Because I’m An Eagle

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Over the past year or so, I’ve found it challenging to consistently write blog posts. I mean, it’s not like blogging is my livelihood or anything. My actual, real, non-virtual life takes priority at times.

Ok, most of the time.

But blogging is a hobby I enjoy doing whenever I have time for it. But that’s been the challenge. I haven’t been prioritizing blogging because I’ve been devoting my time to other things.

Since spring of 2015, I’ve been traveling rather extensively. Primarily Japan. Why? I seem to be part of a team at my company that directly supports our international partners, and I’ve been assigned to support Japan, and for a long while, that involved in-country support. In summary, I traveled to Japan for a week or two at time on a near-monthly basis from April 2015 to August 2016. Really. Kind. Of. Crazy.

Even after ending travel to Japan in August of 2016, I traveled to Italy and Australia along with several domestic travel locations to all three coasts.

Now, all this crazy travel is a factor as to why I haven’t been able to blog consistently. It’s not THE ONLY factor, however.

You see, there’s something else that’s occupied a lot of my time. Yes, besides all the work, the work travel, and all my volunteering in various ministries.

I’m an eagle.

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Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University Eagles! -insert gesture here, if exists-

I take great pride in being a Fightin’ Texas Aggie where I majored as an aerospace engineer. After several years working in the aerospace industry, I decided that I should pursue a Masters degree to broaden my skills. And my company is willing to pay for it. No brainer, really, for me to decide to pursue a Masters.

At the end of 2014, I applied to and got accepted to Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to pursue a Masters of Systems Engineering.

Online.

ERAU’s main campus is in Florida, but they offer a good handful of online programs which is great for me so I can continue living in the great state of Texas. Due to other reasons, I didn’t actually start grad school until March 2015.

Then I quit. Lasted one week.

Having been out of school for 5 years, I seemed to have lost the art of time management involving school. I was off to a fantastic start when I absolutely screwed up in not managing my time well during my first week doing a prerequisite Statistics class. At 9PM on Sunday night at the end of that first week, I realized that I had multiple assignments due at 11PM that I had not yet started. At 10PM, I emailed my advisor to withdraw from class without penalty.

Whoops.

I re-enrolled for a May 2015 term for the same Stats class to try again with much better success.

But…

That’s also when I started going to Japan.

Praise God for online grad school! With my classes being online, I’m able to work on my Masters no matter where I am in the world.

The most extreme example I have is a class that I started in August 2016 and ended in October 2016.

I started it in Japan while on my last business trip.

I worked on some major homework assignments in Italy when I went to Mother Teresa’s canonization.

And I took my finals and did final assignments in Australia while visiting family.

What! So. Crazy.

Whenever I traveled to Japan, it was also difficult in finding free weekends to explore the country because of homework and such. In fact, the times that I was able to visit Osaka and Kyoto, I was not currently enrolled in a class.

Needless to say, with weekly assignments, group projects, discussion boards, and other tasks for classes, it’s really hard to find time for blogging. Combined with travel for work and travel for fun as well as maintaining a decent level of involvement as a volunteer, free time (or even time devoted to blog) is a luxury for me.

As of today, I’m halfway done to completing my Masters with a 4.0 GPA. I’ve had to take several semesters off here and there knowing I’d have some big events in ministry that would make it super challenging to work on homework. Like running retreats on weekends. Or going to Europe  for two weeks for World Youth Day.

So there you have it. Finding time to blog is a challenge for me these days. I’m in grad school. Still traveling. Still working. Still volunteering. I take semesters off here and there.

Oh, and I initially wrote this blog post between hours 8 and 9 on a 16 hour flight to Hong Kong. Because I’m not currently taking a class. Go figure.

-JD

Eagle // All About Birds
ERAU Campus // Glassdoor

How 2016 Didn’t Suck For Me

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I’ll be real. 2016 was a pretty rough year. I’m not going to deny that there were some pretty grave and serious things that happened. But despite all that, I can still look back and say that 2016 was pretty awesome.

No, it wasn’t easy.

No, I’m not trying to sound super optimistic in spite of it all.

No, I’m not saying that I didn’t have struggles this past year.

I’m just sayin’ that 2016 was actually pretty awesome for me. Here’s how I did it, in no particular order:

Daily Gratitude

Each day, I strive to make my first social media post about something I’m grateful for. I struggle a lot with not appreciating what I have or current circumstances so posting a #gratefulstatus or #gratefultweet helps me reflect and appreciate what I do have and my current situations. Doing this daily (mostly, as I’m not perfect at posting every day) gave me a year’s worth of reflection on being grateful for everything that I have, and I have much to be grateful for, especially in 2016.

Embracing Being Uncomfortable

I went on multiple pilgrimages in 2016 and lots and lots of travel for business and pleasure. One of the fruits of traveling so much and going on pilgrimages is learning to deal with uncomfortable circumstances. Things didn’t always go my way and not every moment was posh and glamorous. I found myself in a lot of situations where I was uncomfortable, and that was okay. I started 2016 by being snowed in for a few days in Washington, DC when I went to the March for Life resulting in missing out on a lot of planned activities. Another example was in July standing and walking outside in a blistering summer in Poland for hours with other World Youth Day pilgrims. Another memorable one would be giving up a weekend to Hawaii in August because of having to end my last business trip to Japan early and having to sit in economy class despite sitting in business class for every other business trip I had to Japan. Rather than try to force comfort every time, I took these opportunities to embrace being uncomfortable. This helped me be real with reality. I can’t change everything, and it’s unrealistic that my world has to be comfortable at all times. Above, I only named a few, but 2016 had a lot of uncomfortable moments. As a result, I was able to be better about embracing them and moving on.

Accepting Death

I lost a few individuals within my circles of people that I know in the past year as well as a few members of extended family. Losing loved ones or friends is always going to be a difficult thing to endure. Most recently, I lost a friend that I frequently interacted with in ministry. He fell sick, and we lost him pretty quickly. I attended his funeral to start out my Christmas break, and I remembered at his funeral that death is real. And that life goes on. And this helps remind me of my own mortality and that I, too, will die someday. I just never know when it’ll be my time to go or time to lose someone close to me. How do I want to be remembered? How do I want to remember others? Therefore, I try to make an effort to make genuine connections with others and cherish whatever time I have with them. This helped me grow closer to people around me in 2016.

Seeking Beauty

Even before 2016, I had gone on a personal campaign to recognize the beauty I see in the world. Follow me on Instagram (@r4nd311) and see my #picsofbeauty or #100picsofbeauty hashtags. It’s so easy to get caught up in the bad and evil in this world, and while I’m not immune to it, I can at least strive to see the good, the true, and the beautiful, and allow myself to be consumed by authentic beauty. I find it challenging for me to complain about things because I’ve continuously pursued beauty. 2016 brought me across the globe and yes, I’ve encountered beautiful things and beautiful moments everywhere I’ve been. But even in my day-to-day life and in the simplest of things, I can seek beauty. And that’s awesome.

Serving Others

I struggle a lot with being all about me. It’s easy for me to think about nobody but myself or try to force the world to consider me favorably or to justify my mediocrity in opinions and actions. But see, I’ve gone down this self-centered path so many times, tried it, and I am often left wanting. Something deeper. Something more fulfilling. The best solution I’ve found is in serving others. By serving others, I’m given the opportunities to think of myself less and achieve joy and happiness at the Other’s service, even if I don’t feel like doing it. Thanks to all my travel to Japan in 2015 and 2016, I was inspired at the Japanese people’s sense of serving others because their cultural attitude about service is way above what I normally see here at home. Because of that inspiration, I strived to be more intentional and joyful in serving others in 2016, and the struggle was worth it. Although all my travel in 2016 made it difficult, I did what I could to help out family, work, and the ministries I’m involved in. I ended 2016 on a high note serving the homeless through clothes donations and sorting on Christmas Eve and visiting the elderly in nursing homes on Christmas Day.

I probably could add more, but I think these were the biggest ways that helped me make my 2016 pretty awesome. But there you have it! I don’t think these ways are anything revolutionary nor do I think these ways automatically make life splendiferous. I would say that a daily cultivation in these ways helped me appreciate the little things in life and to withstand some of the harshest struggles I faced in 2016. I’ll definitely strive to continue these in 2017 and beyond.

What are some tangible things you did in 2016 that made it an awesome year? Comment below (or where I’ve reposted this on social media)–I’m curious to know!

-JD