A Life Lesson from Ren

Just because a relationship is going to be temporary doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to act like an asshole.

This life lesson brought to you by:

~Ren

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Never Stop Finding Magic

I’ve just left my job at Hobbiton, a very magical place, so it seems an appropriate time to write this blog.

Let’s be frank here: there are a lot of shitty things in life. I’m not going to make a list of examples because I’m pretty sure your brain will come up with a plethora just by reading that sentence. Often people will tote that whole “You can’t appreciate the good without the bad” ideology. Which I would agree is true to an extent, but is also used as a coping mechanism. And I don’t say that negatively.

Something I think we all tend to forget as we grow older is that there are plenty of good things that are just good. Good on their own, without any scrutiny or comparison needed for us to see it. But somehow we do manage to miss it. We lose sight of those good things and they become unimportant.

So often we grow up and find ourselves in a place where the world is no longer a wonderful thing. It is a predictable, repressive, monotonous chore. We are burdened by responsibilities that keep us from doing the things we actually want to do. They keep us from seeing beauty, being inspired, feeling elated.

When really…it doesn’t have to be that way.

I’m not even just talking about the wonderment of life on earth. The complex web of species and biomes that create the world as we know it. I’m also talking about the wonderment of your own life. Where you’ve been, where you’re going. The things you remember and things you’ve kept with you. Things that you’re hoping for and striving for in the future.

I hope you never stop seeing things as beautiful and amazing. See things as more than just the sum of their parts. Even the tiniest objects can hold the greatest joy, unlock the most beautiful memories of people and places and past times in your life.

Let momentos transport you in time. Times when you were younger, stupider; times things felt hopeless or times you were bursting with ecstatic joy. Because these things, all of these things, make up the person you are today, and in some way will shape the person you become.

Admire things. Things smaller than you and simpler than you. Things that are bigger than you and far more complex than you. Don’t elevate yourself over that which you think is lesser. Bring yourself to the same level and then you might begin to understand things you didn’t before.

~Ren

The Wolves are calling…

Hello my dear travelers. I’m taking a brief aside from my travel blogs and book reviews to ask for your help in a matter very near and dear to my heart.

I’ve had a love and passion for wolves since a very young age. Back home, there is an organization called W.O.L.F (Wolves Offered Life & Friendship). Recently they have faced hardships that have made it hard for them to serve the wolves they care for, and the community, as well as they would like. But they now have the opportunity to move to a new location that will allow them to improve the sanctuary as well as better educate the community about the plight of wolves and wolf dogs.

Please considering making a donation to W.O.L.F to help them secure this new facility. You can read more about W.O.L.F at their website located here.

If you would like to donate please click here. The deadline is April 22nd. Every little bit helps.

~Ren

What A Terrible Bowl, What A Beautiful Bowl. (Adventures in pottery)

This post is a bit random, travelers. But I’m quite proud of my work and I wanted to share.

My mother and I recently finished a five-week pottery class. We’ve taken one before several years ago but we forgot to pick up our finished pieces, which we’ve always regretted. So we made plans to take another class before I left and this time we’d be sure to reap the fruits of our labor.

All of our pieces turned out very well for us being beginning potters. My pride and joy, however, is my Decemberists-themed bowl. Marvel at my (and my mother’s) artistic abilities!

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 A lovely, leafy platter for holding juicy fruits and veggies.

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Earth-hewn garden stakes for hearty herbs.

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A square, blue bowl for tasty treats.

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An outdoor water bowl that isn’t a piece of tupperware.

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Dragonfly jar for tiny things.

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Festive spoon rest with self-aware label.

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What a terrible world, what a beautiful world. 

~Ren

The Illusion of Control

I’ve caught myself being a little overly philosophical over the last day. So, of course, I had to write a blog.

I awoke yesterday, one of my precious and ever elusive days off, with a list of things to accomplish by the end of the day. And I’m quite proud to say I checked everything off that list by 5 that afternoon!

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What got me thinking all philosophical-like was the moment after I purchased my two new suitcases. Sounds odd, I know, but hear me out. After I found the model and sizes I was looking for, picked out two uncharacteristically bright colors, and checked and double-checked that each bag met the required measurements, I opened up my cart to see the grand total.

Both bags were on sale and mom had supplied me with a promo code that saved me an extra $20 bucks so it was a significantly lower number than it could’ve been. But the cost was still high enough to use up most of the paycheck I’d just deposited. What was a borderline broke bookseller to do?

Dammit, I bought the damn things! That’s right, a statement worthy of two expletives.

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Yes, I bought them. I also bought a bus ticket that day. And it felt so good to do it! Even if I was spending money I didn’t really have to spend and even if I still have months until the actual bus trip, it felt good to do something, to feel like I had the ability to make things happen, to exercise control over the things happening in my life. It felt damn good.

It’s funny, because even though I felt like I was making progress and getting things done (which I was) I’m still in the exact same place as I was before I hit the ‘Proceed to Checkout’ button. I’m still stuck waiting for three months, counting down the days until October 26th, stuck between here and there. But at least for that short moment, I felt like I was moving forward.

Control is a funny thing. We can create in our minds, believe it, but still be right where we started. It seems to be another method of self-soothing. Click some buttons on a screen, pay some money, get some new suitcases that will sit empty for weeks to come and feel like you achieved some goal. We tell ourselves we’ve just moved one step closer. It’s like the pre-action before the actual action.

If you’re wondering what my point is with all this I’m not entirely sure I have one. Just making some general observations about life and the human condition. If I’ve learned one thing in my time, it’s that humans often lie to ourselves. I guess that’s not all bad, though. Sometimes it seems to be just what we need.

~Ren

Moving Abroad: A Booklovers’ Worst Nightmare

Hello travelers. I was traveling this weekend (not far, but I still traveled!) and have just returned from a nice little mini-vacation. It was just what I needed. I feel refreshed, relaxed, and ready to dive back into all my responsibility. However, I’m still a bit worn out. Tired meme

I feel I have to come clean and tell you I’m straight-up poaching this blog from my bookstore’s blog (on account of said tiredness), but it seemed like it would be something my fellow travelers would like to read as well, not just my fellow book lovers.

As you might have guessed by the title, I’m here to chat about my impending move abroad and how it causes me endless anxiety in regards to my many, many books. My meticulously arranged bookshelves, once a source of joy now also fill me with dread whenever I look upon them. Alas, woe is me.

If you yourself are planning a move abroad soon, or just a normal move somewhere else in the country you reside in, let me give you some tips on handling the stress.

1. First and foremost, remember that books are just things. What is really important is what you take away from them.

2. Following tip number one, you can always buy more things. Think about selling some of your books before you go to get some extra cash for the move. I know living without books is not an option, but get yourself settled first and then rebuild your library.

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(Stephen and I understand how hard it is to part with your books sometimes, but it will be okay!)

3. Libraries are a thing. If you’ve been holding onto some books for a while like I have, and your still not really sure if you want to read them, make a note of the title and pick up a copy later.

Neil Gaiman: no longer on the fringe.

(Know who else loves libraries? ^^^ This guy.)

4. If you can, stash some books (storage unit, parents house, wherever) until you can come back for them or get them shipped. They will wait for you, I promise.

5. If, like me, you are trying to read as many books as you can before you go, you are probably now hyper aware of just how little time you have to read and just how often you waste time doing other things when you could be reading. Remain calm, breath. Don’t let that overwhelmed feeling cost you even more reading time! Everything will be okay.

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6. Now, this may be the most important rule to follow (after rule number 1). If there is a book you own that you truly love, re-read all the time, is a memory spark for an important time in your life, was a gift from someone you love, or that you just have some unexplained attachment to DO NOT RELINQUISH IT FOR ANYTHING! Trust me, you do not want to get to the end of your life and feel the regret and frustration of letting go of a book you have never been able to remember or find again. Hold onto those special books, keep them close, and never let them go.

Moving anywhere with shelves and shelves full of books in tow is always scary and rather daunting, but you can do it. I believe in you!

keep calm

~Ren

Imagining You

Hello, travelers. I’ve got a few things I want to get done tonight and it’s already late, but I also wanted to write to you since it’s been a few days. So lighting round of blogging, go!

Today I bought my planner for 2016. I’d actually been putting it off for a few days. The planners came into work at the beginning of the week and every time I walked by the display I thought, ‘Hey, I should get my new planner’ and then just kept walking.

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People close to me will find this avoidance odd because I’m highly organized and have a love for notebooks and office supplies of all kinds. But I think I’ve been putting it off (albeit not for that long) because 2016 will be the first year of my life where I can’t see what my life will be like. I don’t know where I’ll be living, who my friends will be, where I’ll be working, where I’ll shop for my groceries or where I’ll get my hair done (I’ve had the same hair dresser for 16 years, it’s kind of a big deal to me).

We are all guilty of imagining the future. In fact, trying to imagine what my life will be like in the coming months makes me think of a John Green quote I’m fond of:

Imagining the future is a kind of nostalgia.

If memory serves, I think it was actually John’s wife who said this and he stole it and put it in Looking For Alaska. Writers, am I right? And for me, this statement definitely feels accurate. I don’t have any clue what life will be like in New Zealand but I catch myself all the time thinking about what it could be like and what I hope it will be like. Sometimes I find myself missing what I’ve haven’t even gotten yet.

I feel suspended in this place of limbo, caught between the life I’m still living and the yet-to-be-revealed life I’ll have in New Zealand. I’m moving from a place well-loved to a place unknown. It’s thrilling, in some ways, and terrifying in others. I’m reminded of another of my favorite quotes:

It is only the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more. 

(Can anyone name that quote’s origin? Book, author, or character? Or all three!)

I’m not looking upon death, and only looking upon darkness in a metaphorical sense. And I’m only a little afraid. But the sentiment holds true. What truly is worrying me is simply all the unknowns.

That’s life though, isn’t it? One big string of unknown things, one after the other, shaping and shifting who you are. Who wants to know everything and have everything planned out? (Yes, friends and family, the irony is not lost on me.) So I shall say to you, go forth, ye fearless travelers! Seek out the unknown and revel in the mysteries of life!

Sweet dreams.

~Ren

Vanquishing Your Nerves

Good afternoon, my fellow travelers. I have an interview tomorrow, so, like my blog on disappointment, I thought perhaps writing a blog about nerves would help me to calm down.

Let’s see how this goes.

There are a few reasons this interview is making me more anxious than other interviews I have done. 1) It is a Skype interview, the first I’ve ever done, so nightmares of slow wifi and even slower computers keep plaguing me. 2) It’s an international interview, where there is not only a time difference but a day difference as well. I’ve already messed up once, thinking I’d be spending my Wednesday night talking at my computer only to realize yesterday that I would be spending Tuesday night talking at my computer. Nice save, but now I’m just paranoid as to if I’ve really gotten it right this time. 3) It’s a small one, and of less consequence, but I’m afraid the accent and colloquialisms may trip me up some and I’ll find myself asking things like, “What?” and “I’m sorry?” way more often than I’d like.

So there you have it. My interview fears. Oh, and I guess there is also the small fact that I’m interviewing with the HR Advisor for Hobbiton and this is an interview for a job at Hobbiton. But that’s no big, right? I mean that’s only been my dream job for that past two years.

Excuse me a second…

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Okay, I’m back. I honestly try not to think about that ‘small fact’ too much. It freaks me out and I start getting my hopes up. Which is not a bad thing, really, but I’m trying to save myself from any possible disappointment (you know, since that’s been a bit of a theme lately).

And it would be a huge disappointment. Being so close to a job and a life you’ve dreamed about  for years only to be told, “Sorry, we don’t want you.”

But let’s focus less on the potentially soul-crushing disappointment and more on dealing with the general stress and anxiety that comes along with job interviews.

I’ve had several interviews throughout my adult life, some for jobs I was more qualified for than others. What I am reminding myself of as this interview looms closer and closer (tomorrow, eek!) is that there are jobs that are skill-based and jobs that are training-based. If you are interviewing for a job as a doctor at a hospital, you can’t just have good people skills and know that the heart pumps blood. If you are interviewing for a job at the local shoe store, you don’t need to have gone to fashion school and have a passion for footwear.

I may have never given tours of a fictional town dug into the hillsides of farmland in New Zealand but damned if I wouldn’t rock at that job! I think a big cause of peoples’ stress when they’re staring down an interview is they get too caught up in imagining what the specifics of the job are going to be. They worry too much about how they won’t have any experience with the fine details and minutia of a given job and forget that nearly all of that stuff is learned on the job anyway.

It’s almost assured the interviewer knows this. What they are looking for is whether or not you have a good head on your shoulders, if you have a good attitude and a better work ethic. Even if your last job and the job you are interviewing for are drastically different, there are skills that can carry over. Customer service skills, working with others, managing inventory, working on a computer. Lots of jobs require these things, so if you’ve even had one job before, you’ve already got the foundation laid for the next.

If that doesn’t help, look at it this way. You got an interview. If the company didn’t think you could rise to the job, they wouldn’t waste time interviewing you in the first place.

I hope this has been helpful, dear travelers, and helped you go from this…

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to this…

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…I should watch Avatar soon…

Have a good evening, travelers. I hope it is a peaceful one.

~Ren

The Nature of Waiting

A good evening to you, my fellow travelers.

I was hit with several moments of inspiration on my way home tonight so you can add this entry to the list. The nature of waiting.

Since I decided to make the move to New Zealand some, lordy, two years ago, was it? Dang…anyway, yes. Since I made the decision, my life has seemed to shift into one big, drawn out waiting game. I’m waiting till I save enough money, I’m waiting to apply for my visa, I’m waiting to book a plane ticket, I’m waiting to apply for jobs. Just hurry up and wait already!

This is a rather frustrating and exhausting way to live your life for such an extended period of time. Things aren’t so bad in the beginning, but steadily get harder as the days count down. It is similar to the wait leading up to a big trip, but different in that it is still easy to go about your normal, everyday life because your normal everyday life isn’t going to cease to exist once you leave.

That’s what I’m struggling with now, travelers. I keep getting so caught up and distracted with thinking about what I have to do to be ready for the move, what things I need to take care of before I arrive, what needs to be done before I leave. I get so wrapped up thinking and worrying about all that that I forget I’m still living a life right here right now. I forget there are things that need to, and can be, attended to this very moment.

Don’t worry. It’s not like I’ve let myself get so distracted that I’ve forgotten to feed my cat for the past three months (that’s what the Old Man is for). It’s sillier things, like doing the dishes, working in the garden, rearranging my room, or cleaning my car. Right now, 3 months doesn’t seem like a whole lot of time to get done all I need to get done. But 3 months is 3 months, and my mother would be the first to assure me there’s still plenty of time for me to mow the lawn.

I guess what I’m saying is that, if you’re anything like me and often get buried deep in your own thoughts, try not to get so buried that you forget to keep living your life right now. Don’t get so busy thinking about what your life might be like that you ignore what you have right now. Because, at the risk of sounding a bit dramatic, at some point, life as you know it is going to end. And once it’s over, there may be some things you miss you didn’t even know you cared about until they’re gone.

Do me a favor, dear travelers, regardless of if you’re about to embark on a big, life changing move: take a day just for you, to do all the big and small things you’ve been neglecting or putting off, no matter how big or small or how silly or serious. Be present and listen to what you really want to do, right then and there. I don’t think we do this often enough.

Don’t let the waiting detract from the now, and don’t let the future distract from the present.

~Ren

Dealing with Disappointment and Other Unpleasant Feelings

I’m not so sure how to start this post.

The reason I want to write an entry on this topic is because my own life is currently filled with disappointment and other unpleasant feelings and emotions brought on by a variety of different things.  And while we are friendly with each other, my fellow travelers, we aren’t that close. And I’d hate to bring any of you down from whatever nice and happy place you might be with my own drama.

So instead, I think I shall speak as if I was giving advice to someone dealing with the same things I am. Here we go.

Disappointment is one of the worst emotions to feel. We’ve all experienced it and it’s a total bummer. It’s even worse when disappointment becomes such a recurring theme in your life that you become somewhat desensitized to it. You know it’s there, you acknowledge its presence, but it doesn’t have that deep, visceral effect it used to.

This isn’t so alarming if it only ever happens with people you’ve just recently met. In those situations I’d say it’s a very good sign. You’re self-esteem isn’t so fragile or nonexistent that even the rejection of passing acquaintances can totally shatter you. It may, however, be cause for worry if it happens when you lose someone close to you.

This is where disappointment gets tricky.

Disappointment in others and disappointment in yourself are two very different things. Let’s focus on the former first. If someone else disappoints you, it could just be because they’ve fallen into a rut and they need a good friend like you to kick them in the ass and help them get back on track. It could be because they are really just a sucky, self-centered flake that doesn’t really care about you and you’re better off without them. The tricky part comes when you have to distinguish between the two, and it isn’t always easy. Sometimes our brains have the dumb.

Luckily, disappointment in yourself is almost always a precursor to some good self reflection and a much needed attitude adjustment. So that’s nice, but can still suck, because changing who you are, even when you want to, isn’t the easiest thing.

So what am I try to say with all this, dear travelers?

Well, a few things. First, if someone you know is disappointing you, try and be as perceptive as possible. Look at your situation as objectively as possible. Think about what you know of the other person and try and figure out if they need a kick in the rear or to be kicked to the curb. Try not to get caught up in what I call, “pre-college friendships”: those friendships that formed only because you had to see the other person everyday. They can be great while they last but that doesn’t always mean they were meant to endure.

I know it’s hard to leave something familiar behind. Ending a long friendship is like losing an appendage. You have to learn to adapt to life without it. But trust me, if things aren’t working out, you owe it to yourself and to the other person to end things before they totally deteriorate and you end up hating each other. Hanging onto something just because it’s familiar is no way to live life. Opportunities are missed and regrets are made. And that’s no fun for anyone.

Second, if someone kicks you in the rear or kicks you to the curb, be as perceptive as possible. Consider your roll in all the happenings and be honest with yourself about whether you were being an ass or an innocent bystander and your friend is just crazy. Most importantly, learn what you can, change what you can, and accept what happened.

But be warned, often the brain has the dumb, as I’ve said, and brains with the dumb are very good at conjuring up doubt and fear and self-deprecation (and not the humorously self-aware kind). The only way to combat this is to get to a place where you don’t need other people to like you and want to be with you just to validate who you are. I wish I could tell you all the steps to getting there, but sadly, there is no map for that journey.

I think that’s the secret, dear travelers, the secret that isn’t really a secret because it’s what we’ve all been told since we were young. Being completely comfortable in your own skin, wherever you are and with whoever you’re with. That’s what it takes to deal with disappointment, in all its forms.

I have one last thing to say, then I’ll stop lecturing you. While you’re deep in the throes of dealing with disappointment and a case of dumb brain, please please please, I beseech you, remember to be honest. Honest with others and honest with yourself. Disappointment can manifest as anger and anger often leads to irrational thought and shouting about things you aren’t really upset about. Try to keep a calm head and be truthful about what has disappointed you and caused you grief.

I know it can be hard to be honest with people, especially if you’re trying to tell them you honestly don’t want to see their face anymore. And maybe I’m only saying this because of my own personal experiences, but respect people enough to be honest about how you feel instead of stringing them along. Don’t keep someone on your hook just because you don’t have the guts to be straight with them (I hope the How I Met Your Mother reference didn’t lose anyone).

Nobody’s perfect. Not you or me or that guy who lives down the street or Hank from the coffee shop. But we can all strive to be better. If you’re feeling disappointed with life, remember: be honest, be thoughtful, and be open to change. Accept that things end and new things will begin.

Happy travels.

~Ren