For the Record – 2016 into 2017

The years keep flying by before I have time to acknowledge them. Old things fall out of focus, new things make room in my brainspace. Can’t believe so much has happened.

In 2016:

  • I spent more time up in the air than ever, 120 hours (or more) in planes; 48+ hours on the road. Tokyo, LA, Toronto, Melbourne, Minneapolis, Chi-Town, Sydney, Boston, Portland, Niagara Falls, Niigata, State College, and various little towns in PA and Maryland. I’m so grateful to have traveled to all of these wonderful places.
  • I lived (still living) through the ultimate long-distance relationship. Whenever I mention it, people think she’s just a few cities away. Try a few time zones. I always get the vibe that people think I’m a weirdo for being in an international relationship. I sometimes get that “good luck with that” look. You don’t really know the extent of your love for someone until you’ve experienced something like this.
  • I finished my second mini-novel of sorts. It was my first venture into Sci Fi. Not perfect, but definitely got my creative juices flowing.
  • I took a class in improv, and delved into screenwriting. Feels so good.
  • I read 10 books, almost one book a month!

But so much more could have happened in 2016:

  • I could be much further along in my pilot script, but procrastination.
  • I could’ve stuck with my habits, instead of waiting for inspiration.
  • I could’ve played less video games.
  • I could’ve read more scripts, studied more shows, took more classes…
  • I could’ve been much more intentional with my actions, and focused hard on what I really want.
    • I could’ve held less doubt in my mind.

The three ares of focus for 2016 were:

1. Wrap-up Novel/Begin Spec Script

Done and, done! Although I wish I was further along in the script, this is exactly where I planned to be. Instead of spec though, I switched to writing an original pilot. This is the format that the screenwriting contests I’m entering will be looking for.

Also, someone answered my wishes from a previous post.

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Thanks Paula!

2. Take 10

I didn’t implement this theme as effectively as I would have liked. This method of “taking 10” minutes to get started on something only seems to be effective if I actually make a point of starting the activity. Regardless of whether I feel “inspired” to do it.

3. No Doubt, Baby Steps

I still believe that nothing is accomplished overnight. When we last checked in on this goal I was flying high with a new job. Confident in the way things were going.

The first four months of my job did not turn out as expected. And it influenced my personal life. I started to become rational. More doubtful of my potential. Stuck.

All of this made me realize that until I find a job that aligns with my passions, I can’t let work life creep into my personal one. There needs to be a clear divider between the two, especially if I’m in another work-from-home situation.

So 2016…not too bad. The key things I learned this year are that regardless of what life throws at me, I need to be a consistent creator. Even if that means I can only write for ten minutes on a given day, I still need to do it. I also need to become better a scheduling and following through with daily activities; a.k.a. really live in the moment by focusing on one thing at a time.

 

The past is the past. Now for 2017. I’m going down from three themes to two. Need to narrow my focus.

1. Act on Intuition

The best decisions are the ones you can just feel in your gut. No more stalling on them. When you feel it, go for it.

I believe we’re always putting vibes and signals out to the world. When there’s a blip on your sonar, it means there’s a possibility of alignment with your vibration. Explore it! This is a concept I lost sight of during my “very rational” 2016. I know it sounds like metaphysical nonsense, but these ideas helped me through so many parts of my life, it’s time to return to them.

2. Focus Solely on the Process

When I stay focused on the end result, I find myself paralyzed by the task at hand. It seems way to monumental. For now on, I will let go of trying to achieve results. Dreams are just that: dreams. I’ll write about them, think about them, maybe draw them. But when it comes time to do work, I will let all of that go entirely.

I will work furiously like no ones watching, I will stop caring about whether it’s good. I will only care about whether it’s done.

I am letting go of the ongoing debate in my mind about whether my goals are rational. I will do them regardless.

Good habits are the difference between personal freedom and mental imprisonment. So I’m going back to purposely building habits into my life. Here are the four I will focus on for the year; in chronological order. More will be added if I’m making great progress.

1. At least 20 minutes of writing/day

2. At least 20 minutes of reading/day

3. At least 20 minutes of running/day

4. Make at least one healthy meal per week

 

Final Things

I’m redesigning the layout of the blog. Possibly making a new blog entirely. It will read like your favorite movie script. Also planning to keep feeding my travel bug into the new year (Melbourne, Cali…I see you). And as always studying, learning, and bettering myself.

Ok that’s about it for this long post. Thanks forever for reading.

Current Mood: Daedelus – Experience

Impossible List

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Jim Syndrome

This post was written in Fall of last year but got swept under the proverbial rug

So I “sell” stuff. I travel and sell stuff. Through Pennsylvania to be exact. And just this October I took up improv classes. I am officially becoming Michael Scott.

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But rather than paper, I sell one of the most influential currencies of all: Ideas. More specifically, the idea that changed my life: Study Abroad.

I enjoy my job and the freedom and travel that comes with it. At one point I was super settled into the idea of doing it much longer than I planned. But…

Dunder Mifflin isn’t my calling. Like Jim and Pam I sort of arrived here sometime after college. In my free time I’m still doodling my dreams at my desk like Pam. Still joking around like Jim; trying to transition to what’s right for me. I’m getting restless again.

I know nothing happens overnight, but I just want it now! We all know that feeling, of seeing something so tangible, yet so out of reach. This must be the natural order of things. Either you learn to deal with your situation or you get fed up. And I feel like I’m reaching the tipping point.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’ve really enjoyed all the jobs I’ve had since graduation. They weren’t right on the mark in terms of what I wanted to do with my degree. Nevertheless they all helped me grow as a person. And in this time I got to figure out myself and what I really want in life. Invaluable knowledge that takes some of us years and years to attain.

Now that I have this knowledge I feel like those dreams and goals are never off my mind. Everyday I imagine characters, movies, shows. They all live up there in my mind just waiting to be unleashed like the spirits of Pandora’s Box.

I guess the most frustratingly suspenseful thing of all is that they can only be released, one word at a time.

Transitions

If you’re not always changing, then you’re probably not growing as a person.

2016 has been a year defined by transitions and my ability to adapt to them. The fact that this was the year I blogged the least, proves this entirely. The routines, habits, traditions I built in 2014 and 2015 were tested, and now it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Look out for my thoughts of 2016, my self-progress, and more within the first few weeks of January and February.

Thank you all for your continued support, and for your patience during my time of reflection. Things are changing, and I love the challenges it brings.

And as always my fellow Ronins:

you’re not alone in being alone.

Thank you.

365 Days of You

I heard that “if a writer falls in love with you, you can never die.”

If that’s true allow me to immortalize the one and only Paula Elcheikh.

Early September, 2015. In between semesters so I was doing standby at honbu in Yoyogi. Excited not to have any classes to teach that week. But I’d still be doing some mind-numbing stuff. Like making lesson materials (which were called props because we taught acting along with English).

I love that mind-numbing, conveyor belt-type stuff. It gives my mind space to roam free on ideas I never knew would come to me—had I been focused on actual work.

But this isn’t about me, this is about you! Hurry up and get into the story!

“You want to meet the new hires Eric? We’re starting training now.”

Fiona snapped me out of my thought high. I stopped cutting whatever I was cutting (cutting while daydreaming is dangerous) and headed over to the room next door to meet my future coworkers.

“Could you introduce yourself?” Typically I didn’t have much  to say besides “hey, I work here, from the US, cool job, I think you’ll like it too.”

Naturally during my speech my manstincts kicked in, and my eyes were already wandering around for the most interesting-looking girl in the room.

Hmm…this is her first day on the job and she’s wearing boots, jeans, and an untucked black button-up. Indifference all over her face too. She’s an interesting-looking girl that obviously gives no fucks about rules. I’m definitely gonna talk to her at the meeting next week!

But just something light. I’m not the type to date at work. But there’s nothing wrong with fantasizing right?

Next week she came in to the studio monochromed out, with oversized everything but the tights. She had such a dope style. Not a Harajuku barbie or Omotesando jet-setter. Something that was totally her own.

And she still had that deadpan indifference all over her face.

Maybe something is wrong? I’ll introduce myself. Don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was probably along the lines of, “How’s training been going for you?”

or

“Where you from in Australia?”

And that was about it. Once 5:00pm hit the fun was allowed to begin. A happy hour drink at the Hub with everyone at training. I mingled for a while and when the opportunity availed itself, I slipped into an empty seat across from this mysterious woman.

And we just talked as if no one was there but us.

Eventually our words ran their course and we found ourselves playing a game of S.O.S. Last train came and all but a few of our coworkers remained in the bar. On the way home Paula realized she got on the train going in the wrong direction. I think she did it on purpose because I was going that way. *wink*

Two days later we had another training. And that day I got the first sign that she actually might be interested in me. She ditched her friends in order to have lunch with me and my group. Later on at happy hour I didn’t wait for any chances to talk with her. I pulled up a chair and made my own space at the crowded table.

Then the part I’m pretty sure was planned by a friend, without my knowledge—you know who you are—happened:

All of a sudden everyone just peaced out! Like on some Irish goodbye shit. No heads up, nothing.

So it was just us. And we had an evening I’ll never forget.

And that’s how the story goes. We fell in Love and lived happily ever after.

Except no.

Lack of good communication, trust, and just general fear of risk on my end sent us veering off into different orbits. Those next two months were like a never-ending ride in the Scrambler. For a moment we’d connect as I caught her glance, and then centrifugal force would shoot us both to the opposite ends of the ride. If only we were sharing the same seat, this rollercoaster ride would be a lot more enjoyable.

And then Paula decided to get on another ride altogether; literally a brief trip back home for a cousin’s wedding. She sent me off to play with the kids in the “friend zone”.

I wanted to throw up when I got off that ride. I was done, fed up with dating, fed up with meeting people. Fed up with doing it over and over again. I wrote down all the feelings and things I never told her. I lied about fully accepting our friendship status, but my actions didn’t. The fact that we worked together only made it hurt even more. Made me drink even more. Made me feel even more.

Paula and I made plans to hang out when she came back from Australia. On November 12, 2015 I met her at Shimokitazawa Station South Entrance for a pasta dinner (with fries of course because Paula loves her potatoes…and her tomatoes). Afterwards we warmed up in Bones Bar. I got a gin lime, thinking it was a carbonated mixed drink. Paula got her favorite gin & tonic. For some reason the topic of writing came up and she asked to look at my journal. Why not? I thought I didn’t have any secrets to hide.

And that’s where she finally began to see me for who I really am. All the things I never said, all the feelings I never showed were laid bare. She saw it all. Right down to the very dates of the saying.

The night’s festivities went on (as they always do in Tokyo). We found ourselves in a karaoke booth singing our hearts out on midnight November 13th.

“I’m cold.”

Nope! I did my best to ignore her call for closeness. We were still “just friends” at this point and I wasn’t ready to get my heart crushed again. But we both could feel it for real this time.

“I can’t let my heart get hurt again,” I said. “If this is real then I need to know.”

I asked her the question and she said yes. And ever since then the rollercoasters have been all the more fun now that she’s laughing right next to me.

Princeland

Things are finally buckling down at work. Out on the study abroad fair circuit. Visiting schools, securing meetings with organizations (well, trying to). It’s busy.

And right now I’m wishing I got something to eat before I hopped on this plane back to Philly.

Minneapolis—or Princeland is what I’ve begun to call it—was where I spent the end of my mid-September week. And I just feel so grateful that I have a job which gives me the opportunity to travel.

I arrived a day early to explore the city. Didn’t know what to expect. The Midwest never caught my eye like the big cities on the coasts. Probably because around this time every four years, those States get really red. And red unfortunately equates to all kinds of “-isms” in my mind. Maybe a result of parental programming in my youth.*

Touched down after a smooth, sunny morning flight with an extra hour on hand. Time would reclaim it on the way back, but for now I took  advantage. Where to go? Well, pulled out google maps and realized the Mall of America was only fifteen minutes away! Hopped on the Metro Line with my carry-on and headed south. Passed by Fort Snelling Cemetery, which seemed to stretch out almost endlessly. Well, most cemeteries look like that, but this one was a bit more ominous. Each headstone was crafted exactly like the next. Like gray pixels over a green background.

Finally I arrived, but where was the Mall? The Metro car docked in what seemed to be a transport center for street trains, connected to a much bigger parking lot. I followed the signs up to an escalator, and there it was.

Now I see why Arnold never found a Turbo Man in time for Christmas.

This place is HUGE.

I walked and walked. Many of the usual stores were here but with all new clothes. Seemed like the whole place was season ahead of America (and a season behind New York).

Right in the belly of Monstro was the craziest of all sights. A theme park right in the middle of the mall. If for some reason I ended up growing up in Minneapolis, I know for sure my mom would never take me here. I could see myself begging my mom to pay for every ride, do every carnival game, spin every prize wheel…

Next was the Walker Art Center, a masterpiece in unobtrusive architecture. One gallery leads into the next, into the next; like a maze that never ends. Over time it creates such a calming effect. I became fully engaged in viewing each work, forgetting where I was, at times.

One of my favorite galleries was Hold your breath, dance slowly by Lee Kit. Initially I couldn’t get this type of visual art. Where’s the creativity? A lot of this stuff I could probably get at Target! I thought. But as I walked deeper into the gallery (which resembled a home/large apartment), the theme which the artist was trying to convey became clear to me. Which I interpreted to be this:

Inanimate, everyday objects used by our lovers can be charged with so much emotional meaning when viewed through the looking glass of memory.

It touched me so much considering how much the concept relates to my relationship with Paula. Everyday things like t-shirts, jewelry, perfume, etc. mean so much to us. For they remind us of the times when we were physically together, and gives us something to look forward to when we reunite again.

I could go on and on, but Minneapolis is a dope city. Wish I had time to  visit Paisley Park, but this purple-themed city gave me enough Princely vibes to hold me up until my next visit.

Final random thoughts:

  • Shout out to all the random people who started long and interesting conversations with this lone-ronin traveler. From the owner at Town Hall Brewery, who just visited Philly, to PJ at the study abroad fair who knew Temple peeps (super small world). Last but not least, a man from Kansas City I met in Matt’s Bar. Over burgers we talked about the midwest small-town-big-city feel. His son is a Godzilla otaku kid who wants to live in Japan. He even had his son’s name tattooed on his arm, in katakana.
    • So yeah, I’m starting to think that this many coincidence in two days doesn’t just “happen”
  • Huge Somali and Muslim population here. Reminded me of the random Nigerian pockets in Tokyo and Saitama, or the Jamaican ones in Toronto. Makes me wonder, why do groups choose to immigrate to very specific area around the country/world?

Just some thoughts, I’m done!

 

*After doing some research of my own, I realized that Minnesota is super Democratic.

A Window Seat to the Stars

Just my glorious luck. Another flight delayed. This time I wasted my hours away in the cold Philly International Airport. Last time it was in Portland due to bad weather. But this delay came with no explanation. Something “eventful” must have happened on a previous leg, pushing the entire schedule back.

But no worries, I was off to Chicago! Home of the deep dish, funny people, and that bean thing.

 

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Oh, and that egomaniac.

I was going to see my beautiful friends, Peter and Patricia, get married. So any delay was gonna be well worth the fun to be had the following day.

An hour passed and I was already getting restless, wishing I booked one of the many earlier flights departing for Chi-town. Two hours, three…This airport is driving my crazy!

12:30AM our plane finally arrived and all the crazies struggled to be first in line. First in line to a destination which we would all arrive at, at the same time. Never get why people rush to board.

Taxi, taxi, taxi. The runway was lit up with all different types of blues, greens, yellows, and reds. A light show extending out into the vast darkness. And then I felt those G’s grabbing at my chest.

Liftoff.

Ahh, I can rest easy now. Maybe get a quick nap in before we arrive. Too late, Curiosity and Wonder widened both of my eyes to the sight below.

The Grid of Philadelphia.

The system lit up in a series of oranges and greens, all power surging to the dark, glassy, reflective city center. The Comcast building standing tall like the I/O Tower in Tron.

As we passed over the city, the grid fused into one thick artery-vein leading into the next major cluster, and the next, and the next; in all directions. It was digital, organic, and interstellar all at the same time. I was looking down into the Stars instead of up above. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

And I didn’t sleep at all during the flight.

When you’re down to Earth, down in the “system” it can sometimes feel like everything that happens around you, effects just you. My flight was late, the traffic getting to the airport was insane, and the day was overall stressful. ‘Why me?’ I kept thinking. But when I finally took off, I could zoom out on my problems. I saw the whole machine working together, and was once again reminded that it’s not all about me.

Us.

 

This post was partly inspired by the weird and wonderful words of Abraham Hicks, sampled by DOOM at the end of “Caskets” (fast forward to 2:52)

 

 

 

Analysis of Spirited Things

Disclaimer: This post is about religion from my perspective.  Just putting that out there.

Three years.

That’s about the amount of time that’s passed since I’ve stepped foot in a church. I’ve been to temples to watch monks meditate. I’ve posed for photos in front of ancient shrines to gods I never knew. But no church.

If you’ve read my memoir you’re probably wondering what could bring this Vulcan back into the lord’s house? Well there’s one thing churches are good for: giving us an opportunity to finally let go of our losses.

Two aunts of mine died in late-July. Although we weren’t in the slightest way close (I have a huge family), it’s weird to think that someone who was always there, could just disappear forever. Although I never really knew them well, or seen them in years, the idea of their disappearance felt weird to me.

So here I am, in a church pew I never thought I’d be in. The whole time trying to shut my Vulcan, analytical-self up and just enjoy the service.

But it didn’t feel the same as it felt when I was a kid. I was on the outside looking in at a shared experience, and came away with some interesting takeaways.

 

1. Religion is Epic Storytelling

Maybe this is the screenwriter coming out in me, but while listening to the pastor preach, I noticed how grand the tales in the Bible are. More so, the telling of the tales—how the pastor speaks, his actions and emotions—adds to their “epic-ness”. You gotta admit, the stories they tell make out Jesus to be a pretty cool dude. Wouldn’t you be amazed if you saw an average-looking guy performing David Blaine-esque feats on the regular? And the suffering, all the suffering Jesus went through, is so metaphorical of the trials we face in our own lives. Maybe all the great religions are simply the stories people loved to hear over and over again in ancient times.

 

2. Black Christianity is a Bit Ironic

It’s unfortunate how many traditions were lost in the slave trade. What surprises me is how much African religions seemed to be completely wiped out as black bodies were exported to the Americas.

In the same way, it only seems fitting that most African-Americans are Christians. It fits so well with our own “epic story”.

When given scraps, our ancestors made soul food.

When the masters called us niggers, we reclaimed and warped the word for our own use.

And our ancestors took their masters’ Protestant religions to represent their own stories of pain, suffering, and triumph.

 

3. Music Supersedes All Beliefs

As areligious and agnostic as I am, the only thing that really touched me the most at both funerals was the music. Music is just one of the few things in the world that has the power to go beyond trivial things—race, religion, ideology—and bring us together. It’s also one of the few things I have trouble looking at analytically. It’s awe-inspiringly wonderful, and I don’t get why!

Maybe Music is my religion?

 

Whatever your background, we all need a safe haven that will allow you to discuss ideas and concerns, share positive thoughts, and be your best you. It’s in our DNA.

We all got us.

*As always, I don’t write to offend, but I do write what I feel. If I did offend you in any way with this post, just know that everyone’s truth is different. I’m always open to share ideas with anyone in the comments section/direct message.

Photo Credit: Thomas Hawk