Turning 31 – Reflections on Confidence and Relationships

Over the past few years a tradition of sorts has arisen. To celebrate my birthday, I sit down, put on my thinking cap, and ramble a bit about some of the things I’ve learned over the previous year. Sometimes these are musings still being digested, other times topics I’m more thoroughly confident about. Regardless, today I celebrate turning 31 and in honor of the occasion have focused on two topics. In some ways the two are complimentary. In others ways they’re worlds apart. I hope you’ll enjoy the musings and take them for what they are – just reflections and an attempt to share the world as I see it and how I relate to it. You can see my more detailed 30th birthday post here, my musings on turning 29 here, or 28 here. This year I also stumbled upon a long-forgotten blog post written on my 23 birthday (yeah, I’ve been blogging that long) which you can view here.

Flower Patch

Social Discomfort

A couple of years ago I had a realization. As I sat with several friends, on multiple occasions, we’d arrive in a situation where they were uncomfortable. Before long, they’d get antsy and comments would start to flow. Often it was about the people present, or aspects of the venue. Perhaps the people were too young, or too naive, or acting too embarrassingly American (in several instances it was young college students on their first exchange). In other situations the beer was too warm, or the venue had failed in some utterly trivial and minor but nevertheless comment worthy way.  Visualize the hipster that ends up in a trendy club and is utterly out of place, or the posh southern socialite who ends up in a grungy dive bar. Picture the polished model who regularly is at ease and comfortable in fancy cocktail bars ending up in a grungy little bodega that only serves beer and bitters.

In these instances their comments were often somewhat embarrassing, in no small part because they’re typically made fairly loudly or at the expense of those nearby. That sense of surprise though also got me to monitor my own behavior and, sure enough, I started to discover I had the same coping mechanism. I also suspect it’s a mechanism that is particularly prevalent within academics as it’s often the easiest and safest defense mechanism for discomfort. Ultimately though, it’s also something all of us do and on a fairly regular basis. Those that are best at conquering the impulse, are those that also seem to be exceptional at integrating into foreign cultures such as the photographer who magically befriends locals or the social butterfly that drifts effortlessly from group to group.

Turning 30 – Birthday Reflections On Life, Achievement and Travel

Prolific travelers often joke that we have commitment issues.  It’s a joke I’ve often made – after all, when folks asked how on earth I could pick up everything and re-locate to Europe for a 2-year Master’s or how I seemed to perpetually be traveling I would flash a smile, shrug, and explain, “No mortgage, no dog, no girlfriend”.   There is, undoubtedly, some truth to this somewhat cavalier statement…but it’s simultaneously an equal part bullshit. I don’t have issues committing and I’m most certainly not running from things.  There is a path I chose a number of years ago, mostly aware of the trade offs. I do not commit casually and I do not commit without reason.  Why?  Because each commitment is a rope (or chain) which binds us to a place and time.  The weight of these can, at times, be light or transient but even the smallest commitment, when taken seriously, is binding.

All Abroad - Train Travel

In life I can be uncompromising though I combine this with a personality and lifestyle which might seem in direct conflict due to its fluidity and socially-engaged but relaxed approach. How can someone who grew up with a mediator-oriented personality and leadership style be simultaneously uncompromising? As I’ve matured as a person and grown increasingly confident in myself, my abilities, and the decisions I make I find myself less inclined to doubt myself and more ok with the trade-offs that come with decisive decision making.

Family in Europe - 95

Today I turn 30.  It is an interesting opportunity to step back, reflect, and share some of my observations to date. Below you’ll find a mixture of items I think you may find interesting – either as insights to reflect upon, or as advice garnered from life-lessons I’ve learned and am happy to share.  Others are just general musings about issues I find interesting, which weigh on my mind, or which have shaped the person who I am today.