Tag Archives: Indiana

Focusing on What Really Matters

That is, the people that have made, and continue to make, my life what it is.

Our day-to-day lives can become, at times, spiritually toxic.

We get preoccupied by what we are doing on a day-to-day basis. Often that involves a combination of work, other responsibilities, and some form of “quest” we have for ourselves. For many, that “quest” is status or career related. However, for some, things that are typically thought of as “leisurely” can end up being that quest….

I need to get a better golf score.

I need to be the best looking person at the party…

I need to get a better time running up “the incline“…

How much skiing can I do in one day?

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More often than not, we achieve what we set out to do, as long as we willing to put the necessary time and energy into it. If it truly matters to someone to be popular, they eventually will be popular. If it truly matters to someone to advance at work, make a lot of money, or even play on a winning softball team, well, it will be done.

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I guess things do happen by accident too.

It’s just a simple matter that, well, nobody has the time and energy for everything.

We have to make choices. We have to set priorities. Over time, our lives end up becoming reflection of the priorities we set. When I see a divorced and single powerful executive, well, it is clear where their priorities have been for quite some time.

Sometimes I lose sight of this, but people have always been a priority to me. I feel far more fulfilled when I share my adventures with people, and I am certainly more satisfied when the tasks I perform on a regular basis are having a positive impact on the lives of other people.

Acting more in accordance with what my true priorities are, I spent a long weekend, right in the middle of the summer, in the flat midwest, largely indoors.

Not just in the maze of suburbs that surround Chicago, and in Indianapolis, Indiana, but also traveling I-65 between the two, not the most glamorous ride.

The main draw to Indianapolis is its affordability. It does not necessarily find itself at the top of people’s “bucket lists”, or desired travel destinations.

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However, many chose to live here. The city continues to grow and appears to be prospering!

Which means that, in Indianapolis, a group of people can easily find enough interesting things to do and have a really good night out. It is often cheaper too. Well, that is unless the evening includes a visit to the most expensive steakhouse in town…

One of Indiana’s most iconic restaurants aside, the weekend was not about being at a high profile destination. It was about the people I was around, and it was nothing short of magical. I felt that feeling that is so elusive we do not even have a word for it in the English language; the opposite of loneliness, in a world that is lonelier than ever! I am blessed to have the people in my life that I have, near and far, from all my life’s “chapters”, and people who are willing to set aside time and energy to meet up with each other. This is what made me feel so wonderful this weekend- possibly more wonderful than I would have felt had I went off on my own, to a bucket list destination, or spent this time trying to advance my career.

 

When we act according to our true priorities, the result is always better 

Just as important as what our priorities are is how our priorities are set.

Not everyone will set their priorities exactly like I do. The question is whether we are being true to ourselves when these priorities are determined, day in and day out whenever there are multiple needs competing for our time, money, attention, and energy (i.e. life).

Are we making choices based on our own understanding of what we need to feel happy and fulfilled? Or are we letting something else dictate what we prioritize? Fear of losing a job? The desire for approval from others? Someone else?

The world can often bring us in the wrong direction, setting the wrong priorities. The boss pressuring you to perform. Peers bringing out your competitive side. Even self-doubt. This is why I urge everyone, in order to achieve a better life result, to..

  1. Determine priorities for yourself. List them, and order them.
  2. Each week set aside time to evaluate, and most importantly, reassert in your own life what your priorities are and how that should be reflected in your choices.
  3. Occasionally re-evaluate those priorities, and determine if some areas are needing more attention.

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Visiting the Past and the Future- Part 2

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I came back to the Chicago area for a number of reasons.  In fact, I had so many reasons to be here, it would have been hard to justify not being here.  Simply put, it was where I needed to be at this particular time, despite the fact that I now live elsewhere.

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The primary reason for my visit was to meet my family’s newest member; my nephew, who was born only a week before I arrived back in Chicago’s Northwest suburbs, where both my parents, and my sister/ brother-in-law live.  At the age of 8 days, I got to meet him, and was able to subsequently spend some time with him over the course of the following week.  However, as I sit back at my home in Denver, I cannot help but think of what I am missing out on being 1000 miles away from “home”.  Specifically, I am thinking of this newborn baby, who will go through different phases of development, possibly on a daily to weekly basis for some time to come, as life changes at a faster pace for children than it does for adults.  Even if I come back twice a year, there are phases in his development I am destined to miss.  That is just the way it is.

However, my mind also drifts to all the rest of my family members, as well as my friends, back here in Chicago (as well as the surrounding area).  While adults have lives that do not go through changes in as rapid of succession as children, and it is easier to “catch up”, we still do have experiences on a daily basis.  And, as much as some people post much of their daily lives on social media, or do a decent job of keeping in touch, I do wonder what I am missing.  I dwell on the fun daily events, strange occurrences and “inside jokes” that made all of the people around me so much fun to be around.  But, I also dwell on the ups and downs, and the times when someone important to you just simply needs some encouragement, or, conversely, some advice.

I was wearing a suit the day I met my nephew, as I was on my way to the first of a number of events I would also attend over the course of the week.  This one, a wedding for one of my good friends from college, in Northwest Indiana.

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Here, not only did I get to witness the big day for the bride and groom, but as is common with events like this, I got the chance to hang out with several other friends from college.  In a way it was just like it was back in the day.  There are some people in all of our lives who we can not see for weeks, months, years, and still just pick right back up where we left off as if we had just seen each other the previous day.  I am blessed to have a good number of people like this in my life.

However, there was an obvious difference between now and then, and that is children.  Some of my friends also traveled a significant distance to be at this wedding, and they did so with children.  It is actually pretty inspiring to me, as they had decided somewhat spontaneously to travel to Indiana for this wedding, and were still able to do so despite having a 5 year old and a (not quite) 5 month old respectively.  And, they stayed at the wedding longer than many other people.  It makes me think of a future chapter of life, that my involve children of my own, with a lot more hope, that maybe the “your life is over” camp are significantly exaggerating when they describe the impact starting a family has on one’s life.  So, as was the case with so much of my trip, I was simultaneously living out a past “chapter” of my life, while also getting glimpses of a future “chapter”.

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In fact, the rest of my week was also partially a baby/child meeting tour.  I wanted to try to see as many people, and take part in as many events with my friends, as possible, while still spending a significant amount of time with my family and my new nephew.  Luckily, many of my friends were able to work with me schedule-wise to create a successful trip!  And, I got to take part in all kinds of activities ranging from simple lunches to crazy nights out in large groups.  Over the course of the week, I was living the life I had lived as a child, as a young adult, and as I will live it in the future.  In a way, I spent the week in one place, but in another way, I was in too many different places to count.

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The Chicago metropolitan area is centered around downtown, where trains from all directions converge, as do countless people every day.  It also includes countless suburbs, and even Northwest Indiana.  It is a place where, much like my experiences over the course of the past week, people are doing everything from working hard and playing hard, to relaxing, to trying to do the best the can to raise a family.

And, when I see my newborn nephew, or any newborn child, I see the great equalizer.

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Every single person, from the most successful to the biggest failures, from Bill Gates to habitual criminal, from the most personable to the biggest asshole, began as a vulnerable newborn infant, just like this.  No matter who someone is, they started out in this position, as a baby, completely dependent on someone else to survive and reach adulthood.  And, in the pool of newborn babies at the hospital at any given time, are people that will one day go on to become influential individuals both good and bad, people that will make their families proud, but also people who will one day disappoint, and people who will be nothing but kind and generous to their fellow human beings, but also people who will treat others with contempt and recklessness.  But, for now, each child I met over the course of this week is just a child, a person trying to figure out the world around them in various stages.  All we can do for them is give a good example.  Over the course of the week, I found myself repeating one phrase to the children I had encountered; “A positive attitude is contagious”.  When I smiled at a child, they would often smile back.  It is basic human nature, and one of the most powerful tools we can take into our day-to-day lives to produce the best possible outcomes.

The Wheels of Change

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It’s an experience nearly everybody seems to have.  A place from our past.  Maybe it’s a place we used to live, or a place we used to frequent.  But, sometime since the time when this place was an integral part of our lives, it has undergone some kind of drastic change, making it feel completely different from how we remembered it.  I’m not just talking about a strip-mall having mostly different stores, a few home additions, or a road widened from two lanes to four.   I am talking about a series of changes that makes life itself feel completely different.

For me, that place is Valparaiso, Indiana, where I went to college (undergraduate).  Valparaiso University has undergone many changes since my graduation, including a new student union, a new library, several other new academic buildings, and a new more pedestrian friendly campus layout.  While this is a drastic change, a drastic change on a college campuses is not really all that unique.  Colleges build new buildings all the time, and many of our campuses are in a near constant state of flux.

The changes that have truly surprised me are the changes to Valparaiso the town; particularly Valparaiso’s downtown area, which is located roughly a mile west of campus.

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When I attended Valparaiso University, downtown Valparaiso was not a place we frequented.  We were far more likely to go to the WalMart for cheap groceries, a few other restaurants either just to the east near the junction of highway 49, or along highway 30, and when we turned 21, go to some bars scattered around town.  Downtown was not dingy, or run down, it just was not that interesting.  I remember going there every September for the annual Popcorn Festival (held to honor Valparaiso’s most famous resident- Orville Redenbacher), and maybe twice more in a given year.

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Today’s downtown Valparaiso is suddenly far more vibrant.  Along the Lincolnway, one can now find more bars, more restaurants (and many different kinds of restaurants including sushi), and a significant amount of foot traffic.  The storefronts along the main roads in town now often display paper signs in the window, advertising a plethora of upcoming events in the center of town.  These are all the kind of things I had become accustomed to seeing in a vibrant neighborhood of Chicago, or even a well put together suburban town center, like Downers Grove or Arlington Heights.  However, it was a unique experience to see all of this in a town that I used to live in.

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While Valparaiso has added a lot of places over the past several years, the two most major additions appear to be a new amphitheater and event center, and a new microbrewery.  The bartenders at Figure Eight Microbrewery told me that on evenings where a concert is held at the amphitheater, a sudden rush of people would often come into the bar at the end of the show.  But, the microbrewery is also a place to visit on it’s own.  In Denver, we have tons of microbreweries, but in Valparaiso, this is the first one of it’s kind.

Those I talk to around town, including my friends that are still there attribute the change to several factors, all of which appear to be connected to the election of a new mayor a few years back.  I had already noticed that the city of Valparaiso now offers bus service both to downtown Chicago and to the South Shore Rail line- both services I wish I had available to me while I was there.  They also focused development in the downtown area.  However, many attribute the redevelopment to the issuing of more liquor licenses.

No matter how much you pay attention to what is going on around you, there always seems to be at least one thing happening, that has a major impact on your life, that you remain unaware of.  While I was at Valparaiso, I actually had no clue that it was nearly impossible to get a new liquor license from the city.  For some time, they had been keeping the number of licenses steady, meaning one can only be attained if a different business had lost or dropped theirs.  Being under the legal drinking age of 21 for most of the time I was there, I would not have even seen how this impacted me.  But it was keeping a lot of Pub type places, which make some of their money on the sale of beer and such, out.

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The downtown re-development is actually still taking place today, with more storefronts under construction.  I wonder what this place will become.

I had a great experience at Valparaiso University.  I loved the feel of the campus.  I really liked my professors, and I liked most of the people I was around on a regular basis.  When I look at this vibrant downtown, and convenient bus service to get back “home”, I can’t help but be somewhat envious of what current Valparaiso University students have that I did not.  But, I do wonder if my experience would have been significantly different had I had access to all of these things.  Maybe it was somehow secretly a good thing that I had to scramble for rides to the train station, and we did not have concerts at an amphitheater while I was there.  Maybe it made my experience there unique, and distinguish it from my later experience in a vibrant Chicago neighborhood.

Interstate 65: The Raceway

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I designed a road trop that would mix the familiar with the new.  The first day of my road trip focused on the familiar, and few roads are more familiar to me than interstate 65 between Chicago and Indianapolis.  During my time living in the State of Indiana, people would often refer to Interstate 65 as “the raceway”.  This, of course, referred to how fast traffic would move on this highway.   Traffic most likely moves this fast on this particular road because the two cities it connects both contain a lot of fast drivers.  At the time when I was living in Indiana, the highway speed limit was 65 and traffic tended to move at a speed of about 80 mph.  Since then, the speed limit has increased to 70, meanwhile gas prices have risen substantially.  Still, with the exception of when trucks are slowing down the highway by passing one another, traffic moves at about the same pace.

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Most of this route would be considered quite dull by most.  It pretty much looks like this, open fields of corn and soy stretching endlessly into the distance.  And, there is little variance.  Nearly every highway I crossed would contain the same features, a few gas stations, and signs pointing motorists to both Chicago and Indianapolis.  For many, this is a dreadfully dull ride, but for me it is slightly differnt.  As I had spent a significant amount of time in the area, and gained a lot of interesting experiences here, the highway actually brought back a plethora of memories for me.  Many of the exits I encountered on this trip reminded me of interesting experiences I had years back.  It was almost like a trip through a period of my life, and almost like I was reliving many of these memories.

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I felt it appropriate to stop at Arbys, a staple of this region.  In fact, whenever I think of central Illinois and Indiana, I think of Arbys, as they are plentiful here.  One time, while driving interstate 55 from Saint Louis to Chicago, I decided to count the number of Arbys- there were 13, and that was only the number I could see signed from the highway.

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There is one place where the endless fields of corn and soy give way to a very different scenery; in the vicinity of the Wabash River near Lafayette, Indiana.  WIth dense trees, and even a little bit of terrain, this region is always a welcome break from the monotony of this trip, even when I am reliving memories from my past.  In fact, I recollect this area being one of the few areas I explored beyond the local fast food joints and truck stops on this trip.  I was hoping for more color, given that it is well into October, but I heard that the weather had just cooled down recently.  So, the colors will have to wait.

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Indianapolis is not a glamorous city.  In fact, it is mostly known for being quite affordable compared to most cities its’ size and larger.  I recall seeing lists that compare median income to median home costs, and seeing that Indianapolis is one of the easiest places for someone with the average paying job to afford a home.

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However, it is not without its’ interesting places.  The bike trails here are pretty unique, albeit they do not seem like they would be efficient.  In town, I got the chance to check out the Indianapolis City Market, which seems like the kind of place people go to eat lunch during an average workday downtown.  By the time we arrive there, around 4:15 P.M., most of the businesses seem closed.  However, there is one open establishment, called the Tomlinson Tap Room that serves beer from different microbreweries throughout the state.  They even serve “flights” on boards shaped like the State of Indiana, which I found to be a unique idea.

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Looking at the clientelle at this establishment, it appears to be one of those after work type of places that tends to die down around 8 or 9 P.M.  Plenty of these types of places can be found in central business districts of many large cities, as other districts are more sought after with regards to nightlife.

Although I can never think of a defining feature about Indianapolis, I always enjoy my trips here.  My last time here was in 2010, when I was Wisconsin defeat Michigan State in the inaugural Big 10 Championship game.  I remember getting pitchers of Long Island Iced Tea for only $7 at a place called Tiki Bob’s.  And this was on a Saturday night, and the night of a major sporting event.  There is something to be said about affordable cities, and even affordable neighborhoods of our own cities.  People here seem to be enjoying the same experiences for a fraction of the cost.  Sometimes I even wonder if the joke is one me, and others that chose cities and neighborhoods that are trendy or well known.  They are probably sitting back, enjoying their $3 drinks and $550/ month apartments wondering why we pay so much to be where we are and do what we do.