Archive for October, 2010

The quarter-life crisis continued…

On my last post, I posed the following questions:

1.      What is the real world for you? Do you fit in it?

2.      What are you striving for? Have you attained it? Are you happier for it?

3.      What does it mean to “be present?”

Though I can’t say I’ve fully answered the questions myself, I will attempt to answer them in the next few hundred words.

1. I’ve decided I haven’t joined what most people would consider the “real world.” My first year and a half after college has consisted of a) being in the Navy working half days in San Diego without any real responsibility and b) running away to Cairo to teach English literature (my major was International Affairs).

It doesn’t really make sense to me that the real world is something you eventually enter and never leave. Why do people accept that they should enter cubicle nation and spend the rest of their lives living for the weekend and a few weeks of vacation time a year? There’s nothing wrong with that and if that life turns out to be a happy one, more power to you. However, to feel depressed because one hasn’t achieved the lifestyle of this so called real world seems absurd to me. If that is the real world, what world am I in now?

2. I’m striving to control my time. I haven’t attained this yet. Right now I still spend about 40-45 hours a week working as a teacher. If I decided to stop going, my income gets cut off. This is ultimately the cause of most of my unhappiness.

I don’t mean to be insensitive to those that don’t have the blessing of a having a paying job, but having to go to work kind of sucks. The thought of joining the “real world” and having to do this for the rest of my life depresses me immensely.

3. Being present means paying attention to now. If you were to calculate how much time you spent thinking about the future (what am I going to do this weekend, when’s my next vacation, etc) it would probably add up to at least a few hours per day. Those few hours a day could be spent enjoying a book, having coffee with your friends, taking a walk, or working on fun projects. Being present means making a commitment to reality; not hypothetical escapes from it.

Ok, enough abstract posts. The next one will be about my first Egyptian wedding.




What’s the big idea? 12th Grade Literature, the Bhagavad-Gita, and the Quarter Life-Crisis

Arjuna and Krishna

Teaching literature is an inherently frustrating situation.  For the past 5 weeks I’ve been attempting to teach my 12th graders to identify the “big ideas” in the pieces we read for my literature class. 90% of the time I’m met with blank stares which will inevitably be interrupted with “Wait, what page are we on?” I don’t remember being particularly interesting in my English classes in high school either so maybe its just the nature of the beast (no way it has anything to do with my lack of teaching skills). Anyway, in case you were wondering what page we are on, we are on page 200 reading a selection from the Bhagavad-Gita, “The Yoga of Knowledge.”

In ‘The Yoga’ a warrior named Arjuna is preparing to go to battle. Unfortunately for him, he is having a panic attack because some cousins and uncles are fighting on the other side and he’s pretty sure he wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he killed them. He then decides to ask his brother-in-law, the god Krishna, for some soul calming advice. I’ll summarize his main points:

1. It is your obligation to fulfill you duty to fight as a member of the warrior caste.

2. The body is temporary, the soul is forever. No need to worry about the “death” of your family members.

3. Be detached from your senses; the earthly world is ephemeral.

Now the other part of my blog post title mentions the quarter life crisis. The term describes the period of life that takes place in your 20s, usually some time after college. The typical 20-something probably has a job that he doesn’t like (if he has one at all), suffers from a lack of direction, and doesn’t really “feel like an adult.” It paints a pretty bleak picture of one’s youth.

What kind of advice would Krishna offer the 20-something suffering from a quarter life crisis? Here’s what I think he would say.

1. Accept that there is no “real world,” (no, I don’t mean the hit reality show).

2. You don’t need to be striving for anything.

3.  Be present.

In my next blog post I will be explaining what I mean by denying the real world, not striving, and being present. For now I am tired and have to grade some terrible essays but I would love to hear from you guys. I’ll leave you with these questions:

1.      What is the real world for you? Do you fit in it?

2.      What are you striving for? Have you attained it? Are you happier for it?

3.      What does it mean to “be present”

Five paragraph essays are always welcome.



My Big Fat Egyptian Wedding

Logo Concept (courtesy of Gilbert Hsu)

Some of you may have noticed that my blog site is . It doesn’t
say or as one might expect from a travel
blog. So, I’d like to dedicate this post to explaining what a
trekdek actually is. Trekdek, not to be confused with trekdesk (the
desk attachment for treadmills), is my new travel themed social
networking project. The slogan: Live
Well, Travel Well The concept: An
online community composed of people who create, accomplish, and
write about Trekdek travel challenges. The original 52 challenges
(52 coming from a “dek” of cards) will be created by me.
The challenges: The challenges are
designed to truly immerse travelers in their new environments and
to get them to “Live Well, Travel Well.” Instead of going to every
place mentioned in your Lonely Planet guidebook, you will instead
complete challenges like, “Take the local public
transportation , get off at a random stop and go exploring”
or “Go to a restaurant and find out
where your server’s favorite place to hang out is.”
The idea is that these small challenges will lead to
some crazy experiences that engage you with your surroundings and
the people around you. Though these challenges will sometimes be
awkward and uncomfortable (they are challenges after all), I
believe they will ultimately be more rewarding than any sort of
guided tour. Why I started this
Though I’m not the most veteran traveler
out there, I have been fortunate enough to be able to travel a few
places like France, Morocco, Greece, and Egypt. When traveling to
all these places, I noticed that I develop a heightened sense of
awareness of my new surroundings and my own thoughts. This
awareness comes from the simple fact of displacement. Even the
mundane details of everyday life like getting groceries or getting
back home become an adventure. Trust me, I definitely feel more
connected to my surroundings in a Moroccan Souk than I do at Trader
Joes. This sense of awareness also seems to diminish when I focus
too much on a checklist of things I have to see and places I have
to go i.e. the Lonely Planet Guide. Now, there’s nothing wrong with
the travel guide and it is definitely useful for information, but
the best times I’ve had while traveling were the times I didn’t
plan anything. Instead of focusing on the checklist, I’m paying
attention to where I am and who I’m with. I realize that Trekdek
has the potential to become a checklist of challenges, but it’s my
hope that the challenge will merely help focus the traveler on
being present. Maybe that restaurant server will invite the
traveler to hang out with him and his friends at a local pub. Maybe
that random stop the traveler got off at led to the discovery of a
beautiful mosque that wasn’t mentioned in his guidebook. Who knows
what will happen when travelers deviate from a set itinerary. Every
time I’ve stayed at a hostel; I inevitably ended up trading travel
stories with my fellow travelers: Crazy security checkpoints at
airports, overzealous local Casanovas, and that time I ate some
[insert weird animal part] without knowing it. I hope to replicate
that “sharing stories with people you’ve just met and loving it”
feeling online. I will consider Trekdek successful when an
Australian from Melbourne and a Moroccan from Fez can trade stories
on about that time they were in Istanbul and hopped on
the public transportation and ended up at a Korean restaurant
eating Kimchi with the Turkish owner. Anyway I will keep all of you
updated on Trekdek’s progress. I hope to launch it by January. We
shall see. As always, I would love to hear comments and even
suggestions for my initial 52 challenges. Live Well, Travel Well