Saturday, December 25, 2010

Running Off Trail

Romance and I run differently through life. I run off trail. I leap over downed trees, cross rivers, climb up mountains, and slide down glaciers. I’m never exactly sure where I’ll end up and I love the adventure of it. Romance runs on the sidewalk; the path turns to the right and dating greets you, the path turns left and there lives marriage in a house with a white picket fence, and around the next corner kids run out and block the path. It all sounds so dull. Sidewalks just aren’t my style.
Being off trail does get lonely so occasionally I do run on the sidewalk with romance. Usually it’s unexpected. I’ll be running through the woods and suddenly a sidewalk will appear so I decide to follow it for a little while and eventually romance and I find each other. Sometimes I get scared and run back into the woods because running off trail is far less painful than the cement romance runs on. Other times I’m ready to handle the pain and romance and I run together for a short time, but we always part ways. I love the company, but no matter how lonely I get, I can’t be away from adventure for romance’s uninteresting sidewalk for too long because the cement hurts my knees and there is usually an exciting creature luring me to chase it back into the forest. The problem is that once I run with romance for awhile, it reminds me of how alone I am and how much more meaningful the run is when I have someone to share it with.
Recently, I took a turn and got a glimpse of a sidewalk. I started jogging towards it, but to my surprise, I collided with romance before I even hit the sidewalk. I thought that romance had finally gotten gutsy enough to wander out into the forest, but it turns out that it was just cutting trail to get to someone else’s sidewalk; someone who was a lot more shiny, blond, and witty. Romance used my section of forest and shoved me in to the mud on its way out.
Since I was younger, I’ve been programmed to believe that the “perfect girl” is shiny, blond, skinny, smart, witty, always knows what to say, and runs on sidewalks (growing up in a Mormon town and too many Disney princess movies I guess). Whatever mold that was, I didn’t come from it. I’m an off trail loving granola bar; I like my plain jane style, pounds of makeup make me feel clown-like, sports bras are way more comfortable, and my brown curly hair is easier to deal with in a pony tail. If I could be outside all the time hiking, climbing, and swimming in lakes, I would be happy. I’m also really spacey, I say things that make no sense, and I can be awkward. This is who I am. I’ve tried to be something different, but it just makes me unhappy. The truth is if I have to change to be with romance, then I’d rather be alone. I’m not going to switch to sidewalks or put on an unpractical snazzy outfit just to get romance to chase me into the forest.
I’ve learned that romance isn’t my running shoes. I don’t need it to keep running, but it’s a good companion and it’s nice to have when it’s around. When it does shove me in the mud, I can get up, dust off, and keep running. While skimming through Blue like Jazz (which I often do when I’m looking for some wisdom), I came across a line where Don Miller states that “love is an opposite of loneliness, but not the opposite.” Sometimes we get coaxed into thinking that romance is the only way to deal with loneliness, but it’s not true. Friends, family, and community all provide that companionship that we all crave. They can even be more satisfying because they don’t create the expectations that romance does. The key is not looking for romance to use as running shoes or dragging romance along, but instead running into romance and it wanting to join the run. Be content with yourself and find someone you can share the off trail adventure with.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

13 Important Things to Remember throughout Life’s Journey

1.Rumi said, “Out beyond ideas if wrongdoing and rightdoing, there is a field. I will meet you there.” Always take perspective into account. This will lead to more understanding and less argument. Right and wrong is all a matter of perspective. There is more than one path to get to the summit of a mountain, but in the end we all end up in the same place. It’s just a matter of how we choose to get there.
2.Every experience is important. Whether it’s good or bad, it is still meaningful. Everyone goes through hard times and they teach us life lessons and how to truly enjoy the good times. We know more after we’ve been through those dark patches.
3.Humans aren’t machines. Every person has emotion and our attitudes towards others do have an impact. Be a positive contribution to the community pool. People aren’t inanimate objects. We should all make an effort to really see people. Just a smiling at someone can drastically make their day better.
4.Have deep conversations. It enriches life and it is the only way to discover more answers. No one person possesses all the answers to the meaningful questions of life. Every conversation sparks new thoughts and ideas and a greater understanding of the world.
5.Live in the now. Life isn’t about the story. It’s about experiencing the moment as it happens. The past is for reflecting on and learning from. The future is unpredictable and the only way to help steer the future is by living in what’s happening in the moment you’re in.
6.You control your happiness. Emerson states, “Most of the shadows of this life are caused by our standing in our own sunshine.” Bad things happen but every person has the power to change the situation or change their perspective about the situation.
7.Accepting emotions you’re feeling and owning up to them is healthy. Happiness isn’t If you’re feeling angry or annoyed or sad
8.According to Don Miller, "Everybody, every person, has to leave, has to change like seasons; they have to or they die. The seasons remind me that I must keep changing." Change is an important part of life. The world is in a constant state of change. There is no way to stop it, so we have to be willing to change with it or we will be left behind.
9.Write down your goals. They are 40% more likely to happen if you do.
10.“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.” -Henry David Thoreau. Follow your dreams, not society. If you want to do something, make it happen. You will be much happier following your dreams than following what society tells you to do.
11.Don’t ever settle. Whether it’s for a person, a job or anything, don’t do it. The things that are priorities are much better than those that are options. In time, the priority will turn up so don’t settle for the option.
12.Choose people you want to have in your life, not need. People flow in and out of you life and if you need someone, it could lead to sadness and disappointment. If all the people in your life are ones that you just want to be there, when they move in and out, it won’t hurt as bad and it will cause you to appreciate those people when they are there.
13.Accept that humans aren’t the only species on the planet and they are not the most important. Just because we’re the only ones capable of dominating the planet doesn’t give us the right to do so. Every species has the right to live and contributes to the well being of the Earth.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Love the Action and Live in the Present

In the Bhagavad Gita, one of Krishna’s many lessons is learning to love the action, and not just the fruit of the action. This is a concept that is foreign to many people. We get caught up in the reward of the action rather than enjoying the actual process of getting to the reward. Think about it; we sit in class and think about the grade rather than really wanting to gain knowledge, we work hard in jobs we hate for the money, and we run or swim or bike even though we hate it to be in shape. The focus should be shifted to what we are doing in this very instant of time rather than what the outcome of the action is. The outcome is short lived and the action lasts much longer. Actions take up about 98% of our lives and the fruit of that action makes up about 2%. That means that 98% of our lives are being wasted doing something that is not enjoyable. The action should be enjoyed. Love to learn, love to work, love to run, love to breathe, just love everything that you do and life will be good. The outcomes are just an added bonus. “I love my work, and I’m making money!” is a much more appealing thought than, “I spend most of my time at my job and I’m miserable, but hey I made some money!”
Rock climbing is a perfect example of this type of thought process. When you’re working on a project, you have a general plan of how you’re going to top out, but the concentration isn’t solely on being on the top. The focus is on the process of getting there. Completing each move is an accomplishment in itself. If the only focus is topping out, it is highly unlikely you will get past the current move. To complete anything, the concentration has to be on the rock, where you’re at in the current moment, no straying thoughts, just present and in tune with everything going on around you.
Loving the action is also tied to living in the present. Sometimes life gets hard and stress and unhappiness cause a shift in focus from the present to a happy memory or a daydream of how the future may play out. Memories are good to have and reflect on periodically but they are not a good place live. Learn from the mistakes, laugh at the comedic points and smile because it happened. Wishing that things were the way they used to be won’t do any good, because life is constantly changing and there is no way to time travel back to those events. The key is to move on and accept that the past has happened and that the present is what’s real and concrete. We can change our circumstances to make the present what we want it to be. The future is also not a place to live. Daydreaming about how life may play out doesn’t mean that it will happen. It’s a good way to have some direction, but our current actions are what lead us to the future and we will see what will happen when we get there. Live in the space of time that can be controlled.
Living in the present can be compared a book. Your life is a book that you are writing. The page you are on is what is happening at the current moment in time. Previous pages are events that have already happened and later pages are blank because they haven’t been written yet. Flipping back to look and reflect on previous pages is possible, but the story must go on, so we must return to where we are currently at in the story. Reading ahead, there are only blank pages, so all we can do is imagine what we think may be there. We won’t know what will be on the page until we get there and those pages will remain blank unless we keep writing.


Sorrow pools in the heart. The more pain there is, the bigger the pool becomes, until eventually it forms a lake that keeps filling and the water begins to overflow. The lake must then be emptied or it will flood the entire heart. Sorrow is released in tears. With each tear, the level of the lake lowers until it is empty and all that’s left is a patch of soil. This space is barren for a while, but the soil is moist and with the right gardening techniques new, more prominent growth can occur. Life moves forward.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Big Bang

In the beginning, there is a point; a single point in the depths of my mind, containing all the energy and matter for an idea. What is a point, but a condensed circle? It is the nature of the point to be its circular form, the more encompassing version of itself, so it creates an explosion of energy and particles within itself, causing an outward expansion. The point is then a circle. An idea is born.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Simple Act of Kindness

The world is made up of a large spectrum of cultures and beliefs. No two people are exactly alike in the way they perceive life. It is my belief that no one is wrong, we all just have a different way of looking at things. Instead of forcing our beliefs and culture on someone, we should listen to what they have to say and find a common ground. We can learn a lot from other cultures and it is important to be exposed to all the beliefs of the world to formulate our own unique beliefs. One thing I’ve found that unites all people is kindness. No matter what beliefs you hold, acts of kindness are universally understood and are a way to connect with people of any culture. One of the best experiences I’ve had was working in a nursing home making valentines with a Navajo lady who spoke very little English. When I first met her, I couldn’t get any response from her. I put on my biggest smile and tried to make small talk, but she just stared at me with her arms crossed and frowned as I made the Valentine. I felt horrible because I was there to give her company and it seemed like she would have preferred me not to have been there at all. To her, I looked like a privileged white girl that had nothing to offer. I didn’t want her to have that perspective of me, but it was difficult communicating verbally so instead I used kindness to win her over. When I was finished with the valentine, I handed it to her. She looked at me and pointed to herself. I smiled and nodded. She reached out and took the valentine and looked at it as if I had handed her the Mona Lisa. It was nothing special, a red heart with flower cutouts, lace doilies, and some glitter, but it produced one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had. Holding that valentine in her hand, she looked at me with glistening brown eyes and gave me the biggest, most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen. She then rolled around to all the other people in the dining hall where we were working and showed off what she had gotten. When the day was done she hung up the Valentine right by her bedside table. It was an amazing feeling to have connected with someone over something as simple as a Valentine. We didn’t share our language, are beliefs, or even the holiday, but the simple gesture was enough for us to create a bond that left a lasting impression on the both of us. I believe that if you show people kindness, you can win their trust. Even though my culture and beliefs will be very different from those of the people in the country the Peace Corps sends me to, I know I will be able to adapt and connect with the people because I know how to share the gift of kindness.

A Quest for Keys

One of the most interesting pieces of wisdom on life I have been given is that before we are born we have a box filled with keys to the meaning of life. When we come into the world, we toss the keys from our box and they are randomly distributed to people around the world. To collect our keys, we have to have deep, meaningful conversations with people. As life passes, we meet more people and collect more of our keys, always learning more about life. Ever since I was told this, I have been on the lookout for my keys. Because I will be exposed to such a different culture and different views on life, I believe that the people I meet while in the Peace Corps will give me some of my most valuable keys. I also want to help others discover their keys and working in the Peace Corps would help me to do this.
The keys I’ve found after two summers working for the park service and a summer working for a conservation corps have opened a path to better the planet for future generations by conserving the land, utilizing it properly, and educating people about conservation and protection of natural resources. I hope to work permanently with the Peace Corps, NOLS, the Park Service, or the Forest Service to fulfill my goals. Being in the Peace Corps will be the first of many journeys I will have educating people about the amazing things the Earth has to offer.
I will have no problem dedicating 27 months to the Peace Corps because it is something I have always wanted to do and I always commit myself fully to everything I am involved in. I am always flexible and I am seeking a new and exciting adventure, so anywhere I am sent I will be more than happy with. I always conduct myself in a professional manner, appropriate to the situation. I thrive off of change and new experiences, so I have no problem adapting to new situations and cultures. I am always looking to create lifelong bonds and learn new philosophies on life to improve my own.
The biggest challenge I will face will be establishing a leadership role as a young female. I plan to overcome this by being confident and assertive about my goals and objectives and make sure I complete everything I start. I will also treat all people with respect and integrate their suggestions and culture into my plans.
The most important thing in life is experiencing as many things as possible and soaking up every drop life has to offer. Peace Corps is a perfect fit for me and it will provide me with the keys to my true path.

Cover Letter

My nose lay plastered against the back seat window of my family’s old gray mini van, and my big blue eyes slid from left to right, following the stubby juniper trees disappearing over the horizon. I was only six years old and to me it was just another family camping trip, but this time instead of going to dry, sandy Chaco Canyon in New Mexico we were heading north to green, mountainous, northern Colorado.
The dust and junipers were slowly being replaced with giant pine trees and grass that covered every hill as far as I could see. Although there was a change in environment, it didn’t make the trip any shorter. After a full day of driving, my younger sister and I were getting fussy. The last couple hours of the trip turned into an “Are we there yet?” every half-hour, and the annoyed response, “We’ll be there in four more showings of Barney.” (The stupid purple dinosaur seemed to be our only method of time.)
Finally, we turned into a tiny secluded campground tucked into the Rocky Mountains. We had reached the end of our long trip. I squiggled in my seat until the side door slid open and my mother’s soft hands reached in. The seatbelt clicked, and she pulled me out of the car. Excitement flooded my veins as I jumped out and danced around in circles. The cool evening breeze blew my short brown curls behind me. A sea of purple, dark blue, and pink oozed up behind the tall, jagged, mountains as the sun sunk behind them. Dark, thunderous clouds swirled around the tops of the mountains, only adding to the picture.
With little preparation, the tents were pitched, a fire was lit, and my sister and I were tucked into our sleeping bags. As tradition, we both turned headfirst into the bags and climbed downward to see who could get to the end first. Having expended our last bit of energy, we curled up and were both asleep instantly.
As the night drew on, the wind beat progressively harder on the tent and the cold began to creep in. When we woke up the next morning, there was half an inch of water covering the bottom of our tent. In the middle of the night a freak storm had blown in and left us a morning present of an inch of snow. I was upset at first, thinking that it had ruined our camping trip, but I soon realized that instead of swimming in the river we would be able to build snow forts and have snowball fights. There is something positive hidden in every situation; the trick is looking deep enough to find it.
These early childhood adventures have helped shape my love for the outdoors. As I grew older I was able to explore this relationship even more through backpacking, which brought me even closer to nature. I have had the opportunity to swim in high mountain lakes that few humans have seen, and sleep under the stars on top of an isolated mountain. Most will never feel that unique feeling of cool tranquility, accomplishment, and happiness. Never do I feel so small and insignificant compared to nature as when I am outdoors completely alone. I also spend a lot of time in the outdoors doing community service. I’m an active member of Grand Canyon Youth Service Organization, often help the Stewards of Public Land, and volunteer at the Forest Service and Grand Canyon Trust. Last summer, I had the most amazing experience working on a trail crew in Arizona. I learned so much and gained a real connection with the people and places that I worked.
I would love the opportunity to further my love and knowledge of the outdoors by working for the Parks Service in Rocky Mountain National Park this summer. It would be a dream come true to work on a trail crew again, on a fire crew, or as a backcountry ranger. I am eager to conquer any task that is laid in front of me and I am a hard worker that doesn’t give up if something is challenging.

The Aspen

An aspen stands alone
Sunshine and fire burst from its dew dripped leaves
Radiating into the overwhelming mass of green and brown
Surrounding it

A smile from the cloudy heavens
Focuses down upon the single tree
Making its beauty and grace stand out
In the forest of mediocrity

The aspen’s beauty intensifies with every passing day
Even as the eve of winter
Rolls in
On the breath of the wind

The other trees stand in silence
Their shadows grow long and dark
But as the wind shudders through the aspen’s golden leaves
A glorious song rises out of the silence

The aspen’s wisdom is incomparable to the rest
It survives the vilest of winters
With more compassion to offer
Than the entire forest

Summiting Mt. Biology

I can finally see the summit to Mount Biology, the peak I’ve been hiking up for almost four years now. The journey has been tough and in places, the trail hasn’t been well marked. Even with just one last section of uphill left, I sometimes look back at the trail behind me and question if this was even a peak I should have bagged. Biology? Why not Journalism or English or Philosophy or something I’m actually good at and have a passion for? I have never been much of a science person. In high school, science was a constant struggle. I studied way harder than my best friend and she always did better than I did with out even trying. I had a hard time grasping the concepts. When it came to being creative, on the other hand, I had no problem. I jumped at the opportunity to take any art or English class. Those subjects came way more naturally to me than science ever did. The problem was that the pressures of high school forced me to believe that going into something science related was the only worthy choice. I was surrounded by smart friends and the idea that to win anyone’s approval, I had to be smart.  I always felt like I was hidden in their shadows and I wanted more than anything to be seen and to prove to my family and classmates that I was smart. That’s why when making my choice on a major, I chose Cellular Molecular Biology. It had a big flashy title and when I told anyone that’s what I was going for, they were automatically impressed. My goal was to become a geneticist and to find a cure for cancer. In my mind, accomplishing this would make my family proud, I would no longer be invisible, and everyone would see how smart I was. At the time, it seemed like a perfect plan so I pushed aside the minor detail that I didn’t really like science.
            When freshman year started, I had my first reality check. All of my classes were science based and I was miserable. I almost didn’t pass my intro chemistry lab because I couldn’t figure a how to use a pipette (that should have been my first clue) and most of the time I had no clue what was going on. I kept telling myself that it would be ok once I was working as a geneticist because I would be doing something that I loved.  Finally, I realized how much I really hated being in a lab. A lab coat, goggles, fluorescent lights, no windows, and looking in a microscope all day was not appealing in the least, so I changed my major to Community Health to pursue Nutrition.
            This was also an attempt to create an image for myself. I had major body image issues and I thought by going into nutrition people would see me as the skinny, healthy athlete.  Pursuing nutrition made my self esteem drop even lower. I became obsessed with how I looked and how much I weighed. I was paranoid that everyone thought that I wasn’t skinny enough to be a nutritionist, so all I thought about was exercising and losing weight. I drove everyone around me crazy and eventually I even drove my best friend away.
            After a year of being a Community Health major, I decided to change back to biology because of all the biology and chemistry prerequisites I needed for nutrition. That semester was one of the lowest points in my life. It took me months to try and adapt back to the college lifestyle, after my life changing summer working at Rocky Mountain National Park. I struggled in all my classes and I was exercising over 3 hours of intense cardio a day. I eventually broke the neck of my femur because of overtraining and not eating enough protein. This made me realize that maybe nutrition wasn’t the best career path for me since I couldn’t even take care of my own health, so I decided to stick with getting a degree in general biology so I could finish on time.
            It’s embarrassing trying to respond when people ask me what I want to do with my biology degree once I graduate. My general response is that I’m going into the Peace Corps, so I have a couple of years to decide, but what I’m really thinking is, “Yes, I am getting a degree in biology. Do I plan on having a career in this field? Well… I honestly have no idea.” Maybe I will maybe I won’t, I’m not out ruling it out as a possibility, but I’m also not counting on it. Getting a degree in Biology is the quickest way to the summit. I want my diploma so I can move on to other adventures. I am tired of this scenery and there are plenty more summits to conquer. At this point, I have no idea where life is taking me, but that’s the excitement of it. I’ve learned that life isn’t what you expect and in the end I know I’ll end up where I’m suppose to be. I have some ideas of what I might do after the Peace Corps, but things always change. I am definitely not where I thought I would be four years ago. If I set plans for where I might be three years from now, I may miss an amazing opportunity because my vision will be narrowed to nothing but the current trail. Honestly, at this point I don’t feel like I need a plan. Life presents plenty of opportunities and opens many doors. It’s my job to see all opportunities and take them. If do that, I know that I will eventually stumble upon what I want to do with my life.
            So, yes, even though Mount Biology isn’t exactly where I wanted to go and it was a difficult trek, the journey to the summit was worth it. Mount Biology provided many side trails that I wouldn’t have gone on if I was on any other path. I would not have gotten a job as a park ranger and met the some of the most amazing, inspirational people that have shaped who I am and I would probably not be going into the Peace Corps. To say the least, Mount Biology has been one of the most difficult trails I’ve ever been on and there have been sections where I thought I wouldn’t make it to the summit, but overall I’m glad that I took this trail. Life tends to work itself out, mostly in unexpected ways and every experience I’ve had, both good and bad, has meaning and has given shape to my life. Because of these experiences, I have become a person that I actually like. I’m no longer unhappy and striving for an image to get other people’s approval. For that reason alone, I wouldn’t change anything that’s happened. Bring on the summit!