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After reflecting on the passing of Robin Williams the past couple of days, some thoughts have risen to the surface of this tragic loss. I remember watching Dead Poets Society when I was in high school. I remember how the film elicited such a wide range of emotions from laughter to sadness all within a single viewing.
The phrase, “Carpe Diem” took on a whole another meaning for anyone who watched this movie. I remember feeling inspired to live an extraordinary life. It made me feel like there was something greater inside of me that simply hadn’t been discovered.
Due to the unfortunate passing of Robin Williams, many around the world are revisiting some of his films. They are appreciating the wonder he brought to their lives and, more importantly, inspired to seize each day.
“To quote from Whitman, “O me! O life!…. of the questions of these recurring; of the endless trains of the faithless… of cities filled with the foolish; what good amid these, O me, O life? Answer. That you are here – that life exists, and identity; that the powerful play goes on and you may contribute a verse. That the powerful play goes on and you man contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”
~ John Keating (Robin Williams character in Dead Poets Society)
I never saw the reason behind keeping useless stuff. It made absolutely no sense to me. I felt it tied you down and kept us from being free to roam the earth like a nomad. When I first moved to Boulder, I could fit everything I owned into my orange 1971 VW Bug. Everything. And up until a week ago, I longed for this feeling once again.
This past week my in-laws held a driveway sale for us here in Boulder, Colorado. I call it a driveway sale since nothing of significance took place in the garage due to both doors being broken. This epic event would allow me to get closer to my nomadic roots by shedding the useless stuff we had accumulated over the past nine years.
But something unexpected happened in the midst of this experience.
As I was going through a box I found a swaddling blanket we used for Brynley when she was a baby. Looking at this simple piece of material I began to get a little emotional about her growing up so fast right before our eyes. It transported me to a time when my daughter was completely dependent on Marnie and I for her every need. It reminded me of all the sleepless nights, the worrying about ridiculous things and the feeling that I had no idea what I was doing. But it also reminded me that some of this useless stuff makes up our story. It helps us to remember who we are and where we came from.
So I kept that useless swaddling blanket.
Being a nomad doesn’t seem so important to me anymore. Remembering my story does.
If you were to walk into my school counseling office on any given day, you would find yourself face to face with a large array of LEGO Star Wars. An AT-AT Walker, an Ultimate Collector Edition Imperial Shuttle and the Battle on Hoth among others. It would cause you to pause and wonder if an adult actually worked in this space or a child trapped in an adult body.
I’ve always loved Star Wars. Space, robots, lightsabers and adventure. I’ve always loved LEGO’s for their ability to foster creativity and order all in one box. In LEGO Star Wars I found the ultimate marriage of two things I had always been passionate about. But if you were to ask me the real reason I collect, build and display them, you would discover something quite different.
It has to do with choices. As a school counselor, I communicate this message to my students whenever possible. In my younger years I yearned to acquire certain LEGO sets but often did not have the funds to purchase them myself. I would become angry and blame my parents for being insensitive to my adverse situation and for suppressing my creative genius.
My parents would reply with a ridiculous statement such as, “Do well in school and someday you will have a job that allows you to buy as many LEGO’s as you want.” This would only make things worse in my adolescent head but the message was one grounded in hope and support.
My LEGO Star Wars collection reminds me of the importance of my education and the choices it has afforded me later in life. It reminds me that every day is an opportunity to help students attain choices in life through the power of their educational journey. It reminds me of all those who believed in me along the way. They are symbols that represent the power of choice.
My wife on the other hand believes in the Big theory.
About a week ago, Mumford & Sons came out with their official music video for “Hopeless Wanderer”. Initially it looks like a classic folk project with sun flares, closeups of the members in the grass and slow motion walking with dust scattering around their feet. Then the reality of who is portraying the band members sets in. Instantaneous smile is formed followed by short bursts of giggling. The intensity on the faces of Bateman, Forte, Sudeikis, and Helms is felt through the screen making the experience even more spectacular by the second.
Why am I blogging about this you may be asking yourself?
While watching this video I was reminded to not take myself so seriously. Mumford & Sons are known for being earnest, strident, sure and for taking themselves pretty seriously. Their songs elicit a sense of drama and sincerity in the soul. The fact they are willing to bring humor into the mix is an admirable quality that I attempt to follow in my own life. To be okay with laughing at yourself.
Too often we lose the joy in life by the perceived seriousness of our experiences. We allow ourselves, over time, to lose the laughter that brings balance to our lives. As parents, spouses, children, students and humans, we need to lighten up.
So the next time you are feeling bogged down by the weight of life, just watch this video and remember to poke fun at yourself every once in a while.
When I was a young boy, I loved comic books, Star Trek, and Number Munchers. These were but a few of the many random things I poured myself into. Many would consider this content to be kind of nerdy and I would agree. At one point in my middle school career, a group of adolescent boys recreated the deck of the USS Enterprise out of couches, pillows and boxes. We then proceeded to watch all four Star Trek movies in one night. Our own little Comic-Con in Red Wing, MN.
In this video, Wil Wheaton (of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame) explains what being a “nerd” or a “geek” means to him. He states, “it’s not about what you love, it’s about how you love it, and I don’t know what it’s going to be.”
As a school counselor, I hope to inspire the students I work with to be the biggest nerds they can be according to this definition. I hope I can help them to find their passions and follow them completely. To love these things, even if others tell them not to. More importantly, as a father, I hope I communicate this message to my own daughter on a daily basis. To never hinder her in her love for art or dancing or laughing. To find her inner nerd.
If I can do that, then it’s been a good day.
Live long and prosper.
When I first stumbled upon this video, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. The story of two young men and the caring and authentic adult who felt compelled to be a positive presence in their lives was inspiring and refreshing to experience. Often times in education we are confronted with stories of frustration and despair over a “broken” system. That is why I appreciated this story so much. It reminded me that the power of presence can change the life of a young person forever. So the next time you are confronted with a day that didn’t go as planned, remember your patience, your caring and your presence are enough. Go home and hug your loved ones and remember what you do matters.
This is my favorite time of the year. The school year is underway, the temperatures are dropping, and the NFL is back. It’s a reminder that no matter how tough last year was, the journey always continues anew. It’s the promise of a new day. May you enjoy this opening weekend as much as I do.
Last night there was a tragic incident in Aurora, Colorado at the midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises”. A senseless and horrific event that will be a defining moment in many lives. My father called me this morning not knowing if I was part of this situation, friends texted and left messages on my Facebook wall, life was in flux.
I need to be mindful of my friends, my family, my life. I need to be grateful for all of it. This was the message I will take with me from last night. The IMAX badge will be framed to remind me of this. Too often I get caught up in life and forget to be mindful and grateful.
Prayers for all that lost a part of their lives this sad day.
The little things are what we miss when we are so consumed by what we believe are the big things. My hope is to embrace the little things in school, at home, in life. Will I always accomplish this task? I used the word hope for a reason.
This past summer I witnessed a movie that made me feel like I was eight years old again, watching E.T. and feeling a sense of wonder and hope that can be created with skill and a vision. “Super 8″ is the latest J.J. Abrams creation that brought me back to the theater on four separate occasions, once in IMax.
I’ve always loved movies for their ability to make us believe in possibilities. Abrams addresses this in his 2008 TED presentation about “The Mystery Box”. He talks about why he hasn’t opened his Tannen’s Mystery Magic Box he purchased at a magic store with his grandfather.
“And I realized that I haven’t opened it because it represents something important to me. It represents my grandfather. Am I allowed to cry at TED, because — No, I’m not going to cry. But (laughter) — The thing is, that it represents infinite possibility. It represents hope. It represents potential. And what I love about this box, and what I realize I sort of do in whatever it is that I do, is I find myself drawn to infinite possibility, that sense of potential. And I realize that mystery is the catalyst for imagination. Now it’s not the most ground-breaking idea, but when I started to think that maybe there are times where mystery is more important than knowledge, I started getting interested in this.”
Which brings us to Bad Robot. Bad Robot is J.J. Abrams production company. I purchased the red Bad Robot maquette (one of only a 1000) for my office this summer to remind me of this idea. The idea of infinite possibilities, of hope, of potential, of mystery. How these things are more important than knowledge. As a school counselor, I believe this with my entire being, I hope we all do as educators. That our students hold within themselves infinite possibilities, hope, potential, and mystery. And in these things they will discover who they are. We are fortunate to be along for the ride.
So if you walk by my office and see Bad Robot, I hope it reminds you to find wonder in your daily routine at school and to remember how lucky we are to be passengers on this ride of infinite possibilities, hope, potential, and mystery.
Enjoy, don’t endure.