Journey’s End Week 4: Baby Don’t Hurt Me

“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” -Abraham Lincoln


So, my 69th post on WordPress… What better topic than love? Love is a complicated subject. Part of my goal for this series is to express some of my vulnerabilities, something I’ve never bothered with the entirety of my college experience. I see vulnerability as a weakness, something for people to use and exploit. I’ve spent the longest time learning to love myself and in order to express vulnerability, you must first build yourself up otherwise you’ll be crushed into oblivion.

If I had touched these topics years ago, I would’ve been labeled a social outcast, a loser. Not that it would make that much of a difference because people just saw that kid who played too many video games. When I would have a conversation, it’d most likely be about video games and people would say, “oh, that’s cool” and then walk away. I never fully embraced who I was and that’s a mistake I hope you don’t have to repeat. Whatever you like, be proud of it and love it. Life is too short to care about what other people think… Ah, If only it were that simple… And especially when it comes to love.

Love is all you need

So as I will emphasize throughout my posts, I have changed a lot since I’ve gotten to college. And I’ve more or less seen it all. I suppose I’ve always had a vision, some distant mountain that others can’t see. And I’ve been a hopeless romantic since day one. My love life has seen more mistakes than it has ever seen successes. I’ve stumbled, fallen, and then love has beaten me with a stick and not in a fun way. But I’ve learned, I’ve evolved. Each time my heart has been torn out and shattered, I’ve taken notes. It’s never been what they did wrong, it’s always been what can I do better? Don’t underestimate the power of theory. I have been mocked for waiting so long to date and yet… When I do, I understand. And I’ve gotten, well, let’s just say I’ve gotten some interesting results. Dating should be fun, not stressful. And if a woman (or whatever rocks your boat) gives you that sweet siren call, strategize. Do you know how ship captains died? They followed the Sirens calls into rocks or got dragged into the depths of the Big Blue. Don’t be that person, I’ve learned this the hard way. Even if a girl is rubbing against you, violating you, and doing God knows what, don’t fall for the trap. Instead pull out your notebook. Why? Because one day you will have control. I’ve spent years reprogramming who I was only to have that thrown out the window every time a cute girl locked eyes with mine.

People are…

Shitty. Sorry to offend, but it’s true. I will say, while good intentioned, peoples actions don’t necessarily reflect what they say (or believe). If you don’t believe me, just look around. It’s not hard to find. People over commit and then fail everyone. People have an issue with saying no, they say maybe instead. Yes and no are much simpler. Instead, you have to play the courting game. And especially in college, it’s a free-for-all. Friends turn against friends and what was once true now isn’t. Those who seal the deal have to fight and all I have to say is, “does the end justify the means”? And I should add; if you’ve won the battle, that does not mean you’ve won the war. You must be constantly improving otherwise the relationship will stagnate and wither. Maybe you get lucky, maybe you find your true love in pre-school or whatever fairy tale you live in.  For the rest… You’re in the trenches only to realize you’re fighting a pointless war. The greatest tragedy of this conflict is time. There is only one person you need to love and that’s yourself. Spend time with yourself in the mirror, smile and remember how great you are.  Having someone to cuddle with is great, but it is not an end all, be all.

How am I still single?

The question that must keep many up at night (so I like to think). The answer is quite simple. By choice. I like myself and don’t want to share. I’ve always waited for the right girl to come along and by the time I had the social skills to woo the ladies, it happens to be my last term of college. Most find love their first few years of college and in a sense I did. My only focus was to love myself and I accomplished that. Like I’ve said before, time is the most valuable resource we have and I spent almost all of it on myself. So if you’re ever worried about finding love, don’t be. Just enjoy the present moment and blaze your own trail. If you’re always moving forward, you’ll have no need to look back. Thanks for reading!


Feel free to share any stories below! Nothing to crazy though, at the end of the day I still have to keep this blog somewhat professional.

Journey’s End

Here it is, the beginning of the end. 5 years and here I stand, at the finish line. Hard to believe. College in the U.S. is far from easy and many talented individuals often aren’t afforded the opportunity simply because of the price tag. Even at minimum wage, unlike our parents, we cannot pay off our debt. So it comes down to a matter of luck. And while it hasn’t always seemed like it, I’ve been extremely lucky. And I’m grateful for that. I want to take time to document my last term, much in the way I documented my time spent in Germany. It’s a bitter-sweet ending. I’m sad to go but at the same time I’m excited to start a new chapter.

The College Experience

All too often I feel the experience of the college student is often overlooked, undervalued. We are seen as young and still figuring out the world, so why should we be given the time of day? And perhaps this will change, but if I read an article about college students, more often than not it’s not written by a college student. That’s a shame. When I started blogging as a Freshman, the purpose was to give myself a voice when it felt like I had none. Over the years I’ve acquired more and more influence, little by little and now… I can look back and see the legacy I’ve created. My work, the relationships I’ve built… I can finally be proud, to take a moment to breathe. And the more I’ve changed, the more I’ve realized I’ve stayed the same. My core essence is still here, I have simply cleaned the clutter. And who am I? I’m a good man. I came to college to be a better person and while I’ll always be refining, I’m happy with the progress I’ve made.

The Fork in the road

It wasn’t always this way. Confidence. Confidence can’t be read, it must be experienced. Eventually everyone will have to make this choice, do you want to be “good enough” or do you want to be great? My cross country coach once said, “do you want to be mediocre kid”? And you know what I said? I said yes. Why? Because it was comfortable. And I remember my last race, my senior year of High School. It had been an exhausting season and there was a moment during the race where I could’ve pushed myself beyond my limits and I chose not to. And while it was a good race (ran a 5k in 19:25), it could’ve been a great race. And that’s when the idea started to manifest, the idea that maybe I wasn’t OK with being mediocre kid. So what did I do when I got to college? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I wasn’t a good student and in fact took pride in not trying hard, to simply blend in. I stopped running and simply existed. When I had no base, I used to always say, “what would Mr.E think of me now”? So what changed? Obviously I didn’t stay mediocre kid.


My Freshman year I was simply surviving. I was by every definition a mess. Angry, Ashamed, Sad; the list goes on. In addition I was very moody and not easy to get along with. I was selfish and thought the world owed me everything. So come my Sophomore year, I suppose I became the wise fool. I found a job and was able to increase my standard of living just a little bit. I could buy what I wanted and discovered coffee for the first time. I started exercising again and while I still struggled, I had come a long way since my Freshman year. Then came the betrayal. How easily one moment you can be on top of the world only to watch your kingdom crumble because it was built on a foundation of sand. So what happened?

 Growing up

I’ve been in school since the age of 3. Since I’ve been able to form a memory, I’ve been in the system. And while I’ve had friends my entire life, I’ve never felt like I truly fit in. I’ve always preferred to have a few close friends yet for the longest time I’ve tried so hard to impress everyone. The friends I had I often took for granted and I’ll admit I haven’t always been the charmer I am now. By my Sophomore year of college I was vulnerable. I cherished my friends and started appreciating them a lot more. I remember thinking to myself how lucky I was that I still had any friends. My Freshman year I had made very few friends and was extremely lonely. That trend continued well into my Sophomore year and as such, I was a man stuck in the past. I held onto the friends that stuck with me, through thick and thin. And then… One of my best friends, a week after we reconnected the summer of my Sophomore year, denounced me. He criticized every mistake I made in high school and said he was done. He said my life wasn’t heading anywhere and that I simply didn’t listen to my friends. I didn’t even realize at the time that was who I was. I was angry. And then I asked a simple question, why? Why was I so angry? And then I realized that he was right. I was alone and I was afraid to be anything more than mediocre. I took the easy road and had no purpose. I was stuck in the past, holding on to friends who had moved on with their lives and I was left behind. So, in this moment, what was once one road, diverged and became two.

And what did I do? I took the one less traveled, and that has made all the difference. Two choices, I could continue down the path of mediocrity or I could step into the unknown and seek success (which I had always sought but never laid the groundwork to achieve). So I quit my job and went to the career success center and asked, “how do I be successful”? And what was I given? A list. It said go to the career fairs, create a Linkedin, draft a resume, join management club. So, I went to management club.

Put yourself in an environment of success

This rule has served me well. If I wanted success, all I had to do was be around successful people. Easy enough, right? It took years. The first year of management club a sat and observed. I was too afraid to talk back then, so I simply listened. I went to every meeting, every event and let the success rub off on me. And to speed up the process, I joined the business fraternity on campus the term after I joined management club. I can smile now but at the time this was a big deal, as successful individuals intimidated me. And then came the leadership roles. Little Mike, who always followed others, decided to run for leadership positions! And that’s when I became the success I sought. And yet my success buried me.

Germany

So I devised a plan. I took time to step back and ask, “How do I want to finish”? The leadership roles were phase one, as I knew I would either fail spectacularly or rise to the challenge. I knew however, this would not be enough. Phase two? Germany. My leadership roles were meant to develop talent and while they helped with confidence, they could not help with independence. So what better way to become independent than to throw yourself in a foreign country for four months?  If you’ve heard “#NewhairNewMike”, this was my personal re-branding. My entire life I have had scraggly hair because I have a scar on the back of my head, afraid of others judgement should I cut it too short. So while it may not have seemed like a huge deal to an outsider, my haircut in Germany was symbolic of my new found confidence and a reflection of my personal growth. The Mike that left for study abroad is not the Mike that came back. So now comes phase 3, which I have called my retirement. This is my polish phase. After achieving independence, I’m now taking a step back to ask, “what do I want”?

My entire life has been shaped around what I think I ought to do, not what I want to do. And on that note, I will add that this philosophy has served me well. I have been criticized for not being myself and while the comment has good intent, I take issue with it. I was a MESS when I first got to college, had I simply been myself, I would have failed. The only reason I have made it as far as I have is because I chose to mimic who I viewed to be successful. Or by observing the mistakes of those who failed and seeking to rise above. Had I tried to be myself as a Freshman, I would probably be living in my parent’s basement playing video games. Why? Because I had no idea who I was back then and I still don’t know. By trying to be someone else, I was able to realize who I wasn’t and am just now starting to realize who I am. So, if you’re stuck, don’t try to find yourself, create yourself. Go find the successful and do what they do. Then, when you’re ready, you can find yourself.

Phase 3 is about finding myself and realizing that with all the success I’ve achieved, I am not invincible. Everyone is the hero of their own story yet ambition blinds you. And for as many strengths as I have, overconfidence is my weakness. The world brought me to my knees this term and I’m glad. It made me realize how beautifully flawed I am. With all this talk of success you’d think I’d frown on failure. Yet quite the opposite is true. We learn best through our mistakes and the more successful you become, the less you feel you can make them. But I am here to tell you that is bull. Success is built on failure. The more we fail, the more we succeed. We learn through mistakes and it shouldn’t be any other way. Mistakes are the fun part of life, the challenge. There’s a beauty in mastery but by it’s definition mastery means you’re done, that you’ve made your mistakes and learned from them. If we didn’t fail, success would lose it’s value. Because we fail, we are able to enjoy victory all the more, when we finally do cross the finish line. So don’t be afraid to fail.

Grit

Grit is a word you don’t hear too often and it’s something not everyone has. In the college of business there’s a lot of polish. Children groomed for success at an early age and seeing adversity through the looking glass. Because of this grooming, these children often are ready to navigate the chaos that is the college experience and they secure leadership roles along with internships their Freshman year. Because of this, they are able to build on that foundation and often receive jobs with the big companies that a lot of people seem to drool over by the time they graduate. Some might get mad at my saying this as it seemingly undermines the hard work and effort these individuals may put in, but it’s the truth. Very few acknowledge the factor of luck and until that day, I’ll keep mentioning the influence of luck. It’s nothing to be ashamed of but it needs to be understood that some may work hard and be incredibly unlucky. People are quick to judge yet too few take the time to understand. My philosophy is everyone has a story, the least you could do is listen.

What about myself? Well, I’ve been stuck in the middle my entire life yet since I’ve arrived at college, I have very much been on my own. I’ve gone from the lowest of the low and didn’t realize until recently that I am now considered a “top achiever”. When did this happen? Little by little, over the course of five years. Had I not gone to college, my life would be very different right now. What’s my secret? It’s how I’ve dealt with adversity.  Optimists don’t survive in this world, they die off. It’s realists with the knowledge that they will prevail that survive and thrive. Optimists turn a blind eye to reality, choosing to see an ideal world and are ill-equipped when the puzzle pieces don’t fit. Realists find solutions to problems and build road maps to get there. They don’t ignore the world for what it is but they actively seek to level the playing field. How do I know? I’ve gone from pessimist to optimist to realist as I’ve grown throughout my time spent in college. And I love telling people how it is (which people don’t always like to hear) and then telling them step by step how it can be better.

Grit has come about from the ashes of my best laid plans. I came into college spoiled and college has been kind enough to slap me around until I’m down and then continue kicking me until at points I’ve been choking on my own blood (metaphorically, of course). That’s grit. Most frustration in life comes from expectations and people unwilling to adapt when shit hits the fan. What people don’t realize is that the future is malleable, that your future has many possibilities. Grit is your ability to get back up, to stand firm while the storm rages on. In the beginning it’s tough but in the end, experience enough adversity and you can walk through Hell with a smile. There is nothing that I haven’t already seen and I’m glad. Grit builds confidence and resolve. I can look back and see how well I’ve dealt with adversity, where at the time I nearly drowned in my own misfortune. So appreciate the good and the bad, the headwinds and the tailwinds.

What’s Left?

Plenty. I’ve kept raising the bar for myself so now I stand at the top of the mountain. For some, reaching the summit may signal the end but for me there’s always more mountains to climb. I’ve gotten the most out of college and am ready to tackle the world. What was once a dream is now a reality and 3 months will fly by. I’m excited to spend my last term writing about my experiences.


If you have questions about college, I’m here to help! Post in the comments and I’ll try my best to answer any questions you might have. Freshman, Senior in High School, Adult? It doesn’t matter, feel free to ask away! And as always, thanks for reading!

Germany: Around the world in 90 days

“Do the things you fear most and the death of fear is certain” – Mark Twain



The Road less Traveled

So it’s been a little over 2 months since I first arrived in Germany. A lot of my posts these past few months have been concerning travel. I’ve been to Paris, Strasbourg, Amsterdam, Bavaria, Mannheim, Frankfurt, etc. I’ve been traveling most weekends and haven’t really had time to reflect on the experience as a whole.

Before this experience, I had rarely traveled outside of Oregon. And in fact, I had barely spent time exploring my home city of Portland. I lived in a very tiny bubble. I remember the spark that planted the seed of adventure, the desire to see the world. By chance, I got a letter in the mail from an organization called “People to People” to be a student ambassador for non other than bowling (fun fact: I was in a bowling league for 10 years and president of my high school bowling club). Had I gone, I would’ve traveled to the Netherlands and competed with kids from all over the globe, but alas, it was not meant to be. Yet since that moment, I have waited for the day when the planets aligned and I could finally travel. That day never came, so I said “you know what, [insert expletive here] it, I’m going anyway”. Originally the idea was to travel to South America, as I was taking Spanish at the time and wanted to improve my Spanish while immersing myself in the culture. Yet I kept pushing the trip aside until, surprise, I was a Freshman in college. Then life happened, I grew up, started focusing on my career, and became highly involved around campus. Then I had a choice.

I could focus my energy on graduation, to have a diploma in my hand and a real sense of security, or I could push graduation back a few terms and go abroad. Not an easy decision. But as fate would have it, I decided to take summer classes a year ago. And during that time, there was an info session. And I remembered. 8 years ago, the excitement I felt when I was asked to travel to the Netherlands, the disappointment when I found out I couldn’t go. The years of Spanish, the desire to immerse myself in another culture. So I finally decided I would say yes. No matter what, I would go abroad. And here I am. Is it everything I dreamed it would be? It is. It is the single best decision I’ve made in my entire life. I’m not going to lie and say it was smooth sailing from that point out. In fact, it was anything but. As confident as I sound now, I had a lot of anxiety and reservation even after I made the commitment to myself. There were many times when I was ready to drop the program, when I wanted to say I had too much on my plate and I simply couldn’t afford to take a term abroad. But I asked myself, “When all is said and done, do I want to live a life of regrets”? To always wonder what would’ve been had I gone abroad. And that’s all I needed. A reminder that this was the next step in my journey. That, wherever life takes me, let it be forward. So why Germany?


Germany

Maybe it was all the history channel I watched as a kid, the pure fascination with the world and the association of Europe with cultural heritage. Perhaps it was the fabled rumors of delicious beer, beer that far surpasses any beer in America. Or it might of been the allure of magical castles or simply the idea itself (to experience something new). Yet if I’m to be honest, there were a few main reasons I chose Germany.

It’s centrally located

Want to spend a weekend in Paris? No problem. A weekend in Austria, the Netherlands, Belgium, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Italy? Absolutely no problem. In fact, London and Ireland are a short flight away as well. If you’re looking for easy travel, look no further than Germany.

It’s got history

Mosbach, while small, is the perfect embodiment when you think of a German town. Each building… Well… Just take a look for yourself. This is Mosbach and I’m actually living here! No joke, it’s pretty much straight out of a fairy tale. Oktoberfest is pretty cool as well, and Lederhosen are very stylish. Of course there’s more history than that, tis’ but a snippet.

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Following my roots

In the 8th grade, I had the privilege of being in Australia for my cousin’s wedding. While there, I hunted down my great great great grandfathers grave. It was fun and made me realize the importance of heritage. I take great pride in where I come and while I’m still trying to piece together the family tree, I can say I have a lot of German in me. In fact, on the name sheet for my classes, my nationality says German; was it a mistake or something more? I can’t really say. I’ve also learned ein bisschen Deutsch, so… Anyways, it’s a lot of fun if you have heritage from the country you’re going to! It’s something to consider, but not necessary to have a great time.

The U.S. 2016 presidential election

I picked the right time to go abroad. Will The U.S. collapse or prosper? Who knows, I’m in Germany. If I want to, I can simply come back here and live a peaceful existence, regardless of what the election outcome is.


Closing Thoughts

Am I a different person? Yes. Life is about taking risk. If we don’t takes risks, we don’t grow. And when we’re not growing, we’re stagnant or worse, stumbling backwards. I never want to wake up one morning and realize that I’m exactly the same as I was yesterday. The thought absolutely terrifies me. I want each day of my life to be an adventure and the best way to do so is to constantly set new goals. So my message is go out, be bold, and don’t waste your time worrying. If you’re on the fence about going abroad, don’t be. You don’t want to be the student that regrets not taking the opportunity while you had it. In fact, I honestly can’t imagine what my college experience would be like without this opportunity.

 

 

Germany: What Have I done?

Life is about experience. If you had asked me a year ago where I saw myself a year from now, I bet you I wouldn’t be saying Germany. Yet a little over year ago, I asked myself a simple question, “why not”? I was taking summer classes at the time when I read an email saying “Hey, Study abroad is pretty cool, come listen to some guest speakers from Germany and Sweden talk about the programs”.  So I went. Sometimes that’s all it takes, a little nudge in the right direction. When I went to info session, I fell in love with the German program and as much as I’d love to say I did hours of research into every country I could experience through study abroad, Germany had me at Oktoberfest. I had my reservations at first but here I stand just a week away from what will be the greatest experience of my college career. So…

Why Go?

Perspective – It’s about understanding. The world would be a better place if everyone went abroad and learned that we as human beings are more similar than we are different. More so than understanding similarities, study abroad is a great way to teach you to value the differences.

Independence –  The great quest of the college student, learning how to Adult properly. You can spend your entire college career thinking you can Adult and are getting quite good at it only to realize once you graduate you’ve been doing it completely wrong. What better way to learn how to Adult the right way than in a foreign country?

YOLO You only live once. Was there ever a truer statement? Is study abroad a risk? Of course! I could end up living in a box when I get back from Germany because I spent all my money on beer. Who knows? But if we didn’t take risks, face our fears, and live for experience, then we wouldn’t get anywhere in life!

You actually save money! (In theory) – Groceries are cheaper, housing is cheaper, textbooks, etc. As far as I know, I’ll actually be saving money while overseas! Probably not, but one can dream.

But the main reason you should study abroad…

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As I said earlier, life is about experience, or better yet, life is about adventure. If we’re not moving forward, we are either standing still or moving backward. It is absolutely terrifying to take a leap of faith and say “I’m going to live in a foreign country for 4 months”. Yet the very fact that I’m terrified makes this opportunity all the more exciting. When we are afraid, it means we are outside of our comfort zone. Every time we step outside of our comfort zone, we grow. We push our limits and set new standards for ourselves. Our comfort zone expands each and every time we face our fears and that’s when we say “what’s the next adventure”?