Simplicity.

As I mentioned in my Goals for 2017 post, I am trying to minimize and focus on living a more simple, and meaningful life.

I am wildly intrigued by minimalism and the thought of doing more with less. If you haven’t heard of The Minimalists, check them out.  Their documentary is viewable here as well as on Netflix and they have authored three books that share their journeys into minimalism (I recently purchased Everything That Remains, if anyone would like to borrow it).  I also subscribe to their podcast and I love it!  If you commute to work, prefer stories over songs when working out, or just need to change up the pace, give them a listen.

The thing that I love most about minimalism is that it’s different for everyone.  Every person has a different definition of minimizing, living simply, and what is valuable to them.  For me, being a minimalist is all about finding value in the possessions that I have.  While, I hate clutter, and don’t want to ever live in a way that allows clutter to rule my home, my journey is most importantly about building a relationship with the stuff that I do have and recycling-tossing stuff defeats the purpose of minimizing waste and impact, so donate, repurpose, etc., please-the things that don’t add value to my life.

I’ve always been a pretty simple liver, but I finally started my adventure into this minimalism thing when I was living back at my parents house over Christmas break.  Being home for almost a month gave me ample time to sort through the junk in my room at their house.  I haven’t used most of the stuff in that room for a large portion of the last five years, and I know they’re not using any of it.  My twin brother, Adam recently moved out of my parents house too, so our room now felt awkward, like somehow it was no longer ours.  It was weird to be sleeping in a room that now felt lifeless.

My door was still covered in pictures from high school cross country, and old Runners World magazine snippets that I had cut out for inspiration.  Clothes that no longer fit littered my closet floor.  Posters hung limply on the walls-with the exception of my autographed Switchfoot poster, which definitely adds value to my life, I realized these posters no longer represented the person I am today-so I tore them down and tossed them.  Cleaning my room and sorting the stuff that is no longer needed from the stuff that will be kept felt so good.  It made the space feel a little more like mine-if even only for a few more days.

Since coming back to Verm, I have tried to make conscious decisions as far as my relationships go.  Is this person, thing, or activity adding value to my life?  Am I happy with this?  Is this just taking up space-even though I have literally nothing in my apartment, it is still a thought that I have?  I love that The Minimalists define living minimally as living with only the things that you value.  To me that is the perfect definition of how I prefer to live.


I recently downloaded a book on my Kindle that is written by a worship group that I love.  I have been a big fan of Rend Collective for quite a few years now, and they just released a devotional book that supplements their latest album-I just had to download it.

What I love most about Rend Collective is that they release Campfire albums every few years.  They unplug from the world, pack up their bags and instruments, and head into the wild.  There they are able to get back to the basics and produce simplistic and meaningful music that reflects who they are as a group as well as focusing on the things that really matter to them.

The first devotional in this book is titled Simplicity (also a title of one of the songs on the album) and talks about the reason why they go into the wilderness to write music.  It talks about the beauty of nature, the wonder of the stars, and the fact that today’s society is so focused on things that distract us from simplicity-from what is really important.  There is a quote in this reading that I am absolutely in love with.  It reads:

Simplicity is the art of restoring a clear and unobstructed view of the things that really matter.

This quote struck me because it really defines the emphasis on value and relationships in the minimalism movement, and the reason that I am so intrigued by minimalism in the first place.  Removing distractions and going back to the basics-stopping to smell the roses, if you will-helps me to realize the things that are important to me and why I value them.


I am also reading a book called The Longest Race by Ed Ayres.  I chose this book because it is written by an iconic ultra-runner, and as you all know, I love running.  Ayres articulates how I feel about running and minimalism in a great passage from his book, which is actually the inspiration for this post.  It reads:

As the world gets more complicated, people become more appreciative of the things that remain simple-and few things do.  Running is in some ways the simplest of all sports.  All you have to do to run, is open the door and go out.

Ayres explains that one of the great appeals of running is it’s simplicity and I couldn’t agree more.  In fact, I am attracted to the simple sports-the ones with few rules, little to no equipment, and those that require very little coordination, competition, and grace, but lots of attitude, stamina, and heart.  It’s why I love running, swimming, and hiking…and have enjoyed dabbling in yoga recently, too.

Each of these sports requires strength of mind and character.  They are not for the faint of heart.  But they are simple, independent, and can be done by anyone who is able.  They leave minimal impact, require minimal conditioning, and can all be done at your own pace.

There are very few distractions in these sports, and because of that I am able to think, breathe, and focus.  I can focus on the things that truly matter such as spiritual growth, reconnecting with my environment, and listening to my body.

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Another huge aspect of simplicity for me is always remembering to #LiveLikeMike.  Check out this link to read his story.


I look forward to continuing this journey into minimalism and exploring what that means for my relationships with material possessions, food, activities, and people, and the value that I place on each of them.

If you have thoughts on minimalism, feel free to reach out and share.  I’d love to connect.

-Joel

Goals For 2017.

Honestly, I can’t believe how fast the year flashed by.  I feel like 2016 just started…and yet here we are, on the second to last day of the year.  I think it’s been harder for me to keep track of time this year because of all of the big life events that happened during the last 365 days.

Just to recap, 2016 brought:

  • my final semester of college
  • a stressful and exciting grad school/job search
  • an offer (and acceptance) for a graduate assistantship at the University of South Dakota
  • the creation of this blog!
  • college graduation! #NMUAlumni
  • a move back to my parents house for the summer
  • a new summer job at the local cafe
  • my first big adult purchase-my 2011 Chevy Impala!
  • a cross-country trek to my new home, Vermillion, South Dakota! #FromNoMiToSoDak
  • my first semester of #SAGrad
  • new friends
  • an interest and focus on holistic wellbeing
  • meditation
  • an unforgettable roadtrip and hiking adventure to the Badlands with my best friend, Monica
  • trips to exciting cities-St. Louis, Missouri, and Minneapolis, Minnesota
  • more time spent in airports than any year prior

and…

  • lots of new adventures!

So, as I ring in the new year, I can’t help but to think back on all of the positive and negative things that I experienced in 2016 and the things I look forward to in 2017.

I am not really big on new years resolutions because I don’t believe they really work.  I don’t ever stick to them and neither do most people…it’s just a fun trendy thing to do so we all hop on that bandwagon.

However, something that I am pretty big on is goal-setting (cue all student affairs related programming).  So, rather than creating a resolution each year I try to make a few reasonable goals for myself.

This year my goals are:

  • land a summer internship.
    • I am currently applying through ACUHO-I  but am also looking into other internship hosts and campus locations.
  • read six books.
    • I am working on knocking off some books on my To-Read shelf on Goodreads.
  • #RunTheYear2017.
    • I hope to run 2017 miles in the year of 2017, which equates to 5.5 miles a day.
  • Build a mostly plant-based diet.
    • This one I am still unsure of but really interested in!  
    • I am shooting for 75-80% of my diet being plant-based but am not sure how I will track this yet.  Because of my running goal, I want to focus on filling my body with nutrient-rich foods right from the ground in order to provide the energy needed to reach this lofty fitness goal.  I have been thinking about and researching plant based lifestyles for a long while now but have been scared to try it.  I hate the idea of dieting and restricting myself to only certain foods, but I wholeheartedly believe that a mostly plant based lifestyle is the way to go for me.  Being mostly plant-based will allow for me to consistently practice positive physical wellbeing and monitor the foods that I am eating while still being flexible enough for me to feel unrestricted and still have fun too…aka ice cream, french fries, and craft beer.
  • minimize.
    • The idea of minimalist living has always intrigued me.  I hate living in clutter.  I hate having things that are unused or don’t bring me happiness and positivity in some way.  I would like to be able to pack up the items that I have and move easily when I am done with grad school, so it makes sense to start minimizing now.  The less I have the less I have to worry about, right?

As of right now, these are the goals that I have set for myself in the next year.  I am sure I will add, subtract, or alter my goals, but I think that I have a great foundation right now.

I will be sure to update my progress as I go along.  Good luck to everyone else on their 2017 endeavors!

-Joel

#NASPA4WE: My First Professional Conference Experience.

As you all know from my previous posts, I recently spent a few days in St. Louis, Missouri for the NASPA4WE conference.  This was my first professional conference and let me just start by saying…I’m hooked.  I know that I am meant to be in Student Affairs.  I know I say this a lot, but it just keeps getting reaffirmed.  This conference was definitely an opportunity for reaffirmation.  I fell in love with Student Affairs all over again.

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Attending this conference with fellow graduate and undergraduate students from USD was so great!  I love getting to know my peers outside of work and class.  Seeing them in action in settings such as this is the perfect way to get to know them better.  Being in attendance with my boss, Dean of Students, and Associate Dean of Student Services was also awesome.  I got to meet their colleagues and friends and see them in a different professional setting than what I am used to.  And…let’s be real here, who doesn’t like to have a glass of wine with university administrators?

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Connecting with other inspiring, creative, adventurous, and driven individuals in the field is something that I truly cherish.  The Woo in me obviously gets a little carried away.  It is in times when I am in the company of other passionate educators and leaders that I find myself digging deeper into my love for working with students.

While I love connecting and networking with other professionals-both new and seasoned-what I absolutely cannot get enough of is time spent connecting with students.  This is one thing that I love about NASPA.  They allow for undergraduate and graduate students to be widely involved in their conferences and their organization at large.  While I was not involved with NASPA as an undergraduate student, I am so happy and encouraged to see student leaders from across the nation getting so involved with this organization.

I was privileged to meet an amazing group of undergraduate students and I spent an evening getting to know them and their pursuits.  It was this night that I felt the most invested, uplifted, and fulfilled.  This is what I strive for.

Yes, meeting students and professionals and having the time to network and socialize is fun, but we also know that Student Affairs is not all fun and games.  We are educators, leaders, professionals, first-responders, counselors, and peers.  Why we attend conferences and network with others in the field is to build off of the foundations that others have established.  We connect and bounce ideas off of each other.  We seek innovation and creativity in our everyday jobs and we are always on the look out for upcoming trends and issues within our field.

I attended some great presentations and sessions on topics ranging from peer assessment to social justice.  And from forgiveness as an aspect of health and wellness on our campuses to generational trauma for the American Indian student population.  I wanted to attend sessions that I both found interesting as well as applicable to my future or my current job.  Some sessions were obviously more interesting and impactful than others, but all relevant and worthwhile to our field.  I look forward to attending my next conference and seeing what other topics are presented upon.

I was also inspired to look into ways to further my involvement with NASPA and to grow and develop professionally.  I am tossing around the idea of presenting at a conference next year or joining the conference committee.  We will see!

In addition to networking and attending presentations, conferences also allow for the opportunity to adventure and experience a new city…you all know my passion for adventure and experiencing new things, so I am sure you can imagine how in my element I was in St. Louis.  I hopped on a walking tour of the city, went out to a few restaurants and bars, and obviously went up into the Arch…because, well duh!  Oh, the conference also hosted a 5k fun run…so I was able to connect with members of the running community that are also part of the Student Affairs community.  Dabbling in two of the most important spheres of my life makes my heart happy!

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Going back home to Vermillion, and encountering snow after 75 degree highs was definitely the low of my week.  But, all good things come in moderation, and then it’s back to reality.  Luckily I only had three days of rest and work and it was back on the road.

Thanksgiving break is upon us, and I am spending my week in Minneapolis visiting some relatives and one of my closest friends from NMU.


Since it’s Thanksgiving day, I couldn’t end this post without suggesting to take some time to reflect on what you’re most thankful for this year.  I’ll start.

Just a few things that I am most thankful for this year are:

  • Friends; new and old.  Moving far away from home is tough.  Leaving the place I love and the people I love is painful.  But, I am so so so blessed to have found a great group of people to fill that void.  South Dakota has treated me pretty well so far.  Shout out to those of you who’ve made my transition to Vermtown easier.  You know who you are!
  • Health and wellbeing.  Obviously, this has been a huge aspect of my life in the past few months.  I have a whole new perspective on what it means to be well, and I hope to continue living a healthier lifestyle.
  • New experiences.  This year has been full  of them.  I am so grateful to be expanding my mind, heart, and soul as I adventure on this path into my future.

 

Sending big love and positive vibes to all today!

-Joel

Quality of Life: What I Learned From The #52HikeChallenge.

I believe so often in our social media and technology driven world that people do things just so they can snap a pic of it to share on their Snapchat story or post to Instagram.  I mean for real, people take the phrase “pics or it didn’t happen” to a whole new level these days.  Such is the case with social media challenges such as the #52HikeChallenge.

While I do appreciate great photo ops and I love to capture memories from time well spent, I also realized that quite often I am snapping a picture at the last second as I am remembering that I am completing a challenge, and I must document each hike.  I find myself so immersed in the moment and in awe of the scenery and wildlife or the company of those that I am with that I forget to take a photo, or on the contrary, I will have a super busy day or week and I will find myself rushing out for a ten minute hike just so that I can post a silly picture.

Don’t get me wrong.  I absolutely loved participating in this challenge.  I loved my hikes.  In fact, I hiked way more than 52 times and didn’t document and/or share every one.  You don’t have to ask me to join a social media challenge to get me outside or to go for a hike each week…believe me, I am already five steps ahead of you.  I’m out the door, water bottle in hand, and shoes on my feet before you have even thought about a hike.

I want you to know that this challenge is based on a timeline, however, life isn’t.  So I didn’t follow the guideline of hiking once a week for a year.  Some of my posts were two days apart some were eight.  I even took a month-long social media hiatus during my challenge.  During that time I was still hiking, but not using any of those hikes for my challenge.  I picked up with my hikes where I left off after my hiatus was over.

Sooooo…what exactly did I learn from completing the #52HikeChallenge?

I learned that I am madly, deeply, wildly in love with the outdoors.  I learned that I am a horrible photographer, even though I really do enjoy the artistic and creative side of taking photos.  It truly is an art.  The only reason I say I am a horrible photographer is because I am so lost in the moment that I forget to actually take the photos.  Mix that with my crappy camera and I don’t have a very good combination.  I learned that there is a wide, vast, and diverse community of hikers in this big, wide, beautiful world.  I learned that I love connecting with these individuals.  I learned that everyone has a different experience with their hikes, and with nature.  I learned that the way we share our stories and experiences is different too.  I learned that people are strong as well as what the power of nature, hiking, and being one with the outdoors can do for an individual.

Speaking of sharing our stories and the power of nature, I have a pretty amazing one to share with you.

I learned that hiking is a great healing mechanism.  The day after I graduated from college, my best friend and I found out that her older brother (and best friend) had passed away in a hiking accident in Denali National Park.  While I did not know Mike well, I felt like I knew him very well because of social media and the stories that Monica always told.  These stories were filled with laughter, love, nature, the outdoors, hiking, music, tattoos, and life philosophy.  Mike was a dream maker, a risk taker, and a life liver.  His spirit of adventure and his passion for getting the most out of life are two traits that I deeply admire, and since his passing, have tried to adapt more into my own way of life.

After Monica’s tragic loss, I saw a huge change in the way she lived her daily life.  She was devastated, but she was not willing to let her loss and the storm that she was facing dictate her future.  She started connecting with nature in ways that I had not seen her do before.  She lived with intention.  She did things she wanted to do when she wanted to do them.  Monica’s whole life view had changed.  For the better.  She looked to the outdoors as a way of connecting with Mike and bringing his spirit into every minute of her day, every realm of her life.  She sought to share his story and his passion for hiking and music and photography.  Her passion for each of these things deepened as well.

You can find this story here.

Hiking allowed this growth, healing, and change to occur for Monica.

So, after seeing the changes in Monica’s life, I started hiking with that same intention.  I wanted to connect.  With nature, myself, Mike’s spirit.  I wanted to get more out of life, and I was using my hikes to do this.  I was no longer completing a social media challenge.  I was completing a life challenge.  I was using this opportunity to grow and to seek fulfillment.  I was hiking to live, living to hike.

In wrapping up this refection piece I would just like to leave you with one final thought.

What is the most important lesson that I learned from the #52HikeChallenge?  It is this:

It’s not about the quality of the photo being taken, rather the quality of life being lived by the person taking it.

Hike on,

-Joel

Here are a few photos from my final hike

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Wellbeing.

Wellness has always been an important aspect of my life, but I never truly made it a priority or thought about how much work I had to put into my personal wellness until recently.  I have always been very active and fit.  As a runner, my physical wellbeing was always the thing that came to mind when thinking about wellness.  I have the stamina and endurance to run long distances and the heart to get out of bed every morning and start my day with a run.  I always feel better after a run than when I start.

For a long time, my definition of wellness was simply running and maintaining an active lifestyle.

In high school I had abs, strong legs, and a passion for running.  I thought that this was all I needed-that and carbs.  When it came to eating healthy, I would say that as a runner, I needed to eat healthy in order to provide my body the energy needed to run the distances that I do.  So that is (sort of) what I did.  Now, I’m not saying that I’m a clean eater and that I don’t enjoy splurging on sweets.  Ice cream is my weakness and I definitely eat my fair share of processed foods, but recently my main diet consists of fruits and veggies.  And a lot of carbohydrate rich foods like pasta and bread.  This was essentially my wellness lifestyle.

Fast-forward to today.  I am a first year #SAGrad and my definition of wellness has completely changed.  I still maintain my physical wellbeing and I still love to run and eat healthy.  I still eat ice cream and carbs.  But now, today, my concept of wellbeing expands so much deeper than my physical wellness and how fit I am.  I evaluate every part of my wellbeing in my daily life (as of recently).

My staff was gifted the book Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath as a welcome to our job from our supervisor.  As a staff we are reading this in book club style and discussing our wellbeing in staff meetings weekly.  I love it!

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This book walks us through career, social, financial, physical, and community wellbeing (the five elements of wellbeing according to Tom Rath).  I love evaluating my daily wellness in each of these categories and taking the time each day to consciously focus on each element.

Here is a quick breakdown of the five elements of my own personal wellbeing:

As grad students it is so common to think about our career wellbeing because for many of us we have two short years to think about where we want to be after graduation.  I think about this daily.  I am finally taking classes that I enjoy and I am finally excited to learn and to do the assigned reading.  I know that Student Affairs is where I am meant to be and I am using this year as a way to continue growing in career wellness.

Social wellbeing is also a huge aspect of our wellbeing as grad students.  How do we have fun socially?  Who do we want to spend our time with?  Are these connections and relationships meaningful?  This is the big one for me right now.  I moved to a new state, university, and community where I knew no one.  Being a Woo, I love the challenge of meeting new people, but something is different about making friends in grad school in comparison to undergrad.  I am now a university staff member.  I am an advisor of a fraternity and a few student groups.  I have two years to make connections with people rather than four.  This is proving to be difficult but I have also noticed that it is good for me.  I have found that I love being alone and that I need to take time for myself.  I have put effort into meaningful relationships with the few friends that I’ve made so far, and I no longer spend time with people I don’t want to spend time with.  I am learning to say no.  I am excited to see how my social wellbeing evolves throughout the year.

Financial wellbeing.  Need I say more?  As a college student-especially as a graduate student-I fully understand that I am not financially well.  I am constantly worrying about money.  I have never been one to worry about money.  In fact, I hate that money dictates so much of my life already this year.  But I know that I must be frugal and thrifty as a grad student so I can prepare myself for my future after.  I have bills to pay and loans that accrue interest every second, and I always think about this.  It’s a work in progress, but one of my goals for this year is to get better at budgeting.  Wish me luck!

I mentioned physical wellbeing at the beginning of my post, but to recap, I am a lover of the outdoors.  I am a runner and an avid hiker.  These things keep me active and fit.  I have started practicing yoga and stretching more, and I have been focusing on the foods that I eat.  I have cut back on my coffee intake and increased my smoothie consumption as well as switching from my beloved Clif Bars to a healthier alternative, Lara Bars.  I hope to continue working on my physical wellbeing this year, and I am sure you will all hear about it in future posts.

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Lastly community wellbeing has been the hardest adjustment for me since starting grad school.  Moving to a new state, city, and community is tough.  I never thought it would be so hard.  I have felt more alone since coming here than ever before.  I don’t have my close friends and family right next to me anymore.  I don’t walk through campus and know every single person that I pass.  No joke, this was actually my life for the past four years.  I have been jumping at opportunities to meet people and to feel like a part of this community and I know that as the year progresses, it will get easier.  I have attended community and campus events and my job has definitely helped me in finding a strong network among my peers and staff members.  I am excited to see where this adventure leads me this year.

And something that I have learned already in my few short weeks of being here is the importance of self care.  Take time to do something you love every day.  Take time for yourself.  Run, hike, yoga, meditate, read, craft/build, write.  Whatever it may be…take care of yourself and allow yourself to be immersed in what you love in order to rejuvenate each day.IMG_6326

As you can see, my thoughts on wellness have changed in the last few weeks and I am excited to continue working on being a holistically well human being.  I want to thrive in my wellness and I know that grad school is the perfect time to start working on this.  How am I supposed to encourage wellness among the students I work with if I myself am not well?

Take care friends,

-Joel