A Technical Glitch (A Very Short One-Act Play)

For the last two years, I have been a last-minute substitute playwright for Hutchinson Community College’s 24 Hour Plays. The concept is quite nifty with everyone involved meeting at the college at 9:00 PM. We all introduce ourselves to each other by telling one talent we possess and a little about a prop and costume piece we brought as potential items that could be used in one of the plays. Then all leave but the playwrights who select a cast and then each write a 7 to 10 minute one-act play. After that, the playwrights go home during the early morning hours, and the actors and directors begin their work soon after. At 7:30 PM, the plays are performed, and all wraps up by 9:00 PM.

A friend and I were talking about my play from this year’s show. It is easy to see it was inspired by topics that became blog posts (and also a New Year’s Resolution) I was pondering around that time (see here and here). Rather than to let the play hang out on my computer for the rest of its life, I figured I could try something different with this blog for this week and post it here for others to read. A quick warning – it was written between the hours of 11:00 PM and 4:00 AM. 

 

A Technical Glitch

The Characters
All three are charming and clever college students.

Eliza – A quick-witted female college student
Darcy – A charismatic male college student
James – A quirky male college student

Setting
The hallway of a college building. All three students are sitting on different benches and on their phones. Their heads are down staring at their screens. For about thirty seconds or so, the students just stare and type away at their phones when the lights flash and then the students start to look at their phones perplexedly before starting to look at each other somewhat shyly.

Darcy: turning to Eliza. Hi, uh, hey.

Eliza briefly glances at him before going back to fidgeting with her phone.

Darcy: turning now to James. Hey. Um, is your phone working?

James: Pauses a bit. No, it’s dead. Just like that. I just charged it too.

Darcy: Mine too. This is strange. What do you think it means?

James: I don’t know.

Darcy: Miss. Is your phone working?

Eliza: Annoyed and with some disdain. No.

Darcy: So yours too, then?

Eliza: Yes.  

James: What if all phones are dead?

Darcy: They can’t be.

All three continue to fidget with their phones as they try to get them to turn back on.

Eliza: Seriously. Mine won’t turn back on.

James: Same here.

Eliza: Argh. I needed to respond to that text.

James: And I was in the middle of reading about quantum mechanics.

Darcy: It was Instagram for me.

Collective sigh heard from all three.

Darcy: Progressively more dramatic. We may actually have to have face-to-face conversations. I know – The horror. The dread. How are we going to ever do such a thing?!

James and Eliza both look at Darcy. Darcy first has a deadpan expression before a smile breaks.

Darcy: Oh come on. We may be Millennials, but we are not idiots. So what class are you two waiting for?

James: Philosophy.

Eliza: Slightly more amused by Darcy. Marriage and Family. And you?

Darcy: Public Speaking. I even have a speech today.

Eliza: Fun.

Darcy: Sure.

A little awkward silence as the three look back at their phones before Eliza and Darcy each finally put them aside or away.

James: Do you think there is a deeper meaning behind this?

Darcy: Well, you are the philosopher among us, so you would know.

James: Maybe we are emerging from Plato’s cave?

Eliza: Or maybe there was just a huge technical glitch?

Darcy: And maybe you are a buzz kill?

Darcy and Eliza trade looks for a second. Darcy is amused and Eliza has a death glare. Then Darcy returns to being serious. 

Darcy: Maybe it’s the first step of war? First wipe out our phones and then next the people?

James: starts going through his backpack before pulling out a gas mask. I have a gas mask!

Eliza: Why do you have a gas mask?

Darcy: Why shouldn’t he have a gas mask?

James: I also have a jester’s hat. Pulling out a jester’s hat.

Darcy: And jesters know all.

James: Putting on the jester’s hat and smiling. So meaning or no meaning? Frankl or Sarte?

Eliza: No meaning.

Darcy moves to sit by Eliza while James continues to contemplate the situation with his phone.

Darcy: Hi.

Eliza: Sighs. Hi.

Darcy: So come here often?

Eliza: Well, this is a college, and my class is just down the hall, and we are in the middle of the semester, so you could say I do. Well, at least three times a week.

Darcy: Funny. I don’t think I have ever seen you here before.

Eliza: Funny indeed.

James: Looking now directly at his phone. Maybe it’s Descarte. I think; therefore, I am! I think; therefore, you work! . . . Hmm, you don’t work.

Eliza: On a side note, what kind of line is “So come here often?” anyway?

Darcy: A classic one.

Eliza just looks at him.

Darcy: Fine. It’s a cheesy line, but I’m a cheesy guy. What should I ask instead? How’s your day? I could, but you would say, “Fine.” And we would be back to where we are now.

James: Truth! But what is truth? Erich Fromm, I look to you.

Eliza: Fine. Pauses. Do you come here often?

Darcy: Funny enough, about three days a week.

Eliza: And yet, I never have seen you. Small world.

James: Disney? Nah. It’s not Disney.

More silence as Darcy and Eliza look around a bit more.

Eliza: So what is your speech about?

Darcy: Well, it’s  — Pauses for just a bit. It’s cheesy.

Eliza: I’m noticing a theme, but cheese can be good.

Darcy: Especially smoked gouda. Anyway, it’s our show and tell speech so we were supposed to bring something meaningful to share with the class.

Eliza: With a slight smile. And you brought cheese?

Darcy: I should have. I’m kind of hungry right now. Instead, I uh. Just a second, Runs over to get his bag, pulls out a baseball, and holds it up. I brought this.

Eliza: Oh, you’re a baseball player. Let me guess. You hit a home run that won the game, and that’s the ball.

Darcy: Not exactly . . . or at all.

James: Perhaps Aristotle knows the answer. He pulls out a book and starts looking through it.

Eliza: So what’s the story, Babe Ruth?

Darcy: Did you just call me, “Babe”?

Eliza: Not in that way, so don’t get your hopes up. What’s the true story behind the ball?

James: Truth once again! Is there ever such a thing? One truth or multiple? Or alternates?

Darcy: Well, my dad and I used to always go down to the park when I was a kid. One time I found this ball outside of the ball diamond long after a game was over. I still remember it just sitting there in the grass. Well, I picked it up and it’s been with me ever since. That day, he and I started to use it to play catch. It would go back and forth between us just like the conversations we would have. He lightly tosses the ball to Eliza who catches it. So this ball just represents all of those times he and I would play catch, and, in his own way, be there for me.

Eliza: That’s a nice story. She tosses the ball back to him. He catches it before he sits down next to her.

Darcy: Thanks. So what are you covering in Marriage and Family today?

Eliza pulls out her notebook and Darcy looks down towards the pages.

Eliza: Are you familiar with the 36 questions that lead to love?

Darcy: I am guessing “Come here often?” is not one of them.

Eliza: You guess right. Anyway, these questions supposedly can lead two people to fall in love with each other if they spend the time answering them and time looking into each other’s eyes.

Eliza and Darcy both pause as they look into each other’s eyes for a second before realizing what happened and looking away.

Darcy: Wow! That sounds fascinating.

Eliza: It really is.

Darcy: What’s an example of one of the questions?

Eliza: When did you last sing to yourself? To someone else?

Darcy: That’s embarrassing.

Eliza: That’s the question.

Darcy: Well, on my way to school this morning, Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the USA” may have been on the radio, and I may have broken into song, and there may have been witnesses.

Eliza: And you may have thrown your hands up because they were playing your song. Butterflies fly away.

Darcy: I’m noddin’ my head like, ‘yeah.’ I’m movn’ my hips like, yeah.

Darcy and Eliza sort of singing: I got my hands up, they’re playing my song. I know I’m gonna be okay. Yeah, it’s a party in the U.S.A. It’s a party in the U.S.A.

Eliza and Darcy are laughing now together. James is still looking through the book.

James: So Aristotle, is it fate or is it freewill?

Darcy: So what’s one of your talents besides getting people to admit to singing Miley.

Eliza: That’s the big one.

Darcy: What’s a bigger one?

Eliza: I can say the alphabet backwards?

Darcy: You can?

Eliza: I can.

Darcy: Prove it.

Eliza: Z, Y, X, W, V, U, T, S, R, Q, P, O, N, M, L, K, J, I, H, G, F, E, D, C, B, A

Darcy: Wow!

Eliza: Smiling and proud of herself. Thanks! What’s one of your talents?

Darcy: I can click my heels.

Eliza: Like a leprechaun?

Darcy: Sure, like uh leprechaun.

Eliza: Prove it.

Darcy gets up and proves it. Eliza claps.

Eliza: Bravo. Bravo.

Darcy: This is going to be forward, but your boyfriend is a very lucky guy.

Eliza: I don’t have a boyfriend.

Darcy: So you may be free for a date on Valentine’s Day?

Eliza: Maybe.

Darcy: Maybe.

Darcy and Eliza continue to smile at each other while James has picked up the pace and intensity with his reading.

Darcy: So what is another one of those questions to fall in love?

Eliza: Why? Are you wanting to fall in love?

Darcy: Maybe.

Eliza: Maybe.

James: Extremely fascinating! It’s multiple.

Darcy: So another question?

Eliza: Let’s see. Looks at her notebook. How about what is your most treasured memory?

Darcy: That’s easy. Playing catch with my dad.

Eliza: Out of all of your memories?

Darcy: Without a doubt.

Eliza: Why is that?

Darcy: It was just simpler times . . . and he was still here.

Eliza: Oh, I’m sorry. I uh –

Darcy: So, uh, what’s, uh, what’s your most treasured memory?

Eliza: Well, I am definitely becoming quite fond of this one.

Both Eliza and Darcy look at each other and smile.

James: Jumps up. Except this one never happened.

Darcy: Huh?

James: Never happened. It’s all a parallel world. I just was reading all about it. The quantum mechanics article. It all makes sense now.

Darcy: What about quantum mechanics?

James: It gets into multiverses. There was a glitch, and we were thrown into one I think, but you can feel the energy throwing us back to where we always were.

Eliza: But we are here.

James: And not here. Phones don’t just die. They disconnected because of the glitch. For a second, we jumped to another multiverse, but we didn’t belong.

Darcy: So they never died, but rather they just never connected.

James: Exactly. You are actually right back there. Pointing to Darcy’s original bench. Darcy taking all of his things seems pulled back to where he was all while looking at Eliza.

Eliza: But I liked him here.

Darcy: And I liked being there.

James: But that wasn’t the way our world actually worked.

Darcy: But I remember everything.

Eliza: He clicked his heels.

Darcy: She said the alphabet backwards.

Eliza and Darcy: We sang Miley.

James: You don’t get it. It was a taste of what might have been. None of it happened.

Darcy: Why do I want to get my phone out?

Eliza: Why do I want to do the same?

James: We can’t fight it.

Eliza: And jesters know all.

Darcy: Looking at Eliza. I don’t even know your name.

Eliza: It’s –

Eliza and Darcy go back to looking at their phones just as they were doing before. James puts his jester hat back in the bag and resumes his position on the bench as his phone returns to both hands.

James: It was just all a small break into another universe, and now we are back to how it always was.

James then goes back to looking at his phone and the lights flash again. All three of them are back to being glued to their phone. Then James gets up and walks away looking at his phone. Darcy still glued to his phone stands up next. He gets the ball out of his bag and has it in one hand while his phone remains in the other. Meanwhile, Eliza has stood up, still looking at her phone. Darcy’s ball slips from his grip and rolls right toward Eliza. She looks up from her phone and stops the ball with her foot before picking it up.

Eliza: Here you go.

Darcy: Thanks.

He reaches out for the ball and their hands touch with both pausing for a second as their eyes lock.

Darcy: Do I know you?

Eliza: I don’t think so but –

And then the dinging of text messages happen. Both look at each other one last time before looking back at their phones and walking away in different directions with their eyes glued to the screens.   

My Time as a Talk20 Presenter

The eighth edition of Talk20 Hutch is going to be on July 21 at 7:00 PM at the Hutchinson Public Library. The line up looks like it will be another stellar night as 9 Reno County residents share their stories by presenting 20 images and talking for 20 second about each one. There will also be a tribute to Patsy too.

What Kari Mailloux and Patsy Terrell created with the help of Gregg Wamsley is something truly magical. The powerful energy that forms is unreal and leads long into the night. If you haven’t been to one and will be in the Hutchinson area that evening, definitely don’t miss it, but be sure to get there early for over 300 people usually attend with even a line forming before the library doors open.

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Talk20 is, without a doubt, one of my favorite things that takes place in Hutchinson (and was the subject of one of my first entries for this blog too). Ever since the first Talk20 back in 2014, I have been in awe of it, and each one after has been amazing. Happening twice a year (January and July), the Talk20 talks have ranged all over the place from autographed handkerchiefs (one of my all-time favorites) to extrovert problems (by the great Bailey!) to an adventure as a male model to writing an editorial that went viral (a shout out to the great writing of Jason Probst) to so many other fascinating topics.

With the exception of one thanks to a previously planned trip to see my bucket-list destination of Banff National Park, I have attended all of them. Last January, I even had the chance to go from attendee to presenter. I have been meaning to write about my Talk20 experience for quite some time, but time managed to get away from me last spring, so in honor of the next one coming up, let’s jump back to December when Kari and I had the following text conversation that started it all:

Kari: Are you in for Talk20 on Jan. 27 to tell the story about your resolutions? Or to use resolutions to tell your story?
Ryan: About being a failure with my resolutions?
Kari: About setting resolutions and the process of keeping them or not.
Ryan: One year of success and two years of failure?
Kari: Yes
Ryan: And presenting myself to 300 people as a failure. Yay for self-deprecation.
Kari: You’re not a failure! You set the resolutions for yourself!
Ryan: How was the rest of your day? True. I only failed myself.
Kari: The fact is you set these high expectations for yourself. Not just in resolutions but in everything. The process around that is the story, I think.
Ryan: And I do need a story for my life. A new story. Reading all about it now.
Kari: You said so just today. 😊

And it was true. I had thanks to my reading Donald Miller’s A Million Miles in a Thousand Years: How I Learned to Live a Better Story. The end of the year was also nearing, and all I could think about was all of the resolutions that never happened, so I did what I guess I may normally do as I sent the next text:

Ryan: So the rest of your day?
Kari: You’re so good at deflecting from questions about you. How was your vacation day?
Ryan: There seems to be deflection taking place there too.

For the next fourteen days, the thought of giving a Talk20 bounced around my head as I did my best with a few resolutions from 2016 that were yet to be accomplished like learning how to draw. Then finally, I sent a text to Kari letting her know I would do it unless, of course, she had found someone else; she hadn’t, and just like that, my fate was sealed. Soon after the beginning of the year, an email arrived with a welcome to Talk20 Hutch that included a few notes and deadlines, thus making it official.

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Over the next couple of weeks, I hunted through photos and read through previous blog posts to try to find a way to assemble a story out of the New Year’s Resolutions all while constantly looking back at the email Kari had sent me and reading over Tim Urban’s take on doing a TED Talk for pointers. Photos were found and then discarded. Then there were repeated practice run-throughs again and again to make sure I was keeping everything within 20 seconds.

The night of the Talk20 was a blur, and I remember taking in a deep breath while listening to Patsy’s introduction, looking out into the audience to see my proud mother who had driven several hours just to be there to hear me, and then walking up to the podium extremely nervous about what was about to happen. Through it all, my hands shook as they held onto my notes, and they were still shaking long after I had finished and worked my way back to my seat in the audience. Then came the really nifty part after the final presentation had been given when others shared with me resolutions they had set through the years. There was a neat passion that lit up their eyes, and I saw a passion even brighter at the after-party at Carl’s Bar in the eyes of Patsy as we talked for quite some time about her first experiences as a legislator. That night was filled with so many memories that I will continue to hold very close to my heart.

Now as a way to wrap this up, let’s go with five take-aways from my Talk20 Experience:

1. Reflection Is Important
As you likely caught through the text message exchanges, my view about my New Year’s Resolutions at the end of 2016 was not a positive one. All I could think about were my failed attempts with time management and my not carrying on Positive Campaigns for really no reason besides bad time management and follow through. Post-election, that haunted me greatly, and my focus were solely on those failed resolutions. Everything else vanished from my mind until I started to revisit the other resolutions. The draft of the novel sure enough was finished, and the second readable draft is well on its way. The 15 minute (phone) conversation in Spanish with John on a late night drive to Lincoln brought a smile to my face, another check in a box and a good memory. The 10% body fat goal has continued to evade me, but the Million Meter t-shirt from that accomplishment gives me an extra boost of confidence whenever I wear it. There ultimately have been more wins than losses, but before reflecting upon it, my mind focused more on the latter.

I also realized the first year’s theme was unconsciously tackling past relationship hang ups/issues. That probably should have been noticeable as I sat alone on that New Year’s Eve and crafting the first set of resolutions, but it wasn’t. However, as I was putting together the Talk20 slides, it became clear the origin of many of the resolutions were my exes and complaints they had made about me at one time or another, and the 2014 New Year’s Resolutions were all about my heart recovering while also trying my best to become a better man so my bad habits wouldn’t sabotage future relationships.

2. The More Measurable the Resolution, the More Likely for Its Success
Without a doubt, Bloom’s Taxonomy is a person’s best friend when setting New Year’s Resolutions. Some of the hardest of the resolutions were the ones that didn’t really lead to something tangible.

3. A Lot Can Happen in 20 Seconds
Sure, a couple of the previous Talk20 presenters said, “Wow! 20 seconds is much longer than I thought.” For me, I had trouble staying within that boundary, but it was also eye-opening about how much can actually be packed into a 20 second segment. Sure, we often think about hours or days, but truly, we should not underestimate the power of a series of seconds and what can be done during them.

4. New Year’s Resolutions Changed My Life and Continue to Do So
Sure, I figured the resolutions had some impact on my life, but the Talk20 actually led to my realizing the great power they had. The eye-opening moment was when I was showing Bailey my slides and mentioned one of the photos with some of the OKC crew was on my birthday at a Dolly Parton concert. She, whose love for Dolly Parton is so great that her adorable puppy is named Dolly Parton Stiggins, had no idea I had gone to the concert, and that was when I realized it was because of the resolutions she and I really became such great friends thanks to my forcing myself to move away from island mode. I had been so nervous to ask her if she would be willing to take on dance lessons with me. Now, she is one of my best friends, and I cannot imagine my life without her in it.

So many other life changes have come from the annual New Year’s Resolutions. New friends, new things I have learned, even this blog are all results of them, and it was actually the Talk20 presentation that led to my starting to appreciate them on a whole other level. This realization also has helped give another boost of motivation to keep them going.

5. The Dreams and Actions of a Few Can Impact the Lives of So Many
When Kari and Patsy first came together and discussed the idea of Talk20 and when Gregg jumped on board by offering the library as its home, I don’t think the trio had any idea about the far-reaching impact it would have. The sharing of the stories through each presentation is just the start too for the magic of each night. Another thing I love most about the Talk20s is how it brings together people from all different backgrounds and ages to one place. It is extremely nifty to see the interaction before, during intermission, and afterwards as new connections are made and even more stories are shared thanks to those presentations created a shared space to help build a stronger community.

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This coming Friday is going to be extremely strange not having Patsy there. I already know it’s going to be another time of my eyes looking all over the place for her because her no longer being here still hasn’t sunk in and I don’t know if it ever will. I also know the magic that she, Kari, and Gregg have created through the Talk20’s will once again fill the library as the presenters share their stories and a community comes together to laugh, cry, be inspired in so many ways, and continue the conversation long after the night itself has come to a close.

And in case you are interested, here is my Talk20 on Resolving to Resolve:

Bursting Our Bubbles

Whenever I ride my bike to work, I find myself looking at each of the drivers passing by on 17th Street. This habit likely started out of safety, but it then quickly moved over to a fascination, for the majority of the times, I don’t recognize a single driver. This shouldn’t be a big deal given Hutchinson has over 41,000 people living here, but the place never seems that large. Rather, it has a small-town feel thanks to bumping into the same people at the grocery store, parks, concerts, theatre productions, Third Thursday, Young Professional events, and so forth. Then everyone seems connected too; however, these people driving by are a reminder Hutchinson is much larger than it feels, and they are also a reminder about the bubble in which I live.

The concept of living in a bubble has been on my mind a lot lately, and it has only seemed to grow over the last month thanks to two podcasts. However, before I get to those, let’s talk about bubbles. They can be pretty, safe, and comfortable, but they can be quite the opposite as well. It really all depends on what happens to make up a person’s own world. A lot of this can be indirectly caused by where one lives thanks to the stores and places he/she would tend to go. There are also direct causes that can help thicken the bubble’s walls, and in today’s world, it is so easy to do that by keeping only like-minded people in one’s social media network, watching/reading the news that lines up best with one’s beliefs, and surrounding oneself with friends who all share the same thoughts. Suggestions from websites only feed to this too with things like Google News analyzing the articles one tends to read, plugging this data into an algorithm, and the suggesting future news stories accordingly. Online music streaming sites, YouTube, and Amazon all do something similar with their recommendations that keep people in a nice, safe world rather than branching out. Although this is no doubt helpful in a way, it also leads to it being so much easier to get trapped in a bubble.

The trick, though, is breaking free.

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NPR’s Invisibilia had a recent episode all about the reality we create thanks to bubbles, and one of the two people featured really intrigued me. Max Hawkins, a computer developer, decided to use technology in his favor by findings ways to hack/develop different apps that would allow for him to live a more random life. For an example, one such app searches all public Facebook events and randomly selects one for him to attend, and he goes. This has led to going to gatherings of all sorts that he never would have ever gone before with his meeting people whose paths his likely never would have crossed, which has led to new experiences, interesting conversations, and even new friends. His story led to my wondering how exactly I could do that with my own life with my now planning on making a more conscious decision to look at different things taking place in the area and picking one I likely never would have thought about tending before and going to it.

Invisibilia has been in my podcast subscription list for quite some time, so it’s definitely within my bubble. In fact, everything about me likely places me smack dab in the middle of the demographic in which it is aimed. Conversations with Bill Kristol, though, is definitely not.

Before we get into this second podcast that changed my life, let’s get into a little bit about my political bubble as a preface. I will say that I try my best to listen to people from all across the political spectrums, and this could be backed by stories in the Hutchinson News alone. Back in December 2015, a photo of me appeared having a great conversation (and it truly was a great conversation) with members of the Hutchinson Tea Party who were part of a Young Professionals Political Panel. Last year, my name came up as one of many who were collecting signatures for a Republican state senator candidate to be placed on the ballot. Then last June, my name appeared again in a story about a meeting of the Reno County Democrats where I stood up and spoke on behalf of Jason Probst regarding his interest in House of Representatives’ seat that became vacant after the tragic passing of the amazing Patsy Terrell. Then there would be quite a few stories about my non-partisan efforts chairing/co-chairing Kids Voting Reno County for the last three November elections.

I really do try my best honestly. However, with that said, there is an involuntary cringe that happens that I try very hard to hide when I find out someone I am talking to attends one of the churches in town that promote ideas that are not in favor of women and LGBT equality issues. That same cringe even happens when someone professes his/her love for Chick-fil-A despite my knowing about the good the restaurant chain has done as well (with that said, I still won’t eat there though). And while I will sometimes click on a Google News article from a source like Fox News, it is not often, and my favorite episodes of Fox & Friends would be Saturday Night Live’s, especially because of the list of corrections from the fact checkers at the end of each episode.

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A similar cringe happened when I started listening to the interview with Nebraska’s Senator Ben Sasse on Conversations with Bill Kristol. I do want to be clear that the cringe doesn’t come from Sasse and Kristol being labeled as conservatives or Republicans. It was more about me preparing myself for another uber-conservative talk radio show of sorts that I have a tendency to listen to, especially the super religious ones, when I am on solo road trips (don’t ask why because I don’t know the answer either). The podcast wasn’t something I stumbled upon either. Rather, a friend of mine, who leans more toward the Libertarian side of the political spectrum, had referenced the podcast during a recent conversation, and based upon his and my discussion, I was intrigued to hear Sasse’s views on American society, especially regarding the Millennials. Both Sasse and Kristol had been on my radar from time to time but never for any length, nor were they ever a focus.

I listened on though, and much to my surprise in all honesty, the words of Sasse continually grabbed my attention with many of the things he said echoing similar thoughts and ideas I have attempted to express before during various conversations with friends, students, and anyone else who would listen. The biggest difference was Sasse is much more eloquent with his discussions about a society that is consuming life (or being consumed) via screens rather than “thinking about the habits of travel, of literacy, about learning to work, about the dangers of gluttony.” Many people I know from all different political spectrums would also agree with him when he says, “I think we want our kids to be curious. We want them to have a habit of reading. We want them to have a reading list of stuff they want to read. We want them to have the eyes that come from new travel.”

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This great fascination with Ben Sasse has continued with my listening to the podcast a second time while in Colorado with my mother trapped in the passenger seat. Then soon I was following him on Twitter and watching his other interviews. Of course, his well-written book was also quickly purchased, and it was a great read with many great points. Just ask anyone who has been around me for any length of time, and they will tell you about my often now making references to Sasse, for more often than not, Sasse and I are on the same page with our overall beliefs even down to his not being able to conceive of the idea of being bored (I seriously don’t understand the concept. Sasse also made the fantastic point curiosity is the cure for boredom, which has led to my adding “incurious” to my often stated line that only boring people get bored).

Another shared point that became obvious in the interviews and his book was Sasse’s concerned about this growingly polarized bubbled world that seems to be forming. In fact, one of the main missions of his book was to fight that with the desire to bring people from all different sides together to strengthen the younger generation to the point the country will be in great hands when it comes their time to lead. Take this passage by Sasse from Conversations with Tyler:

One of the fundamental challenges of the moment we’re at is that we believe that the digital moment will necessarily expose us to more and more diverse things, and I think what’s actually going to happen is that we’re going to become more and more siloed. And there’s a real danger of tribalism and being able to at the moment that media is going to disintermediate. We’re not going to have big common channels anymore. We’re going to have more and more niche channels. It will be possible to surround yourself only with people who already believe what you believe.

In that world where you can create echo chambers and when advertisers and marketers and Russians are going to try to surround you with echo chambers to only believe what you already believe, it’s not going to be easy to develop empathy. It’s going to be really easy to demonize the other and come to believe that the deep problems of my soul and the deep problems of my mortality could maybe just be solved if I could vanquish those other really bad people from the field. That’s not true, and we’re going to have to, as a people, develop the maturity and the habits of empathy-creation, and that requires going other times and places both physically and in a literary sense.

Sasse captures the problems with bubbles. We become trapped and disconnected with others around us. It also doesn’t take long in the time in which we are living that ethnocentrism seeps in and blinds us either. Rather than empathy, a quick rejection can occur, and along with it can come quickly jumping to conclusions and reinforcing the bubble’s barriers.

The question then becomes how do we break free from a bubble. First, we need to recognize our bubble’s boundaries and reach beyond by getting out of our comfort zone. This can be something as simple as finding a public event, store, place, or even a restaurant we would never have gone to before and then going to it with an open mind. Also, while doing this, be sure not to bring one’s own prejudices to the experience. Rather, take with you a curiosity that leads to looking deeper into the experience. That can be the start. Of course, remember the power of conversation with others and avoiding nonsermitis. Even if a person may seem completely different on paper, similarities surely abound with all of us striving to have a better life. Here once again comes the importance of taking the time to listen to others rather than putting them in a box and brushing them off. I could have done that with Kristol and Sasse, but thankfully, that didn’t happen, and because it didn’t, so many ideas are now floating around in my head that are giving me hope for the future of our country.

One such idea is our political arena could be so much better if on a weekly basis during session, many of the politicians from the different parties would come together for dinner and a social hour following where they were not allowed to talk about politics at all. Rather, they could talk about their lives back home, their families, things about their districts that make them proud, their life histories, positive current events, travels, and all sorts of other things that groups of people getting to know each other would discuss. It couldn’t be a one-time thing either, but rather, it should be ongoing. In theory, through these outings, the fracture among the parties could start to mend as they would start to see people from the other party not as enemies but rather as friends who may differ in terms of some ideas but have same desire to improve society for all.

After all, we need to remember we are citizens of the United States of America. Unfortunately, that united part is showing quite a few fractures these days. Never will we all agree on something, and nor should we. It is through respectful substantial conversations and civil debates growth can occur. Carrying on these rather than quickly rejecting the other side could do so much good for us all. Plus, when it comes down to it, one of essential benefits of getting out of our bubbles is to grow not only as people but also as a society and a community.

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Without a doubt, driving to work is much easier than riding my bike. Although tires on both travel the same route most of the time, the experience is very different. In addition to all of those people I mentioned earlier that I don’t recognize, there are also so many other things that come along with pedaling down 17th. Sure, not everything is always great, especially on one of those humid Kansas summer days, and you will be hard-pressed to find me riding to work during a frigid winter morning or when a hard rain is pummeling the ground. But then there are the times of that cool autumn breeze brushing against my face and also that delight that comes from a whiff of sweet flowers that had just started to bloom. Regardless of the season, the waves of neighbors and the grade school kids serving as crosswalk guards are always pleasant ways to begin the day. By staying comfortable in the confines of my vehicle, never would those little delights happen in my life. Plus, the pedaling helps burn off calories so I can devour more peanut butter too.

In all seriousness though, when it comes down to it, truly living our lives is all about putting ourselves out there. As John Donne wrote and as I found out as one of my first New Year’s Resolutions, no man (or woman) is an island. We should also avoid becoming islands of all like-minded people who never really grow. Rather, we should connect, or otherwise, we become, just like the bubbles in all of these photos scattered throughout this post, surrounded by beauty but never truly part of it.

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June’s Theme: Morning (and Evening) Routines Revisited

Pretty much the majority, if not all, sources on productivity will at some time or another praise morning routines as being crucial to a productive day. So many books, podcasts, articles, blog posts, and videos have gone on about how that time before the working day begins can change one’s life depending on how the minutes are used. Hal Elrod alone has made a huge career with The Miracle Morning. Given my addiction to self-help sources, I have read about morning routines over and over. One of my favorites pieces done on them would be this recent video by Thomas Frank, who is the man behind of one of my favorite YouTube channels/websites, College Info Geek:

Despite my love for mornings, my routine definitely does stray, so it seemed like a good idea after ending the month of May with a birthday, to bring the morning routine back into focus to help accomplish my goals for not only the rest of the year but also my life. Mornings alone didn’t seem like enough for a monthly theme given this was a New Year’s Resolution last year, so an evening routine was thrown into the mix too (in part inspired by Frank’s point about them and in other part because it made sense).

I sat down on the evening of May 31, tried to listen to Thomas Frank’s advice to start small, and set my desired schedule for a morning. The four essential pieces I set to begin the day were jogging (or a cardio workout of some sort), a weight workout, yoga, and meditation (breakfast and the other morning prep work were just a given).

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My Morning Yoga Routine (along with my personal mission statement and some of my general resolves for life)

Then for the evening, they were updating my Personalized Progress Log, going over my schedule and goals for the next day, and getting my work clothes ready for the morning. Additional parts thrown into the different routines as the month progressed (that were also some of the first to be cut out too) were writing, reading, playing the guitar, and drawing.

Looking back on the month of June, I cannot quite say it was a success; however, it wasn’t quite a failure either. Rather, it was more the start of some good habits although some days were indeed missed with only one or sometimes unfortunately none of the essentials happening. Also, now likely making excuses, the month of June wasn’t exactly filled with my most typical days. Two different weeks had me going into work at 6:45 AM to open the office thanks to a colleague being on vacation. Although I told myself I could wake up earlier to accomplish everything, I didn’t listen well to that advice. Then another week had me in Topeka for a couple of days for work, and the one other week entailed my taking my mother to visit one of her high school classmates in Colorado with our then taking the long way home to check out some national parks (the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is amazing!) I had yet to visit and see some other nifty places in the state that continues to steal my heart.

Even with the failures, there were some great takeaways though. When I accomplished at least my set of four morning routine essentials, I felt great. Plus, ironing my clothes the night before will now for sure become a habit thanks to its eliminating my previous habit of triple-checking and sometimes quadruple-checking to make sure my iron was unplugged before I left for work (and sometimes even driving back to my house after I had left to be sure about that). Then the stretching from the yoga routine always felt wonderful, and updating my Personalized Progress Log each night led to great reflection about the day as well as helped me accomplish another one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2017.

The regular jogging, although never very long, was also a good addition to my life too with my still imagining those daily steps are being done with my imaginary mentor created back in April. There were also some fantastic sunrises spotted during those early morning outings. Although most places where we stayed during the Colorado adventure were not necessarily outdoor-jogging friendly, I did have a great run in Buena Vista and another after we left Pagosa Springs that led me to the bridge view of Treasure Falls.

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Treasure Falls, Colorado – A great place to prove I was definitely not in shape for jogging at a higher elevation

Without a doubt, it’s going to take much longer than a month for my morning and evening routines to become a constant in my life, but some good steps were taken in June by bringing both into focus. With July’s theme involving at least fifteen minutes of reading for pleasure and at least fifteen minutes of writing for pleasure being part of each day, I have a feeling those routines starting and ending each day are not going anywhere anytime soon.

Tips for Setting Up Morning and Evening Routines

  • Start small and slowly add to them if you so desire.
  • Know the reason why you want to make each part of the routine a habit and have a good reason. This will increase motivation.
  • Track each day (a checklist works well. I put each of the tasks in my Personalized Progress Log which is in an Excel document, so I am able to keep track of them there. Also, marking off each day you stay with your routines on a paper calendar would work too).
  • Give yourself plenty of time in the morning and evening to accomplish your routines. If your schedule is thrown off, try for at least one of the tasks you have as an essential.
  • Make things easy for you by having the morning and evening routines complement each other. There is power in synergy.
  • If you should miss a day, simply start again after reflecting upon why you missed them.
  • Reflect upon how the routines have changed your life for the better. Doing so will help with your motivation to keep them going.

 

Post Script
Starting at the beginning of June, I also gave up drinking alcohol. More on that later though.

Going Over the Edge for Reno County’s United Way

There I was dangling from a rope. My feet had lost their footing for a second, and adrenaline pumped through my system as I tried my best to get them back to the stone wall. The sound of music and voice of Lisa Gleason, Executive Director of the United Way of Reno County, echoed from down below on Main Street while the shade of the First National Bank building protected me from the sweltering late afternoon summer heat. It was my first time to rappel, and I could not think of a better place to do it than from off one of the tallest buildings in Downtown Hutchinson. Still, the thought of how I ended up where I was kept running through my mind.

I first learned about the idea of United Way of Reno County’s Over the Edge last August when I was picking up t-shirts for my honors students who were taking part in our annual clean up of Carey Park for the United Way’s Day of Service. Tona Turner, the former executive director, asked me my thoughts of a fundraiser that involved people like me rappelling off the First National Bank building on at the next summer’s Third Thursday. As she described the event to me, thoughts of previous events throughout Downtown’s history ran through my mind. There was, of course, Spot the horse and his rider on top of the Wiley Building in 1941 as well as all sorts of other images and memories of events that have taken place on Main Street both in my life and before.

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Without a doubt, I could see what Tona described as becoming a part of Hutch’s history. The First National Bank of Hutchinson alone has played a large role in the history of both the city of Hutchinson and my life. For Hutchinson itself, First National Bank came to that location back in 1876. It transformed into Hutchinson’s first skyscraper in 1911 based upon designs by Daniel Burnham, the same Chicago architect who designed New York City’s Flatiron Building and Washington, D.C.’s Union Station, and many other iconic buildings throughout the country. The building was then expanded in 1957 and again in 1972-1974 to its current state.

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It was this building that grabbed my attention when I first moved here back in 2007 and was looking for a local bank. It was also here I spent a summer as an intern for the Hutchinson Community Foundation when I cleaned their storage room to transform it into my summer office where I would arrive each morning to look out their fifth-floor windows towards the east side of Main Street and all of the land beyond, including the grain elevator that once had the claim of fame of being the world’s longest (it’s second now). A few years later, I then began spending many more hours on that floor as a board member for that same amazing organization and eventually the chair of their grants committee. Plus, there were many memories of breakfasts and lunches at Downtown Sampler, the tasty restaurant on the second floor, and then there were the times meeting John on top of the parking garage to bring him something or another when he was working evenings there when he was going back to school. Plus, it is on Main Street, and to say I have a great love for Downtown Hutchinson would be an understatement.

On top of the location, the event also had the pull of being a fundraiser for the United Way of Reno County, which has changed the lives of so many through the money they raise during their annual campaign that goes to support many of the fantastic non-profits here in the area including Big Brothers Big Sisters of Reno County, Boys & Girls Club, Hospice of Reno County, Interfaith Housing Services, New Beginnings, Salvation Army, Sexual Assault/Domestic Violence Center, The Volunteer Center of Reno County, and many more working hard to improve living conditions for our local population. Then they also have greatly helped with early childhood education here in the community too, something that is very dear to my heart, and have partnered with Hutchinson Recreation Commission, Reno County Health Department, and the City of Hutchinson with the Southwest Bricktown Neighborhood Initiative which has led to many wonderful things as well.

So thanks to the history of the building, the great work the United Way does, and my New Year’s Resolution #1 for this year to live a better story, I couldn’t resist signing up back in February to be one of the people to rappel down the side of the building. Each person though was to meet a financial goal of $1000 in order to go over the edge of the First National Bank building. This is where once again I was reminded I am horrible at fundraising. I would craft Facebook posts and emails to share with others, but then not hit either the submit or send button at the last moment. I was going to write a blog post back in March about the upcoming event, but well, you can see that didn’t happen. My plan, though, was to fund, as I tend to try to do with fundraisers, most of it myself, but a $1600 vet bill for Callie in April and another extremely large sum of money for summer graduate courses led to that plan failing too. By the end of May, I had given up on reaching the goal and getting a chance to be part of this piece of Hutchinson history.

However, the kind hearts of those at the United Way decided to let those who had signed up but had not reach the financial goal still rappel and let us still try to raise money throughout the rest of the month of June (if you would like to donate, please do so by going here) as well as have us be able to talk about the amazing experience that it was so even more people will want to sign up the next time they do this. When I received this email on Tuesday, I was thrilled to say the least, and soon I had one of the last scheduled times so I wouldn’t miss out on meeting with new honors students at the Enrollment Day at work.

After changing out my dress shoes into hiking boots (I figured they had the best traction out of anything I owned), I drove quickly downtown yesterday afternoon still wearing a pair of dress pants and my standard white button-up shirt (the tie and jacket were left behind though) to experience something new. Throughout the day, I had caught a few pics, videos, and Snapchats of some of my other friends going down the building, and with each, I became both a little more excited and a little more nervous. I won’t lie and say there was not a brief moment of hesitation when I climbed out of my car and saw the building before me. Stopping for a second, I looked up at its top, took in a huge breath, told myself all will be well, and then walked forward to find the always amazing and wonderful Bailey to capture a few shots of my rappel on the camera I had brought. Then it was to the Downtown Sampler area on the second floor to get geared up before going to the top of the building.

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My group that traveled to the roof together.

My arrival was at the same time as a few others as well, and we chatted as we were decked out in our harnesses and gloves with everything being checked time and again. Then a friendly face of a friend of mine, Adam, greeted us in the hallway to take us up to the roof where we went through a thorough training session to go over the gear and how to rappel down the side of a building. I tried to pay as much attention as possible to the lever that would ease us down and all of the safety mechanisms as my mind raced in many different directions especially towards the recurring thought of what if I am the first one that day to get stuck going down and would need to be saved somehow. Then afterwards, it was waiting for our turn to go. Jon, another guy getting ready to go through this experience, and I took in the sights from the top of the building. The sky was unbelievable clear as we looked out upon the tree-filled city we call home. To say the view was stunning would be an understatement. I took in another deep breath and then went towards my destination.

The first step is a doozy was what I was told earlier, and as I stood there on the ledge, I could easily see why. Here were these two ropes that were keeping me from fall seven stories to the land below. I made small talk with the guy helping me take that first step, which I may or may not have been delaying. He was from Chattanooga and was very nice. I smiled at my friends, Cory, Chelsea, and Adam, who were also on top of the building and then took that doozy of a step.

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The first step

The feeling was indescribable. It was this sort of mix of fear, excitement, happiness, and awe with each step I took down the side of the building. I could hear Lisa down below being a fantastic emcee as she talked about different things I had done in the community while getting the crowd to cheer me on. I could see so much as my eyes would shift from the wall in front of me where I tried to slowly take each step to the world around me. The windows on both sides of me were the biggest surprise, for they provided this great reflection of the city of Hutchinson. I was also trying to count each floor so I could stop and wave at my Hutchinson Community Foundation friends (It turns out I waved tons at the sixth floor instead of the fifth though). Even when I would lose my footing, it would only be for a second as my thoughts went right back to the detailed training Mike had shared with us. Mainly, though, I was smiling because it was an experience like nothing I had ever had before and may never have again.


Although it seemed like it took me quite some time to get down, I had made it back to the second level landing spot to be helped by some local volunteers. My heart was still racing a bit as I thanked everyone for letting me have this truly amazing experience before I found my way to next to Bailey on the street. More friends were soon by my side, and text messages were coming with photos and videos taken by many from all different places and heights. Everything was both a blur and clear at the same time. And I just kept looking up at the tall building before me, thinking how grateful I was to the United Way for giving me this experience that will be relived every time I see this skyscraper in the heart of Hutchinson, Kansas.

As always, thank you for reading this post. If you would like to help the United Way of Reno County with the great work they do, please do not hesitate to make a donation by using this link that will help me get closer to my financial goal.

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May’s Monthly Theme – #PictureaDay #fortheMonthofMay

After a more intense monthly theme of taking on the Art of Manliness 30 Day Challenge to Becoming a Better Man (See Part I and Part II) in April, it seemed like a good idea to try an easier-going theme for the month of May but one that would still be helpful in a way. With my not being the best about posting things to social media on a regular basis despite my also being administers for several Facebook pages that should actually have regular content, the idea of posting a picture a day for the month of May seemed like a good idea. What seemed like a fluffy task turned out to be a very fascinating experience.

The task seemed easy enough. All I had to do was post a photo to Instagram (ryanhunterdiehl) and Facebook for each day of May. That was it. However, it led to all sorts of contemplations of whether the photos should be from that day or from the past or a mixture of both. Then there were a few other things that was thrown into the mix like Mother’s Day and my birthday which seemed like just some random photo wouldn’t work. Also battled was should the photo be of some beautiful scenery or include people in it. Ultimately, I went with a mix of all of the above.

What I quickly discovered was the great confusion that happened with the posts thanks to people thinking that the photo was representative of where I currently was despite hashtags like #travel #memories and then later the addition “from 20XX” further to try help with the situation. Still, even comments would be posted telling me to have fun, and some people thought I had come to their city without telling them. Another person I ran into downtown was extremely surprised and seemed somewhat disappointed to see me, for she was sure I was in Rome. I tried to explain the whole monthly theme New Year’s Resolution thing, but in a way, I felt sort of guilty for accidentally misleading people.

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Then there was the experimentation with hashtags, which was really something new for me. It was fascinating how a hashtag like #travel would lead to almost instant likes from unknown people on Instagram. It was also interesting to see how many other posts were being made with the same hashtag. Right now, for an example, there are 19,028,738 recent posts using #pictureoftheday, which really is pretty amazing I think.

Some other challenges also came up. One was just my remembering to do the post, which led to some very late posts a couple of days; however, let’s just pretend it was a test to see the response rate posts received at different times during the day. Sure it was . . .

Then during the California adventure, I ran into one situation of neither having an Internet connection nor phone reception (which I will be honest and say was a wonderful situation in itself) to get a photo taken with my actual camera to my phone. This led to my having to pause along the journey from Calaveras Big Trees State Park to Yosemite in a parking lot in the small town with decent phone reception to utilize my phone’s hot spot to make the transfer and then the post (I believe this is what they would call #firstworldproblems).

The benefits of this experience were many though. Beyond learning I could actually become disciplined enough to make social media posts on a regular basis, the month of May became a walk down memory lane. While I had thought about some of my past travels here and there, looking at different photos would take me back to those experiences when they were snapped. Suddenly, cars were rushing past me as I tried to capture a night photo of the Coliseum. Then there was my sliding down the side of a mountain thanks to possibly not the smartest idea to get a glimpse and a photo of a waterfall that was a bit off the trail. After that, my mother and I were enjoying a beautiful evening stroll in the charming town of Shrewsbury. The memories just continued with each photo shared from the past.

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The experience also led to capturing new memories as well. These included the times with helping with Hutchinson bike month activities as well as the confetti coming down at HutchCC’s graduation. Then there was the California trip with each posted photo capturing a moment and a memory. For an example, this one of the bear eating wild flowers reminds me how my mother and I had about ten minutes before started and then smartly changed our minds about hiking back into the woods to see wild flowers (the photo was taken safely from inside the car).

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Then there is the photo of a fantastic group of people in front of the Golden Gate Bridge who were brought together almost seemingly by fate to enjoy not only a bike tour throughout San Francisco but also, most importantly, each other.

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That, though, is the power of photos. Without a doubt, among my most valued possessions would be photos taken during travels, my younger years, times with friends, times with pets, and so on. My house and office are even decorated with framed and matted photos that allow for a passing glance to be a form of time travel, taking me right back to that place once again. Photos can sharpen a memory in a way almost like none other, and when photos are lost, so can some of the details of the memories behind them. During the evening after one of my top five times of my life which involved exploring Rottnest Island, the hard drive of my laptop crashed, losing all of the photos from my adventures in Australia that were not still on my camera. That loss still haunts me as moments with friends and on adventures become fuzzy and disappear rather than stay nice, crisp, and protected in a digital archive I could revisit whenever I wanted. Since then, I go to extremes to keep them safe with my saving photos in two different cloud services, on an external hard drive kept in a safety deposit box that also contains many full SD cards that have never seen a photo deleted from them, and on the hard drives of my two personal computers.

Sure, the monthly theme challenge for May led to my learning quite a bit about social media and discipline, but ultimately, it really was a chance to focus and in a way share with others some of my most valued possessions that will always be dear to my heart.

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The Magic of Flying

Back in my younger days, my eyes would often catch planes flying overhead. During the day, I would be amazed by the contrails they made, and then at night, their blinking lights among the stars would always catch my attention. Thoughts about where they were going would run across my mind as I would try to imagine what it would be like to be so high in the air. Grandma Diehl would tell me about her flying experiences. Her description of the clouds being like fluffy pillows she just wanted to wrap around her held strong in my thoughts and has stayed with me even to today. It was through hearing her stories, watching planes fly, and seeing scenes in movies and television shows that a dream formed in this small-town Southeast Kansas Boy that one day he too would get to fly in a plane. That dream fortunately has come true not once but many times, and I can easily say that childlike wonderment still exists whenever I see a plane and a smile forms when walking into an airport.

My first trip into the sky happened when I was in fifth grade. A friend of my uncle’s took me up in his small plane. The flight was maybe only 10 minutes or so, but it was neat as he did a loop out of the Iola airport, so I could see where I lived looked like from up above. There below me was the house I called home, and behind it was the woods I spent so much time in, playing around and eating gooseberries. Then there was the lake that looked so huge standing at its waters but yet so tiny from where I sat in the cockpit’s passenger seat.

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It wasn’t until years later that I boarded my first commercial plane which took me across the ocean for a History of England in England class. After that, I am lucky to say there have been many flights and many great memories made. Sure, there has been some delays here and there as well as some bumpy turbulence, but overall, the whole flying experience remains magical in my eyes, and here are just a few of the reasons why.

First, it is just nifty that something the size of a plane can carry everyone in it, weigh as much as it does, and be able to soar through the skies. Yes, I know there is a lot of science and mathematics behind it, but it is still mystical that someone can board such a contraption in one place and be across the country in a few hours. Just like that, destinations that would have days or weeks to get to by car or boat can be done in less than a day with most being only hours. A plane ticket opens up the world to a person, and that is just truly amazing.

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Then there is that whole different beauty that can be seen from the airplane window. Sunrises and sunsets have a whole other feel as the first rays spread over the land above and turn those fluffy clouds into something golden. Then there are the sights of the land below with the buildings and roads among rivers, lakes, farm fields, and mountains. The wee little cars travel here and there, taking their passengers to their desired destinations all while being watched from up with the passenger becoming an almost omnipresent deity in a sort of way.

Also fascinating and neat are all of the people on the plane. They all have their own stories. Some are off on a vacation and others are heading some place thanks to work. Some are heading home to people they love, and others are leaving their world behind to start a new one in a new place. There are the brothers, sisters, mothers, and fathers heading to see family and perhaps hold a newborn nephew, niece, grandson, or granddaughter for the first time. Then there are those on much more somber journeys prompted by a death or an illness. All of these stories converge for a time as the people carrying them sit among each other traveling from Point A to Point B.

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The same can be said for airports too. Walking down a terminal is almost like being in a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Sure, a purchased ticket locks a person into a certain destination, but suddenly, all of these other possibilities can very well be seen at the digital sign hanging behind the counters. One plane is heading to New York City, another to Garden City, Kansas, and yet another Melbourne, Australia. Each destination promises different experiences that could change a life trajectory in so many different ways, and for some of these destinations, a person may have never even thought about them until walking to get the gate and catching a city’s name even for a second.

Really when it comes down to it, the flying experience could be a metaphor for life. Everyone is on his or her own journey. Some take the same flight while others will take another. Paths cross. Some crossings may be nothing more than a glance or maybe simply helping someone for a bit like pulling down a carry-on bag from the overhead bin. Then other people will play a larger role like those seatmates with whom one can carry on a great conversation during that flight time and then never see again, but for just that hour or two or more, the two connect as their journeys came together. Then there are the travel companions that stay with a person through it all, who are right by their side no matter what. Life will have its turbulent times as we go through storms, but then there are the sublime sights to be seen if people just open the window shade and look out to the world around them. Things unfortunately do not always end well, but for many of the times, there is a safe landing as long as everything keeps moving forward.

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There are so many great memories in my life that have taken place either in airports or on the planes. Some are very simple like people watching while sitting in one of the rocking chairs in the Charlotte airport. Some are more dramatic like sprinting across the Denver airport to try to make it to my connecting flight to Wichita. Some are fantastic like the great people I have had the fortune of meeting thanks to fate placing our seats next to each other like Gayla, Art, Hallie, Jay, and so many others whose names may escape me but their stories have remained in my mind. There is also all of the adventures I have had the fortune to share with my mother as we took our annual trip to some great destination, spending time in anticipation on the plane getting there and smiling as we reflected about our adventure on the flight back.

I know for some people flying becomes nothing more than a routine experience, but for me, I don’t think that will ever happen. Rather, many years from now, I will still be that small town Southeast Kansas boy with thoughts of memories, anticipations, possibilities, and magic as I walk towards my gate before boarding a plane for another adventure.

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