Who Am I To Judge?

I think about this question frequently and I doubt this will be my only post about it. Who are we to judge the choices other people make in their lives? When we’re young, our primary influence in life is our parents. For those of us that did not spend all day with our parents, our teachers and caregivers had a great influence as well. What these people taught us is usually what we end up carrying out in adulthood. So when we make ill advised choices do we take responsibility for them or do we pass the blame and which should we be doing?

The truth is, we don’t have the right answer to these questions. Of course, as adults we should take responsibility for our actions and if we aren’t happy with the choices we make, we need to change them. However, what other people think of our choices should not influence what we choose. What gives us the right to look  at someone else and say, “What you did was wrong and what I did was right” without adding “FOR ME” to the end? Every minute of every day we make choices and the only person of the 7 billion on this Earth that has the right to assess that choice as good or bad is the one who made it.

I think I make a number of bad choices everyday. What I’ve come to realize is a lot of the choices I perceive as “bad” aren’t for my own reasons. This is especially true when I make the same “bad” choice over again,. Clearly, I do it because it makes me happy and I’m comfortable with this particular decision. It’s what other people say in general conversation or about the choice at hand that makes me believe it was wrong. It doesn’t even have to be a gaggle of geese against it; no, a single goose will suffice. It just takes one person and one comment to make me question my entire 22 1/2 years of life.

Sometimes questioning your life is a good thing. For instance, I started questioning my diet. Nutritional value is a fact. There is bad and good in facts. If someone (really someones) hadn’t made me think about the value my body is getting from my diet, I never would have decided I need to do better. This is true for choices that can’t be supported with facts as well, it’s just more difficult to explain. The point is: sometimes we need a push to get going. For an object at rest stays at rest unless acted on by an outside force. We can’t always be our own driving forces and more often than not, the force that stops us is external.

I was going to approach this topic in my blog a couple days ago (and now weeks ago from the time I’m actually posting it in relation to writing it) but all it took was one person to tell me to bury my head in a book instead for me to wait. I don’t believe in coincidences and I know there’s a reason I didn’t just go ahead and do it after I asked and even a reason I asked to begin with. Over the days between my initial urge and and me writing this I made several choices I questioned later without the help of someone else. This gave me the opportunity to look even deeper at this topic before bringing it to the public. I wish these extra days provided more answers but reality suggests no matter how many days I wait answers won’t come. That doesn’t stop me from trying.

Who are we to judge the decisions of others as good or bad? What makes us think we have this right? In order to judge another in this way we’re inherently assuming that we’re better than them. There is a double standard though: Nobody stops to question our rights when we say somebody did good; it’s only bad things we question. Why is it so much more difficult for humans to deal with “wrong” than “right”? We assume we understand good and evil bu our actions suggest we do not understand evil. It began with Adam and Eve, whether you see this story as real or fictional. If we understood evil the apple would never have been eaten. If we understood how to reject evil and accept good there would be no need for judgment of others or ourselves. The simple fact is we don’t.

Temptation looks us in the eye every time we’re faced with a choice. My typical one: I’m awake and I could go to the gym but the sun hasn’t started its day so why should I? Yet, my day doesn’t end when the sun goes down. What kind of sense is that? Nonsense. Many other choices also appear this way. Although we probably overlook this more frequently than we realize. Most choices are more than two-dimensional but I doubt most of us even slow down enough to consider other dimensions. In truth, there aren’t enough hours in life to spend that kind of time on a choice. We have to do the best we can with the time we have and this can result in decisions that don’t satisfy us but we’re stuck with them. Again, it doesn’t matter if they make other people feel like we did the right (or wrong) thing because they aren’t stuck with it. It’s the decision-makers life not the observer’s.

A lot of choices impact others. The impacts are lasting and people have to live with that. But, everything happens for a reason and if this particular thing happened, then whoever was impacted has to decide how to use it. They say it takes more muscles to frown than smile, I also think it takes more energy to dislike a person than accept them. Therefore, let their choices be their choices and accept the person as a whole. If you can’t do that, then forget about the person. Don’t let their decisions become toxins in your life. You have your own toxins, I promise.

The point I wanted to get across here is that the self is the only one who should deal with our choices. It was the self that made the choice and therefore the self should decide whether or not another member of the population is in the red or green. There are professions that address this but those people are trained professionals. You sort of get the right to do thinks when you make it your life’s work. So make being judgement free your life’s work and help yourself be happy with your choices.


Lead by Example

The best way to lead is by example. Babies learn from watching other people; why do we assume that something innate goes away as we get older? Why do we assume we’re above that once we master other abilities such as speech and understanding? These are merely other tools in the box. If we believe practice makes perfect, then shouldn’t the thing we’ve been practicing the longest be the thing we’re best at?

I believe everybody has leadership potential. During college, I was fortunate enough to see leaders of every size and shape develop before my eyes. More importantly, I was able to do this with them instead of watching from the sidelines. When we put our skills into practice they morph int stronger, more defined qualities of our being. When this happens living each day as a leader becomes natural. Demonstrating your abilities isn’t work, or at thing you do consciously; it’s part of you.

There’s no hard and fast definition of leadership, just check the dictionary. See if it provides any insight (and if it does please let me know). However, there are some common elements that make up a leader. You can’t lead if you always follow. If you never look for an opportunity to show off, you’re not going to reach your full potential. I don’t believe leaders should be humble when thinking about their abilities. I think confidence and awareness are essential for leadership qualities to display at their maximum. That being said, you won’t gain respect as a leader if you have your chest puffed out with your nose in the air all the time.

Respect is a necessary quality for others to describe in a leader. Who is going to follow you if nobody respects you? How do you earn the respect of others? You don’t have to modify your life to fit their expectations. You give respect to get it. Have your own ideas and philosophies but understand that not everybody will agree with them and not everybody will like you for them. You should be confident enough in them that it doesn’t matter. Your confidence can take you places you only dreamed you could go.

Cliche time (Oh! The Places You’ll Go):

You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead
Wherever you fly, you’ll be the best of the best
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest.

Go out and lead, you have it in you, I know you do. Seize the opportunities life brings you. We can all do it; together better than apart. Just look inside and follow your heart.

My generation is the problem not the solution

How many times have you heard or said, “Children are our future”? How many times have you stopped to realize that children grow up? I’m reading Peter Pan right now and while it had nothing to do with this idea from a conscious level, I know it influenced this thought. Children cannot stay children forever, just as at some point something you once viewed as the future is now the present or maybe, even the past. This thought is probably the scariest thing to me when I think about time. Time never stops but our time will run out.
The idea of time running out is a huge driving force for the thinking that children are the future. If they’re blessed, children will be here long after you and I are gone. Therefore, they are the future extension of us. Children are like little bundles of clay, soft and malleable and easily influenced by powerful hands. They can be shaped, and molded, and reshaped, but once they are fired, they stay the same. This is adulthood. Adults can still be painted over and changed, but at their core, they are still those same pieces of clay that were molded and shaped in childhood. So now I must ask you: what are you doing to shape the future? What is your mark on your extension into the future?
When I look at my peers in my generation, I am constantly texting somebody to tell them how happy I am they’re a part of my life. This didn’t start becoming commonplace until I graduated and left Pitt. Why did it take me so long to appreciate what I had? The easy answer, as the saying goes, is you never know what you have until it’s gone. However, I don’t think this is the whole story. I believe that I needed to see what it’s like to be part of a community that doesn’t share my values and beliefs. A community of people who don’t have similar experiences to mine. A community of people who have their own sets of expertise, different from those I am accustomed to.
It was this community that made me start to think about what my generation is doing in this world. There was a point in time that we were the children and we were the future. Now, all of a sudden, we are adults and we are the present. If we’re not careful, we will become the seasoned adults and our legacy will be in the past before we’ve had a chance to lay it. There are things I see day after day that show me my generation is not ready for this challenge. There are also things I see day after day that restore my faith in my generation’s ability to lead. When I look at people who are exiting college around the same time I  am and see that there are so many of them that cannot do simple tasks and navigate situations that are necessary to go into the world, work full time, leave your parents, I fear for our ability to leave a meaningful impact on our children. When I look at people who are entering college around the same time I am leaving and see how little they care about everything, I fear for their ability to even succeed in college let alone life after college. The misconception we let ourselves believe is that college teaches you everything. College doesn’t teach you anything. College does not give you practical work experience, unless you take a job in your field during that time. College does not teach you how to go grocery shopping or change the oil in your car, especially when you’re close enough to home to take it to mom and dad. Parents teach this and/or you teach yourself. When I look at my generation, I look at parents who don’t teach, they do. I look at students who allow themselves to be coddled. I know this isn’t everybody, and I will admit that my view on this has changed recently and I pray it changes again, for the better.
We are now the present we are no longer the future. Unlike the future, the present is not infinite. We have a limited amount of time to do all the good we can possibly do. How can we do good if we don’t do anything at all? I feel like everybody is getting lazier. As a side by side example let’s look at the obesity problem and the food shortage problem. How can both of these be in existence? Because people are lazy—not that people are too lazy to grow food but people are too dependent on other things to help deliver food, and those that have it, eat their fill, or more than their fill, and sit on their butts doing nothing. This is an oversimplification that could quickly turn into a tangent, but think about why I bring the issue up. There are 24 hours in a day, a recommended 2/3 of these 24 hours are spent at work or asleep. What are you doing with the other third of your days? Are you sitting around watching TV by yourself? Are you exercising however you can? Are you spreading your talents to whoever will accept them? If my generation is going to be the solution TV needs to be the last of these priorities rather than the first. But are they?
Let’s flip the switch and think about our attitudes in the workplace. How much do we value our jobs? I’m sure it isn’t as much as the people who have been in their jobs and/or companies for 20+ years; obviously you have to really believe in something to be there for that long (or be an idiot as a wise man told me earlier this week). I asked this same person how we invest people in a job or a role and he told me that sometimes you can’t. Now, duh. But, think about that. Why are we taking jobs we don’t give two s**ts about? Do not tell me it’s because it was the only offer and you tried to go other places, no. It’s because you cannot find value in your work. We are not a self-motivated generation. For many things, this is great; a group mentality gets a lot of jobs done. For bettering ourselves, it’s horrible. I will admit that when I was hired there was one of two places I was going to go, and I was placed in the one that I would not have chosen for myself. I’m still a little bitter but I found value in my job and that is what gets me up every morning and that is why I produce quality work. It’s true that I don’t want my name on anything that I’m not proud of; but my standards for being proud would be a lot lower if I didn’t invest in it. When people ask me how I like my job, I never start with, “well it’s not what I would have chosen for myself.” I’m still a student, why on earth would I close my mind to something I can learn from? Learning is my full time job. Learning should always be a full time job throughout every point in life.
Okay, so, my generation is the problem not the solution. It’s a drastic statement, it’s a stretch, and it’s a generalization. However, the points I brought up are very true. I can’t speak to what parents of young children are doing because I am not close to enough to see it. I can’t speak to what high school students feel because I am no longer in that place in my life and I know they have different values than I did in high school. I can tell you that the people I interact with on a daily basis in all situations from all walks of life need some redirection. In order to be the solution of the present (formerly the future), we must focus on the problems facing our world, from a generational perspective because it is unique to each generation. We must also focus on the problems from the perspective that we are here now and today’s children will be here tomorrow. We must give them the tools to be better than us, and the best way to do this is to reach our maximum potential. Reaching our maximum potential is impossible without opening our minds and expanding our lives.

Secrets and Fears

What makes you feel safe?

I was never particularly afraid of monsters in the closet or things that go bump in the night. I was convinced our basement was haunted and at 22 I’m still not convinced I was wrong about that. Growing up I always thought my parents were paranoid about safety, and I still do, but some things that seemed pointless to me back then now make a lot more sense. I think I feel safest when I’m in control because whatever happens, I’m the only one to blame, and I have no problem taking responsibility when I know without a doubt it’s up to me. 
Recently I realized this idea of being safe when I’m in control isn’t entirely true. There are several, albeit very few, people in my life I feel completely safe when I’m with them. The reasons for this vary slightly, but the common denominator is trust. If you know me, you know I have major trust issues.  Even the people I could list that I feel safe with know that I’ve kept secrets from them for whatever reason. I know it’s frustrating to be someone I trust and know there are still secrets between us. So why do I feel so safe yet so compelled to keep secrets?
In truth, I don’t know. If I had to guess I would say its because I haven’t accepted my secrets. There are plenty of secrets I have kept from everyone in my life and plenty more that I’ve blurted out in a time of weakness and can’t recall what I said or who I said it to anymore. However, even if it was in a moment of weakness, it was a moment of opening and sharing in the safe space that always existed.
I used to think that opening up aligned with letting my guard down. I see now that isn’t entirely true. It is true in that my guard was up, but it is not true because my guard should never have been up to begin with. Why do I push people away when I need them? What am I afraid of? If it’s not monsters in the closet, then what is it?
This is the question I was asking myself when I began writing, and one I’ve asked myself millions of times before. The unfortunate truth is again, I still don’t have an answer. The ghosts that are lurking in the basement pull me into myself in ways I cannot explain. They cause me to look over my shoulders and jump at the slightest agitation. The thing is, whether I believe these ghosts are real or not, they can only hurt me as much as I allow them to. Thus, fearing their presence really does me more harm than good.
Conquering fears doesn’t always end in happiness, but it does end in a sense of accomplishment. The same is true when it comes to opening up to people. Fears hold us back from potentially great things; secrets hold us back from potentially strong bonds. If I could sit every person I place my trust in one room and rattle off a list of secrets with complete confidence, I would. I would do it because it doesn’t matter if my secrets bring us together or tear us apart because in the end they’re a part of me that will stay with me in some capacity forever. The obvious hope, and expectation, is that these special people also stay with me forever.
In the end, I know this isn’t something I’l be doing soon. It’s not about trust or fear, but it’s about my acceptance of the issues. Carrying out this plan hinged on one statement, “with complete confidence.” This is something that can never be achieved until I am completely convinced of the validity, or really good at bull shit (neither of which apply to me). So why does it look like I’m succumbing to fear from every angle? Because I am, obviously. It goes deeper than that though. Yes, fear is holding me back; I don’t want you to think that I drink that when I say it goes deeper. I mean it also taps into my sense of self and self confidence. I need to develop my sense of self in order to build my self confidence.
Now, throughout this post I used the word “I” with the exception of one paragraph. I used the word I am confident in what I’m revealing about myself. However, there are two more things I know for sure.
(1) I am not the only 22 year old that feels this way, and I know people both older and younger who can identify with these words. Therefore, every one of my “I”s also belongs to YOU
(2) Being able to have confidence in something is what makes those monsters non-existent. It makes the presence of the ghosts felt. And, it makes you go in the basement anyway.


A lot of thoughts that made me stop and think have crossed my mind today.

  • Everything in life is temporary including life itself. Most things we have the power to change ourselves. Other things are left up to time and fate to be controlled.
  • When I look back to just a month ago, I realize what I said I wanted and what I really wanted were not the same. I realized later that this was even truer than I thought when a song came on.
  • I feel trapped; I feel like I don’t have the freedom to what I want to do without everybody leaving. I can’t leave and come back without questions. I realize it’s the same on the other end, except it’s offered voluntarily. I also realize this is exactly how I’ve felt my whole life. However, when it’s someone you love and trust instead of a complete stranger, it’s a lot easier to go with the flow.
  • One thing I was told recently was to pay attention to how you feel, which is something I’ve been doing more of since then. I notice that when I’m feeling smothered or vulnerable, I eat and shop. I suppose this is nothing new but as I grow older they’re things that I can’t just run to mom and dad and say “I need…” anymore. With this, comes the truth that I need to be more responsible all the time and neither of these are responsible ways to deal with pain.

Even though I didn’t say it, each item on this list was a result of thinking about the above item. All these thoughts are connected and rooted in realizing that nothing in life lasts forever.

I’ve been very on edge lately. I know dreams aren’t real and I know there’s no point in dwelling on them. Often times when I remember my dreams they’re either so real I sit in bed for however long it takes to remember what really happened the day before and what I dreamed happened the day before or they’re so completely unrealistic I wonder how my mind synthesizes that. However, whether realistic or obvious fantasy, they’re always crystal clear. The other night during my dreams, several of my friends died right in front of my eyes. Some of them even died more than once. I knew this dream was obviously not real, but I also had an extreme urge to check on my friends. In the end, I only checked on one of them.

This isn’t to say that I felt like this friend was the most important of all the ones I watched die. This isn’t to say that I felt like the others weren’t important at all. But, after sitting in bed for a while trying to process what I saw and how it made me feel on a conscious level, I realized only one face still had a name. I recognized every single person in that dream, and I can still tell you every single person in that dream, which isn’t something I can normally do. This is why it’s so odd to me that I only felt I needed to reach out to one person.

Even though I had this dream days ago, it still haunts me. If anything reminds me even slightly of any person in that dream I instantly worry about them more than I used to. I will suddenly feel like I need to pick up the phone and call them, hear their voice, make sure everything’s okay, yet I still do nothing. I know what keeps me rooted in inaction is the promise of tomorrow. That’s the problem though, tomorrow isn’t promised.

Promised or not, I always live for tomorrow just as much as I live for today. There are plenty of people who would tell me this isn’t the right attitude. This is what I believe: Today is promised and tomorrow isn’t. There is not enough time in a single day to do everything we want or need to do. Good things take time. So today, I lay the groundwork for tomorrow. And tomorrow I build the foundation. The day after tomorrow I lay down the cornerstone and so on. These days are in no way meant to be literal, but I only hope that by the time tomorrow doesn’t come for me I have left my mark on this world, and most importantly the people in my life. Likewise, I hope that by the time all my friends run out of tomorrows they have touched my life too. I hope that they will have left a legacy that I can speak proudly of without editing things out. Nobody’s perfect of course, but people can be essentially good and this is what I hope for.

So now, back to my claim that everything is temporary and having the power to change things can be within our hands. I believe that even if somebody goes “chasing death” and dies, death wasn’t imminent. And even if it was, that person still chose to go “chasing death.” In that person’s eyes, what if they’re really chasing life? What if they’re going after the possibility of no tomorrow and are met with it? What’s so wrong with that? I’m not trying to come off as an adrenaline junkie nor an advocate for it, but seriously, how often do we actually stop and think about what we would do today if tomorrow weren’t promised? How often do we make bucket lists and leave them for tomorrow? How often are we blessed with a tomorrow that has changed our minds about yesterday? Most importantly, how often do we think about these things?

We always have the power, but the magnitude of that power is very much dependent on awareness. The more we are aware of, the more power we have. The more we can see in nature, the more we listen to what’s happening around us, the more logical our decision to leave the umbrella at home becomes. In a society driven by technology, we often overlook things our ancestors worked to understand. We use technology as a crutch instead of growing ourselves in other ways. I’m not trying to advocate for or against this notion, I love that I can pull out my smartphone and find any information I want. However, I also wish I was more compelled to seek harder for information as I know it would be appreciated more.

I wish I could measure my own power. I wish there was a quantifiable way for me to see how much power I have, and how much of that I use. We use power in terms of so many things that are unquantifiable: power of positive thinking, superpowers, knowledge is power, etc. Quantifiable or not, the important thing is how many forms of power do we have? I believe in looking on the bright side, although I know I often fail when I’m feeling down. I believe I have superpowers, even though they don’t measure up to those of superman. I believe that knowledge is power; but being an expert in one field doesn’t go very far. I know that power fluctuates. The amount of power you hold in one situation says nothing about the amount of power you hold in another situation. Also, the power you hold today says nothing about the power you will hold tomorrow.

Every day is a gift and every event of every day is a gift. This world, this life, is a miracle. The beauty all around us, and the darkness, is a gift. So many of the quotes I keep on my wall can be redefined to the circle of life. It’s true, that some of them were meant to. However, many are about the present or the certainty of the future. I like to think about whom I will become and the people I will have the potential to reach, however, lately, I have been moving more towards action versus inaction. I have spent more time thinking about the people I have touched than those who I will touch. To be honest, I can’t tell you everybody I have touched or everything I have done with the intention of touching people. To me, it didn’t matter too much at the time; I just did what I felt I had to do. Now, as I think about what I have done, what I will do, and what I may never have the chance to do, I just hope that I have done enough for today. I hope even if what I did was as temporary for the recipient as it was for me to just do without thinking, it meant something when it happened.

Human Life

What is the quality of human life? How do you define a life?

This week I have seen or heard about several people in their early twenties leaving this world and it really made think. At 22, I don’t think of tomorrow as anything but a guarantee and another opportunity to build my legacy. However, from talking to my friends and looking on Facebook, I can clearly see that’s not true. If I died tonight, would I be happy with where my life is? For the most part, absolutely; however, that’s not everything.

At work, I look at a lot of human life initiatives every day. I remain objective for my job, but in my head, I find myself all over the place depending on the presentation of the issue. In the same hour I can look at something and say “wow that’s a great thing to do for people” and “the problem with the world is that there’s too many people.” At the end of the day, every person has somebody who loves them. Hopefully, every person has a more people that love them than they can count, and vice versa. It doesn’t matter what the reason is, nobody should be taken from this world because the amount of suffering that comes from one person leaving this life is far more than the resources saved.

The thing is, we have to move on. If we don’t move on it completely consumes us. That’s how I feel every single day. I don’t know what has me stuck, but seeing all of this pain and suffering around me I feel ridiculous for being caught up on something I can’t even identify. I feel silly for waking up with tears running down my face multiple times a night almost every night. I get text messages and calls from my friends in need of support of all kinds and I have no problem offering it. However, none of that changes how much I dread going to bed at night because I know I’m not going to sleep well and I know I still won’t know why. I also know there’s nothing anybody can do to help me. Finally, I know I am not alone.

I hate bringing it up every day because I hate thinking about it, and I know it is just as annoying for my friends to hear about it as it is for me to try to deal with it. It also has to be really difficult to not be able to do anything about it; nobody likes to feel helpless. So this is the point when I pause to ask myself, how do I measure my life? Do I measure my life by the positive thoughts I have about loving others? Do I measure my life by the somewhat sleepless nights and feelings I can’t explain? Do I measure my life by the work I do during the week? I don’t know. I don’t think that’s something that’s up to me to answer right now.

I do know I have more time right now. I am sitting here writing this which means I have more time. I have time to touch the world but I can’t do that until I take time to look at the world and take in its beauty. I mean this in every sense; the people that populate the world from all walks of life, the green grass and plants in full bloom, the animals, etc. If I can’t be patient and take time to appreciate the things that are guaranteed right now, I will never truly, fully, appreciate my life and the lives of others that I have the potential to touch. Saying goodbye isn’t easy, it’s even harder when you never had the opportunity to say goodbye. And right now, I am saying hello.