1 January - Final Reflection

It is difficult to believe it has been 365 days since my first endeavor – the Polar Bear Plunge. Jumping into Lake Michigan on a crisp and overcast 10 degree morning was not something I was necessarily interested in doing. And it was only January 1st. But this attitude would be the antithesis of my goal this past year: experiencing new things with the hopes of learning and expanding my knowledge base. How could I judge an experience or reasons why people do “silly” things if I myself have not participated? Attitude adjustment.

So one year later, I did the jump again. This time, I was inspired by friends who wanted to do it for their first time. (We started with 10, and yielded four. And I completely understand why - another Noon plunge in 13 degree weather.) Now that it is one year later, do I feel any different? Have I accomplished what I set out to do? The answer is yes and yes.

This journey has brought me much understanding, compassion, stress, gratification, pushed my creativity and helped build upon my courage.

Best of all, I gained some incredible friendships. This is pure reward, as nothing in life lasts but the relationships we have built and the impact we leave behind. I listened to the stories of a felon, a homeless family, to Broadway leads. I met reality show producers, plated with Top Chef winners and collaborated with award-winning musicians. From energy healers to photographers and designers. To servicemen and women to the elderly who have no visitors. I’ve mourned with some, listened to others’ struggles with raising children with special needs. All intertwined was the story of empowerment. Everyone finds ways to get by and overcome.

What have I learned?

It's never too late - for anything...to start something completely new, to say sorry, to evolve into a different form of self, to pursue a small or herculean feat. The only obstacle is you.

Listen. I enjoy conversation because of its engaging and collaborative nature that can span all emotions in one sitting. It’s the building of an idea. Conversation sometimes helps us hear and strengthen our own convictions. Chatter is quite another thing. Those who pontificate for the sake of hearing themselves talk expand not their knowledge, but only their ego. So listen. And we will learn more.

I relearned a lesson: don’t judge -- people or experiences. It not only invites judgment upon oneself, but how arrogant to think one can assume what another is going through. There are so many variables that define a person at a specific moment in time or certain stage in one’s life. It’s not about you, so let them go through it. And if we prejudge a situation, we stunt our own growth.

Don’t give up on convictions or ideas. Others’ approval does not matter. It may be a wrong time or formula for them. Their own 15 minutes may be up tomorrow. No one is more qualified than ourselves if our gut tells us so. Keep on going. Positive begets positive. We never know what is around the corner.

Inspire. This was my greatest joy. I am grateful for emails, phone calls and incredible deep and personal conversations where one was inspired to overcome a fear, to try something new or who saw life in a different way… one entry inspired someone pay for a stranger's dinner; another to leave work early to spend time with his family; to become a producer for a show; to write a book; to try something as crazy as pole dancing; and visit with a homeless man. To help someone realize a goal and succeed is an honor.

Declutter. Life’s short but very wide, so clean life of what bogs us down. This includes people.
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Most of all, Enjoy. Mom always said, "This is life. But it's only life." This is to say, take what life throws your way, AND don't take life too seriously. So enjoy every moment of what we set out to do, and what comes our way.

Lastly, Appreciate. We already have all we need. It's in us. Sure, expand our circle, but keep sacred who and what we love, and who and what loves us. These people remind us where we came from and believe in where we are headed. They keep us grounded, humbled to build and give the hope to continue.

Life is continuing education. The experiences – blissful and hurtful, meaningful and useless – are the tests. How we fare on the outset are our grades. The beauty is, we always have a choice to do better. We cannot erase the previous results, but we use that to mold us. And do better.

My friend David reminds me tomorrow is just another day. "January 1st does NOT own the rights for reinvention announcements." This calms me, as many ask, "So what will you do now that 2009 is over?" My answer is I will continue.

The goal will be to continue to learn but through other people...could be an interview, could be a collaborative project and no weekly deadline. Thus, the same path, but evolved... Just like how we are as humans. We may have a core that is set, the road may be defined, but we evolve into who we are to become from different experiences. And still have the power to change. Please join me in my new blog, TheRoadEvolves.blogspot.com. I will write early February, when I return from a surgical mission trip to the Philippines.

Write me, as I would like to write about YOU.

Find your outlet. Pour and build.

Ichigo Ichie.

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