life lessons life story spring break story

Lessons from Spring Break in California

Below is a piece that I’ve had written for a while but figured I’d share it on here. The events took place during Spring Break 2001 and beyond. It is in some ways sad that I learned this lesson long ago and had to re-learn it 8 years later. Oh well, I guess if you don’t learn your lesson the first time you’ll have to learn it again. The story is a bit long but covers some of the transition I made in my early 20’s. Enjoy

A local actor turns a scientist the other way

In the spring of 2001 I took a trip with my friend Brian to visit San Diego. I had always wanted to go to California, it seemed so different from the Midwest lifestyle that I was accustomed to and it by reputation was far different from the New York culture I had visited six years prior. At any rate it was spring break that semester (my junior year in college) and I was going somewhere warm and not snowy.

We flew into Los Angeles, spent the day there and then drove down to San Diego. I admit L.A. was exciting. We went to Universal Studios first, this was something interesting to do and since we were there we might as well have done at least one thing touristy. It was neat because there was nothing like it that I was used to (at least in the Milwaukee Area). Multiplayer Nascar games and Hollywood artifacts provided some amusement for a few hours.

After that we drove through Chinatown on our way to Venice Beach. Again as some guy from the Midwest I had no idea what to expect. The legends just spoke of bad caricatures of Arnold Schwartzenegger and Budweiser commercials. But when we got down there it was actually musicians, actors, athletes and execs just doing their thing. I really got into the diversity. I enjoyed watching musicians and mimes do their thing (not that I’m a huge fan of mimes but I find it fascinating to watch people do what they do). I also noticed that there was a pretty diverse crowd on the beach. But more than anything because of this mixture it appeared that people were just being themselves.

After the Venice Beach excursion we ventured out on our 2 hour drive to San Diego. Now I’m a huge fan of this city simply for the fact that it’s usually sunny and 74 degrees. This is perfect for my exercise routines. I was able to jog to the San Diego Zoo from where Brian’s brother was staying. A nice 12 minute run (up hill mind you) was just enough to wake me up and get me ready for a few hours at the zoo. I highly recommend going to this zoo at some point. It’s large enough so that you’ll have plenty to do for the day but contained enough so that you won’t have to spend 3 days just to see what you want to. This is truly a world class zoo and very respectable by all means.

But by day three my friend Brian and I needed something low key to do. We decided to go to the pier, visit the beach and have a few drinks in the early afternoon. So at about one in the afternoon we stopped at a bar with a nice open front and had a few drinks (to put it lightly). Shortly after round one, a few gentlemen in their late 30’s to early 40’s stopped in and sat near us. They seemed to have a good demeanor and know several people in the place. Since we were unfamiliar they started some conversation.

Two of the guys had been pilots in the Air Force and had easily had common ground with Brian. He at the time was a flight instructor, hoping to be an airline pilot. I on the other hand was a Chemistry major with some acting experience which gave me some common ground to talk to the third guy, TJ.
TJ was a very easy person to talk to. Outgoing but not boisterous, he had lots of stories to tell and experiences to relate to. It turns out he was a local actor, also very active in his church. He told me he would do local theatre, commercials and events for his church. I was able to share with him my high school and college experiences in acting.
By round 4 (I think that’s what we were on) TJ asked me why I wanted to do what I did. I replied that I just wanted something I could get a job in and pay the bills with. In Chemistry I could get a job in the industry and be stable. But I also shared that I was not passionate about what I did and that I wished to continue doing theatre as a hobby. Sensing that I was actually at a crossroads he shared something very profound. He said this and I’ll never forget:

“You need to find what you are passionate about. I am very happy in life. I’m able to act, pay my bills and work with my church. I have what I need and I’m happy. You need to find what you’re passionate about because you will do it well. And people will pay you for it.”

Here was a guy that not only found what made him happy but found a way to incorporate it into his life. On top of all of that, he was able to make this a reality for himself, recognize that and enjoy it! I think It’s hard enough to find what you’re passionate about but to bring this idea into life is truly remarkable. I bought round 5 (or whatever we were on).

Seven months later I was in my senior year in college. I had a tough semester with Quantum Mechanics, Calculus, New Testament Studies and a Theatre Appreciation class. While this sounds balanced it was quite demanding. Quantum Mechanics was a 40 hour a week dedication and Theatre appreciation believe it or not demanded at least 30 hours a week (theatre needs to be seen, experienced and discussed and all that takes time). New Testament studies required significant attention as it was a very analytical process which also took time to research, analyze and debate. By this time I was already a double major in Chemistry and Religious Studies. My plan was still to work in the Chemistry industry and possibly go to grad school for religious studies and be an instructor at the college level.

By November of that semester I had hit a wall. I truly loved the scholarly aspect of religious studies and the theatre course had renewed my interest in the arts. But I realized I couldn’t do all of it anymore. The hard part for me is that I wasn’t doing well in my Chemistry classes and I couldn’t figure out why. A couple years earlier I had been a star student under another professor, taking on an independent study and tutoring for him and now I could barely stay afloat. What happened??

Like most of my dilemmas the answer was quite simple but I was unwilling to look at it (or admit it). I felt like I needed a time out in my life so I made a decision to take 2 days off classes and work. I spent time with myself just pondering my situation. What should I do? Should I drop some of the religion and theatre to focus on my career? Or should I drop Chemistry and focus on religious studies to be able to do well in that area? I had to seriously consider the consequences of this choice. It would be life altering. I did know that whatever I chose I’d be 2 days behind in my work so I’d better be able to make it up. It wasn’t until I took a more relaxed approach to my situation that I realized the answer had to be much simpler than I thought. In fact it was.

The thing I hadn’t done was admitted to myself that I hated what I did. I couldn’t stand waking up and going to lab. I despised having to write in a style that wasn’t the way I communicated. I was having trouble adapting to the style that I needed to in order to be successful in that world. I was so afraid of failure that I closed myself off to my true motivation for doing what I do. To be honest when I explored myself I couldn’t even figure out why I did Chemistry anymore. The only thing I came up with was that it appeared to be safe and practical as a career, but sometimes the safe way isn’t the best.

So the following day I had to go to my advisor’s office and tell him I was dropping the Chemistry major. Now this must have been a strange thing to hear from a college senior with a semester and a few weeks to go in their career that they’re going to switch gears and go from a Bachelor of Science to a Bachelor of Arts. After ten minutes of debating with me to keep the major I had said something that seemed to end the conversation. I flat out told him that I don’t have any passion for what I do in his department, but rather my passion lies in another field. I could see it in his eyes that he understood, that there was no way to convince me to stay. I got my papers signed, switched my major and I haven’t been in a lab since.

I had no idea that Rum and Cokes from a random bar in San Diego would lead me to a guy that would influence the direction I’d take my life in. For that I will be grateful to TJ, I hope he was able to affect many other people as he did me. Even more, I hope people were willing to listen to this random actor because he’s got an interesting perspective on life. I’ve had better success in my life ever since.

dream guidance listen to your dreams

Dreams and limitations

It’s funny how dreams seem limitless and how they can teach you so much. But I’ve also found out that they can teach limitations. Now honestly I struggle with limits. Being an optimist I think that problems can be solved, situations will be fixed and that evolutions will occur. Sometimes I don’t know my limitations, I don’t know if my optimism hazes my vision, or that I learned to push through my perceived limits but I must learn to accept them. Examples of this would be how I gave myself plantar faciitis by running too far (before I trained for it), tried to do martial arts when I was on 2nd shift (really couldn’t do both schedules at the same time), or tried to cram a 40 hr/wk chemistry class with a 40 hr/wk theater class (and two more classes at the same time while working part time). I sometimes just can’t to it which is reasonable.

In my life right now I’m at a point where I’m changing spiritually and am trying to grow to my potential. Growing is not always an easy or fast process but overall it is so rewarding. I’m getting past a stage in my life where I wasn’t changing or growing much, just staying stagnant. It was really hurting my spirit and I am so happy I decided to make changes in my life. I am on a dynamic path forward and much healthier for it. I’m learning new things about myself both psychologically and spiritually because I dared to walk forward.

Now dreams and symbolism have affected and are affecting my life significantly. I’ve had interesting self discoveries because I was able to see the connection between what is going on in my life and what my self perceived in my dream world. But an interesting lesson was revealed to me that I am not yet ready for certain endeavors. Let me share one dream that taught me this.

I was in my front yard and had 5 friends/companions with me. We then walked over to the neighbors yard where there was this pond measuring maybe 10ftX10ft, which actually seemed like a well. This well was very deep, probably 100ft or more and at the bottom was an underground cavern. My friends and I were searching for something, almost on a quest and decided to try and search for something down the well. But this being a very deep place, you couldn’t just go down there. You needed to raise your spiritual energy level to a certain point to be able to “fly” to the bottom. So this group of us did that, we gathered energy (which we thought was enough) and plunged in. At the bottom, there was a cavern the size of a room, which then lead deeper into other caverns. In this immediate room we did not see what we were looking for. There was an empty treasure chest, but that’s not where our item was. Unfortunately we underestimated the amount of energy we needed to continue on to the other caverns so we “flew” back to the top, outside the pond.

When I woke up the next day I knew there was a lot here. At first I didn’t remember what we were looking for. I had to meditate on this for a bit, but asking help from my higher self reminded me that we were searching for some mystic artifact. Like a gold lotus with a jewel in the center. What I realized was that this pond or well, was actually like diving deeper into my unconscious. Exploring deeper into myself. The fact that I was able to get down the well taught me that I am at a level that can only get me so deep. My spiritual energy level in the dream wasn’t enough to let me explore the rest of the cavern. I take from this that spiritually I’ve come a long way but not yet ready for some of the next lessons.

I have to accept this. I may be at a point where I’m growing, but I can’t take on the world yet. I’ve reconnected with my spirituality and learning but I’ve only come so far. I need to be patient with myself and understand that I’m not some kind of superman that can do anything. I need to grow and train and build up to my future potential. Just like I needed to for running long distance, just like I needed to when I was doing weight training. Gains will come but only in a realistic time frame.

But, just like every spring when I start my cross country routine the hills get easier. My first spring run is so hard because the hills are so tall! How will I get up the hills and across the park!? Then the second run goes better, and the third is far easier. By mid spring I’m back to normal and the rest of spring and summer I can set new personal records. It always gets easier and always gets better. But at least I have dreams to sometimes tell me what I can and cannot do which is nice to have more teachers. Listen to your dreams, they may be trying to help you.

WRX yin and yang

Yin and Yang in a WRX

Constructive and destructive forces are constantly at work in the universe. Every atomic interaction is transferring electrons and energy between materials. One form is destroyed while another is formed. I recently got new tires for my car as my old ones were balding and terrible for snow driving. My old tires had succumbed to the destructive forces of friction on the pavement. So as I applied constructive energy to my WRX and got new tires. I was unfortunate enough to take a couple of stones to the windshield on my way home and developed a six inch crack in the glass. The destructive force of the stone kicked up by the minivan in front of me continued the yin-yang cycle. I’ll have to apply more constructive force to the car eventually, but not this week, I’m done with car stuff. I really need to get one of those yin-yang badges for the back of my car, it’s only fitting.



I need to write about the concept of faith right now, there are so many things related to having faith and where it brings you that I think I need to put some things into perspective. Maybe for a little background, it would help to understand where I had come from first. Many who have known me for years have known me to have an incredibly strong sense of faith. As a teenager I was known as ‘chivalrous’ and just. Fair and faithful. Ethical and moral. I usually demonstrated a keen faith in God that would guide me through all of the rough spots in life. I was that rock, Cephas if you will. Even in college, when I was a class away of getting my degree in chemistry I gave it up so I could pursue a degree in religious studies. That too was guided by faith. Over many years I’ve demonstrated that I have faith, not just declared it. I never did anything to broadcast it, no huge phylacteries, I just lived it and that became my reputation.

I’m going to digress for a minute and share a story of faith I read about in Shusaku Endo’s novel, Silence. It is the story of a Portuguese Jesuit named Rodriguez who travels to Japan in the 1600’s to do mission work and find his mentor (who apparently renounced his Christian faith). Japan at this time had closed its borders to outside religious influence (historically a smart move) after seeing what the results in other countries turned out to be. I could write more on the effects of colonialism but that would be a different topic. So in the story it tells that if a Christian is found in Japan, they will be persecuted and forced to step on a fumie. A Fumie is a wooden carving representing Jesus, by stepping on it, it is perceived to be a sign of disrespect for your lord and a renunciation of faith. Some were tortured to do this, sometimes others were tortured so an individual would step on the fumie. This was a test of faith, could you endure the torture for your lord and faith? Could you become a martyr? All of this happened yet God remained silent. How could this be? Such a powerful God letting people get cut, tossed into scalding hot springs, beat? Why wouldn’t God intervene, especially after so many good things were done in his name? The way the story unfolds is magnificent, and the lessons learned by Rodriguez in the end are told in such a Zen way that it really illustrates in a parabolic fashion, the meaning of faith and forgiveness.

Now I don’t want to give the story away and tell what happens to Rodriguez. All I can say is he had to face the thing he feared most. It wasn’t until then that he fully understood the power of forgiveness that he had preached about for so many years. It was like his faith finally had a more powerful, direct meaning to him that he never understood before. Rodriguez had to go through that transformation. For me, I think back to being a young, dogmatic teenager and wondering why everyone didn’t believe as I did because it would save the world. Fortunately I’ve let go of that naive rigidity and opened my belief system a bit more. When I dropped my chemistry degree and switched to a religious studies degree I put the emphasis on comparative religion. I was only able to do this by letting go of my dogma, accepting that there are many ways to view the world and faith. A fellow student of mine put it as there are many facets on a jewel and the different faith paths are like facets on the same jewel. He may have been right about that, I’m not sure.

The only way I was able to let go of my former ways was to accept that nagging part of me that felt that my old ways just didn’t make sense. There was a part of me that felt that it didn’t make sense that God was the way that I taught. I had faith in that feeling and it allowed me to move forward in learning new ways of understanding. I was able to study theology and the history of it. I studied different denominations and what they believed. I also studied the historical Jesus, and what scholars thought happened historically. I also studied Zen and Taoism. I studied Hebrew and Islamic philosophies, tribal beliefs, and many more ways of life that were foreign to white suburbia. In letting go, I also gained. If I dropped a pound, I gained a hundred. I was able to do this by faith. My faith had not only been a source of strength but also a source of guidance. It may have changed throughout the years but was ever present. I’ve always become a better person because of it and it has never done me wrong.

Right now I am at a point of significant change. My awareness of spiritual matters is rapidly expanding and challenging once again the core of my being. I have experienced things that challenged my perception of self and the world around me. I think my previous faith transformation prepared me for this, but I am struggling. I don’t know what most of what I’m experiencing means. I’m going through so many changes right now, nothing seems to be an anchor of reference anymore. I can’t see a lighthouse to guide me to shore. I’m in between jobs, churches, and I’ve got a little one on the way. Certainly a stormy period. I am in a period of massive transition and all I really have right now is my faith. Faith that I’m moving forward. Faith that things will pan out.

Without a job or clear spiritual direction I actually feel like I’m lacking life purpose. I can’t succeed at work, and I can’t succeed in spiritual matters. I can’t make a difference right now because I don’t have a ‘place’. I know that the world is around me and that I have impact and influence every moment of my existence, but I am lacking clarity. I can’t see my influence, I can’t see what I should be doing. I feel like I have a lot of energy but nowhere to go with it. I have faith that this will get better, but I have no idea how. At this moment I am hanging on, but my faith is still there. Faith that I’m being guided to a higher purpose. Faith that my transformation will be meaningful and purposeful. I guess this is my motivation to keep walking, keep moving forward.

I am looking forward to looking back on all of this though.

life change walking


I recall being at a discussion group years ago, discussing the concept of God and one of the participants was a Hebrew scholar.  She had brought up the observation that in the Hebrew bible, every time the Jews settled down, bad things happened.  This made me think about The Storyteller by Mario Vargas Llosa and how the concept of walking related to Machiguenga ways of life.  If I recall correctly, the tradition for them was to keep walking.  When they stopped, bad things happened to them too.

What does walking do for one metaphorically?  Staying dynamic certainly doesn’t allow for the cob webs to form I can say that.  Maybe walking is life.  Maybe people need to keep moving in their lives to keep from getting sedentary.  I know I was sedentary for a while.  I graduated college and was kind of burned out.  I needed a break from academia so I decided to work for a while and pay off loans while I figured out what it was I wanted to do next.  I did work and got comfortable but I really didn’t keep my inertia going.  After a while I found that I really didn’t know what to do next so I stayed put in my working world where it was safe and easy to make a living.  

What I found was a lifestyle not healthy for me.  Not using the gifts I have or affecting people like I can was pretty depressing.  Finally I got to the point where I didn’t know where the passion went or how to get it back.  I really lost myself there for a while, just numb in the world.  Luckily I’m the type of person that can’t ignore the inner call and was able to start finding those fires again.  I’m able to get up and walk again so to speak.  I’ve got motion and I’m walking again, may not have the greatest sense of direction yet but I’m back.  Of course it took the help of a good guide, I hope you find one of those along the way.  It really helps…

I think I’ve learned that this is not a slow process.  It didn’t happen overnight that I got comfortable in my life and sat idle.  It takes a whole lot of bribes from the universe at just the right times to draw you in.  I’ve also learned that fear can slow you down too.  It certainly has the ability to keep you at a standstill and make it appear difficult to march forward.  But this too can be overcome and really is just a paper thin barrier that skews the perception.  Once you fight through it, there really isn’t much holding you back.  Except your own self.

Don’t fall prey to your own fear.  Keep moving, keep walking and make sure you keep the fires of passion lit somewhere.  You can always come back, but there is so much potential you have.  Just use it.  People will love you for it!


The beginning?

So everything has a beginning and and end, right?  Probably.  This blog does, this is the first entry.  I’m going to run through many different concepts, some serious, some funny but they’ll have a point.  I’ve found in life that there are often times many layers and meanings to things and if you’re good enough you can catch all of them.  I in all honesty am very dense and have a tendency to miss things.  For example I remember being in high school and had a couple of friends who had a crush on this guy named Hal.  I didn’t know who he was and they wouldn’t tell me but I did figure it out about three years later when I was folding my laundry and got to my Hal’s Harley shop t-shirt.  The dumbass had his name written on his back.  

My Density.  It is both a source of frustration and humor for me but for the most part I can laugh at it.  Many times I miss something if it’s in front of my face but if there’s a hidden or symbolic meaning to it, I’ll probably figure it out!  OK, now that I’ve established that…

Look for more stories about life, philosophy, and spirituality.  My favorite authors are Leo Buscaglia, Dan Millman, and Aldous Huxley.  Peaceful Warrior series, Love and Brave New World were all life changing books for me, I highly recommend reading them.  You can usually find them for free at the library so no financial obligation to start.

Take care, read on and don’t forget to look for gum on the seat before you sit down.  That sucks when that happens to you.