Life is Good

November 8, 2010

This quarter as beaten the life out of me while showing me a happiness I can honestly say I’ve never known.  I’ve experienced every emotion in the spectrum this quarter.  I don’t think I’ve ever been this home sick.  I don’t think I’ve ever felt this defeated.  I don’t think I’ve ever been this exhausted.  But every morning I get up to something that gives me a reason to keep striving.

I’m happy.  I’m being modest, I’m ecstatic.

With work piling up, bills trying to drown me, and time slipping away one would expect me to collapse.  Not this time.  Not ever again.

This break I’ll be applying to grad school, studying for my GRE, and working my butt off.

But first I’ll be taking a short trip to recreate this:

I was recently taught one of the most important life lessons I have ever received; how to find one’s self.

This concept is rather simple to comprehend.  The world is constantly spinning around you, metaphorically and physically.  Inside yourself there are dreams, ambitions, desires, and goals that are in a similar continuous spinning motion.  In order to find a sense of harmony, and true happiness, one must a line both of these chaotic spins causing a formation of one focused ball of energy.  Doing what you feel is right while going against your own personal value system isn’t a logical approach to a life.  If you are able to transform something you love into career, while being in love with what you do within that career, then you can experience true happiness during your adult economic golden age.

This realization has sent me into a true state of reflection over my previous year here at Ohio University.

I can remember having a panic attack in my van the night I moved into my three bedroom house at 361 West State Street.  I had left behind everything I had known from the previous twenty-four years of my life and had forced myself to start a new.

I formed a stronger relationship between Chris, my now room-mate.  If Chris had decided against coming to OU I would not of made the trek.  My cousin, Brittany, and her wonderful room-mate, Nicole, were always available for dinner, drinks, or any sort of help regarding campus life.  The initial adjustment to Athens was tough.  I came from a world, like the television show Cheers, ‘…where everybody knows your name.”  My older brother, Tim, likes to joke that you could go into any bar in Dayton and you’ll find someone who knows, or knows of, me.  The transition of band practice to homework was not extremely difficult,  it was the lack of a social life that drove me insane.

The answer to my ailment has been a reoccurring theme in my life; music.  Chris helped me find a handful of people here on campus that I could relate to on the same musical level.  Through the creative process I gained the privilege of meeting my college friends.  Andrew, Ben Funk, Paige, and Alan became family within weeks of our first meeting.  The social foundation I needed at college was finally in place.

I met some amazing people through my new friends.   Alyssa, Amelia, Ashley, Emily, Hannah, Kim, Sarah, and Val are people who I’ve also learned I can count on.  In this aspect of my college life I am lucky.  My doors were open all year-long for these people and I wouldn’t want it any other way.

People from Dayton that I hadn’t see in year’s helped me stay focused. Diana Pickett helped me stay sane.  Her love for laughter is amazing and I’m one lucky guy to have her around. Her random calendar holidays and the nights spent watching Pete and Pete on my computer will never be forgotten.  This girl is amazing.

Adam Bialek is the younger brother I never had.  He grew up a few houses down from me and, at the age of five,  was my sister’s first boyfriend.  Having him over from time to time is a true reminder of my childhood.  “Never get above your raising.” This is one of my Dad’s famous life lessons.  I will never forget where I came from as long as Adam stops in from time to time for a bite to eat or a quick hello.

I found a home in Athens.  The scenery here is unlike any other area of Ohio.   I grew up in Southeastern Ohio where the land is flat, urban sprawl stretches to the country, then cornfield separate neighbors.  My home is now nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains and in the middle of the floodplain of the Hocking river.  It hardly rains here which keeps my outlook on life positive.  Everyone that I’ve come in contact with is friendly and helpful.  I’m happy here.

Even though I was happy with my location, my career path was on a rocky foundation.  I needed a degree that I could support a family, education seemed like the most logical answer.  Unfortunately this choice was going against what it would take to make my life seem fulfilled and hold a sense of purpose.

Winter had beaten me the way it always does.  It was cold.  I drove back to Dayton for work far too much.  I missed the green foliage of College Green.  Cabin fever was effecting myself and all my friends. It was time for a vacation.  Alan, Andrew, and, my best friend from back home, Trevor Bell hit the open road.  He headed six hours south to Gatinlinburg, TN for what we thought would be filled with outdoor adventures surrounded by testosterone filled insanity.  What we ended up getting was a couple of inches of snow.  The beauty of the mountains was not enough to keep us in Tennessee; our need for dryer conditions pushed us to the Lexington, KY Horse Park.  Here we stayed at the nicest campground I’ve ever seen.  We ate like kings over an open fire and visited my oldest brother and his wife.  My college friends seemed to fit right in with the family no problem.  Having David and Lisa’s seal of approval of the people I was surrounding myself with helped reassure that the majority of the decisions I was making at college were more than adequate.

By this point in my path toward higher learning having a sense of purpose was really stuck in my head. At the beginning of Spring quarter I was frustrated with the world.  I knew that I was capable of making an impact on this world while in college, I just didn’t know where are how to go about doing so.  I found my outlet for philanthropy in The Empower Campaign.  Andria Sherrow was teaching the most interesting class I had ever taken in college, Cultural Anthropology.  She had asked my class if anyone was interested in a social-media internship within The Empower Campaign.  Due to my previous experience with my band back home, I jumped at the chance.  After an entire weekend dedicated to jewelry fundraisers, beer tastings, and rain storms 500 children got an education.  This changed me entirely.  I remember when Gwennan told me how many kids we helped, I was in complete disbelief.  My mantra became, “If I can help this many people in one weekend, how many people can I help in a lifetime?”

The Empower Campaign is the culprit behind, what I would now consider, a newly formed life long friendship.  On a quite night I commented about  a random desire to go to the movies over facebook; I didn’t know it yet, but I was talking to a girl whom would quickly become one of my closest friends.  Gwennan Richmond gives this world hope.  If you have ever received the distinct privilege of listening to Gwennan speak about her unconditional love for the continent of Africa and it’s people, then you know exactly what I’m talking about.  Gwennan taught me about the desperate need for help in Africa, the corrupt government’s, the lack of freedom of speech, and the poverty these people face daily.  She plans to dedicate her life to help these people.  It’s amazing how big one person’s heart can be.  I don’t think I’m capable of expressing my admiration for how driven she is.  She encompasses everything The Empower Campaign stands for.  On top of all of this, she is an amazing friend that has, and is continuing to, help strive to become a better student.

It’s through Gwennan that I really got to know two people who have changed my life.  Andria became more than an executive director and teacher, she became a friend.  She asked if I would be willing to help with some work out on her farm.  Missing my grandpa and the smells that come along with a farm, I agreed.  I de-rocked a field with Andria for a couple of hours and went back to campus to take a quiz.  I returned with Alan because my thirst for open air had not yet be quenched.  From this point on I would find solice in manual labor at the Sherrow family farm.  This was something that I also helped me remember my roots.  I am more than appreciative for these opportunities to help Andria and Hogan.

Hogan, Andria’s husband, is one of the most brillant, hardworking, and comical people I’ve ever met.  I like working beside him because, well, he actually works.  Giving respect is something I struggle with when it comes to authority.  I’ve had several different bosses delegate work to every employee in the building just so they can sit in their office and do nothing; this doesn’t fly with me.  When Hogan dug fence post right along side myself and Alan the man had my respect.

Andria has mother’s intuition.  This intuition is the same with every mother.  I had been over at her house with Hogan working on my course layout for the next year.  Due to some terrible advice from another adviser, we determined there was no feasible way, for myself, to earn a degree in the college of education by spring of next year.  Hogan and I went through every scenario possible.  Andria then asked a question that no other Ohio University faculty member, or any other member of the faculty from any other college I have attended, has every bothered to ask.  “Do you really want to be a teacher?”  This caught me off guard.  I knew the answer was no but I didn’t know of any alternative.  She mentioned combining my love for music with my love for Anthropology.   I didn’t know this was possible, but I sounded amazing; and so I began my trek toward a degree in Ethnomusicology.

Hogan found different schools to contact regarding their EM programs.  I began receiving emails from program directors at schools like: Brown, Yale, Harvard, UCLA, City University of London, Cambridge, and Oxford.  These people helped me formulate an idea of how to pursue a masters degree in EM.  I confessed my life long desire to obtain my PhD in a conversation with Hogan.  I expected a line of rejection or a comment full of negativity but instead was told how to go about doing so. I was baffled by his response.  I had never mentioned in conversation my dream of obtaining a PhD without the phrase, “you should rethink that” or, “it’s a lot of time” and of course, “I don’t think you can” being involved in the conversation. This opened up a whole new world for me.

This has only excited me further in regards to my education.  My only concerns revolved around my current grades, I needed to boost my GPA in order to get into graduate school.  For the first time in over three years I made Dean’s list.  I also, which is probably more personally rewarding, was able to obtain an ‘A’ on my microbiology final.  These two achievements have catapulted me into a sense of security within the academic world.  I no longer feel like the twenty-five year old whose previous mistakes haunt his every move in college.  I feel accepted here in Athens. This is the single greatest feeling I could have ever hoped for.

I have acredited much of my success to a few people.  I mentioned them before, but they each deserve a notable mentioning even though they are more incredible than any language could describe.

Ben Funk, he is the backbone to our collagic family.  He is honest, caring, straight forward, level-headed, adventurous, and inquisitive.  In the same breath he still holds a sense of naivety to the world which many people wish they still had from their childhood.  Ben is a great friend.  Our passion for music can keep us involved in conversation for hours.

Alan Reeder is another little brother I never had.  He is witty, intelligence, daring, eye-opening, and wise beyondd his eighteen years.  Alan has the ability to look at a situation with the eyes of a man twice his age.  To quote Kenny Rogers, because I feel the analogy fits him too well to not use, he, “…knows when to hold ’em, he knows when to fold ’em, he knows when to turn and walk away.”  Alan is a passionate guy that sometimes divulges himself deep within his own thoughts; in this regard I feel as if I’m looking into a mirror.

Andrew Sokol is my partner in crime, literally.  We met by chance and have been best friends since.  He is the first person I call when things aren’t right in the world.  I have no words to describe Andrew because he encompasses so much more than any list of characters can hold.  I know that where ever I go in life Andrew will always be a phone call away.  His big heart has given me some of the best advice anyone could ever receive.

Paige Siegwardt is the love of my life.  I say this with a hint of sarcasm as well as a dose of real sincerity.  Paige holds every aspect a man could want in a counter-part.  Her wit and charm are incomparable to any other woman on this planet.  She has been a sister, a friend, a dance partner, the best prom date I’ve ever had, a shoulder to cry on, an ear that listens, and a hug when I need it the most.  She has the ability to settle not only my anxieties in life, but all of those that surround her as well.  Her passion for theater and art is incredible.  I have never witnessed another person express themselves the way Paige does.  Her self-confidence is something to marvel.  I am honored to be her friend and unlike previous friendships with members of the opposite sex, that have fallen out of my life, I intend to keep this one until I’m old and grey.

As I reflected back on this year I am able to scrutinize my personal growth.  I am happier than I’ve ever been and look forward to my future with a sense of excitement.  I’ve entered into summer session here at Ohio University with a different approach than I did my first quarter here.  Life isn’t a set of rigorous schedules that need to be kept, it’s a collection of moments strung together by one central sentiment of overall hope.  I hope to retain this new-found outlook on life for my entire duration here in this world.

It’s interesting to reflect on the kind of selfish person I was only a few years ago and how quickly that all can be changed through a new outlet.  My creative side needed music, my ego did not.   My thirst for travel needed tour, my budget could not afford it.  My social life needed a tight-knit group of people to help me stay focus, the outlet in which I found these people in distracted me.  Here at school I have balanced my ego, found an affordable means to experience new geographic areas, and found a new group of people who I don’t mind spending hours on end drinking coffee on a porch or in a coffee shop reviewing notes.  I feel more confident in myself then I ever have before.  I feel my inner desire for knowledge has been drawn out from within me, which I hope to metastasize only further.  This thirst for knowledge has always been just below my surface, I just didn’t have the means to bring it out; here at OU I have found those means.

As I began the trek into my final year of my undergraduate degree I have only one goal, to enjoy every moment.  The people who I have come to cherish will not be within arms reach as I pursue my master degree.  I can only hope to retain as many memories of my senior year as possible.

In conclusion, the ideal happiness found in this world can only be experienced when shared with the company of amazing individuals; remember this always.  This advice is the culmination of an entire year filled incredible experiences and the creation of friendships.  It is not a lesson that can be learned through text but only through experience.  Go forth. Do as I did.  Find true happiness. Have fun while doing it.