A Pep Talk (From Me. To You. And Me)

So, maybe you’re pretty awesome. You probably are. But maybe you’re not quite as awesome as you would like to be. Sometimes it gets so hard to focus on the things we do well, or the times we succeeded. Our brains seem hard-wired to flash back to our traumas, our failures, or the times where our short-comings embarrassed us. A healthy dose of self-analysis is productive, and is a necessary component in the process of growth and development. But it becomes a problem when we let the realization of all of the ways we are imperfect seep beyond cognition and into our nervous system, paralyzing us with the overwhelming task of deciding which imperfection to work on first. This, in my opinion, is where we face the risk of becoming stagnant in our lives, both personally and professionally.

"What is the meaning of it all?"

“What is the meaning of it all?”

I’m not perfect, and you know what? I hate that about myself. (You probably thought I was going to say “I’m ok with that!” didn’t you?)  I drive myself insane sometimes with all of the things I want to do in life, and then get frustrated with the realization that there could never be enough time in the day to be as good as I would like at all of them.

Looking online these days, it seems like everyone is trying so hard to position themselves as an expert on something. For the actual experts out there, congratulations on your success and thank you for sharing what you have learned. For the rest of us, when did it become so taboo to admit that we haven’t mastered everything yet? How about the value in all the things we’ve tried?  Every article I read points out something else that I could be doing better or doing more. I mean, I’m always on the quest for self-improvement, but how do I decide what to do first here? Should I build a robot and train it how to use InDesign to prove I’m tech savvy? Or should I first write a Grammy award-winning song that gains international attention due to my highly successful grass-roots social marketing campaign?

I am not Mother Theresa. I am not Richard Branson. Neither are you. (Well, unless of course you are Richard Branson, in which case…well done on, er…everything). The challenge is to not get stuck staring at the void of space that lies between where you are now, and where you ideally want to be. If you are anything like me, the second you come close to achieving a goal, you make your goal higher and harder to reach. In this way, my standards for success are technically never attainable.

But I believe in life as a constant process. I can’t possibly do everything I would want to in a given day, so I have to focus on smaller steps. I can’t save the world right now, but I can add value to it. Being alive is passive. Living is active. Every time you listen to an upset friend even though you’re dealing with your own problems, you add value. Every time you slow down to help a co-worker who is struggling on a project even though it’s not your responsibility, you add value. So keep your lofty goals and remember that every day that you take one piece of yourself and you twist it, push it, try it on in a new way, look at it from a different perspective, grow it–no matter what other “failures” you may have had–you can pat yourself on the back, because for that day, you lived.

Denver is for Doers (and Lovers?)

I have loved Colorado since my first visit at 13. I started coming out for spring breaks to ski with my family, and I was a love-struck teenager. While most girls were putting up posters of N’Sync in their rooms, I was taping up my…N’Sync posters. I seriously loved those guys. Lance is gay?? Daaang I didn’t see that coming. Boyz II Men are going on tour? WhaAAAA??

I digress. Colorado: I eventually lost my passion for boys in bedazzled jeans, but I have been pining for you for a long time.

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Taken during my first run through City Park

After four years of living abroad, I am now officially living in Denver, and I couldn’t be happier about the move. Everyone who knows me knows how obsessed I am with New Zealand, and it says a lot about Colorado that most of the people I knew before coming here are Americans I met in N.Z.. This got me thinking about the type of person that is drawn to a place like Denver.

Before I even stepped off the plane last Tuesday, I have had people reaching out from all directions, welcoming me and offering to help in any way I might need. I felt at home here before I even had one. This last week has flown by, filled with city exploration, meeting friends, and making new ones. I’m laughing with the dude packing up my groceries, strangers say hi, and everyone wants to share with me why they love it here. It’s infectious. They say that Denver is a city of transplants; people who chose Denver and moved here because this is where they want to be. I say this is a city filled with my favorite kind of people. People who don’t just dream, people who make things happen.

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I was at a friend’s place on Sunday for sushibowl (not a typo, they just planned an incredible spread of homemade sushi sans football), and I was surrounded by the most interesting company. Everyone was throwing around ideas throughout the night of various climbs they wanted to do, hikes to try, music festivals to get to, etc. But the best part was what came next; the followup.

Instead of just leaving the ideas hanging in the air, this was a room full of doers. You want to climb but don’t have the gear? No problem, I know who has extra gear. How about this time? And this place? I’ll pick you up. It’s a plan. You want to go to that music festival? Ok, well the two of us can request the press credentials now and get +1s, let’s make it a road trip! So simple. So easy. So efficient.

It’s far too easy to waste time thinking about things that you want to do, or should do, without ever really being willing to take the steps to make it happen. It’s easier still to waste your life on hanging “what-ifs”. So <<virtual fist-pump>> to you Denver. Keep on doing what you’re doing, and I’m going to keep loving you for it.

Quito: The Breakup

I don’t want to write this post. I want to skip over the last year and just move on to now. But I know it’s not fair to pretend like everything is sunshine and roses, when anyone who has ever lived in Ecuador knows that is a far cry from the truth.

I tried to like it in Quito. I tried really hard, and I stayed for a year. I have written before about how I believe every city has its personality, and I generally can get a feeling straight away whether or not we will get along. I arrived in Quito last January, and did everything I could to squash the ever-persistent feeling that Quito and I could never really be friends.

Ecuador is still an impoverished country, struggling to develop after the currency switched from the sucre to the U.S. dollar in 2000. Whatever your political affiliations may be, I do believe that president Rafael Correa is doing a lot to make big changes in the country, however the results are yet to be seen. In day to day life, Quito; the capital city; is dysfunctional, polluted, and dangerous.

Traffic in Old Town

Traffic in Old Town

Despite my best efforts to take precautions, I was robbed in different circumstances four times, and had one–how shall I say–“inappropriate” encounter. I only know a few people who have not been robbed or attacked in Quito. The rest of my friends and coworkers can recount multiple muggings, kidnappings, attacks and robberies. Three of my best friends were victims of the infamous “sequestro express,” or taxi kidnappings. Right before I left the country a coworker was in a taxi on her way home when thieves stopped her cab, stole her credit cards, beat the shit out of her (yes, females receive the physical violence too) and her boyfriend, then drained their bank accounts. She was beaten so badly that she couldn’t see out of her left eye and had to go to a hospital in Miami.

The week before that, another coworker was on his way to campus when he was tapped by a stranger, who had just drugged him. He was luckily only a few minutes away from campus so he started running before the full effects of the drug hit and he passed out in front of the building, where an Administrator found him and took him to the hospital.

I lived with a family for a while, and finally found out that the missing father had been killed when thieves stole his car. One of my TEFL teachers was tied up in her own home by a gang who held her and her boyfriend with guns and machetes as they stole everything in their house, keeping them tied up until they emptied their bank accounts as well.

These are just a few stories. I could go on and on. The police did nothing in any of these cases. This is the daily danger that I lived with, that we all lived with. No matter how many times I tried to dye my hair, I could never blend in there. I was always a target. I hated the way people looked at me. Men stripped something from me every time I walked down the streets with their disgusting sounds and their constant comments. I felt dirty just for existing. We all did our best to put it aside and try to live our lives, but the constant threat to my security was something always weighing heavily in the back of my mind. I could never fully relax. I could never fully lose myself in a moment of laughter. I resented what the city was taking from me, piece by piece, every day.

People regularly asked me why I didn’t leave. Why would I stay somewhere that was obviously so negative for me. But leaving never felt like an option. I had committed to a year at the University, but more than that I had gone there with a goal. I had intended to stay for a year and learn Spanish. If nothing else, I’m stubborn and I’d be damned if I was going to let a few assholes keep me from doing what I wanted. I felt drained and stripped by the end of the year, but leaving felt like giving up, and I refused to let them win.

My Incredible Ecua Fam

My Incredible Ecua Fam

I feel a bit guilty in writing this. I have said this before and I’ll say it again, this by no  means    represents everyone in Ecuador. I have met some amazing people, and there is some incredible natural beauty to be found in the country. I think if I had lived in a different city or in a small pueblo, my experience would have been different, and who knows, I may have even loved Ecuador. But I didn’t. And this was my experience. And this is what I can share. Do I regret it? Hell no. Everything serves its purpose in life, and I am stronger for it. (Plus, I now speak Spanish!)

Before I decided to go to Ecuador, all I read about was how beautiful it is. While I saw a few mentions of danger, it appeared as though that was a stigma of the past and with some simple precautions there was no need to worry. The reality is very different. The country is struggling for change, but still a far way away from any sort of political or economic stability. I do genuinely believe that Ecuador will be a much different country in ten years. And I do wish the best for it.

I’m sorry it didn’t work out between us Quito. It’s not you, it’s me.

No, actually, I’m fairly certain it’s you. Ya… it’s definitely you. I hope you get some help with your issues. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart.