No Ordinary Time

“This is no ordinary time,” said Eleanor Roosevelt in a speech at the Democratic National Convention in 1940. Eighty years later I find myself listening to my governor speak those same words in an afternoon press conference. Twice in my life I’ve felt a disruption so great that it leaves me with a deep sense of uneasiness and uncertainty. A series of events that cause me to stop what I’m doing, forget about my day-to-day activities, and pay attention to what is happening all around me and to everyone else around the world. That first time was 9-11. The second time is right now.

Over the last 7 days, undoubtedly the longest week I’ve experienced in recent memory, I’ve been overwhelmed with the events unfolding right in front of me and around the world. From the fear and anxiety of dealing with the worst global pandemic in over 100 years, to the delight of hearing stories of extraordinary acts of kindness and heroism, to the extreme measures that many of us are being asked or ordered to take in order to flatten the curve and slow the spread of this deadly virus. It’s a lot to take in and it can be quite paralyzing.

A week ago I was out with friends celebrating St. Patrick’s day and less than 24 hours later, restaurants and bars were ordered to close their doors to dine-in customers. Social distancing, self isolation, quarantine. These are terms that we’ve all become intimately familiar with over the last couple weeks. What surprises me the most is how difficult it is to do what I know is absolutely, hands-down, the right thing to do. Sure, I’ve been avoiding large gatherings, and trying to limit my interactions with others, but today on that same press conference the question was asked, “have you done everything within your power?” Have I done everything in my power to protect the public? To slow down this virus? The answer is no, I have not. Perhaps this is a testament to the strength of my friendships? Maybe I am just more extroverted than I thought? We can talk all day about how the flu has killed more people. Or about how this is not a threat to young, healthy Americans that just want to continue living their normal everyday lives. But the reality is that we are facing a threat like nothing we have seen before. An invisible enemy, and while it may not be the most lethal thing that we have encountered, it spreads like wildfire.

Over the last several days, I have read articles written by experts. I’ve listened to scientists and epidemiologists from all over the world that have dedicated their lives to studying the spread of infectious diseases and the preventative measures needed to stop them. I trust what they have to say. I believe them. And when they are desperately urging me to stay home, to distance myself from others, to take every possible measure to avoid any non-essential contact, I’m going to do it. It’s not about myself or my friends. It’s about those that are at higher risk, and I’d be willing to bet that we all know at least one person in that category. If you’re providing essential goods or services, please continue to do that, and know that you are among so many unsung heroes in this crisis. If you absolutely need to spend time with someone else, whether it be for their health or your own, do what you need to do. But otherwise, please heed the advice of our medical experts and stay home. This is what I intend to do going forward to the absolute extent of my ability, and I’m disappointed that it took me this long to make that decision. I know it’s the right decision. I know it’s 100% worth it if I can curb the spread enough to save even one life.

Like all things, there is an end to this. It’s scary because it’s unknown how soon that end will come, and what the path will look like to get there. So many of our lives have been turned upside down, whether it be financially, socially, personally or something else. We will adapt and overcome because that is what we do. Look for the silver linings. Do what you can to help those in need. Take care of your family, your friends, your neighbors, or those that just need a helping hand. Tip your service workers well if you can afford it. Be kind and compassionate to those around you and assume that they may be going through an even harder time than yourself. Listen. Listen to subject matter experts, scientists, and medical professionals. Do research, get second opinions, and for the love of God, don’t believe everything you see or read without doing some fact checking first.

And if nothing else, please take this seriously. Don’t panic, but know that some amount of fear and caution are absolutely necessary. In fact, if you don’t allow for these things, then it is easy for panic to ensue. There will be another day for your concert, your sporting event, that half marathon that you’ve signed up for after dedicating months of training and preparation. Those are all wonderful experiences that bring us joy and add value to our lives, but it will be the way in which we handle this crisis that will be far more memorable. The lessons we learn, the moments of unity, compassion, and care for each other will shape us into a better civilization, but only if we allow it to do so. Be safe, be smart, be well, and perhaps we’ll all come out a little better on the other side.

 

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Ride

So it’s been a while since I’ve written a blog post. A long while. I’m a little disappointed in myself because over the course of the last six months or so there have been several occasions in which I intended to post something, but for a variety of silly reasons chose not to. I think sometimes I feel that I have to come up with something insightful or inspirational to make it worth publishing. I’d like to try and get away from that train of thought because at the end of the day, a blog is about expression and speaking one’s mind, so that’s what I’m going to try and do. Just more often. 🙂

Anyhow, I went for bike ride this evening and it was terrific! I couldn’t have asked for a better summer evening to venture out and explore a new area. Cycling is something that I never really got seriously into, but a couple months ago a friend convinced me to join his team for an “adventure” race. So let me elaborate here. The word adventure might be an understatement. Between running, biking, swimming, gymnastics, table tennis, robotic engineering, and a number of cognitive and coordination challenges (including a peanut butter and jelly sandwich eating challenge), it was by far the most unique “race” that I have ever done. But I’m glad I did it, and it reminded me of how much fun and rewarding riding around on two wheels can be!

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Tonight, for the first time, I ventured all the way out to Battelle Darby Creek Metro park on the southwest side. There’s something invigorating about living in the middle of the city and riding your bike far enough away to escape the essence of urban metropolis. No highways, no buildings, no cars, just nature.. and some occasional farmland. It was quiet and peaceful. People were out and enjoying themselves. Families, friends, couples, even an elderly man sitting on a bench with his closed and the most innate smile on his face. An evening well spent. You can bet that I will be doing more exploring in the weeks to come!

Also, if you have not checked out pictures from my trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon, take a look! Southern Utah is absolutely breathtaking!

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Let it go

So I got into a somewhat heated discussion with a friend recently. No, it wasn’t about politics, or religion, or anything controversial for that matter. My friend and I work in the same field and we were having a very technical discussion about a specific technology. I won’t bore you with the details, but I do want to share this experience because it was a clear reminder to me of one of the more difficult things that I often struggle with as an adult – swallowing my pride.

Half way through the conversation we reached a disagreement on a very specific detail. And since this was not something that we could just Google to determine who was right and who was wrong, we instead went on for about 10 minutes arguing both sides. You see, the interesting thing here is that I was absolutely, without any doubt, convinced that I knew what I was talking about. I have a lot of experience with the topic we were discussing and have had hands on experience with a number of issues specifically around the area in question. At that very moment I refused to believe that I could possibly be wrong.

So I was dead wrong. Completely 100% wrong. You can imagine my surprise when I received a text message the next morning from my friend pointing out that what he said the night before was indeed correct. I jumped out of bed, turned on my PC, and confirmed the bad news. At first, I was in disbelief, but more than that I was disappointed, and to be honest, a bit upset! At one moment I even thought about how I could “fake” my argument, perhaps make it look like I was mistakenly talking about something different, and we weren’t actually discussing the same thing. Seriously, Jon? Have I really sunk that low? Fortunately, after about ten minutes, I cooled off. I responded, admitting my error, and thanking him for affirming the details in question.

Afterwards, I thought a lot about the whole interaction. What on God’s Earth made it so insanely difficult for me to just accept that perhaps my understanding of this technology is anything but perfect? In my industry, there is a lot of room for error. So many technical details, it is only a matter time before I get something wrong, despite how confident or comfortable I may feel about something. And usually when this happens, I suck it up, deal with the facts at hand, and gracefully move on knowing I have gained something new from a valuable experience. But this time around, I couldn’t do that, at least not right away. I just had to hold on so tightly to what I thought I knew – I was emotional. Not that letting my emotions support my thoughts and opinions in a conversation is a bad thing, but in this specific situation, my emotions had gotten out of check, and ultimately resulted in 10 minutes of unnecessary debate and potentially some unintended hostility toward a friend.

Letting go of my pride has always been a challenge for me. While I do feel that I have gotten better at doing so (especially in my professional career), this situation was a reminder to me that there is always room for improvement. It’s not often easy to do, especially depending on the situation and the people involved, but there has never been a time that I didn’t feel satisfied and proud of myself afterward. At the end of the day, it takes a lot of courage to fess up and be the bigger person, but I have found that doing so makes me stronger, and ultimately happier.

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It is a bit overdue, but I finally got around to posting pictures from a trip to Mammoth Cave, KY last month. It was a very short weekend trip, but it was delightful. It was nice to spend time with a couple friends who I had not seen in quite a while and what better way to do so than taking a pleasant stroll through 4 miles of astonishing underground caverns. Afterwards, we hit up some of Kentucky’s best BBQ, and topped the day off with a flight of beer at a local microbrewery. Oh, and did I mention there were dinosaurs?

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December

Certainly doesn’t look like it from the photo, does it? December, that is. Days like today keep me going in the winter time. Cold, cloudy, rainy, snowy, icy? Take your pick. Winter conditions are not always fun (or easy) to run in, so I try to capitalize on days like today whenever they pop up. It felt absolutely incredible to get outside today. It’s unbelievable how only a few weeks of being cooped up indoors reminds me just how much I miss that next breath of fresh air.img_20181202_123751

Without Goals

Some people ask me why I run. I find it a very difficult question for me to answer. Perhaps the simplest answer is I do it for a number of reasons, some more obvious than others. I went for a run tonight and it was a clear reminder of one of those reasons. But this time it was different. Perhaps for the first time, I went for a run without setting any goals. I didn’t know how far I wanted to run or how fast. I didn’t even know where I was going to go. I just put on my running shoes and took off down the street. There was only about thirty minutes of daylight left, so I figured mother nature would keep me from doing anything too crazy, since I wasn’t prepared to run in the dark.

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After going a few blocks, I hopped onto the local bike trail where surprisingly, I didn’t see a single person. It was quiet. No music. Just me and the sound of my feet against the pavement. There was a gentle autumn breeze and the evening sun flickered as it turned into twilight. I didn’t even bother to start my Garmin, which is a huge accomplishment given how obsessed I am with statistics. Every time I run, I have a distance, a time, or a pace that I strive to reach. Sometimes, my goal is to just finish a race, but there’s always a goal. This time I had no goals or expectations. Instead, I immersed myself in the moment, cleared my head, enjoyed every breath of fresh air, and let my mind wander a bit. But not too much 😉

For me, running allows me to narrow the scope of what can sometimes be an overly complex world. In the heat of the moment, when I really begin to push myself physically, I find myself in a peculiar state of mind. Convoluted thoughts that would typically keep my mind racing for hours tend to drift away. For someone who is often overthinking and over analyzing every day situations, this provides a pleasant recess, and allows me a special kind of mental relaxation. This is one of many different mindfulness states that I experience while running, and all of them help me grow and develop personally,  ultimately making me feel healthier and happier. After all, we should all be doing what makes us happy. Like Andy and Red always said, “Get busy living or get busy dying.”

Now it’s time for a beer! I mean, who doesn’t want to reach 1000 unique beers on Untappd? Gotta have goals, right?

Perfectly Imperfect

IMG_20181104_150300Today I spent the afternoon at Shale Hollow Park. This beautiful park is a bit of a hidden gem in central Ohio and has some great hiking trails, scenic areas, and a diverse collection of wildlife. I was desperately craving an opportunity to immerse myself in the autumn weather which has decided to show up a little late this year.

When I was a kid, autumn was always my least favorite season. It marked the end of summer, the start of the school year and unlike most other kids, I was never really all that excited for Halloween (the dressing up part, not the candy part). As I’ve grown older, I’ve learned to appreciate this remarkable time of the year for more than just the amazing colors, sounds, and smells that it brings to the world and have begun to admire the splendor of how mother nature changes and adapts in such an elegant, yet imperfect, way.

Today was one of those imperfect days. Cloudy and windy at times. Calm and sunny moments later. The ground was wet and muddy in places, yet dry and seemingly untouched in others. While I certainly wasn’t expecting a perfect fall day, I was surprisingly pleased by the intricate little details that made this Sunday afternoon quite enjoyable. It was a reminder to me that even when things in life don’t go as planned, I can always find some joy in its imperfections, even if it’s just a little.

Check out more photos here.

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Running with Champions

This morning I was privileged enough to run with Team Heart & Sole as we finished the 40th Annual Great Pumpkin Run in Grandview. What an experience! This non-profit organization makes a huge difference in the lives of individuals with disabilities by providing them with inclusive opportunities to participate in endurance racing events all across Ohio. Despite the weather being a bit damp, we had a great turn out with almost a dozen kids. Each of these champions had a team of about 2-3 runners pushing them along.

I had never done anything like this before and when I showed up this morning I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. At the starting line, I was a tad bit anxious; I mean, I’m not the greatest with a heavy shopping cart at the grocery store, and at least at the store you don’t have to worry about pot holes. :-/ Nonetheless, the anxiety didn’t last long and was quickly replaced by warm feelings of gratification. All these kids had smiles on their faces, and making them feel like they were conquering the world was more rewarding than I can put into words. I certainly hope to have more opportunities to run with this great organization.

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