Jumping Back Into The Public Ethereum Pool

Greetings from a nondescript coffee shop in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. It’s Friday and my day is wrapping up after writing a few freelance blog posts and it felt like the right time to finally write a blog for me — to all of you.

I’ve been laying low mostly lately after about two weeks ago completing my final day at BlockApps after deciding to make a career pivot into projects I feel more personally compelled by, specifically related to public-net Ethereum. I’ve seen so many leaps in capability, adoptions and overall quality of ideas in just a couple years since getting involved with the space that I figured placing a bet on myself and the projects that keep me up late at night with excitement should be what I focus on.

Sometimes I feel like I am on one of those far far away planets depicted in the movie Interstellar. The kind where parts of reality that I’m used to are relatively the same — gravity, water, breathable air, etc. However there’s a great deal different from what I had considered to be reality a short time ago. Especially working in this space of cryptocurrency and blockchain business — a matter of months can change so much about what we conceived to be inalienable.

So as I saw many things change, evolve and develop in the enterprise and private blockchain related space, I was seeing a divergence from the types of projects being built on public net and off-chain. I wish I had the prediction powers to say what will happen definitively on either side, but I really wanted to be a part of the public net initiatives while I saw a place for my contributions.

In addition to this what I saw to be a necessary shift in career, I felt compelled to also greatly pare back my social media presence and actually try to expand upon my actual societal presence. While I miss daydreaming on Instagram and Facebook occasionally, the deficit of attention isn’t something I lament at all. It’s given me back the headspace that I once enjoyed where I was able to dream up all sorts of silly things and experiment with them. I did however keep my Twitter and Linkedin profiles, mainly for practical purposes as they’re the most focused specifically on my professional network. Additionally it’s given me what will probably amount to be hours back to my personal relationships and the time spent being active and healthy. The seemingly small things really do add up. I’ve also been able to reconnect with some folks I haven’t seen in a while at local New York blockchain related Meetups, which was really nice.

I haven’t joined up with a full-time job at any one company yet as I wanted to make sure I had distance from the role I was departing from to what would be best suited for my interests. Like a big purchase, I’ve learned that a big long-term commitment such as a job is best slept-on. So for the past couple weeks I’ve mainly been doing contract content production and community management work on various crypto/blockchain projects and exploring what opportunities are out there that really align with what I’m looking for. Also, getting some extra time to spent with my wife and take spontaneous road trips is hard to beat.

I have a lot to be grateful for — specifically to BlockApps for providing me with countless opportunities to jump into roles, projects and tasks that I wasn’t previously comfortable with outside of my background in content marketing and community. It was great to be learning as I went through new challenges and being exposed to parts of the industry I previously had no insight into. Particularly, cutting my teeth in enterprise blockchain sales, building a small team around me, business/partnership development and working with partners and consortiums looking to make big impacts in the space was very rewarding.

Thanks to everyone who has reached out previous to making this “news” public and for the unsolicited job referrals. I am flattered and so grateful.

Let’s keep pushing this industry forward!

Cheers

~James

A Tale of Two Foreigners – Getting Married In South Korea When Neither Of Us Were Korean

Note: This is a collaborative piece between my wife and I. So, we switch off in our telling of the story, in the use of pronouns and such. So, if you have any questions or confusion about this process, email me directly. james.r.moreau [at] gmail [dot] com

In the summer of 2015 I went on a date with a nerdy Master’s student from Vietnam, who like me, lived in Korea. She showed up an hour and a half late and demanded we eat something as fast as possible after I watcher her goofily saunter up the stairs from the subway. One year later, in August of 2016, I married her. I knew in my heart that this was my partner in life and the entire world and future looked wide and full of possibilities. This was both empowering and at times scary. But we figured out how to navigate the foreign bureaucracy for both of us to get officially and legally married while in Korea and then figure out where we’d go next and how we’d get there. We both knew that getting the paperwork together from our respective countries to get married would be just the beginning of a long, tiresome and stressful journey which would re-shape both of our perspectives on what it means to be “American” and yet something else.

Even with Donald Trump being elected president in the United States recently, I’ve still spoken with people from all over the world who have told me they would trade citizenships with me in a second of given the chance. They see with so much negative news about how emboldened racists harassing minorities still a country which offers the most opportunity to “make it” out of anywhere else on the planet. This is easy to take for granted. Even as someone who was born into a lower-middle class socio-economic setting within the United States, I sort of always felt that there was a certain level of upward mobility that I was entitled to in the U.S. Of course, as I grew up and lived in other places throughout the world, I’d realize that this was incredibly fortunate for me to even consider this, but that it is also something that I should analyze more carefully when I consider if and why I want to make a long term home for my wife and I in the U.S.

My wife has already been approved a green card to become a U.S. permanent resident, which is more or less a path to U.S. citizenship. We went through a rather expensive, drawn out, stressful and totally opaque process which, up until the moment we went in for her final interview, we weren’t sure if my wife would get approved or not. We had no reason to believe there was anything barring her from getting a green card, but we also got no real official or verifiable guidance along the way to make sure we were doing things right. We actually had to go back and forth to the embassy in Seoul several times because we were given conflicting information about what we needed to bring and when. Funny enough, our city-hall style wedding day was logistically the easiest step in the entire process, yet we were the most stressed out for that. I think we actually learned a lot about how we respond to stress based on the latter half of 2016 as we went through this process and we strengthened our relationship for the better because of it.

What’s more – we had each other throughout the entire ordeal, which made it much better and easier to deal with.

In a recent This American Life podcast titled “Abdi and the Golden Ticket,” they followed a Somali refugee living in Kenya who won a path to U.S. citizenship lottery. As they described his life as a refugee and how he almost wasn’t able to even get to the final stages of his visa interview because of how badly the Kenyans had been treating Somali refugees because of Al-Shabad associated terrorism. I got so choked up in the part of the story when Abdi finally got his last piece of paperwork together and was able to apply for the final interview. I think before I went through this process myself, I would have had a certain level of empathy for him, but now, as the husband of a U.S. immigrant, the concept of having so many people outside of the U.S. which value the opportunity that being a U.S. citizen offers is an incredible honor, yet a burden of conscience.

My wife and I have considered living elsewhere than the U.S. Canada has always been high on the list as has her motherland of Vietnam. Obviously no country is perfect and both of those places have their flaws, however, surprisingly we both had great luck finding jobs in the U.S. months in advance of even moving there. We will move to New York City in the Spring and I will continue to work for the company I’ve been working remotely for and she will begin work for a pharmaceutical company which has already hired her months in advance of her graduation date.

We sort of have the American Dream and we’re both full of excitement and some anxiety around it.

  • We’re afraid of the rat race destroying us. My wife and I have both been seriously affected by overworking ourselves in the past. We’re setting ourselves up in similar types of jobs as before, however, we’re both better equipped to deal with stress now. We’ve both prioritized our health in a physical and emotional sense through working out and meditation and active work towards bettering ourselves. We didn’t have that before when we got overwhelmed and we didn’t have support from others either – so this time may be different.
  • We’re afraid of being a bi-racial couple in the U.S. She’s afraid of being harassed for being a foreign looking person, even as a permanent resident. I’m afraid of what I might physically do to someone if I ever saw them disrespect my wife on the grounds of racist ideals.
  • We’re afraid of putting off a slower lifestyle indefinitely because of the allure of the great money we’re now making and probably will continue to make. So many times we’ve honestly looked at the option of going elsewhere in the world where our money would go much further and we could do more with less. Then again, what’s more colonial and privileged? Coasting on inflated currency or working within the economy which supports the success of that currency?

  • We’re afraid of getting priced out. New York is very expensive. We hope to not get locked into that geographic area, paying so much of our money every month just for the privilege of having our careers based out of there. We don’t want to pay all our money on health insurance, etc. We’d like our money to go further.

What we’ve realized and accepted collectively is that we’re both growing in some way in a positive direction by taking this next step towards living in the U.S. Whether we stay long enough for my wife to get her citizenship or if we wind up going elsewhere in the world to forge another path together, the fact remains that I am working on something I am passionate about right now and still have the bandwidth and desire to expand myself creatively along the way. My wife is still figuring out how she wants to express herself, but I know it’s a good form of growth for her to come back to her career in a sense of power, rather than desperation like she was in before. We’re both in a powerful spot that we don’t take for granted.

So how do we make good on this opportunity and enable ourselves to live the best and most positive lives possible? How can we affect the lives of others. I feel a debt of gratitude for making it through the process as we did, but I feel we must give back in some way to people who need it in the U.S. who are not as fortunate as we are who are also just looking to make positive strides in their own lives.

These are the questions we will continue to ponder moving forward as we stumble forward toward hope of a better life for everyone.  

For couples having the same situation like us, I also note here our paperwork procedures in Korea. Hope it will help and relieve some of your stress during the process.

  • During the dating time, remember to capture all your dating pictures and announce publicly  your special events like engagement, family visit…(this is not required in Korea and I did not use at all but to be extra prepared).
  • Schedule an appointment at the U.S embassy to consult how and what to do to get married ( I found it super helpful as I explained the consultant when my wife and I are expected to leave Korea. They will tell you exactly what to do and what should be expected). And here I also get my single certificate.
  • First step is getting married: I am a US citizen so I need to bring my passport, my single certificate and my ARC. My wife needs to bring her passport, her birth certificate (the copy and notarized English translation), her single certificate (the original and notarized English translation), her ARC. We came to City Hall (address…) to register. Oh and do not forget to bring 1000 KRW in cash. If you forget then there is a NH bank in the building also. They will bring you a form then have you signed, check your documents then issue a marriage certificate in 10 mins. After that you can go to take wedding picture in Hanbok (no fee).
  • After having the marriage certificate, go to translate it in English and notarize  (the certificate is in Korean, the fee is 50.000 KRW) then apostille. I sent our marriage certificate (the original one and the notarized English translation) and her supporting documents (house contract, student ID, ARC, score report at her graduate school here) to the U.S. embassy?
  • Within 3 weeks, she got an email from the U.S. embassy to prepare for visa interview. In this email, they will instruct you from step to step: go to have health check at one of five designate hospital in Korea (the fee is ~300.000 KRW), go to have criminal records (both in Korea and in Vietnam. As we planned to get married for awhile so when I came to visit her family, she applied for criminal records in Vietnam – remember to apply for form 1). Those are two major steps, and for me, I need to prepare financial affidavit for my wife. The affidavit needs to be wet ink signed. When you prepare all the documents, schedule the interview with the U.S. embassy. Prepare 325$ in cash to submit on the interview day. Prepare some documents related to financial sponsors in affidavit if you have (As my mom is joint financial sponsor for my wife, it required  my mom’s income tax in most recent years. Even it is not required, but you should also prepare your mom’s passport page copy, her birth certificate. I did not prepare these two documents so they required us to supplement later)
  • By the way the agency that the U.S.embassy uses in Korea sucks. Here is why: I called the agency to ask what should we do in the interview and should I come to the embassy with her. They said “No, she should go in herself”. However, when she came in the woman in the U.S embassy asked “where is your husband, he is supposed to be here with you”. Remember that we cannot bring any phone or any electronical devices into the U.S. embassy so she gave me all the devices and told me to go to cafe and wait. Luckily, when she ran out to find me, I standed right at the embassy’s gate and waited for her (The procedure can be longer than you expected, after 2 hour waiting, I felt worried that my wife could get lost (based on the fact that she did get lost several times since we dated :D). So remember that day bring your phone, your wife’s phone and the necessary documents (another story: as I thought I could not go in with her. I bought my laptop, everything I can so I can work while waiting for her at cafe. When it turned out that I need to come in with her, I need to find a locker room in subway station to keep my luggage. As we hurry to find a place, my wife realized she put all her things on the table in the U.S. embassy – money and documents. OMG T.T. Fortunately, all her belongings were safely returned to the security desk). Remember you and your wife need to be present on the interview day.
  • During the interview, they will ask you simple questions, just to check if your relationship is real. Then if your documents are all good, your wife’s visa will be sent back by courier within 5 days. If you miss any, they will list out and you will submit later. My wife got her visa back within 2 weeks I submitted the lacking document.
  • In total, we began the process from marriage in August to getting her visa in November without lawyer’s fee or consultant. The U.S. embassy’s instruction is pretty straightforward so we do not have really big difficulty during the process.

 

Have Skills – Will Work For Bitcoin

Does a restaurant, bakery or cafe that is cash-only make you want to go there more? What factors do consumers take into account when they decide how and where they want to spend their money if they have lots of options to buy in a crowded seller’s market? Would you consider hiring a freelance copywriter or designer just because you knew you could pay them it Bitcoin?

Being a freelancer is sort of like being a lone ranger. Some freelancers like to consider themselves entrepreneurs and others like to simply consider themselves service providers. The line between those attributes can get blurry, but what all freelancers have in common is that they like to get paid often and on time. Rustling up new work can be a hassle and time consuming, especially when those hours when you’re pitching and selling, you’re not getting paid, so the pressure can get intense in order to differentiate in one’s market. Is it possible that changing your primary payment method of choice to Bitcoin has advantages? Let’s take a look.

One of the most challenging things about offering general services as a freelancer, especially in the content production and marketing realm, is that there are plenty of websites where there are many people offering similar services and drastically undercutting each other on the price of the service. In doing so, many services offered on a freelance basis are viewed as cheap or lower value because businesses feel they can get them for cheap, cheap, cheap. But the quality often isn’t there when you go so low on the price.

In an already challenging field, here are some thoughts current freelancers who work only for Bitcoin had to offer on their experience.

Michael Scott, a journalist who covers the digital economy beat from Denver, Colorado currently receives up to 60% of his income as Bitcoin. He believes he’ll increase his overall income to around 90% Bitcoin in 2016 and spoke to why he prefers accepting payments in Bitcoin so much over other options.

“As a freelancer, getting paid by check  was slow and cumbersome. Between the check processing time, slow postal delivery and the check clearing the bank, the length of time needed to receive my money became unacceptable. So I began pursuing writing opportunities with digital publications that pay in Bitcoin.”

Another digital marketing professional who goes by the name of Jana has worked for Bitcoin for over a year and commented on the transactional benefits of accepting Bitcoin for payments.

“Bitcoin is ideal way to pay for digital products. There are no recurring payments, it’s fast and instant, and Mycelium Gear easily allows to collect email address with the order so that the merchant gets a list of people who are interested. A nice surprise was also that it will be quite hassle free legally (EU).”

So, are you ready to get started? Are you ready to have that first surprising conversation with someone ready to hire you to tell them that you only accept Bitcoin for payment? For freelancers looking to dip their toes into earning Bitcoin, Mr. Scott also offered this advice:

“I was stunned to discover via a web search that a growing number of companies that are now paying freelancers exclusively in bitcoin. Two thoughts here. For starters, check out XBTFreelancer.com. It’s an amazing repository of bitcoin paying gigs. I receive notices daily requesting project bids. “

“Secondly, think globally. In  particular, countries overseas are begging for American experts. One of my biggest clients is in Eastern Europe. These countries seem light years ahead in terms of their adoption of bitcoin and thus are more willing to pay you in it for assignments”

Do you have any tips on where to find clients that pay in Bitcoin? Have you tried to make the payment transition already? Please let us know in the comments!

 

The Future of Micro-Lending With Bitcoin

We’ve seen a lot of unique crowdfunding and microlending ideas pop up and become popular in recent years. Lending Club is something I’ve personally used to get a modest return on some micro-loans I’ve made in the past and Kickstarter and Kiva both have their own unique models that we’ve seen replicated by other businesses as well. These are all typically models of giving a relatively small amount of money ($25 let’s say) towards a larger fund goal. Depending on the business model you either get some sort of interest return paid on your loan, or you get a share in the project/company you funded, or you just do this as a charity and get your money back without interest. They’re cool ideas overall.

Last week I saw an article on QZ stating that the SEC will allow people who aren’t traditionally wealthy to become investors in startups. Being that I worked in the tech-startup industry for 10 years in Boston, MA, Madison, WI and Boulder, CO, I was happy to see this. I always felt frustrated sitting out on the sidelines when only my wealthy (usually older) friends I knew could make an investment in the startups and potentially get a payout if they hit it big.

I’ve been around long enough to not have “hitting it big” be the delusion that makes me want to invest, though. I like to put my money where my mouth and interests lie. I’m doing that with Bitcoin in the types of companies I invest in on in the NYSE. I did that with renewable energy companies I liked as well in the past. It makes me feel like I have skin in the game. So, I’m happy that if I meet some startup team that has a great idea and I want to invest any amount of money in them, I can do that.

But what I’m curious about is, how could Bitcoin be applied to this model. Can Bitcoin be applied to a micro-lending scenario like the ones mentioned above where you give a little bit towards a funding goal and then be entitled to some basic return as the company achieves success and pays the loan back? Even if the company strikes it big and you’ve got some residual Bitcoin investment with them.

Has anyone built any sort of model like this? What would be the challenges technically and legally speaking?

 

Learning To Crawl Before You Walk and Run with Bitcoin and Blockchain

I remember hearing about Bitcoin a while ago. I thought it was interesting and even met some people who had bought a little bit and made some money on the early days huge value shifts. I wanted in on the action. I dabbled in buying and trading stocks on the NYSE before and never made much money, but I figured if I could figure out the mechanics of that, I could figure out how to buy and trade BTC. Boy, was I wrong.

I quickly got in way over my head with technical data. I’m not a technical knuckle dragger, per se, but I’m certainly not a computer developer level person with intuition past a GUI. I need my hand held a little. I’ll admit that. I quickly found the buying and selling process of BTC too complicated for me. I quit without ever making a trade. I remember feeling like I needed to be a programmer just to get involved and I put it on the backburner.

Then a few weeks ago upon coming back to Korea from visiting home in the USA, I saw BTC was accpted at a few retail locations I visited. I was interested again. Upon doing some basic google research, I realized that the technology behind granting n00bs like me acess to the world of BTC was totally different. There were GUI’s and no need for writing code and command line madness. Maybe it’s hipster of me to say that BTC is closer to “mainstream” now, which means I’m way behind the 8-ball.

Anyways, I signed up for Xapo and Coinbase. I bought my first bit of BTC currency and started playing with some faucet apps (Zapchain included, at the advice of Coinbase). I also inviested on the NYSE in some companies that are both holding companies for BTC and blockchain related businesses as well as some businesses that leverage heavily on BTC and blockchain somewhere in their business models.

I’ve found that BTC is still incredibly layered and complex, however the technology that people are building into the UI of it all is great. I really apprecaite that I can get involved at some level now without feeling totally intimidated. Sites like Zapchain have also given me a great opportunity to network and learn about whatever interests me, related to BTC and blockchain, which rocks.

Next up for me as I learn to crawl before I can walk, I want to start trading. I signed up at Coincube, but it looks like I can’t use my Coinbase wallet with them because Coinbase doesn’t allow trading in my country. So, it’ll require I do a bit more digging, which I’m enjoying doing so far.

Next steps beyond that? Well, maybe start to think of some business models using BTC! I really like micro-services and micro-payments using Bitcoin, so I’ll be exploring that as well as some other ideas.

Do you share any similar sentiments in becoming acclimated to BTC and blockchain? How long have you been in the game? How fast were you on the uptake?

The Tribe Seeker Podcast – Episode 2 – Solo Travel, Poor Attention To Detail and Sore Thumbs

This episode of The Tribe Seeker Podcast, I’m sharing a little travel story about how a very poorly planned vacation wound up being just perfect.

If you want to check out my photo album of the pictures I took, check out this link.

My New Podcast – The Tribe Seeker

Quick update on what I’ve been working on and up to. I started a podcast called The Tribe Seeker.

I spent a lot of time mulling around ideas for a podcast. I wanted the topic to be relevant to my life, interesting to me so I was compelled to make content about it as well as something I had some street cred in.

So without further adieu, here it is. A podcast about what it’s like to be a seeker of one’s people, at all costs.

 

It’s Not About Turning Back or Keeping Going Anymore

Today is Buddha’s Birthday in Korea. In the previous weeks I’ve daydreamed about how I’d greedily plan and spend this extra long weekend by traveling somewhere far and strange from Cheonan, the city where I reside, and do something really fun. The reality of the situation is that I slept in until 10AM, drank too much coffee at my apartment and took about 2.5 hours to decide to go outside and hop on a bus to the opposite side of town to explore and find a coffee shop to write in. I wasn’t aware that the buses weren’t running on a scheduled cadence because of the holiday and I subsequently waited in the hot sun on the side of the road for my bus for about 45 minutes before going home, eating lunch and taking a nap. Rockstar lifestyle, I’m leading, I’ll tell ya…

Even on a rainy day this is a stunning sight. #cheonan #southkorea

A photo posted by James R Moreau (@jamesrmoreau) on

This is one of those periodic updates that I really had to force myself to write. Being in Korea has become incredibly… normal. I wouldn’t go as far to say as I’ve lost my sense of wonder or awareness that I am in fact all the way across the world from where I’m originally from. However, there’s a certain level of comfort that routine here has brought me that I’ve never felt before.

Last week I hit my 7 month mark here. I can’t quite believe that 7 whole months have passed by so quickly. Every month when the 20th rolls around I remind myself to try to be present in the moment but also aware that time is continuing to pass faster and faster every day. I think there are a few reasons for time feeling like it’s passing faster. One of those reasons probably has to do with my proximity to strong gravitational fields and whatever other business there is about black holes and such I learned from watching Interstellar. But I also think time is passing very fast because of the relative comfort and familiarity I’ve found with my time here in Korea.

Comfort means different things to different people. Loosely, I’d describe what I’m feeling as comfort because I’ve managed to learn enough about my immediate surroundings, my job and to navigate language barriers where I don’t really have anything inhibiting my day to day life from operating within the margins of “smoothly.” Mind you, there are some things that are downright maddening to me that will never be remedied as long as I live here, no matter what I do.

I think the things that have proven to be most important to me are regular communication with family. When I moved to Wisconsin in 2009 and then Colorado from 2010-2014, I recall seeing my family on average somewhere between 3-4 times a year. I was only, at any given point, about 2-4 hours of flying time away from seeing my family back home in Massachusetts. It was a simple enough affair to hop on a plane and go home. However, I often found myself feeling sluggish to book a plane ticket to go home, or go anywhere for that matter. I’d rationalize that plane tickets are expensive and in the last 6 years (but really, my entire adult life) money has usually been tight as it’s been allocated to paying debts in an unwise and unstructured manner, or there were things locally I’d rather do.

When I landed back in Worcester in the terms I’d like to describe as “on my ass” last Spring in 2014, my head was still spinning from a breakup that had me questioning pretty much everything that seemed secure and normal for me. I had a career in social media that had seemed to be more successful as each year passed, but never quite seemed within the reaches of being what I’d consider “secure.” Much more often than not, I wasn’t doing the kind of work I’d describe as being in line with my soul-purpose. I’d say that could mainly be attributed to not having, or not knowing clearly what my soul purpose was for most of those years. I’d pivot and change things up from time to time, aligning myself with eco-friendly or holistic living companies when I could to do work that seemed more inspired, but that never seemed quite right. I met some great people along the way and looking back I can honestly say I lived what some would call a blessed life.

But, I realize in hindsight that I was always playing catch up. I was terminally behind the eight ball as I continually set my goals and my personal sense of accomplishment to the tunes of what I viewed as successful around me. I knew a dozens of people who were business owners, who had made hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars over their careers building and selling businesses. I always wondered if that could be me. If I could just idly dream up some sort of product or service that would have demand explode around it and I could fill my days with purposeful work either growing my own business or helping people I truly admired grow theirs.

I don’t know if that was ever something I ever really wanted. I suppose I had an idea of a lifestyle I was chasing instead. I had my girlfriend and our friends, many of whom just seemed to have their proverbial shit-together. Dinner parties, cocktail hour, day trips to wineries and farm dinners. This was in fact the good life I never knew I could have. But I always felt like I was somewhat just along for the ride and not actually driving that car. Even though my girlfriend at the time and myself lived in a relatively modest apartment in a fabulous neighborhood, with some of the best friends anyone could ever ask for literally within stumbling distance of our front door, I always felt like the pieces, and in turn my happiness, were being held together by a string and poised to fall apart at a solid jostling just around the bend.

When the relationship I was in suddenly finished in January 2014 I felt an incredibly heavy burden on my shoulders. I realize that from the outside my life looked enviable to most people and that I wasn’t doing anything too out of the ordinary from the average person. But as I had slowly acquired a few possessions here and there, some online subscriptions, gym memberships, etc and I was living in Boulder, all I felt was that I had to somehow maintain all that. Like I wasn’t going to able to rebound from this breakup and re-discover myself while being responsible for everything that I felt tied to. With a great deal of honesty and generosity, I even felt like I had to walk away from my job at the time which was in many ways a great place for me to be. Almost everyone and everything in Boulder, with the exception of my Brazilian Jiu Jitsu family at Easton BJJ, reminded me of how I had ultimately failed at my relationship and keeping my life I had worked so nervously at together. I realize now that this perception wasn’t entirely correct, but as I walked around in a fog filled with anxiety, sadness and complete stupor in the 4 weeks after the breakup, everything inside of me told me to drop it all and walk away. I still to this day am almost moved to tears remembering the looks in some of my friends eyes who stared at me helplessly, unable to understand why I had to leave, but loved me anyways and supported me in my decision to do so. I will never forget this period in my life.

So in an act of reckless and irresponsible abandon, I set a date for myself to sell every possession I owned that couldn’t fit in my car with complete abandon and with my dog headed on a long-extended road trip back East to Massachusetts. I would stay there, regroup and figure things out for as long as I needed to and get healthy. In my months between February, when I arrived back in Massachusetts and in October, when I left for Korea, I did my absolute best to simplify absolutely everything about myself and take a long hard look at my life, my decisions, my strengths and more importantly, my weaknesses and come out of this situation a better person.

I started with my physical impediments which I felt were making it harder than necessary to live my best life. I had lost large amounts of weight in my life at various points in my adulthood, but never quite managed to make those positive changes stick and wound up putting most of not all of that weight back on over the years. I experimented with low-carb dieting, kettlebell lifting and daily walking and hiking with my dog when I was home in Massachusetts. The weight started to come off steadily and has continued to ever since. When I look at pictures of myself now compared to where I was just a year and a half ago I think I look like a different person. Not only do I carry around less body fat, but my musculature makeup has changed for the better. I think I look better and I more importantly feel better. I’ve also continued to meditate every day which I’ve written about already. This has helped me even out as a person in how I react and deal with everyday challenges a lot better. As far as money and lifestyle goes, I’ve learned that making less money can in fact make more a simpler and more easy to manage life as long as I am focused on managing the important parts around saving and paying off what needs to be payed off and when.

Everything feels so much closer to equilibrium right now since I’ve come to Korea. I’ve continued to develop myself in ways I set forth when I went home specifically in my weight management and meditation goals. However, I’ve realized that this sense of comfort comes with some challenges, as everything in life seems to. Being away from family and not seeing anyone familiar for 7 months (and I likely will not see anyone familiar for the remainder of my time here) has made me feel a bit dissociated. I came to Korea with an open mind of how long I’d stay. I didn’t honestly tell anyone I’d be here for just a year or if I’d plan to be here for a decade or any amount of time. I just came here with an open mind and open heart to whatever was possible. I discovered that my job could be incredibly satisfying in many ways. I also discovered how easily I am able to adjust to and integrate into a different lifestyle in a foreign place. These are valuable lessons for me to learn. But, something in my heart tells me that where I need to be is back stateside closer to family and trying to make a go of doing good work that aligns with my values that can also support my simple lifestyle.

The decision to come to Korea was a simple one. I sometimes wish I could say it was out of total whimsy and passion and that I wanted to make good on a promise I’d made to myself years ago to come here, but that’s not entirely true. When I moved back to Massachusetts I entertained several interesting job offers and interviewed with some very well-know ad agencies, technology companies and even did a bit of freelance work for some companies as a marketing consultant. These are all things I’m proud of to an extent because they represent the work I’ve put into becoming somewhat of a good marketer over the last 10 years. However each time I got to final rounds of interviews or when I’d get a job offer for basically the same type of job I’ve always had, I couldn’t tap into the excitement or passion for that opportunity that I once had. I was ashamed of myself. Like, who am I to be having what seems like my 3rd mid-life crisis and I’m only in my early 30’s? Eventually I realized that these types of jobs weren’t going to pan out, my freelancing work was drying up and I needed to do something. Working as an English Teacher in South Korea is easily one of the most comfortable lifestyles anyone from an English speaking country could ever hope to have. For all of the bitching that English teachers here do about this and that, we get paid a good salary in a relatively cheap cost-of-living country and our skills are highly in demand (until the proverbial bubble pops on the English teaching industry). I fully recognize how good I’ve got it here. There’s no question to that. However, the price to be paid for this life is that I’m a very long ways away from my family and loved ones. Making a life here and developing friendships and relationships here is definitely something I could pour myself into successfully, however when I think of what I value in the long term, I don’t think that throwing away what I have back home in turn for a “fresh start” in Korea makes the most sense. In essence, I learned that lesson the hard way when I moved to Wisconsin in 2009 and lost my job when my company wasn’t doing well and again learned that lesson over and over in Colorado bouncing from startup to startup and eventually experiencing the coup de grâce (hah!) which was a bad breakup. At the end of the day my family back home were always the shelter in the storm for me, even when I was begrudging to accept that.

So, are things good here in Korea? Overall, yes things are very good here! It’s a good life! It would be a good life for just about anyone! However, as my values have changed and solidified in the last couple years, I am realizing that maybe investing more of my energy into developing something solid and long-lasting back home is what my calling might be, or at least part of my calling, for part of my life. So, I am going to do that.

What does this all mean? This wound up being a MUCH longer email/newsletter than I intended and I’m sorry about that to anyone who bailed on reading this at any point. However, the TLDR; version is this… at the end of October I’ll be coming back home to Massachusetts. I’m starting to look for, network towards and apply to jobs in the greater Worcester area and surrounding places like Portland, Maine, around New Hampshire, etc. Maybe I’ve said too much about my personal and professional struggles in life and this makes me a less than desirable candidate for an employer. However, I believe my journey is something that a lot of people can relate to in some ways. My experiences have made me a stronger, more sure-footed person and I believe that all of my skills as a writer, as a marketer and as a general businessman have brought me to this point in life. Whether I find a great company or small business to work for, or if I go back to agency world or if I have the courage to start my own business, I know these experiences will shape the ethos of the work I do for the rest of my life and will help me to be a better man, partner and person into the future.

… and if the economy is looking too rough and I can’t find anything in America, maybe I’ll just go teach English overseas again 😉 But let’s not cross that bridge unless we must.

Thanks for reading!

 

What Meditation Has Done For Me

Shortly after moving to Boulder, Colorado in 2010 I learned how to meditate and I’ve been practicing it consistently for about 4 and a half years ever since. I recently saw a blog post by Sami Paju where he wrote about what he had learned in two months and I appreciated his perspective and it made me sit down and reflect on my own experience.

Growing up I never knew much about ways to deal with life’s stresses. I always had a bit of the world’s weight on my shoulders for various reasons when I was developing as a kid into my adulthood. Whether it was the circumstances in which I was trying to figure out my path in a working class family in a blue-collar city, to being creative and a naturally introverted person, I internalized a lot of the stimuli that overwhelmed me day-to-day.

I remember a big reason why I started doing creative things when I was a young teenager was because I couldn’t verbally articulate my emotions to family and friends and felt completely hindered by the anxiety I felt. I’d come home from school and lock myself in my room and blast anything from Nirvana to Miles Davis and furiously scribble words down into my notebook or doodle drawings of monsters that I perceived to be my inner self.

As I got older, as with most people, life got more complicated and my coping mechanisms didn’t really develop at the pace of how I was exposed to stimuli. Luckily when I moved to Boulder, Colorado after some tumultuous years post-college I was exposed to Transcendental Meditation through the woman I was dating. Her and her family all meditated and she grew up in a community in rural Iowa called Fairfield. Shortly after we started dating I was allured by the lifestyle that my ex-girlfriend and her family had and their overall presence when just talking to you and how they approached life’s challenges.

Her parents offered to introduce me to their style of meditation, which is called Transcendental Meditation and got me into a short course to learn how to meditate with a friend of theirs. It is without a doubt one of the best gifts I’ve ever received in my life and I’ll be eternally grateful to them for it.

I’m certainly not an expert in the mental or physiological benefits of meditation as they pertain to your brain and body, but I wanted to share some insights that I’ve observed in my own practice that have kept me practicing daily for so long.

Meditation Is Like Pizza

You’ve heard that saying applied to other things, I’m sure… Even when it’s not that good. It’s still great. Every morning I wake up around the same time and I either sit up in bed and immediately start meditating or I get up and have a large drink of water and then get right into my meditation practice. Regardless of what I do before I meditate, I get into the practice the same way. I sit comfortably, I close my eyes and after a few seconds I begin my meditation. Whatever happens next I just sit and let my mantra bring me deep into my own consciousness and stillness. Sometimes I have a lot of thoughts that bombard me about my upcoming day or something I’ve done or didn’t do recently and all I can do is let the time pass and repeat the mantra over and over again. Sometimes I feel like I am not going deep at all, like I’m not even meditating, just thinking and unwillingly contemplating my life. Other times I blissfully drift off into a soft, black quietness and come out of my meditation like I’ve just taken the best nap or full night of sleep that money can buy. Regardless of the outcome or feeling of the duration of my meditation, I come out of it as a better person. I simply feel better than when I started. I’ve learned that no matter how the meditation feels as I’m doing it, taking place in the practice with a daily cadence is what helps me make the daily progress. I don’t know what the ultimate picture will look like from meditating will be, however I am able to appreciate the journey at every step.

Don’t Focus On Anything, Seriously

Chill, dog. Even when the thoughts won’t come, I’ve been trained to not focus on any thought or stimulus that is happening in me or outside of me. If I have some disturbing thoughts, I focus on my mantra and the thoughts either leave or stay with me, however the mantra stays ever-present. If there is a noise outside of me, or if I am meditating on a train or bus, the conversations happening around me or the garbage truck making noise outside of me don’t get my ultimate attention. You can meditate anywhere,any time. As long as you have the time to sit still for a bit, you can meditate. One of the actual beauties of meditating when it’s not perfect quiet and peace sometimes is that you hone your ability and tolerance by separating how you feel from the actual world around you. Growing up in an insanely loud Irish Catholic family full of guilt and shouting (and love), I used to just run away to a spare room to avoid having an anxiety attack from too much stimulation. Nowadays I can tune most things out at will when I want to. So yes, if it seems like I’m not really listening to you or the things around me, I’m probably not.

You’ll Look At Your Absurdities In The Third Person

This part is one of my favorites. When you’re not meditating, I’ve been able to look at myself in a much more objective way. I can see myself speaking certain ways and when I feel emotions come up it’s like I have a pre-roll of what I’m about to do or say. Sometimes I still go into my petty emotional tirades and do or say things that I don’t mean. But as I’ve been meditating over time I’ve found that more and more, I am able to intercept these emotional or mental outbursts and impulses better and interpret them better. It’s like I’m able to talk to myself and say “hey man, you notice this? Do you really feel this way? Do you really want to say that? Why so?” This has helped me immensely in my interpersonal relationships as well as in my career and professional development. I’m an emotional person and I’ve let myself live inside myself un-checked and unfettered. With meditation, I am able to feel the source of my actions before they come more often. I find that invaluable.

Try a Group Setting

I am an introvert and I avoid groups. This is just a reality of who I am and I truly embrace this part of me. However, I’ve had some pretty amazing and fulfilling experiences meditating in various ways with groups of people. Whether it’s been part of a mens group I was lucky to be invited to or if it was a specific Transcendental Meditation group meditation practice in Boulder, there’s a certain energy that can’t be replicated when you focus on meditation and bettering yourself with others. I believe this is part of finding your tribe. I’m still looking for my core tribe of people. Wherever that may be or whomever they may be, I want meditation to be a shared commonality between us, for sure.

Even though meditation is ultimately a very personal practice and something every person will find their benefits from. I think Transcendental Meditation is the best kind of meditation, though I’d suggest you try apps like Calm.com just to get the ball rolling and see the immediate benefits of meditation. One of the big detractors from T.M. is that it’s expensive to take a course. I really don’t think meditation should be something you pay for, should it? I guess I’m torn because I know the value of it. But if you must pay for training, I don’t think the cost should be prohibitive to someone who can’t afford it. Regardless, you can meditate any way you want. Just get started and be consistent about it and watch the benefits start accumulating over time.

Happy New Yeah (To be read aloud in a particularly drawled out Massachusetts accent)

This message comes to you from an undisclosed location in Seoul, Republic of South Korea. I type these words in between large gulps of South American red wine and a belly full of homemade Korean food courtesy of those who shall remain un-named. If this message reaches you in time only know that I have come out on the other side of the wormhole that was the year 2014 and seem to be molecularly in tact.

Actually this post comes to you a few days late. No one should be surprised at this given the lack of discipline I’ve shown blogging for god-knows-how-long. I had most of it written already but was just enjoying myself too damn much bouncing about Seoul and other parts of Korea to sit down and upload it. Oh, well. Here it is.

Christmas came and went without much fuss or fanfare (for me, specifically) here in Korea. Don’t get me wrong – people were partying like it was 1999 all over the place, but as I’ve become more comfortable living in my own introverted skin, I choose to bow out large social gatherings more regularly. Personally, most of the festive nature around Christmas this year came in the form of me dressing up like Santa Claus for the kids I teach and telling each of them in their ears that I know what they really did this year and that receiving presents would not necessarily be a foregone conclusion unless repentances were made as soon as possible. Some responded with fear and distrust, others laughed at my attempt at infusing Catholic guilt into them by saying “James Teacher, I know it’s you. You’re not Santa. Give me my present.” I got my beard pulled off so many times I stopped counting.

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I was invited over to a Korean friend’s house for Christmas eve dinner and I went with a full heart and empty stomach without much in the way of expectations for the evening. I expected more of a cocktail party, but was pleasantly surprised to receive a heaping plate of roasted chicken, mashed taters, brussel sprouts, stuffing and gravy. Even though most of the expected guests cancelled last minute it was great to actually spend Christmas eve with a family, in a real home, rather than the hobbit cave I have come to call my own. Even if I had stayed at my own place that night and made myself dinner (rice, eggs and kimchi has become a staple for me), I would have been content enough. I took my Christmas Eve this year with a particular gratitude.

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It was also nice to call home and talk with everyone once our time-zones lined up and I knew everyone would be in one place together. It’s not my first Christmas away from home and I remember being distinctly sad in previous years when I’d call home and it seemed like everyone was having fun without me, like they forgot me. I’d bite my lip and try not to sound sad and isolated in whatever state or country I was in and say “well I hope you have a Merry Christmas, I should get going..” until I was able to hang up the phone and go be blue.

I laugh when I recall the time I was living and studying abroad in Prague and wasn’t home for a Christmas. I was 21 years old at the time and my friend Max who came from a large Catholic Haitian family was also in Prague with me. We were in opposite phone booths talking to our families and got off the phone around the same time and both were on the verge of tears because of how tore up we felt over being away from our families. We of course coped the best way we knew how, by finding Chinese food and getting drunk with other foreigners and wound up having a fun night.

This year, calling home I had a particular fortification in my heart that didn’t bring any level of sadness to bear. I had learned so much about myself in 2014 that I was actually happy to be standing tall where I was, even though it was fully across the planet. I made a choice to do something, I made it happen and here I was. I had no regrets. I had done right by my family and loved ones as best I could and I honestly had no regrets. I was able to offer my best self to my family and be honest with how I felt — I felt happy.

All of my fellow foreigner teachers took off to warmer climate destinations for vacations this year. Places like Thailand, The Philippines, Vietnam, Japan (maybe not warmer) were on the list and frankly I wanted to just pick one and go myself. When you start talking with people about good reasons to come teach English in South Korea, one of the first things people tell you about is how “cheap” and easy it is for you to travel to exotic locations you’d probably never see living in the Western Hemisphere. While we do get fairly substantial breaks from work, our Winter break being nine days total, I didn’t feel like I had the time, confidence or money saved to make a trip. Knowing myself to be a fairly sensitive traveler who likes lots of time and comfort to get from one place to another, I realized I was going to be on a shorter than preferred timeline trying to get to and from my far off destinations traveling alone and likely confused. Though I was constantly brown beaten by some foreigners for squandering my time off and choosing to stay in Korea, I knew in my head that taking my week and two weekends to recharge from a hectic two months of getting acclimated to Korea would be wise and more enjoyable than others gave me credit for.

So, what have I done on break so far? Well, I’ve slept a lot. I’ve caught up on that good sleep that comes when you have absolutely nothing you must do the next day. I’ve seen some movies at the movie theater that is a 15 minute walk from my apartment, I’ve worked out a bit and have taken a couple trips to Seoul to explore new neighborhoods and meet up with friends. All good stuff.

So what does it mean that it’s 2015? On thinking about how or if I wanted to make any more resolutions this year, I felt truly lucky to realize how far I’ve come in 2014 and that mainly I just hope to continue on the path I’ve set for myself. It’s more of a multi-year plan. Wellness is they key that holds everything together. It’s been a long time, if ever at all, that I’ve been able to look at my life as it stands and not really feel conflicted that a period of time had passed and I hadn’t capitalized on it in a), b) or c) way.

So here’s to you. Here’s to your new year. Here’s to your last year. I hope the passage of time hasn’t been too fast or too slow or too uncomfortable for you and if it was any of those things, I hope it was in tandem with some amazing growth and self-realization.

Cheers!

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