Sight, Sound and Beyond

Archive for the ‘Spirituality’ Category

The World of Dreams

Have any good dreams lately?

This is one of my popular lines that I use to start a conversation with people that with whom I am well-acquainted.

I have discussed dreams and their connection with God in earlier blog posts.  I believe that in dreams we can indeed encounter the divine and receive powerful messages.  I have seen loved ones who have gone before me, which even include beloved pet.  You can read more about these experiences by clicking on the the blog category labeled Dreams Dreams.

Today I would like to talk about dreams in terms of being a therapeutic activity.  Everyone has a hobby that helps them distress.  I just happen to enjoy one of my hobbies while I am asleep.

Ever since I was a kid, I have been fascinated by dreams.  In fact, when I was 13 years old, I began my independent study of dream interpretation.  I had bought my first book on dreams called The Illustrated Guide to Dreams by Valarie Francis.  It was around this time I learned about Lucid Dreams, which is when the dreamer becomes aware that he or she is dreaming while in the actual dream state.  By the time I was 13 years old, I had lucid dreams on several occasions.

When I was a freshman in college, I read Exploring the World of Lucid Dreaming by Stephen LaBerge and Howard Rheingold.  It was this book that taught me to experience lucid dream at will.  I remember keeping a special dream journal contained written accounts of all my experiences.

Part of learning the art of  lucid dreaming is being able to immediately recognize whether or not you are in fact dreaming.  It is a habit that you would only practice while dreaming but during waking hours as well.  Obviously there are things I am not able to do very well in dreams that I can do while awake and vice versa.  For example, in dreams I have difficulty reading.  The letters often become scrambled and/or difficult to read.  Often times whatever it is I am reading will not make much sense either.  Being able to read the time in dreams is always strange, too.  The numbers will not make sense or in some case I will see letters instead of numbers  I also have trouble turning lights and electronics off in dreams.  They always seem to turn back on.

While I am in the dream world, I am able to do the impossible.  I can fly, walk on water, breathe underwater, teleport to a new location and travel in time.  Most of the times, if I am dreaming and I jump, I will float.  This is a dead giveaway that I am dreaming.  Often times, I will experience what is known as false awakening.  I will think that I am awake in my bed and get up, but I am really in fact asleep.  Jumping, helps me to determine if I am really dreaming or awake.  If it is in fact a dream, I let my imagine run wild.

I have written my best music in dreams.  It is just too bad I can never recall what I heard upon awakening.  I have been a secret agent working for the FBI, a warrior princess, a healer, a violinist who plays Celtic style music, a trombone player in a pit orchestra, a dancer, a soldier, and yes, even an angel.

I have flown to outer space and saw Mahrs, flown a helicopter, flown a flying car (yes they exist in my dreams), done standup comedy, starred in comedy and Syfy movies and have even been a film director.

Dreams have been a source of comfort in my life as well as a source of entertainment.  I must say that whenever I am going through a rough spot in life, my dreams have a way of lifting my spirits.  When I dream I feel so free.  I must confess that I feel the most joy when I dream.  The dream world is so beautiful and my senses are heightened.  The colors and sounds are truly wonderful.

I have dreamed up some interesting characters, which include imaginary friends from child.  I see people from real life in my dreams as well such as family, friends and coworkers.  I even dream about my birds.  I must say that I have quite bizarre dreams about those two.  I no longer have this particular dream as much as I used to but I would constantly have this dream that my two little feathered friends would start to multiply in numbers.  In the dream I would see the two of them: Sunny, a sun conure and Nikki, a quaker parrot.  Then I would see two Sunnies and two Nikkies, then three Sunnies and three Nikkies, and so on.  Soon there would be several of them and I would be trying to figure out which two birds were the original two.

Dreams are a reflection of our waking lives and I would say that in many ways, my birds have taken over my life.  They have weaseled their way into my creative music projects, blog posts and I would say that at least 95% percent of the pictures videos on my camera roll are of them.  It has been said that I talk about my birds a lot, too.  Therefore, it is no surprise that they would take over my dreams, too.

Many people I talk to tell me that don’t dream.  That is not true.  Everyone dreams every night.  It is a matter of learning how to remember your dreams.  If you would like to start remembering your dreams, you can start by keeping a journal or digital recorder by your bedside.  Upon awakening, immediately try to recall what you dreamed the night before and record it using a digital recorder or write it down later. The trick is to immediate recall upon awakening before even sitting up in bed.  This is when the details are most fresh in the mind.  Once you are set up, new thoughts of the day pop into your head and will most likely cause you to forget what you dreamt.

Well, I will close for now.  Sweet dreams!

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Stranger in a Strange Land

Stranger in a strange land

That is what I am

Stranger in a strange land

I do not understand

 

I feel that I am not from here

Yet it was here where I was born

A stranger in a strange land

Trying to make my way home

 

A land full of fear

Anger and delusion

Hate and corruption

Lies and illusions

 

How my heart trembles

Full of anguish, it strives to live

Seeking love, piece and comfort

But these the world cannot give

 

For many hearts have been broken

Through many ages passed

Where one often drinks the wine

Then throws away the glass

 

Walking through the valleys

Excluded and alone

A stranger in a strange land

Trying to make my way home

Sofia

“Do you think she is in heaven?” My mother asked me a couple months ago.  She was referring to her 12 year old West Highland White Terrier, who passed away due to the presence of a brain tumor.  I was on vacation with my friend Mary when Sofia took a turn for the worse.  Sofia had suffered from terrible seizures, and by the time my parents got her to the vet to be put down, she was barely conscious.

The last I had seen her, Sofia was in pretty good spirits.  I was not aware that she had a brain tumor.  I had left for vacation when the vet gave the diagnosis to my parents.   Imagine my surprise when I found out what was going on.  The evening before I had found out the news of her passing, I had a very vivid dream about her.  I saw her coming toward me, and she was happy.  I took it as a message from God that she was fine and living happily with Him.  I believe that God takes pleasure in living with his creatures, even a small dog like Sofia.

But of course all kinds of theological questions came to mind, which resulted in me feeling very anxious.  Does Sofia still exist?  Is she totally gone?  St. Thomas Acquaints, a theologian and Doctor of the Church, would say that Sofia’s soul ceased to exist after physical death because only human beings have immortal souls.

I was so confused and anxious that I emailed a priest that used to minister at my home parish.  He assured me that God does not eternally destroy that which He creates.  I know that God doesn’t eternally destroy what He creates, but is that the same thing as allowing what He creates to go out of existence?

Many Catholics have told me that Heaven is only for human beings.  It has been said to me: “Jesus did not die for our pets,” “Animals do not have free will” or “Animals are not capable of love.”  A lot of these things are hard for me to swallow.  I get mixed answers because the truth is that no one really knows.  Even The Catechism of the Catholic Church does not provide an answer.

I know that animals are not human beings and are not created in the image and likeness of God, but they were still created by God and God said they were good right?  The issue I have is not whether or not I will see Sofia in heaven, but whether or not Sofia even still exists.  The thought of her being lost forever is quite upsetting.  It is not so much that I must see her again, but rather to have the assurance that she still happily  lives on in the presence of her Creator.  It is one thing to not see your dog, but it is a completely different thing to never see your dog and to be told she no longer exists.  Do you see the difference?

I was not Sofia’s favorite human.  My mother was.  They had a special relationship, and Sofia was her little buddy.  I have fond memories of the two of them watching TV together on the couch.  Even though I was not Sofia’s favorite human, I still loved her.  After all, I was a part of her life.  I enjoyed sitting next to her, petting her and giving her belly rubs.  I would take her for walks outside and keep her company when my mother wasn’t home.  Sofia had a fiery personality.  Some moments she was stubborn and tough as nails, but that would change and she would reveal her happy, playful side.  She loved to run around and look out the window.  She especially enjoyed playing with my nieces and nephew.

When my mother asked if Sofia is in heaven, I had to answer as best as I could.  Remember, I am not a Doctor of the Church, and I don’t have any degrees in Catholic theology.  I didn’t even attend Catholic school so what can I possibly know?  I am as clueless as they come.

I believe it is very possible that Sofia is in Heaven and that she is with God.  The whole of creation is a family.  Yes, we are children of God, but the rest of creation is still part of God’s family as well.  Maybe we could view them as God’s extended family.   We all have our immediate families yes?  We also have relatives.  Perhaps God’s family is much like that.  We are his children and are members of His immediate family, but our non human brethren are family, too.  Perhaps the animals are like adoptive “nieces and nephews.”  Whatever the case may be, God is the creator of all living things and all the living creatures are His.

Another possibility is Sofia could be part of the New Earth, which will come about after the final judgment.  Sofia lived the way a dog should live during her time spent on Earth.  Perhaps after the resurrection she could continue to live out her earthly existence.  One thing is for certain: God doesn’t have limits.  If he can create the universe and the world out of nothing, He can certainly recreate a creature that once existed.  Perhaps Sofia doesn’t have an immortal soul likes humans do, but God could recreate her one way or another if He wills it.

Many will say that animals do not know God, but Sofia lived among humans who love God.  I believe that my mother helped Sofia come to know God at some level.  How?  Well, my mother took care of her and loved her just as God loves and cares for us.   C.S. Lewis adopts a similar view, which is discussed in his book titled The Problem of Pain.

If, nevertheless, the strong conviction which we have of a real, though doubtless rudimentary, selfhood in the higher animals, and specially in those we tame, is not an illusion, their destiny demands a somewhat deeper consideration … Man was appointed by God to have dominion over the beasts, and everything a man does to an animal is either a lawful exercise, or a sacrilegious abuse, of an authority by Divine right. The tame animal is therefore, in the deepest sense, the only ‘natural’ animal – the only one we see occupying the place it was made to occupy, and it is on the tame animal that we must base all our doctrine of beasts. Now it will be seen that, in so far as the tame animal has a real self or personality, it owes this almost entirely to its master.

What Lewis suggests here is that we human beings are able to make known to our animal companions a certain sense of self.  Thus, it is through their relationships with human beings that animals can enter into heaven.  It sounds quite similar to how it is through our relationship with Jesus Christ that we human beings can enter into eternity with God.

C.S. Lewis concludes.

“And in this way it seems to me possible that certain animals may have an immortality, not in themselves, but in the immortality of their masters,”

I would also like to add that animals also live in the present moment.  They are not stuck in the past or worrying about the future the way human beings are.  Because of our preoccupation with the past and future, we often miss out on the present.  Animals are always in the present moment, and to be in the present moment is to truly be in the presences of God.  After all, God is the great I Am, not the great I Was or the great I Will Be right?  God encompasses the past present and future.

I do not have all the answers, but I have written another post related to this topic called Animals in Heaven, One Catholic’s Perspective.  I know many will disagree with me, especially those with strong backgrounds in Catholic theology or those who had the privilege to receive a catholic education, but my wish is not so much so see Sofia in Heaven (she probably would have little interest in seeing me anyways).  My wish is that Sofia be with God in Heaven where she will be most happy and free from suffering.

And so I end by leaving you with the following advice: If you have lost an animal in your lifetime, or if you worry what will become of your beloved friend after his or her physical death, do not pray that he or she will enter into heaven so that you can see them again, but pray that they may enter Heaven  so that they can be with God.  While we may love them dearly, no one is a better lover than God.  If you love anyone, whether it be a another human being or a small creature like Sofia, pray that at that moment of death, he or she will be reunited with the greatest love of all: their Creator, who is love itself.  After all, it is because of God that we all love in the first place.

 

The Tortoise

I have a confession to make.  I get a bit intimidated when I meet people who are younger than I am and are more successful than I am.  Yup, there you have it.  I will often meet someone younger than I am that has an amazing career, their own home, their own family, etc.  Feelings of inadequacy will often creep in and I will feel like an epic failure.

As you may already know, I was a late bloomer.  I started Kindergarten at the age of 6 instead of the typical age of 5.  Therefore I was the oldest in my class.  I was the oldest, but you would have never guessed it because I was behind on so many levels, especially socially.  My classmates in many ways were light years ahead of me.  Everything came so easily to them whereas I always felt like everything was a challenge.  Even, my own older siblings reached all their miles stones before I ever did.  I often felt quite defeated being the youngest child since both of my sisters were always such tough acts to follow.  I always thought that in time I would catch up with everybody and have my glory day when I could say: “At last, I have gotten further in life than expected.”

There is an old Italian proverb that goes like this:

Chi va piano va sano e va lontano.  Chi va forte va alla morte!

This translate to:

The one who goes slow, goes safely thus far.  The one who goes fast will die.

I often repeat this proverb to myself when I find myself falling behind in life.  It reminds me of the story of the Tortoise and the Hare.  The hare was quick, but he was overly confident and fell asleep during his race against the tortoise.  As a result, the tortoise crossed the finish line first.   The story encourages one to believe that everything adds up in the end.  As you can guess, I truly identify with the tortoise because I move through life quite slowly.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I would not say that my entire life has been a complete failure.  Sure, it took me a bit longer than most to achieve things, but I got there eventually.  I may not have had numerous successes in my life like my contemporaries, but the successes that I have had, I attribute to the Lord.  For example, it is because of God that I stuck with music for most of my life.  Ironically, it was actually more difficult to quit making music than to continue doing so.  If that is not divine intervention, I don’t know what is.  Furthermore, I believe that God wanted me to be a musician to bring people closer to Him.  There is something about the arts that can take one to a new world of discovery.

So how does a tortoise like myself experience and view the world.  Well, when you move at a slow steady pace in life, you are better able to understand the world in a different way.  I have learned a lot by watching others pass by.  Let’s just say that as a tortoise you have time to think a lot because it takes long for you to reach your true destination.  If you are wondering where I am going, don’t ask.  I don’t really know.  I am just trying to follow where the Lord leads me, but often times it’s not very clear to me if I am actually following Him.

I often strive to live my life with as much detachment from the world as possible, focusing as much as I can on the wonderful living creations that God made.  I have found that attachment to man-made things has been the root cause of much of my own suffering in life.  1 John 2: 15-17 states

Do not love the world or the things in the world. The love of the Father is not in those who love the world; for all that is in the world—the desire of the flesh, the desire of the eyes, the pride in riches—comes not from the Father but from the world.   And the world and its desire are passing away, but those who do the will of God live forever.

I try to live life keeping my eyes toward God and heaven, but all too often I fall and become distracted with things of the world.  I see the many hares speeding by me and I think to myself, “Aw man, they are so far ahead of me.”  They are certainly doing great things and receiving recognition.

It is very easy to view success through the eyes of the world when it comes at you from every angle.  Our culture is filled with celebrities who flaunt their wealth and talk about their million dollar contracts.  I am surrounded by people who are advancing in their careers or maybe even the founder and president of their own business.  All around me I hear of people buying houses, getting promoted, making more money, getting married, having children, etc. These things are obviously not bad in themselves.  In fact these are good things.  However, it seems that we celebrate what a person gains rather than what a person gives.  If a person has a spouse and children, they are viewed as successful compared to the single person who tries to make a difference in his or own community.  A person who has their own home is viewed as successful compared to the person who lives with parents or other family members.  A person who makes $120,000 a year is viewed as more successful than the person who makes a fraction of that, and a person is who is loved by the world is viewed as more successful than a person who is after God’s heart.

Since a young age, I was unintentionally taught that to gain is to be successful.  If you get good grades in school you are successful.  If you make friends you are considered successful and the more friends the better.  I can still remember my Sweet 16.  It consisted of me and two friends, not a real sweet sixteen like both my older sisters had.  My oldest sister had 35 friends at her party.  My other sister had 75.  Because of my lack of friends, I felt rather pathetic and had no desire to even think of having a Sweet 16 party.  However my two friends took it upon themselves to throw me a little surprise party to celebrate my 16th birthday.

Once I entered the work force the notion became this: the more money you earn, the more successful you are.  If you have people working under you, you are even more successful.  Then, there is the relationship status.  When people hear you are single, they think there must something wrong with you.  In my case, people either thought I was gay or entering religious life.  I must confess that even in my own family I often feel inadequate because I am the only child of my parents who is not married with children.  I just have two birds that most people could care less about.

Because of both my sisters and their marriages, my parents have grandchildren.  I have not added to the family at all unless you count my two 13 year old birds, but it is not the same obviously.  About a year ago, I recall a woman speaking to another woman about her children: “They are all married, thank God.”  Hearing that remark was quite hurtful to me.  If that is what makes a child successful in their parents’ eyes then I must be a huge disappointment to mine.  Not only am I not married, but I am totally fine without ever getting married.  My biggest focus in life is getting with God and improving my spiritual life.  I believe that God is the only source of true happiness and success.  To love and live in relationship with God is to gain everything.   To the world I may appear to not have much, but in my heart of hearts I know I am very rich.

The one thing that the tortoise had in the story that I wish I had was self confidence.  Despite being ridiculed by the hare for his slowness, he still maintained focus on the goal.  He accepted himself as he was and possessed much wisdom and mental strength.  How I wish I could be like that.  If there is anything I wish God to give me, I wish to gain is the wisdom and mental strength that the tortoise possessed in that story.   Perhaps someday, I will experience such a moment.  I sure hope so, but perhaps the greatest moment that I can wish to experience is that moment I leave this world and come face to face with almighty God.  How I wish to cross that finish line and enter into Heaven with Him for all eternity, and as I enter that wonderful kingdom of pure love and bliss, how awesome it would be to hear our Lord  say something like: “Well done my good and faithful daughter.  Welcome home!”

 

 

A Reluctant Organist

unnamedIf you asked me ten years ago if I would ever consider learning to play the organ I would probably say, “Nope.”  For the last couple months, I have been pondering the idea, and with the help of a fellow choir member and colleague, I found someone who was willing to teach me.  I am schedule to have my firt lesson a week from tomorrow.

How did all this happen?  Well, after our church music director got a job closer to home, the choir scrambled to find someone who could fill in until our pastor could hire a permanent replacement.  After playing a few masses on piano at my church and even playing a mass on Christmas Eve with another parish at Westchester Department of Correction, my interest in playing music at church became even stronger.  There was one problem.  I didn’t know how to play the organ, and the more I thought about it, the more curious I became.  Could I actually learn to play?

Once I began considering the idea of learning to play the organ, my mind began to attack me with negative thoughts.

Are you kidding?  At your age?  You’re too old to learn a second instrument!

As a classically trained musician, I have often heard it said that to be a good musician on any instrument, it is best to start very young.  Most accomplished pianists begin their piano studies between the ages of 3 and 5.  I was 8 years old when I started, and according to classical standards, that is considered to be over the hill unless you happen to be a genius.  In case you are wondering, I am not a genius.

Now here I am at 35 years of age wanting to learn the organ.  Besides learning to play on at least two manuals (keyboards), I would be required to play on a pedal keyboard using my feet.  P.S. I am not the most well-coordinated person.  If you don’t believe me, you should check me out when I am out on the dance floor.  I may enjoy shaking a tail feather, but I don’t know if others enjoy watching me do so.

I took 20 years of piano lessons, and it wasn’t until my mid 20s that I began to play at a pretty reasonable level.  How long would it take me to play at a decent level on the organ?  Would it seriously take me another 20 years?

I haven’t even started lessons yet, and I have already been faced with my fair share of challenges.  I thought finding a teacher would be one of the most difficult parts, but there was something even more challenging: getting access to an organ.  I didn’t get the green light from my own home parish, and once I informed my father about it he quoted Luke 4:24

No prophet is accepted in his hometown.

Finally after many emails and telephone calls, I finally cut a break with another parish in my neighboring town.  The music director there was a huge help, and through him I was able to gain access to the organ in their small chapel.  The chapel has less activity than their main church, so I would less likely be an intrusion on other people.  This chapel is actually closer to where I live than my actual home parish.

I do not know what the outcome of all this will be.  I have been told by a couple people that God is calling me to pursue this and to become a church organist.  So far, I am not feeling like that’s the case.  Now don’t get me wrong, I initially felt it when the idea first popped into my head, but the feeling only lasted for a few minutes.  My own mother was confused by my interest in becoming an organist and said:

I don’t understand why are you doing this.  Holy Rosary doesn’t need an organist.

She failed to see that this was something beyond Holy Rosary.  Besides, I wouldn’t say that I am Holy Rosary’s most popular choice for church musician (although the choir likes me yay!).  To be quite honest, I am the one that fills in when there is absolutely no one else available.  For example, I played piano at a healing mass once because none of the musicians from the folk group were able to attend.  It was summertime and people were away on vacation. Let me just say when I was asked to play, I was pretty excited and gave it my best effort.  Sure, I was the only person left in the pool of choices, but I still got the call!

Last Sunday, we had no organist to play for the 9:30am mass and so with only 15 minutes prior notice, I jumped in, hoped for a miracle and played the mass on piano.  I will add that before I arrived at the church, my mother gave me some of her useful advice:

Don’t interrupt the priest by coming in too early with the Sanctus.

She was referring to the last time I played at mass.  Before all the angels and saints could begin proclaiming God’s glory by saying “holy holy holy,” I had already gotten started.  I am thinking all of Heaven was like “Whoa!  Check out that anticipation on Earth right now!”  Either that or Heaven had a good chuckle.  Whatever it was, I hope, it to some extent, pleasing to the Lord.  Messing up in church is truly a humbling experience.  P.S. There were twice as many holies sung at that particular mass.  There’s your silver lining!

Anyway, my parents happened to be at the impromptu mass that took place this morning.  My mother said:

You did very well.  I didn’t hear any mistakes.

Well, I managed to fool her.  There were plenty of mistakes and thankfully, our Lord was very gracious in helping me cover them up.

As I bring this blog post to a close, I recall a phrase that someone very close to me said a couple weeks ago:

“Go where God leads you.”

Let’s see where He takes me.

Why We Feel Unloved

16830806_10155030232006624_849842294541958570_nA few weeks ago a friend posted on facebook about feeling unloved.  She has experienced much in her life and at that particular time felt that those around her, which included family and even her own therapist, had let her down.  Many comments were posted to her page reassuring her that she is loved.  I do not doubt she didn’t know she was loved.  In fact I am sure she rarely forgets, but isn’t it interesting how even when one is surrounded by family and friends he or she can feel unloved?

I can very much relate to feeling unloved.  It unfortunately a very familiar feeling that I have experience for much of my life that seems to go hand and hand with loneliness.  We all experience rejection in our lives, but most importantly, we also experience disappointment from those who supposedly love us.   We put our faith in another person and down the road they disappoint us and we are deeply hurt.  Because of our disappointments, we all yearn to feel loved.

I have learned that nothing in this world can being a person true and everlasting happiness.  This also means that we as human beings can never experience what it means to be a true giver and receiver of love.  Because we are imperfect, our love is imperfect and since we give imperfect love, we in turn receive imperfect love.  We try to seek perfection in people which is impossible.  No matter how hard we try, we will at some point be disappointed by others and we will also disappoint others as well.

If we ourselves are imperfect, how can we expect to find perfect and everlasting love in another imperfect human being?  The simple answer is that we can’t.  To experience true love, we must realize Who the real giver of true love is.

I wrote this following comment beneath my friend’s facebook status.

You feel unloved because no one in this world can love you perfectly. We are all finite creatures seeking the infinite, the divine, the eternal. We are all imperfect creatures and therefore not capable of loving perfectly. This is why we can never find happiness through another person. Only God is perfect and thus capable of perfect love. Therefore keep your eyes on God always for He is the true giver of perfect love and our only True Love.

And therefore I end by saying this: if perfect and eternal love is what you seek, you will never find it in this world for the world cannot offer such a thing.  Nothing in this world lasts forever.  You can only find true love in God, for He is the reason that we love and seek love in the first place.

 

 

Learning to Live

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Mary and Me at The QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning in Whitehouse Station, NJ

“You are crazy.  I don’t understand why you are doing this,” my mother commented.  She couldn’t understand why my best friend, Mary, and I were going on a hot air balloon ride.  She thought the whole idea was nuts and dangerous.  Mary and I thought the opposite.  It was something we wanted to do.  We both have a philosophy about living life to the fullest and trying new things.

Last Saturday, we had a ride of a lifetime at The QuickChek New Jersey Festival of Ballooning in Whitehouse Station, NJ.  We both agreed that we would definitely ride in a hot air balloon again.

My mother said the same thing to me a couple years ago as I was planning my trip to Israel.  I went with 15 other people, 9 of which were from my church.  My mother thought I was nuts.  She would constantly say one of the following phrases to me:

“Don’t get lost.”

“Don’t get shot.”

“Stay away from ISIS.”

My response probably didn’t calm her nerves either.  I would say:

“Mom, if I get killed, at least I will die in the same place where my Lord walked.  I can’t think of a better way to go.”

As I mentioned in a previous post, my 20s were a emotional rollercoaster.  My early 30s started of okay, but I didn’t begin to come out of my shell until my 33rd birthday.  I was on a mission, a mission to live and get out there.  I craved adventure and wanted to live life as I intended to live it and not how society expected me to live it.

Prior to my 20s I was a real nerd and bookworm.  Many people wish they tried harder in school.  My biggest regret was working too hard in school.  A couple years ago, I was talking to an high school student entering his senior year and I repeatedly told him, “Don’t be like me.  Don’t work too hard.  Have a good time and enjoy yourself.”

By the time I was halfway through high school my own mother was constantly saying to me: “Just aim for the 65.”  She saw how stressed and overly focused I was with my studies.  When your own parents tell you to not try so hard, you know something is up.  I wasn’t an exceptional student, either.  I didn’t take AP classes, nor was I in the honors program like both of my older sisters were.  I took my first and only honors class in my senior year, which was a year-long math course in pre calculus and calculus I.

Instead of taking AP classes, I took courses for college credit.  That was a smart move on my part because when I started my freshman year in college, I already had 9 college credits toward my degree, which went toward my general education requirements.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand.  Like many students, I fell for the old myth that you do well in school to get into college and go to college to get a good job.  Yeah, my first job out of college was in retail and I made less than minimum wage.  I remember feeling quite discouraged in my 20s because I was working jobs that didn’t require a degree.  Nowadays however, most jobs do require a degree because the college degree has become what the high school diploma was 50 years ago.  This is an unfortunate reality, especially when you consider the cost of a college education these days.

I graduated high school Magna Cum Laude.  I remember my cumulative GPA was like an 89.93 or something like that.  I remember being upset because it wasn’t a 90.  There were 147 graduates in my class and I was in the top quarter.  Not too shabby right?

I was quite proud of my academic achievements, but those hard-earned achievements came at a huge price: it nearly cost me my entire social life.  I didn’t do a lot of exciting things during my high school years.  Sure, I did extracurricular activities and visited prison (see  The Day I Visited Prison), but I rarely attended parties and on senior cut day, I attended all my classes.  My life was all about hard work and doing well in school.  My idea of a good time on a Friday night was doing math homework (Math was my absolute  favorite subject).  I felt that working hard would pay off in the long run.  It really didn’t because I missed out on so much.  I missed out on being a regular teenager with a social life, spending time with my friends that didn’t always include studying and doing homework.  To be completely honest, I did not enjoy my high school years at all.

Though I did enjoy most of my college studies, my habits were not much different from my high school ones.  I spent lots of time studying and practicing piano.  I had a full schedule and again, focused more on doing well.  Because I lived on campus, I was able to attend certain campus events and parties, but my main focus was to learn and do well.  For me it was less about the college experience and more about getting an education.  I think with most people it is the other way around.

Now at nearly 35 years of age, I seem to be making up for lost time.  The things I never would have done in my younger days, I am doing now.  I got out more and always keep busy outside of work.  My mother once told me that I live like a gypsy because I am always running around and doing different things, which include some traveling.  Outside of my church activities, I always make time for going out with and spending time friends.  I often go out on weeknights, which I never did as a high school student.

Life is short and I don’t want to miss out on enjoying life like I did in my younger years.  I don’t want to reach the end of my life with a bunch of regrets like “I wish I didn’t work as hard,” or “I wish I wasn’t so serious all the time.”  I find that the older I get, the less I focus on how much I own, but rather what wonderful experiences I have had.  I focus less on what I have learned from books and more on what I have learned from my actual life experiences.  Most importantly, I don’t care so much about making a lot of money, but rather making a lot of wonderful memories.

We all are doing to die someday.  When I lie on my deathbed, I am not going to think about what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had, what kind of job positions I held, or how well I did in school.  I am going to think about the many experiences I have had and the people with whom I shared them.  Memories come from life experiences and I want to have plenty of happy ones.  Some experiences may just happen to us, but we can create our own experiences, too.  Aristotle once said:

“Memory is the scribe of the soul.”

And so I leave you with one question, what do you want to be written in your soul?

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