To a Wonderful Mother.

Dearest Mother,

23 years ago tomorrow, I was born. And, don’t you remember? I was born on Mother’s Day.

I’ve always been kind of resentful that you chose to have me on that day. What were you thinking!? Do you know how hard it is to share your birthday thunder with someone else?

Kidding.

Kind of ;).

Putting aside jokes, I’m very sorry I couldn’t be with you on this day, but you know that I was born an adventurer, and that, chances are, this will not be the last important day we’re geographically separated from one another.

As I write this, I’m sitting on a rickety makeshift bench out in the Brazilian countryside — I got on my motorcycle and let it take me wherever I felt the words would flow best.

I love you, Mom. Although I’ll never get a tattoo that says that, I really do. You gave me life. You held me in your arms. You taught me so many things about living. You pushed me when me motivation was less than par (which I’m grateful to you for, even though many times I pushed back.)

There are certain things in you I see in myself.  I think about your life before  me and your experiences, your successes and failures.  I wonder which same lessons we’ll both have learned in the end. I want to learn more from you. But I hope, in our differences, there are some things you can learn from me too.  Because at the end of the day, we are different too.

We have grown much closer since the high school days of the dictator-underling era of our relationship.  I feel I can share more with you now, and I want to.  I only hope that over the years our relationship becomes more close, because I’m not afraid of being a “Momma’s Boy”!

Love,

Your son,

Andre

P.S. I made the graphic below. Feel free to share!

hehehe

Fear keeps us small.

I will explain what you’re about to see, below.

I’ve always believed that fear keeps us small.  It limits our vision. It keeps our breath shallow.  Rather than allowing us to delve into the moment and appreciate the way the light so elegantly falls onto the scene in front of us, it keeps us fixated on often irrelevant and imagined things.

A big part of my life philosophy is to try and recognize areas of fear in my life and confront them. Whether that be gradually such as correcting my bad posture because of social anxiety, or radically like tackling my fear of skydiving by, well, skydiving!

However, sometimes defense mechanisms built and reinforced over the span of years keep us blind to that which is right in front of us.

I had a healthy reminder of this the other day with singing.

I’ve always liked to sing, but I’ve never felt confident about my singing. Most family and friends have poked fun at my bad singing, which of course never helps.

But then, several days ago, I got a taste of freedom from the singing anxiety prison that I’ve been living in all these years. And it was glorious.

During this moment of absolute freedom, I had two major realizations about myself and singing.

The first was that I was too focused on other people’s reactions while I sang. I gave them the power to accept me or reject me, and I would live with their arbitrary verdict.  Wastefully, I gave all of this conscious energy to monitoring someone’s reaction instead of dedicating my energy to singing, which leads me to the second reason:  I didn’t fully use my diaphragm to support my air flow, which made my singing worse and kind of perpetuated the cycle.

So several nights ago, I was hanging out with my friend Joao, and we were jamming together. Somehow, it was in that moment I realized I needed to conquer my fears, and I cut my ties with my anxiety about singing.  I was finally present. As he strummed his guitar to a reggae beat, I started to sing, and it was beautiful. I’ve never felt so connected to another musician like that before. Everything felt so right about every note we played together. I quickly grabbed a pen and jotted down the words that I felt in that moment.

I now know I can sing. Hell, I know I’m not the best singer, but now I have the confidence to stop worrying about what others are thinking about me and just let it happen.

Below are the lyrics that I wrote:

” Don’t forget that one day you’ll die,

No more time for experience,

I say to you, live in the present,

Life is too short to dwell on resentment,

Stand up,

Stand up tall,

Breathe in,

Breathe it all,

Now is the moment,

Snatch it and hold it,

Stand up,

Don’t wait ’til you’re old and die

Life is good,

Life is bad,

Pass no judgements

There’s fun to be had

Stand up,

Stand up tall,

Breathe in,

Breathe it all,

Now is the moment,

Snatch it and hold it,

Stand up,

Don’t wait ’til you’re old and die.”

Ask yourself today, “What is keeping me small?”

My Spontaneous Poem from my ‘Artist’s Way’ Voyage

I’ve been in Brazil for the past month now, and while I have been working on a first Brazil post, this popped up in the meantime.

This was a spontaneous poem that arose from a daily exercise you do in the program: 3 pages of free-flowing thought you write down that allow you to let all of the internal chatter reveal its face, sometimes ugly, sometimes surprising, sometimes exactly what you thought it was going to be.  When I say it was spontaneous, I mean that I started to write these 3 pages, and before I even realized what I had even done, the poem was complete.

I hope you enjoy my first poem ever.

That Time I Made Everyone On the Plane a Valentine’s Day Card

I write this from an uncomfortable airplane seat at 3:48 AM on my flight from Atlanta to Brasilia. I can’t sleep, the reason for this most likely being the aforementioned chair and the little legroom, both of which actually make me debate whether traveling first class would ever justify the outrageous cost. But I digress.

When I realized I would be traveling on Valentine’s Day, I thought about first of all how ironic it was, since my 9-month journey to Brazil was the reason for my bachelor status, but then I began to think about all the potential hilarious scenarios that could ensue.  One idea that popped into my head was writing a love poem for my fellow passengers in which I would publicly declare to them my lyrical mediocrity and obvious insanity. ‘Roses are red, Violets are Blue, That’s right I’m that creep, who for the next 8 hours will be in the same pressurized cabin as you!’

Another idea I had was to write a speech listing my major life accomplishments up to that point in an attempt to swoon some lucky lady on Delta flight 221.  It would go something like: I know how to drive stick shift, I’m a college graduate, and I’ve recently been able to grow in some facial hair that could be considered post-pubescent by some (but not all…)

So yeah, I had a couple of wacky ideas about how to spend my Valentine’s Day in the air with 177 strangers. But here is what I actually did.

With the help of my awesome, creative 15-year old sister (and my Mom and my brother, kind of…), I made handmade Valentines for everyone on the plane.  And here is what I learned from it.   IMG_20140215_111137060[1]

Family is Wonderful.

IMG_20140213_211432818[1]

My sister didn’t only slave over the cards with me (#childlaborisfun).  She also helped give me the courage to do this.  Originally, the idea for the valentines started as a joke. But when I posted on my Fulbright Facebook group that I was going to do it, I received such an overwhelming response that actually made me consider doing it. I was still on the fence, though, for the same reasons anyone else would be.

Fear of negative judgment from others, that inner voice that was saying “But, but, but, what if they think you’re weird or don’t like you!?”

When I asked my little sister what she thought she said “You should definitely do it! I’ll help you!”  It was then I knew that this was something I knew I could do.

Strangers are wonderful.

Before my stop in Atlanta, I flew out of Baltimore.  As I was making my way through security I met two incredible strangers, a 22 year old special needs teacher and 60 year old man who is the father of a deaf son who organized bike rides across the country to raise money for cochlear implants for deaf children (that was a mouthful, but their organization is called ‘Jacob’s Ride’. Check it out!).

I don’t even remember their names. But that’s not important.  What will always remain with me is how we bonded at the security checkpoint and stuck together for the next 3 hours until their flight departed. We ate lunch, shared anecdotes and ideas, and laughed together.  And when I told them about my valentines, they volunteered to help write the messages for me. Such a serendipitous, positive event leaves me with such a great perspective of the human race.

IMG_20140214_140657490[1]

Then, on the flight, when I informed the flight attendant that I had some valentines to hand out, she asked me who I was, why I was going to Brazil, etc. Although at first I thought she was skeptically interrogating me, it turns out she gave me an awesome introduction to the plane over the PA system. Once the fasten seatbelt light went off, I would be free to roam and hopefully brighten people’s days up.

IMG_20140214_214120756[1]

Ding.

It was time to sink or swim.

airplane photo

People loved it! The majority of responses consisted of a smile and anything from “Thank you!” to “This is so sweet!”  Interestingly enough, the only two people I had refuse a card were two different old men in first class (I think that speaks for itself.)

I could definitely feel a warmer, more open vibe in the plane afterwards.

I could never have done this 5 years ago, or even 6 months ago. It is amazing to experience such progress and to feel I am realizing my true potential.  A quote that really helped me do this was

“In the end, It’s not the things you did that you regret, it’s the things you didn’t do.”

So on this day after Valentine’s Day, I ask you to contemplate this and come up with one thing that you truly want to do in your heart, and DO IT!

Remember:  Forget the Haters. Do your own thing.

Maybe I can get some rest now….ahhhhh, who am I kidding?

14 Things Better Than Moping When You’re Single On Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is rapidly approaching, and if you don’t have a significant other to spend it with, you might be tempted to hole yourself up in your room and overdose on Ben and Jerry’s while watching ‘Love Actually’.

Don’t.

Instead, check out these 14 things you can do to make your Valentine’s Day super duper awesome.

1. Remind Yourself of All the Unhealthy Relationships Around You.

obsessive-girlfriend-top

Look around you. I bet you’re surrounded with all kinds of less-than-healthy relationships.

Your friend who lets their significant other walk all over them.

The friend who gets cheated on but loves their partner too much to leave them.

The couple that is obviously not a good match, but feels obligated to stay together.

All of the above are perfect examples of why you should drop to your knees and thank god you’re single.

When we’re not in a relationship we dream about that prince/princess that will sweep us off our feet and enhance every aspect of our world. But life is not a romance movie. It’s not someone else’s responsibility to make you feel better.  You have to do that for yourself. Objectively observing other relationships can help remind you that being in a relationship isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

2. Take a Trip Somewhere.

place

Go hiking for the day.  Take a weekend trip to the mountains. Visit a friend in the city.  Go to Hawaii for a week.

There are too many beautiful places in this world to spend our days indoors. Go out and experience them.

3. Do some yoga

Not only does doing yoga improve your physical fitness, flexibility, and body awareness, but it will help also help relax your mind.

This is my favorite Youtube yoga video that’s feasible for yogi’s of all levels.

4. Flirt it up

Can’t do this when you’re in a relationship, now can you? Compliment someone’s smile, their cologne, or their purse.

5. Drunk dial your ex and try to get back together with them.

Wait a minute. That doesn’t seem right. Um…. Ignore this one.

6. Spend time with your family

Valentine’s Day is about love, and who is supposed to love you more than your own family??

Don’t forget: our loved ones won’t be here forever! Sending them a card, or calling them up to remind them how much you love them is a really beautiful gesture, and probably not one that should be limited to one day in February.

7. Remind yourself of this:

This amazing, expansive, and awe inspiring world isn’t meant for you to be someone’s lap dog; it’s meant for you to discover and treasure it!

8. Light something on fire.

It could be legal documents, photos of an ex, homework, or even pokemon cards . It doesn’t matter. I don’t know why, but sometimes lighting things on fire brings you inexplicable happiness.  Just make sure you’re abiding by all local, state, and federal fire codes and regulations.

‘We’re all gonna die’ is not responsible for any legal consequences resulting from engaging in arson.

9. See how many conversation hearts you can stick up your nose.

My record is 34. Then, I sneezed. Needless to say, there was definitely love in the air after that (BA-doom Chhhhhhhh)

10. Watch a documentary about North Korea

Where else in the world can you find 25 million people who have been held captive by their own government, brainwashed into believing all kinds of poppycock (including that their country wins the world cup every year, that their leader is a demi-god, and that they live in a paradise), and where people are sent to prison camps for life for just being related to someone the regime believes is a wrongdoer or wrong-thinker.

This one is pretty sweet.

11. Plant a tree

Many people don’t know that February 14th is also the birthday of Johnny Appleseed.

Please don’t google that.

OK, so while it may or may not be his birthday, it is a beautiful act to plant something and give it life.

12. Make a not-sappy playlist.

We are the architects of our own reality.

Wanna feel sad and pensive? Make a playlist with Death Cab for Cutie and My Chemical Romance.

Wanna feel inspired and energetic? Then listen to songs that make you feel that way.

Create an awesome playlist, and then do number #13.

13. Have a dance party

We were born to move and groove to the music. Put on some rockin’ tunes, shake that money maker and dance like nobody’s watching (even if you decide to bust a move in the produce section of the grocery store, and everybody IS watching.

14. Go to Brazil

At least that’s what I’ll be doing. For 9 months I will be living in the state of Acre, one of the most remote places in the beautiful home of carnaval, capoeira, and the girl from Ipanema.

Ironically enough, my plan to go to Brazil was the original reason that ended my previous relationship and left me single this Valentine’s Day. But I won’t mope. I can’t mope.  There are too many amazing things to do, and not one reason to pity myself.  Being single is awesome!

So, what are you gonna do this Valentine’s Day?? Any suggestions to add to the list?