do it.

I hope that wherever you are in your life, you can find and live out your purpose. As hard as it may be to believe, everyone has one. You just need to find it, latch on to it, and never ever let go.