Sunday, October 27, 2013

17 Crazy Days

Sometimes it feels like you just can't catch a break, like nothing is going your way. Sometimes you wonder why that perfect thing at just the right time never happens to you. Sometimes your life just seems a little harder than everyone else's. But every now and then, you have 17 days like the 17 days I have just had. There have been highs and lows, but I just can't get over how many awesome things have happened. I had this great head of steam posting here and then over the last two and a half weeks, I lost it. That's because life has just been keeping me too busy being awesome.

 Friday, Oct. 11, 2013

Dad's Birthday. This day was definitely a hard one, but we did our best to make the best of it and we had a lot of fun. We discovered a new brewery that featured delicious pizza and over 100 beers on tap. Strombolis and wings covered in garlic and a couple of delicious beers. I even got dad a gift that got him totally stoked. That's what's up.

Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013

Dad's Birthday part 2. We had dinner with family and then headed to see Captain Phillips. Great food, great company, great movie, awesome time.

Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2013

I bought a motorcycle. Yeah, just like that. I showed up and they had knocked $1,300 of the posted price. Maybe there will come a day when I'll look back at how I got heisted on that stupid piece of junk bike that's been nothing but problems. As of now, killer deal, so exciting. She is beautiful and wonderful an sounds amazing.

Wednesday, Oct. 16, 2013

Buy a super sweet looking motorcycle helmet. Ride motorcycle for first time. I literally could not stop smiling the whole time. They should call motorcycles motor smile machines.

Thursday, Oct. 17, 2013

Ride motorcycle to work for first time. Why not? I've officially been on it a total of 45 minutes. I also took a motorcycle safety course where I rode a motorcycle around a parking lot for 10 hours. Driving 30 miles to work is a perfectly reasonable thing to do. Learn by doing, right!? After work, head out to New Jersey to meet up with a new friend and new friend's family.

Thursday, Oct. 17 - Sunday Oct. 20

Hang out with friend and family in New Jersey.Friend's family is pretty darn cool. Hang out with friend and family in NYC. Hang out with the Flavins! Eat a chicken parmesan sandwich in a greasy, NJ diner. Go see the Phantom of the Opera with friend. I have been developing an informal east coast bucket list for before I move back to California. Check off visit NYC, see Broadway Show. Eat all the street food! Run out of gas on the side of a New Jersey highway at 230 am only to have police officer arrive within 30 minutes, give me all the assistance and get me on my way.

Wednesday, Oct. 23

24 hour camp out in Chick-fil-a parking lot with 7 friends for grand opening. When it was all done, we each earned about 37 coupons for free chick-fil-a sandwich combos. So much delicious chicken. Wednesday was also that day that I may have witnessed the saddest thing I have ever seen in my life. Perhaps I'll address that in another post.

Thursday, Oct. 24

I've owned a motorcycle for nine days. This seems like an appropriate amount of time to wait my first road trip. I head 150 miles down to my hometown in VA, the greatest state in the union. I hang out with one of my best friends and go to a karate class, because that sounds like a fun, interesting thing to do.

Friday, Oct. 25

Hang out with one of my best friends and one of the most critical mentors in my life. Head another 100 miles south to see one of my other best friends in the entire world. Enjoy Virginia in it's wonder and grandeur.

Saturday, Oct. 26

Head down to one of the most wondrous beautiful towns in all the world, Blacksburg, VA (This time not on a motorcycle). Eat delicious food, imbibe delicious victuals. Somehow accidentally buy 2nd row seat on the 50-yard line from a scalper. Watch football game from the best vantage point I likely will in my entire life with one of my best friends. How did this happen??? Refuse to discuss results of game. Drown sorrows in further victuals and best cheese fries this side of the Mississippi.

Sunday, Oct. 27

Spend afternoon riding full length of skyline drive on motorcycle. Take Virginia in further in all its grandeur. I'm from the best state in the union. Life is grand.

I just wanted to get this all out and share it and say how thankful I am that all these things have happened to me. I know it's not the most detailed post ever. So many of these things deserve more than just a brief shout. They're so incredible. Maybe I'll go over them again, maybe I'll post some pictures. Maybe not. Frankly, right now I'm just exhausted from so much awesome and I'm so grateful.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Motorcycle Diaries Volume 3: Why Chicks Are Like Compliments

You guys know the drill. A guy I would absolutely love to buy a beer and hang out and joke around with, Ryan Reynolds:

Also, if anyone knows how to get abs like that, I'll take your answer off the air.

This is the last post in my motorcycle diaries series. These posts have basically been about the things I was thinking about when learning to ride a motorcycle when I should have been thinking about learning to ride a motorcycle.

Chicks are Like Compliments

I have previously used this forum as a place where I've discussed my need for affirmation and appreciation. Historically, if my soul were an internal combustion engine, it's fuel would be praise. I think there is a little bit of this in all of us. Even those who are the most sure of themselves feel that lightness of heart and surge of pride when another person tells them they are worthy. It's a condition of humanity that somewhere deep inside us we were meant to be more than we are. When we get a brief feeling that we are better than we believe ourselves to be, it is nice to live in that feeling. I've been striving to be less connected to the praise I do or do not receive. We're all going to do great things and we're all going to screw up pretty badly at times. If we're confident and happy with who we are and who we're becoming, we can start to insulate ourselves from a deep need for praise and the destructive capacity of negative feedback. Regardless, it's nice to get thrown some compliments every now and then. To sum up, I don't need affirmation the way I once did, but I still like it a great deal.

Here's the thing: When I receive compliments, I don't know what to do with them or don't want them anymore. Maybe I'm less sure of myself and my trajectory than the above paragraph would indicate, because I never feel deserving of praise. When someone tells me I'm good at something, I generally believe they are either confused, wrong, or are just such a nice person that they would give me unjustified praise. I've even crafted a standard response to praise that reflects this thought process. "That's very kind of you to say" is a phrase that turns the compliment back on the complimenter and makes me sound like a good guy while completely avoiding acknowledgement of the idea that I may have done something well. Sometimes I even think less of the complimenter or the compliment itself, merely because it was given to me.

I am the exact same way with women as I am with compliments. Guys, let's be honest. Women are awesome. They smell nice. They have pretty hair. They are very attractive. If they really like us, sometimes they'll do things like make us sandwiches, scratch our backs and give us smooches. Much like compliments, when you get to have a lady around, you feel better about you. If you get a lady or a compliment, you feel like you must have done something well to earn them. They both make you feel warm and delicious inside. Ladies and compliments are the best kinds of things. They are totally dragonsauce. Finally, the last things that ladies and compliments have in common is that I have no idea what to do with them once I get them and sometimes I think they're less valuable once I have them.

I can remember a few points in my life when I worked to be with a woman and determined I didn't want her anymore once I was sure she wanted me back. This determination has occurred  both as a passing feeling from which I recovered and a more permanent one that led to the dissolution of the relationship.

I will openly admit that this is completely dysfunctional. I will also say that I think there are a lot more people out there just like me. I'll bet it's even happened to the ladies out there as well. The princess and the frog is a famous fairy tale where a princess falls in love with a frog and smooches him and he turns into a prince. How many of us have experienced the opposite‽ After a few months or even after that first smooch, our prince or princess charming becomes a frog and we just want to send them back to the swamp.

Why is this? I know that I, for one, want what I can't have. I'm the worst about this. It happens when I'm shopping for things all the time. I can hop on the Internet with a passing interest in considering purchasing an item. If I find out that item is sold out or extremely limited I want it to be mine immediately or sooner. If it's readily available, I lose interest. Additionally, I think we all have some pretty deep-seated insecurities and qualities about ourselves that we don't care for. Maybe my degree of self loathing is greater than the average person but I project my negative perceptions of myself onto any woman who is willing to accept me. In a stunningly twisted mix of self loathing and pretension, any woman who is willing to "settle" for me is clearly not good enough for me. I feel like I could write a whole post on this one subject. I wonder if there are any other people out there who consider the idea that someone would be interested in them a strike against that someone. Obvi, this is something I really need to work on.

So, I was shifting, accelerating, decelerating and swerving through cones on a big open parking lot, and I was doing it pretty well. I was looking for as much constructive criticism and guidance as possible. I only had about 10 hours on the bike and wanted to learn absolutely everything I could in that small window. Much to my chagrin, I was getting great feedback. There were a few instances when I pulled up to a rider coach and he said, "That was perfect. Change absolutely nothing." My mind started churning. I thought, "These coaches have no idea what they're doing, this is a waste of time. There's no way I'm doing as well as they say I am. They are either just kind or incompetent."

Then I decided  to get out of my head. I'd spent hundreds of hours on two wheels without a motor. I've been driving a stick for years. I know the basics of looking through turns, braking at appropriate times, shifting, etc. Not only was it possible I was actually good at this, but it was logical as well. My job wasn't to tear myself down or question my small successes. These would only make me a worse motorcyclist. What I needed to do was greet praise and acceptance and be grateful for it, knowing that there would be plenty of time for criticism an improvement as well. I was just at the start and I had the basics down, I needed to be confident in this with the humility of knowing that I still needed to grow massively in my skills and would make plenty more mistakes on the way. I felt a brief surge of pride, my chest puffed a little, I smiled and responded, "Thank you."

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Motorcycle Diaries Volume 2: Learner

I received a request for my shirtless dude of the day to be Jason Statham. I'm obliging.

Reminder: Last weekend I took a motorcycle safety course. It was super fun and I learned some skills that will help me ride a motorcycle. I also learned and considered some things that had nothing to do with motorcycling. Those are the things I'm going to talk about here.


This was not the first time I took a motorcycle safety course. About twelve or thirteen years ago I took a very similar course in Virginia after a friend talked me into it. At that time I had been driving very briefly and really hadn't spent much time on two wheels of any sort, motorized or otherwise. I had never used a clutch on any vehicle of any kind. Despite this fact, I thought I was some kind of motorcycling wunderkind.

I would say the key word in that last sentence was "thought." In recent years, I've noticed that I can acquire a reputation for arrogance or over confidence. To the people that have that opinion, I would say I have come a long, long way. Clint circa 2000 was a specimen in arrogance. If I ever encountered something new, I would just assume I was already good at it because I was, you know, me. Well, that weekend the best rider on the range went down with his bike twice and was visibly shaken by the end. To this day, I am not sure why I passed. I have half a mind to believe that the instructor passed me out of sympathy. After that, all I had to do was go to the DMV to get my license endorsed, but I never did. There were certainly other reasons, I didn't have the resources to buy a bike at the time. But the heart of my decision was the fact that I rode a motorcycle terribly and was scared to get back on one. My friend got a bike after the course and I remember being jealous but knowing I just didn't trust myself with one.

Fast forward a decade and some change. I'm a grown man. I can handle adult decisions and adult responsibilities. I've been through some challenges and made some decisions that no one I know has quite had to go through or make. Despite these truths, I was worried seventeen or eighteen year old Clint was going to show up and ruin this whole thing for me. Then there was the alternative, what if my prior failure had nothing to do with my immaturity, but I just wasn't any good at riding a motorcycle?

It turned out that I took very well to riding. For the past 6 years, I've been driving a car with a manual transmission. Additionally, my cycling/mountain biking handling skills translated pretty well. It sort of sounds strange to cite these completely different skills as reasons for riding a motorcycle well, but I really felt like they helped. I felt that I had a huge advantage over the other students without the same prior experience. I can't imagine how hard it must be to simultaneously learn the concepts of riding, the physical components and how to work a clutch. As I realized how much my preexisting skillset benefited my motorcycling, I started to get confident, which was good. Then I started to get over confident, which was bad. Again, I was starting to find myself in a place where I was doing something I knew very little about and yet considering myself an expert on it.

Over the past few years, I've had a lot of cross-cultural training and interaction. Probably the lynch pin to successful cross-cultural interaction is entering every situation a learner. Taking the posture of a learner means a number of things. It means being as humble as possible. It means recognizing that everyone in the world could teach you something. I means knowing that no matter how much you know or think you know, you still have a lot to learn. Most obviously, it means if you're interacting with an expert, you do everything you can to ask, learn and mine for information and wisdom.

Fortunately, this training kicked in. It reminded me that even though I felt remarkably comfortable for a novice on a motorcycle, I was still just a novice putting around a parking lot at 25 mph or less. Not only that, I was surrounded by a number of people who knew much more about motorcycling than I did. As a result, I realized that although I was comfortable, I was not great at riding a motorcycle. I was barely even scratching the surface of learning how to ride. I took the posture of an learner. I observed as much as I could watching other people ride, and asked as many questions I could of our instructors. If I had been too sure of myself, I could have wasted valuable opportunities to learn. Instead I feel that I made the most of the time I had.

I'm really thankful for the training and experiences I've been given. Getting to travel the world and work with people different from me continues to benefit me even when I'm just taking a motorcycle safety course. I hope I continue to be afforded these chances, that I take them and make the  most of them.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Motorcycles Diaries Vol. 1: Investment

Alright, the last time I posted, I used a facebook link with a hunky shirtless movie star. Subsequently, I had possibly the busiest three hours in the history of my blog. It could not have been that my writing was that good. The readers have spoken. You want it, you got it. My favorite hunky movie star, shirtless

Yes, this is shameless, but I'll do anything to promote my art. Now, on to the actual post.

People who know me well know that I love metaphors, analogies and allegories. I love to talk, analyze and restate things. In short, I like to say the same thing a bunch of different ways and behave as if it's a new thought each time. I don't know how everyone tolerates this.

This weekend I participated in a motorcycle safety course and had an absolute blast. I wasn't sure how I would feel about being on a bike because it had been a long time, but it was really great. In keeping with the tendencies I mentioned above, I'm going to tell you a couple of things that the course made me think about and how the class was an allegory for other things in my life. Much overthinking and overanalysis will ensue.


The way this all went down was pretty crazy. I was looking into the course over the last few weeks and found out there was an opening for this past weekend. I had thought about signing up, but the registration closed. I found out with a little more research that I could walk into the course on Thursday night when it started and take the available spot as long as no one else came in before me. I just needed to get my motorcycle permit before that. So, Thursday morning I studied up for the DMV permit test for a little bit, went in, passed, and got my permit. A couple hours later, I showed up an hour early for the course and snagged the remaining spot. Thursday morning I had no prospects of riding a motorcycle. By Thursday evening, I had a permit and was fully enrolled in a  free Pennsylvania course that would afford me the opportunity to ride Saturday and Sunday. If all went well, I'd have my license by Sunday afternoon. Insane.

As all the other students arrived, we started talking. They had been receiving emails about this course for months. If we didn't pass, we may not have another chance util the spring. If we were late for any of the classes, we would fail. These students had clearly put forth some effort and been thinking about this course for a long time. Some had to take it to keep their licenses. Some had already purchased bikes and needed to pass to be official. I had paid $10 for my permit and invested a couple hours of my time that day and shown up spur of the moment. My emotional, intellectual and financial investment toward this moment had been extremely low. I really wanted my license, but if I didn't pass it was not a big deal to me and all I had lost was part of  a weekend (Which is hard to consider a loss when it's spent riding a motorcycle).

I've been working in economic development for about a year and a half now. I've read books like When Helping Hurts and Toxic Charity (Please, please, please, if you're interested in learning about dependency and aid done right, read Toxic Charity). I've repeatedly been taught about how things go wrong when people don't have any investment. I've read countless stories of wells and similar resources built for villages in the developing world. Wells and resources that the local people had zero investment and interest in and would inevitably fall into disrepair.

In my own way, I had a brief brush with a resource I had no investment in, and I saw it a little bit in my behavior. I definitely wanted my license. However, I was always the last one to class once I got in. I finished the written test minutes ahead of everyone, as I didn't really feel much pressure to pass. When we got on the bikes, I felt free to explore the range in some ways and try different tactics. As the weekend went on, I got more stoked on the idea of having a bike and got motivated to put my absolute best effort forward, but I had to think, what if I wasn't sold on this whole bike thing? What if I had this great opportunity at my fingertips but no deep motivation to take advantage of it? From the word "go," the people who had deep motivation to be in the class were working harder than me.

Working to help the poor, I don't think this lesson can ever be taught to us too many times. It's critical that the people you are working to help are also working to help themselves. No matter how many times I read or see this fact in action, each time I experience it is valuable. I think I've seen it so many times from the perspective of the helper, that I haven't considered it much from the perspective of the one being helped. It also makes me wonder how many things in life I've been handed that I've taken for granted without even realizing it. It's easy to look at a rusting, broken well and wonder why people aren't taking better care of it, but do we ever consider the same with our friendships and family members? I need to think deeply about the advantages/love/care I've been given and whether I have fully honored those gifts with my actions. If we keep thoughts like these at the forefront of our minds, I believe we'll take better care of our relationships and resources and relate better to our less fortunate brothers and sisters.