I wish I was an outdoors person but really I’m just a thinks-about-the-outdoors person. I’ve watched tons of films detailing harrowing mountain climbing and backpacking expeditions but if you looked at my outdoors resume there wouldn’t be much to see.
Still, I dream of the outdoors. More accurately, really, I dream of becoming an outdoors person.
There is something magical about people who have dedicated their lives to spending time in nature. They have aligned themselves with values that society hasn’t really encouraged (think: living in a van, risk taking, etc.) and relentlessly pursue goals most wouldn’t even imagine. It seems like they live a rich internal life, unbothered by chaos of the exterior around them. All that matters is where they’ll go and what they’ll do next. Everybody I’ve ever met that’s an “outdoors person” has a certain zen-like air which I can’t seem to properly describe. That’s the magic.
It’s kind of a chicken or the egg situation though. Are outdoors people magical because being in the outdoors made them that way or are people that are attracted to the outdoors just more likely to have certain personality traits? In the end it doesn’t really matter, I’d like to be like them either way. But first, I need to stop writing blog posts from my bed and actually go outside.
Maybe I’ve got it all wrong and outdoors people are actually completely normal, stressed out members of society but until I’m proven wrong I’ll continue believing they’ve found some magical zen through being in the outdoors. Maybe I’ll offend a few mountain-goers with my generalizations or maybe an epic climber will laugh at how naive I am for writing this…who cares! (Plus I’m pretty sure no one reads this blog.)
If you’re an outdoors person who can provide insight into why you’re so cool please email me!
2 January 2021
Google As a Second Brain
I think Google might be taking over some of my brain’s key functions. Confused about something? Look it up. Wondering what to cook for dinner? Look it up. Bored and need some random media to pass the time? Look it up. Need a gift for a close friend but don’t know what they would like? Look it up.
I don’t have any problem with search engines, I literally wouldn’t know how to get two miles down the road without a map from one of them. But, it’s disturbing to me that I rely on algorithms and popular results to make key decisions about my life. Google settles my arguments, fills my empty conversations and suggests the best way to spend time with someone. And that’s just scratching the surface. We talk a lot about how social media is transforming, and quite possibly ruining, our ability to connect with people but I think search engines are playing a big part in that, too.
Google should be a tool, not a lifestyle and I think I’m drifting a little too close to becoming a “Googler” and not “someone that googles things”.
13 October 2020
Children as Visionaries
I think it’s odd that adults often treat kids as inferior while also longing for a child’s ability to tap into their imagination and ask naively insightful questions.
I’ve read two separate books on “Design Thinking” this quarter which dedicate chapters to noting how we, as designers, should tap into our “childlike” curiosity or ask “dumb questions” like a child does. I get it, everyone was a kid once and can recall the unique and wonderful period of time where we were learning quickly and unafraid to expose what we didn’t know about the world.
Kids have a skill when it comes to pointing out the forgotten obvious. They can point out things that we, as adults, have accepted for so long it’s become second nature. Some of these observations are keenly attuned to our environments and expose design flaws we’ve long accepted as the norm.
Outside of the design world religious figures, motivational speakers, sports psychologists and countless others encourage us to tap into our childlike sense of wonder and enjoyment of learning. Despite this near obsession with making your brain work like a kid’s again, adults don’t give much credit to the actual kids who are doing exactly what we’re after.
Sure, I get it, between all the insightful and inventive commentary children offer they also say a lot of dumb stuff. That’s just a fact. However, it seems entirely ironic that we seek books which teach us how to think like children while we fail to respect children for having those same qualities. I’d argue, too, that what the kids say isn’t even what we’re after. What we really want to be able to replicate is the way they think and their fierce curiosity about the world.
I think kids deserve more respect and if we want to think like them, maybe we should put them in a position where they feel like their brains are as valued as we retroactively think they are.
I’m not saying we should start taking everything a child says as the “next big thing.” But, I do think that children should be treated a lot more like adults. Especially when we’re trying to be more like them anyways.
28 September 2020
A (Sort of) Marathon
It’s 2 o’clock on a Wednesday and I find myself rounding a familiar curve which I’ve already run six times today. As I pass I make sure to check out my neighbors garage and note how far he’s come along on his cleaning project — this mile he’s power washed his driveway and looks like he’s headed back in to organize what appears to be kids’ sports gear. At this point I’m about a quarter mile in to my 7th mile of the day. My legs are heavier than they were on mile six and my feet are starting to ache in my bright neon pair of running shoes. It’s a real shame the brightness of your shoes doesn’t correlate to running speed because man, I’d be fast if it did. But, a mile is a mile and I’m already almost done.
As I near the final turn of my seventh mile I find myself wondering, Why they heck am I doing this again?
It all started back in March. I had just returned home from university in the face of a mysterious thing called Covid-19 which was beginning to take hold across the world. With some newfound time between classes and an order to stay indoors, I found myself with a burgeoning youtube addiction and no real reason to fight it. In one of these far-too-long video watching sessions, I clicked on a video titled, “A Mile an Hour- Running a Different Kind of Marathon.”
For the next 17 minutes, I watched a charming but goofy Australian man run one mile, every hour for twenty-four hours in order to complete a marathon in a day (he ran three and some miles to start it off). Between each mile, he filled his 24 hours with all sorts of tasks around the house like building a table, planting trees, picking up trash and (most importantly) simmering some soup in a heavy duty pot over a wood burning fire.
The video was inspiring, invigorating and as Beau would say, pretty cool. But as the video slipped farther down into my YouTube history so did it slip farther into the back of my head.
I can’t tell you what exactly allowed Beau’s video to resurface in my head some months later. Perhaps it was the Groundhog’s day feeling of having been home for 5 months straight, the need for a challenge to get me to write a nagging final paper or just a moment where I lacked the better judgement to keep me from committing to this thing but one August evening I decided I’d try my hand at this weird marathon thing I’d seen on YouTube a few months prior.*
So, there I was on a random Wednesday in August, running my 7th mile of the day with achey legs and slightly-less-neon shoes than when I had started. I didn’t know why I was doing this thing but, just like the video, I was suddenly inspired and invigorated.
In my whole jam-packed day I wrote a pretty alright 12 page essay, called three friends, gave horrible legal advice to a teammate, cleaned my room, packed my bags to return to university, thought a little too much about my future, planned a hike, booked some hotel rooms and enjoyed quality time with family and friends.
I watched a construction team build an entirely new staircase, a man clean out his garage, kids play in their yard, adults take out the trash, workers leaving for their shift, workers returning to their homes after their shift, home improvement projects and many novice tennis players chasing stray balls.
All of this was more than I had actively done in an average work week during quarantine (besides, ya know, work).
Counting every minute and hour of your day and marking it with something like running a mile has a strange way of waking up your system to the unending passage of time. Running and jam packing my day shocked me into the present second, each moment just as important as the last each quickly slipped into the background as the next moment emerged. Instead of focusing on metrics deemed important like efficiency or productivity I began focusing on action, seizing the moment and creating things.
I quite literally, watched the day pass through movement in my neighborhood. The sun’s position slightly different each run, cars parked in new places, new people walking on the streets and houses with newly full trash cans. The world moves and it moves quickly, whether I join in or not.
People love to throw quotes out about “not wasting a second of life” and “seizing the day” but that places an odd pressure on each moment, as if there’s a perfect action or choice for every second and anything else is just, well, the wrong choice. In reality, life is about a series of moments which can be filled in front of a computer screen watching YouTube or out running miles around your block. Each choice might alter your life or, it might not. Maybe it’s not really about wasting moments but about biasing yourself towards actions as often as possible. What I know now, is that choosing a life out in the world full of action (even if it’s just around your block or in your own home) is a heck of a lot more fun than sitting at home watching YouTube. I don’t know what the less wasteful choice is but, I got more out of watching some random dude clean a garage throughout the day than I being stuck at home on my computer for months. Life’s more fun when you’re doing things and not sitting around watching other people do stuff on the internet and I think that’s just a plain fact.
Though, this whole thing did start on YouTube so, who knows if I’ve really learned anything at all.
*I can’t stay up past 10pm without being a total wreck so I opted for a solid half marathon instead, running from 7am to 7pm.
3 September 2020