Her Name Is London

She’s a stoic, middle-aged woman. Maybe just crossing the threshold. The point where the wrinkles begin to show, though her makeup covers them well.
She keeps her back straight and holds her head high. Always dresses ornately, adorned appropriately for every occasion. She carries herself with elegance and regality. Her hair is neat. Her eyes are cold and her voice is iron. If she bothers to look at you, it’s always somehow from above.
She rushes about. Constantly busy. It’s difficult to even get so much as a brisk hello in passing.

She’s been hurt before. You can tell. She’d never talk about it though. It’s blocked in by the protective stone wall.

However, when you persist and stand before her just long enough to get in a word before she plows you over, she’ll sigh heavily with annoyance and say, “All right, fine. You want to talk? Let’s talk.”
You stumble around at first, because she’s had years of experience putting up the front that says, “I’m okay. In fact, I’m great. I can do this on my own. I don’t need anybody.”

But if you stick around long enough —
even when she turns the cold shoulder —
if you sit through the long nights,
even when she glares and mutters curses,
if you keep bringing the flowers,
she eventually softens a little.

She subtly begins to show you her tender side.

The hidden gardens.
The colours beneath the grey.

You start finding the places that not everybody gets to see.
The tourists come to admire and the businessmen strike their deals; but they only experience the polished, unwrinkled side; and she determines never to let them get any further.

I can’t say we’re intimate yet. That would take years; but I’m patient. We’re starting to get to the point where she’ll share a secret with me here and there. She’ll crack a joke every once in a while. Her eyes will smile.

And I believe my persistence will show her how worth it she is.

That’s the key — the sticking around. The committing. The persevering. Holding on when it gets tough.
When it’s clear you’re not just going to skip out when things are at their worst, that’s when the trust begins to bloom.

London is often a difficult city to live in. Home is not easily made here. Of course there’s wonder and beauty; but sometimes I feel that for all the novelty, there’s an equal amount of hostility.

Yet, I’ve been given a particular love for this city; and I intend to try hard enough to belong and to make it my own.


Between the Panels

Little India
(Just over a month ago.)
“Hey, man. Why don’t you go up to Wembley Central today. See if you can get to know the area more, connect with the people, get some stories.”

I looked up at Cris from my computer. He and his wife and I had been in the thick of developing a cinematographic, social justice project to raise awareness for different issues and combat isolation in the area.

I’d been stuck answering emails all morning.
Hm. Let me think abou– yes.  

The best part about going out that day was the creative freedom. There was no stifling agenda. No time limit. Nobody was expecting me to produce a certain amount of money or reach a quota. My job was literally just finding interesting people to talk to.

After wandering into one of those ancient, cathedral-style churches (complete with the mossy dilapidated graveyard and everything,) a nice little old Nigerian lady invited me to have some coffee at an event they were hosting.

While I was standing around trying not to look uncomfortable, another chronologically advanced woman came up to me and proceeded to tell me her life story. I heard all about how she grew up in Barbados until her mother sent her away to England for a better life. She hated it at first but then decided she might as well make the best of it. She became a nurse, then a manager, then got married, had kids, her kids had kids. Now, retired and widowed, she ran her own little flower shop business.

After that, I passed by the abandoned hotel where an Indian pastor friend held his church services. (The only metaphorically and literally underground Christian church in London that I know of.) I arrived during the tail end of his service as he was praying for people. As soon as he saw me sitting there doing nothing, he waved me over and said, “Here. Pray for this lady. She’s got pain in her stomach.”

I prayed a little bit and BOOM. The lady got healed on the spot. No joke. Full-on miracle.

The pastor was like, “Sweet. Pray for this other person.”

Same thing. Boom. Pain a moment ago; now, no pain at all.

Afterwards I got to talking to another guy who told me about his childhood growing up in India and how his parents had placed him in a Christian school because they were academically better than Hindu schools at the time, despite the fact that his father was a radical Hindu. This guy converted to Christianity but kept it a secret for a whole ten years until his father found his Bible in the house. His father beat him and threatened to kill him, so he left home. Now he lives in London with his own family.

Later, I sauntered down Ealing Road.
Picture it: The Bollywood music, the smell of incense and burning oil, the lilt of Hindi being spoken up and down the streets. It’s why we affectionately call it Little India.

Top it off with the giant Hindu temple sitting just across the street from the little Baptist church and the Muslim mosque about a block away.

It’s why I love this city so much.

So, a couple years ago, I watched a movie called Super, about a guy starved for justice who wants to become a hero. It’s a rubbish movie. Hilarious, but rubbish.

Anyhow, there’s this one scene where the protagonist is arguing with his sidekick in a garage. The sidekick is whining because she’s bored and feels there isn’t enough crime to fight. The main guy then explains how even in comic books the heroes aren’t fighting all the time. You only see the action in each panel. They have their “boring” moments that get cut out and left “in between” the panels, but even though you never see those moments, it’s understood that the characters still live them.

Despite being such a brain-numbing film, that scene nestled into my mind, and as I walked through Wembley Central that day, totally garnished in the ecstasy of adventure, it began to sprout an epiphany.

I began to wonder if days like this should be a regular thing — if we should strive to make every day a “panel” day. We naturally tend to idolise these sorts of moments. We share the videos on Facebook… post the pictures on Instagram… hear other people tell their stories and think, “Wow. If only my life were as amazing as that person’s life always seems to be.”

But not every moment has to be a highlight. We have our valleys and trenches. The dips that get lost in anonymity. Those are the scenes we just stuff in between the panels. It’s not necessarily a bad thing. I just think the issue is having an expectation for our entire life to be made up of panel moments, or feeling like we need to display our life as one long highlight reel.

Sure. Of course every moment is valuable, but what I think I’m figuring out is I need to learn to appreciate and love both types individually.

We’ll always have our panel moments. The ones we deem “worthy” of talking about or uploading to YouTube. Parading across the cognitive social red carpet to receive the flashes of admiration or awe from peers and strangers. Not that they have to be lived for that reason, of course. Maybe you’d only ever talk about them in the company of good friends telling fun stories and reminiscing old times. Or perhaps on a stage to inspire the upcoming generation.

And of course we’ll have our in-between-the-panel moments. The ones we don’t even bother thinking about when somebody asks, “What have you been up to these last few months?”

But that’s okay. There’s a healthy balance. I’m all for diving into the extravagance of life, but I want to learn to appreciate the “dull” moments too. All the best stories are great just as much for what they don’t show as for what they do. It’s the exhausting mountain of hours that the author spends behind the scenes that make the characters so rich on the page or screen.

The Reel
November drizzled some particularly bleak moments into the mix of the work I’m doing and my continual effort to make London home, but the good far outweighs the bad. Here’s how my life might look in comic book form:

One panel might show us spending heaps of time continuing to develop the Creative Arts internship for next year. Another panel might have us working on starting a free cafe. Another might show me attending refugee home placement meetings, translating for the counseling school, preaching at the aforementioned Indian church, serving in a homeless shelter, or helping out with the English course.

In between the panels… endless emails to answer. Wandering around the streets at night waiting for life to shower me with meaning and purpose. Binge-watching anime TV shows with my Chilean friend. #addictedtoattackontitan

It’s all about how you choose to look at it, right?

The Credits
I’ll be leaving the UK soon to spend Christmas back home in one of my homes this year. That’s also a whole miracle story in itself.

Thanks again from my heart to all you who are believing in me and supporting me in my still-new life over here.

Keep being awesome.


The Mad Ones

Flower Child

A few weeks ago,
as I rode the tube from London to the countryside, I noticed a man get on who was nicely dressed from head to — well — ankle. He was kind of business-casual and everything seemed normal except for the fact that he was completely barefoot.

Instant intrigue on my part.

Being quite a flower child at heart myself, I was like, “Dude, this guy is legit. Look at him just go for it. What a way to live.”
Undeniably, I was a little jealous of his naked feet.

Like everybody else around him, I tried not to stare and simply pretended not to notice; but I was squirming with curiosity. There had to be a fascinating reason why he’d brave the harsh, nastiness of the London underground without at least the protection of a pair of flipflops.

At first I couldn’t bring myself to break through the conformity of social shyness to ask him about it; but then I remembered that I’m in my twenties and life is short and I’m the gatekeeper of my own destiny; and I decided there was no way I was stepping off that train without getting an answer.

So I leaned over.

“Uh, hello. Excuse me. Hi there. Um. Why are you barefoot?”

He kind of half smiled, half grimaced and said, “Just for fun.”

“Ah, okay. Cool.” I blended back into the “pretend-not-to-notice” crowd.

It just wasn’t good enough for me though.

I leaned over again. “So, uh, do you do this often?”

“Nope. Never.”

“Huh. So you just spontaneously woke up today and decided not to put your shoes on?”

Then his wife turned to me and said, “He’s having a mid-life crisis.”

I can’t say I was fully convinced by any of this. There seemed to be more behind it; but how far does one push in these scenarios, right?

Just before my stop, I said, “Sir, would you be offended if I took a picture of your feet?”

He said, “Yes.”

“Yes, you would be offended?”


We both laughed awkwardly and pretended not to feel uncomfortable.

And of course, we ended up getting off at the same stop.

Unique Is Interesting

A couple weeks after that, as I was walking along the ocean shore in Broadstairs (barefoot, of course,) I found myself contemplating the thin line between being confidently yourself regardless of popular opinion, and striving to be interesting for the sake of significance.

Wait, what?

Okay, maybe another way of putting it would be knowing you’re awesome and living that out without a need for human affirmation, versus seeking the direct or indirect recognition of society by standing out from the crowd.

Perhaps that was just as confusing; but what I’m trying to unearth is how it often seems we have that natural impulse to be defined by being different, to be distinguished by being interesting. That tendency to find a sense of significance by being noticed, because being noticed feels like being valued.

It comes out subliminally in the colour of our clothing, or the way we choose to speak, or the stories we tell other people about ourselves. Maybe those things are true to who we are, but maybe sometimes the underlying motivation is slightly scented with the desire for just a little bit more self worth.

You wouldn’t put it in these words, but the subconscious thought sounds like, “I’m that guy who looks like this. I’m known by that. That’s how I’m recognisable to the world.”
Of course then we also take on this air of nonchalance, convincing ourselves and everybody else that we’re not doing it on purpose — that we don’t even notice.

Nonetheless, we already know an identity constructed on your perception of other people’s perception of you is quite crumbly.

Or maybe I’m the only one who’s ever done that. Who’s to say?

Either way, I think it’s a backwards mentality.
You don’t need to do something to mean something.
We’re all already intrinsically valuable.

I’d say that letting the way we live come from a value we know we already have makes us more beautiful and unique and interesting anyway.

And like all healthy things, there’s a balance to it. If you’re well aware of your own worth, then you’re more free to be crazy and audacious and outrageous, because you aren’t so molded or driven by the world’s opinion.

I’ll give the final touch with one of my favourite quotes:

The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
-Jack Kerouac


The Palpitating Heart of Diversity – A London Update

Those First Impressions

If London’s streets are her veins, then diversity is the blood that flows through them.

I had already known London was one of the most international cities in the world; but I didn’t expect that in one single day I could easily feel like I’d wandered through at least three different countries. As I traverse the streets, I seriously think English is the language I hear least of all. I’ve actually probably used almost as much Spanish as English since arriving.

I had also already known London would be gorgeous, of course, with the typical touristy eye-catchers (which I haven’t actually even seen yet,) but I hadn’t suspected I’d find as much (or more) beauty in the hidden spots — the places she doesn’t post all over Instagram or Pinterest. It’s the type of beauty that she self-consciously tucks away in her deserted alleyways for fear nobody would find it attractive.
You have to really get to know her to discover it.

A Glimpse

I hit the ground running when I arrived, and I only really paused when the jetlag caught up and tackled me to the ground.

I propelled myself into pretty much every opportunity I could squeeze into. Being the new guy, I’ve been getting tossed between the different ministries and projects quite a bit, but I think I’m learning the rhythm of it all now. So far, it’s been a medley of everything from joining an official borough meeting to discuss refugee relief and care, to hosting an Argentine barbecue for a lovely old-people church, to acting as assistant cameraman for the most posh British summer party I’ve ever been to.

All right, fine — the only posh British summer party I’ve ever been to.

People here at the base are spectacular. Everybody runs on a fiery passion driven by the intrepidity for progress, change, and improvement of the world in general.
Some of them are heading up trafficking awareness events in the city; others are holding influential meetings within Parliament. The list goes on.

Love After First Sight

Call me the naive foreigner, but I’ll admit I was surprised to find aspects of London much darker than I’d anticipated — like the fact that the city does actually have a red light district, for example. Or perhaps the instance from last week, when I met a pastor from Asia who leads a literal underground church here, because the women who go there would be beaten at home if their husbands found out they were attending Christian services.

Nevertheless, life is perpetually blossoming. I’m continually encountering unsung heroes thriving in the face of apathy and enmity; and though it may not have necessarily been love at first sight, the more I get to know this city, the more fond of her I become. It’s only a harvest of delight when I pass through a park and hear kids yelling at each other in a language I can’t understand, or when I’m engulfed in the smell of garum masala as I walk by the street shops.

Keep an eye out for my updates on Facebook and Instagram. I’ll try not to be too elusive.
And of course don’t ever hesitate to reach out or chat. I may be on the other side of the world now for some of you, but let’s not be strangers, yeah?

Thanks again for caring, and thanks for the part you all play in this.


An Update on the Quest – Here’s to a Final Day

They say that for Third Culture Kids and frequent travelers, your home is where your toothbrush is; and for most of us in those categories, it seems our toothbrushes tend to hang out a lot in our backpacks.

If that’s the truth, though, I may have to leave a second toothbrush here in Montana, just for safekeeping.

Fewer than two days until the official due date; and by due date, I mean departure date. This Saturday, July 8th, I’ll drive up into Canada and fly out from Calgary over the ocean to England. All told, from the moment I take my first step out the front door here in the States to the moment I take my last somewhere in London, it shall have probably been around a measly 45 hours of travel or so. C’est la vie.

This being my last week, I’ve been scrambling to prepare all the things I procrastinated to the last minute (yes — I should know better.) I have, however, also wrung my days dry with making the best of an adventure that life in Montana has to offer.  Thanks to great friends with brilliant ideas, I didn’t leave in June like I had originally planned and ended up being able to have one of the most spectacular 4th of July celebrations ever, complete with mid-summer snowball fights and a mountaintop view of the fireworks that night.

With how busy I’d been, it wasn’t until these last few days that I’d realised how sad I felt about leaving again. I’ve come and gone plenty often, but it’s been a while since I’ve left a solid homeland so conclusively for so long. It’ll be a fresh start to a brand new life this time. It’s exhilarating and invigorating, but believe me I do also know I’m leaving a really good thing.

I definitely don’t want to pass up thanking all of you who are supporting me in going over there — those I know about and those I don’t know about. Not only are you literally enabling me to go and being a part of something significant, but it’s also a sublimely special feeling to know I have so many people who believe in me personally. You guys are awesome, and shoving all clichés aside, this really does make us all a part of accomplishing something meaningful together.
So thank you again. I appreciate it magnificently.

(If you’re interested in supporting me with the work I’ll be doing in England, or if you’d like to give a one-time donation, just click here for the proper info.)

Expect to hear an update from me sometime shortly after I arrive in Europe and get situated. I honestly can’t say I know what lifestyle to expect (I doubt I’ll be living alone in a dark castle writing novels, as some of my family members have postulated…at least not yet.) I only know six people in all of England and I have no clue how the first few days or weeks will unfold, but my expectations are open and my hopes are high. I’ll do my best to keep you all updated on things once I’ve begun the work and gotten into the rhythm of it all.

Here’s to a final full day in Montana. To a pursuit and cultivation of beauty. To moving audaciously forward in new things. To the efforts in making a significant impact in our nooks of the world.

And to the hopeful anticipation of yummy European pastries.


The Tragedy. The Harmony.

There’s this tragedy I commit occasionally:

Something gorgeous will zoom by, so I’ll screech to a halt, pull a U-turn in the middle of the highway, dash back to that spot, whip out my phone, take 28 different pictures, and then just move on, all without having spent even at least 28 seconds to simply be there and take it in with my eyes, seeing it unfiltered through a camera or through the lens of my best guess on other people’s opinions.

I’ll ponder back and realise in a sense that I don’t know what it actually looked like, you know? I’ll know what the picture looks like, but I won’t know what the air smelled like. I won’t know what sounds there were. I won’t really even know how it felt, mostly because I wasted too much focus fretting over how I could get it to turn out Instagram-worthy.

I still love taking pictures, though; and even though I know we shouldn’t have to take a picture to validate a moment, sometimes it can be one of the best ways to value it. So there must be a healthy balance blossoming in there somewhere.

I’ve supposed that a lot of this living in the moment business involves as much physical intricacy as it does mental or emotional. Like taking a really deep close-eyed whiff of your food before eating, for instance. Not only does smell prep your salivary glands and enhance your taste buds, but I also personally think it just makes eating all that much more enjoyable. The more senses you engage, the richer the experience. You take a moment to centre in on each one, rather than just swallow it through a single avenue, and together they blend into this harmonious symphony of sheer pleasure and delight.

And life becomes just a little bit more beautiful.

At least if the food actually tastes good.

I’ve tried this technique when I’m alone with God to mold it into my subconscious to be more present with other people. When I’m outside, especially out running or hiking in the woods, I’ll halt in my tracks and close my eyes, inhale deeply through my nose, and focus there. Then I hone in on the sounds of the wind chasing the birdsongs through the trees. If I’m barefoot, I’ll wiggle my toes a bit on the ground or perhaps just fixate on the air touching my face and hands. No, I don’t actually lick the dirt (except for maybe that one time back in Norway. It was worth it.) But you know how sometimes you can taste the air on your tongue if you breathe it in just right? Yep. Just like that.

Sure, it’s all somewhat spacey and poetic; but it works. When I open my eyes again, everything radiates so much more vibrantly. I feel so much more there. My body bridged my soul to the moment, and I at least feel a bit more alive. It’s just one out of many ways to go about it, but coupled with a delicately cultivated sense of wonder, a permissibly nurtured curiosity, and a genuine effort at selflessness, it at least helps me be a bit more present throughout my day from time to time, person to person.

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” -Marcel Proust

I’m trying to teach myself that if I’m going to take a picture of something extraordinary, if I have the time, I ought to pause for a moment and take it in all the way. Perhaps even that way I could get a tiny bit more out of looking back on the photograph.


The Quest – Announcing the New Adventure

You know that feeling you get when you’re sitting in your car at the grocery store parking lot, asking God what to do with your life, and suddenly He slaps you upside the head and writes it out in the sky in Times New Roman with clouds and rainbows and flying angel babies?

Yeah, me neither. That’s never happened to me.

However, I do know what it feels like to delve, to pursue, to really exert the time and effort to get to know Him and sync up with His passions. That feeling, you know? Gradually, getting an idea of where I fit into particular things He’s doing in the world and what He’s calling me to.

On my end, though, these past two months served me quite a concentrated dose of that process. Though it burned a bit on the way down, the grossly summarised result of that, then, is that for once I actually now know what I’m going to do with my life. I mean, what my next big step in life is.

Oh, all right. Sure. I’ll share it with you.


Queue dramatic music. 

Pause for effect. 


I’m moving to England.


Drops the mic. 

Image result for drops the mic minion

Yes, true story. I’ll be gathering up my life (all one and a half backpacks of it) and making the quick little hop over to London to begin my new life as a professional chocolate-taster’s apprentice.
No, wait. Wrong story.
Missionary. I’m going to be a missionary.

In a way I could sort of say that going through the Discipleship Training School in Norway last year was part of what got me hooked on the idea of working in full-time missions. Over these past six months or so of contemplating my next big step, I knew I at least wasn’t anywhere near done traveling and living abroad; and I started feeling more certain about being in missions and doing volunteer work somewhere in the world. One of the biggest problems was honing in on a location. (I mean, really — when you’re only given the option of every single country in the world, how are you expected to easily make a decision?)
I guess you’re not. For me, it involved a lot of time and a heap of prayer.

I’ve only been to London once, for about seven hours.

Some might say that doesn’t really count.
This time, though, I’ll be going long-term.

Youth With a Mission has a base in London called Urban Key. They’re all about social justice and making a difference by impacting people’s lives in the city for the better; and they have a huge focus on influencing the societal sphere of arts and media. As if there could be a better combination, eh?
I’ll be joining on as staff, which for the most part means my full-time job will be involved in the mercy ministries (working with refugees and people living on the streets,) and church networking. They’ve also asked me to help develop their new creative arts and media internship, Fusion,

I’m looking for people now who would like to give to the work or become long-term supporters for me.
I’ll be there entirely on a volunteer basis, so I’ll be in charge of raising my own support for all my fees and expenses. Basically you’re the ones who can be part in enabling the vision for me. So it’s entirely up to you and how you feel prompted to join in; and I’d love for you to believe with me in what we’re accomplishing over there.  Please consider it, because nothing is too small and no effort will go unappreciated.

If you’re keen, here’s a quick scoop on the easiest ways to give.

1. You can give to me directly using this link.

Though, if you’re interested in receiving a charitable donation tax-deductible receipt, you can either

2. Click here.


3. Mail a check to

YWAM Tyler
PO Box 3000
Garden Valley, TX

(however, please DO NOT put my name anywhere on the check because it will muddle things up on their taxes. Instead make it out to YWAM and just put my name on a separate little note in the envelope to say it’s for me at Urban Key; this is quite important)

 4. In addition,
if you want to donate directly with a card or set up an Automatic Withdrawal with your account (which is convenient for me because there is no extra processing fee,) send an email to this address: mckenzie.blair@ywamtyler.org.

In each of these cases, you’ll receive your tax-deductible receipt after each donation.

And of course you can also use any other various options:
Beaver pelts and exotic spices, if that’s how you roll.

My mailing address in the States is

PO Box 1374
Bigfork, MT

And my address in London will be

98 Park View
Wembley HA9 6JX
London, UK

It’d also be splendid if every now and then you could have a little chat with the Lord about me. That’s just a whimsical way of saying please support me in prayer. But seriously, I’m fully convinced it makes a difference; so I would certainly appreciate it.

From now on, I’ll be primarily using this blog to give my updates on life, ministry, work, and travel; but of course I’ll still also keep sharing my profoundly esoteric ruminations and deep cogitations on life, as always. If you’d like to keep up with all of it, go ahead and subscribe, or perhaps even comment below with your email address and I can send my updates there.

I finally got my visa this last Friday, which means now it’s only a matter of a handful of weeks before I leave. I’ll be looking at tickets in the next couple days and aiming for around the last week of June or so. I’ll announce my departure date as soon as I know it.

Please contact me if you want to know more. I’d actually love to talk about it. Maybe shoot me a text or give me a call if you want to hang out. After all, I need to make the best of my last little bit of Montana summer before I go.




The Search for Significance – Part I


When  a human child is first born, we’re instantly convinced of its incontestable worth even though it’s done absolutely nothing for anybody or for the world or for God;
yet it seems that as we grow older, we begin to cultivate that entangling mentality of determining our own worth by what we can accomplish in life or how well we can do it.
I think it’s one of the most paradoxical trademarks of human nature; but ironically, despite being admittedly productive to an extent, this type of pursuit for significance becomes exhausting and, ultimately, unfulfilling.

At what point do you actually do enough to become enough?
And enough in whose opinion, anyway? Your own? The opinion of other people? What you think is the opinion of other people about you?

Way too often I’ve found myself sustaining the moments where I felt compelled to justify my existence on the earth by what I could do for it whilst I’m here. It seems to me personally that a lot of us subconsciously feel that we need to validate our life — or at the very least our sense of self-worth — by our effectiveness in the world
(or our approval by the world; but that’s another post.)

We all have the need to feel needed, right? That’s a good and normal thing. The problem rolls around when our security is stacked up on our abilities, talents, capacities, or effectiveness, because then suddenly when we can’t find a place for those things, or when we’re not needed, the despondency of uselessness slips in through the gap, and we feel purposeless and consequently worthless.
Some of the same colours paint the mindset for the fear of failure. It would stand to reason that if who you are depends on what you do, then making a mistake or failing at any endeavour would define you as an essential failure, which leaves no room for anything less than an impossibly high standard of perfection.

Image result for batman quotes it's not who you are underneath

Somewhat dismal, isn’t it?
Perhaps Batman was talking more about our actions displaying what’s inside of us, which is necessarily inevitable; but the question here lies in whether our actions give us value.

I have a colossal regard for making the most of the time we have —  chuck the excuses, pull a Nike, and just do it. Life is too short and too precious to try to have it all figured out before getting started on anything worth achieving, big or small.

It had long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.”
-Leonardo da Vinci

But I think the crucial point hinges on our motivation and why we do things.

The last two months dragged me through the mud in a process of realising that I’d been scrambling to find and fulfill my purpose in an effort to earn my right to approval.

Maybe that’s backwards, though.

Perhaps instead we can learn something from the love for infants and refashion our effort into a pursuit for a significance that comes from approval and value for who we are before we’ve done anything to earn it. Why would the inherent value given to us at birth (or at conception — or even before then) effervesce simply because we became older, bigger, and smarter? We inherit a responsibility to act, of course, when we mature, because to whom much is given, much is required; but what kind of metamorphosis would our lives undergo if we were able to accept the truth that the value placed on our lives has less to do with what we’ve done, and more to do with what was done for us?

Yes. I am referring to an unconditional love from God and the sacrifice of Jesus.

We are so obsessed with doing that we have no time for being. As a result, men are valued not for what they are but for what they do or what they have — for their usefulness.”
-Thomas Merton

I believe everybody has a purpose. I think it’s a given that we’ll be given a calling; but maybe sometimes we try to harvest something from our calling that it wasn’t meant to provide for us in the first place. Somewhere along the line we started believing that purpose gives meaning. I think part of the key to deciphering the enigma, however, is in unlocking the realisation that the call on your life to impact the world is a gift to display your already-inherent value, not a requirement to prove it. Ergo, failure becomes more bearable because it doesn’t affect who we are.

We ought to work from a place of love, acceptance, and significance, not for it.

I think it’s a life-long process, like most crucial elements of being human; but starting down that path can entirely revolutionise the way we live.



I’d actually love to hear your thoughts on these things. Speculations, skepticism, criticism, appraisal, comments, random irrelevant cogitations. All the toppings. Whether you agree or disagree, I’m open to hear any opinions. All feedback is welcome. We can build on each other’s perspective, and it will inevitably help me write better, juicier content.


Of Traffic and Novels


I remember getting to visit this one particular library a long time ago when I was still a little kid living in Costa Rica. I thought it was cool because it was an American library, which meant I got to read all the books in English. I suppose it was “official,” as far as libraries go, but looking back now, I realise it was definitely just a person’s house stacked with extra shelves in the living room and hallways all packed with his or her collection of books.

But hey, it worked for me.

I also remember once noticing a piece of paper taped to one side of the shelves, with a funny little story on it. To the extent of my memory, it went went something along the lines of,

As Joe sat for over an hour in his car stuck in traffic, he thought to himself, ‘Why does this only ever happen to me?!’

I thought it was pretty clever at the time. I probably even wished I would have come up with it myself.

Yet, that intellectual batter had a certain rich ingredient of truth which I didn’t quite taste until much later on.
Years afterwards, I eventually moved to the States and proceeded to initiate my own independent life, which of course involved all the grownup things like buying a car and driving to work and, yes, occasionally getting stuck in traffic (or always getting stuck in traffic, when it came to my short stay in Baton Rouge.) The usual.
But then the batter finally finished baking in my comprehensive oven and the realisation hit me:

We don’t ever actually get stuck in traffic, do we?

We become traffic.

*Cognitive super nova*

I thought it was a pretty radical revelation.
My natural compulsory tendency was to support the subconscious supposition that everybody else in the world is getting in my way, getting me stuck, making me late for wherever I’m going, whether it’s just somewhere random like work or somewhere actually imperative like Crispy Cremes. Selfish road hogs. Can’t they see I’m the prime focal point and centre of all existence? Impertinent! And don’t even get me started on rush hour. That’s just an entity other people inconsiderately always create, something I need to avoid since, if I’m not working that day, whatever I’m doing is far more important.

As you can see, I tend to think about myself a lot.

Obviously I’m aware there are all sorts of logically mathematical and statistical factors for how and why traffic happens, such as wrecks and agonisingly slow drivers (Ahem. I won’t mention any names of certain people I know;) but for the general occasion it took a considerable degree of deliberate emotional conceding to admit I was part of the mass — part of the problem, as it were. Sure, without me the traffic would probably still be there…in most cases….no comment….but as soon as traffic “happens” and I’m there, I have become traffic, just like everybody else, for everybody else. It’s not just me stuck, but all of us together forming a massive faceless entity comprised of many various individual deliberations and intentions.

Stuck in traffic, becoming traffic… The semantics don’t matter as much as the mindset behind your apperceptive steering wheel. It’s easy to consider yourself a nameless speck in a mass of nameless specks, and it’s even easier to elevate yourself as the perceptive nexus point in that mass of specks; but the truth is that we each hold an infallibly immeasurable degree of inherent significance independent of any relativity to one another.

I think it’s a realisation embodied perfectly in a word from The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows, by John Koenig.
The realisation that everybody has a story, and he or she is the primary character in that story; and in the same way that the mass of humanity flowing around you is made up of all the background characters in your story, you too might also be a background character in their story.

But there’s a richer harvest to be gathered from this crop than just a sorrowful sentiment.

When being the protagonist of your own story becomes less about elevating yourself (for the sake of self-worth) or comparing your story to another, but more about owning your plot and living it well, valuing your life because it was the one given to you, then it becomes an enjoyable story.

I think its okay if sometimes we feel like we’re not doing a good job managing the plot, though, because our worth doesn’t come from what we can accomplish or how well we do it anyway. We’re inherently valuable already. The things we do and accomplish should be an expressive indication of that, not an effort to validate it. With that perspective fueling our tanks, I think we can ride out more freely, more passionately, with the top down and the music blaring.

The sentiment becomes manageable. We can be okay with being the occasional extra in somebody else’s cast of characters, because there’s nothing to prove; and having overcome that need for external, presumably objective validation, I think it becomes easier to extend that extra amount of consideration towards other people, fully accepting them as the protagonists of their stories, allowing them to be the centre of our attention for a moment.

I realised the other day that glancing at another person’s life in passing is like looking at the cover of an epic novel. A brief interaction with somebody is like flipping through the first couple pages.
So we’re all novels. I guess that makes any traffic jam a library, eh?
Too cheesy? Sorry. I’ll let you pretend I never said that.


For the record, I would just like to rub it in all your faces that in the nearly four years I’ve been living in Montana, I’ve experienced actual traffic a maximum of maybe two or three times.
Gotta love those wide open spaces, baby.

Procrastination Station

Allow me to tell you about a little friend — rather, an acquaintance — I have who tends to pop in uninvited a bit too often.
Typically, he sneaks up behind me just as I’m thinking of doing something productive, like writing a new blog post or working out, and he distracts me with notions of other things I could do instead. I’m sure you’ve met him before too. Around these parts he’s known as Procrastination.

Okay, whom am I kidding? He’s basically my mortal enemy.

Procrastination is a sleazy creature. I envision him as a skinny little gnome. Skitterish, pointy ears, high-pitched voice. The whole enchilada. He might seem cute at first, but he always shows up at the most inopportune times thinking out loud about all the other things  I could be doing in the moment besides what I was intending to do. His ideas do always seem good, at first. In fact, he’s downright persuasive.

Here’s what an interaction between us might resemble:

I’ll be coming from a delight little walk in the woods feeling all inspired and ultra-spiritual and eager to write a full 1000-word blog post that will generate dozens of new followers and get a bazillion likes and be shared all over the internet, but even before I make to the front steps, the little gnome hops out from the bushes and yells, “Hey, Nicholas! How’s it going? You look so great today. What’re you up to?”

“Oh, I’m just planning to write for a bit,” I respond, still eagerly trying to hold on to all my new brilliant ideas before I forget them.

“Oh, that’s cool,” he quips. “Such great ambition. You’re such a good writer. Maybe some day you’ll actually be able to prove it to yourself and to the world. Hey, you’re probably really hungry from that long walk, huh? Why don’t you have a quick little something to eat before you get to work, you know, to nourish the brain and all that?”

I’m a bit apprehensive. I know I should probably get straight to writing whilst my ideas are still fresh and my motivation is hot, but he does kind of have a point, doesn’t he? I could just eat something now and get it over with so I wouldn’t have to stop for it later on.

“Well, okay,” I concede, “maybe I could; but just something really quick, and then I’ll get straight to it as soon as I’m done.”

“Of course, of course!” he says with a shrill liveliness. “And don’t even worry right now about the clothes you left in the dryer. You can fold those tonight.”

Oh yeah, I think to myself. Those still need to be done too; but he has a point; I should do them later.

As I’m eating, however, he leans over my shoulder and whispers, “You know… you still haven’t finished transferring all the information from your old bank account to your new one. That’s actually important grownup stuff that needs to be done.”

I feel a little offended. “Writing is grownup stuff,” I mumble through a mouthful of bagel and cheese, trying to convince myself that it’s actually true.

“Oh, sure! No doubt about that in the least!” Now he’s sitting on the table in front of me. “But this is more important in the moment; and besides if you get all this boring stuff out of the way first, then you can relax and have as much time as you want to write without having all the other stuff hanging over you.” He says this as he hangs over my plate.

“Well,” I swallow my food and stand, “I guess there is some sense in that.”

“Yes! Yes! It’s the smart thing,” he jitters up at me as I pick up my plate and try to maneouvre around the kitchen without tripping over him. By now most of the motivation from my walk has started to dissipate.

The gnome is still talking: “And since you’ll already be on your computer anyway, working on all that mundane stuff, you could go ahead and finally clear out all those old emails from your inbox, eh? They’ve been there for ages!”

I sigh. “I suppose I should do that too.”

“Yes. Yeeees,” he snickers sinisterly.

Then, however, as I’m sitting at my computer trying to get my “grownup” tasks out of the way, but somehow continuously finding more to do, I see his pointy ears poke over the edge of the desk.
“Hey!” he whispers. “Hey! Sssspt! Hey! It’s been, like, a whole six minutes since you last checked Facebook. Maybe now there’s something new and interesting to look at.”

“Leave me alone,” I command. “I’m busy.”

“Oh, I know! I’m not trying to distract you. It’s just that you’ve been working so hard, and maybe taking a little break will help you relax. Just a couple quick scrolls down the ol’ feed, nothing more.”

Before I even realise what I’m doing, my hand reaches for my phone and I’m scrolling mindlessly down Facebook. Next thing I know, I’m watching cute cat videos and remembering I need to start getting ready to leave for that movie night I had later in the evening.

And on and on.

Now, I’m obviously not trying to disassociate myself from the fault of my procrastination habit and blame it on an imaginary gnome.

(Though sometimes that would make things easier, I think.)
I’m just recognising it for it for what it is — a habit. A bad one.
Fortunately, that’s one of the first steps towards overcoming procrastination.

And I was going to wrap up this post with practical ways to stop procrastinating, but I think I’ll save it for later.







Just kidding. I’m not that bad.

Though I admit I did think about it.

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Nearly everything I’ve read on overcoming procrastination breaks down the process into three basic steps:

  1. When it happens, admit to yourself you’re procrastinating.
  2. Recognise why you’re procrastinating.
  3. Enact a strategic step to combat the urge.

The When

Okay, let’s be frank. How often am I really being truthful with myself when I think, “Oh, it’s fine if I eat four more cookies now. It’s the last week of the month. I’ll just let myself splurge this one last time and start really taking care of my diet next week.”

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Too often I let the fleeting pleasure of the moment suffocate my desire to face reality.

Being honest with yourself is just plain healthy in general.

The Why

The gnome likes to sit on the edge of my desk and catch me in my weak moments. “You’re not really thinking of putting your writing out there just yet, are you? Why not wait a little bit, til you’re actually a good writer? A legitimate writer.”
For many of us it’s probably less a matter of laziness and more just a fear of failure, isn’t it? Or perhaps that all-or-nothing mentality. (“If I can’t do it well, why do it at all?”)

One of my slipperiest slopes is, “Eh, cleaning isn’t that important right now. It can wait. Just keep it somewhere near the bottom of the list and you’ll get around to it when you have the time to spare.”

Yesterday I had to snatch him up by the ears and hold him at eye level.
“Let’s get one thing straight, you little runt,” I said fiercely. “There never really is ‘time to get around to it,’ (and if there is, I’m usually too tired or just ‘not in the mood.’) Furthermore, there will always be something else to do. So no more excuses.”

That sent him scampering off and I was actually able to sit down and start this post.

The How

Willpower is good, but it’s very limited (at least in my case) and it typically tends to run out, oh, I don’t know… usually around the time I smell that fresh batch of brownies in the kitchen or when I hit my first grumpy-bump of the day. From what I’ve learned over my short life, the best way to break a bad habit isn’t so much by exerting energy to avoid it, but by shifting the focus to something else, namely, other good habits. It’s indisputable that what we keep our focus on will eventually determine our actions.

Almost all the articles I found had these same techniques in mutuality:

  • Believing in yourself, and believing that what you want to accomplish is actually important.
  • Rewarding yourself for accomplishing something. (I confess. My problem is that I like rewards for doing nothing.)
  • Concentrating on starting the process, rather than finishing it. That way it doesn’t seem so daunting.
  • Having concrete thoughts on how to practically start something instead of always daydreaming. (I insert the “always” because I actually benefit a lot from daydreaming. There’s a balance.)
  • Creating — blegh! — schedules and deadlines. (Honestly, I’d probably prefer to drink toilet water.)
  • Forgiving yourself for whenever you fail. (That just applies to all areas of life.)

As my friend Steven Jones always says,

Just starting is 90% of getting the job done.

Probably because most don’t even get that far.

There’s definitely a legitimate allowance for taking breaks and prioritising, but when it’s a matter of having a procrastination gnome sitting on your lap saying, “Eh, this is hard. Wasn’t there some folder or something in your documents that needed to be organised?” then usually I know it’s time to do a little exterminating.

No, it’s not easy, but what valuable endeavour ever is? I believe progress is just as admirable as the end results.

Gradually, the gnome starts to feel less welcome, and when he does show up, I bash him over the head with a good Pablo Picasso quote:

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