An Update On Pretty Much Everything… Oh, And I’m Moving Overseas (Probably)

Where I’ve Been

2014 has been an interesting year. I haven’t posted much on my blog because I spent the early half of the year in a bit of a daze as I packed up my life in Colorado and slowly trekked back East, interviewing with various companies along the way. It simply has been too hard for me to write about in explicit detail. But generally speaking, I went through a breakup. Not just a breakup with a woman whom I loved very much, but with an entire family, with friends, with a city and a lifestyle that I had come to be quite comfortable in. The heartbreak was real. I’d be dishonest if I said the first half of this year wasn’t some of the hardest times I’ve been through in my entire life, yet somehow I managed to experience some of the biggest stretches of growth in my life as well. As one of my favorite quotes from a BJJ Master says: “Reduce your elements and become efficient in very small details.”

Gratefully, with some help and a lot of space and time I got some things physically and mentally back in order that hadn’t even realized were holding me back. It wasn’t a fast or easy process, as I so wanted it to be, but sometimes the right place and time happens upon you and you have to agree to go through the entire process of healing and growth, regardless of what it takes to get through. Or you could just choose not to grow, but that’s a whole other matter…

So here I am at a turning point. A moment that will shift my entire life as I know it. I’ve prepared myself for this by getting in shape and losing over 40 lbs through diet and exercise. I’ve also doubled-down on my mediation practice and mental fortification through reading more.

So here we find ourselves.

Bye Bye Wheels

Yesterday I sold my 2008 Toyota Yaris. That car was damn good to me over the years. It’s seen a lot of this country with me and has never failed me when I needed it. I was in a pensive and grumpy mood when I was closing on selling it because everything about the situation seemed like it was stripping me of my identity and mobility. Yet, it was my idea to sell my car under these circumstances. I could have waited a few more weeks, taken a few more job interviews, or just put it off a little bit longer for maybe more money, but what as I signed the car’s title over and accepted payment, all of my anxiety about the transaction vanished and was replaced with gratitude. I had just sold off the single most valuable asset I owned and I now had what I needed to take the next steps I’ve been planning for so long.

Where I’m Heading

In about a month, I’m planning to move overseas to South Korea to become an ESL teacher for a one year contract. I’ve held off on telling many people I know because I’ve had various potential employers here state-side whom I’ve been speaking with over the past few months and I was sort of just waiting to see if they made me an offer that would convince me that going overseas wasn’t worth it. But, after spending months researching what teaching ESL in South Korea was like and lamenting on a past decision to pass the same opportunity up I realize that this is exactly what I need to do right now in my life. I’ve wanted to do this before and never did it. Now is the time. So, besides selling my car, I figured publicly announcing to the world my intentions to move across the world should seal the deal on my options. Bold action breeds bold results, or so they say!

So, now what? I am car-less for a few weeks and I don’t know my school, city or departure date yet. Figuring out the exact place I’ll be traveling to in October is of utmost importance. I’ll also consider one or two short trips to take that I’ve passed up this year because of various reasons. But, besides that, I’m taking the next 4-5 weeks to essentially deepen my relationships with friends and family before I go. It’s important to me that everyone know exactly where they stand with me leading up to this.

I’m not sure what else to say except that this choice I’m making truly is an expression of who I am and where I am at in life right now. I am trying to live my truth regardless of how it makes me look to others. I’d encourage everyone else to try and do the same, for that matter. Life is too short. You really don’t know what could happen to upset our perfectly laid plans at any moment, so how much true happiness and expression are you willing to put off and sacrifice in order to have a life that appears safe and calm from the outside?

More updates to come on where I’ll be going and when.

College Orientation For Grown-Ups (sorta)

I’ve been running into people I met during Boulder Startup Week around town like you wouldn’t believe lately. It’s so cool and I feel like I’m growing into a community, rather than shifting about the masses in my day to day routine. But, what I find really interesting is the feeling I get when I see someone who I shared a moment with the last time I was in town during Startup Week… it’s like the possibility of sharing ideas and possibly even working with them makes me giddy. It’s not just passing someone by that you saw wasted at a party or bar last weekend, or maybe someone who you see at your office job that you never talk to really. It’s an incentive, even for introverts like myself to ask how someone else is doing that day, see what they’re working on and maybe share a coffee and a few minutes.

For some strange reason, I have particularly strong memories of certain social gatherings as I grew up that signaled a right of passage or new phase of my life. The first Young Writer’s Conference that I ever went to will always feel like it was just yesterday in my mind and the undergraduate orientation I went to at UMass Dartmouth, where I studied my first two years of college is equally fresh in my mind. I was a natural introvert being thrown into a really hectic and fast paced environment meant to be structured enough for people to get what they needed out of it, but also loose enough so that people’s creativity and personalities were not stifled.

I don’t always get this feeling at big events. Typically at over-crowded house parties where I don’t know anyone, I’m ready to take my beer and go sit in the corner if things get too crazy (or I go ahead and get crazy myself) and during massive conferences where people get shuffled around like cattle between speakers and speed networking events, I’d rather go sit outside on the steps and read a book.

The differentiators, in my eyes, is the purpose of what comes after the gathering, probably not so much what goes on during it. The events and goings-on are stimulation to create memories and conversation, but is that enough? Does an event that lasts a few days reverberate in meaningful ways into the future?

I’d say yes, it can.

At the Young Writer’s Conference, i met other people who thought it was okay to be nerdy and geek out about fiction and poetry and I’d see them around and about Worcester writing events or even see them published in local newspapers and literary journals.

College orientation was cool too because everyone’s running around, feeling a new type of freedom from their childhood lives and a complete uncertainty about the future, but you’re still able to bond over exciting classes, clubs to join, road trips to take and maybe who’s going to date who the coming semester. Then you see these people around campus for the rest of the year, you maybe even become good friends with them and spend four years with them… maybe more.

I feel like as adults, we miss feelings from our youth that seem entirely lost. I even have a tendency of forgetting entire events or feelings associated with them because I figure what’s the point in dwelling over it if I can’t have it anymore? I’m trying to conjure up more of these memories and feelings as I’m wading through this new life that I’m making for myself.

I had a hunch I’d be moving to Boulder a long time ago. So, when I run into people who I chatted with at a social gathering over a month ago and they remember my name, what I do and congratulate me on moving to Boulder, it makes me even more excited for the semesters… nyet… months and years ahead and where these friendships, potential jobs, gigs and good times will take me.

How Many Times is The Charm In Colorado?

The difference between feeling like you belong somewhere and thinking, “well, I guess I could make it this work” is really night and day.It’s taken me more than once to figure that out and I hold onto that feeling whenever a level of comfort comes over me in a certain atmosphere.

Colorado, my family and my friends in it have been incredibly good to me since I touched down this Tuesday. I’m honestly having more fun than I’ve had in a very, very long time. I am grateful for that.

Looking forward to the coming weeks to see where I’m going to be working next. I see hope for some really interesting possibilities.

As for this thin air, it’s definitely keeping me tired this late at night, so before I fall over, I’m going to go to bed and accept these short paragraphs. Hope everyone’s having an awesome week.

J.R. Phone Home

I’m getting asked quite a bit in the past few days about what I’m going to do and where I’m going to go. All I can say for sure is that I plan to do something and go somewhere outside of Madison, WI. My friends here know and have known for sometime that Madison wasn’t on my list of places to settle and I knew that after spending only a little bit of time here. It’s kind of amazing that I’ve been here only about 5 months. Seems like it’s been a lot longer.

In the past few days, despite battling a stomach virus that won’t quit, I’ve had an outpouring of support and job leads from people within my network that I can only say is beyond amazing. Honestly, I am so grateful for all of the emails and blog comments. It’s giving me strength to keep on with my positive outlook and grab this situation by the horns and make it work for me.

I see big things happening for me in the next couple of weeks. I’ll be keeping people updated too. I don’t know if I am moving or where I’ll be moving yet, however I may just wind up in your neck of the woods. Be prepared! 😀

Who The Hell Are YOU?! (and where’s Waldo?)

A test I found today and didn’t get to take because I had too much to do at work… let’s see how accurate or useful it is.

I love these tests because every once in a while they confirm what I really always knew about myself OR they shock the hell out of me and make me question certain assumptions I have made.

This is one of those tests that kind of confirms what I already knew, to a degree.

So apparently Madison isn’t the right place for me on the long term. Not hugely surprised at that. But considering I moved out here for a job, I’m relatively content with that fact.

From how I answered the questions, it seems like NYC or San Francisco are on the lists of places I should really consider checking out the next time I relocate, along with Portland Oregon. My love affair with Portland, Maine however was a false one when I answered the questions honestly.

To tell the truth, this test kind of sucked and I’m not that excited about the results. I’ve heard a lot of this Florida fellow’s books, so I may still check them out, but I really don’t see this test as being anything more than a SWOT analysis.

Anyways, I’m curious about what you all thought about this test and if you got any interesting results. It’s probably hard to get anything too unexpected due to the fact that you’re working within parameters that you choose.. but let me know either way.

My Idea Of An Active City

I always get thrown off a little bit by the “Most Active Cities” in the U.S. lists. I’m fascinated by the mix of urban areas and “hip” suburban places that seem to have the fittest, most attractive and most single young people. As a less-than-fit, but very single person who’s interested in living a more active lifestyle, I sometimes find myself believing that living in these places with lots of active folks is just what I need to get back outside and back into shape.

I’m more careful about that assumption these days though. I plopped myself into a city that is supposedly quite active, but I’m starting to see the dynamics of who is active, why they’re active and why I seem to still struggle to get in my car and drive several miles to an uber-gym. Madison, as a city, is as close to bordering suburban lifestyle and mindset as I’ve seen. I wonder if it’s a Midwest thing?

I lived in Boston for a pretty long time and took public transportation during most of my time there before I needed to move out of the city limits for financial reasons. As I recall back through the peaks and valleys of my life and the levels of physical fitness I was able to achieve, I recall my best physical shape being when I was working and going to school in the city and using my feet, my bicycle or even public transport to get around. I had basically the same diet, the same drinking habits and an even better social life than I’ve had in some time.

The simple incentive to get off my ass and walk out my door into my neighborhood probably enabled me to burn more calories than I could by going to the gym 2 times a week and doing light cardio. No matter where I’m living, the levels to which I’ll go stir crazy in my residence is alarming and when I start dreaming up things to do to stay busy, the options are usually a) unhealthy and b) expensive.

I know there’s a lot to be said for skiing or snowboarding as an active and fun thing to do, or going hiking for a half day to burn off energy. Those things both sound amazing to me actually. However, growing up I simply didn’t do much of the getting in a car and driving off someplace at least a half hour away to have fun.

I grew up in a city and tended to go outside and walk to the park and mess around there. Snowboarding is something I’ve been trying to pickup for years because I always felt like I was missing out on something growing up when all my friends were doing it. While we really couldn’t afford  that sort of recreation, my mom took me and my sister around the city a lot to do fun things and that’s where I find myself most comfortable.

So, my point is that if you’re already active, have a car and enjoy driving a distance to go and have your fun outside, certain cities will be better than others. If you’re foot or bike bound, like I want to be, simply walking around the city and having an easy access to green space is the kind of active area I’m looking for. If I can get to work, the grocery store and most other places safely via foot or bike as well, PERFECT!

On The Move – Relocation Perspectives From An Introverted Creative

I’d like to attempt to offer up some considerations for introverted creative who are about to relocate to an area they’ve never seen before. To up-and move-somewhere sight unseen is always a little risky because you can never quite gather what the real atmosphere of a place is before you’ve experienced it for yourself. The kinds of lists you’ll see published by Fortune Magazine or Money are useful in gaining a broad understanding of what the economic and social landscape is like in a certain part of the country.

Certain facts are hard to argue with qualitative arguments. When you read that a certain area’s residents commonly have a total daily commute time of 2 hours, that’s a good indication that you’re probably going to need a car and be willing to spend lots of time in it. If you read that there is 12% unemployment, you had better be willing to come in with your job connections well mapped out and spend your savings, if you have any savings at all.

Other considerations that should be taken seriously are how your day to day activities will translate into a new environment. Certain habits are formed out of boredom or convenience and really can be disposable for a better situation elsewhere. However, a lot of people, such as myself, get quite a bit of satisfaction out of simple features of urban living that are accessible to varying degrees throughout the country.

I’m a really huge fan of coffee shops. I like to write, read and generally veg out when I’m not working and having a good place to do that outside of my home is important to me. I’m not a particularly social person when I’m out at a coffee shop aside from the polite “hello, how are you” to the baristas and regulars that I see often. I get a lot out of the peace and quiet achieved in my brain that only comes from being surrounded by a lot of people talking in unison. I also enjoy this sort of atmosphere, to a degree, while taking public transportation.

Coffee shop, or “third place” culture is important because understanding how to integrate a coffee shop into your everyday life with minimal stress of driving from one place to another is key in order to keep the mind flowing, creative and accessible to an outlet. If you need to get in your car and drive several miles to a coffee shop, that’s not really part of your neighborhood lifestyle or community. It’s separate. For some people, this is good, but for me, I feel like I need the important things in my life close and readily accessible.

My Village

I guess I know enough about myself to know where I find the most peace of mind, the most productivity and the most curiosity and interest in life on a day to day basis. I’ve lived in quite a few different places within Massachusetts and beyond and I have to say that the common denominators of happy day to day living were associated with what I like to call village living.

Moving from apartment to apartment thoughout Boston, I seemed to always gravitate to places that were within a few blocks of the MBTA. I went to school downtown and some of the jobs I had were downtown as well. Doing the early morning routine has never been easy for me, but I’ve also realized that in order to squeeze the most juice out of every single day, I needed to take a few hours here and there. So, getting up early to workout or get writing done was the best way for me to gain momentum in a given direction.

The MBTA isn’t a glorious public transport system by any means, but you can get pretty much anywhere within the city limits by train and bus in about an hour and a half. This sounds like a hassle to people who prefer driving, but part of my city living was being productive while on train rides. Whether it was reading a book or two a week on my commute or writing or researching jobs or grad schools, I was always able to zone out and get stuff done to and from work.

When I got my first real, full time, salaried job in Newton, I made my initial move out of the city to a semi-suburb. Newton is pretty cool and has a decent amount to do, but I opted to buy a car.

The following years, I progressively moved away from my public transportation lifestyle. I moved home to Worcester twice because of a failed relocation to Chicago and some financial difficulty. I found myself living 40 miles from work and commuting up to 4 hours a day in my car for a job that wasn’t much better paying than any of the ones I had in the city. I gravitated towards this because I thought I was making positive career choices.

In hindsight, I wouldn’t have wound up in the job I love now if I hadn’t made these steps, but I’m also realizing that to play to my natural tendency to walk places and take public transportation, that I’ll want to live in a place where my work and home are close enough for me to not have to travel and distance by car between them.

People I look up to who have things that I want for myself like a house, a dog and a back yard have told me time and time again that the more I grow up, the less that living in a city will appeal to me, especially when I decide to get married and have a family. I still wonder if I can have the things I want in life and still live my village lifestyle.

What do you value location and lifestyle wise? What kind of sacrifices have you made to have one over the other? How do you see yourself having a balance of both?

My Ongoing Story With The Peace Corps

Two years ago I decided to sign up for the Peace Corps. I had studied abroad, learned Czech, found the job market blew when I graduated and was looking for a general “out” that would expand my horizons. I happened to be in a relationship at the time, but throughout that period, I had acted upon my desires to improve my life rather than prolong the relationship. I had my priorities, albeit slightly contradictory, that I started to follow through on. At the time I was working for an elderly human services agency just outside of Boston and was getting restless in the job I held. So, I told my friends, family, girlfriend (at the time) and employer that I was going to the Peace Corps.

The process to sign up and interview all took around 3 months. I searched for placements and graduate programs around the program for about 6 months, so the process was really long. I got a tentative assignment in Moldova, a former Soviet occupied state and I was super pumped. I had wanted to go to a Russian or Slavic based language assignment because of my background with Czech, I felt I’d adapt more quickly that to Spanish, Chinese or some other foreign tongue.

As the process moved along, I was in disbelief that it was actually happening so smoothly. I met a woman at a New Years party who is now in South America doing Peace Corps work and hers went smoothly too. Too good to be true? Well, I did get the call I wasn’t wanting to hear; the background check came in and they saw an incident from when I was 17. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong people to be around. Dumb teenager stuff really, but I did get in trouble with some townie police outside of Worcester and was later acquitted completely. But, this dumb incident was still on my record and they needed all sorts of paperwork and legal stuff to make a decision to whether I’d be accepted or not. I was really crushed because I felt my past had come back to haunt me in the way I knew it would some day.

So, I “gave up.” Not in the positive way that Seth Godin talks about in “The Dip,” but rather I shirked away from taking a couple days off from work and driving back to the hillbilly town that arrested me and getting all my paperwork and legal documents in order. I told myself that all the effort to do that wouldn’t be rewarded, so why bother?

Well, two years later and here I am, losing sleep over it. My friend in the military is thinking about doing a Peace Corps stint after his next tour of duty and he’s really adamant I at least try to follow through once more on getting an assignment abroad with PC. With this economy the way it is, why not? I’m 25, I’ve got no unbreakable commitments outside of the ones to myself at the moment and this is something I’ve always wanted to do.

So, I’m re-applying to join the Peace Corps. I’m doing what needs to be done and leaving no stones unturned in the fulfillment of my life. Wish me luck!

The Best Cities For Gen Y: The Ones We Haven’t Been To Yet

For those of you who may have checked out the latest edition of the Brazen Community Newsletter there was a link to another top list of places where generation Y folks would fit well. Two cities that I have lived in are on the list and I find it amusing, yet semi-confusing how these lists are accurately compiled and how most Gen Y’ers feel about them.

I’m going out on a limb and stating that cost-of-living compared to the availability of living wage jobs with a mixture of culture and diversity makes the best city for a Generation Y person such as myself. Boston rocks, but it is expensive as sin to live in and the jobs for a creative person aren’t so easy to come by. Worcester, a city further down the list that I happen to live in now is cool too; plenty of culture, diversity and things to do, but no jobs! Most people in Worcester need to travel outside of the city to Boston or the burbs.

I say the best place to live is the place I haven’t lived yet where I find a kick ass job and can afford my own place and go out for an art show, hip-hop concert and good meal every once in a while. I’d also like to be able to walk around safely and ride my bike places! That’s what I want.

Any suggestions?