On spuds in the dirt, lemons from life, and rediscovering everything you thought you knew.

Well, a lot has changed since my last update on June 17, 2011, and I feel like I owe my readers an explanation before I dive back into the world of travel, photography, and adventure. I’d offer a choice between the long story or the short story, but the long version could fill a book. Here’s the spark notes version:

The last we met, I was living in Tallahassee, freshly graduated and itching to travel with my wonderful beau, Niko. The plan was to stick around Florida until he also graduated and could join me on worldly adventures. I had two jobs (amongst a million side projects), too many options, and about 2,000 photos that needed editing. We’ll use this as the before shot:

Cue the oohs and aws – aren’t we adorable? Ready for the after shot? Both were taken during the same day on my road trip in Death Valley National Park, but I think they provide a pretty damn accurate visual contrast to assist in describing the huge changes in my life. Here’s the after:

So here I am. Suddenly standing very alone in a very big sea of nothing. After almost two years of teamwork, and the most amazing trip of my life, Niko ended our relationship with no warning and a very vague explanation. With no clue and no plan, I packed up as much junk from my Tallahassee condo as I could stuff in my little Scion, and this lady promptly sped 7 hours back home to Miami.

I left and lost everything that was real to me. I scribbled ‘I love you TRG, always’ on my locker at the rock gym, grabbed my climbing shoes and filled up a mason jar with that dirty gym rubber so I could keep it close forever. I said a few goodbyes (and still owe most of you a proper one, I’m sorry!), and now it’s time for a new plan.

So here I am. The boxes and bags that cluttered my room in Miami were overwhelming, so I ditched my hometown to spend 4th of July weekend in Key West with my two closest lady friends. With a little help from tequila, fresh salty air, and Marisa’s no-nonsense attitude, I put on my big girl panties and am ready for a new plan.

So here it is: I put in my two weeks notice at my Tallahassee job, decided to purge myself of everything I left up in my condo (anyone need some furniture?), and I started dreaming of my next big adventure. I left my comfortable recluse shell, and have begun exploring everything and everyone in Miami. I’m mapping out an autumn trip to North Carolina, New York, and the rest of the eastern coast up to Maine.

I’m still trying to find peace without Niko, but eventually I’ll have to come to terms with the fact that we’re all just spuds in the dirt. I’m learning how to roll with the punches, and am enjoying suddenly not having a plan. I’m just going, and it’s been working out so far. I even had the pleasure of being approached by a fan during an open mic event – Lori, you really have no idea how much it meant to me for you to introduce yourself that night, you may have saved the fate of this blog.

Enough rambling. Ha, that was the short version too. Told ya the long one could fill a book. Folks, I am back. No more pity parties, no more sulking in bed – life is calling. I only have my job with LivingSocial now, and my unedited photo count is pushing past 5,000 images. I’m back on my grind, and vow to pleasure your eyes with plenty of photos and daily updates.

And while we’re at it: ADD ME ON TWITTER! @themorningfresh – I’m twitter-tarded, but why not? Keep calm, and carry on my friends.

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Image of the Day

Keeping with the good vibes from last night’s backyard bonfire and the hype building up for the climbing club trip to HP40, this image seemed quite appropriate tonight. Niko and I spent a few hours wandering through the beautifully-lit grounds of Florida State campus after Yeasayer’s outdoor performance on Friday night, and we discussed the idea of wasting the present while waiting for the future. Everyone seems to be in a rush to reach some end, forgetting to appreciate the moment you’re in.

Niko taught me a good lesson in this subject as we walked hand-in-hand through ‘my’ side of campus – the area surrounding the english and humanities departments. He stopped to sit at a bench beneath a huge staircase under Williams building, and I realized that I completely overlooked the spot. The bench’s cushion was old and cracked; I had passed it a million times on my way to class, same old bench every time.

I wanted to keep walking, but Niko made me take a seat and look out at the trees illuminated by street lamps. It was absolutely beautiful. I had never given this spot a chance, and was always too busy thinking about my ultimate classroom destination to care about this perfect bench that I so frequently passed. As we watched the branches of a giant Magnolia tree shiver in the breeze, Niko taught me to appreciate the moment.

Next time you’re engaging in your daily routine, take a moment to slow down and embrace the simple treasure that has been waiting, right in front of your face. Sit down on that cracked, old bench. Stop for some barbecue at that roadside stand. Take a chance, it’s probably worth it.

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Life Lessons at The Red Caboose

Since the days of my disdain for older people, I have grown to have a deep appreciation for the insight and experiences that my parents, professors and older peers can provide. Yesterday, I was privileged to meet up with my human rights professor, Ray Ruggerio, for a long afternoon spent sharing stories while sipping on iced tea outside of StarSea’s famous red caboose in Railroad Square. There are only a small handful of teachers that have had as strong an impression as Ray has on my academic and personal outlooks. His tales of worldly travels, advice on academic pursuits and general outlook on life are truly inspiring.

I was blessed to be Ray’s student for three years, studying the realm of human rights. With his guidance, I produced my proudest work: a twenty page research piece entitled “Genocide of Homosexuals in the Holocaust.” I worked on that paper for more than two years, and with Ray’s help it evolved into a true example of my academic success.

Anyways, I wanted to share some of the greatest bits of wisdom that I gained during my three hour lunch with Ray. Some of these are directly from his words, and others are thoughts that I developed while basking in the Tallahassee breeze with my adored professor. (And one occasion that occurred on my way home.) These are words to live by, ideas to base your lifestyle around.

  • Measure your life in threes. This was the easily best bit of wisdom that Ray shared with me. Think about it, your life is hardly measurable on a yearly-basis, but counting by threes really makes sense. For instance, I am entering my next life cycle in a month when I turn 22. This clicked for me, because I am undoubtedly at a point in my life where I see major shifts in priorities, passions and opinions. Celebrate birthdays, but measure by threes.
  • Always give more than you receive. In fact, don’t think about receiving at all. If it happens, great – if it doesn’t, continue to give. The moment a relationship becomes about getting rather than giving, the entire dynamic has changed.
  • Write a letter or note by hand. Perhaps only once a week, but get back into the habit of handwritten communication. Send your parents a simple note of love, write a ‘Thank You’ to someone who helped you, contact a long lost friend across the country. Our cyber-driven generation has lost appreciate for the art of snail mail.
  • Escape your materialism. This is something that I have been working on for a while. I began college consumed by notions of money and status, and I think that everyone will come to realize that paper currency does nothing for your soul. Surrounding yourself with materialistic foolishness blinds you from the natural glory that surrounds you. Maybe it’s just me, but hiking to the top of a mountain and watching the birds swoop down the cliff-side is vastly more satisfying than working forty hours to be able to afford a new piece of expensive material. The people that truly matter in your life won’t care about what you’re wearing, what you’re driving or what kind of house you live in. The quality of your spirit is what will make the difference.
  • Wave to little kids. On my way home from lunch, I was driving through a rough side of Frenchtown. I saw a group of little children approaching the sidewalk I was about to pass, and watched as their mothers yelled at them to slow down. As I cautiously drove past, the children began to wave at me with expectant smiles. I waved in return, and their beaming grins were an indication of how much my simple gesture meant to their innocent souls. Take time to appreciate little ones, and their untainted love for the world around them. Kids have the best spirits, and we could all learn a thing or two from their simple outlook on life.
  • Unplug to tune in. I plan on discussing this at great length in an upcoming post, but the basic concept is as follows: take out your ear puds, unplug your iPod, and tune into your surroundings. I used to trek across campus blasting my music and ignoring everything around me. One day, I left my headphones at home and was unwillingly forced to walk to class without my iPod. During my short journey, I realized how much I was missing out on when I tuned out. Birds are chirping, sorority girls are telling laughable anecdotes, and people are paying attention to what’s going on around them. Try it, I promise you’ll be impressed by the difference it makes when you unplug and tune in to the greatness surrounding you.

That’s all I’ve got for now, but you can bet that I’ll be back with loads of positive life lessons and positive ways of approaching the world. I wish I could share everything that I took away from the time I spent with Ray, but there are some amounts of wisdom that cannot be translated into words, but can only realized through experience. I bid you adieu, my loyal readers. Until next time, keep spreading the good vibes.

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