Alive and Well from Washington State

April 6, 2015 at 12:53 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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It has been forever since I logged in and posted something on my blog! There are a number of reasons for the lapse – lack of time, lack of interest, uncertainty in direction, excuses, excuses, and more excuses.

But no more! Recently, an “internet contact” reached out to me and let me know that she enjoyed reading my blog posts (Do we have a word for those people you know online but have never actually met? If so, I need that word…). My immediate reaction was, “My blog! Wait…I have a blog?” But through her kind words I felt encouraged to start blogging again, and I was inspired to find something new to write about.

There was just one problem. When I initially started this blog, it was fueled by fiery passion for things that seemed really pertinent to my life at the time. The blog was initially born out of the idea that I had a lot of useful knowledge that I could share with the world and those who were willing to listen. So, that’s exactly what I did. Over time, I reached a point where I felt like I had shared everything I intended to share and that I had more or less tapped out the topic at-hand.

But I’ve had a lot of time to get out in to the world and live, and realized that my passion is, well, passion. The things I posted were specific to certain topics, but driven by the core concept of self-improvement and intentional living. The concept of intentional living is what gets me out of bed in the morning and drives me throughout the day. And sharing it with other people is an amazing opportunity that I can’t pass up. So the direction of the blog going forward is set to be a smattering of tips, tricks, and ideas to infuse your life with inspiration and purpose and I will shamelessly pepper it with anecdotes from my own life to prove the concept. Geez – now I sound like every motivational speaker that’s ever lived.

I’ve written a little bit about intentional living before, but let me recap it for the new readers. My favorite analogy is, naturally, the one I made up just now. Actually I’m lying – it isn’t new at all. Incubus even wrote a song about it (bonus points to anyone who identifies the song). Life is somewhat like a running car in that you have the ability to either drive it and choose your destination or let chance take the wheel. We all know what happens when you take your hands off the wheel though. The car will go anywhere that gravity and the road take it…most often into a ditch or a lake. Most of the people you meet in life are either not steering at all (can you say pregnant at 16 years old?) or occasionally offering a corrective nudge or two enough to keep the car on the road, but not really with any particular destination or objective in mind, and they confuse this with success. And then there are those rare specimens, about 10 percent of people according to recent studies, who are actively driving and choosing where to go next. These 10 percent of people produce more than the other 90 percent combined. No, we aren’t the 1 percent. We are the 10 percent. I’d rather be in that bracket than the 1 percent.

Intentional living is about not cruising through life and going with the flow. Sure, there are times when it’s okay – even productive – to let go of the wheel and see where it takes you. But for the most part, choosing where you’re headed in life and taking active, intentional steps to get there is much likelier to get you somewhere you want to be. It’s about setting realistic goals and achieving them. It’s about finding ways to motivate yourself to take the next step. Phrases like “There is always room at the top,” and “The extra mile is one stretch of highway that never has a traffic jam,” come to mind. Those are nifty phrases that fill me with good feelings. And let me tell you, (ladies,) there is plenty of room at the top.

For most folks, the concept of intentional living and the practical implementation of the principles are foreign. You may have a goal or want to achieve a certain something, but you may not have the tools to get there. That’s where I hope to help you. Because if you are here reading this now, that means you have enough of a desire to at least put yourself in the right place. Maybe you want to lose weight. Maybe you want to find happiness. Maybe you would like to improve your career. Maybe you want to improve your personal relationships. Maybe you want to improve yourself. The good news is anything is possible and all of these goals, though seemingly unrelated, can be achieved with the same set of tools.

That’s all for this post. I wanted to check in and get things rolling again. This post is as much for me as it is the readers and it serves as my commitment to you to get it off the ground and moving again. I’ll also be going through old posts, tuning up and fixing broken links, missing pictures, and the like.

For those of you who are new or want to know, the rest of this post is a bit of self-disclosure to bring things up to current and describe my experience with intentional living for the last three years. I stopped writing my blog intensively back when I lived in the Midwest. A lot has changed since then and I have been somewhat hibernating in my cocoon, perfecting my craft. Of course it will never be perfect.

Since the Midwest, the direction of my life has changed quite a bit in some ways and I’ve conquered many projects – things that I grew up thinking were impossible or never for me. I moved to Washington state in the spring of 2011 because I thought it would be a good change. There have been a lot of great things to come out of that. Moving to Washington wasn’t something that “just happened.” By the way, I hate that phrase – just happened. It’s one of the most overused phrases of our time and a blatant indicator of how people drift through life without direction or purpose. But I digress. I had planned to move to the Pacific Northwest for years and spent over a year searching for jobs. I didn’t have time off when I came to Washington. I started work on the first working day I was here. It was a consulting engineering job doing exactly what I thought I wanted to do at the time. And it was exactly what I thought it would be.

Washington has been good to me. I felt an inexplicable calling to the Northwest. I had never been there, so I didn’t know why it was so interesting to me. But I knew the Midwest wasn’t the place for me, being as religious and traditional as it is. Education isn’t valued as highly there as it is here, and there is not much opportunity for a highly skilled, highly trained, driven professional. In fact, the Midwest has no need for highly skilled, highly trained individuals of any type. It’s a simple life, and there’s certainly value in that – it just wasn’t for me. Since my move, I discovered that Washington has fantastic craft beer, the best coffee in the country, and lots of bearded guys so that I fit right in. Washington also has a very educated population and a lot of really hard-working, independent people. It’s like people here are constantly working and when they aren’t they’re being antisocial at home recovering. The majority of homeowners are actually single people. So I do really fit in pretty well here. What I didn’t count on was the fact that almost everyone here is affected by seasonal depression and that physical fitness isn’t valued very highly, especially (sadly) among the single female population. That fact really blew me away given the tremendous opportunities we have here for outdoors recreation. You can’t haul yourself up to the top of Mt. St. Helens if you’re packing an extra 50 pounds! And why wouldn’t you want to do that if you live here!? But anyways…

I worked at my consulting job for about two years, but the office took a turn for the worse about halfway through. The firm began moving work away from my office and in to other branches. They initiated a corporate shift at the top level that was good for some and bad for others. The low guys on the totem pole really got screwed. My boss (who really liked me and was perhaps the only reason I got hired to begin with) ended up taking his own life in a tragic turn of events last summer. Things really plummeted. I moved on and became a public employee at the City of Tacoma where I do engineering plan review for private development. It sounds fancy, but I’m not doing anything too rocket-science-ey. The job is a great move for me because it offers me a ton of engineering experience across the board of disciplines.

One of the reasons I became an engineer is because my personality is that of an engineer – very much a planner, a dreamer, an executor. I’m about getting things done. But another thing that drove me to civil engineering in particular is that I have a gift of understanding the physical world and the world of construction with a clarity that most others do not. It probably has a lot to do with being predisposed to building things when I was a child. I grew up with legos and Lincoln logs just like the next guy, but I had the opportunity to help out with concrete paving and remodeling homes as I got older. I never knew how much that experience would affect me at the time, but it played a huge role in what I became.

I always though that my career would be the place I would take off, but it surprised me when I encountered as many obstacles as I did in advancing my career. I am still a very successful professional, especially for my age, and I like to think that I am a notable presence in the local engineering community. In fact, I know I am because I recently attended a conference of public works professionals and networked like a champ. Some of my professional contacts are nationally acclaimed engineers with distinguished careers. My mentor is one of the greatest treatment engineers I’ve ever met. But I put my career on the backburner for a while to pursue some personal goals. My personal life was where I found the best opportunities to improve my life and myself.

When I arrived here in Washington I had a long list of big, lofty goals. They were a combination of new goals and goals left over that I didn’t have the resources to achieve in college or things I couldn’t accomplish because of my location before (e.g., make friends – difficult to do in a town of 13,000 in oil ghost-town Oklahoma). After a year or so of Washington life, I either crossed goals off the list as achieved or irrelevant and I was left with this void. I was like a pickup truck in tow mode without a trailer.

So I began to focus on my personal life and finding out who I am and what is most important to me. It led me on a breathtaking adventure. I tried a lot of new things in a short period of time and I met a lot of new people from all walks of life. I became a host for a local meetup group in town. I traveled all over the Puget Sound region checking out the cities in the area and meeting people from different places. I bought a house and turned it from a pile of junk in to a nice little cottage by completely gutting it and starting over. I began and completed a long list of projects that made me a better, more complete person. And I did all of it in the face of overwhelming odds and hardship. As of today at this writing, I am generally a happy person. My core values revolve around people and making the world a better place. The process of discovery and self-improvement is not one with a beginning or an end. It is a journey for the sake of a journey – Kaizen, an Asian term for the philosophy of constant change for the better.

And none of what I have described here “just happened.” Maybe you look at this and think it simply isn’t relevant to you. That’s probably true…you aren’t buying a flip house, working two jobs, and hitting the gym regularly. But I can show you one example to which we can all relate, and an issue that is near and dear to my own heart – relationships and love.

Is there anybody out there who doesn’t want to find good relationships and love? Good, I didn’t think so. So much of what we see on social media and television revolve around all of these laissez faire approaches to relationships – phrases like: love will find you when you least expect it, don’t go looking for someone, they have to come to you, chemistry is “just there.” These phrases drive me nuts and they couldn’t be more incorrect. If you disagree, take a look at the current state of marriages and relationships. A lot of people, especially young people, are extremely frustrated with their love life (or lack thereof). Could all of this be coincidence, or could it be that good relationships take time and effort and hard work and people are undermining their own efforts through their actions and attitudes? Laziness is not going to bring you happiness. Ever. Even in relationships. Nobody ever got anything worth having by doing nothing. At what point did people decide that it doesn’t apply to dating, too?

Next time someone is coming down on you because you are, in their opinion, trying too hard, ignore that comment. Nobody will know you’re looking if you don’t put yourself out there. There is absolutely no shame in putting yourself out there – whether that’s dressing up and going out to a bar looking cute or starting an online dating profile. Get out and join a hiking group, or a book club – anything that interests you. People meet people in different ways in this age. Don’t let yourself be shamed by others for wanting a relationship and don’t let others stop you from finding it. Just like you wouldn’t let them shame you or stop you if, for example, you wanted to lose 50 pounds and modified your eating habits and began exercising to accomplish that goal. Not that anyone would discourage you from wanting to lose weight – but isn’t it funny how they make you feel ashamed for trying to find a boyfriend or girlfriend intentionally?

If you’re already in a relationship, ask yourself if you’re putting in effort and making it better. Relationships aren’t inanimate creatures – they are living, breathing, and changing because the people in them are living, breathing, and changing. It even goes beyond romantic relationships and applies to friendships and business connections. Do you treat your personal relationships the same way you treat your business relationships? I doubt it, because everybody would be at each other’s throats if they did.

There’s a lot wrong with the world today, but a little education goes a long way to reducing ignorance. That’s my rant for the day and my welcome back post. Look for more as I get back to writing.

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