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We’re picking this blog back up again!

After almost 3 years of inactivity, Connor and I have decided to start posting again. Hoorah!

It’s been a long time since we last posted. A lot has happened in the time in between. I’m still going to school at the University of New Mexico; still cranking away at that CS degree. I started working for a digital experience startup called Storylab, where I’ve been doing some work for them in Unity and JavaScript. Also, I started TA-ing for an introductory JavaScript course where I was introduced to P5.js, a JavaScript library for drawing to the canvas. I absolutely love working with P5, and so for the last year I’ve been posting a lot of my work to a great site called CodePen.

I’ve been doing a lot of side coding projects – several of them even making it to the front page of CodePen. I’ve made lots of cool programs like fractals, tree generators, spirographs, and wiggly elastic grids, but lately I’ve been feeling like my work is stagnating. I still think my projects are fun, but I need to branch out into new territory.

After talking with Connor about my problem, he had an interesting insight. He said that while my projects were interesting, they didn’t capture peoples’ attention because they didn’t have a narrative. I need to create a story behind my projects to keep them engaging and fun.

With that in mind, I’d like to transition into writing more posts on my projects and ideas. My hope is that by writing about my projects, I can not only provide that missing narrative, but also get some practice in creating stories and content for my projects. (Of course, I’m always interested to hear our readers feedback on these projects as well!)

Sometimes I’ll post about my projects, or an idea that I have for a project. Sometimes I might post technical tutorials on how to code, or how to approach coding something. Of course I’ll still post about other topics, but that’s what I’d like to focus on for now.

So I hope you all find this blog interesting! We’ll try to keep you entertained with our posts (and try to post slightly more often than once every 3 years).

Exercise is hard. That’s a conclusion most people come to without much effort. With the luxury of modern day living comes freedom from physical labor as a need for survival. Most people in today’s western societies get the option of a fairly sedentary lifestyle. It should come as no surprise, then, that most people find it hard to get in shape – in reality, the majority of us have no need to.

So getting in shape is hard, and it always will be. Personally, it’s always been hard for me to convince myself to go out and run, or go lift some weights. It’s a struggle that’s gotten a lot easier since I got into college. When you’re around people who are active (or if you have the bad judgment to enroll in a 7am weight training course) It’s a lot easier to motivate yourself to get in shape. I was really surprised, though, to find that beyond the simple struggle of just getting to the gym, there are a lot of things they don’t tell the newbies about the path from unfit to fit.

The first thing I noticed when I started working out was how tired I felt all the time. You think to yourself “Hey, exercising is going to give me so much more energy to do things!”. No. No, It doesn’t. Not in the beginning at least. Workouts would leave me feeling exhausted rather than energized. All that new stress on your body really starts to wear you down. It takes a long time for your body to readjust, especially if you go right from a sedentary lifestyle (working a graveyard shift) to an active one. It doesn’t last forever, but it can be discouraging in the beginning.

Your hands are also going to suffer. Especially if you’re lifting. After several weeks of lifting weights I started to develop huge callouses on each finger. All that tension against the skin really does a number on your hands. I started to feel like some sort of thick fingered dwarf from middle earth. If you’re especially crazy like I am, you pick up an adventure sport like climbing. All those new callouses? Yeah… those got torn off each time I lost my grip on the wall. After a while my hands started to look like this:

ZiOia1r

Pictured above: not my hands (image credit: http://therxreview.com/review-climb-on/)

Gauze is your best friend in this case.

If you started running get prepared for this or worse on your feet as well. Blisters from hell my friends. After a 5 mile run; your shoes rubbing against your feet, you are not going to be a happy camper. It takes time to build up those callouses to the point where you don’t have to worry about them anymore. Get ready for several months of sore extremities.

While we’re on the subject of soreness, expect a whole bundle of sore muscles. Sometimes I’d be sitting in class and raise my hand to answer a question: WHAM! next thing I know my shoulder is in intense pain. Why? Oh yeah, I just did shoulders and traps in the gym yesterday. Soreness will rear its ugly head in weird everyday situations, and not just in your run-of-the-mill muscles either. Look forward to your first leg day. I was limping for a solid 36 hours afterwards!

One of the weirdest things though is the crazy side affects. Beyond soreness, sometimes an intense workout will do all sorts of strange and unnerving things to the body. Once (after a combo pecks and running day) I found that my vision was so screwed up that I couldn’t even see straight for about an hour. Something about all the stress I was putting on my body must have put a lot of pressure on my eyes – the whole world was out of focus all the way through my post-workout breakfast. Another time, after some vigorous cardio, I kept getting sharp little chest pains that took several hours to completely fade away. These type of things can be scary. Unfortunately, I’ve also been told they’re not all that uncommon.

You should also expect yourself to puke a few times. This is a given, and there’s really just no way around it. When I was in high school (and in shape) my coach used to tell us “pain is just weakness leaving the body!”. After I threw up at practice once, he told me I had done a good job, presumably because I was getting rid of a lot of “weakness”. Putting your body through that much stress can have some unfortunate consequences.

It’s not all bad. I don’t want to act like there aren’t any benefits, because there are good things that happen too – even if they were a little unexpected.

Beyond the obvious (big muscles, slimmer waistline), there are some pretty cool perks too. When you start working out, you are making you’re muscles more efficient. But, you’re not just making it easier to lift things, you’re also making your organs work better and your internal cycles feel the difference. I was completely not expecting that things like my diet and my erm… ‘daily bowel activity’ would be changing as a result of the exercise I was doing. In a lot of ways, this was a good thing. My body started to regulate itself better. I started getting better sleep. I was able to eat more. I had more regular bowel movements. It’s gross, but it really does make your body more efficient in more ways than one.

On that subject though, you’re going to be draining a lot of toxins from your body in a fairly short amount of time. It’s a good thing, but getting rid of them is… uncomfortable to say the least.

Getting in shape wasn’t all roses and buttercups, but it was definitely worth it. Now that the big changes to my body have happened, I feel a lot better. I’m more focused and I have more stamina. Getting in shape has allowed me to pursue adventure activities like climbing, and have more energy after a long day to get things done.  It’s still a struggle to improve. I think the zero-to-hero stories are less common than the fitness trainers would have you believe, but getting in shape is certainly a wild ride. At least, it was for me.

The takeaway is this: shifting into an active lifestyle is weird, uncomfortable, gross, and physically and mentally exhausting. Does this mean it’s not worth it? absolutely not. Just don’t be surprised if you get the shits after a long run. Pro-tip – invest in talcum powder and spandex. the chaffing is not fun!

I love Blue Mt. Dew. That combination of raspberry, ginger and massive amounts of sugar sets my mouth watering and my mind racing pleasurably towards smooth decision-making. I find that sugared-up, whether it be a placebo or otherwise a dopamine reward, I am able to focus much longer on generally unpleasant tasks, like math homework. I know this as empirically tested fact, because I spent the last month testing it.

You see, there’s a life-hack out there which directs us to smell incense while studying to associate that smell with the subject. When we take the test, we simply expose ourselves to that smell, and voila! an instant A. I took this to the next level. For a month and a half, three times a week, I drank a bottle of Blue Mt. Dew during math class. I perched my chin on the bottle and listened to the lecture, to focus on that sweet, nectary smell. I rewarded myself with an ice-cold sip every time I got an answer right. And you know what? It worked brilliantly. It worked so well that I should revise my previous statement completely: I used to love Mt. Dew. Now I associate it with math. I’ve had so much of the stuff that I hate it on that basis alone, and it’s association with math makes me hate math too. I look at an equation now and smell ginger, like i’m having a mild epileptic attack.

But I wasn’t going to let this stop me, so I arrived early for the midterm on Friday and stopped by the student store to complete my experiment. But you know, I go to a small, poor community college, and I had bought every single Blue Mt. Dew they had. They were out, and I took the test while nursing a Coca-Cola because I had addicted myself to massive amounts of sugar.

I told this later to several people and they all said the same thing, “Connor! That’s like something out of Seinfeld! The Big Bang Theory! Friends!” I’m like, “Yeah, that’s because I’m an idiot, and these things happen to idiots.” Because you know, when smart people experiment with their bodies, it’s usually not with unhealthy chemicals and the goal of getting out of studying for a math test. What was I thinking?

Which brings me to my next point: I wasn’t. In fact, I deliberately wasn’t thinking about the possible results of my experiment. I was thinking, “Wouldn’t this be cool if it worked?” If it had worked, I would never think on it again and move on to the next thing. Previously, I’ve done things like draw portraits of my professors while they lecture, which did not help me remember their lectures. I’ve said to myself: “If someone asks you to do something, say okay, I’ll do it later, to see if you remember later to do it.” I never got any chores done. Last month, I tied my shoes by looping the lace counter-clockwise around my finger, and then this month I tied them clock-wise. Why? To see if I could change my habits. What I did not try to do was actually change habits that matter.

While I carry one experiments with my life, I deliberately do not think of other experiments I could be doing. What if I did my homework right after school? What if I didn’t play videogames? What if I go to bed early, get up early, and get to work and school with minutes to spare, instead of a few breathless seconds? These experiments are certainly more important, and furthermore, it’s easy to see potential outcomes. I could have less stress, better sleep, more time for productive enterprises like blogging, and hey, let’s throw a girlfriend in there for good measure.

Those changes seem hard to carry out, but they’re also pretty easy to see. But I’m ready to take this thought experiment to the next level. What experiments, changes in my life, am I really not thinking about? What paradigms do I operate on, and which are negative for me? How about I appreciate my parents more, spend less money, or not even that. How about I achieve a more holistic perspective of human nature, or a deeper peace with my choices in life?

In Seinfeld’s final episode, the show was still about nothing. Jerry, Elaine, George and Kramer; they just carry on shooting the shit, while bars close around them and the camera dolleys out for good. There was an odd romanticism in it, like it was where they truly belonged, and it seems that they are still there now, like statues of ogres in Tolkien’s woods. Me, I continue to experiment, scheme, plot for a better life and listen intently to Demetri Martin but I still don’t make changes. Like sitcom characters, I relegate the real issues to the background, in favor of mental gymnastics that distract me when I am the only audience to my own life. I almost wish there was a laugh track to keep me company, to show me when to just laugh at myself, to add meaning to empty gestures.

Hold it! As my esteemed colleague Phoenix Wright might say.

There is a fundamental flaw in your argument, my friend. Just because we can identify a difference between simple pleasures (those defined by physical phenomena) and complex pleasures (those defined by cognition and critical reasoning), does not mean that one is necessarily better or more fulfilling than the other.

Stepping down off of Aristotle’s pedestal for a moment, I would like to consider the idea that, not only can your every-man obtain happiness, everybody can obtain happiness.

I’m not talking about a eudemonic sense of subconscious wellbeing. I’m talking about consistent and regular contentment and joy.

The thing is, everybody creates their own definition of what makes them happy based on the relative values of that individual. This relativistic values system means that while you or I might see fulfillment in the completion of a long term project, another might see it in a 6-pack of beer. What I am arguing right now is that neither one of these is any more worthwhile or fulfilling than the other.

As soon as we start to assign subjective values to the worth of various pursuits of our time, we are being inconsiderate of the situation and values of those around us. All happiness is subjective to situation and character. It is borderline contentious to say that any pursuit (setting aside the utilitarian sense) is worth more than any other pursuit outside of our own personal perspective.

It’s all well and good to line pleasures up on a spectrum – perhaps from those that are instinctual to those that are intellectual – but that does not create just cause for distinction of worth. It is possible for many things to be different and equitable at the same time.

On a similar train of thought, I’d like to make the distinction between values and happiness. Values (to a certain extent) are the parameters that define what makes us happy, and what we want to strive for. Just as you cannot assign arbitrary values of worth to happiness, you similarly cannot say that any one value is “higher” or “worth more” than another. To be higher implies superiority. We can arrange values on a scale and define them by region, culture, religion etc. But, we cannot assign worth to these values without imposing our own subjective viewpoint onto others.

“What about Utilitarianism?” cry the peanut gallery! “Egalitarianism!”

To this I say, hold your horses. Even as we begin to look at philosophy that considers the happiness and success of all people in mass such as game theory, GDP focus, majority rule (philosophies that I happen to agree with), we still cannot use these as decisive factors in determining the worth of others actions.

Why not? Well, for precisely the same reason that we can’t objectively assign worth to happiness: whether or not you agree with these philosophies is a reflection of your own personal values and cannot be extrapolated to apply to any other person.

In psychology this concept is referred to as relativism – the idea that “points of view have no absolute truth or validity, having only relative, subjective value according to differences in perception and consideration” [American Heritage Dictionary].

So where does this leave us? Isn’t relativism a slippery slope towards Absurdism?

Well, no not really. Absurdists believe that there is no humanly obtainable value or truth in anything. Much like with Nihilism, this is a moot point. Saying that everything equates to nothing or saying that everything equates to something is the same thing. In the end, the distinction between nothing, and something (1 and 0) is purposeless because the conclusion that life is meaningless doesn’t make life stop existing.

The point I’m trying to make is not that there is no way to define happiness, or no way to guide people to happiness. I don’t believe that. Rather, I am fighting against the contentious notion that any single person is worth more, is doing more, is living a more fulfilling life than any other person. This is plainly untrue. Money, success, intelligence, accomplishment, physical fitness or any other arbitrary value we assign to the worth of someone’s life are horrible indicators, because they are relative to our own personal perspective. Aristotle may have believed himself to be above those around him. I, however, reject that notion.

[This post is a response to the previous post]

I figured I’d make a general response to your reflections on the blog first, Connor, before I delve into the rabbit hole of what makes me happy.

I agree with your observation that sequential planning has been somewhat absent from our posts (mine as well, not just yours). I also sympathize with your sentiment, however, that you’ve found a sense of consistency in your writing style from this. To a lesser extent, I have as well.

Much as it behooves me to talk about how our readers perceive this blog (especially since we appear not to have any), I think that it’s important to recognize how our posts look as a body of work and not just standalone pieces.

That being said, the primary reason I continue to write on this blog – in addition to all of the excellent reasons you mentioned – is because I feel like we really have something unique in our dialogue with one another. I also tend to believe (perhaps somewhat egotistically) that these conversations are interesting and dynamic in a way that will be entertaining for other people.

I think that if we focus primarily on our discussions and contentions as two friends debating topics, then the flow of the blog will start to develop on its own.

Hopefully. I think it’s a nice ideal, at least.

I definitely plan on sticking to the blog to the best of my abilities. To explain why I feel this is so important to me, I have to summarize my last week of experiences. In a word: Crazy.

Starting at a new school in a new city has been absolutely the coolest, busiest, scariest, and hardest thing that I have ever done. There is so little around me that has any sort of formal consistency that I feel inclined to cling onto the pieces of my old life that I still have available to me.

Am I suggesting that this is something we’ll be doing for the rest of our lives? No, it probably won’t be. But, I wouldn’t be opposed to the idea. In any case, with the way that people are running around campus like lunatics right now, long and meaningful conversation is somewhat difficult to come by.

Anyway, that’s why I want to continue writing the blog. As far as I’m concerned, the added benefits of writing experience and mental organization are just a bonus.

But, on to your question: What makes me happy?

I hope you don’t mind if I respond, first, by immediately returning the question. What makes you happy? I don’t agree that one’s own personal happiness is something that is easily identifiable. If it were, therapists would surely go out of business. I’ll make an attempt however.

As I write this, I am currently sitting on a bench at the duck pond in the middle of UNM campus. It’s very peaceful – students are in classes, there’s the sound of flowing water, I’m surrounded by beautiful weeping willow trees. It makes me happy to be here, away from the noise. Serene.

Plenty of things make me happy. Food makes me happy. Listening to music makes me happy. Sex, alcohol, exercise, sleep, friends, conversation, books, movies, and video games all make me happy. But, these are all fairly simple pleasures. I think most people could identify these fruits of life that are unquestionably enjoyable. I believe, however, that you meant a deeper and more abstract definition of happiness. That’s quite a bit harder to answer.

I get enjoyment from accomplishment, from winning, from creating, from affirmation. I’m happiest when I think that I’ve done something unique or special; when I get confirmation from others that I’m good at something. I’m happy when I discover something, when I solve a puzzle, or when I finish a book. But can I tie all of these things into a general philosophy for happiness? No not really.

It’s easy to identify what has made you happy in the past and much, much harder to determine why they made you happy in the first place, or whether these things are a valuable use of your time.

I love feeling like I’m on the top. It’s one of the things that make me such an ambitious person, but that’s not necessarily the end all of what it takes to make me happy. I can find many instances when losing or being proven wrong has actually resulted in a better experience or more long term happiness than I would have received out of being the alpha.

Similarly I can’t justify saying that my current definition of happiness is fleshed out either, because there is still so much that I have to experience in my life.

Then we also have to consider all of the things that don’t explicitly make me happy, but are very important values in my life such as finishing school, getting a good job, being successful, and starting a family. Those things don’t necessarily fit into my personal definition of happiness either.

In the end, that leaves me back where most people are. I know pretty much what I want out of life and why, but I can never be sure that it’s really what I want. I can never be sure that my reasons and justifications for what makes me happy aren’t just shallow constructs of outside factors of my life.

In many ways, this is what I meant when I talked about abstract concepts defying definition. Similarly, abstract and complicated motives and emotions inside of us also defy distinction. I don’t believe that anyone can ever find a true sense of inner equilibrium.

That’s ok though. As I once expressed to our old friend Shiloh, when he was having hard times, “You will always be a different person than the person that you want to be”. In other words, no matter who you are or how much you improve your life, or your personal situation, you will always feel like you aren’t living up to your own expectations. This is because people have near limitless potential.

To leave with a good thought – I think life would be boring if it weren’t that way. In fact, I’m glad. To me, not being able to define myself and what makes me happy means that I can always shoot a little higher, always be a little happier, always do a little more. I’ll never be at the highest point of where I’m going to be, and that means I’ll always be looking up.

Happiness. What does it mean to be happy? Why do we want to be happy? Is happiness a valid pursuit or goal? Is it a separable state of the psyche?

Happiness is one of those taboo, abstract words of the same category as “love”, “Life”, or “Freedom”. Such terms defy psychological and philosophical analysis. After all, how do you go about putting  box around the amorphous monster that is our wide and varied definition of “happiness”? If there was an easy answer to this question than it would have been discovered long ago by people much wiser and much more worldly than either you or me.

Why must we persist in the exercise then? For some reason, we have a bizarre and irrational need for explanation of this whole “happiness” business. Much in the same track as the search for the meaning of life, it is a quest that is doomed to be as unresolved as it is ubiquitous.

Consider the following question: If I could give you a pill that would make you euphorically happy all the time, whenever you wanted, with no repercussions, would you take it?

To this too, there is no easy answer. If you take the pill, are you not forsaking the value of the journey? Doesn’t receiving instant gratification defeat the whole purpose of accomplishment in any form? After all, how can we – goal based, reward oriented creatures – apply any value to life if it’s fruits are so readily within reach?

The alternative answer raises no more palatable queries though. If you decide you do not want to take the happiness pill, then you are saying that there is a thing in life you value more than being happy. What could possibly have a higher value than ecstasy in being? Is that not our very definition of heaven; the very thing that humans have dreamed and built for throughout the entirety of our species existence?

There is no easy answer. Intellectually we know that there are pursuits in which we must sacrifice our own personal comfort in exchange for scientific progress, or family, or the greater good. But, we must always balance our sense of social empathy with our own desire for exuberance.

The religiously inclined believe that through deprivation of certain worldly pleasures they will be rewarded with pleasure far greater than any mortal happiness available to us in this plane of existence. This begins to approach another problem in the happiness dilemma though: where is the upper limit? Is an exceptionally happy rich man happier than an exceptionally happy fisherman? Doesn’t the mere idea of hierarchical rapture devalue all happiness below “infinite” to zero?

Buddhist monks have been said to achieve enlightenment or full understanding on their existence through meditation and solitude. Is their “enlightenment” a reflection of universal truths or is it merely a product of an incomplete equation? After all, one can imagine that it is much easier to come to conclusions about the universe when you have seen less of it to begin with. If all you ever knew was a small stone room in a monastery, then perhaps you could come to beautiful and even profound conclusions about that room, but they would not necessarily reflect the universe at large.

We are all living in our own version of the Monk’s stone room. We define the highs and lows of our life, our ecstasy and our anguish, by the depth of what we have already experienced. All happiness and all pain is relative to the experiences of the person experiencing it.

There was once a young girl held captive in a concentration camp for many years of her life. She had little to no outside stimulation. When asked what gave her happiness, what she found “fun”, she replied “the color yellow”.

Our search for meaning and definition in happiness is a boundless and limitless search that will expand as our perception of the universe (and our relative experiences there-in) expand. It is not impossible to imagine that one could artificially engineer their experiences to be an ever expanding series of increasingly happy and sad experiences so as to never prematurely reach the “happiest moment of their life”. To a large extent, our journey into adulthood already accomplishes this unintentionally.

Since there is no right answer to these questions, there can be no wrong answers either. Happiness and fulfillment are not concepts that can be captured in a jar and held up for inspection. Happiness can be found anywhere and in anything. Your own personal search for it or search away from it can only ever be influenced, not foretold. Be that as it may, our understanding of the human psyche and the universe around it is ever-expanding in its depth and reach. We may yet philosophize strange and complex proofs. However, much like with Plato’s cave, it is likely that the search for meaning among happiness and its definitions will ever be undercut but uncertainty. You can only ever decide what happiness means for yourself.

Today I quit my job. It’s the fourth and best job I’ve had since I took my first job at 17, and I’d be lying if I said I left it easily. I worked as a valet, parking cars for the local Indian Casino in my home town. It wasn’t glamorous work, but it was fun and it paid the bills. Getting my job there also helped me through some of the roughest transitions of my life.

Leaving the casino is a strange mixture of freedom and melancholy. In a lot of ways, the year and a half I worked there has shaped who I am and changed my perspective on the world. Of course, I’m glad to be moving on with my life – going to university has been something I’ve looked forward to since I was seven – but at the same time, I’ll be leaving everything, everything, behind to start a new life someplace else. All the friends I’ve made, all the haunts I favorite, all the memories (good and bad) that have shaped me, they’ll soon be hundreds of miles away.

Of course, this latest change in my life is precipitated by a whole host of other changes. My father got a new job. My family is relocating to a different side of the state. My friends are moving on with their lives and entering the work place. At the age of 22, it would be ridiculous and unhealthy for me to expect my life to remain static. But, it is still depressing to realize that the consistency that I once took for granted is now unobtainable to me. To be uprooted from the life I’ve lived for the last decade is… disorienting, to say the least.

In a lot of ways, I owe the casino a great deal. Receiving my job with them provided stability in the rocky and out of focus world around me. It’s difficult to look back from where I am now and realize just how far I’ve come in the last year.

In 2011 my mother was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. Illness always seems so distant and irrelevant until its bitter realities come crashing into your life. My mother and father did not hide my mother’s illness from my siblings and me. They explained the risks and changes very forthrightly. We were fortunate; my mother had excellent care. By spring of 2012 she was completely cured of her cancer, but it did not leave us unmarked.

My mother’s treatment was hard on everybody. For me, it meant more chores and responsibilities in a life that had been succinctly devoid of these before. It was also hard to see my mother struggle with the throes of cancer treatment. I wish I could say that I rose to these challenges admirably, but people have a nasty habit of not responding well to change. And so, rather than shoulder the burden like an adult, I took the opposite route.

I dropped out of every single one of my classes at the local community college I was attending. I began to withdraw from friends and social interaction. I spent increasingly large amounts of time in my room playing video games. I’m not proud of the person I became then.

By the end of 2012 my parents had had enough. I was out of work, out of school, and out of shape. They gave me an ultimatum – ‘pack your things, or get your shit together’ – and I was just stupid enough to take them up on it.

I was thrown out of my house. I had no job, and was living off the charity of one of my few remaining friends. My budget for food each week was $20, which I obtained by selling off what I had left of my possessions (an Ipad, some gift cards, my tools). For four months, I slept on a broken old couch and survived off of ramen and bulk chicken. I’m not proud of that time in my life either.

But I will say one thing about it. It did make me get my shit together. Entirely out of necessity, I was forced to look for work. I had to stop being so irresponsible because I had to find a job and I needed to present myself well to do so.

When I say that I owe the casino a lot, I mean just that. A job parking cars is not a glamorous job, but to me, it was godsend. When I got my job at the casino, I was desperate. I was living off of fumes. Having a real paycheck that I could care for myself with meant the world to me.

I have been as far down the path of self-destruction as I really ever care to go. As I sit here and type all of this out, warm and well fed, it is easy to lose touch with the humility that comes of sleeping in a freezing house on an empty stomach. It’s hard to connect myself now, confident and competent, to the pitiable character I was then. I never could have transitioned – would not be making this next great leap into the unknown – had it not been for the compassion shown to me then.

So to help bridge the mental gap between here and there, and to help give me closure, I would like to offer the reader the following truths taught to me by the last year and a half of my life:

1.)    You are never alone. Everywhere around you are people and resources willing to help you. The hardest part is swallowing your pride to accept them. Realize that people do not look down on those who ask for assistance. Heros arise not from those who can do by themselves, but from those who can collaborate with those around them.

2.)    Maturity comes in many shapes and sizes. One of the most important is called consistency. Be fair to people, show up on time, make good on your promises, and be honest. Not just sometimes, but all the time. People will respect you more and feel as though you do too.

3.)    Burning bridges is much, much easier than fixing them and fixing bridges is crucially important. Baggage ways down everything you do and strive to do. You owe it to yourself not to allow your problems to have free rent in your head. While it’s easy to advise someone to “get over it” it’s much harder to do in practice. Mend conflicts whenever possible.

4.)    Teamwork and leadership go hand and hand. You cannot be a good leader without being a good team player. Being the person in charge is not a dominance race. Good leaders understand and respect the people they lead. The other intricacies of management are smoke and mirrors.

5.)    You can make friends with anyone. People are just people. There are mean people, creepy people, rough people, and weird people. Getting along with someone doesn’t mean the same thing as agreeing with them. Deep down, most people just want to be appreciated for who they are.

6.)    If your boss every asks you to fill in for graveyard “just for a week”, politely decline unless you have a particularly strong desire to not see the sun for the next 6 months.

In a little less than three weeks, I’ll be headed off to university. It’s exciting and incredibly nerve wracking. But, I’m confident in my ability to pull through. If my time at the casino has given me one thing, it’s the drive I need to continue onward. I’ll never forget my roots or my experiences. The goods and bads of the small town I grew up in have shaped me into the person I am today. The lessons I learned here will carry me on well through the rest of my life. Though I might have wished for more glamour or more adventure. I wouldn’t trade it away. Any of it.