lives of worth and service

noun:  1.h.  An act of assistance or benefit.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition

 “St. Olaf College…stimulates students’ critical thinking and heightens their moral sensitivity; it encourages them to be seekers of truth, leading lives of unselfish
service to others; and it challenges them to be responsible and knowledgeable
citizens of the world.”

excerpted from the St. Olaf College Mission Statement

i’m not going to lie. my job has stressed me out over the past few months, and a lot of days i don’t really get a great sense of personal worth and fulfillment from helping people put together websites to sell trinkets and t-shirts.

once a week, for the last four weeks, i’ve helped an 80 year old woman figure out how to use her computer. i take my cup of coffee and spend an hour or so answering her questions. occasionally, i’ll change a setting or install a program for her, but for the most part i just sit next to her and answer her questions while she sits in front of her computer. it might not seem like much, but when i leave her apartment, i feel like i’ve accomplished something.

the same is true for the last website i launched. i really enjoyed working with the northfield youth choirs to help them use their website effectively. i helped them set up a calendar, sign up for a Flickr account, and publish their newsletter in blog form. when the site went live, i felt very proud to have worked with an organization that encourages children to sing.

now, granted, both things were paid jobs. the 80 year old woman and the northfield youth choirs both wrote checks to my employer for the time i spent with them. but it wasn’t just work for me. i helped to serve people in a way that makes other people’s lives easier and more complete. because of me, the northfield youth choirs will be able to use their website as an effective tool for communicating with members and the community at large. because of my time, an 80 year old woman can now communicate with her friends and family more easily. i did something that made me feel good, and that gave my skills with technology a positive outlet.

i’ve always felt most confident and sure of myself when i’m helping others. whether it be helping a college radio station set up a streaming feed on the internet, or spending six weeks in the summer working with kids to help them learn technology and show them that being a nerd and a geek is ok, i find that i feel best employed in the service of other people.

that’s why i’ve decided that, in addition to graduate schools, i’m going to apply to volunteer for the peace corps and several americorps programs, like AmeriCorps*NCCC and AmeriCorps*National. god knows that there are people who can use help with technology, and perhaps this will give me a way use my powers for awesome.

anyway, enough of this deep shit. i’m going to go clean some more.

a year in lists

it is day 365 of the year 2006. in less than 10 hours, it’ll be 2007. i’d like to take this time and recount some of what happened this year.

first, things relevant to almost everybody:

  • the centennial of wolfgang amadeus mozart’s birth was celebrated
  • dick cheney shot someone in the face
  • iran was able to successfully refine a few grams of enriched uranium
  • a military coup d’etat took place in thailand
  • toothpaste and shampoo became contraband on U.S flights
  • mark foley was outed as a pervert
  • the republican leadership in the house was spanked for knowing that mark foley was a pervert and not doing anything about it
  • the democratic party retook control of the united states congress
  • north korea successfully conducted an underground nuclear test
  • donald rumsfeld resigned as secretary of defense
  • gerald ford died
  • james brown died
  • saddam hussein was (unwisely) executed for war crimes

and now, things that are only relevant to me:

  • i graduated college
  • i survived a very painful breakup
  • i got a job doing something i enjoy
  • i began formally living on my own and supporting myself
  • i learned quite a bit about what it means to actually work
  • i began toying with the idea of going to graduate school for software engineering

i’m sitting at the kitchen table, watching snow fall and waiting for the washing machine to fill so that i can take a shower. as has been my custom for many years, i’ve spent some time thinking about what my new year’s resolutions should be, and present them to the world here now.

  1. i make it my goal to weigh 200 pounds or less by december 31, 2007.
  2. i make it my goal to lay down responsible meal plans and eat wisely.
  3. i make it my goal to be happy as much as possible.

ok. time to go shower and buy groceries before all of the stores close. happy new year, everybody!

vacations, balance, and other things

this is going to take the form of a post in three parts.
part the first
i have a standing offer to take a trip to my aunt and uncle’s boat in seattle or parts thereabout whenever it is convenient to me. i intend to use it sometime this summer whenever i can get things to calm down enough. i also decided today that when i do take that vacation, i’m going to fill my iPod with content, get a good stack of books, turn my cellphone off, and leave my laptop at home. i think that in our technology-rich age, we often forget (and i myself am guilty of this) the importance of being completely isolated and old-fashioned at times.
part the second
in my quest to get my shit together and figure out what life is all about, i’m beginning to rediscover the fine art of balance and self-control. the primary focus is in finances, where i’ve begun to track every expenditure i make in order that i might begin laying down budgets and making sure i have enough to make ends meet. it also has come about in issues of exercise and health, where i’m trying to find that fine line between equilibrium and weight loss (or gain!) and how it relates to my personal habits. it’s also made a return into my spiritual life, where i’ve begun to meditate again. i think that when the new year comes, i’ll have some good points from which to start fresh.
point the third
in other news, i had salmon for thanksgiving, i’m going to christmas festival on thursday night, and i’m attempting to develop a regular flossing habit. i’ll let you know how it turns out.

that’s all for now. carry on.

getting things done

remember this? well, i’m in the thick of stage one, or at least the planning portion of stage one. i’ve spent a lot of time this evening thinking about life, my role in it, what i’m currently doing, and things that need to change. very difficult, and very necessary thoughts.
upon recommendation from a good friend, i started reading a really good book entitled “getting things done: the art of stress-free productivity”, by david allen. the author’s major point is that by getting every possible to-do and actionable idea out of your head, you reduce your stress level and become more productive. so far, it’s working.

i’ve started carrying around a “PDA”, akin to my father’s spiral-bound notebook and pen. it’s just a stack of index cards held together with a binding clip, but it’s helped me focus on accomplishing a great number of things both at home and at work. any time i need to do something, the specific action gets written down in the PDA. anytime i’ve finished that action, it gets crossed off the list. anytime i’m looking for something to do, i consult the list. i wish i’d had this 5 years ago. i’m also doing stuff along similar lines with regards to finances, health, social life, and my spirituality, but those aren’t quite as fleshed out at this point. i’ll talk more about those once i have more to talk about.
the process of getting my shit together is slow, and sometimes painful, but it’s happening. i’ll keep you informed of my progress.

a poem for the first night of winter

it’s nights like these that i miss her
warm body against mine
skin on skin
hand in hand
laying awake, pretending to sleep
and listening to her gentle breathing
and yea, though i walk through the valley of the shadow of death
i fear no evil, for thou art with me

the cold creeps closer now without her there to hold
i pull the pillow closer to me and wonder what happened
and wonder if i’ll ever be that lucky again