It always seems impossible until it’s done.

nelson-mandela_0

Nelson Mandela. July 18, 1918 – December 5, 2013 (Wikimedia)

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” – Nelson Mandela

Today the world lost a great man. A man who stood for hope, freedom, equality and dignity. May we always strive to continue his legacy and vision.

“Let us pause and give thanks for the fact that Nelson Mandela lived.” – President Obama

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Facebook….It’s Complicated

The year was 2004 and I was casually sitting in my concrete dorm room listening to Dashboard Confessional when it finally came. It was an email from thefacebook.com letting me know that my little college in Missouri had been approved to become a member of their new “social network”. It was almost like receiving my acceptance letter to college all over again. Sure I was already an avid MySpace user, but now that just seemed lame with its brightly colored profile pages and constant friend requests from bands I’d never heard of. But this, this was thefacebook, and it changed my life.

I quickly filled my profile with random information that was probably only important to my mother and potential ex-girlfriends at the time. After porting over my MySpace profile pic, I was completely set. Other than normal site changes, upgrades and a move away from the ability to creepily stalk anyone taking my Intro to Film class, my profile looks pretty much the same. Sure I’ve added lots of pictures, ended relationships messily and accidentally friended that guy from high school that I never liked, but it’s mostly identical. So what is my relationship with Facebook now?

The answer…..well it’s complicated.

I, like one of my favorite authors Andrew Keen, have a real problem with privacy. Yet, in the beginning (circa late-2004) I was completely okay with posting that I had just broken up with someone or what my birthday and phone number was. I guess you could describe my relationship with Facebook as a love/hate one. I love looking at funny pictures of cats that my friends post yet I hate that I keep getting requests to join a mafia game or start a farm.

As I mentioned earlier, Facebook had a function where I could browse classes that I was registered in and see who else had connected to that class. Some students used this to help get class notes when they were sick but mostly I used it to find out who the cute brunette four rows back was and, more importantly, was she single. After all, it was college.

These days I use Facebook in a bit of a different way, working in Public Relations helping brands connect to consumers. No more checking up on exes or adjusting privacy settings so my grandma doesn’t think I’m crazy. It’s business, and big business at that. In the third quarter of 2012 alone, Facebook made over $1 billion in ad revenue, a 36% increase from the same quarter in 2011.

The consumer, a.k.a. you and me, are being monetized and mined for the one thing that we are so eager to give…information. And if there’s one thing that marketers love, its information.

Coca-Cola has over 57 million “Likes” on its main Facebook page. Simply put, that’s 57 million customers engaged. Not “potential” customers or prospects, but individual people who have connected with Coca-Cola and now receive any updates about the brand via their personal Newsfeed.

Facebook recently unveiled its new search functionality to the media. They are touting the ability of the new “search” to answer questions, not just find things. So if I want to know if any of my friends have been to Paris, theoretically I could type it in and receive answers based on information provided by people in my “social graph.” Or, more exciting for brands, I could ask “Which of my friends likes Coca-Cola.” This has the ability to create mini brand ambassadors out of anyone who “Likes” a product.

Facebook, no matter your privacy concerns, is a huge asset to brands when it comes to connecting with consumers. The truth is it’s up to the brand and their marketing team to decide how to effectively navigate the murky social waters of Facebook. I’m sure I’m not the only one with a love/hate social media relationship out there so meaningful engagement is the key. Now get out there and start friending people.

12/12/12

Today is the last time that I will live on a day with the same repetition of numbers. It’s a Wednesday and for some reason it’s really making me think about life.

I wonder if people in 1912 felt the same way about 12/12/1912? They were only 19 months away from the breakout of World War I. The United States had seen New Mexico and Arizona join its numbers.

I’m not sure I will be among the one’s partying tonight and consuming too much alcohol, after all it is a Wednesday. I tend to take days like this in a very introspective way. Much like Pearl Harbor Day last week, my thoughts seem to take over and become very contemplative. Am I living my life right? Should I be further along in my career?

It’s inevitable that I will overthink today. Was that an argument or just a misunderstanding? Have I spent too much money on frivolous things? That’s just the way my mind works.

Happy 12/12/12 Day!!! May you make the most of it and hold your head up high as we head into a very un-repetitive future.

P.S. I’m really looking forward to 11/12/13 next year. I’m weird, and I’m totally okay with that.

On Being at Home

I feel at home in a bookstore.

Well, I guess it’s more the feeling of returning to a childhood home after years away. Things will have changed some but the smell is still the same and you still gravitate to the same sections as before.

Maybe its the way that books give off a richness that I’ve never been able to explain. All those words packed tightly onto pages, screaming to push out into the open and fly into the readers eyes. That’s how I think of books, as if they were alive, unchanging beings. Poetry would be a frail woman full of unspeakable knowledge, so wise she has to feed you in fragments. History books would be a bellicose Englishman with a large pipe held firmly in his right hand. Biographies take the form of children, longingly reaching to connect to someone much older and wiser.

To me, books are a connection to a rich history and a vein into the hearts and minds that will lead us into the future.

One day I’ll add to that future.

One day…..

If I Can’t Be Myself…….

I have a tendency to live my life in a bubble. My job requires long hours at my desk with my head buried in computer screens, so when I get home I’m usually exhausted. I eat, watch TV and then go to bed. This is a usual weeknight for me.

On the weekends I wake up and watch soccer in the morning, sometimes do laundry, ignore my dishes and then try and make plans for the evening. If it’s a Sunday, I wake up and go to church, play some music, have some lunch and then go home and take a nap.

This is a pretty tight schedule……and I think it might be killing me.

I’m ashamed to say that I’ve become an unhealthy bachelor living a cyclical existence of eating whatever is close and failing to exercise on a daily basis, or a weekly one. I’ve fallen into habits that are becoming harder and harder to get out of.

In Paris, 2009 (Forgive the weird hair).

In college I did some of the same stuff but I was younger and actually did exercise on a somewhat normal schedule. This is the point where I’ve decided to be vulnerable with everyone, including myself. I weighed a steady 135-140 lbs in college, pretty average for a 5’7″ male with a small frame. I was healthy, could run like the wind and, most of all, I felt good. When I was in Paris in 2009, some things began to change. I was under a lot of stress. My diet was sporadic and for the most part unhealthy. I walked miles every single day, sometimes skipping meals to stay in the city longer. When I came back to the States, I weighed ~120 lbs. My parents looked at me oddly, belts became a necessity and for the first time, I didn’t like how I looked.

After a couple of months of living with my parents and having fresh food every night, I was back to my normal 135-140. Things were good and I was feeling fine. But soon my family moved away, I got a place of my own in the city and started said desk job. The hours got longer and slowly over the past year all of my clothes stopped fitting.

It’s not that I had let myself go, it mostly just crept up on me. In a single year I had somehow managed to gain around 30 lbs on my small frame. Without any fanfare or warning, the scale started flashing 165 back at me. According to some online BMI indexes and calculators, that falls outside of my ideal weight, but that’s not the point. The point is that I don’t feel good about myself. I’m not fat, extremely unhealthy or anything like that. I’m just uncomfortable. No, this isn’t some vast conspiracy caused by seeing Ryan Gosling in basically any movie (but especially in Crazy Stupid Love’s faux Dirty Dancing homage), I’m not buying into that in my case. There’s no mental comparisons to George Clooney, Channing Tatum or anyone with perfect abs or pecs, just a want to be back to the way that I see myself. A healthy me.

I honestly don’t care what others think about this topic, I’m not attempting to change my lifestyle to impress any girl or prove I can be a more athletic guy. I’m simply taking stock of my life and choosing to be a healthier, happier me.

Back to the bubble thing. My life is a huge one and that isn’t good. My friend Lane recently joined a boot camp class to get back in shape. I desperately want to join in but until I find some balance, I’ll have to start working out on my own. The thing is, I know I can’t do it on my own. If I could, I would’ve never written this thing. Community is for a reason, whether that’s a local, global, internet, or family community. For all the crazy, destructive stuff the internet is used for, there’s thousands of stories of hope, grace and freedom that were achieved over the vast interwebs. This is going to be one of those stories.

It’s not about losing weight or getting healthy, it’s about living a story that’s worth telling in public. After all, we only get one story, I’d rather mine be read in a Shakespearean accent in the middle of a crowded square. It just seems more fitting that way.

Oh….if you’ve made it this far, we just might be able to be friends.

Missouri is For Lovers

I have a friend visiting my college town right now. I’ve spent the last few days giving her advice on where to get coffee, custard or a drink. In return I’ve received pictures, hilarious rambles and a longing to see a place I haven’t considered going back to in a long time.

You see, I left there for a reason. Going back now would be the geographic equivalent of clawing off fresh skin. I made my peace with the city that changed me completely and I’m not sure it would welcome me again. For five years I called Springfield my home. My constant. My undoing. I was a different person to everyone in that city. To some I was a worship leader at their church. Others, the guy that was really bad at beer pong. To even more, I was an indefinite, something completely in-between.

I remember late night conversations with Cayla, John and Jackie at Potters House, Mondays at the Mud drinking exotic beers with Nate and Danny. There were plenty of trips to Imo’s with Byrd and Erin and late night trips to Chopsticks with Anna, Delacey and Kenny.

But I believe in the nostalgia that Midnight in Paris talks about. The kind that keeps us looking back instead of forward, romanticizing things just because we know how they turn out. That’s why i like to remember the un-rosy things from Springfield. The cold days stuck in my apartment with no heat in the middle of an ice-storm. The random frat boys and metal-heads that seemed to inhabit every single corner of the city. The constant feeling of settling.

This balance is Springfield. There’s a handicap in all of this. I moved from Springfield and ended up in Paris shortly there after. Not many towns can compete with an apartment in the 16th and easy access to the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, let alone a mid-sized town in the Ozarks.

Since Springfield I’ve travelled to London, Paris, Los Angeles, Seattle, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Chattanooga and am still residing in Houston. I lost my first money gambling, stepped foot in the Pacific Ocean for the first time and contemplated life in a coffee shop right off Puget Sound. I’ve spent nights out with Germans in London and dodged an angry mob of Marseille fans while wearing a PSG jersey.

All of that is well and awesome, but I wouldn’t have had any of those chances if it wasn’t for Springfield.

For all the good and bad that happened there, I remember it as my springboard. It’s cramped streets made me long for little cars on Parisian roads and crowded Metro’s.

So here’s to meeting random people at The Mudhouse and smoking hookah at The Albatross. Now to keep moving forward.

On the Move…Football Style

So….I’m going to New Orleans for the weekend.

Since I’ve never been to the French Quarter, Bourbon Street or the Superdome before, expect to see lots of Instagram photos on my Twitter feed.

Also seeing as I’m not a huge American football fan, I find it hilarious that I’m going on this trip courtesy of the Houston Texans. That’s right, I’m heading to NoLa to see the Texans/Saints preseason game, complete with pre-game sideline passes and all thanks to a crazy awesome red head.

I’ve got my Texans t-shirt, watched a game last night to keep sharp on my football lingo and have been drinking water like crazy all week (it is New Orleans after all.) I’m ready for a great weekend.

Stay tuned for an update the first of next week. Go Texans!!!!

P.S. I can’t say Superdome without thinking of this gem from Weeds. Enjoy.

On Finding Peace

I’ve tried to rationalize lots of things in my life; not studying enough in college, not moving to London in 2007, taking a job I didn’t really like. But as I switched over to CNN on Sunday, I was met with a whole different category.

Violence.

My fathers generation remembers where they were when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon. I remember sitting in my living room alone as the second plane struck the Twin Towers. Zach, Sarah and I were driving back from The Cheesecake Factory as a stunned reporter kept fumbling to tell everyone that Osama bin Laden had been killed. I sat in my little yellow truck outside a pool supply store as they announced the first bombs were being dropped on Iraq. I was in a theater in Houston when 12 people were killed in Aurora, CO.

There’s something about violence that stays with us, quickens us to the core and makes us take note of life. So as I heard the news of the people that died while worshipping in a Sikh temple, my heart broke. Just about every Sunday I show up to a house of worship in a similar fashion and to think that someone would bring violence into such a place of peace is beyond rationalization.

While I was in London I had the chance to visit the Gurdwara Sri Guri Sing Sahba, Southall, the leading Sikh Gurdwara outside of India. A truly magnificent building with a massive, open hall for worship throughout the day, I found great peace sitting and listening to a language that I had no hope of understanding. Even though Sikhism is vastly different than my own Christian religion, I found something compelling about the ethics and motivations behind it. The people were all welcoming of the curious Westerners that observed there worship service. I sat on a padded floor with a crude bandana wrapped acting as a turban as I tried to grasp at what I was witnessing.

The thing that impressed me the most on my visit was the Langar, a community kitchen that serves vegetarian meals to anyone who comes. It was in the Langar that my religious education was turned upside down. Just like in Christianity, the Sikh worshipers understood the importance of meeting peoples needs, physical and spiritual. Compassion and love aren’t virtues that live in isolation inside a religious institution, but in people.

I felt peace in that Gurdwara, just like I’ve felt in various churches in the Midwest, a Bob Dylan concert, a home for the elderly and sitting along the Thames.

I think this is why violence leaves such a mark on us. We are people built for peace but bent on corruption. Different religions explain it many ways, but I recognize it through a Christian lens as the fall and depravity of man.

After the tragic spike in shootings that have plagued our country, and our world, its inevitable that people will blame guns, mental illness and political systems. In some ways they may even be right. I think the problem is more personal. For starters, I’m the problem. I believe in peace, non-violence, harmony and finding a better way. Yet so many times I find myself just going along with the current climate and rationalizing violence like it was my choice to not move overseas. It was Thomas Merton that said “If you yourself are at peace, then there is at least some peace in the world.”

I need to learn to be at peace with myself before I can truly understand what peace in the world can look like.

My Favorite Things pt. 2 (Geography)

If there’s one thing in the world that I live for, it’s travel. Nothing fascinates me more than diving into a city and experiencing it’s history, triumphs, demons, and joys. I have trouble being a tourist. When I go someplace new I like to experience the mundane, trivial things that would happen if I was a local. For this reason, I rarely travel with people. I have a feeling I’d be a handful to put up with.

Moving on, here’s a few of my favorite’s from around the world.

Spot in Paris – It’s hard to nail down a favorite anything when I think of Paris. No matter what I pick, i’d be leaving out countless amazing spots. I could easily say the overlook in front of Sacre Couer or standing under the Eiffel Tower as it sparkled in the night. All of these would be very valid choices, but when I think of my time in Paris, I think of The Highlander. It wasn’t even close to being glamorous. A Scottish pub with an Irish bartender tucked into a side alley just down from Pont Neuf. Nothing fancy, just familiar. Between watching my friend Thomas Brun hosting the weekly Open Mic Night and standing in a crowded cellar to watch Barcelona beat Manchester United in the Champions League Final, that little pub made me feel at home. I met people sitting at the bar that I still talk to to this day. So I know I should say something glamorous like a cafe in Montmarte or Pont des Artes, but for me, The Highlander is Paris.

Place I’ve Never Been – This may sound like a weird category for a favorites list but I think it’s important to set goals. The next spot in the world that i want to find myself in is Berlin, Germany. I’m utterly fascinated with the history of Berlin and the multiple transformations it’s gone through in just the past 70 years. I’ve always wanted to walk the streets of Berlin while listening to U2’s Achtung Baby. I don’t think there are many cities in the world that can compete with Berlin when it comes to history. From world wars, Communism, reunification and through to being an integral part of the European Union, Berlin is truly one of the world’s greatest cities. I can’t wait to visit.

Untitled #11

Stifling passion

underneath folded arms,

intently gazing at

a world so foreign.

Neutral colors.

Chestnut locks.

Wicked eyes.

Tempered cheeks.

Dropped like a tulip

among roses.

Silently sitting,

fists clinched.

Waiting on the

world to move.