15 August 2009

A Sea Personified

I had a very eye-opening experience on one of my many shelling expeditions to the southern point of the beach on Marco Island. The southern point of the beach, which, to an un-trained eye, may only seem to be a peaceful cape, was marked by large boulders creating a barrier that protected the calm beach from strong crashing waves and a fierce current. The point was a haven for snappers, pompano, sharks, swooping seagulls, and diving pelicans. All were there to take advantage of the massive schools of baitfish cornered into the rocks by the harsh environment. The point’s geographic location and shape attracts so much wildlife that it is literally an ecosystem within itself, but there was much more to this cape than just being a dynamic demonstration of how the food chain works. The crashing waves on the shore embedded the white sand with colorful seashells. This made the southern point of Marco Island a beautiful area for collecting shells, and that’s exactly why we were there!
As I walked up and down the shore, getting up close and personal with the sand to be sure that not one beautiful specimen goes unnoticed, it wasn’t before long ‘til I had filled a small cup with an array of shapely and colorful shells. I, at the time, had been quite proud of the selection of the little shells I had amassed. Then, just as swiftly as this sentence transitions… All of the sudden a powerful wave SMASHED down tossing me into the shore like some piece of driftwood the sea returned to the land. As I stood up and collected myself I realized that the wave had swept away my collection of shells. Back into the ocean, the wave washed the variety of vivid colors and unique shapes I had meticulously gathered out of my sight.

At first my mood was not so pleasant, needless to say… I was pissed. I kept thinking about all the truly special and unique shells that were taken away from me. I even diligently sifted through the stirred up sand as more and more waves kept crashing in, but they were lost and I was forced to accept that. After a few minutes, once I decided to begin a new collection, I came to terms with the fact. As I continued to replay the event in my head I came to a mind-blowing realization of what had just happened! I had come to a somewhat personified understanding of the ocean. I did not “lose” the shells – the ocean just took them back! The waves returned them to the sea. Looking at the situation from the point of view I had become conscious of brought a smile to my face. The vibrant and beautiful shells I had unearthed were like gifts to me from the sea. The shells traveled through hundreds of years of tides and currents to one day be discovered and appreciated by myself. Not only did the ocean present me with their beauty and elegance, it had also gifted me the adventure to their discovery, the excitement of the quest, and the joy of finding a tiny multicolored spiral of calcium carbonate that was once home to a creature hundreds of years ago. From whichever perspective I looked at the gift that was given to me, I only found more and more solace as to why they were taken away. I realized that those shells would have done no good in a jar at home. The sea took them back – so maybe they could provide a beautiful new home for some crustaceous creature, or maybe put a smile on some other fellow’s face upon their finding, or maybe the sea just took them back – because that is where they belong.

Looking Closer

I noticed some interesting things on my most recent vacation to Marco Island. I observed some things about life and nature (and the link between the two…) that have inspired me to write a couple new posts on my unfortunately neglected blog.
I spent most of my time in Marco at the beach, fishing, taking afternoon naps falling asleep to the sound of the waves, and I also was able to feel like a kid again while enthusiastically searching for shells on the beach and in the water.
The Gulf Coast of Florida is known for having some of the most beautiful shells in the world. Violent late night storms coming in from the gulf bring vibrant lightening displays and earth-shaking thunder, but the storms also bring some beautiful things to the beach as well. The next morning you can walk the sand and find dozens of interesting and beautifully unique shells to stuff your pockets with. Many may even be too big to fit in your swim trunks! Needless to say, it’s pretty easy to spot some really stunning specimens early in the mornings on the white shorelines of Marco Island. But if you’re not an early bird and wake up just as the sun is reaching its zenith in the blue cloudless sky you probably won’t find very many nice shells at all. The early-risers have most likely already scooped up all the big easy-to-spot conchs, cones, whelks, and tulips and the rest have been swept, by an outgoing tide, back into the sea.
This is where I observed something special, something extraordinary. If you stroll up and down the beach with your back arched and your head down you’ll probably come to the conclusion that there’s nothing to be found. “All the pretty shells are gone.” You couldn’t be any farther from the truth. The fact is that searching for beautiful shells is a lot like searching for beauty in life. You are not going to see any shells from five or six feet above the ground while walking rather swiftly back to you condo because you’re starting to chafe. If you really want to find beauty you must slow down and even stop every once in a while, to get real close to the piles of what may only seem like broken shells. To find the most beautiful shells, no matter what time of day, you need to squat down or just plop your butt down in the sand and that’s when you’ll really find what you are looking for. You must take a moment, or two, to just sit and enjoy the adventure of looking for shells. I know, this is crazy – you don’t have any time to stop and just look real closely at the mountains of shells piled down the shoreline. I mean come on, you’re on vacation and time is running out, no time to stop and smell the roses! But it’s not about smelling the roses; it’s about noticing that the roses are even there! Only when you slow down and pay attention to all the beauty that is around you will you find life’s treasures.

Once you find the joy and peacefulness in just the search you will realize that it does not matter whether or not you find the shells. You realize that you don’t find fulfillment within the discovery of a shell; you find fulfillment within DISCOVERY, within ADVENTURE, and the qualities in life that are not material. These qualities are feelings of excitement and happiness. In life, to realize the beauty that is within all things, you must go slow, be patient, and pay no attention to time or your hurry to do something else. Find joy in what you are doing… and to your surprise – you will find that the moment you begin to see life (searching for shells) in that way – all of the sudden you will start discovering beautiful shells all around you.

Long Time No See

During my summer of peace and quiet, away from the hustle and bustle of college life at FSU I have been led down some very wonderful paths…
A path of culinary exploration: through my own cooking and that of some great (and horrible) restaurants.
I managed to attain a job in a struggling economy and EXCEL in a position that was, as some could say, way out of my league! I got to show others (the haters) that with my positive thinking and steadfast determination, even an 18-year-young college student with absolutely NO job experience CAN succeed in a position fit for a middle-aged man with a 4-year degree, contractor’s license, and twenty years of experience… Think I’m joking? The most important thing I learned this summer is that all it takes, to achieve anything you want, is believing in yourself. Call it cliché if you’d like, but the foundation of success is determination and when you have that, you can have anything.
I also learned the importance of enjoying and living in the moment that you are in, because if you don’t it will have flashed before your eyes. I also have learned that if you spend too much time thinking about those moments you lost you will only be giving up more moments of time that you should be cherishing! So living in the moment – something I have rambled upon before in this blog – is something I have learned how to do pretty efficiently this summer. Many of the life lessons and spiritual understandings I have stumbled upon in the past four months of my life have come out of a number of mind-boggling books I have had the pleasure to dive into this summer. Reading has been something I have, for a long time, disliked but now reading is something I find to be very peaceful, meditative, and inspiring. I think the most positive thing you can do with your time is to constantly be educating and improving yourself, although you should always be happy with the way you are, there is an infinite capacity for self-improvement. The root of the word self-improvement is often viewed in a negative context, but when you look deeply into the word improvement, it couldn't be any more positive. When you acknowledge that you are going to improve something - you are saying that you will take something good and make it even better. What a refreshing way to view the development of your self through your life.
Now that this “best summer of my life” is drawing to a close I can happily look back and say there was not a moment I regret or can’t consider well spent! Anytime you can observe that about a period in your life there are only three words that can describe it: SUCEESS, SUCCESS, SUCCESS!

12 April 2009

Road Less Traveled

Sometimes it seems that we all follow the same path. In the case of a college student, the path is always the same: Study, get the best grades you can, graduate after four years, go to graduate school, study more, get better grades, graduate, get a job (start small), do your best, make more money, get a bigger job, make more money, retire, and have kids/get married along the way (hopefully the other way around). But that doesn’t seem exciting enough for me. I understand that’s the best way to get a good job and make enough money for your family and to retire on. I understand that there’s no easy way out of it. But I want to get some fun out of it! I don’t want to follow the same path everybody else does. I think that’s too boring. I want to have lots of great and unique experiences. Yeah, I want to finish my education and have a successful job, but I really hope it comes to me in a exceptional and unique way. I hope one day I have a chance to make a decision; a decision that will lead my life down a path of adventure and enjoyment. I hope I don’t follow the cliché paths people always follow; I want to make my own way. I want it to be full of experiences and memories that I can tell stories about to my grandkids about when I’m old. But even then when I’m old I don’t want to follow the same path that most old people take either. I don’t want to sit at home watching novellas; I want to be the grandpa that skydives and kite-surfs. I want to be the granddad that takes shots with his grandkids when they’re 16 and get them sick to teach them why you don’t abuse alcohol. I hope I take my own unique way through life. I want to take a more interesting way through it. It may be harder to find, but man will I have some interesting stories to tell between shots!

Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference – Robert Frost

Don't Leave Out the Details

Just in case you live in Tallahassee and haven’t noticed – It’s SPRING! Although the city of Tallahassee might be the last place you would expect to find beauty… April showers have brought, well, April flowers. Hopefully as you go about your day on campus you have seen the roses that have bloomed and the leaves back on the trees. Hopefully you have felt the warm breeze and smelled the scent of jasmines and lavender carried from near-by blossoms. If you haven’t then you are not paying very much attention to details. I’m not talking about stopping and smelling the roses, I am talking about seeing the details in life! As you walk around, enjoy all the things that surround you: the 100-year-old oaks, the hand-laid brick architecture, the services provided to you, and the people around you. All of these things surround us and we often take them for granted. So next time you walk past the fountains – stop and admire their elegance. Next time your advisor lays out your schedule for you – show them your appreciation. Next time you learn something that really interests you in class – tell the teacher “Thank you.” Take notice and appreciation of the world you live in… And don’t forget to stop and smell the roses.

What's your major?

Along with the new freedom you get in college comes a whole new bunch of people you get to meet… if you want. As my first year here now draws to a close at the end of my third semester, I have met my fair share of these new people. College, along with the education, brings lots of parties, clubs, drugs, beers, bottles, bars, people that are “friends”, as well as real friends. I find it so interesting but also kind of sad that there are so many people you meet, but forget. Like if meeting them in your life was completely pointless. My favorite question people ask is “What’s your major?” Yeah that is an okay conversation starter, but do you really care? Is what I say really going to make a difference or tell you who I am? I really don’t think I’m going to be friends with the person who asks me that question 6 beers in at Pots while Don’t Stop Believin’ is playing in the background. I enjoy meeting real and interesting people. I enjoy the clubs and bars, but only when I’m amongst good friends! People whom when I met asked “So what do you like to do?” “What kinds of things are you interested in?” These are the kinds of people in life that are good to have around, not the dude wearing sunglasses at Baja’s that’s trying to get you in his fraternity.

College Life

If I were to describe life in college to an individual just beginning this new way of life I would tell them its different…

College life is different from home. Not any worse or any better, they’re just two separate lifestyles. In college you wake up early, by yourself. Nobody cares if you make it or not to your 9:00am recitation, you gotta carry your own weight and get there on your own motivation. Then after class it’s all up to you again: Do you go home and nap? Or do you go study? These are all questions you have to ask yourself, you get what you want out of this place. If you want A’s and you want to eventually graduate then you have to stay motivated for that on your own will. Along with all the freedom that comes with living away from home in the real world comes independence. That usually sounds like a good thing, and it is, but it is not as simple as it sounds. You have to work hard and you yourself, do all the things that people did for you at home like get to classes, stay on time, prepare meals, and maintain the place you live. At home these responsibilities came mostly from your parents and you were constantly reminded of them. In high school it wasn’t easy to fail, teachers warn you of your grade, report cards and progress reports are sent to your parents so they know if you’re trying hard enough. In college you must keep track of your own grades and do what you need to do about them without somebody else reminding you about them.

If you can handle the weight of all these new responsibilities then the rewards are plentiful. The sense of freedom you have when you know you control your own destiny is very fulfilling. With this freedom you and only you controls where you are gonna go. No one here tells you what to do, so once you set your goals it’s all up to you to reach them. It’s your life and you can do whatever you set your mind to. Some people can’t handle these responsibilities and will always need someone to guide them and hold their hand. My roommate, although in college and older than I am, constantly needs mommy and daddy to do stuff for him, they call the school and fix things for him, he doesn’t go to class because he sleeps in or is tanning. People like that will always need the help of others in their life and will not amount to anything greater than that. But when you can take control of your own path and carry the weight yourself you will be able to achieve the goals you set for yourself and reach beyond your dreams.

19 February 2009

Some People and Happiness

As I go about every day meeting new people and talking to them I can make out two different kinds of people. There are genuine and nice people who seem happy, and then there are folks who have a façade. I notice that there are many people who are afraid to show others who they really are. They are people who brag, show off, or talk/act in certain ways to create and impression on others. It matters very deeply to these kinds of people what others think of them and they constantly need reassurance. They look for attention and ways to prove themselves to others because they are unhappy. I believe the greatest feeling in life is happiness. Whether it comes from success, love, excitement, adventure, by whatever means you go about pursuing it the achievement of it is all that matters. So for example somebody who wears $400 jeans: Do they like the jeans because they love fashion and expressing their style makes them happy? Or do they wear the jeans to show off? If you are trying to show off you are obviously not very satisfied with yourself at the moment. This is apparent through your desire for other’s acceptance. A smoker… of any kind: do you smoke because it makes you feel good? Or do you smoke to look cool and try to impress others? I believe the most fascinating quality of a person is their passion! What is it that this person really loves? What makes them happy? What in their life have they found to be most fulfilling to them? It doesn’t matter to me if it’s someone that plays video games all day, or someone who travels the globe because of their passion for adventure, the excitement of seeing the world, and experiencing new things! Each to their own I always say. We can’t ALL be the same! There are billions of us, in fact no one individual is the same as another. That’s why we all lead different paths and seek different goals. If you’re looking for happiness you just gotta do your own thing. Enjoy yourself, and do whatever brings you happiness. I believe that is most impressive quality and really stands out most in a person. If you’ve found something you love to do, a passion, whatever it is that makes you happy? You do it, enjoy it, and you will live a great life.

05 February 2009

My Blog?

I've decided to go with a theme every week that hopefully pairs well my blog's easygoing and tropical feel. Last week I wrote about enjoying life. And this week I was inspired by some fond memories I have about the Bahamas, enjoy!

A Short Story

Three shots of tequila and two long island iced teas were all it took to make Rocco Beckett push and pull his way upside and inside out to Ricky Martin’s international smash hit ‘Livin La Vida Loca’. Rocco did not hesitate to take the outdoor stage of Monty’s Raw Bar in Coconut Grove, Florida. The salty sea breeze of Biscayne Bay flowed over the Thursday afternoon happy hour patrons of the ocean side restaurant. Karaoke was not the usual entertainment at this tropical hotspot, but the alcohol gave Rocco the sudden urge to get up and perform for those in attendance. The late afternoon crowd of local young and trendy socialites did not pay much attention to his dancing and singing, although his group of friends found his drunkenness hilarious. 25 year old Rocco was an excellent salsa dancer, pulling a beautiful girl from the nearest table he showed off his moves to the remainder of the song. As the DJ continued to play a mix of latin and tropical music Rocco invited his new dance partner and her friends to join his group at their table.
“You are quite the dancer!” she said, still a little out of breath from the surprise and disbelief that she actually got up and danced in front of a crowd of stranger.“I taught him everything he knows!” exclaimed Rocco’s best friend Gio already flirting with two of the other girls who joined their group. “I lived in Cuba every summer since I was 10.” Rocco said as he took a seat next to the beautiful girl, “My mother moved back to her hometown of Varadero when she separated from my dad, and I spent a lot of time at a local salsa club innocently chasing the sexy salsa dancing women years out of my reach.” “My name is Daphne.” Said the beautiful, blue eyed girl as she flipped her light brown hair. “What was it like living there?” “It’s a pleasure to meet you Daphne” said Rocco with a cunning smile on his face “I lived in an ocean front home where I spent every morning collecting seashells and anything else that washed ashore overnight. Life was easygoing and tropical in contrast to the poverty and hard lives of most of the other residents. My mother’s father was a diplomat in the government and my dad owned a small airline charter company that flew around the Caribbean. That explains the nice house and me being allowed to visit Cuba.” “That sounds like a pretty adventurous lifestyle, traveling from country to country!” Said Daphne. “When is your next adventure?” “Tomorrow morning!” said Rocco leaning back in his chair and pointing to his friends at the table, “We are goin’ on a two week-long fishing and diving trip. Ever been to the Bahamas?” “Nope -- but I would love too.” Daphne said knowingly teasing Rocco. Little did he know that she had plans of her own the next morning. “We depart on Gio’s boat tomorrow morning for Bimini. From there we plan to sail to the Berry Islands, Andros, Cat Island, and the Exumas. How would you like to have dinner tomorrow night?” Daphne laughed at what Rocco was implying and said “Wont you be in Bimini?” “Bimini is only a 25 minute flight from here, you can hop on one of my flights in the afternoon and meet me at Bimini Bay Resort just in time for dinner.” Said Rocco in a very enthusiastic voice. “One of your flights? You have planes now?” Questioned Daphne. “My father’s planes, he handed over his the charter company to me just last year.” Said Rocco, not showing much emotion. “you don't seem very excited about that,” said Daphne “why did he hand over the company” “Because he is afraid of flying.” Said Rocco with an odd grin on his face as if he was amused by the irony. “Well that’s not much of a selling point Rocco. Anyways I am already on a 6:30AM flight to Nassau. You see, I was raised in Miami but I’m from South Africa and I’m only in Miami for a day because my boss has sent me to arrange his take-over of the Atlantis Resort on Paradise Island. So I’m afraid my business is gonna carry me in a different direction than you guys.” “Well that’s too bad.” Said Rocco. “Maybe we will run into each other again some other day.”
The September sun set on the happy hour crowd as everyone sipped their last drinks and filed out of the bar. Daphne and her friends said goodbye to Rocco and his boisterous fishing buddies.

Boat Trip

It was the longest boat trip I had ever set out upon. Till then I had only traveled there on cruise ships and short 30 minute flights on rickety single-prop charter planes. The crew on the 33 foot Contender for this trip included my dad, uncle, cousin, myself, and two friends. After quickly loading the boat we drifted out of the mangroves of Coco Plum Marina and speeded across the light green waters of Biscayne Bay. We passed the lighthouse on the southern tip of Key Biscayne and crossed the continental shelf into the Gulf Stream. With the tall hotels of South Beach and downtown Miami well out of sight; once we passed the last boat fishing for sailfish in the Stream; once I could see nothing in any direction I realized as I looked into the deep, empty, dark blue of the Atlantic - I was in a whole other world. With the rumbling engines and the wind whisping my ears I could hear nothing. The sea affected all of my senses: I could taste and smell the salt from the ocean, the bright sun in the cloudless sky warmed my skin, and all there was to see was blue. The water is very eerie in The Bermuda Triangle the dark water seems lifeless as you look thousands of meters down into its depths. It seems like you are going nowhere for hours, not knowing if you’re going in circles, the sun changes positions… thank god for GPS! The scenery never changes but as I would peer over at the screen trying to figure out how much longer till we see land I could see us getting closer. Just then right as the odometer reads 150 miles my entire world changes! All of the sudden the water turns to a vibrant and vivid turquoise! I see tall pines in the distance, I hear seagulls squawking, the wind dies down. As we draw closer to the island I lean over the side of the boat to splash my face with the warm refreshing salt water and I could see a beautiful reef, schools of fish, and the pure white sand of the Bahamas.

23 January 2009

5 Guidelines to Living a More Enjoyable Life

1) Find something you love!
I believe that life is about passion. What is your passion in life? What do YOU love? What are YOU really interested in? What makes YOU happy? You must to find this thing or many things and take time out of your hectic life and immerse yourself in it. I love wine. There are few things more enjoyable to me than sitting outside with a glass of a new wine I have yet to taste and just enjoy the beauty of it as I munch on some of my favorite tapas.

2) Let it go...
What? Let what go?? EVERYTHING! What belongs in your past should not be burdening your present. What do you do to your computer if its been acting slow? You clean it out! Delete cookies, useless files, old junk you don't need to be saving any more. You must also do the same with your mind. Forget about the argument you had the other day, the bad grade you got last week, the person who cut you off in the middle of the road this morning, the wallet you lost six months ago. The time to worry about things that have happened was back when they happened! Wake up everyday anxious for what may come of it.

3) Release!
What may come of the day might not be as good as you wanted it to be... The boss grinding you at work, assignments piling up, you stubbed your toe in the kitchen walking around barefoot. There are many stresses in life, things do need to be taken care of. But you must also take care of yourself. Find something that makes you feel good and helps you relax. Whether its playing tennis, meditating, cooking, writing, or taking a 4 hour nap. your mind needs time to relax and reload... Its bad enough you probably don't get enough sleep at night anyways!

4) Be Positive
I hate negative people. I don't even want them to be around me. It rubs off! thinking positively is the only way you will ever get what you want. Do you think NASA got to the moon 'cause they didn't want to? Thomas Edison didn't invent the light bulb because he didn't believe he could! The french didn't make champagne by accident! ( Okay maybe that last one, yea) My point is if you want something - believe that you will get it. Know that you can achieve your goal. Get your mind in the right direction and you can have whatever you want.

5) The most important rule to enjoying life.
Your goals have come to fruition, you've discovered your passion. You may have everything you want in the WORLD, but you have NOTHING without someone to share it with. Somebody who is there with you through your most exhilarating adventures -- or your saddest moments. Your life will be full of both. No object or experience replaces your family, close friends, and the one you love. Make sure you bring them along on your journey. Life is not perfect and there is only one guarantee, but at least you were never alone.

22 January 2009

Difference in a day

6:00 am – 29 degrees, dark, and windy
I left my classes, my books, my twin size bed. I erased the stress, the tension, and the thoughts in my head. My spontaneous Thursday evening decision to make a getaway to South Florida for the holiday was without a doubt the best I’ve made this year thus far. I hopped in my best friend’s car and after a long tedious night of packing and restless rolling in bed, quickly fell asleep…

1:01 pm — 80 degrees, blue skies, and gentle draft from the ocean
From classrooms, pencils, fast food, and leafless trees to royal palms, fine wine, Biscayne Bay, and it’s salty breeze. After seven hours of deep sleep I woke in another world. To my family’s surprise as they came home, they found me sitting in the kitchen eating a turkey sandwich from the half empty fridge. I was welcomed with open but unprepared arms. As I soon found my bedroom had been being used as “the empty, so put whatever in there room”. My big soft comfy bed I had been anxiously yearning to rest in was covered with folded laundry and some of my mother’s business stuff. So as my mother went shopping for groceries and my dad took his afternoon siesta, I set out for water.

5:50 pm – 71 degrees, pink sky from the falling sun, and calm
The closest body of water to Tallahassee, not including Westcott fountain, is over an hour away so I did not hesitate to take the five minute bike ride to the bay from my home. As I drew closer and closer to my favorite beach spot the scent of the sea in the air grew more and more intoxicating. My mind ran through fond memories of the ocean in my life: spear-fishing on coral reefs, boat trips to nearby islands, full-moonlit nights fishing for snook with my dad, and hours of just sitting on the rocks looking over the water. The beach spot by my house is a haven to me, a place where I can let go of reality and spend hours doing nothing but just unwind. The low rumblings of incoming boats, the Key Biscayne lighthouse in the distance, the echoes of a few squawking seagulls, the splash of the occasional eagle ray soaring out of the water. As my first day came to an end, as the sun set behind me, as the vibrant pink sky was draped over by the deep blue of a starry night; my mind was clear and my soul was calm.