Computer-less Vacation

I recently just got back from a week long vacation that was filled with skiing in Lake Tahoe and then playing golf in San Diego. My friend asked me to come along since his brother had a lacrosse tournament and he wanted a friend with him.

One thing was very different about this vacation in that I decided not to bring my computer. This is really unlike me. I have been known to be immersed by my computer spending countless hours staring at the screen, surfing the web, and not being present in the vacation itself. I decided before the trip that I would bring my Moleskine notebook along in order to write down ideas in my head as well as a list of things that I wanted to look up on the Internet when I got back.

Although I was really excited to vacation, I had two main worries. The first was how would I deal with my two friends and their dad being on the Internet? The second was that I was expecting an important e-mail during this time and wanted to make sure I would get it.

Along with these worries, I packed four books to read during the trip since I knew that there would be down time. Most of my reading while at school is academic or something quick like a magazine article. The books I brought were pleasure books, fairly easy-to-read but still worthwhile so as to get me away from the deep thinking that I tend to do when reading books on my own.

The reason for not bringing my computer was more of a personal detox from my computer before college starts up again for the semester. I had spent lots of time on it and just needed a break.

As I logged out of my e-mail and shut down my computer for the last time before the trip all I could think of was what will happen if I don’t check my e-mail? I then told myself, if it is really that important they would call you. With that I went to sleep and then promptly got up ready to go on the trip while leaving my computer behind.

I will say that I have to make a slight confession, I did bring my iPod touch thinking that if need be I could use that for Internet use and that it would be good to enjoy music on the four hour flight out to Lake Tahoe.

During the trip I wrote down a little bit about how the detox went so that I could write this post when I got back. I have to admit, I did slip up once on the second day in using my friend’s computer and checking my e-mail. The e-mail that I had been expecting still did not come but I then promptly logged off and decided not to worry about it at all for the rest the trip. I thought about the fact that no matter if they respond, the e-mail could wait until after the trip was done.

Instead of being attached to my computer, I spent my time skiing the slopes of Lake Tahoe, playing golf, enjoying the company of my friends, and reading. I honestly can’t remember the last time that I was not encapsulated by a device on a vacation in recent memory.

It is so refreshing not worrying about email and just taking time for myself rather than being caught up in all the social media and consumption that I was so used to. It felt so great not really caring about what is happening in the news or what is going on in other parts the world. Although I did read a newspaper for a few days, this was just to start off my morning as a replacement for surfing the web aimlessly. I also had my cell phone on me but I made sure that I was being mindful of not checking my phone very often.

I did log in to my email a second time specifically to send my mom two Internet links that she needed but did not check my e-mail. Although I felt very tempted to, I decided against it since I knew it would create stress for my day that I just did not want.

There are a few things that I would like to mention in reflecting back on the trip. As I said before I truly enjoyed the time away from my computer. It is something that I am hoping to continue when I go back to school. Maybe after my classes Friday I can not use my computer or otherwise the internet until Saturday morning.

It also gave me time to realize that I need some time to myself rather then being fixated on a screen. I think during this time when I am not using my computer I will be more reliant on my moleskin notebook in order to write down ideas and plan my thoughts that come into my head.

The real eye-opener of the trip was how aware I was and mindful of what was going on, outside, and the change in scenery. It was rather funny because I pulled out a book from my bag on the flight over and sitting across from me was my friend’s father who was reading on his tablet. When he saw my book, he jokingly remarked ” it’s been a while since I’ve seen one of those, I can imagine opening pages and reading a book”. One of the advantages I found when reading was that I was able to read the book during takeoff and landing when everyone else was asked to turn off their electronic devices.

My two friends both would spend hours at a time stand at the screens of their iPhone’s were reading countless things. It was rather sad to see that there was a definite lull in conversation where they were entranced in their own devices rather than being present in interacting with me (who as to remind you came as a guest). The dad was on vacation from work and it was interesting to see that even though he was “on vacation” he was still answering e-mails from work while also spending lots of time on his tablet surfing the web and watching movies instead of being present.

On the car trips, I would look around and see all the sites to be seen rather than spending time on a device missing all the scenery. As for my friends, they missed out a lot by not being able to see the changing landscapes and beautiful areas. I cannot remember the last time that I had not been entranced in a device while on a road trip. It was really refreshing and something that I am longing to do again.

From the trip, it proved that I need time away from my devices. It was a wonderful experience not having to worry about my computer or email. When I came back from the trip and finally checked my email, I had 100 or so messages in my inbox and it took maybe a half hour to sort through and delete them. It was nice getting away from that prison of sorts. Separating myself from other people’s demands and incessant nagging and having time to myself versus thinking about what was waiting for me in my inbox was something I couldn’t put a value on. I only used my iPod touch once to look up a phone number I had saved the contacts. As for the books, I finished three out of the four I brought. This goes to show, I cannot wait for the next computer-less vacation!

Do I really need 12,000 songs?

A while back I decided to digitize my dad’s music collection. For some time I had over 24,000 songs.   I thought that having all the 200+ cd’s on an external drive would allow us as a family to share the music with one another effectively. This was unfortunately not the case. Despite my efforts, my parents could not comprehend the idea that all the music that they owned would be on a family iPod instead of still on cd’s. Fed up with this, I began to delete songs that I no longer listened to. Many of these songs were duplicates and more music then I could listen to in my entire lifetime.

Even now after deleting many duplicates, I still feel my iTunes library is still cumbersome. Having started this process about a year ago, my library sits to just under 12,000 songs, half of what it once was.  Although this amount of music is more manageable, I am still finding it overwhelming.

My eventual end for this project would be to get my music library to be under 2,000 songs. Even though I realize that this process will take quite a while, I hope to get down to 6,000 songs by the end of this year.  By doing so, I will be able to enjoy my music. More importantly the idea that I can relish in all the music I enjoy rather then having thousands upon thousands of songs I was not fond of.

So, do you really need all that music?

Meditation

Recently I have become interested in meditation. I never thought that I would have an interest in meditation. Through a wonderful conversation with a friend, he sensed that meditation could improve my life. The calmness and opportunity to gather my thoughts would help me long term. After hearing this, I have decided to pursue meditation.

Several reasons went into starting meditation. Over the past few days reflecting about my own life and how I can make it even better. I have determined that in my own life is a lot of stress. In a past post I recalled how often times I would stress over things that I should not worry about. Worrying does nothing to solve the issues at hand.

During my last two years during school, I have realized that I love having a life that is balanced. By being able to have a worthwhile balance of college and other pursuits, I will be able to satisfy both my parents and myself.

A universal concept of meditation is being connected with the world around you. In today’s society we associate connectedness with being able to access the internet constantly. It is through meditation that connectedness is viewed as being aware of one’s body, self, and the world around us.

After being introduced to the idea of meditation, I was sent a link to Google talk given by John Zinn.  I would highly encourage anybody interested to watch it. During the talk he concentrated on a few things.

He led the Google group in a meditation exercise that concentrating on breathing. It was remarkable to see an intelligent group of people as the Google workers meditating.

The central belief behind meditation is to clear the mind of any other thoughts. Since in society we are accustomed to having many things pop in our heads, focusing on one thing is not easy.

I am determined to focus on one thing at a time. I’ll be sure to let everyone know how my meditation is going.

Start of Reclaiming My Life Back

During a conversation with a good friend, we discussed ways in which I can become more in tune with myself. Two weeks ago I was worried about getting enough sleep. I have since determined that I optimally should be getting eight hours a night. I also made a rule in which I do not take afternoon naps. Taking naps used to screw up my sleep schedule causing me to stay up late. A computer cutoff point was also established.

We also decided to establish a computer cutoff point. A time in which I would not use a computer. So that I would than be able to fall asleep. This week I will concentrate on when the best time to cut off computer use is. Ideally it would be right after dinner.

In order for me to be able to get enough sleep, I have begun to use my bed solely for sleeping. I have stopped doing homework on my bed as well as resting my laptop to watch videos using my bed. By not doing these things, I hope to train my mind to associate my bed with sleep.

As I continue to implement the strategies, I’ll be sure to provide an update on how it’s going.

Re-evaluating My Life

Lately my sleep schedule has been very erratic. I have no constant sleeping pattern and it really varies from day to day. One of the very few blogs I read regularly, The Minimalists, has a post where the author describes why he wakes up at 3am. His early morning routine involves several hours of writing, working out, and reading before starting the rest of his day. He then is able to go to sleep by 9 or 10 o’clock at night. This idea of being able to work at 3am until the morning sun rises is quite possibly one of the most romantic ideas that I have read about. The sheer fact that the best time to write is when no one is awake (unless drunk or working a night shift) and that there is mostly complete silence is something that many writers like me would love to attain.

As for my sleep schedule, it has varied throughout the week. Just two days ago I went to sleep at 10:30 pm. I was very proud of myself for going to sleep that early. I then proceeded to wake up at 2 am followed by consistently waking up on the hour until my alarm went off at 6 am. This was very frustrating. Later that morning I felt the effects of not getting a straight night sleep.

While taking to a friend, I mentioned my trouble sleeping through the night. Being a year ahead of me in college, she said that during her freshman year she had significant trouble developing a consistent sleep schedule. After describing how I would wake up on the hour, she stated experiencing similar issues. Part of it can be attributed to being in a new environment. In my case, my mind and body are not used to sleeping in a dorm room. Usually people have roommates to deal with but I have a single room with only a shared bathroom.

Along with my erratic sleeping schedule, what made it even worse was my constant screen time. Often right before intending on going to bed, I would be browsing the web or watching video’s on my computer. After being done with my computer for the night, I would then expect to fall asleep very easily. The thought of going to bed while switching from being on the computer to being fast asleep was unrealistic. Studies have even been done by scientists that explain one’s body needs to calm down before sleeping.

After determining that my computer’s main source of not allowing me to sleep properly, I have since decided to get off the normal websites that make me stay up late. These sites include Facebook, Gmail, Google Reader, and Google Plus. I need to understand that at some point I need to just let the notifications pile up so that I can move on with my night. Doing this will allow me to get a good nights sleep.

As for my life besides sleep, I have determined several things that I can do in order make things more enjoyable. Focusing on my happiness will allow me to find joy in going through the rest of college.

Through recently meeting with a counselor at my school, I have begun to realize that I set very high expectations for myself. The standard that I set for almost everything that I do is very high. It seems that my willingness and need to succeed is essential for my own well-being. It was during a recent session that my counselor mentioned people try to attain something they want so badly that it often times does not go their way. Through observations and experiences working with other students, he has found that often times the most remarkable students have a sense of calm and collectedness. They are still able to produce quality work while not feeling the need to have such high expectations of themselves.

In relating to having such high expectations of myself is my thinking of achieving perfection. Needing a perfect GPA, writing the perfect paper, or take the best photographs, the list goes on and on. I have described this idea as wanting to blow college out of the water by succeeding to the highest standard.

Upon reflecting on the things that I learned and was told, I have come to understand my own abbreviated definition for what successful people do in college. These points are more specific to what I am going through right now. Since I only provided three points, I would like to emphasize that there are many more things I did not mention that successful people do in college.

Successful people in college don’t always keep personal records of their GPA readily available. Students who are overwhelmed with panic record every grade they receive and constantly calculate their GPA as a check comparing themselves to others. Even though for my scholarship program I will need to meet the minimum GPA requirements (2.5) I understand now that by not necessarily having the sole focus being my GPA will allow me to do well in my studies then ever before.

One of the realizations is that I worry way too much. I worry about other people, my grades, etc. It comes a point in reflecting back that I wonder how I manage to think for myself. It is through all this worrying that I have begun to ask myself Why worry? As a student, it is common to worry about deadlines and exams. Something to work on for myself is to not worry as much since really it can only set me back further. By not worrying, I will be able to perform better.

Along with being able to worry less,  I have implemented a new philosophy in which I will just let things happen. Often times you try to place blocks in life that prevent certain things from happening. Recently I was fretting over the fact that I forgot someone’s name. After understanding that this just happens, I can improve on accepting my own mistakes for what they are. It is not necessarily a negative reflection of myself but more so a commonality of human nature.

By doing all these things and making sure that I live a more balanced life, I hope to improve my outlook. Hopefully this new outlook will allow me to enjoy school and the rest of my life a bit more.

One last thought: Life is a balance. It can differ from person to person. Through life we must attain a sense of awareness and understanding to feel more in tune with our personal well-being.

Biking To McDonalds

Just recently, I went on my bike ride across town to the downtown part of Champaign. My destination was set to Barnes and Noble. The reasoning was that I needed to purchase a journal (this very one) to start an ideally daily habit of writing every day.

The ride itself was just around three miles. I did get a bit detoured. When asking around for directions, the women told me that it was located just past the McDonalds.

This thought of McDonalds got me to thinking:

What if you were forced to walk to McDonalds?

Although at first one might dismiss this notion, it grew on me by the time I reached Barnes and Noble.

With a question like this, it is best to break it down to each component.

The first concept is the idea of “walking” to McDonalds. Please not that in the question, I posed how you would get there. I did not allow biking, riding a motorcycle, or skateboarding as methods of getting to McDonalds. This reasoning is two fold. The first reason is that walking requires no special equipment. Preferably wearing comfortable shoes would aid in your walking journeys.

The second reasoning for walking will be reveled later on.

The second concept involves ones rationale and reasonings to walk to McDonalds. Then one commonly has a craving for fast food such as McDonalds, it is usually only a short car ride away. When walking is introduced into the picture, it changes things slightly. You see, now when you have a craving for McDonalds, you know that your option to get it is to walk. From this means that you have to be very motivated. Not only do you need motivation for the craving of McDonalds, but also you have to use persistent motivation to walk there.

In my initial example, that McDonalds is just short of being three miles away. That means taking into account that you will still feel the need for McDonalds, doing so requires you to be active by walking.

Although most of the things on McDonald’s menu is not the healthiest, wouldn’t you feel better knowing you burned lots of calories by walking there? Imagine instead of driving thru in your car to eat McDonalds that contains six hundred calories, you walk that distance burning up three or four hundred calories. By doing this, I would not feel as bad eating such a calorie laden meal.

So now after your journey, you finally arrive. You walk up to the counter and look at the array of options. You come across the usual suspects of indulgences: BigMacs, McFlurry’s, Quarter Pounders, and large soft drinks. You then look further along and see salads available. You then weigh your options and decide, why not. You purchase your salad (with croutons) and walk to your seat.  

Understandably you could be getting a BigMac, large french fries, and a huge soft drink. In all it’s greasy goodness you are blinded by the fact that instead of being five or six hundred calories, this meal exceeds thirteen hundred calories.

In both instances you have become satisfied by your meals. The after affects of your BigMac meal cause you to feel your arteries clogging up, your body moving slower with every step. Halfway through your way back, you hunch over on the side of the road feeling the urge to puke. You then crawl at a snails pace barely making it back home alive.

Comparatively, the after affects of your salad eating are no where near as life threatening. You finish the salad, licking your lips to the fork in the last scrumptious bite. Although you feel full, you are ready to walk back since your not sick to your stomach. While on your walk back you have a burst of energy. You feel more energized thanks to your salad. Your trip back home felt like nothing and your ready for the next challenge that awaits you.

Although you achieved similar levels of satisfaction, the obvious choice that is better is the salad. One should try to imagine how you will feel after before making a food choice.

Remember how I said that I would address the second reason to the concept of walking to McDonalds? I had a reason why I left that out until now.

The final component is the use of time. The sheer act of walking to McDonalds and walking back takes plenty of valuable time. If using the original scenario, lets say that walking the three miles to get there takes forty-five minutes. Given that you take thirty minutes to eat the meal and forty-five minutes to walk back, this whole McDonalds crazing has turned into a two hour venture. This begs the question, was it really worth your time?

Conservative For Gay Marriage

I know its hard to believe, I just have to come out and say it. I am a conservative that is for same sex marriage. Many of my more conservative friends bash me about how I can be conservative and still support same sex marriage. The Republican party preaches as a whole that a traditional family is best for the country. I don’t want to blast them in telling that they are totally wrong. I personally feel that adaptability is ready to happen. The concept of traditional marriage made sense in the 1950’s. White skinned and blue eyed people spent there suburban lives with multistory houses with white picket fences. They had 2.5 kids, women worked at home cooking and cleaning and the husband had a steady job at a desk. For quite some time this was the conventional norm. Then during the 1980’s, 90’s, and 2000’s, homosexual couples became more common place.

It was during this time that discussions of same sex marriage began to evolve. We have several states now that permit same sex marriage or civil partnerships.

Right during this moment, conversation has sparked about whether gays should marry or not.

On the extreme side is 2012 president running candidate Fred Kruger. Kruger is a Republican who is in fact gay and a supporter of same sex marriage.

People use the argument of the Bible being horribly against homosexuality. Might I also mention that the Bible tells us that slavery is okay, not to eat shellfish, and countless other things.

The inner history buff in me tells that this was just the customs of the time period. At the time, it was accepted.

Given my previous statement about adaptability, why can’t times change? Why does one have to stay stuck in the past, going with the strict norm of marriage being between a man and a women?