Level Up

Yarra Plenty Regional Library (Bibliocommons)

I have not published a blog post on this site in quite some time.  It looks like two years now.  I’d like to think I can make reasonable excuses such as, “I was busy pursuing my career,” or “I was busy reconnecting with who I was and who I ultimately wanted to be.”


It’s all water under the bridge.


I don’t feel bitter at all.  If anything, I feel rejuvenated and renewed.  What brings me to write this post is a way for measure and stay accountable from where I’ve come and where I’m going.  A welcome addition would be to share this feeling of inspiration and renewal with anyone who reads this post.  This is not a requirement or something that needs to happen for me to feel validated for writing this in the first place.  It is simply a welcome “cherry on top.”


I recently returned from a solo trip over a three-day weekend along the California Coast, spanning from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo.  It was something I’d thought and fantasized for a long time but never gave myself permission to do.  I knew it was not going to be easy.  I knew I was going to feel like a fish out of water.  A lame duck.  A lost puppy.  It was going to be vulnerable and anxiety-provoking, and even distressing at times.  It was all those things.


But I did it, and it was so worth it. 


I did things I never had done before.  I booked an Airbnb for myself for two nights and three days.  I ate by myself.  I had free reign over anything I wanted to do in a 72-hour span, but my only personal rules and requirements were that I could never sit still.  Aside from sleeping, I could never sit in the Airbnb:  the minute I woke up, I had an hour to get ready, get in my car, drive, and experience something new entirely on my own.  Yes, feelings of shame came up for me, since I could have easily invited someone on the trip with me.  Feelings of guilt as to why I had not invited a family member or close friend on the trip came up.  Intermittent moments of anxiety came up when I realized how much freedom I really had to determine what I wanted to get out of my experience.  There were many times I thought about turning back and going home.  There were times when I worried about how others might perceive me as a lone traveler.  The idea of scrapping my entire solo-travel plan felt enticing and a sure-safe bet to protect me from any self-perceived threats I might have experienced on this journey.


But I knew I had to keep going on. 


I knew I had to grasp the sweetness of the opportunity presented before me, which overall was to grow.  I knew I had to focus on making the company with myself the most important thing in the world.


It definitely wasn’t pretty at first and I felt a very low point early on when I attended a music concert in the San Luis Obispo Mission Plaza.  I was terrified.  I felt like one of the very few people who were attending the concert, let alone were likely from the area.  I kept surveying all the people around me, thinking they were scrutinizing me as to a why a young guy in his twenties was at this concert alone.  But, honestly, I basically said “screw you” to those thoughts I was having.  I knew that my own company was more than enough.  I enjoyed the concert, and I felt my heart open up.  I began to connect with people.  I felt uninhibited.  My solo trip experience suddenly felt less like a measured experiment and more like a game or stress-less dance.  Sure, feelings of inferiority and lack of knowing others came up in me, but this experience was a time for me to value my own company, to rejoice in the overall enjoyment without the expectation of needing someone with me there to validate my experience.


This feeling carried over when I drove to Cayucos and took a 5-mile hike from though grassy hills to the rocky Central Californian coastline.  I passed couples, both local and from around the world, along with groups of friends made up of local university students.  I could have walked past them mired in jealousy of the shared experience.  But I did something I rarely do in such situations.  I greeted them.  Cracked jokes.  Told them they were almost at the coastline, they just needed to go another couple hundred miles.  Some of these jokes didn’t land.  But I said them anyway.


I kept this mission going by attending a concert at a local venue the following night.  Opening myself up to just living in the moment and resonating with everything around me allowed me to meaningfully connect with a handle of people at the concert, including the band members themselves, which included the closest manifestation of Dave Grohl (lead singer of the Foo Fighters) I have ever met in my life.


This transformed my inner experience from loneliness to connect with the other people on the hike, my connection with the nature and water around me, and most importantly, the inner connection I had with myself.  This was a “Level Up” for me.

We only get 1 life, or at least this unique reality (RedBubble Ltd.)


Now, by “Leveling Up,” I by far cannot say that my work is done here.  A new obstacle for me is how to keep a sense of curiosity and inner drive continually thriving within myself.  I think “Leveling Up,” in this sense is continually marking wading outside your comfort zone in uncomfortable territory, only to realize the fears you felt were mostly to entirely self-perceived, or what may have been an illusion entirely.  Just like your favorite video game. comic-book hero, favorite athlete, or artist has had to overcome, which is very much embedded in getting out of your comfort zone, which sometimes means getting out of your own way through limiting thoughts and beliefs.


So, go ahead.  Let’s all “Level Up” together.  Do what is hard, but what you know what needs to be done.  Your future self will thank you, as mine is right now.  It’s all part of the “Hero’s Journey.”  The question is, what are the next steps to take in this journey to keep growing?  Feel free to comment about what you’re doing to “Level Up” and grow into a more confident and connected “YOU.”  You only get one life or at least this unique reality.  Might as well continually be “Leveling Up.”

-Funny Fearful Guy



When to Go With the Flow (and When Not To) In Order to Grow

Imagine you are planning to go canoeing, alone, with a friend, family, or with several friends (or maybe you’re recommending a canoeing trip to a friend-something along those lines).  And yes, people still go canoeing.  At least I think so.  I mean, I did at summer camp.  Definitely still happening in Europe.

Anyways…You were dropped off by a taxi, Uber, helicopter, you were skydiving, someone else driving in a plane, car, or train, whatever, so basically wherever you ended up on the river trail, that’s where you have to start.  Maybe you walk a little bit further down the river, but ultimately, you have to carry the canoe, so you probably don’t want to travel far, even if you’re Arnold Schwarzenegger, and you’re screaming “GET TO THE RIVER!”  (it’s ok, I change quotes from movies frequently in this blog for emphasis-see here)

So, you set up shop so to speak, and it just so happens you start at the perfect place:  the water is shallow by the riverbed, and the current is still-easy to get in-either by yourself, with your friends, family, even your dog that tagged along.

For the first twenty minutes it’s a really smooth ride-maybe a few baby rapids here and there, but everything is, well, smooth sailing (canoeing).  But then the water starts to get a bit choppier.  At first, it’s actually kind of exciting to have the challenge and you feel more professional, but soon the choppiness starts to make things a bit more precarious for you-you find it more difficult to keep your oar steady to send you in the right direction, or avoid the fallen trees and boulders that lay in your path.  You may even run off course and straight into the riverbed itself!  Or some pesky trout get caught in your oars!  Or maybe a log!  In order to compensate, you’ve got to put in more energy that you did when you started off in that smooth, easy flowing current.  If you’re with your friends, family, and dog, you might have an easier time maneuvering yourself around the various animate and inanimate obstacles, but even then, a lot of that depends on their ability and focus to do so.  It’s possible you yourself actually can keep your canoe on track pretty well.

You also start to notice that when you’ve got a clear path ahead in the river, it’s much easy to go with the current, or the flow, to guide you, than to fight against it.  Sure, maybe you might crave adventure and want to feel the power and peril of the rapids, or race the trout, or impress the Grizzly bear staring at you from the shore, but ultimately, the safest and most reliable path is going with the flow.  Sure, you end up running into some more rapids and misplaced landmasses along your way, but you start to learn the course and some patterns, and soon you literally become, “the captain of [your] ship” and ultimately “the master of [your] soul.”-William Ernest Henley- (from his renowned poem, Invictus.)

Mandatory Metaphorical Image for Going with the Flow (credit kittatinny.com)


I think this river analogy is a great metaphor for our lives.  Just as I outlined at the beginning of the journey, we often do not have a choice of where we start our life journey so to speak.  Ideally, as I imagined above, we start in a place where it is easy to get comfortable in our proverbial life-canoes and start rowing along.  But for many people, they don’t always get this choice, and may start off in the most treacherous of conditions.  The thing is, unless you are rowing in a controlled environment where the water is perfectly still, I think inevitably you are going to run into some kind of “life rapid” at some point.  But even in the most perilous and stressful of moments, you have choice at times to “go with the flow”-just like the canoe on the river.  This can help you ease into whatever life is throwing at you-and to just go with it.  Sometimes, though, maybe you need to do what you can to “fight against the flow,” such as when you are working and have the goal of gaining more muscle, getting faster, slimmer, etc.  In that case, you have to initially fight hard against what the ordinary flow of your life was.  That was definitely the case for me when I decided a few years ago to make fitness and personal health a priority in my life.  At first, the “rapids” of really going at an exercise regimen on a consistent basis was hard, even grueling at times (And I thought two years of high school cross-country running and varsity baseball would have prepared me…I thought wrong!  Well…the college lifestyle did get in the way too…anyways, back to this post!)  Oftentimes, rowing against that tide that was uncomfortable for you to start will build something in you, whether it be strength, stamina, or improvement in form.  Inevitably, some type of change will replace your previous experience of rowing in easier water with better stamina, more strength and speed, or, at least a new experience that you can learn from.  This applies to everything you do in life as well.  There is no wrong or right or right or wrong-simply just doing something will change something.  So if you are looking to change something, staying in your comfort zone likely won’t reap results right away, unless you want to depend on luck and if you believe in it, fate.  However, if you do something, anything, you will reap some sort of reward, and oftentimes habits tend to pay off over time.  (remember the bike analogy from my first post?)

In sum, anyways, I think it is important to determine at which points in your life you either want to go with the flow or go against.  I don’t think you can always stick to one, unless you truly feel comfortable with staying the course of whatever you are doing.  However, if you are looking for growth and sustainability (without burnout,) I think it is a great idea to think about when to fight those rapids and when to go with the flow!  It’s all a balance.  Even Grizzly Bear Bob on the shore wants to go with the flow every once in awhile when he isn’t scavenging for berries or clawing at salmon, but when he’s hungry, you bet he’s going against the flow (literally and figuratively in the river-see what I did there?)

So, Keep Rowin’ and Flowin’ Along In Your Proverbial River.  #MetaphorsRule


See this article below-applies with my whole  “going with the flow” theme in regards to preventing burnout.


Featured photo credit:  riveroflifehamilton.com (rolhamilton.org)