Slinkies, Spotify, and Steven

Well, I should be doing homework right now. Instead, I am listening to Spotify and playing with a green slinky that I got for free a few weeks ago. It says “Google” on it. It’s awesome. But the slinky is irrelevant. Right now I want to talk about my Spotify account and why it is so important to me.

I have been living away from home for over two months now. Although I have seen my family many times since I went away to college, I still miss them a lot.

Tonight I began streaming music on my Spotify account, and halfway through listening to The Killer’s “All These Things That I’ve Done” the music abruptly cut out. Across the top of the screen was a yellow banner that read, “Spotify has been paused because your account is being used somewhere else.” I smiled and resumed the music. This happens every now and then. My brother Steven and I share my Spotify account. The reason why is because it is a paid premium account that gives the user a lot of extra benefits. In short, Steven decided he wanted to mooch off of my account and, being the awesome big brother that I am, I let him. So both of us use the same account, but the catch is that Spotify doesn’t allow a single account to be used on more than one device at a time. When he tries to stream music at the same time I do, we both get cut off and the yellow banner appears. Shortly after Steven joined my account back in June, we agreed that since I am the one paying for the account, I get to keep streaming music when this issue arises.

My point is that while I used to get annoyed when Steven used my account at the same time I did, I don’t anymore. Since I see him a lot less frequently these days, I actually like when this happens from time to time. Along with texting, phone calls, and FaceTime, these “Spotify interruptions” are one of the little ways that I stay connected to him. Whenever the music cuts out and the yellow banner appears, I like to think about where Steven was when he tried to access my account and what song he was trying to listen to. Also, I love opening Spotify and seeing all of the new songs that Steven starred when I was away. I listen to all of them and leave them starred, even if they are awful. In a way, this shared account has become an interactive experience. I love it.

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The Spaces Between My Footsteps

I clench a fist of lawn

But do not pull it out.

It sits smartly in my hand

While snugly in the earth.

Photosynthesis.

I can perform it, really, I can.

My skin drinks the photons

Of the sun

And in turn, my body laughs.

This is what it means to live.

I walk my shoelaces,

They drag behind me.

But my mind is back there with them

And my heart has germinated

And I want to get to where I am going

But at the same time

I want the spaces

Between my footsteps

To last forever.

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A Thought or Two About Myself

So a couple weeks ago I turned in my first college essay. The prompt was to simply answer the question: “Who Am I?” It proved to be pretty difficult for me to answer, which didn’t surprise me. I am not particularly an introspective person, and thinking about my identity and sense of purpose in the world, etc. required me to leave my comfort zone a bit. But, I did. And I wrote an essay. And I have decided to share it on my blog. So here it is.

A Thought or Two About Myself

            Life, for me, has always been a game of fitting into different roles. Who I am internally is pretty consistent. However, what I choose to show others changes constantly. I evaluate the situation, see where I fit in best, and adapt my personality accordingly. This may sound like a poor character trait to many people, but I disagree.

I think everyone partakes in “role playing” to a degree. For example, think about interviewing for a job. If you consider yourself outgoing and energetic, but then realize that your interviewers are very stern and mundane, you aren’t likely to be one hundred percent yourself during that interview, because you want to do well and you want the job. My point is that I do not think that showing different sides of oneself to different people is a bad thing. I think it is completely necessary if you want to succeed in life. Just because you love yourself just the way you are doesn’t mean everyone else does, too. You have to be willing to adapt.

Sociologist Erving Goffman developed an interesting theory about varying presentations of oneself. During his lifetime, he theorized that all people partake in “theatrical presentations” of themselves that can vary to a significant degree, depending on whom they are around. What Goffman came to conclude is that people have multi-faceted personalities, and choose with each encounter, which side or sides to reveal.

Now, I said above that I fit into whichever role I think needs to be filled. Well, that’s not entirely irrefutable. There are people who I can open up to a little more. These people, family and close friends, know a side of me that is closer to the “real deal.” But really, if you think about it, the only person who truly knows who we are is our self. Everyone else has to interpret what we decide to show.

I have always been loyal to those who I am closest. My mother describes me as a golden retriever: loyal, endearing, and eager to please. One of my strongest values is “family first,” which sounds obnoxiously cliché, but has rung true in my life for as long as I can remember. The family unit I grew up in is definitely responsible for who I am today, but not in the way one might think. My family has always pledged to love and respect all members, regardless of which “life path” he or she decides to choose. This accepting environment has allowed me to try new things and question my beliefs and upbringing, ultimately refining my sense of self. I am not a carbon copy of my parents.

I have always been a doer. My dad describes me as a beaver: hard working, goal-oriented, and productive. I remember deciding in the third grade that I would write my own book, and that same night, I cranked out twelve chapters! Granted these “chapters” were each half a page long and typed in 18-point font. My point is that I follow through. Usually. I say usually because I have learned over the years that I cannot do everything I want. Time has proven itself to be my worst enemy. I am always thinking of ways that I could be more efficient, could cram in a little extra into my schedule. But I am never satisfied. While I may be a beaver, I unfortunately am not a time lord.

However, when something deeply inspires me, I throw out all reservations and pursue it with alacritous passion. I embody this passion and make sure that whatever I do is authentic and exceptional. The most recent example of my “gung-ho” attitude was when I established a health and wellness club at my high school. Within the first month of school, the club initiated the district’s first school-wide recycling program, brought the anti-bullying organization, Rachel’s Challenge, to present to the student body, led a suicide prevention campaign that raised 500 dollars for the Pueblo Suicide Prevention Center, and attracted over 100 members. And that was only the beginning. When the spark of inspiration ignites within me, expect a wild fire.

I have always been a sensitive person, but when I was younger, it was actually pretty pathetic. I remember in second grade playing a game called “Around the World.” The premise of this game was to see how far you could make it around the classroom, competing against one other student at a time in answering a math question. The teacher held up a flash card with a simple multiplication problem and the student to shout out the correct answer first got to move to the next desk and challenge the next student. I remember being undefeated and utterly indefatigable. I was on a roll and had almost made it “around the world.” Eventually another student got the best of me, which was fine with me. But then the entire class started to cheer. I immediately felt singled out and humiliated. I still remember the color rising to my face as I buried it into my folded arms. The class was simply relieved to see a change in pace, but at the time, it crushed me. My insecurities and resultant oversensitivity followed me throughout much of my elementary school years.

Of course, as I grew older and matured, these instances stopped affecting me so drastically. However, I also believe that joining my first club swim team in the third grade helped progress this maturation. Swimming for Pueblo Swim Club was a full time commitment and our workouts were exceedingly rigorous. Even as a nine-year-old, I was pushed beyond my comfort zone and expected to keep up with the older swimmers. Joining the team marked the beginning of a decade of gasping for air and eating like a shipwreck survivor after practice. One instance of the “tough-love” my coaches showed me was when we were doing “pigs.” Pigs were when we went to the deep end and pushed off the bottom right against the wall, then pulled ourselves out of the water on the ledge until our arms were fully extended, dropped back down to the bottom of the pool, then repeated that process for a predetermined amount of time. At the end of the pigs, my coach was upset that we had snuck in half-second long conversations each time our bodies were out of the water. She said we were slacking off and made us re-do the pigs. What particularly affected me was when she turned to me and said,

“What’s the matter, Paul? Are your scrawny little arms too tired to do this over again?” Yes, swimming definitely toughened me up. However, I can still let little things bother me, even after all of these years. I am not made of stone. And frankly, I am glad that I’m not. Stone sinks in water.

One moral that I always abide by is to be inclusive and respectful to every person I meet. This has become far more than a “grin and bear it” mind frame. I believe that every single person I meet has value, has something valuable to share, and every single person deserves the benefit of the doubt. I like this way of thinking. It has truly contributed to my happiness. Of course, there is a line between being kind and respectful to everyone and being a pushover. Every day I learn, and every day I refine this moral and redraw the line with more precision.

As I stated at the beginning of this essay, what I choose to show other people can differ from who I truly am. This is not because I am “fake.” In fact, I believe it is the exact opposite reason. I have never felt comfortable being unreserved around people I don’t know very well. It feels phony. Instead I like to ease into things, relying on my method of inclusion and respect, and slowly revealing a bit more of myself as time goes on.

I’ve realized that college is a time for self-centeredness. I don’t mean this in a bad way.  College is the time for us to show the world who we are and what we have to offer and it is the time for us to declare our dreams and go out and use resources and make connections and make those dreams come true. And, I have realized that I am not comfortable with doing any of that. Instead, I am trying to see college as a time for building genuine friendships, not for the purposes of having connections in the future, but because the friendships are an attribute to my happiness. I do not see college as a time for me to show myself off. Instead, I want to make my college experience one filled with new ways of thinking and living, and I want to expand my realm of knowledge and experiences while I am here. And I can only hope that everything else will fall into place. Have I found any of these things yet? Who knows, it is still too early for me to tell. But I will continue on this path because it is the only one I know and so far, life has been pretty fantastic. That’s the way I operate and that is who I am.

Summer 2013

As I sit, slouched, in my cluttered kitchen while eating leftover Chinese food from a take-out box, I begin to reflect upon my summer vacation of 2013. You see, I’ve reached the point of my summer break that I like to call the “summer slums.” Now, the summer slums mark the portion of summer break where everything kind of settles down and everyone prepares for the new school year. The typical traits I possess during the summer slums include boredom, lethargy and an overall deflated mood (hence the word “slums”). The realization of the upcoming academic year begins to set in during the summer slums, and this year in particular I have been ever reluctant to face that realization. This is because in 7 days (ONE WEEK) I will leave my hometown and go to college.

Don’t get me wrong, I am very excited to attend college. But this summer has been absolutely perfect. It has been exactly what I envision the ideal summer break to be, summer slums and all. And I find myself growing increasingly attached to this in-between time of my life, where one chapter has just ended (high school, childhood), and another is about to start. I find myself extremely reluctant to say goodbye to the summer lifestyle.

And it’s always been this way, really. Ever since I can remember, I have been particularly fond of the summertime. Out of all my childhood memories, the ones made over the summer have a certain warmth and glow to them that can easily coax a smile from me. It is a detachment from reality, almost like a dream. Summer has always been, for me, a time of carefree jubilee. Yes, that rhymed and yes, it was completely necessary.

But let’s focus on this summer. How should I describe this summer? Simply labeling it as “perfect” like I did above is nondescript and fails to adequately portray these past months…. This summer has kind of been like the Chinese food I just finished eating!

Hear me out. The Chinese food was a chicken and noodle dish with lots of vegetables, and included pineapple and jalapeños. Each bite was a unique variation from the last: the sweet and spicy flavors continuously complementing each other. Due to the irregular shape of the take-out box, the food was unevenly heated from the microwave, so that one bite might have been refrigerator cold while another was scalding hot. These leftovers, seemingly uninteresting and mundane, are actually a spot-on metaphor for my fantastic summer!

This summer was a hodgepodge of family and friend fun, relaxation, and self improvement. There were  dozens of “sweet” moments such as reading a book or lazily lounging in the sun. Equally as frequent came the “spicy” events such as bike riding or hiking with friends, and taking a road trip with my family. And until now, there was never a moment when I wasn’t captivated, engrossed, and completely content with whatever it was I was doing. Ah, the euphoria!

But in all honesty, it all comes back to my friends. Without them, my summer would be nothing.

Here are some of the summer highlights I’ve had with my friends off the top of my head (be warned, most of these are situational memories meaning if you weren’t there, they don’t mean much to you, kind of like an inside joke):

  • renting and riding around on cruiser bikes in the rain
  • watching one of our own perform music outdoors for the public
  • having a barbecue
  • spending nights looking at the stars on top of a hill in a golf course
  • doing arts and crafts together
  • countless movie nights
  • sending our love to each other through not-so-secret house/car decorating
  • going out to a nice restaurant in nice dress clothes
  • completely drenching our nice dress clothes in a nice fountain
  • getting sno-cones at the River Walk
  • watching the movie premieres of both Despicable Me and The Conjuring
  • going to see Imagine Dragons at Red Rocks together
  • What Are the Odds?
  • eating homemade chicken tacos
  • attending a local musical
  • going night swimming with glow sticks in the pool then going to a hot tub instead
  • P-diddle
  • welcoming home a friend who had been gone for a month
  • helping out at a day camp
  • traveling to Denver to visit my friend’s sister for a night
  • playing telestrations
  • making homemade ice cream
  • “watching” Teen Wolf
  • going on originally innocent walks around town that quickly turned out to be us messing with everyone around us
  • free pie day (almost) every Wednesday at Village Inn
  • Liberty Point at night
  • scavenger hunts, including Chinese Fire Drills (although I missed this)
  • renaissance festival (and this, too)
  • eating homemade food made by a different person every time
  • having my belly button violated by just about every one in one night!
  • the morning after at Cracker Barrel
  • watching a meteor shower
  • laying with two of my best friends in the front of my yard and feeling so very happy
  • getting word of the day and (sometimes) sharing it with each other
  • And lastly, although I’m sure there are many more, one of the biggest “friendship” highlights of this summer were the little things. The moments of intimacy between friendships and the self disclosures and revelations which came about during the awkward silence following a movie or laying in the grass and looking at the stars. These little moments of colloquial conversation such as discussing our greatest fears or asking each other for advice on a dilemma truly molded the love and empathy I feel for each of my friends.

As the final week arrives, I hope that my case of the “summer slums” passes quickly so I can enjoy the last few days with the people I love the most. As each of my friends head their separate ways, I can only hope that they find that sweet and spicy balance to their lives away from home. I wish all the success and friendship to each of them at each of their respective universities, and lastly want to let them know how much, so much, I value their friendship in my life. I love each and every one of them. I used to think that having friends like the ones I do didn’t happen in real life. I look around and see so many people who have crummy friends or who are a crummy friend to someone else and I feel bad for those people. I really did luck out.

Here’s to you, summer 2013. You truly rocked my socks.

Peter’s Shadow: The Untold Truth

I have been beyond bored over the course of this nine hour drive from El Paso to Pueblo. I’ve been experiencing the type of boredom of which I’m sure we are all familiar; I begin one activity to keep myself entertained, but then quickly flutter to another and then another, unable to find prolonged interest in any of them.

But during this interminable span of minimal neuron activity, I have had a few decent moments of insight and/or realization. Right now I am going to share my revelation about Peter Pan!

When Peter Pan loses his shadow in the Disney cartoon (I’ve never read the book, but I’m going to pretend like he loses it then, too) he is trying to reattach it to himself because it is one of the few commonalities he shares with normal humans, and it is very important for him to have it in order to remind himself of his own mortality outside of Neverland.

Keeping his shadow attached to him is important, because his life in Neverland is so unreal. Think about it: Peter is a boy who decided to leave the normal world and live perpetually young in Neverland. He is surrounded by enchanted creatures that the real world deems “fictitious” and he can fly, all on his own, which is humanly impossible according to the laws of Physics. He clearly has many reasons to become detached from his old, mortal life, and really, from reality altogether. But he cannot avoid longing to preserve a bit of who he is, and one of the things he can identify as being exclusively him is his shadow. His shadow reminds him that yes, he still does exist. He can look at it and declare,

“Hey! There’s my shadow! Created by my opaque body blocking light rays! Evidence of a tangible object interacting with the universe! I must exist!”

My argument in short: without his shadow, Peter Pan cannot truly prove to himself that he still exists.

I am convinced that his quest to retrieve his shadow is more serious than the game of “cat-and-mouse” Disney made it out to be in the movie. Analyzing Peter’s character, I can confidently make this inference.

If somehow, the laws of science were broken and my shadow dissappeared (and I still existed), I wouldn’t be upset. If anything, I’d be happy because not having a shadow would mean I could never lose in shadow tag (or win either, I suppose)! I’m just kidding, but I don’t think it would be something I’d miss, or even notice at first. For Peter, it is much more. He keeps tabs on his shadow, because it serves as the bridge between fantasy and reality. He needs his shadow around to fulfill that sense of “self” we all are searching for as humans.

Okay, maybe that was a tad far-fetched…but hey, a nine hour drive will do that to you!

Why I’ll never be a Spanish speaking, musically accomplished ninja…

My Summer 2013 “To-do” List:

  • take a weekly martial arts class
  • learn to play the guitar
  • learn to play the ukulele
  • read every night
  • practice my Spanish
  • work out every single morning at 8 A.M.!
  • practice the piano and get good again
  • start a blog

Well, the summer is already half-way over and I have yet to take a single martial arts class. Or learn the guitar. Or the ukulele. Or go through those Spanish tapes. Or work out. Or wake up before 8 A.M. for that matter. Wait! I woke up, one time, at 6:45 to go to Water World! Oh! And I just started a blog, too! I’d call that making progress!

But on a serious note, I haven’t made much of a dent in this list. In fact, the only bullet I can kinda sorta cross off is “start a blog,” because here I am, blogging. So I guess that counts. Granted, this is my first post and I will most likely quit after a few of these. Then I’ll have to “uncross” it.

I always do this. And I’m sure I’m not alone. We all make plans to better ourselves or explore our interests in an attempt to broaden our realm of knowledge and/or capabilities. But then that pesky thing called reality gets in the way and we realize that we can’t do everything. Or maybe a more direct culprit is distraction. For me specifically, the biggest distraction right now is the app, “Candy Crush.”

My “ideal” life-style is a super-ultra structured one where I have a set routine every day and I stick with it and remain productive for my approximately 14 hours of attentiveness. For instance, in my ideal summer life-style I would wake up at 7:30 every morning and work out from 8 to 9 then eat breakfast and take a shower and be ready for the day by 10:30. Then I would do all of the things on my “Summer 2013 To-do List” for pre-determined time increments and go to sleep early enough to wake up at 7:30 again the next day and do it all over again! Doesn’t that sounds fantastic?!

Okay, maybe a life that extreme is not what I am desiring. But my point is that I wish I could just be a bit more productive and actually do the stuff I promised myself I would do this summer! Why is it so hard to manage my time during the time of the year when time is so plentiful?!

Who knows, maybe if I actually keep this blogging thing up, I’ll be inspired to try the other things on my “to-do” list, too!

Coincidentally, it looks as though I have a full set of lives again on Candy Crush! :D

Better get crushing!