Tag Archives: life

Five Years in Denver

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A personal narrative..

I cannot believe it has been five years since I moved to Denver, and I cannot believe that 2017 is already half over. I’d say “time flies”, but that is kind of a cliché. Time does not really “fly”, or even go by rapidly. It just appears as such when we think about time in larger chunks. In the past five years, I can think of plenty of Tuesday afternoons where it certainly did not feel as if time were “flying” by.

Okay, enough random psychological ramblings. However, I do want to point out that unlike most social media content these days, I do plan to be forthcoming with my own weaknesses and struggles. Hopefully that is refreshing.

My first five years in Colorado can be thought of as anywhere from a complete success to a total failure depending on how it is looked upon. By the traditional definition of “success”, I guess I am mostly successful. I make good money, live in a good place, and am healthy. By a more modern, and more millennial version of “success”, I’m kind of a failure. This is because I am haven’t gotten to the point where I am using my strengths to impact the world in a positive and meaningful way. I hope my writing encourages others to believe in themselves, find adventure and live better lives. However, life on an average day feels pretty empty. What I do to earn a living is quite insignificant, and has been for almost the entire five years I have been living here.

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When I first moved to Denver, I attempted to recreate what I had in Chicago, particularly the social situation, which I really enjoyed.

This proved challenging for three reasons…

  1. You cannot recreate the past. There will always be something different. Denver is a different place than Chicago, with different people, who have different priorities and expectations. It’s also a different time, and a different phase of life.
  2. Call me spoiled, but this was the first time in my life I have ever had to really try to meet new people. In Chicago, I worked with a ton of fun people around the same age as me. Before that I was in Graduate School, College, High School, etc. People were always right there.
  3. I was not at my best when I moved, due to a really disappointing work situation. Making friends is a bit harder when you’re not in a great place spiritually.

My first year or so here I probably spiraled out of control more than I realized at the time.

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I quit my job out of frustration, and became disenchanted with the working world, a feeling that mostly persists today. Maybe it was my own experiences, the move to Colorado, or even that December 21, 2012 stuff (not scientific, but who knows). I just started getting this feeling that the 9-to-5 lifestyle, the one I had lived for five years in Chicago happily, was outdated, and that there was more to life than corporate structures, office politics, and spending eight hours a day in front of a computer.

I adapted. In place of the late night parties came outdoor activities for all seasons, travel and adventure. The past five years have been more adventurous than I had ever imagined. I ski better than I ever thought I would. I took part in the long distance bike rides I had always dreamed about, and traveled to some remote places!

Day-to-day life, though, remained a challenge. Finding a new job ended up being challenging. Being “rejected” time and time again took its toll on my sense of self-worth, and confidence. I spent a lot of time inside my own head, oscillating back and forth between blaming society’s outdated structure, and blaming myself for my own misfortunes in this department.

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These misfortunes continued. The job I eventually found went relatively well at first, but took a turn for the worse when I asked to report to quite possibly the most selfish and judgmental person I had ever met. I’d be hard pressed to find a stronger de-motivator, at work, than having a boss that makes everything about himself. I got out of that situation, but still haven’t found something that gets me excited to get out of bed in the morning.

I put myself out there, and, through various means, met a lot of people, some of them really good people that I have come to really enjoy hanging out with.

 

However, due to some combination of different social styles in Colorado, being a little bit older, and how the digital age has impacted society as a whole, I never reached the status, socially, that I had in my life’s previous “chapters”. People observing my life would probably think I have done extremely well in this category. However, I do have a yearning, at times, for more social activities and more meaningful connections.

This is related to quite possibly my biggest struggle of all … “adulthood”. Where does my life go from here? This is the fear that keeps me up at night, as the average life of a full-fledged adult (as opposed to an “emerging adult” which generally refers to the late teens and 20-something lifestyle), as I observe it, to be honest, doesn’t interest me. I just feel like life, just being alive and human on planet Earth, is a blessing in many ways. With so many amazing places, and so many amazing people, I don’t want to spend my life keeping up with TV show characters, and working extra to accumulate money so I can remodel my kitchen (you know, because those cabinets look so 1980s) and spend weekends at shopping malls accumulating more material possessions.

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This is probably the best reason to be in Colorado. This state feels like it was designed for people who feel exactly the way I feel about life.

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Which is the main reason that, despite the previously mentioned struggles and knowing that there are other places with better career prospects, I really hope to make my life work here in Colorado. While I cannot describe my first five years in Colorado as a complete “success”, I am happy with a lot of what I have done, and feel good about recent personal growth. Life is a journey, with many chapters, plots and sub-plots, destinations, and, unfortunately, also some detours. Finding your true purpose, the role you were meant to play in 21st Century society, is not a trivial endeavor. It can be quite challenging, and can take many years. It feels worthwhile though, and almost necessary for a life that is truly fulfilling.

Ideas I Am Not Giving Up On

Ideas are powerful!  They can outlive the people, and even the places and things originally associated with them.  Rome was all but destroyed in the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries.  The people that created Rome, and the representative republic which governed Rome for the first five centuries were long gone.  Yet, these ideas made a resurgence in the 18th Century, when the founders of a new country called the United States of America created a representative republic in a new land far away.  The writings of ancient Roman authors, from those that formed the Republic after overthrowing a King of their own, to those that later tried to defend the Republican form of government from power hungry politicians, are said to have provided inspiration for the country’s founders.

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For all intensive purposes, Rome was a place that no longer existed.  Yet, ideas that originated from this place had found their way to a land that Romans had no idea even existed, at a time over two thousand years later!  Over the next Century, these ideas would proliferate, inspiring additional revolutions all over the world, and even counter-revolutions.  Roughly a century later, that idea would actually find its way back to the very place it originated, when Rome, now part of a nation called Italy, would adapt a roughly similar form of Government.

It is for this reason people are often more threatened by ideas than they are by specific people.  Today, when those of us look at someone like Osama Bin Laden, or any specific leader of ISIS, what we are looking at, and what we are threatened by goes way beyond a specific individual.  Even Bin Laden, long the subject of ire for many, needed the aid or cooperation of many other individuals to successfully carry out the attacks he carried out.  Simply put, for many of us in the United States, he became the face of an idea, and one that we largely found repulsive.

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We all have ideas.  Even those of us that do not consider ourselves creative, or inventive people, have ideas.  It doesn’t have to be world changing like the invention of the computer.  Maybe it is something as simple as the idea that it would be nice to have a train line or an additional road built to alleviate traffic.  Or maybe it is the idea that animals should not be mistreated by their owners.  Either way, as long as one understands the idea, why they feel the way they do about it, and has enthusiasm for it, the idea is worth pursuing and standing up for.

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I have a ton of ideas, and many do relate to how I feel the world should work.  Lately I have been hearing all the time that some people see the world as it, while others see the world as it could be.  I would consider myself firmly in the later group.  I commonly see some aspects of our society, and how it works, and think to myself (and sometimes say it to people around me) “we can do better”.  After discussion, I will often hear from others what has come to be my least favorite sentence of all time: “It is what it is”.  This is because, in many cases, I really see no reason it has to be that way.  Some people see this as the mark of someone who refuses to mature beyond a state of artificially prolonged adolescence.  However, I see it as refusing to give up on me, and what makes me unique.

I see an entire generation of people pursuing college education, and, more and more, post-graduate degrees, in interesting intellectually stimulating subjects just to join the workforce and be asked to perform menial, repetitive job duties and have their ideas rejected due to their low standing on the corporate totem poll.  We can do better to nurture and develop these promising young minds.

I see people not being true to themselves, in their actions, their behaviors, and attitudes.  We encourage one another to conform, to act like everyone else, and to live life according to a script written by and for a culture that no longer exists because many fear change and the potential loss of status associated with it.  But each person’s individual and unique way of doing things is part of what makes this world an interesting place.  We can be better about encouraging people to be true to themselves, and not being threatened by their unique way of life.

I see countless missed opportunities in the lives of countless people based on adherence to rigid rules and policies that do not make sense.  This is where fear takes it’s greatest toll on society.  Many take comfort in rules and structure.  However, why should someone who has completed their work, and has no other obligations (meetings and such) be sitting in their cubicle at 2:30 on a warm, sunny afternoon?  And, why should one person making a mistake with something lead to a law or ordinance preventing everyone from taking part in this activity?  We can stop taking comfort in rules, and start taking advantage of all the beautiful opportunities this world provides us.

And, I see people who have failed to make deep and meaningful connections with other human beings.  Many go through their lives feeling like they do not have the support system needed to get through the rough patches of their lives.  This is because we live in a society that does not place a high value on building social capital.  Many of us spend our days in work and social settings where we do not feel comfortable expressing our emotions and showing one another who we really are.  You cannot develop a meaningful friendship with someone that does not even know who you really are.  As is the case with the other ideas listed, we can do better on this one as well.

Periodically, I am pressured to give up on these ideas.  I admit nobody has ever specifically told me something like “don’t be who you are”.  But, I definitely feel it.  “You need to act more professionally”.  “Fireball: What are you?  Still 22.”  “Grow up, be a man.”  “You can’t just….”  These types of statements, and many more, come based on the idea that there are certain expectations of me that I do not believe need to exist.

There are even some that have given me sincere advice that I need to stop worrying about these overly philosophical issues.  After all, there are actual reasons for all of the things that frustrate me, and those that defend the current way we do things in this world probably have some valid points.  But, while sometimes I do experience frustration and rejection by acting the way I do, the alternative sounds way more depressing to me in the long run.  The alternative, to me, is giving up on who I am.

I would rather encourage people to pursue their intellectual ideas, even if occasionally their bosses come down on me.

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I would rather continue to show people who I really am, and continue to enjoy the activities that bring me happiness, even if I am periodically given negative feedback by judgmental people.

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I would rather take advantage of all of the great things this world has to offer, all of the wonderful places to visit, interesting ideas to pursue, and experiences to enjoy, even if that periodically earns me “reprimand”.

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And, I would rather occasionally get burned by someone who uses information about me for their own selfish ambitions than cease showing people who I truly am.

Essentially, I would rather get rejected as myself than be accepted by pretending to be somebody else.

We are all people of value, in our own unique way.  And, for any one of us, if we go out there in this world, and find a way to be the best version of ourselves, but still ourselves, we will naturally find people who like it, and people who see us as valuable individuals.  We all long for acceptance, but in order to be accepted in a true meaningful way, we need to overcome the fear of rejection, and stand up for our ideas.

Disconnect and Reconnect

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2015 is quite a strange time.  I wholeheartedly believe that one day we will look back upon this particular era of human history as one of major transition; for better or for worse.  It was around twenty years ago that households across America were suddenly all gaining access to the internet.  It was around ten years ago that social media started ramping up the roles it played in each of our lives, and a few years later, many people across the country started getting “smart phones” with data plans that provide us with nearly constant access to the internet.  Living in Colorado, it is easy for me to travel to places without an internet connection (although I am sure there are people working on that right now).  However, I imagine that many people in large metro areas, particularly on the East Coast, may go years without traveling to a place that is truly “disconnected”.

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It takes a while for society to really process changes as major as this one.  For the first few years, following the proliferation of social media and smart phones across the country, it genuinely felt as if I was the only person who was concerned about the potential downsides of this sudden cultural transformation.  It wasn’t until a few years later that people started sounding the alarm about topics such as cyberbullying, echo chambers, loss of depth in our conversations, the impact it could have on our friendships, phoniness, and the constant exposure to new information leading to a culture of constant distraction.  Having moved from Chicago to Colorado in 2012, I cannot pinpoint the exact time when we as a society actually started addressing this issue.  I recognize that I moved from a major city to a place that naturally attracts people that would share my views on this subject.

I am a firm believer is a concept known as “Natural Law“.  This philosophy states that there are certain universal truths that apply regardless of setting.  By contrast, Moral Relativists believe that what is right and wrong in always relative to the time, place, and circumstance.  Over the past couple of years, much has been written, in books, on the internet, about the importance of taking time to “disconnect”.  Most of these article remind us of the need to, from time to time, turn off our televisions, computers, smart phones, etc. and spend some time with ourselves.  But, this was true even before we had smart phones and social media.  Long before social media, Bill Gates would periodically go into complete seclusion for a week at a time.  He would refer to these excursions as “think week”s, and use them to develop key ideas.

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When I arrived at Turquoise Lake, a mere five miles outside of Leadville, Colorado, what I saw was a perfect place to put this advice into practice.  Simply put, it is quiet, but also very scenic.  I came to the lake not knowing what to expect.  I knew it was a Tuesday, and in the middle of October, and therefore would not likely be crowded.  But, with the exception of a storm headed into the area by later in the afternoon, the place was quite tranquil.  It is the kind of place people envision when they think about a quiet country mountain getaway.

I decided I would take five minutes, and force myself to do nothing- absolutely nothing!  I would not pick up a rock and start throwing it.  I would not walk down to the lake.  And I certainly would not even touch my iPhone, which was in my pocket at the time.  For five whole minutes, all I did was stare at the Lake, the trees, and the mountains in the backdrop.

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At the end of these five minutes, I picked up a rock, and wrote the following message.  Along with this overarching theme, a series of other ideas flew into my head.  For, in life, we all do things that makes us feel alive.  Unfortunately, we also have times in our lives when we simply don’t feel alive.  Choosing to live means something different for every person.  We all have our own individual passions and priorities.  But, one thing we all must do, in order to be true to ourselves, is overcome the fear of leaving our comfort zones.

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As I watched the storm roll in, I realized that, for many, the first step towards overcoming this fear, and expanding our comfort zones, is exactly what I just did.  In our current culture, with TVs in every house, iPhones with music and games, and distractions everywhere, being completely still, completely silent, and without some external stimulation to occupy our minds is well outside the comfort zone for most people.

I have a friend from High School who has A.D.D.  And, I do not mean it in that manner in which we over-diagnose A.D.D. in our modern society.  He was diagnosed long before they started diagnosing everyone, and seriously has nearly no attention span without medication.  One day, we thought it would be interesting to see how long he could do nothing for- absolutely nothing.  We all just sat in chairs doing nothing.  After a minute or so, we could obviously tell that this was a painful experience for him.

However, for those of us without this issue, when was the last time we actually did spend a whole minute (or five) doing absolutely nothing?  How often do we, while waiting in line, or waiting for a train, or waiting for our friend to show up at a bar, instinctively take out our smart phones, and distract ourselves with a game, an unnecessary email check, or social media?  Have we all gotten to the point where we cannot spend a minute inside our own brains?

For what I realized is that when we “disconnect”, we are not just disconnecting from the internet, and other distractions.  We are actually reconnecting- reconnecting with ourselves.  For most of our days, in 2015, for better or worse, we are fixated on an external stimulant.  Our minds dwell upon something someone else has chosen for us to think about.  It is only when we shut those outside distractions out that our minds are free to wander.  It is then that we form our own thoughts, on our own terms.  This is something I fear we may have lost in our modern culture.  At Turquoise Lake, I found it.