About the author and why this blog exists:
Ten years ago, where did you imagine your life would be today? Where did you picture yourself living? With whom? What was your home to be like? Your job? Your income? What future did you once invent for yourself? How well does it correspond with your present? We often form ideas of where we would like to progress over time, especially when it comes to the foremost components of what guides the circumstances of our lives, such as our long term educations, careers, and personal relationships. For most of us, we find ourselves in a life substantially different now than what we may have envisioned for ourselves a decade ago. In some cases, this may have resulted in a more favorable, or in other cases less agreeable, present than our past selves could have ever guessed possible. Still, many others may discover themselves in a life that is not necessarily inferior or superior to what their younger imaginations conjured, but simply a very different, unexpected outcome. A minority of us may have managed to make more accurate predictions about the major events of their lives, but none of us would have had the ability to foresee the intimate details of our futures. The variables that govern our paths in life are so complex and innumerable that even the most perspicacious cannot fathom them all.
The “American Dream”
As I write this, I am 27 years old. Like many, my life is not exactly what, ten years ago, I dreamed it becoming. As a twenty-something in the United States, the typical American ideal is to have gone to college, graduated, started a lifelong career with a respectable income (with potential to rise in title and salary over time), gotten married to a pretty and wholesome young woman with a career of her own, and bought a house in a nice suburban community. My spouse and I should also each own a vehicle to commute to our 9-5 jobs, Monday through Friday, take a nice week long vacation once a year, maybe have a dog, and possibly be starting a family. This, or a similar scenario with some variations, has been the usual expectation of most young Americans, especially of the middle class, even if it is not the typical reality. It is an embodiment of the “American Dream” of home ownership, a stable nuclear family, and a prosperous and rewarding career, allowing for upward social-economic mobility. Analogous versions of this have become standard in a number of other developed nations as well.
The lifestyle I just described is not only what is generally expected, but also what I genuinely hoped to have for my future when I was a 17 year old senior in high school. In addition, it was, for the most part, what my parents and grandparents had. Through their examples and the portrayal of the same in popular culture, it naturally became the ideal to strive for as it does for many. Upon graduating high school, I received a full scholarship for a public state university and had my longtime girlfriend joining me at the same college. I felt fortunate to already be “ahead” of the rest.
Before I explain what milestones in life led me to starting this blog, I feel I should preface it by emphasizing that any successes described were not reached without their share of mistakes and occasional failures. Whatever shortcomings I committed, however, I know I have learned and evolved from their trials and consequences. There is always some risk of sounding ostentatious or self-righteous when talking about one’s own achievements in any detail. In sharing my background, I hope to shed light on my experiences without conveying that negative perception. It was during the course of the very experiences I am about to recount that I came to recognize how pride and pretension can be destructive forces, feeding one’s ego while starving their character.
During my childhood, I developed an early fascination for animals and the environment. I spent countless hours watching wildlife shows on television and reading about various zoology facts. I spent my earliest years in Illinois, living in a suburb of Chicago and enjoying visits to places like the Brookfield Zoo and the Field Museum of Natural History. My family moved to the Phoenix area of central Arizona just after my 13th birthday. I soon fell in love with hiking while exploring the trails of the desert mountains of my new home. In high school, I spent three years volunteering at my local zoo and was thrilled to have the opportunity to work with a variety of animals, giving educational presentations to the public. By age 16, a growing interest in history, fostered by visits to museums, led me to start my first real historical research when I investigated my family’s genealogy. A senior AP European History course helped to connect what had previously been isolated events in my mind to each other. I began to realize that history was not just the memorization or recitation of facts, dates, and names as most young students and even adults seem to associate with the subject. I started to correlate the decisions of the past with the current state of our world and the people I interacted with on a regular basis. Over the next several years, as I learned and experienced more, it would reveal an entirely new perspective on how I understood why the world is how it is, how it changes before our eyes, and how we each have a direct role in that change.
With those initial stimulants in place, I went to college curious, especially in science and history. I spent the next four years in Tucson, exploring southern Arizona and often hiking in the Santa Catalina Mountains that dominate Tucson’s landscape to the north. Realizing the value of the scholarship I received, I tried to take full advantage of its benefits by often enrolling in the maximum number of courses allowed each semester. I indulged my interests by studying a variety of subjects and was soon accumulating credit hours far beyond the total required for my degree. The scholarship covered four years of tuition, so rather than graduate early, I continued to pursue courses that could further supplement my knowledge of history or ecology. After four years, I graduated with an immensely deeper understanding of the world around me and a greater appreciation for the transformative power of education and learning. During those years, I worked at a library, interned at a museum, conducted independent research projects in history and biology, taught children as part of environmental outreach programs in the U.S. and Mexico, completed genealogy projects for a number of individuals, studied Ancient Egyptian history and hieroglyphics, explored different religions with a focus on Christianity and Islam, read over 400 books, minored in art history, classics, ecology and evolutionary biology, briefly studied Latin, and majored in history with an emphasis in American, European, and Middle Eastern history.
My senior year of college, I took several trips to Mexico for marine biology courses and research, experiencing travel to a foreign country for the first time. I also visited various archives and museums in different parts of the United States for history research. An increasingly maturing understanding of the world and additional trips after college further ignited my longtime desire to travel. I moved to Virginia, worked in an archives, and completed a year of graduate study in American history with the intention of pursuing it as a career. A number of unforeseen factors, including the effects of a worsening economy, a disillusionment with certain aspects of academia, personal struggles, and overwhelming financial burdens, ultimately diverted me from that path. I returned to Arizona, teaching and bartending for a time until starting work in law enforcement (not as an officer, but in support positions). This was a field in which I was able to incorporate the research skills I had learned as an historian, but a profession generally unrelated to what I had studied in college. In the course of that roller coaster ride of events, I first gained an arrogant overconfidence, then a new appreciation for education, and finally a sobering humility. After seeing me write of my former accomplishments at such length, I imagine you may be questioning that humility, but my intention in describing my experiences is not to boast. I hope that in relaying my background it provides a brief basis of where some of the diverse thoughts and interests that I hope to explore in my writing first arose. Our experiences make up a great deal of the foundation for which we build upon. Thus, as this blog begins to grow, the above offers some hint as to the shape of the underlying roots that has brought it forth and will continue to nourish and support it.
Nearly ten years have passed since high school and many of my friends are engaged or married, have purchased their first homes, and some have started families. Several have well-paid careers, a number earning over $100,000 per year, but some only after pouring tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars into the expenses required for the professional degrees their jobs demand. My story, as are the stories of several others, has been a bit different. I have had a few long term relationships, but none that have endured beyond a few years and I am currently single. While I did graduate college, and even attended graduate school for a time, my intended career did not develop as I once anticipated. I have a good job with an average salary, but not one that will ultimately satisfy my desire to travel, learn, and pursue the interests I am truly passionate about. I know that I am much more fortunate than most in what I have, but also continue to long for the ability and freedom to travel and experience the diversity that abounds in our world.
Redefining the Ideal
For many, the standard American ideal of a home, family, and repetitive job is very rewarding and remains their favored lifestyle and route to happiness. For me, I want something different – something less routine, less predictable. I still hope to find the girl – someone to share my life, love, and experiences with who has the same desire to explore the world and learn of all of its fascinating intricacies. I may still want the family, dependent on a mutual decision between that future partner and me. Oh yeah, and I still want the dog. Maybe two. As for the rest – the mortgage and material things – I can do without, at least for now. I want to engage my mind in exchanging knowledge and ideas, invest my money in experiences, and find adventure in the everyday.
Regardless of what stage you are at in life, your education, your career, or your relationships – whether or not you have achieved, are pursuing, or have abandoned portions of the typical expectations for someone your age, whatever it may be – I invite you to join me on an adventure to explore our vast world both mentally and physically, through thought and travel. Nothing can prevent you from thinking, analyzing, understanding, or learning if you seek it out, whether it is from the comfort of your own home and mind, the desk chair of a classroom, the halls of a museum, the streets of a foreign city, or the backwoods trail of an ancient forest. I created this blog with the intention of using it as a means to share my experiences, express my thoughts, and engage others, all while promoting education.
We are pressured in our society to reach particular milestones at various ages and live life in a certain, acceptable way. I want to take my own path in life, not that dictated by rules created by the confines of our social or economic norms. I want to make a positive change for myself and the people I share the world with while inspiring others to do the same. I want to enrich my life with amazing experiences, spontaneous adventures, and incredible discoveries. I want to learn from and teach others to harness a knowledge of science, culture, and our past to help guide a positive trend in the present toward a better future. I want to search for sapience in a life driven by wanderlust. Join me in the adventure.