This month I will post at least once per day. Seven days per week for all of May! It’s something that I’ve balked on before. I’ve had streaks that have lasted weeks but not an entire month. I can get ahead of the game by writing a bunch in one day and releasing them individually as I see fit. BUT if a post is not out, then I don’t eat until one is released. Now right there I’ve done some of the things that I know but do not always apply.
I made a definite goal.
I defined my terms.
I’ve broken it into manageable pieces.
I set the stakes.
If you’ve got something that you have been putting off or know that you need to do, then MAYbe, May should be your month too. Thirty days to make something big happen is not too much to ask. The question is are you willing to commit to yourself? Or do you need to commit to someone else who won’t let you off the hook? Promises can be powerful things when used by people who mean them. If not, then they’re just words. So let’s keep each other honest. Are you up for thirty days of action?
In 1998 my best friend and I traveled to Europe for the World Cup which was held in France. Despite our main goal being to watch soccer games, we also made side trips to other cities inside and outside of France. One of our stops was the Spanish city of Barcelona. It’s a beautiful city on the coast with the architecture of Gaudi, the shopping of Las Ramblas and hosted the Olympics only a few years prior. Despite all of those magnificent characteristics, whenever I talk about that trip, I usually talk about the Police Department. Let me explain!
My friend and I were staying in a hostel* about a mile from the beach. So we usually took the metro from our hostel to other parts of city. On our second to last day in Barcelona, we were at a metro station waiting for the train to come. My friend was rearranging items in his money belt when the train arrived. We hopped up and got onto the train. After the train pulled away, he realized that he’d left his passport on the bench at the station. By the time that we got to the next station and took a train back, the passport was gone. This was early internet days, so we relied on maps and locals to make our way to the US Consulate in Barcelona. Upon arriving there, we realized it was closed because it was a Saturday. The only person there was a guard who only spoke Spanish. Luckily I was able to use my Spanish to explain the situation and he put me on the phone with someone to help. Since we were traveling to France the next day, he explained that we needed to go to the Barcelona PD and file a police report. With that and a copy of his passport, we would be able to cross the border and get a new passport in Paris on Monday. Luckily our visit to the Barcelona PD went off without a problem and we made it to Paris as scheduled. The Barcelona PD is not actually a tourist attraction! However it is one of the places that I mention whenever I talk about this trip. The reason is simple, the destination matters but the road is more important.
Almost none of the stories that I tell from my travels are about the view from the Eiffel Tower or standing in front of the Mona Lisa. They are the stories of what went wrong, things that were odd and personal. If the point was to see the Mona Lisa, then Google is all that you need in order to have a fruitful life. To the contrary, the journey to get to the Mona Lisa is more relevant and full of impact. We spend so much of our lives chasing goals and that is clearly the point. Goals are merely the excuse that we have for going on a magnificent journey. The mistake that most people make is that they forget to enjoy the journey.
Every day is your chance at adventure. If you choose not to see it, then you will be swallowed up by all of the petty and seemingly insignificant crap that you encounter. Or maybe, just maybe going to the Barcelona PD could be one of the best times you’ve ever had!
Hit the road!
*If you’ve never traveled abroad, a hostel is like a VERY bare bones hotel. You sleep in a room with many other people and have shared bathrooms etc.
Geometry was probably one of the easiest classes for me in high school. Despite its relative ease, I had trouble staying engaged with it. I found it tedious to give all of the reasons why something was true. It was usually pretty obvious whether a problem was going to withstand the scrutiny of the different theorems that we were learning at the time. So it seemed like a relative waste to my teenage self to write out all of the steps in proving or disproving a problem. Especially when the answers (to the odd problems usually) were in the back of the book.
In our every day lives, there aren’t a lot of ‘proofs’ to be done. Very few things are black and white. So regardless of how SURE you are of your argument, there’s someone out there with the exact same information screaming the opposite (just think of our present political situation). So if we have nothing to prove, maybe the aim should be to improve.
Although there are few cold hard truths that we encounter daily, we do have a sense of who we are personally and what it is that we want for ourselves. So recognize the fact that you have nothing to prove. Even if you were to prove something, the circumstances of tomorrow may wipe away the thing that your proved today. However, each day we have the ability to improve. In small and subtle ways, it is possible for you to see progress in yourself, your life and your circumstances. Almost nothing about you is going to stand the test of time like Pythagoras’ Theorem. That does not mean that your life is meaningless. You are a sand castle that can be improved and enjoyed for the time that it exists. Get digging and sculpting because when the tide comes in, you’ll wish that you had!
During my recent trip to Baltimore, I walked by a woman throwing pieces of bread to the pigeons near the docks. It was obvious from the amount of bird poop that this was a regular occurrence. The next day as I walked by that spot at the same time, the woman was not there but the birds were there in force. They had a learned to at least partially depend on the “bird lady” for food. The pigeons had mildly abandoned their heritage as scavengers and become slightly domesticated. I don’t know that these birds were completely reliant upon the bird lady but they were definitely foregoing the hunt for the comfort of waiting for the “sure thing”.
These birds represent many of us that are caught up in the paradigm of modern civilization. Humans were at one point hunters and gatherers. As we developed means of food production, individuals could sustain themselves and others with their crops and domesticated animals for slaughter. Eventually fewer people were producing food and the majority of us became consumers that relied on their work. In many ways this is an unnatural state for man to be disconnected from his hunting instinct. We have built systems of competition in business and sport that mimic the hunting instinct. However in recent years it seems that people are being trained to accept only what is handed to them. For the moment the “bird lady” is showing up regularly and handing out the bread. What happens when the bird lady doesn’t come back?
The birds will most likely find a new place scavenge while the more “evolved” creatures will blame and complain about their circumstances. People who have had everything handed to them fight to maintain that situation rather than adapt. So even though a proactive approach would lead to more self determination, people abdicate the power for comfort. Those in power will never beg you to take the initiative remove their control on your situation. They will try to perpetuate the status quo because it only costs them scraps in exchange for keeping you under their thumb.
So look at the life that you’re leading. Are you dependent on the bird lady for your survival? What would you do if she disappeared? Begin to take your independence back. Perhaps she’s got you financially, emotionally or physically. Regardless of the hold, you owe it to yourself to break free.