The best time to enjoy your own city is when you are hosting visitors. The desire to show someone around and to help them enjoy their visit is a wonderful stimulus to explore what your surroundings have to offer. We typically take our own areas for granted while longing for what everywhere else has to offer. The grass seems greener on the other side of the fence until someone comes over to our side and wants to take a look around.
My brother is visiting me for two weeks here in San Diego and we are having a blast. It has been fun for me to slow down and enjoy some time with John in the beautiful place where I live.
The door to the ironically named New College. It is one of Oxford’s oldest colleges and was founded in 1379.
Oxford, England is one of my favorite towns in the world. There are many reasons for this but one of them is because it inspires me to dream big. I love history and the first time I set foot in Oxford I was enamored with its intriguing past. Studying at a college that patterned its educational methods after the Oxbridge model only added to the intrigue. As I walked the historic streets I found myself musing about how much I would love to study at Oxford University someday.
The Gallup Organization has conducted research over the past fifty years and then assessed the results from across many different nations, languages, and life situations to determine what it takes for one to experience wellbeing. Discovering five common strands threaded through the many results they have released a book called Wellbeing to describe them. The first element is “Career Wellbeing” which they define as “how you occupy your time” or “liking what you do every day.” Reading this chapter has led me to several observations that are really impacting the way I think about how I view my life and work.
My first observation is that what makes one’s career fulfilling is not necessarily the same thing as what makes them a living. We define our careers far too narrowly. When we think of a career our minds turn first to our job, or maybe the type of job that we wish we had. Certainly our careers involve what we do to make a living but on the larger scale our careers are made up of what we do with our time and what we work at accomplishing. “You don’t need to earn a paycheck to have thriving Career Wellbeing. But you do need to find something that you enjoy doing — and have an opportunity to do it every day.” In some cases our jobs can help us to directly fulfill our goals and in other cases they are what facilitates accomplishing what is most important to us.
There are certain points of pain that magnify our need for wellbeing. I think the one that impacts me the most is the social, which the book Wellbeing describes as “having strong relationships and love in your life.” I want to know that I am contributing to the lives of others, that I am a good friend and that I am loved by those in my life. When I returned from my travels I found that San Diego had become a lonely place. My group of friends it seems have scattered and moved on to new places or aspects of their lives and I have not done much for the last few years to replenish my relationships here.
When we don’t feel well connected to community we begin to beat ourselves up and to think that there must be something wrong with us or we would have more friends. The vicious cycle begins when we so dislike ourselves that we think others don’t care for us either. The more we retreat into isolation the more our insecurities are affirmed until we have walled ourselves into self-made prison cells of isolation.
There are seasons of life that demand so much attention in particular areas that we lose sight of others. Finishing up four years of seminary has caused me to think about this a lot in recent months. I learned to survive working full time and studying at the graduate level by a selective focus that allowed me to ignore areas that seemed to difficult to initiate or to maintain. The routines that I developed in survival mode have become harder to shake than I would have thought. Reentry from graduate studies into the rest of my life is not automatic as it turns out.
My last six months of seminary wore me down. It was all I could do to try to maintain a positive outlook on life. It seemed that several years of unbalanced living had caught up to me. Staring at the finish line awoke my senses to the rest of my life that was still there and needed to be addressed. In school mode I trained myself to focus on completing the next assignment, finishing the current class and making it through one quarter at a time.
A graduation is called a commencement, however, because it is only a beginning. Finishing a degree program is not meant to complete our pursuits but to ignite us to follow them with enligthened vigor. This overwhelmed me as I pondered how much of my life I had learned to tune out just to get by.
I love artists who develop unique styles that are compelling. Grant Pecoff is a painter who grew up in Encinitas, California and has a gallery in San Diego’s Little Italy. I have often admired his impressionistic style and in particular his paintings of sailboats and local city scenes around San Diego. Noticing the gallery open this evening, I stepped in and to my surprise found Grant there painting. He has spent most of the last ten years traveling and painting from various destinations so I had never met him.
He explained to me that since he was in town for awhile taking care of family matters, he recently decided to take a road trip to New Mexico to see what inspiration he could find in our own region. What has resulted is a series of works that he is currently painting featuring the strong adobe oranges and vibrant sky blues that he loves. At that moment he was painting a picture of a beautiful home in the Santa Fe area.
We are familiar with the expression “You have to go where the wind takes you.” This is a sailing metaphor which as a sailboat owner I can confirm makes a lot of sense. You may have a destination in mind but your not going to be able to go directly to it under wind power. When you set out to go sailing you don’t really know what kind of route it will take to get to your destination. The wind determines that and the wind changes.
The other day while enjoying the waves at Juan Dolio beach in the Dominican Republic I realized that this metaphor also applies to the surf. When you step into the ocean you agree to go where the surf takes you. You can fight the waves but as one wave after another pushes you around you realize that you have entered into a force far larger and more powerful than yourself.
I have begun a journey that over the next few weeks will take me to many exotic places. How is this possible? I’m glad you asked. The story begins in mid-August when I began to realize that even though I was finished with school I was still staying too busy and not making any progress toward my goals. It seemed that my stressful and chaotic approach to life in seminary had carried over into the rest of my life even though I no longer needed to study.
Wondering how to break out of this cycle and to begin writing again, which has a lot to do with what I hope to do in the next season of life, I began to brainstorm. On Monday morning of August 16th, I was reading the USA Today on my iPhone and noticed that Jet Blue was offering their “All You Can Jet Pass” for the second consecutive year.
Thanksgiving is a bittersweet time of year for me. For the first 24 years of my life, I always spent Thanksgiving with the extended family on my mother’s side. It is a time of belonging, sharing hearts in conversation, eating the best Thanksgiving meals ever prepared, and topping it all off by playing football with the cousins. Since I am one of the two members of my extended family living West of Indiana, and due to the logistics of flying home for a short weekend in the middle of a busy season at work and school, I have not made it back to the family Thanksgiving for several years now.
I woke up this Thanksgiving morning struggling to feel thankful. All I could think about was how for yet another year, I can’t be back with my family for this special time. Realizing that ingratitude is often a matter of perspective, I tried to think again about my circumstances and made an important discovery. I am thankful for friends who become like family.
As of 10:00 PM, on Tuesday, November 10th, 2009, I am officially debt free! After five years of struggling to pull myself away from the spending habits that kept me in debt, I am finally 100% out of debt and not looking back! So why am I telling you about this? It is rather personal and embarassing but my hope is that if you are not in consumer debt, this will encourage you to stay that way and that if you are, there is hope and good reason to do whatever it takes to free yourself.