Monday, January 17, 2011

Different Perspectives, US Itinerary

Don't you find it interesting that every individual must perceive the world differently, uniquely. Psychologists may argue whether behavior can be attributed to a person's nature or their upbringing, their nature or nurture, although the answer is a combination of both. Interestingly enough, we all have had both our own unique experience in this world, and we carry a unique genome. It seems to me that these psychologists argue a moot point, after all, each and every one of us sees the world differently.

Your mind processes the incoming information in context. Over the course of your life, it comes to know what to expect in certain situations. The more experience you have with something or another, the more information your brain has to fill in the blanks. In life, you are always getting more and more information, and your brain continues to use that information to help it perceive it's current circumstance. That means we see things differently now than we saw them before, because the context is always different. Think about it. Have you ever thought back to previously held convictions with some self-depreciating humor? Have you ever been more or less sympathetic to someone after coming to understand their situation better? It is very different to see a movie for the second time after knowing the surprise ending, isn't it?

Music is one of those things that is highly dependent on context. Foreign music sounds like a racket until you become accustomed to it, and then you may begin to like it. Furthermore, if you are in a foul mode, your favorite upbeat song may sound like a piece of crap at the time. So, when mourning for my father, I heard a song probably originally about breaking up a girl, that had a chorus of "save your goodbyes." When I heard that song, it meant something completely different to me, and still does today when I heard it. Today, while cleaning out some neglected corner of the house, I was listening to a song about an emptiness that came with freedom. While the singer probably was referring to being single and free from a relationship, I found myself touched by a sadness in relationship to not doing anything productive at this point in my life. Don't get me wrong, I am happy that I made this decision to quit the job and redirect my life, but I related to the song's sadness in relation to my own context.

That being said, it is amazing how different my perspective is now ,compared to it was just a few months ago. I come from a generation that is used to constant stimulus. These days, there are no lulls for America's youth. We never let our minds sit idle, constantly playing with our smart phones, listening to headphones, and watching unhealthy amounts of television. I got to thinking about all this because of my own cell phone situation. While working, I was using over 1000 minutes a month, tons of text and data, and I brought my phone home each night with no battery life. Now, I only charge my phone every 3-4 days, and I practically never use it. In fact, I am going to cancel my data package and go back to an old flip phone, seeing how I have been using the "smart" capabilities so little. Besides, I am going to have to get used to being disconnected from the web.

I heard somewhere that when you have everything, you have everything to lose. I could have all the money in the world, but I still wouldn't have the perspective that I will gain on this journey. So, I am taking the bet that experience, in the long run, will be worth more to me than the money. After all, no one can take my experiences away from me. Even this time living at home, not working, before the trip has been an interesting experience.

Speaking of betting, last Saturday I went to AC, for probably the last time in years, and saw the Anti-Social Network Comedy tour. Again, I saw the extravagance of AC in a different light this time, as i'm sure I will see it the next time I am there, whenever that may be. I have also been spending time with my family, seeing some friends from around my hometown who I haven't seen in years, and reading a bunch of good books.

It is hard to believe it's already January 17th. Time flies when your having fun. We leave for Chicago in 4 1/2 weeks. We just did the math, we are planning on driving over 5,000 miles. The itinerary for the US leg of the trip, as of now, is as follows.

Philadelphia, PA
Chicago, IL
Hot Springs, AR
New Orleans, LA
Houston, TX
Austin, TX
San Antonio, TX
Big Bend National Park, TX
White Sands National Monument, NM
Tucson, AZ
Pheonix, AZ
Grand Canyon National Park, AZ
Bryce Canyon National Park, UT
Zion National Park, UT
Las Vegas, NM
Death Valley National Park, CA
Sequoia National Park, CA
San Francisco, CA

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Every Day is a Snow Day

For the first time in years, I genuinely enjoyed the snow. In the past, managing logistics in the weather just meant headaches for me. Anytime it snowed, any other time that planes were forced to land late, any time a traffic incident, or a mechanical failure, or anything slowed the progress of the packages at caused me grief!  It is a much more difficult job trying to get packages delivered in the weather, but I gave it a shot every day none the less. So, naturally, I watched the weather with trepidation and always lamented the reporting of snow. However, this time it was different.

First of all, I didn't see it coming a week away from the extended forecast, like I usually do. So, when I heard about the impending snow, it took me by surprise. Initially, I must admit, I laughed at the poor souls, many of them friends of mine, who had to deal with all the aggravations that come along with the inclement weather. After that, however, I had a great time remembering how fun the snow can be. Shoveling is not so bad when it gets done whenever you want, not because you have to go to work! Digging out the car to go sledding down a hill, or drive over to dinner with family and friends is a great time.

Additionally, I had forgotten how picturesque the snow makes everything. I had forgotten to enjoy how the snow looks as it comes down, how it changes the entire landscape with its arrival, and how it changes our routines. When I was working, it always stressed and bothered me so much that I didn't appreciate the chance to change it up a little bit. Now, that for the next few months, all of my time is free, the snow didn't interrupt anything I had planned, and I was able to enjoy it with childish nostalgia.

But, unlike the kids and teachers who had off from school, the snow day was just like any other for me. Not much on the agenda, so I have kind of stretched everything out. What I could have done in a few days has taken a week, and it has been a nice vacation and wind down from all the work associated with my last peak season in the package business. However I may have joked about early retirement, I only meant to refer to the retirement from that particular industry. Now that I am practically free 24 hours a day, 7 hours a week, I still feel the need to work! It's crazy to say, and while I don't want to go back to working long hours in the middle of the night, a certainly don't want to stop working. The idea of spending the rest of your days on the beach do not sound like paradise to me, but in the long run incredibly boring! The traditional week long vacation, in my opinion, does not allow one to fully unwind. It seems as if the stresses of the job are not put behind you, and the relaxation is soured by the anxiety of returning to work.

It also appears to me that I month long vacation may not do the trick either. That isn't to mean that a excessively long vacations are in order, that is only to say that if you are truly stressed about your life situation, that nothing will let you relax fully. With the massive stress of work gone, it has been much easier to relax, and refine further still the art of relaxation. Now, given the time and motivation, I have decided to reintroduce myself to yoga. I am reading a book of my father's published in 1974 on the subject, and digging out my old yoga books from when I experimented with it a few years ago. Working around stretching my healing tattoo is interesting enough, but my body is happy that I am finally committing more time to it's fitness.

Other than that, I've been spending time with friends and family, writing college app and scholarship essays, reading, playing games, cleaning this house and carting things to Goodwill, drawing for the first time in years, watching some television and movies, but not much, spending more time on Facebook than I would like to admit, and sleeping completely erratically. I mean, I had somewhat of a vampiric sleep schedule for a year, and recovering from that, with nothing that your forced to get for, has been an experience. I get sleepy at 4 pm, when I used to go to bed, even if I got up at a normal time. I few times, I slept right from 4 until the next morning! However, I am finally more or less adjusted to a normal sleep rhythm where I get up in the morning and sleep at night, and it feels good to be back among these ranks!

Also, I have been doing plenty of trip planning, am am very excited to get underway! However, I have 5 weeks still here in the northeast before I get along my way, and I have things I would like to get done before that. For example, a drive down south to visit VA Tech and see family, and possibly a northernly trip to Cornell U in New York and some skiing with my friend Ben in Vermont. So, on that note, I am off to get back to enjoying my time off before my trip.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

First Day Without Work

Luke Alexander is my name. I I just left a career that is already making me nearly 6 figures, at the age of 26.

Call me crazy if you will, but I had to do it. If I didn't, then I would have regret it for the rest of my life. It's just something I felt I had to do. Please understand, it's not that i'm ignorant of the recession, nor apathetic to those who are struggling with employment. Rather, I came to the understanding that staying there I would not achieve many of the goals and dreams that I had for myself. That is to say, if I stayed, that I would be one of those people that always lived their lives full of regret.

Fortunately for me, I am currently in a position to do something about it.

I am blessed with a large family, with many open doors. However, don't construe that to mean that I am some how politically or financially connected! I am the product of middle-class east coast America, whose mother and father happened to have 9 and 5 siblings, respectively. Considering the plight of the average human being, I suppose that is incredibly politically and financially connected! So, I intend on taking this opportunity to take some savings and travel the world, leaving behind a stressful job for which I have no passion. Hopefully, I will learn a lot along the way, and will come back with a broader perspective and a more defined path towards my ideal future.

I have dramatically changed the course of my life by quitting this job. Now, for the first time that I can remember, I sit here with virtually no commitments of my time. Clearly, I will no longer enjoy the same monetary wealth afforded to me while working 60 hours a week, but there is certainly something to be said for the freedom of time! The challenge is not to have that free time wasted, as it is so often done.

Currently, the plan is to leave towards California in mid February, after I am finished with my current round of tattoo work. From there, fly on to southeast Asia, and from there, on to Germany and Europe before coming home, meeting with friends and family along the way. However, the freedom I am giving myself in this journey, not booking anything advance, is nearly as exhilarating as the prospect of going around the world itself. I only hope that I am able to show the self discipline necessary that will make this sabbatical from both the working and academic worlds as worthwhile as I know it can be.

On that note, I am going to go an spend some of that time, getting stuff done, on this, my first day without work.