journey, Musing, Tribute

Journey’s End Week 7: What’s Next?

“It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.” – William Shakespeare


One month. As such, I feel it is time to talk about the future. And yet, how? It is rare that I find myself saying “I don’t know” and without a plan to find the answer. I seek answers that don’t yet exist. For all my wisdom I cannot escape the uncertainty of the unknown, the chaos of life. My entire college career has been finding ways to expedite growth. I’ve read book after book, performed task after task, with the goal of always moving forward. And yet now I stand. Where once any path would do, I now see many paths, each of which leads to its own rewards. And there in lies the problem. It’s not a problem of lack of choice but rather that there are too many choices… And perhaps more so, the crippling fear that if I chose one, a door closes, locked, never to be open again. What was once clear is now not so certain.

Any port in a storm will do… Life is a storm. From the day we are born till the day we die we are swept up in its majesty. Every storm has an eye and it is through that eye that we can see what might be safe harbor. In the far distance you see a lighthouse, its shining beacon beckoning for you to follow… Yet what do you do when you see thousands of different lighthouses? In one journey I see myself going back to Germany and traveling around the world for the next decade. Another I see myself climbing the corporate ladder with the hope of one day being a CEO. Another starting my own company. And another writing a book.


This week I decided to tackle this question head on. This is the end of my College journey… College is a time to invest in yourself and that I’ve done. One of my greatest investments has been in spending time with my professors and the College of Business advisers. I used to force myself to go and talk to professors, back when I couldn’t hold a conversation. And over the years I’ve come to internalize the advice my professors gave me. Yet what advice is there to give when you know yourself? When I was a Freshman it was easy. Any advice would do. I had an idea what success was and I would simply listen. Whatever my professors/advisers told me, i’d do. At the time it didn’t seem like much. I went in not because I necessarily sought knowledge but rather simply because I wanted someone to talk to. There’s something comforting in listening to someone who has achieved mastery… A voice of reason in a world of chaos…

So the questions I asked when I went in this last week were “are you happy” and “do you have any regrets”? The overarching theme was “why”? “How do you know”? This was not so much a time to ask how best to live my life but rather to listen to stories. Imagine the future as a painting. A masterpiece has  many layers. Some use broad strokes while others paint with excruciating detail. Both are beautiful and while they serve the same purpose (expression), each is distinctly unique. That is life. A splash of color here, a splash of color there… What might look like chaos to some may hold beauty to others…

Perhaps the most powerful insight from talking one last time to my professors was that I do not necessarily have to choose. That I could be a CEO, travel, and write. While not a profound insight, I’ve often found that it is the simplest of things that make for great life philosophies. As much as I love to go with the flow and keep an open mind, I also like to nudge myself in the right direction. It can be easier to think it is this or that,  but life of course is never that simple…


A Proper Goodbye

As this chapter of my life closes and I begin a new chapter, I’ve been taking time to be grateful for the life I’ve lived. I’ve been taking long walks around campus and have taken a lot of time to reflect on my experience as a whole. I’ve learned to simply live in the moment and not let my past or future consume me. I’ve never been great with goodbyes so in general I avoid them. When my Aunt was diagnosed with cancer years ago I always thought that she would beat it. I watched from a distance as her health deteriorated and always smiled at the fact that despite the cancer, she always made sure everyone around her felt loved. She is the reason my family is so close and my time spent with her are some of my most cherished memories. The last few years of her life, when she was really sick, I refused to go see her in the hospital. Instead I’d have my Mom tell her what I was doing. It was easier than facing the reality of the situation. I remember praying and having the utmost faith in God that he would heal and make her better. I was angry when it seemed like the rest of the family had given up, that somehow by going to the hospital they didn’t believe she would recover… I would pray harder… Perhaps it was naive to think… Nothing prepares you for death… And of course I remember the night we received the phone call that my Aunt had passed away… It felt like a bad dream…

Then came the memorial service… I wasn’t quite sure how to react. I kept my head down and avoided eye contact. It was easier. I remember feeling shame, that tinge of guilt that came with not going to the hospital to say a proper goodbye. And yet my last memory of my Aunt will always be that of going to the zoo, a little before she passed. I don’t regret my decision as I’d rather celebrate her life and while I can’t say for certain that seeing her barely able to move, barely able to talk and in pain in a hospital bed would tarnish my memory of her, I’m glad that’s not my last memory of her. I tried to take the best of her and live my life in accordance. For me, that was her positive attitude, to look at a situation and find the good rather than the bad. And that was her message at the memorial service. Before she died, she had recorded a message telling us to smile, that her pain was over and that she was in Heavens Kingdom now. While I don’t remember the exact words I still remember that moment…

Last year I was the Service Chair for my Fraternity. One of our last events for the year was Relay for Life. We raised Hundreds of dollars and had an outstanding member turnout. I wanted to pay tribute to my Aunt then but it just didn’t feel right. Like I said, I’ve never been great with goodbyes. So come this year, I made it my goal that no matter what, I’d pay tribute to my Aunt. To find the perfect way to express my love and do a proper goodbye. And while we had fewer members this year and even fewer come to the ceremony, it was a special moment that I’m glad I got to share with a friend. It was the first time I’ve talked about my Aunt since her death. The mood was somber when we had the luminaria ceremony. We listened to a 17 year old cancer survivor and then heard some of the most beautiful music I’ve heard in my entire life. After that we walked around, looking at the different tributes people had written for their loved ones. And after we found mine, my friend left and I took one final lap, stopping to say a proper goodbye before heading out into the night…

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That’s a wrap! Thanks for reading!

Travel, Tribute

Germany: The road less traveled, now more traveled

So, Germany. This has been a hard last week. I still remember the first day I arrived. I was absolutely terrified. Had it not been for my fellow Oregon State students, I don’t think I would’ve made it out of the airport. Yesterday? I navigated the airport with ease. I booked a train, took a bus, and then caught a flight to Chicago and then a transfer to Portland. Absolutely no problems. And now that I’m back in the United States, it feels extremely weird. I actually feel like a foreigner! That’s something I never expected. But if you saw me now, you’d see my demeanor is completely different. Not only do I act different, I also speak and look very different than the last time you saw me. I’ve been mistaken as Australian, British, French, and German during my time over here (now there). So how was my last day? It was sad. The moment I went to city hall to say I was leaving was the moment it really hit me that this was it. 4 months were over and it was time for me to go. The flat I had spent living in for 4 months was empty, everyone trickling out one by one until there was me. I arrived with others yet the final stretch of my journey was taken alone. A fitting, if not somewhat somber end to what has been an absolutely fantastic experience. And my night? That was spent in the red light district. Now, before your imagination runs wild, that’s where I booked my hostel because it was a 4 minute walk to the train station and the hostel itself got good reviews. So…

I’ll Tell you all about it when I see you again…

Goodbyes. I hate goodbyes. Goodbyes are messy, awkward, and almost always never fun. A genuine goodbye? Heartbreaking. Now imagine yourself spending 4 months together with a group of individuals. Taking class together, living together, eating together, and hanging out together. You did pretty much everything with these people. And then? In a heartbeat, it all comes screeching to an end. That’s me. I had fun till the bitter end. Heck, I spent my last week in Berlin! But the goodbyes… Once someone starts crying everyone starts crying. Normally I just get choked up, you may even see tears start to form. But to straight up bawl my eyes out? That is extremely rare for me. We had our “official” goodbyes a few weeks ago, where I said goodbye to most of my German friends. That was extremely hard. Then came the non-Germans. The first to leave was my roommate, Javi. That was painful. I was upset but didn’t cry. The next to leave was Florian. That was when I started to really get choked up but still didn’t cry. At that point I was starting to feel pretty sad; luckily after a few days I left for my first (and last) solo trip, Berlin. There I caught up with an old buddy that I hadn’t seen in a few years and that was extremely refreshing. When I came back? Almost everyone was gone. Thank God Derick was there. We grabbed a few beers and chatted about the term for our last few days. And then? Derick was gone. So on Wednesday after I told city hall I was leaving, I wandered back home, sat down, and realized everyone was gone. And what did I do? I absolutely cried. I must’ve cried for a good hour. And then? I was gone. As quickly as I came, I left. So… what now?

Journey’s End

Of course, that was extremely depressing, so I can’t end there! So… memories. Years ago I heard that you may forget what someone says to you, but you’ll never forget how someone made you feel. And I have to say, I’ve never felt happier. My experience abroad has absolutely changed me. When I arrived, I was the shy, socially awkward guy who as a good friend told me, his first impression of me was that I was “weird”. That same friend was also willing to pay me 5 euros on our first trip to go talk to a cute girl at the train station. Of course, I refused and almost jumped in front of the train to save me from the horror of talking to a girl. In Paris, the city of love, another good friend told me to go talk to three cute girls in front of the Eiffel tower and what did I do? I literally ran. And then… in Berlin. Well, let’s just say Berlin was a lot of fun. My love life aside, that is just a small taste of how much I’ve changed. Another friend has described me as being a caged animal being set free and I think that sums it up perfectly. What’s more is, I could’ve of never done this alone. While I may have not learned how to become a cool girl, I think I learned how to become a cool guy. I was surrounded by cool people, so it only makes sense. In the U.S I was a tense dude, preferring to give you a handshake rather than a hug. But with a little help from my friends, I learned to relax and simply enjoy the present moment. It really is hard to believe it’s over. But how these lovely people made me feel… That, I’ll never forget. And every time I feel alone… I can always look back and remember that I’m not alone.

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See you Later