don’t wait for perfect

Image result for humans of new york

Restarting my blog at the same time I uprooted my life and started graduate school might not’ve been my best idea. Grad school is tough, and culture shock is real, people. (More on that later.) But, as Brandon Stanton said at the Tennessee Theater in downtown Knoxville a few days ago, I can’t keep waiting on “perfect.” Cuz perfect ain’t ever going to come!

For those who don’t know, Stanton is the creator of Humans of New York, a powerful photoblog featuring pictures and quotes from people around the world. Stanton started the blog in New York City in 2010 with a simple idea: Take pictures of people around the city; create a “map” of those people and where he photographed them. As the blog progressed, however, Stanton realized the map wasn’t necessary. What drew people to his blog were words.

Stanton started including quotes from the people he photographed, and then interviews. His following got larger as his stories got longer. (Currently it’s at more than 18 million.) He realized his blog’s universal appeal and traveled internationally to more than 20 different countries. He also did several series of interviews — with cancer patients, refugees, military veterans, and more — and from these, raised millions of dollars for cancer research and other charitable causes. Most recently he’s been working on a video series that builds on the same premise and is currently being released weekly on facebook.

Image result for humans of new yorkI started following Stanton’s blog a few years ago. It enticed me with its raw humanity. It clearly displayed everything I’d seen in Asia: No matter where you go, people are people. Stanton himself is also very down-to-earth, which has contributed to his success. During his performance last week, Stanton wore tennis shoes, jeans, and a zip-up hoodie as he shared the beginnings of Humans of New York and how he figured out what he needed to do. “I realized early on I was never going to be the best photographer,” said Stanton. “Humans of New York is not about photography. But what I do have is something many of the world’s best photographers do not — I have the ability to approach and talk to strangers.” (paraphrased)

Stanton shared several other great points that evening, which stood out out to me as applicable to both blogging and life. Here are just a few of them:

  • Don’t wait for perfect. Perfect never comes. Time is our most valuable commodity. If you’re meant to do something, do it now.
  • Don’t worry about your audience. If Brandon had worried about his audience when he started Humans of New York, Humans of New York wouldn’t have come to be–he would have given up long ago because success didn’t happen overnight.
  • Following your dreams means “choosing your work.” “People talk about following their dreams as if following your dreams means avoiding responsibility or getting to play all day,” says Brandon. “But no, pursuing your dream is work. Whether you want to be a famous musician or a well-known blogger or own your own business or travel the world, all of these things take time and dedication and hard work. The difference between it and other work is that you choose it.” (paraphrased)

Brandon’s talk left me in tears. In the past four weeks I’ve started this post at least a dozen times. I’ve had great ideas but “never enough time” to finish them. I’ve had paragraphs written down, but they were never “good enough” to share. I’ve had thoughts whirling around, but they were too fragmented to be “worthy.” It’s true that grad school is demanding, and starting over in a new city hard, but if I am truly going to “begin again”– if I am going to “choose my work” (here on my blog and elsewhere) — something’s gotta give.

So tell me . . . What’s your trick for accomplishing your blogging and/or life goals? Have you seen Humans of New York? What did you think?

 

(Below is just a sample of Stanton’s work.)

Image result for humans of new york mother porno

“This better not be for a porno. I stopped doing those.”

“Okay, Mother. That’s enough.”

 

Image result for humans of new york maritime laws

“I prefer maritime laws to laws on land. Maritime laws only exist to guarantee safe passage. There are no loopholes or biases to favor more powerful vessels. Every ship is equal, and no one is more powerful than the sea.”

 

Related image

“Who’s influenced you the most in your life?”

“My principal, Ms. Lopez.”

“How has she influenced you?”

“When we get in trouble, she doesn’t suspend us. She calls us to her office and explains to us how society was built down around us. And she tells us that each time somebody fails out of school, a new jail cell gets built. And one time she made every student stand up one at a time, and she told each one of us that we matter.”

*As a side note, this image went viral in 2016 and Stanton ended up raising more than $1,000,000 for this boy’s school. You can read more about that here.

 

Image result for humans of new york green lady

“So do you do a different color every day?”

“No, I used to go through different stages. But then I found I was happiest when I was green, so I’ve been green for 15 years.”

 

Image result for humans of new york crazy subway you want to hear what just happened to me seizure

“You want to hear what just happened to me? I was in the subway station, and this man came walking by me. He seemed really angry and was talking gibberish and screaming about how he was going to kill anyone who talked to him. So I thought: ‘That guy’s crazy; I’m gonna keep away from him.’ Then two minutes later another young man walked by and collapsed right in front of me and started having a seizure. I bent down to help him, and you know what happened? The crazy guy bent down and said: ‘He’s having a seizure! Turn him on his side!’ I thought: ‘Wait a second! Weren’t you just crazy?'”

 

Image result for humans of new york brooklyn bridge wisconsin

“I want to build a bridge.”

“How do you build a bridge?”

“If you want to build a bridge it’s going to take a long time, and it might be hard because your employees might not be as interested in building the bridge as you are. You have to think about what kind of bridge you want to make. One type of bridge is a suspension bridge and another type of bridge is an arch bridge. The Brooklyn Bridge is a suspension bridge and it was built by John Roebling and his family, and that’s all I remember from the second grade. And the bridge has to be strong because the water can rise and push up the bridge. I’d maybe like to build a bridge in Wisconsin because there are a lot of people in Wisconsin who might not have bridges, but I don’t really know where Wisconsin is.”

 

Image result for brandon stanton

Brandon Stanton, creator of “Humans of New York”

 

 

hello world

leafIt’s been a while. No, not since I’ve lived in you. I am immersed in you every day. Whether I like it or not, I am engaged with you — with your pressures, with your stresses, with your “Waits!” And though I may try to fly under the radar (how much easier it is to move unseen), still, you always find me. You find me with your wisdom; you find me with your hate. You seek out ways to destroy me; you are bent on my destruction.

But though you drag me down, “Surprise!” You will not win. I may be weak, but in my weakness, I am strong: I will stand my ground.

And if I must, I’ll go my way alone — but not quite. With head held high, I will seek strength in Him. I will view each sunrise with hope; take each blow as a challenge — to be tougher, to be wiser, to be . . . more.

Because how easy it is, flying under the radar, to forget who we are, who we were, who we always wanted to be. “Suffer little children,” He said. “Forbid them not to come unto me.” Because children are rock stars, can’t you see? If you want to know how to change the world, look into the eyes of a child. They are our hope. They are who we were supposed to be.

And so maybe I won’t always stay under the radar. Maybe I’ll fly out into the Son. Because this going-life-alone thing ain’t working, and I am tired of being afraid.

p.s. As an exciting side note, after posting my story about my dad’s cycling accident, a sweet lady named Ashlee contacted me and wondered if I’d like to share my story on her website. The story was published two days ago. You can link to it here.

rrrain!!

It rained yesterday. Real rain. The kind of rain California hasn’t seen in a while.

I was sleepy, in the drive-thru at Starbucks. I was on my way to work, waiting. With the rain on my windshield, the clock on my mind, I looked in my driver’s side mirror, and saw . . .

FullSizeRender

Rrrain!! He was so excited. He quivered from head to toe. His snow-colored fur blew every which way, and his head darted eagerly with each gust. His eyes sparkled and his nose wiggled. He reminded me of a child first tasting ice cream.

He was in the moment, and I loved him for it.

more than you think

connectedAll of life’s instances, stories, punctuations, journeys, and inevitable fates are donned by intertwining relationships of love, faith, hope, and freedom. And somehow, we are bound by one simple certainty — that we all meet somewhere in between. Yes, we are all connected. More than you think.

I found the above postcard in Siem Reap, Cambodia. I was there for only a few days, over a Chinese New Year, for the purpose of seeing Angkor Wat. It was with delight that I stumbled upon it, as I did upon the Hemingway and Poipet stickers (below). The postcard made my heart stop, then race, then stop again. How true!

And so, because it’s Friday, and my brain is truly fried, I’ll keep today’s post short: With the world falling down around us (even in the good times, let’s face it, things are bad), I often wish  could shout “STOP!” and that, for a single moment, the entire world would freeze. And listen. And breathe. And I wish I could share with them the above message: We are connected; we are connected; we are connected. People are people; people are people; people are people. You’re a person, and I’m a person, and you’re a person, too. Love and respect — that’s all we need. Why is that so hard?

And when I think these thoughts, I wonder, Would it make a difference? If it were possible, I think it would. In fact, I know it would. Cultures divide us, but there are similarities across cultures. Emotions are the same. Desires are the same. And especially in this technological age, what happens “over there” can create tidal waves “over here.” Yes, we are all connected. More than you think.

poipet

Stickers from Cambodia

cambodia

Me and a few friends at the Thailand-Cambodia border

cart

What are you looking at?

statue

Statue at Angkor Wat

Case in point: Why else would you be reading the words of a girl from California?

our gift

 Do you ever wonder what you’re fighting for?

Why the rat race? Why the stress? Why the anger? Why the pain? We’re all going to die in the end, anyway.

A little over a month ago, my favorite professor breathed his last. He was 73, recently retired; a pillar of wisdom, lover of truth. I still can’t believe I’ll never see his name in my inbox again: Dr. H.

A little over a week ago, a shining star expired in a car accident. She was young, and young at heart, and was married to a wonderful man. He had two college-age kids; his first wife was taken by cancer. His new bride was bubbly, vibrant, fun-loving, sweet. She was full of life, and full of love. She was a blessing to everyone she met.

As I’ve been, again, reading news articles (a silly thing to do, I know), and reflecting on the above stories, I’ve been again saddened by the world in which we live. I know I shouldn’t focus on the negative, and I don’t, but it’s hard to ignore all the headlines, especially when they fall close to you. And it makes you wonder, “Why?” and “What’s the point?” and “How much longer do I have?”

In March 2013 I wrote a post I called “Superyou.” In it, I envisioned a world where everyone worked in a field they loved — where your passion was your paycheck, where what you were good at was your mode de vie. Today, I’d like to tack onto that. Can you imagine a world where everyone was doing something they loved, and which somehow benefited someone else?

Dr. H dedicated his entire life to teaching. He was known as a strict teacher, but fair. I knew him as kind and concerned about his students. He was there to help, and that didn’t always mean being his students’ friend. Amy was loving, bubbly, and kind. God and her family were her focus. She was adventurous and loved to travel. She was always worried she wasn’t doing enough when, as the outpouring after her death has shown, she was always doing so much.

We never know when our time will come. The only thing we know is what we do with today. And we also know that it is better to give than to receive. What are you giving? How will you be remembered?

How will I?

boo!

BBmxDy6.
It’s the end of the week, folks, and I must say, it’s been a tough one. I’ve been trying to write something meaningful but, instead, keep running into walls — sleep deprivation and sad news have left me brain dead. I hope to turn this trend around this weekend; in the meantime, though, isn’t he perfect?

Happy Friday (and early Halloween), everyone!!

Image: msn.com

signs of the times?

stopsign.
So I’m running the other night after work. I’m not killing myself because I’m still sore from a previous jaunt. As I run up a slope, I see a woman parked beside a fallen stop sign in the middle of the road. The sign has been rammed and its wooden post is jagged and broken. She’s moving the broken sign out of the road. I look at the front of her car. A dent in her bumper shouts: GUILTY!

I don’t stop. Don’t want to be rude. I wonder if she’s going to just leave it, though. There are very few cars nearby; no one to see. And then I wonder, What would I do, if she were me? Would I tell someone, if there were no one to see?

What would you do?

When I passed back by, the above picture is what I saw.