Escaping Time

Sevilla_Couple

Our lives are complex stories that can’t be written and reduced to simplicity. We are all constantly evolving as people, changing, and making decisions that ultimately alter our future. People are the furthest thing from stagnant; we are dynamic beings. As time slips by, we inevitably change, for better or for worse. In just a week’s time, events in your life could impact you enough to completely alter your mindset on life and the direction you are heading. The amount of time doesn’t matter; no matter how long it takes, the force of change in our lives is inevitable.

Thinking about life this way is a bit unnerving. It is difficult to pin down who, where, or what we will want in any amount of time. We are constantly searching for a purpose and subconsciously blindly grasping for happiness. When you can accept the uncertainty of life, you realize that we are all on our own adventure, traveling through life on our own, separate paths. It really is beautiful and exhilarating to approach life when you are able to accept change and treat each step of your life as another stepping stone in your own grand adventure. The uncertainty of the future is a blessing in disguise; it keeps us motivated, chasing our happiness and stumbling through life the best we can, learning valuable lessons along the way due to our missteps. If our future was written there would be no reason to fight for today.

However, the passage of time catches up to all of us. Life is a wonderful adventure but it is by no means an easy path to follow. There are pitfalls at every turn, distractions painted left and right, and sometimes we board trains that we never should have boarded . Time doesn’t wait for anyone; it is neither forgiving nor kind, but it is fluid. It will never stop moving.

We are able to cheat time through moments. Moments are the most powerful tools we have to combat time because we are able to essentially stop time. Time can pass on and on until eternity, but that moment will last forever in our minds and our hearts. These moments occur when we accept the spontaneity of life and embrace the situations available to us. These moments happen when we cease being afraid and just live life the way we want to. These moments only occur if you are willing to live in the moment.

Photographs and words are magnificent because they have the authority to summon memories and place them before us in an organized fashion. They are time capsules that open up the door to the past. However, people often miss the moment nowadays because they are so hell bent on documenting every second of their lives. It is difficult to have an incredibly life changing moment if you are staring at a screen or looking at it through a lens the entire time. Moments are supposed to be organic and unique, not staged and forced.

The picture above is a moment that was shared between a couple in Seville, Spain. We were touring La Catedral de Sevilla and my group happened to be trailing this couple most of the way through the gardens. I had no idea what their situation was; whether they were married, whether they fought all the time, or whether they had much money. None of that mattered because in that moment they were having a delightful stroll through the beautiful gardens, never once unclasping their hands. They were talking quietly with each other while continually smiling and laughing. It was really a beautiful moment to behold and to be able to capture.

Don’t be afraid to love a little more and live life with an open mind. You never know what opportunities will fall in your lap.

Discovering Confidence

Erin_Sunset

Any experience we have, big or small, can be life changing; the significance of an event is determined individually by the person who lived through it. It doesn’t have to fit any sort of mold, and you can’t force a situation that ultimately changes your outlook on life. These experiences happen organically when you least expect them to. They are not a daily occurrence and some of us only have but a few in a lifetime. These events are the type of experiences that you will remember when you are telling your grandchildren stories of the past. These are the moments in our lives that define who we are and where we are heading.

I am in a transition period in my life where change is constantly afoot and I am striving to redefine who I am. It’s not that I want to change who I have been; I just want to improve myself to create a more fulfilling, happier future. When in the midst of all of this change, it is easy to get lost and stray from the goals you set out for yourself. After all, in the process of rediscovery, you don’t have a solid foundation on who you really are or who you exactly want to be. It’s a bit of a roller coaster ride with plenty of ups and downs as you experiment and try new things.

This past week I went on a cruise to the Bahamas with three good friends of mine as an escape from reality. We had planned on just relaxing and having a good time, while also realizing that we would probably damage our livers in the process (Post cruise report – our livers are still intact.). I figured we would probably see some neat places and possibly meet some cool people in the process. Those expectations were met and severely surpassed. We definitely saw some stunning sights but more importantly we met some incredibly extraordinary people along the way.

I met a particularly special person on the cruise who opened my eyes to the possibilities of facing life without fear by handling every situation placed before you with confidence and a positive disposition. It is in our nature to worry about what people will think of us; everyone wants to be liked. However, what clouds our vision is the fact that we are falsifying our personal image if we aren’t acting as ourselves. It takes courage to be yourself. Letting the world know who you really are is frightening. What if they don’t like who you are deep down? What if they don’t think you belong anymore? What if you lose friends because you had the courage to be yourself?  The answer is simple: if they don’t like who you really are, then you shouldn’t be close enough with them to worry about what they may think anyway!

To look at it from a different perspective, being yourself opens up so many opportunities that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to grasp. If I hadn’t made a conscious decision to just be myself (being on a cruise definitely helped me loosen up) I never would have had the wonderful experiences with the people I met on the boat. If I had pretended to be someone else, in fear that they wouldn’t like who I really was deep down, I never would have gotten past hello (They told me, I’m not making this stuff up. A little harsh right? Tough love is the best love, right?). Instead I decided to muster the courage it takes to conquer the fear and had the best week possible. Simply by being yourself, the odds of meeting people with similar interests who love you for who you are skyrockets.

Our adventure in just one short week offered so many amazing experiences, some that I will never, ever forget. I’ll spare you the details (Ain’t nobody got time for that.), but the large take away is that confidence is key. The entire cruise I would dance with our new friends but always timidly; I don’t know how to dance, so instead of going for it I just tried not to look stupid, which in turn just made me look stupid. How stupid is that? Finally, come the last night, I found the courage to just go for it and dance like crazy and I had one of the best nights I’ve ever had. People love to see the genuine side of other people; it is so easy to see through a lie. Just be yourself, as difficult as it is, and things will fall into place. Have confidence in who you are. Because of this, I was able to have the type of experience that was significantly life changing and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Freeport_Beach

Photo Credit: Erin Lyons in Freeport, Bahamas

(This one goes out to the cereal killer; the master of grace and taste, the purveyor of confidence, and a delightful source of constant amusement and entertainment.)

Everlasting Pursuit

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At this point in time, I think it would be appropriate to say that travel has a massive impact on my life; past, present, and future. I have been bit by the travel bug and most of my time is spent planning my next adventure or reflecting on past adventures. Travel has consumed me like it has to so many others across the world. I want to see more, learn more, and live more, and this is more than adequately accomplished through traveling. I have passed by the idea of having 3-4 weeks of vacation a year. I want to live a life that is composed of traveling.

I don’t think that I yearn to travel because I am lost or that I am running away from my current situation. I believe that the urge to constantly travel is my personal, constant pursuit to see the good in the world in a mixed array of cultures and people. I want to see the beauty that exists in the world, not only in nature, but in human compassion. I believe that the world is stocked full of incredible people from all different backgrounds and I want to meet them. I want to understand the different ways people get through life and I want to experience their unique cultures first hand. I want to grow as a person and ultimately find a way that I can be happy while helping other people. Travel is essentially my constant pursuit of happiness.

I think that a lot of people deep down would enjoy a life built around traveling and helping people all over the world while attaining all sorts of worldly knowledge along the way. However, most people just deem this as an unrealistic path to follow. They want to begin a career and follow a very rigid, defined track that will eventually lead them through a life that they are familiar with. It is the same track that most of their family and friends are on; it is accepted and safe. That’s fine! This makes many people happy and that’s really what matters, right? However, I don’t believe that path would make me happy; I have different plans. I believe that the unrealistic path for me to follow is a career track that has me sitting at a desk for the next 40 years doing something that I am not passionate about. The uncertainty of a life lived all over the place fills me with excitement. As for my plans to accomplish this, I won’t share at this point because if there is one thing I have learned, words can be fickle but actions are resolute. I am learning to share only what I have actually accomplished (Baby steps, excitement is hard to bottle up!).

That being said, no path through life is easy; there are immense challenges any way that you slice it. No path is absolute and no one knows what their future holds. I just want to take life one step at a time and I will see where it takes me. I will try to position myself in a situation that makes me happy; after all, that’s all that we can really do. With the knowledge that I have at this point about myself, I believe that traveling will make me happy and ultimately pave the way for a life that offers daily fulfillment and happiness. So travel, I will.

The picture above is a capture taken from La Catedral de Sevilla, offering a glimpse of one of the most beautiful cities I have ever been to.

 

 

 

The Wild, Wild West

New_Orleans_Bridge

“It’s the wild, wild west out there. I have seen people commit the most heinous crimes and not get prosecuted for it.”

These are the wise words that a convenience store clerk gave us upon arriving in New Orleans the Sunday before Mardi Gras. Experience was written all over his face; he did not crack a smile or even hint at the possibility of making a joke. He had seen some crazy, horrible things in his tenure as a convenience store clerk in the French Quarter of New Orleans.

New Orleans was like no other place I have visited. It is overflowing with unique culture, with clear French and Spanish influences all over the place, with some of the coolest streets and restaurants I have seen in the States. There are balconies everywhere overlooking the narrow streets, and they were all decked out in Mardi Gras decorations giving the city a very festive feel. It is such a neat city, and it is seemingly a city without rules. Anything goes! People are naked in the streets, drinking all kinds of alcohol, and throwing all sorts of things at each other (not just beads).

My friends and I were lucky enough to see the Thoth parade, which really ended up being a fight for beads and other meaningless trinkets. It was oddly the most fun we had all day. People in masks on floats would just chuck whatever they had at the crowd as hard as they possibly could, and everyone was happy about it. They threw bags of beads, bouncy balls, hats, cups, trash, and my most prized possession, rubber duckies (he now has a respectable place on my desk, he’s my co-pilot).

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This was our view of Canal Street and the parade. (Excuse the quality, I was not about to bring my camera to New Orleans!) If you look closely, you can see the sign for Bourbon Street. Bourbon Street is as wild as it gets at all hours, but definitely don’t bring your kinds out to Bourbon Street at night (you would be surprised by the amount of parents who did not heed this advice; they quickly wised up). The street is chalk full of cool bars and very strange places that I won’t mention. Religious picketers filled the streets after dark to inform all those indulging in the local culture of the sins they were committing. It didn’t seem to stop anyone.

As you would expect, the streets were filled with all types of crazy people, but there were also a lot of normal people (like ourselves, I think) who were from far away places. Beads were a form of currency in many ways; giving someone beads was the best way to start a conversation. I met some of the nicest girls from New York City (shout out to Emma and Anna!) because I was tired of my massive hunk of beads and tried to give them all to Anna, who declined vehemently, but then we quickly became friends. Even in the most absurd places there are wonderful people everywhere, you just have to lift your eyes up from your phone to see them.

New Orleans is a wild, unique town and I truly hope it never changes so everyone who has the urge to experience it has the chance to. If you ever have the chance to go to New Orleans, or just anywhere new, say yes and embrace the experience!

Moments in Time

Barcelona

When looking back on any trip, it is wonderful to think about all of the amazing sights and monuments you had the opportunity to witness. Maybe you saw one of the most famous paintings in the world, or saw a magnificent palace constructed hundreds of years ago. These are fond memories; you are almost proud of what you were able to see with your own eyes. However, it is not the sights that make a trip so memorable. The most memorable part of any trip are specific moments in time that move you in some way.

I specifically took this picture not only in reaction to the beautiful nature of the subject, but rather to try to capture the moment I had when I first witnessed this breathtaking view. Park Güell, one of Gaudí’s major works, offered some of the most favorable views of Barcelona I had yet seen. I remember being so awestruck by the view of the city that I had to set my camera down for a minute. I remember thinking about the fact that the body of water on the other side of the city was the Mediterranean Sea, and after a lifetime of seeing it on a map I finally was presented the opportunity to gaze on it in all its glory with my own two eyes. I remember feeling so warm; it was a balmy 60 degrees F on an early January day. Most of all, I remember the feeling that what I saw in front of my own eyes, right in front of me, was not real. I truly felt like I was dreaming.

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This is a moment I captured in Granada after exploring La Alhambra at night with a few of my favorite people. I was rapidly falling in love with the pomegranate (Granada means pomegranate in Spanish – you’re welcome). It was the smallest city we visited in Spain and you could just feel the deep rooted history and unique culture as you wandered the tight, winding streets (this happens to be one of the largest streets in Granada, Gran Via). In this moment, I was just thrilled to be witnessing such a beautiful city. I felt so lucky to be exploring the pomegranate with some of the most wonderful people I had ever met. I remember feeling adventurous; we were wandering through an unfamiliar place searching for any type of food joint we could find. I felt like I could conquer the world. I felt completely at peace. I felt happy.

There are so many unforgettable moments that were too special for me to ruin by taking a picture, moments that made this trip one of the best experiences of my life. I am just so happy I took the leap of faith and booked a trip even though I was going alone to an unfamiliar place with a group of people I had never met before. I wouldn’t have had it any other way, and with this trip under my belt I feel an overwhelming urge to continue traveling to new places all over the globe. It enforces my desire to learn several languages (I’m still working on Spanish… one at a time, right?) and to meet people from all different walks of life. I want to learn more about the world, different cultures, different religions. I want to live a life of purpose and I want to pursue a career that will benefit and help other people.

Take a leap of faith and travel somewhere, anywhere. Free yourself from the constraints that tie you to one place and broaden your horizons (literally). After you travel somewhere unfamiliar, it is true you don’t come back the same. You come back with a better understanding of the world and not only a tolerance for the differences between different cultures, but a genuine interest in them. You come back a better person.

Get out there and see the world!

Shatter the Box

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Sometimes, people are stuck in a box. This box can seem large to them, so as not to be claustrophobic. This box can even be comforting to them; after all, everyone chooses their own box. Some people are born and raised in a city with people they are familiar with and they end up staying there for 20-30 years. During this time, life gets in the way of their ability to travel. It’s always a “good” excuse… “I’m new to this job, I can’t take vacation days for at least a year” or “I’m saving up for a ring” or “I’m saving up to get a house”, etc. There is always something holding people back from seeing outside the box.

I lived in that box for too long. Not by choice; at the first opportunity I had I spread my wings and burst through the box, shattering it as if it were made out of glass. (Okay, yes this is a little over dramatic) I planned a trip to Spain where I would be going alone, without anyone I had previously met, on a group tour with people my age. All of the normal considerations were raised to me by the people around me, “Are you sure you want to spend all of that money” or “You could use that money for a down payment on a new car”. Yes, people I did want to spend that money and the car I have now is perfectly fine. The money was unimportant to me; I would have spent much more just to have the experience.

I have traveled to Europe before with my mom when I was 15. We traveled all through England and made a stop in Edinburgh, Scotland and we really saw some wonderful things and had a fantastic time. You must be wondering how my glass box wasn’t shattered when I was 15, right? (Bueller? Bueller?) The difference is that I was still under my mom’s wing when I was 15; the decision to go, all of the courage that it takes to travel was mustered by my dear mother. The experience was still wonderful, but there is no substitute to stepping out on your own adventure.

When I booked the Spain trip (7 months in advance – I was jazzed), I figured that I would love the cities. What’s not to love about Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, Sevilla, and Costa Del Sol? I knew I would love the history and the distinct, ancient architecture of these amazing European cities. I knew the food would be out of this world (I was constantly dying and going to heaven) and that the culture would be rich and evident. I mean it’s Spain for Christ’s sake! What I didn’t realize was that I would meet such incredible, unique people along the way.

This trip was the best trip I have ever had in my life, and singularly some of the best days of my life. This was all made possible by the incredible people I met on my trip and all of the people I came in contact with. (Shout out to La Familia) I never expected to meet people that I not only enjoyed spending my time with, but people that I would put at the top of the list of any future trip I would want to make with a group of people. It’s amazing how after just ten days I feel like we have known each other for a lifetime, but I have no doubt that we will keep in touch for many years to come.

People are the most important part of life. Buying material items, visiting outlandish locations, going on adventurous trips – none of it is worth anything without amazing people to share it with. The people I met fill me with hope; there are outstanding people everywhere you look. They may be a different race, a different religion, a different nationality, but when it boils down to it we are all the same underneath. Learning to embrace new cultures and people is what travel is all about.

Shatter your own glass box; take a chance, it may change your life. Appreciate the people in your life and never lose touch with the ones that matter. Without them, you are truly alone.

Fragile

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The Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. is organized with chilling precision, offering breathtaking views every where you turn. The sheer amount of graves is difficult to comprehend and even more unimaginable when you realize that each individual stone represents a brave soul who died far too young in combat. Walking through the enormous cemetery is a powerful experience; it forces you to think about difficult topics that you normally don’t enjoy mulling over. You think about how horrible wars are and how as time goes on, we as race never learn from our mistakes. You think about the true cost associated with war; losing the lives of millions of young people who will never have the chance to grow old. Monetary considerations suddenly seem irrelevant when you are surrounded by a sea of graves. Similarly, life itself feels more precious.

This experience enforced the direction I want to take with my life. Life is precious and can be taken away at any point. Life is Fra-jee-lay (A Christmas Story is still fresh on my mind). I want to live a life that is focused on the present; people are often so focused on the future that they can’t enjoy the moment. They are constantly dreaming of greener pastures, and the idea that once “this thing in the future” happens, life will be better and they will be happy. I believe everyone needs to set goals for themselves to try to grow and be better each and everyday, but I also believe that you should be happy along the way. If you are miserable the entire time you are fighting toward your goals, will you really suddenly be happy when you finally achieve them?

Of course, when you are chasing something, there is a certain amount of sacrifice involved. Everyone will go through hard, difficult times; that’s just the way life is. Some things, however, we can control, like (in most situations) where we live, how we live, and what we do to make a living. Even in the most dire situations, there are ways you can alter your life slightly to make your day to day life more fulfilling. Happiness is not a set recipe; happiness does not have a price tag. Everyone’s quest for happiness is unique and each individual person has their own recipe for happiness. Happiness, happiness, happiness (just figured I should say it a few more times).

Make the most of the time you are given on earth and do something to help other people. Chase your goals but don’t forget to live in the present. Not everyone has the chance to grow old; make the most of your journey!

Escape Reality

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Everyone is searching for an excuse to escape the realities of daily life. People are bored with their day-to-day lives; that’s why forms of entertainment like books are so popular. These offer us an opportunity to slip out of reality and embark on an adventure in a distant land, far from the comforts of our own homes. For those moments, life is an exciting journey wherever the pages take you, whether it is a great romance in the south of France or a tale of good against evil in a completely different world. These escapes are wonderful, but when the novel is over, the characters fade away. You can read them again and again but the characters are predictable, static. You can imagine what they might have done, or how they are in person, but you will never know. The problem is that the books we read aren’t real. They leave you wanting more when they are over. You yearn to slip into the pages and live among the characters. Obviously this isn’t possible, but don’t despair; there is a way to slide into an unfamiliar place and have your reality transformed into an exciting adventure.

The answer is to TRAVEL. The world is infinitely larger than our minds can imagine. There are billions of people roaming the Earth, each person with a unique story. There are so many different cultures and types of ways to live your life that traveling truly is like slipping between the pages of your favorite novel. There are mountains to climb, ancient wonders to discover, and incredible people to meet. The endless opportunities that traveling offers are just waiting out there for you to explore them.

Planning a trip can be daunting. There are so many locations that you could travel to, where do you start? Before you plan that huge trip, begin the process of spontaneous adventuring. Get off your couch, wake up early on a Saturday morning, and explore somewhere you have never been before. It doesn’t have to be somewhere extraordinary or far away, just somewhere new. Try to just explore anywhere that interests you. This could be hiking a new trail, visiting a new museum, finding a new restaurant, or just anything new. Once you get started, you will start to develop the travel bug, the constant itching for new exciting places. This will help propel you into planning your big trip.

When it comes to a big trip, try to find somewhere that interests you. That sounds like such an obvious statement, but it is the easiest way to narrow down a location. There are so many amazing places in the world, it is really difficult to choose somewhere “bad”. Don’t worry too much about your choice of destination; the important part is that it excites you and that you are going. Wherever you decide to go, you will broaden your horizons, experience a change in culture, and encounter incredible people.

Travel is more than an escape; it is a life changing experience. You never come back as the same person. As you travel, you inevitably learn a vast amount about yourself. You are forced to come out of your shell and boldly step forward into the great, unknown world. This is frightening sometimes but that’s why it is so rewarding. If it were easy it would be in your daily routine.

Close that book and go dive into your own adventure where you call the shots. Visit amazing places, try exotic foods, fall in love, have adventures. Live a life outside of your comfort zone. Look upon the world from a different perspective. Jump on a plane and just go somewhere new. If you are hesitant, or think that it may cost too much money, start somewhere close to home, maybe just a couple hours away for a weekend. The benefits of traveling are overwhelming and it is up to you to start now.

Tasting Paradise

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Vacation is essentially a taste of what your life would be like if money weren’t an option. If you didn’t slave away five days a week to pay the rent, would you really be living in the same place doing the same thing you are now? It’s doubtful that you would be. Unfortunately, we all can’t live our lives as one big, lavish vacation; that’s reserved for movie stars.

However, there is something to be said for a vacation that leaves you begging for more. What was it about the trip that made you so happy? If it was just the fact that you were just away from work spending time with your family, then maybe you just enjoyed relaxing and having a break from the stresses of the daily grind. However, if it was the place you visited, or even something you did there that excited you, you might need to pay attention. This may mean that you need a change of scenery!

I firmly believe that a location and the scenery surrounding it can set the tone for someone to be happy. If this isn’t the case, then why do people on the beach flock to see the sun ceremoniously slide down over the ocean at the end of the day? It makes them happy to see such a beautiful sight. Living in a place that is beautiful would have a similar effect except it wouldn’t be as noticeable. You would be much more willing to go on a walk and you wouldn’t be as upset when the sun peaks through your blinds at 6:00 A.M. (whoever you are, you are extraordinary; I will never be happy waking up that early).

The culture of a place can be a strong draw as well. If you are coming from the city to a small, quaint North Carolina beach, it will seem as if time is standing still. Everything moves slower. People say hello to you on the street (as opposed to obscenities) and the most exciting thing to do is to go bum on the beach. If you are dead tired of the dynamics of a big city, a beach getaway could be your paradise.

If you go on vacation and have a lovely time, but at the end of your trip you dread going home, it is probably time to make a change. If you are dreading your daily life, the reality that most people are stuck in 48-49 weeks a year, it is definitely time to make a change. As cliche as it sounds, life is too short to be miserable for years at a time. Find some courage and hunt out a lifestyle that would make you happy. Maybe you’d like to be a beach bum, or live in the mountains in Colorado and go skiing all the time, or live in Iowa and own a corn field (it seems to be the thing to do there).

Whatever gets your wheels turning, go chase it. Life doesn’t have to be so miserable! It is really upsetting to think about how many people are desperately waiting for their vacation. Vacations should always be exciting because no matter how charming your reality is, it is nice to escape sometimes. But it should always be nice to snap back to reality, oh there goes gravity, oh there goes Rabbit… sorry, Eminem just grabs me sometimes.

Fortune

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“An aim in life is the only fortune worth finding.”

 

This sort of wisdom is rarely found inside of a fortune cookie. This is the perfect message to find inside of a fortune cookie because it begs us to stop looking for an easy solution to our problems or a shortcut to our dreams. Stop looking for the easy answer, find your path and chase after it with everything you have. The journey alone will be more fulfilling than an all telling fortune.

There is a new instinct among people to be lazy; technology is moving so fast, making life so much easier for people. So many of the struggles of life have been taken away or eased by technology. This has caused a constant urge for faster, easier routes to happiness and success. The reality is that no matter how much technology improves, these will be slow processes that take place within ourselves. No technology can inherently make us happy, it is how we each individually feel about the technology that influences our happiness or our measure of success.

This fortune meant a lot to me because I am at a turning point in my life where soon I will have a lot of decisions to make. I will have to make big choices which will influence the rest of my life. So far my life has been a pretty cookie cutter, out of the box experience. However, I don’t want that for the rest of my life. I want to find an aim in life that excites me, something that I can wake up every morning and feel happy to be embarking on yet another day at work toward my dreams.

This is the struggle though; finding an aim in life is extremely difficult. How do you know what will ultimately make you happy? No one knows; we all just take our best guess. I just hope in the near future I will make decisions that will give me a clear aim in life to follow.

Yes, I am a little crazy. A simple fortune cookie in my Chinese fast food stirred up all of these deep thoughts.