Back from a Big Blogging Break!

Hello Bloggers! For those of you who remember me, I am finally back after a 13 month blogging pause. I apologize for my leave of absence from the blogging world. The reason why I have not written in awhile will unfold with this post, so hang with me and see what is on my mind.

For curiosity’s sake, here is an update about where I have been for the past year. I am still a student at Colorado State University and I have now changed my major a total of SEVEN times. I couldn’t pick one so I found something that would let me study everything- Liberal Arts! Along with the switch to Liberal Arts I also added minors in International Development and Anthropology. I had a bit of an impulsive travel decision at the end of last semester so I took off to the south of Spain to study at the University of Granada and travel around Europe. On this trip I have been to Italy, Greece, France, Morocco, and all over Spain. At this moment I am back in Granada, sitting in a little café surrounded by books, drinking my cafe con leche.

I want to take you back to a post I wrote a few months ago. If you have not already read my post, <a href=”https://twohandscreatechange.wordpress.com/2012/02/28/its-random-act-of-kindness-day-participate/”&gt;“It’s Random Act of Kindness Day, Participate?”“>”It’s Random Act of Kindness Day, Participate?” I encourage you to do so. For those of you who do not have time to read the whole post, here is an excerpt that recaps the highlight of the story.

“Yesterday I was driving across a busy bridge that crosses a highway and river in my hometown. My car was nearly to the end of the bridge and I was about to enter a large and busy intersection. Something to my left caught my eye and I looked over to see a blind man feeling his way slowly onto the bridge and into oncoming traffic. I looked around to assess the potential harm in the situation. Without any more thought, I stopped my car in the middle [lane] of the bridge, turned on my warning lights, got out of the car, ran into the oncoming traffic and approached the man.” -It’s Random Act of Kindness Day, Participate? Annie Freyschlag

In the rest of the post I continue to describe how I walked the man off the bridge and helped him find where he was going. This experience was very emotionally eye-opening for me after the adrenaline from running into oncoming traffic wore off. Ultimately, this is a happy memory for me because I know that in the moment I acted the right way, it was what I did in the moments following the incident that I look back on with regret. After I watched the man walk away in my rear-view mirror, I immediately reached for my phone and dialed all of my friends and family to vividly paint the picture of this experience for them. It was as if I needed everyone to know how proud I was that I had helped. I know in those moments I was not looking for recognition, but is that how I could have come across to the people on the other end of the phone? I think a lot of us who work in the development and humanitarian fields struggle with this idea. This seemingly morally superior aspect is something that I never hoped to embody, but it seems that aspects have pulled their way into my existence.

Then I got to thinking, isn’t that what this entire blog is about- acting with kindness, then telling others about it (bear with me as I deconstruct and hopefully reconstruct my entire existence…). My current theory, developed after months of internal anguish is that this life is about finding balance, in many things but particularly related to volunteer and aid work; finding balance between working for ourselves and working completely for others. I have made a lot of changes in my life in the last 13 months because I had a revelation that before I can advocate for changing the world, I need to make sure I am the best person I can be. After doing a bit of research, it turns out that other people have also come to the same conclusion, which eased my mind a little bit. A monk in 1100AD wrote about his conception of this realization.

“When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn’t change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn’t change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.

Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.”

It took me a long time to put this transformation into concrete thoughts, you guys should see my draft box on WordPress, I must have six or seven attempts at starting a new blog post. For the past year I could not bring myself to write to my blogging friends explaining the ways I was changing the world when I needed to first change many things about myself. But I came full circle in this thought process when I realized that I love blogging and reading what my friends are doing to help other people in the world. This community, especially those of you who write about inspiration and volunteer work, you are little candles in the souls of all of your readers, you are rays of sunshine keeping our flames alive. So here I am, sitting in a Café in Andalusia, the south of Spain, asking you to continue sharing with me your acts of love and kindness.

Here are a list of things that I am currently working to learn about on a daily basis;
Sustainable development
Ethnobotany
Spiritual Development
Biodanza
Yoga
Learning multiple languages
Sharing and learning about culture
Communication methods
Environmental ethics
Art History
Painting
(And more!)

I hope to continue writing as I learn more about how I am changing my life. More updates to come! If anyone has had a similar struggle or similar thoughts please feel to share them with me, help normalize my crazy a little bit =).

Pictures: Paris, Córdoba Mezquita, Spain, Paseo de los Tristes, Granada, Spain.

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I Have a Mission For You!

I was browsing through an old book store yesterday morning, when I stumbled upon a fantastic book. “Start Something That Matters,” by Blake Mycoskie, is a book for anyone who wants to begin making a positive impact on the world. Blake Mycoskie is the Founder, or “Chief Shoe Giver” as he likes to call himself, at the revolutionary company, TOMS Shoes. Blake started the for-profit company after his visit to Argentina where he saw the children who suffered from infection because they walked on dirt roads without shoes, and were also unable to attend school because they did not have the money to purchase the appropriate school shoes. Blake set out to change this problem by creating a company that donates a pair of shoes to a child in need for every shoe that is purchased, One for One.

Blake’s book, “Start Something That Matters” boosts people who have an interest in changing the world, and gives them a guide to starting a non-profit, bettering an existing non-profit, getting involved with philanthropy, and/or incorporating philanthropy into a for-profit company. Here are some of my favorite ideas from the book:

-Passion is important. “It’s increasingly easy to lose touch with our true passions- sometimes because we get distracted by everyday living; sometimes simply because in the usual stream of small talk or transactable business, no one ever asks us about our dreams. If you are not sure about your passion, here are three questions I sometimes ask people:

1. If you did not have to worry about money, what would you do with your time?

2. What kind of work would you want to do?

3. What cause would you serve?

– Simplicity will keep you sane.”Own as little as you can get away with. The fact is, the more you have, the more effort and money you have to spend time on taking care of it.” Blake also says, “Don’t let technology enslave you. Too many people take what’s good about technology- the convenience- and turn it into a form of oppression.” Tim Ferris is quoted in another part of the book, recommending the website, RescueTime, to track the amount of time you spend wasting away on the internet. This site will actually block sites like Facebook, during certain hours of the day to increase productivity!

-Be the change you want to see in the world. In order to build trust with the people inside AND outside your company or group, you must act as you would like to be treated. Blake quotes Robert K. Greenleaf’s 1970 essay, “The Servant as Leader” when he describes “The Servant as Leader” phenomenon. According to Blake, “the term refers to someone who uses qualities like empathy, listening skills, stewardship, and awareness rather than power to assert his or her authority to lead.”

-It is never too early to change the world. “There is no need to wait anymore. Give until you are sixty-five, and then give some more.”

-Creating change does not have to be a HUGE deal. Start small with just one thing that you think you can help with. ” If you look at all the terrible troubles the world faces, you may feel helpless to do anything. So simplify things and just one issue, even one person.”

-Live selfless. Blake describes a new campaign with Charity: water, where people can ask their friends and family to forgo presents on their birthday and instead ask their friends to give their age in money to the charity.

Toward the end of the book, Blake quotes Mahatma Ganghi, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” So. True.

So my mission for you guys is to check out this book, and to start something that will impact the world. My mission is Coloring Countries, (www.coloringcountries.org). Even if it is something small like running a night at the local soup kitchen, you can feel great that you have impacted someone’s life… and doesn’t that just make life worth living??

Thanks for reading everyone!

It’s an, “I Spilled My Coffee on My New Shirt,” Kind of Morning

Everyone has these kind of mornings… you wake up, and nothing seems to go your way.

I woke up this morning and found that during the night, my puppy had chewed through nearly every electrical cord in my room. I quickly decided to correct the negative start to my day by wearing the new shirt my sister had bought me for Christmas (new clothing always puts a smile on my face).  With my appearance up to standard, I continued on to the kitchen where I made myself a latte. Fresh ground coffee beans from the Dominican Republic, steamed together with nice organic milk. I ran my face over the steam that evaporated from the top of my mug, and for just a moment I experienced complete euphoria. But this moment was interrupted when Mato (my puppy) decided to run head first into the back of my knees, knocking my legs strait out from under me.  Coffee… all over my new shirt.

Sound like one of the mornings you have experienced recently? I do not often experience negative emotions, and I like to consider myself a pretty optimistic person. The fact of the matter is that I strongly dislike the feeling of hatred. So I closed my eyes and said to the world, “World, my day is not going to be filled with such negative events. Today will not be a day wasted.” After all, any moment filled with saddness is a second of happiness wasted.

So I made another latte, grabbed Mato’s leash, and we went outside to start our new day basking in the glorious sunshine, where I then reviewed each and every reason why I am extraordinarily happy. Today can now be another day where I smile at every person I see, just to see the smile that they will return to me. Really though, this world does not need more negative emotions, we already have too many problems.

“All I have is this moment, and this moment is the seed for the rest of my life.” -Dr. Bertise Berry

One of the Reasons Behind My Optimism