Uh Oh, Summer’s Here, So What Are We To Do?

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School is over for the semester and summer break is upon us.  I believe that the American summer dream is to stay home with the shades drawn and keep Netflix on on a 24-hour basis.  Don’t worry, that’s kind of my American summer dream too, but I’m hoping this summer will be a little bit different.  I’m definitely going to be working a lot more hours this summer since I have nothing else really demanding my attention.

I’m sure though that I’m not the only one who is wondering what I can do over the course of the summer, but it’s good to keep a few things in mind that might help as starting points.  Summer break typically only lasts about three months, which sounds like a lot of time but I promise you that time will fly by so fast you’d wonder if you had a summer break at all.  Here are some suggestions to think about:

1. Think about your talents and the things you’re passionate about and continue pursuing them now that you have more time.  Because it’s true.  During the school year, you were busy with schoolwork and studies.  Now that all that is off your shoulders (for now), you have more time to practice what you already know and progress through things you love to do.  In my case, I’m going to practice my writing a lot more and try to gain a little more publicity through it.

2. Practicing what you love to do is good, but it’s also healthy to step out of your comfort zone and try something new.  I know that this is practically preached to the death, but let me also mention the fact that in my opinion, no time in a year is as perfect a time to pursue new things then summer break.  Are you curious about playing a musical instrument and have never played one before?  Go for it.  Are you interested in starting a blog?  Go for it.  In this day and age, there are countless opportunities to pursue new hobbies and make a name for yourself.  You may not become a big-name Internet celebrity or musician by the end of summer (though it isn’t impossible), but you have at least worked hard to move down that path.  It takes a lot of patience to get good at something, but given time it’ll be worth it in the end.

3. The relationships that were formed during the school year can be strengthened during the summer.  When you get out of school, don’t wait to hang out with your friends when the next semester comes around.  See what can be done to further your relationships and make sure to spend time with the people you’ve formed bonds with over the school year.  Plus, during summer break, you have more time to do more with your friends like going on trips or maybe even going to public groups or clubs together.  There are many possibilities that just takes a little digging.

Decade Highlights: A Year Going To So-Tribe

For a little over a year, I went with a friend of mine named Talia to her youth group, which was called So-Tribe.  For some reason, every time I went to a new youth group, it was at a time when the group was going through some major changes like a name change or a youth pastor change.  Shortly after I started going to Talia’s youth group So-Tribe, So-Tribe was established as the new name when a new youth pastor stepped in.  So-Tribe was an abbreviation of ‘Sold Out’ with the word ‘tribe’ added in because the youth pastor liked the idea of us being warriors for spiritual warfare.  Holy cow, that’s awesome…

But anyway, it was typically a one-hour trip to go there, and who wouldn’t want to go to youth group with someone who skateboarded on ice and survived?  I mean come on, you know you would absolutely want to.  You feel absolutely safe with someone like that.  Try it some time.  Put Rascal Flatts on on a loop too.  Our youth pastor was a guy named Ben, who liked to refer to us all as ‘beautiful people’ when the service was about to start.  I’m not entirely sure what he meant by that, but I think I’d like to keep it that way.  It’s probably for the best.  He was a great youth pastor and always enthusiastic to see me when I came.  I remember one time when it was after the service, almost everyone had left, and it was just me, Talia, and Pastor Ben sitting on a couch staring up at these words that were on a rotating lamp, and we spent some time giving our own interpretations for what the words could possibly mean.

Another moment that sticks out to me was when me and Talia were not allowed to talk about Star Wars and Star Trek on the car ride to youth group and back.  It was a motivation to talk about this thing called ‘real life’ I guess.  Can’t say I knew about it at the time.  It was like a foreign concept to me.  Well let me just say we couldn’t spend the whole ride there and back without dropping a few Star Wars references.  We just tried talking about it in a vague manner. It didn’t work.

I don’t consider this article to be dedicated to anyone in particular, but Talia was a great friend to go to youth group with.  It was disappointing when we couldn’t do it together anymore.  Still, as I’ve said before in previous articles, it’s good to be grateful for the time we did get to have.  It was a highlight in my life because it had its share of great moments and I’ve never gotten to do something like that since then.

Looking Back On Ten Years

 

In just two and a half weeks I’m turning twenty.  When I turned eighteen, that was a big deal because that meant I was ‘legally’ considered an adult.  When I turn twenty, I think of that as a big deal because it’s the beginning of a new decade in my life.  They say time flies, but I have to say that for me the last ten years have not gone by very fast, except for maybe the last two or three years.

So much has happened in my life in the last decade.  I’m not the type of guy to stay in one place for so long.  Part of the reason why I feel like the last ten years didn’t necessarily fly is because I’ve lived ‘multiple lives’ during that time.  I’ve moved from house to house, gone from church to church, and have met so many people, some of which I still talk to today.

Now, obviously God knows that I’m about to turn twenty, and this last year definitely seemed to show that to me, because He didn’t want me to turn twenty and move on to the next decade before experiencing some pretty big things first.  The last three hundred and sixty-five days have been life-changing for me, sometimes in pretty brutal ways.  I feel somewhat exhausted from it all, but I also feel grateful too.  I know that I wouldn’t have gotten this far if it weren’t for some of the people that God has placed in my life.

There’s no way I’ll be able to talk about everything that has made this last decade memorable for me in this one post.  My earliest memory of being ten was when I was telling my Sunday school teacher that I was a ‘pre-teen’ now and how exciting that was for me.  Apparently at the time, becoming a teen was such an exciting thing to look forward to.  If I had a time machine to take me back to when I was ten, I would definitely go and tell him a lot of things, specifically that he should not look forward to being a teenager.

To me, one of the most interesting things is taking a step back and looking at how much I’ve changed over a certain period of time.  Well gosh, I sure hope I’m not the same as I was when I was ten, I’m just saying, it’s cool to see how much I’ve grown and developed since then.  It’s like watching a character in a good movie or book develop and be different by the end.  Obviously I have some regrets from the past decade, some rather deep ones too that I’m still reminded of, but I won’t allow them to completely take over my feelings because there are things to think about that I should be proud of.

As a quick thing to add, whether you’re about to move on to the next decade of your life or not, think about your life from the past couple years and find out how you’ve grown through the experiences you’ve had during that time.  Don’t think so much about the bad, but focus on the good.  As I’ve said in previous blog posts, even bad experiences help you develop by the way you face them.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be talking about some specific stuff I’ve experienced in the last decade.  I will maybe, maybe, have some pictures up of me from over the past ten years in a few weeks or so.  Don’t hold your breath though, I’m a very distracted guy.

I’m Going On An Adventure!

 

Want to know a weird thing about me?  If I have to rush out to catch the bus in time in order to get to school or work, I’ll normally shout ‘I’m going on an adventure!’ while I’m running like Bilbo Baggins when he leaves the Shire to go on an adventure that would change his life.

Before you leave this page out of disgust for my weirdness, the point I want to make is that when I shout that out, I’m technically saying the truth.  It may not seem like much on most days, but I like to think that my activities during the day are all part of an adventure that’s called ‘life’.  Life tends to throw a lot of crap your way, but it also comes with its own share of fond memories and blessings.  As the famous quote goes, ‘life is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get’.

That’s what makes up a lot of the adventure.  There’s so much that life has to offer both good and bad, and it’s all worth living through.  Right now, I’m going through some deep issues that makes it difficult for me to want to move on, but I work to push through, and I become stronger because of it.  I’ve struggled with not having very many feelings of self-worth or self-value, and I tend to go through some depressive cycles that leaves me feeling exhausted and unsure of what to do.  But I’m also reassured by the fact that God loves me exactly for who I am, the fact that I have friends who will support me, and I continue to do what I love to do such as writing.  So, how can you view life as an adventure worth traveling?

1. Know that life is unpredictable, so don’t try to guess what will happen the next day - None of us can really guess what will happen tomorrow or a week from today.  We may know of certain things that are coming up, but we don’t know how they’ll play out.  I tend to fantasize how things will play out a lot, and 99.9% of the time, I’m wrong.  I think that’s solid proof there to believe that we can never really accurately guess to the letter how something will happen when it happens.

2. Don’t approach something out of fear, but instead be open-minded and hopeful - If we approach things in life out of fear, we may not be open-minded enough to discover how they can either benefit us or help make us stronger.  We need to be hopeful.  That isn’t to say that nothing will ever go wrong.  We’re bound to go through experiences that we wish we never had to go through.  That’s part of the adventure.  The part that none of us really like.  Did Bilbo enjoy getting captured by trolls or getting stuck in a game of riddles with Gollum?  I wouldn’t think so, I wouldn’t enjoy those things either.  But what’s important is that when we go through a difficult experience, we try to see what we have learned in the process.  There will be times when we lose something, but at the same time we may gain something too.

3. It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey - Don’t worry about where certain things in your life may lead you, but instead, live in the moment so that you can view where you are in the ‘here and now’ (I’m using way too many nerdy references in this blog for my own good).  Ten years from now, when you look back on an event that changed your life, you’ll be able to see more clearly how it changed you.  It’s part of the adventure.

Talking: One of Life’s Most Effective Medicines

 

Are you really struggling or know someone who’s struggling?  Struggles such as depression, anxiety, strained relationships, heartache, or just the little inconveniences in life?  One of the best medicines to cure a lot of that stuff is just simply talking to that person.

The very word ‘talking’ means something different to me now than it was several years ago.  When I hear the phrase ‘want to talk’, it resonates with me deeper.  Talking to other people about my personal problems was not something I did often a while ago.  I tended to keep a lot to myself, which I learned was damaging.  I’ve learned that being more open with the people you trust and being willing to talk about what’s on your chest relieves a lot of stress and helps you to feel better.

So I know what you’re probably thinking.  ’Gee Forrest, I never knew that before!’  So what am I offering that’s a little bit more fresh?  When you go to talk to someone, choose the people you talk to wisely.  It doesn’t just have to do with trust.  It also has to do with the experiences that the people you talk to have had and what they’ve learned from it.  For instance, if you’re going through a depressive cycle, it’s probably not a good idea to talk to someone else who’s going through a depressive cycle.  There’s nothing wrong with spending time with people who are going through similar struggles as you.  In fact, it’s a way that both of you can relate.  But if you want to talk to someone in the hopes that they can help you get through a difficult time you’re having, talk to someone who has been through what you’re struggling with and has been able to overcome it, at least to a point.  That way, he can help you overcome your struggles too and show you how he did it.

It’s also important to share your struggles with people that will keep it between the two of you unless you give him permission to do otherwise.  Nobody likes it when someone listens to your problems and then tells other people about it without you knowing.  Talk to someone who takes your struggles seriously and keeps it private.

Lastly, I believe I would be remiss not to mention that if you’re feeling really depressed, it’s vitally important to talk to someone you trust as soon as possible.  I know what it’s like holding things in.  Please talk to someone that you can trust like one of your closest friends, your pastor, a family member, or a teacher that you can entrust your experiences with.  Simply talking to someone that you can trust will help you a lot in overcoming obstacles and give you hope when you really need it.

What I Won’t Forget About my Youth Pastor

 

Okay, I know what you’re thinking.  What is Forrest about to say about his youth pastor?  Is it something good?  Something bad?  A little bit of both?  I can assure you that what I’m going to say is good.  In fact, it’s something that has impacted my life in very good ways.

I met my youth pastor Ron on October 2009, though I wasn’t going to his youth group at the time.  He was willing to take me to a Pastor’s Kids retreat that I had filled out an application for to go to.  To be honest, we didn’t really talk much.  The only thing we had established as a relationship at the time was that Ron was basically responsible for my own survival.  It was some time after the retreat that I went through some anger issues with my youngest brother.  It was decided that I should have someone as a counselor or accountability partner.  To this day, I’m still not entirely sure why, but I chose Ron when my parents asked me who I would like to talk to.

For a few months, me and Ron would meet once a week just to talk.  I would tell Ron what was on my mind and tell him of some of the crap I was going through or dealing with.  He always listened and was always very helpful.  Eventually, I started going to his youth group, and after about four years, I still go there to this day.  My times meeting with Ron once a week didn’t last a very long time, but there came a point where I just started calling him once in a while if I was going through a very difficult time.  I started calling a little more often when I began dealing with depression episodes that made me feel so helpless.  There was one time when I was going through a depression episode that was so bad I called him immediately after I got back home.  I felt like that was a course of action I needed to take and I’m so grateful that he was an option.  He answered and he was there for me.

To this day, he still prays over me if I ask for prayer, and he still listens to me and counsels me if I need counsel.  But there’s something that gives all of this a really powerful touch.  I don’t know if he’s aware of it, but there’s a certain look he has when I talk to him about things I’m going through.  It’s a look that shows genuine concern for me because he cares about me, but there’s also such a deep compassion there that I’ve seen in very few other people. Because of it, not once have I ever felt like he doesn’t care.  It’s one of the reasons why I continue to talk to him.  The look is something about him I will never forget.

He is one of the biggest reasons why I want to be a counselor for people who struggle with depression or heartache in life.  He has helped me more than he knows.  My youth pastor is a mentor, a counselor, and a friend that I can’t thank enough.

Finding Eternal Sunshine on a Complicated Mind

 

Last night, I watched for the second time the movie Eternal Sunshine on a Spotless Mind, a romantic fantasy about a man named Joel (Jim Carrey) who attempts to erase his memories of his ex-girlfriend Clementine (Kate Winslet) because the pain of having to move on from the broken relationship had been too much for him to bear.

I believe we’ve all gone through painful experiences that we wish we can just forget.  Things like a death in the family, breakups, bad fights, and mistakes with drastic consequences are all examples of experiences that we wish we can forget.  We wish that we can be strapped to a machine and have the memories of those experiences taken away from us so that we don’t have to deal with the pain and grief of the aftermath.  It’s difficult to move on, but what can we do if we can’t just have those memories erased like Joel in the movie?

1. It’s natural to feel sad –  First off, In no way am I implying that you shouldn’t feel sad about something that has happened.  It’s natural to feel this way.  In your sadness, you can find out where your heart is and it shows you some of your true feelings about something that you’ve lost and it gives you time that you didn’t have before to think about it.  It’s not a matter of how you feel right afterwards, it’s a matter of how you feel, for example, three months after.  After three months, are you still feeling just as sad or depressed?  What can we learn so that we don’t continue to feel this way long after the event?

2. Negative experiences can strengthen us - We can either continue to grieve for what happened, or we can look and see how the experience has changed us as a person.  Experience, regardless of the circumstances, influences the kind of person we become, but the kind of person we become is also heavily influenced by the choices we make to deal with it.  Are we going to continue to grieve for the past and do nothing to move on, or are we going to let go and come out of our sadness stronger than before, because we’re willing to learn from our experiences?

3. When we go through the same experience again, learning will help us become stronger for next time - Life is full of firsts, and we’re normally unsure of how to deal with them when they come around, but what about the second time?  We can’t allow those experiences to win over us again.  Instead, we take the opportunity to apply what we learned last time so that we’re stronger this time.

4. Remember the good memories, because they play a part in how you learn to move on - It also helps to remember the good moments that something brought before it passed away.  It gives you a sense of confidence and thankfulness, because you were blessed to experience moments that you will remember fondly for a lifetime.  With that confidence and thankfulness, you’re willing to open the door into the next thing that’s in store for you.  For instance, if you’ve experienced a death in the family, remember the good moments you got to share with that person.  That goes for relationships too.  Instead of continuing to feel sad when a relationship ends, remember the good moments you had with the other person.  Though this example doesn’t really have to do with good memory, if we make a great mistake, we remember what we did wrong so that we don’t make the same mistake next time.  We grow through our experiences both good and bad, and they make up the person we become, but ultimately it also comes down to how we allow them to affect us.

Measuring the Value of Your Life by the ‘Like’ Button

 

Aah Facebook.  You’re such a big part of our social life in the 21st Century.  I mean, what would we do without you?  You allow us to post pretty much every aspect of our lives for the world to see, including our own insights, opinions, and perceptions on pretty much everything.  We can also post a picture of our birthday cake if we want to.  Everyone needs to know that I love chocolate after all.

One big thing about Facebook to note is this silly thing called the ‘Like’ button.  Simply click it, and the poster knows that you ‘like’ whatever it is he posted.  Then the poster feels happy.  And if he’s happy, then all is well with the world.  If I post something, and no one ‘likes’ it, I’ll just ‘like’ it myself.  After all, if I post something, that means I like it in some way, so shouldn’t that justify me clicking the ‘Like’ button?

On Facebook, expectations are at a feverish all-time high.  We post stuff and hope that people will ‘like’ it.  It gives the person a sense of meaning and value if other people show any amount of interest in his life.  If no one clicks ‘Like’, then the person tends to get depressed or feel like nobody cares about him.  It has happened to me, and I’m pretty positive it happens to a lot of other people.

If you’re happy with your own life, who cares if someone else doesn’t?  Your life isn’t measured by the opinions of others, you yourself measure it.  At the end of the day, you yourself determine how valuable or important your life is.  Next time you post something on Facebook, don’t measure your value based on the number of likes.  Measure it based on how much you thought it was special.