December 31, 2007


The transition period between college and career (or more school or whatever) can really be something. It's scary, for one. You can't just say you are a Senior, or Student, or a So-and-So major, you are probably working a part-time job doing something not in your career field, having just graduated out but not yet matriculated into whatever's next. You are you, but definitely not who you were and not yet who you want to be.

However, that said, the transition can be very very fun and an awesome change of pace. You get to see friends you haven't seen in forever, relax without tests to worry about or papers to write, sleep without alarm clocks and read for fun instead of for class. Some of my friends only had a summer between college and grad school, but not me. I have had an entire year between graduating from Campbell in May of 2007 and leaving for Peace Corps in May of 2008. I'm a little over half way through it and I am excited for the next five months, but it has definitely been a new experience for me. For a young man who loves to plan, it has been a needed time of patience, reflection and yes, fun too.

December 26, 2007

My Invitation!

Well, the day finally came! I received my invitation from Peace Corps and I couldn't be happier. It came without ribbons, it came without tags, it came without packages, boxes or bags. It came and was, by far, one of the greatest Christmas presents I have ever received. I made a little video about it, as I hope to do with a lot of the Peace Corps events to come over the next few years, and I hope you like it. Also check out my Peace Corps web page where I am collecting useful information as I get it. I hope you've had a Merry Christmas and that you have a very Happy New Year!

December 18, 2007

Just A Waiting

What have I learned from waiting for my Peace Corps invitation over the last eight months? It can be difficult to understand our experiences and learn from things as they are happening. It is easy to want answers now and always want be the first in line, no matter where we are or what we are going through. Patience can be as much about appreciating every moment in life as it can be about awaiting a future moment without becoming anxious. Our government is not in much of a hurry, whether it's the Peace Corps or the United States Postal Service. Truth be told, I probably shouldn't be in much of a hurry either. Transitions can be hard because by definition they are neither where you were nor where you plan to be. They are something in between which can be nerve-racking and confusing, fun and exciting, and deep and rewarding. We get to choose, moment to moment, what they will be.

December 16, 2007


This month I am going to try a "thankfulness" experiment: every night I am going to list three things that happened during that day for which I am grateful. Anything that made me feel uplifted, brought a smile to my face or heart, or will contribute to my overall future happiness works. I'll update this daily.

Saturday, December 1st
  1. Watching the sunrise this morning
  2. Planning for/Being a part of Josh & Becky's wedding
  3. Having Jonathan help me with the world picture for my blog
Sunday, December 2nd
  1. 95.7FM The Ride at Work (Acoustical Sunday Mornings)
  2. A warm nap in a cold room in the late afternoon
  3. Laughs with really fun Pier 1 coworkers together at Olive Garden

Monday, December 3rd

  1. Being able to express my emotions and work through them
  2. An hour's hike on Baker's Mountain
  3. Taking a 14-hour nap

Tuesday, December 4th

  1. Circadian Rhythm
  2. Laughing until it hurts
  3. Having a fun night with my brother and sister
Wednesday, December 5th
  1. Chase's song Meltable Dan
  2. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  3. Hugging Amy Lee
Thursday, December 6th
  1. Guessing right about where the name Bojangles comes from
  2. The smell of nice soap
  3. Playing with our dogs and learning more about them from Cesar
Friday, December 7th
  1. Checking up on Kid Nation
  2. Playing Would You Rather with Jonathan
  3. Laughing about The Office
Saturday, December 8th
  1. Having a fun coffee shop to sell my photography in
  2. Being able to help the Youth Council in the Hickory Parade
  3. A long night of great conversation with Jonathan
Sunday, December 9th
  1. Acoustical Mornings on 95.7 The Ride
  2. Chicken Biscuits in the morning from my assistant manager
  3. Relaxing and planning out my week
Monday, December 10th
  1. Buddy Passes that flight attendants can give to friends
  2. Boy Scouts and friends of Boy Scouts
  3. 30,000 on an incredible day in South Carolina with Barack
Tuesday, December 11th
  1. Irony
  2. Stevie Wonder's song I Wish
  3. Ralph Waldo Emerson's quotes
Wednesday, December 12th
  2. Spending a crazy day with Jonathan
  3. Playing Would You Rather with Elias
Thursday, December 13th
  1. Getting a call from Peace Corps about my invitation
  2. Hanging out and laughing with Chase
  3. Talking with McKinnon for the first time in forever
Friday, December 14th
  1. Reading wonderful yearbook comments from Zoe, Anna, Danielle and Amy a year and a half ago
  2. Laughing really hard with Chase as he crawled into a cubby hole
  3. Having Alena fill in for me at work Sunday
Saturday, December 15th
  1. Having a great experience at Pier 1 Imports in Winston Salem
  2. Having such a wonderful time with great friends and memories at Josh and Becky's wedding
  3. Chase finding the long-lost remote to my CD player
Sunday, December 16th
  1. Curling up in a warm fleece blanket during a cold winter morning
  2. Getting to see Michael's graduation and eat P.F. Chang's with everyone
  3. Chatting with Jonathan over a six hour car drive
Monday, December 17th
  1. Hanging out with Anna, Elias and Dad
  2. Watching Home Movies, Season 4
  3. Falling asleep to Anna reading to us
Tuesday, December 18th
  1. Walking with the dogs
  2. Watching Lost Trailers for Season 4
  3. Playing on iMovie
Wednesday, December 19th
  1. Getting my Peace Corps letter in the mail
  2. Making a great video with my sister about letter
  3. Going to Mongolia!
Thursday, December 20th
  1. Being able to tell everyone the great news
  2. Awesome conversations with friends
  3. Visiting with my grandma
Friday, December 21st
  1. Telling everyone at work about Peace Corps
  2. Finishing my Christmas letters
  3. Having a relaxing work environment
Saturday, December 22nd
  1. The nice cool weather
  2. A warm fire in the living room
  3. Laughing with my family
Sunday, December 23rd
  1. Playing with Jonathan
  2. Talking for hours about ideas
  3. Watching movies with my family
Monday, December 24th
  1. The excitement of Christmas Ever
  2. Wrapping up some presents
  3. Reading The Night Before Christmas
Tuesday, December 25th
  1. Having an awesome Christmas with my family
  2. Watching everyone enjoy their gifts
  3. Sending out my Christmas letters
Wednesday, December 26th
  1. Having fun at work
  2. Relaxing and wearing my new pants
  3. My new hushpuppy shoes from dad
Thursday, December 27th
  1. Having enough money to get an iPod Touch
  2. Playing with the dogs outside
  3. Playing with Eli and Anna
Friday, December 28th
  1. Traveling to Asheville with Michael and friends
  2. Having some great pizza at The Mellow Mushroom
  3. Enjoying hilarious jokes and fun with friends
Saturday, December 29th
  1. Hanging out with Michael, Jonathan and Phillip
  2. Playing games late into the night
  3. Sleeping on a wonderful futon on the ground
Sunday, December 30th
  1. Playing Halo 3 with Jonathan and Michael
  2. Meeting a new friend who is awesome
  3. Being able to visit the library study room
Monday, December 31st
  1. Getting Jonathan's present through Ernesto
  2. Having a great goal setting session with Jonathan
  3. Getting my goals for next year straightened out

December 14, 2007


I have officially gotten word from Peace Corps (as of yesterday afternoon while I was doing dishes) that my third and final invitation is now in the mail. They estimate it should arrive at my house in the next week. Here is the update from my little Peace Corps homepage they give me for updates and such:

Needless to say my hands were shaking a little after I talked with Peace Corps and I am still way excited to get my letter. Maybe I'll even make a little video about when I get it in the mail. Who knows?

December 11, 2007

Substituting Last Week

I’m sitting in my old classroom today, Mr. Wilborn’s Speech & Debate classroom. I sat right here four and a half years ago. Things in my life were different then, but I was very much the same as I am now. I suppose if I were to have asked myself back then if I could have seen myself substitute teaching in this very room four and a half years in the future, I would have said yes. Maybe especially in that class I would have said yes. Mr. Wilborn was probably around 23 or 24 when he was teaching us and I always thought that was awesome. He knew what was up and he didn’t care to go on powertrips or anything else. He was very straightforward about trying to get us in the mindset for college and he taught us life lessons as often as he taught us book lessons, I loved him for that. I loved that he cared about all of us truly learning, not just memorizing and forgetting.

It’s hard to know if I’m doing a good enough job substitute teaching. Every class has a student or two that says I was a a great substitute (they even clapped a little this morning) and told me they definitely want me back again, but sometimes I wish I could actually teach some and tell them what’s up: here’s what college is like, here’s a little bit about what life is like, here is what is important about high school, etc. I know I wanted that when I was in high school, but I don’t suppose I ever expected it to come from a substitute. We have single-serving interactions with substitute teachers usually and it’s hard to get much of anything out of them. My favorite were the ones that were cool with us and didn’t get all bent out of shape if we talked during class. I liked the ones that told us what was up and let us be, finishing up homework, relaxing for a change or maybe just talking with our friends who we hardly ever get to talk to during class. That could really make for a great day. We would get our work done, which was usually busywork and we all knew it (including the teacher), but we would have time to relax, talk, hang out and enjoy some free time. I definitely do that when I am a substitute (and I think that’s what the kids love so much), but is there a place to inject some wisdom in as well?


How long do we have to be in a foreign country before we have earned the right to take a picture with a smiling native child? How much volunteer work do we have to do before we can hug a foreign national and then have them smile at the camera with us as we capture the moment? A day? A week? A month? A year? Two years?

I have been in a lot of pictures with people over the years including people I know well and not so well. I don't turn away from the camera if others take my picture, I don't untag myself from Facebook photos, and I don't stop a smile from coming when someone flashes their camera at me. I try to be sincere. But when I take the pictures myself, I try to be careful and take what they convey seriously.

Helping other people and truly caring about other people is not something I believe happens quickly or easily. I think it's about truly trying to understand the struggles of others, listening to them in their native language, wrapping one's mind around their situation, asking them what kind of help they need, collecting resources to help people help themselves, teaching them how to help others and lead others and then leaving them in a position so that you put yourself out of a job. If they can do it on their own (whatever it may be) and if they finish knowing they did it themselves, that to me is success.

I plan to take plenty of pictures when I am in the Peace Corps - of the foreign land I live in for two years, of the foreign nationals I live with, of beauty and of substance. I will take pictures of people I meet and friends I make, but this will take time. It won't happen in a day, a month, or maybe even a year in some cases. I believe friendships and lasting change require a lot of continued effort, not a vacation-style go around. I hope to take pictures of real value, of lands I admire, of situations that I appreciate and of human beings that I care for and have treated as my equals. Taking a picture of anything less than that is exploitation.

December 7, 2007

Peaceful Warrior

I really appreciate the movie Peaceful Warrior. My sister has been telling me that I would love it and she was right. It is a great movie with a fantastic message: there are no ordinary moments and it is our job to experience every one of them. Socrates, the mentor in the movie, exudes great wisdom throughout the entire film. This conversation, for example, I thought was great:

Socrates: "Everyone wants to tell you what to do and what's good for you. They don't want you to find your own answers, they want you to believe theirs."
Dan: "Let me guess, and you want me to believe yours. "
Socrates: "No, I want you to stop gathering information from the outside and start gathering it from the inside."

Mindfulness, in so far as I understand it, is about letting go of the programs and busyness that flood our minds incessantly. It is about watching the yourself behind your mind by stepping back mentally and not just reacting to the things around you. "You are not your thoughts," as Socrates observes in the film. I am still learning about mindfulness, but it has fascinated me for years now. I first started researching mindfulness at Campbell a few years ago when I created an Introduction to Biological Research poster and really got into research by Dr. Jon Kabat-Zinn. Here are two videos of him speaking to Google earlier this year: Mindfulness Workshop and Mindfulness in Medicine.

I like what Jim Carrey said about the movie, "When you hear the truth, it sounds familiar, like seeing a reflection of something you already possess. This film is a clear and simple reflection. I enjoyed every moment." I totally agree.


Change can be very rough, whether it's watching your hair thin, your parents get divorced, or your friends get married. Transitions, like graduating from college, can be rough too. However, I do believe that change can be just about as positive/negative and constructive/destructive as we want it to be. Watching my hair thin has been frightening (since I never really know when it's going to stop) but it has also been nice (since I actually like how it looks sometimes). Watching my parents get divorced has been frightening (since I never really know what's going to happen next) but it has also been beneficial (since I think it is helping both my parents to find out who they really are as individuals). And watching my friends get married...well...we will see about that one. Haha

I think plans and goals and outlooks can be very helpful when you are dealing with change. For me, picturing who I want to be in one, five, or ten years in the future helps me decide on what I want to do now. Do I want to go into medical school or Peace Corps first? Do I want to work with international organizations? Do I want to have a dog, coach little league soccer, write a book and spend time in a Buddhist monastery? There aren't any wrong answers I suppose, just me figuring out what I want to do next. Once that's settled, it's on to the next thing.

December 5, 2007

Peace Corps-esspondence

I've been reading some Peace Corps Volunteer blogs (like Stacey's) while waiting for my invitation and have felt very comforted. I get to see what she's gone through, what she's going through and consequently what I will be going through: getting my invitation, going through training, moving into my community, spending a year in another country and on and on. I know this is comforting not only for other Peace Corps Volunteers to read, but especially for her friends and family to read. For that reason I plan to continue my blog here throughout my time in Peace Corps (though the regularity of posts will be hard to predict) and I also plan to send out e-mails to my friends and family who want to get more personal updates of events as they unfold. As is the nature of Peace Corps, I won't be able to post certain material (security or opinion-related) on my blog as a Volunteer but I will be able to write as many personal e-mails as I wish. If you would like to subscribe to my e-mailing list, please visit this page at Just enter your e-mail address, press the subscribe button and then confirm the e-mail you receive in your Inbox. I look forward to sending out personal messages and even videos as things develop over the next few years. I'll try to keep things interesting!

December 4, 2007

Truth As A Compass

I'm hearing a lot of talk about this new movie The Golden Compass, including talk on Fox, TIME, anti-Golden Compass Facebook groups, and between friends. The movie is based on an award-winning children's book series written by Philip Pullman, who is an atheist, and it deals primarily with a battle between truth (which the girl possesses in the Golden Compass) and the Magisterium (which is a dogmatic dictatorship more intent on having power than on sharing truth). I understand that people have concerns about information being shared with others that one does not agree with personally, but that does not change the fact that it should be allowed to be shared. Furthermore, I believe that a person should fully research and experience an issue from all sides before making a conclusion. Personal experience based on reason and facts are much more valuable to me than hearsay or orders from organizations. I have a feeling this is exactly what the movie is talking about and I for one am going to see it. If I don't like it after seeing it, than I will share that opinion with others. If I don't even see it, what kind of an opinion could I possibly have? Someone else's?