When You Can’t Sleep

I’ve always been a night owl. As far back as I can remember, I have always stayed up incredibly late. When I was younger, I stayed up late just because my parents told me to go to bed. I was stubborn and didn’t want to listen to them. haha As I’ve grown older, the middle of the night has been “my” time. I can be alone and just let my mind wander without any distractions. I discovered years ago that I feel more creative in the middle of the night. I don’t know if it’s because I’m tired and any ridiculous idea that pops into my mind seems entertaining, or if I can just let my mind wander more freely without the distractions, and I actually come up with some good ideas. Either way, I feel more creative.

I’m going to completely contradict myself right now, but I’ve noticed for several years now that the things that seem so complicated while they’re happening seem so simple when I think about them in the middle of the night, yet late at night is when I tend to over-think a lot of things. Nothing good ever comes from over-thinking. When I over-think, the one thought that sticks in my mind tends to be the worst case scenario, regardless of the topic I’m thinking about. But, let’s focus on the simplicity.

It’s not a secret that life can be complicated. We all struggle to make sense of things at times. When you’re in the middle of a situation, finding the best approach for handling that situation can be difficult. When you look back later, the answer can seem so simple. A lot of times, I wished I could go back and do things over in the middle of the night. I probably would have handled them much better if I had that option.

More nights than I could ever count, I have spent hours lying in bed just staring at the ceiling or the walls with my mind racing. Nights when I have managed to fall asleep quickly, I have woken up hours later with an idea running through my head that has kept me from falling back asleep. Most people get annoyed when this happens to them, but I have learned to embrace it and use it to my advantage. Most (maybe all) of my favorite posts that I’ve written since I started blogging have been written in the middle of the night. Those posts are the ones that I have noticed haven’t had many views, but hopefully the people who did read them enjoyed them and got something out of them.

When I was in school, (this is a terrible habit and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone) I used to purposely wait and write important papers in the middle of the night the night before they were due. I stayed up all night long finishing them, but they always turned out well. It seemed to be a good combination for me… I felt more creative late at night, and I have always seemed to work well under pressure. I guess I just focus better when a deadline is approaching and I no longer have the luxury of procrastinating. haha

Right now, I have a lot of things in my life that need to get figured out as soon as possible. The old saying “When it rains, it pours” pretty much tells the story of my life, whether it’s good things or bad things. They all tend to come up at the same time. With the new year approaching and all of the potential that it brings, I am well aware that I have a lot of opportunities available to me right now. I just need to figure out the best way to approach them. As much as I am a big believer in things falling to place when they’re supposed to happen, I need to make my life happen right now. I used to wish for things to happen while keeping them bottled up inside of me and just hoped someone would eventually read my mind. I’m no longer shy about saying what I want in life. I just need to find the best way to make things happen. I now know who I really am. I know what I want. I know what makes me happy, and I also know what would make me even happier. I just have to go about all of it the right way to make it all work out.

Professionally, I already know what my goals are for the coming months and year. This year has been a major learning process for me. It hasn’t been a total failure, but it hasn’t been as successful as I had hoped either. I have learned a lot and know how I need to improve moving forward. Can I do it? Absolutely. Will things work out as well as planned? I have a feeling I’ll find out in the near future.

Personally, I have learned to love myself. I have realized what true happiness feels like, and I know where to find it. You (hopefully) never stop growing as a person. Every day is a new opportunity to improve yourself. How have you improved yourself this year? What could/should you have done better? Are you actually willing to make the changes necessary to get your life to where you want it to be? I ask myself these questions frequently.

I feel like I have more quality friendships right now than I’ve ever had at any point in my life. I no longer worry about quantity, it’s all about quality. I am who I am and I’m happy with myself. Quality friends will be happy for me and will stick with me on this crazy journey through life. Others will not understand why I am the way I am, and those people will fade from my life. It happens, and it’s best for us to go our separate ways. Some people that I thought for sure would always be a major part of my life have faded away. Others have surprised me and made me wish I had gotten to know them better sooner than I have. You eventually find out who your true friends are. It’s a relief when you start to figure out who those people are. You can start to focus on the right people in your life.

I always figured I would be married and have a family by the time I got to this age. Well, that was a nice thought. haha Life doesn’t go as planned very often. Spending so much time alone over the past couple of years and learning more about myself has helped me to realize what kind of person would be a good fit in my life. I know what I want in a relationship. I know what kind of person I want to date. If I’m lucky enough, that person might be the person I’ll end up spending my life with. I mentioned this in a previous post, but sometimes you have to make changes before you can realize that what you’ve been searching for was already right in front of you. Looking at things from a different perspective makes a big difference. I know what I am looking for in a significant other, but have I actually found her yet? Maybe. We’ll see. I hope so, and I want to find out. Does she know? I’m not sure. Is she reading this right now? Maybe. Is she now wondering if I’m talking about her? haha It’s possible. We’ll see what happens moving forward. Hopefully I won’t end up spending my whole life single, but I’ve always said I’d rather be happy and single than dating someone or married and miserable. I’m a patient person, I don’t mind taking my time to find the right person.

Anyway, I know this is a bunch of randomness. I have been wide awake all night and my mind has been racing, so I just figured I would ramble a bit and share my random thoughts with anyone who might care to read them. I will likely end up writing quite a bit this next week, but we’ll see. The closer we get to the end of the year, the more thoughts always seem to run through my head. Hopefully I can put them together in a way that people actually want to read. If you’re interested, check back for more soon!! šŸ˜€

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Slow Down And See How Far You’ve Come

The most important reminders and realizations in my life always seem to come completely unexpectedly. Tonight was no different.

With Christmas just a couple of days away, I keep catching myself saying, “I can’t believe the year is almost done already. Where has the time gone?” My dad is down here visiting and will be spending Christmas with me. As we were driving tonight, he mentioned that he couldn’t believe he has already been here for over a week, and that the time seems to pass by too quickly in Florida. I’ve always felt that life in Florida is a confusing combination of a laid-back, slower-paced lifestyle mixed with the constant rush of a big city. When my dad mentioned how the past week has flown by so quickly, I responded by saying, “I’ve been here for almost two and a half years, and it feels like I just got here.”

As soon as those words came out of my mouth, I had a flashback to the summer of 2014. That summer, I played over 100 rounds of golf. It was just a typical summer. At that time, I had no clue yet that I would be moving to Florida a year later to start working toward a career as a golf pro.

As I kept thinking back, I started to remember that even throughout most of the summer of 2015 I just had a feeling that something was going to happen to keep me from moving. I was determined to avoid anything negative and ignore anything that could potentially impact my plans.

Every year, I take some time at the end of the year to reflect upon everything I’ve experienced throughout that year. This year, I keep finding that I am looking more at the big picture than just this year alone. It’s hard to look back at this year without also looking back at the previous year and a half to see how everything has ended up happening.

Each year, when I look back, I realize a common theme that has come up repeatedly throughout the year. I still don’t know what the theme of 2017 was for me, but I already know about 2018. 2017 hasn’t seemed to make a whole lot of sense to me yet. 2018, however, has a ton of potential. I’m calling it, “The Year of Great Potential”. There’s a lot in the works right now that would make 2018 the best year of my life, if it all falls into place. I won’t go into any details right now, but I feel like maybe all of the confusion will end up making more sense in the coming year.

I still have a lot of questions to which I have no answers, but those answers seem to be closer to being revealed now. 2018 could be the year where things that would have seemed like a ridiculous dream back in the summer of 2014 when I was pretty much living on the golf course end up becoming reality. I’ve learned not to get too excited until things actually happen though. Stay tuned…

Some of the questions that I have answered this year, and hope to continue finding answers to in the next year, have to do with the people in my life. When you spend most of your time alone, you notice things you didn’t notice before. Specifically, you start to realize who does and doesn’t fit in your life. You realize who does and doesn’t put in the effort to be involved in your life. You learn to recognize the difference between people who say they care and people who ACTUALLY care. If somebody wants to be a part of your life, they will show you. They will put in the effort.

I think one of the greatest lessons I have learned this year, if not THE greatest lesson, is figuring out who deserves to be a part of your life. Surround yourself with people who make you happy, build you up, and support you. Surround yourself with people who care. You will notice a difference immediately in your level of happiness when you make the people who deserve to be in your life a top priority and they do the same for you. You need to take responsibility for your own happiness, but having the right people in your life takes that happiness to a whole new level. They add to your already happy life. If they make you happy, tell them how happy they make you. Appreciate them. Love them. Tell them you love them. Hopefully they will do the same for you, too. People aren’t mind-readers. Tell them what is on your mind. But don’t stop there. Don’t just tell them. Show them, too. Words are great, but actions speak louder than words.

Whether it’s professional progress, personal growth, newfound appreciation for the people in your life, or any other progress/improvements you have made, take the time to slow down and enjoy it. Life passes by insanely fast. Slow down and remind yourself how far you’ve come once in a while. You will probably be surprised how much your life has changed without you even realizing it. Day-to-day life usually seems to never change much. Small changes over a long period of time really do add up. Keep on living and enjoy every step of the journey. No matter how big or how small, every step counts. All great journeys start with a single step.

Beyond The Fear

Fears. Doubts. Struggles. We all have them. They seem to never end as you continue on this journey through life. They consume your thoughts and make you question yourself. I think it happens to all of us. But, life is meant to be lived. You have to keep going. Fear only exists within us. Only we can stop ourselves from continuing to move forward.

My favorite line from one of my all-time favorite songs, “Belleau Wood” by Garth Brooks, goes, “Heaven’s not beyond the clouds, it’s just beyond the fear”. That line is a reminder that I feel we all need from time to time. Make your life happen. To get the most out of life and to enjoy the things you’ve always dreamed of enjoying in life, you have to face your fears. I struggle with this, and I think most others do, too. It’s easy to get stuck inside your comfort zone. It’s easy to get stuck in your own little bubble. I still need a nudge every now and then to keep branching out and trying new things, but you have to take chances to enjoy the best things that life has to offer. Nothing truly great ever comes from staying within your comfort zone. I’ve spent years waiting for things to fall into my lap while doing the same things. If you keep doing the same things all the time, then you’ll keep getting the same results. Take chances. Dream, and dare to chase those dreams. If something seems completely crazy, then do it. You might be surprised what comes from it.

Often times, the things we’ve been searching for were already right in front of us. We just needed to realize it, and do something about it. Piece by piece and step by step, I am starting to realize what I have been missing and am putting it into place where it should have been a while ago. Think of life as a puzzle. The pieces are right there in front of you. They all fit and have a specific place. You just have to figure out how to put them together. I think I may be getting closer to figuring out where a few more of those pieces fit into my puzzle.

What People Remember About You

Growing up, it seemed like everybody in my hometown knew me. Everywhere I went, people seemed to know who I was. I didn’t know most of them, but they knew me. My mom taught preschool for 20 years and was the kind of person who made friends easily. Because of all of the families she met through years of teaching, and because of the friends she made, people knew who I was. I don’t know of anyone who ever met my mom and didn’t like her.

As I got a little bit older, people knew me because of my brothers. My brothers played sports in high school, and I was at nearly all of their games, so their friends/teammates and the families knew me. Whether they knew my name or not, most people just called me “Little Mapes”.

When I was in high school, I think most people knew who I was, but I was never exactly one of the “cool kids”. I don’t know of anyone who genuinely disliked me, but I was never invited to parties or things like that. I had a small group of friends, but didn’t have much of a social life, and I was fine with that. I didn’t mind blending in and just being one of the many students in my school.

In my early adult life, I became friends with my favorite band and eventually ended up traveling with them for several years. Whether I was in my hometown or in a town that we visited regularly, people who followed the band knew who I was. I knew my place with the band and was happy with it. I loved being able to live my dream life, and to be surrounded by music and crowds several nights a week, but I was not the person that people were coming to the shows to see. I tried to contribute, in some small way, to the overall experience of the shows whenever I interacted with fans. Hopefully I was successful in doing that.

When I left my hometown and moved across the country to start a new chapter in my life, it was the first time ever that I had the opportunity to create an image for myself. Nobody here knew me. Nobody had any expectations for me. Nobody associated me with anyone or anything else. My life became about me and who I really am. When that reality sank in, I had to ask myself, “Who am I?” I was a little disappointed when I realized that I really didn’t know the answer to that question. Then, I realized that, for the first time in my life, I could be anybody I wanted to be. I could do things my way. Nobody here was watching every move I made. Nobody here was judging every decision.

Over the past (nearly) two and a half years, I have started to figure out who I am and what I want my life to be. I am learning how I want people to remember me. Although I am still just getting started in establishing my new life, people here are starting to remember me when they see me. Some people have told me that they remember my smile, kindness, and politeness. Overall, they tell me that they just remember my positive attitude and my “positive vibes”.

I am who I am. I do what I do, because it’s who I am. I’m not trying to impress anybody, ever. I don’t go out of my way to draw attention to myself. When somebody comes up to me and tells me they remember seeing me and that I have made them smile, that is the best compliment I could ever receive. Just knowing that, by just being myself, I am able to bring happiness to others, tells me that my life is heading in the right direction. I’m human, I make mistakes. I make a lot of mistakes. But, I just hope the good I am able to do in my life far exceeds the mistakes I make.

When you are able to finally do whatever it is that you want to do with your life, the possibilities are endless. It’s a pretty incredible feeling to know that you are starting over, and what matters most is what happens from this point forward. I am proud of the fact that the things I get to do in my life now are the results of living life my way. Nobody does everything completely by themselves. We all rely on others to help us out along the way. But the people who end up playing a role in your life are people that you have met while living life your own way and doing what it is that you want to do with your life. The people who are most important in your life are the people you choose to have in your life. The opportunities that I have had professionally are mostly the result of being in the right place at the right time and meeting the right people. The only thing I can take credit for myself is that I was able to make some kind of a positive impression on those people, which led to those opportunities.

One of the greatest lessons I have learned over these past couple of years is that, if you make yourself visible, then people will notice you. If you go to the same places and do the same things often, others who are also there often will notice you. They will pay attention to you. They will remember you. People I don’t know have come up to me and introduced themselves and told me that my positivity inspires them. My true joy and love of life is something they have noticed from a distance. Like I said, I don’t go out of my way to draw attention to myself, but I now know that people notice me and remember me.

As you go through life, ask yourself, “How do I want people to remember me?” Are you living your life in a way that would make people remember you in that way? If not, it’s never too late to make the changes necessary to be remembered the way you want to be remembered. Just be genuine and honest, and people will notice. You can be anybody you want to be. Start being that person today, if you haven’t already started.

Personally, I want people to remember me as somebody who makes them smile. Somebody who is positive and optimistic in every way. Somebody who makes a difference in the lives of others. Somebody who is happy and makes the people around me happy. Somebody who enjoys all of the best things that life has to offer. Somebody who appreciates every opportunity I have. Somebody who is truly grateful and never takes anything for granted. Somebody whose presence makes any situation better than if I weren’t there. Somebody who makes others feel better about themselves and help build them up. This may seem like a lot, but it’s really not. It all comes down to one thing: love. Love yourself, love one another, and love life. It’s that simple. Everything else will take care of itself.

How do you want people to remember you?

Funny How Life Can Change In An Instant

On the night of December 2nd/3rd, 2014, my life changed forever. That night, I learned one of the most important lessons of my life… Life doesn’t happen how and when you want it to happen, it happens how and when it’s supposed to happen. Knowing this can be frustrating, at times, but it also reminds me to remain calm and trust things to work out for the best.

I remember that brutally cold December night in North Dakota like it was yesterday. That day and evening had been just like any other. There was nothing special about it. Late that night, I finally decided it was time to go to bed, although I wasn’t tired at all. I crawled into bed and stared at the ceiling for two hours with no chance of falling asleep, so I turned on the TV. Golf Channel had a replay of a tournament airing, so I decided to watch that. There was no way to know that what was about to happen next would change my life forever.

I had been thinking for months about my future. I knew that, as my 30th birthday grew closer, I needed to make some changes in my life. As much as I loved the life I was living at the time, I just kept wondering how long I could continue to live like that. I was living my lifelong dream at that time. I got to travel every weekend, every night was a party, I was constantly surrounded by friends, I was meeting new people all the time, my life was filled with music. My life was perfect. Nothing could ever be better than living a lifelong dream, right? Why would I ever want to change anything?

At around 2:30 AM, a commercial came on that I had seen countless times before. The commercial was for Golf Academy of America. Of all the times I had seen that commercial before, I had never paid much attention to it. This time, I, for whatever reason, watched it closely. The commercial listed the locations across the U.S. where the school had campuses. Orlando stood out to me, because it was my favorite city I had ever visited, and was also a city that, after only visiting once, I told myself I would someday make my home.

I had attended college off and on for parts of six years in the past, before finally deciding I would rather travel across the country in a van with a band than sit in a classroom to earn a degree I had no interest in pursuing. I had no interest in going back to school, but, after seeing this commercial for Golf Academy of America, I thought, “IF I ever decided to go back to school, this golf school would be fun.” But, I was 100% set on never going back to school.

About 10 minutes after this commercial ended, I realized I had just spent 10 minutes thinking about what a golf school would be like and what living in Florida might be like. Anything that can grab my attention enough to make me keep thinking about it after it’s done seems like something that is worth looking into, so I decided to visit the school’s website and do a few minutes of research. That “few minutes of research” turned into reading the entire website, and, 4 1/2 HOURS later, as the sun was coming up, I texted my best friend and told him about this school. He knows me better than anybody, and probably even knows me better than I know myself. I asked him if I was completely crazy for considering the possibility that this school might be a good fit for me. The response I got shocked me. I figured he would tell me I was just reacting to the extreme cold weather and that it was just another crazy idea that I would forget about within a couple of days. Instead, he said he hadn’t seen me express that much excitement about anything in a long time, and that I should at least consider it.

That afternoon, I visited the school’s website again and requested more information about the school. I figured I would get something in the mail a week or two later. 45 seconds after submitting my contact info to the website, my phone rang. It was the Enrollment Specialist from GAA’s Orlando campus calling to answer any and every question I had about the school. I was stunned.

I was extremely cautious about telling people what I was looking into, because I kept waiting for people to tell me I was crazy for considering moving across the country to attend a golf school. One of my neighbors is somebody who has never really believed I would follow through with things I get excited about. He is the only person I told who just kinda rolled his eyes and blew it off. I carefully chose specific people to start telling about this idea of going back to school, and I was shocked when everybody kept telling me the same thing my best friend had told me. They all agreed that my excitement level was different this time. They all agreed that it was an opportunity for me to live in a place that I loved and to do something I would really enjoy… something I could do well. There was one person in particular that I was nervous about telling I was considering moving across the country. I kept telling myself that, if she thought it was a good idea, then I had to do it. Two days later, I told her. She faked a smile and said she was happy for me, then changed the subject. She looked crushed, and I thought she was going to cry. The next day, we finally had a chance to sit down and talk. I fully explained the situation, and ended up getting the response I was expecting. She said she didn’t want me to move away, but it was an opportunity that seemed so perfect for me that I would be stupid to not go for it. I don’t think she knows how much I valued her opinion, and I don’t know if I’ve ever told anyone that, if she had told me not to move, I wouldn’t have moved.

I kept in touch with GAA and started working toward officially applying to the school, but tried to do it without telling people, as much as possible. Two months later, I received a letter in the mail informing me that I had been officially accepted. It was then that I finally told my family that I was moving to Florida later that year. The reason I told a few of my friends, but no one in my family, was because of the responses I got from some of my family. I knew it was coming. The doubts. The eye rolling. The “You’re crazy” responses. At this point, it didn’t matter though. I had already been accepted and my mind was made up. I was moving to Florida. Three months later, I was in Orlando for the campus visit. I fell in love with the school immediately, and knew I was making the right decision. Just over three months after the campus visit, I packed up and moved to Orlando.

The process of basically hitting the restart button on my entire life began on an ordinary night. I wasn’t looking for it, it just happened. Life seems to find a way to always do that. You can search and obsess over things and never find the answers you hope to find. But, when you stop looking and just live your life, things start to fall into place when the time is right. I’m not suggesting that anybody should sit around and do nothing while waiting for things to magically happen, but just don’t try to force things to happen. If something in life is meant to work out, it will work out. The best things in life seem to come in the most unexpected ways and at the most unexpected times. Keep your eyes open and pay attention to what is happening. If something seems to be going in a positive direction in your life, let it happen. It may not be something you were looking for, but it might end up being the best thing that has ever happened to you. The things I have learned about myself and about the world in my 2+ years of living in Florida are things I needed to move here to discover. I have needed this time in my life to learn who I am and what I want. I needed this time to learn how life works. Knowing what I know now, this isn’t a surprise, but living by myself 1,500 miles away from my hometown has allowed me to look at my old friendships in a different way. Some people that I hung out with on a regular basis before I moved are people that I rarely, if ever, hear from anymore. Others that I only got to see occasionally before I moved have put in the effort to keep in touch since I moved. I have gotten to know some of those people better since I moved than I ever did when we actually lived in the same city. I now know how fortunate I am to have the quality of people that I have in my life.

I don’t know what the future holds for me. I guess none of us do. I am hoping that I will get to spend the rest of my life in Florida. North Dakota is where I grew up… it’s where I’m from. But, Florida is my home. I absolutely love it here. As I said though, things happen how and when they’re supposed to happen. As much as I don’t want to ever move back to North Dakota, if life happens, then it will happen. All I know for sure is that my life will never be the same again. It can’t be the same.Ā IĀ am not the same. I’m a different person than I was 2-3 years ago. The people who are the most important to me aren’t necessarily the same people who were the most important to me back then. My days of living a care-free, party every day lifestyle are done. That person doesn’t exist anymore. I do still like to have some drinks (maybe even get drunk) once in a while, but I don’t do it regularly anymore. I want to be successful. I want to make a difference in the world. I want to find “the one” and fall in love and get married. I want to start a family. I want to do things that make me happy with people who make me happy. Maybe that process has already begun. Maybe I am on the path to making those things happen. Maybe I am building toward a successful life. Maybe I am doing what I am on this Earth to do. Maybe the things I am doing are the reason I was born. Maybe I am making a difference in the world in some way. Maybe I have already found “the one”, but we just haven’t realized it yet. Maybe she’s even reading this right now. Maybe my current happiness and the new appreciation I have gained for life is just a small preview of what is to come for the rest of my life.

All I know for sure is that the best things in my life have always happened unexpectedly. When I have just been living my life, something has come from out of nowhere and changed my life. Things you never could have imaged suddenly take over your life. The people who come into your life aren’t in your life by accident. They’re there for a reason. Pay attention to them. Find out why they’re there. You might be surprised what you discover. You can plan and prepare for things, but life will always find a way to catch you off guard. It really is funny how life can change in an instant. When that change happens, let it happen.

 

Grand Cypress

Expect Nothing, Appreciate Everything

I have been very fortunate throughout my life to have had opportunities that I never thought I would have. I have experienced things that many other people have never experienced. There have been numerous times that I have received some kind of special treatment, just because I was in the right place at the right time, or because I had proven myself to be extremely loyal to certain people or businesses. There is something that has always stood out to me in these situations that makes me different from a lot of other people that I have either met or have been around… I don’t ask for any kind of special treatment… ever. I just don’t. I’m not that kind of person. You will never see or hear me ask somebody to let me skip a long line, just because I don’t want to wait. You will never see or hear me ask to get something for free. I may joke about it, but I won’t seriously ask for somebody to treat me as if I were special. The thought of it just doesn’t feel right to me. I’m no better than anyone else.

There have been times I have been somewhere with somebody I just met, or somebody I just don’t know well, and they have tried to use the fact that I am in a wheelchair to try to get us/them special treatment. To be completely honest, that pisses me off. I don’t get upset easily. I’m a very laid-back person. People who try to use my wheelchair (or anything else, for that matter) to get special treatment really piss me off. I don’t ask for special treatment, so what makes them think they have the right to ask for it and use me as their excuse?

I remember countless concerts I have attended where I was surrounded by a sea of people and couldn’t see the stage. I just decided I would make the best of the situation and enjoy the show as much as I could. People around me saw me and realized that I couldn’t see, and, without asking, they started telling people in front of me to move out of the way, and they pushed my wheelchair as close to the stage as possible so I could see. I didn’t ask them to do that, but they did it for me to help me.

A few years ago, I was in Las Vegas with a group for my best friend’s bachelor party. There was a long line to get into one of the clubs. Security saw me and told me to follow them. I wasn’t able to bring our whole group with me, but they allowed me to pick three other people to follow me through a separate entrance. We got to skip a 3+ hour long line, and we got into the club immediately. We still had to pay the cover charge, but we got in. The rest of our group had to wait in line, and they never did get into the club.

At Disney World, since I am a local and a regular (let’s be honest, I spend more time in the parks than some cast members), I know when it is and isn’t worth it to wait in a stand-by line for an attraction. Certain attractions just aren’t worth the ridiculous amount of time that most tourists are willing to wait. Many times, I have been waiting in line, and a cast member who was working at that attraction has seen me and taken me out of the line to bring me to a separate entrance. Once again, in these situations, I was waiting in line just like everybody else, and was unexpectedly allowed to skip the line.

Just last night, in fact, when I was at Epcot, I wasn’t even in line (I was waiting next to the stand-by line) for the Candlelight Processional. Each night, a celebrity narrates. Whoopi Goldberg is the narrator this weekend. I missed out on seeing her last year, so I wanted to make sure I saw her this year. When the seating was filled, the people who were still waiting in the stand-by line were told there would not be anybody else allowed into the theater. People started begging to be allowed in as singles… basically, they were trying to ditch the rest of their group. They were told no other seating was available. People in wheelchairs started begging to be allowed to sit in any random space that was open, since the handicap seating area was full, as well. They were told there was no room. People who weren’t able to get into the theater were able to watch and listen from outside of the rope at the back of the theater. I was sitting next to the rope and was able to see and hear, so I was fine with watching from there. I never once said a word to any of the cast members while others were begging to be let in. I sat there silently and was just happy that I was able to experience the Candlelight Processional, even if I was outside of the rope. Once the crowd around me cleared, a cast member approached me and asked if I wanted to get into the theater. I said, “Yes, please, if that is at all possible, I would love that. If not, that is totally fine though.” The cast member lifted the rope and said, “Yes, of course. Please follow me.” The seating was, in fact, completely full, but I was allowed to watch the show from a walkway next to the handicap section. The only difference between myself and the people who were turned away is that I didn’t beg to be let in. I was happy with watching from outside of the theater.

Last weekend, I got to meet up with a friend that I hadn’t seen in over two years at Animal Kingdom. When I arrived, she was on her way to watch “Festival of the Lion King”, which is my absolute favorite show at Disney World. I joined her for the show, but she was with her family and we got separated from them, because the handicap seating in the theater was full. I felt bad that she got separated from her family, and, as I was about to tell her to go ahead into the show and I would just meet up with her after the show, a cast member brought us up a ramp that I never knew existed. Although we were separated from her family, we got to watch the show together. I was really excited to see her, and, being 1,500 miles away from where I grew up and rarely getting to see my friends or family, getting to watch that show with her was something I won’t forget. I won’t say it was the best performance of the show that I’ve ever seen, but it was my favorite experience watching the show ever, just because of the situation. Once again, we didn’t ask if there was additional handicap seating anywhere, it just worked out, thankfully.

My experiences at Disney World, specifically Epcot, have been incredible. At that park, more than any of the others, I have just happened to find myself in the right place at the right time more times than I could count. I have been given free food, free drinks, and access to VIP viewing areas, just because I was in the right place at the right time. I have never once asked for any of those things, but I have always been very appreciative when it has happened.

One night at Magic Kingdom a few months ago, I was sitting next to Rivers of America by myself. The fireworks were about to begin and all of the food and beverage stands were closing. A cast member walked up behind me and said, “Excuse me, sir. Mickey wanted you to have this. Have a magical night!!” She handed me a Mickey pretzel for free. The stand was closing for the night, and there was one pretzel left that hadn’t been sold. Rather than throw the pretzel away and waste it, the cast member saw me sitting nearby by myself, and wanted to do something nice for me. As minor as receiving a free pretzel may seem, it actually made my whole night. It was a nice gesture from a cast member who didn’t have to do anything special. She went out of her way to do something nice for me. Plus, those freaking pretzels cost $6!! haha It made me really happy. It was something I really appreciated.

When I find places to hang out that I really enjoy, I have always been very loyal. I tend to be an extremely loyal person, in general. When I hang out in a place enough that I become a regular, I like to get to know the staff. I like to become friends with them. I respect and appreciate their hard work, and want to make sure they know that. Bars and restaurants where I have been a regular in the past were always more enjoyable once I became friends with the staff. I just loved the laid-back vibe of being surrounded by friends. In those places, fairly often, I would end up getting free food or drinks. When you get to know a manager well and become friends with them, they start to realize that you will gladly spend a lot of money in their establishment. An occasional free drink or two, or a free appetizer, is a great gesture. Again, it’s not expected, but it is very much appreciated.

I could keep going on for a while, but the message is the same… people need to learn to quit begging for things and trying to get special treatment. Just be loyal to the people and places you enjoy, and just be happy with what you already have. When you appreciate the situation you’re already in, you won’t be disappointed when you don’t get special treatment. But, even better, you may find yourself more frequently on the receiving end of these “magical moments”. If you do, appreciate those moments. Be excessively appreciative. Be excessively thankful. People ask me how I am able to experience so many of these “magical moments”. To be honest, it’s mostly luck. I happen to be in the right place at the right time in most cases. Part of it, though, is not taking it for granted and expecting it to happen. When you thank someone repeatedly and show your true appreciation when they do something nice for you, they will remember that. They may even help you out again at some point in the future. If they do, be truly appreciative again the next time. But, once again, don’t expect it.

If you’ve learned anything from this, I hope it has reminded you to just be thankful for what you DO have, instead of being disappointed and thinking about what you wish you had.

The Feeling of Happiness

Over the past week, I have noticed a major change in myself. It’s a familiar feeling, yet it feels new. It’s a feeling I have felt before, yet my life has changed so much over the past couple of years that, as familiar as it is, it’s different this time.

I have learned over the past couple of years to take responsibility for my own happiness. In the past, the majority of the time, I allowed the people around me to affect my level of happiness in nearly every situation. The good times were really great, but the bad times were completely depressing. I ended up being a complete mess on numerous occasions.

As imperfect as my life is right now, I have learned to be happy with myself. I do the things I love to do, and I am incredibly picky about the people I allow to be a part of my life now. The quantity of people in my life doesn’t matter to me anymore, it’s all about quality. I feel very blessed that the people who are special to me are such an important part of my life. I used to stop and read everything that was on my news feed on Facebook. Now, I find myself ignoring the majority of it. If that offends anybody, I’m sorry, but it’s the truth. If you are somebody who complains constantly about how much your life sucks or how unfair things are, I don’t pay attention to you. I’ve dealt with enough crap in my own life over the past couple of years, and I don’t need anyone else’s negativity dragging me down. If your life is that bad, then change it. It may not be easy, but you CAN change it. If you choose to not improve your life, then you have no one to blame but yourself.

This past week was the first time in six months that I have had a chance to see some familiar faces from back home. Getting to create new memories was a lot of fun. I can’t begin to put into words how happy it made me. But, it also brought back old memories… memories that made me smile. I’ve been smiling a lot lately. Those memories didn’t make me smile just because they were great memories, they made me smile because of who made those memories great. Surrounding yourself with truly special, amazing people will do nothing but great things for the quality and enjoyment of your life. As great as certain experiences in life may be by themselves, experiencing those things with the right person(s) will always make those memories extra special.

I feel like certain people in my life who are really special to me may not know just how big of an impact they have on my life or how much I think about them. Some people might be surprised. Although we do keep in touch fairly often, I haven’t seen some of them in over two years. I try to tell those people, or to show them in some way, how much they mean to me, but I need to keep doing better. One of my greatest fears in life is leaving this world without telling the people who mean the most to me exactly how special they are. They inspire and motivate me to be a better person every day. I think about them a lot. Yet, living 1,500 miles apart, they probably don’t have a clue that I think so highly of them.

Right now, I feel the happiest I have felt in the entire time I have lived in Florida. The reason it feels different this time is because I’m no longer dependent on others to make me happy. I am happy with myself, and the people who are important to me just add to that happiness. I feel very relaxed right now… very comfortable. I don’t remember the last time I have honestly been able to say that. I feel like I am starting to get to a point in my life where there is potential for great things to happen. Sometimes you have to survive the storm before you can enjoy the warm sunshine.

Anyone who knows me at all knows that I’m a dreamer. The potential for my future is starting to take over my thoughts right now. I’ve spent the past 2 years trying to figure out who I really am and what I want out of life. I now know who I am. I know what I want. I no longer feel like it’s just some crazy dream. I feel like it is very realistic, and may not be too far away from starting to fall into place. Everything in life seems to fall into place when and how it’s supposed to happen, not necessarily when or how you want it to happen. Things seem to work out in ways you would never expect.

Every year, I take some time at the end of the year to look back and reflect upon everything that has happened in my life throughout that year. I will write a post about that sometime in the next few weeks. This year is different from any previous year in my life. The things that have started to fall into place for me this year give me hope. My newfound love, respect, and appreciation for myself (my TRUE self), and the support of the incredible people that I am fortunate to have in my life makes me feel confident that the life I have always hoped for could be just around the corner for me. There are still several pieces of the puzzle that need to fall into place, but it feels closer now than ever before. When you’re reminded that you have the support of the people who mean the most to you, that is a great boost of confidence.

This past week has felt like a bunch of much needed baby steps in the right direction. It has been the nudge in the right direction that I have been needing for a while. Hopefully these baby steps will soon lead to bigger steps, and then, eventually, giant leaps in the right direction. I’m an extremely patient person, but I’m 32 years old. It’s time to get my life to the point I hoped it would be at nearly 10 years ago. I wasn’t ready for it back then. The things I’ve spent my life searching for have been within me all along. I just needed to find them. Once you learn to love yourself, you will start loving life. Then, and only then, can you truly start to love and fully appreciate others. The end result is true happiness. There’s nothing quite like the feeling of happiness.

Thank you all so much for reading!! If you enjoyed this, please like, comment, and follow me on this journey of Positively Rolling Through Life. I am proud to say that the other night my blog reached a milestone… 1,000 views!! When I started this blog, I figured maybe a few of my friends might read my posts. The fact that people around the world have been reading and subscribing blows my mind! If my words are able to have a positive impact on even one person somewhere in this world, then I feel like I am doing something that is worthwhile. Thank you again for taking the time to read my blog! šŸ˜€

Focus on Your Own Happiness

I mentioned this to my best friend yesterday, and I really think there’s a lot of truth to it. It’s easy for people say they’re supportive and care about what you’re doing, but most people don’t take the time to really pay attention. If it isn’t something that immediately grabs their attention, most people don’t care.

I have been incredibly fortunate to experience and be involved in a lot of things over the past couple of years that I never in my wildest dreams would have imagined would be possible for me. A lot of people back home, both family and friends, have told me they are curious to know what I’ve been doing since I moved away. I’ve been noticing regularly that if I tell people that something I am doing is specifically about me, they get excited. If I tell people that I am involved in something, they ignore it. Most people really don’t care. The people who are truly interested in the things I am doing will pay attention regardless, but they are in the minority.

I won’t go into a lot of specifics, because I, in no way, intend to come across as bragging about the things I’ve been fortunate to experience, but I’ve done a lot of really cool sh*t over the past couple of years. Most people back home don’t have a clue. Even most of my family has no clue. If they did know, they probably wouldn’t care. I have noticed that if I post something on Facebook and make it look like it’s all about me, people get really excited. A lot of people want to pat my back and congratulate me. If I post something that I am a part of (part of a group effort), it gets ignored by most people. The ones who sincerely do care will be supportive whether it’s something I’m doing by myself, or something I’m just involved in. The ones who do care will read this. The ones who don’t care will never see this, because clicking on a link isn’t convenient for them.

I don’t want this to seem like I’m just trying to get attention from people, but I see it as a wakeup call. The people in your life who are worth your time and attention are the people who give you their time and attention. You’re wasting your time if you focus on people who don’t care about you.

The best thing you can do for yourself is whatever makes you happy. Live your life the way you want to live it. Be happy. Pat yourself on the back and be proud of what you accomplish. People who are worth your time and effort will support you when you do what you love. Everyone else will be supportive whenever they decide to pay attention and whenever you happen to impress them.

I always wondered what it would be like to move away from my hometown and come back to visit. I’ve been back to visit twice since I moved away. Everyone I know was excited to see me when I came back to visit. A certain few of those people have put in the effort to keep in touch now that I haven’t gone back home in over a year and a half. Actions speak louder than words. It’s one thing to say, “We should meet up when you’re here next.” It’s a whole different thing to actively keep up with what is going on while I’m away, and look forward to my next trip back home, or reach out to me when they are down here.

Orlando is a major tourist destination. A lot of people I know have been down here since I moved here. Very few of those people have reached out to me and put in the effort to meet up since I moved here. I fully understand that people go on vacation with their family and want to enjoy that family time, but I don’t know if people understand how much it means to me to see somebody I know, even if it’s only for a few minutes. I spend most of my time by myself surrounded by strangers. I sometimes go months without seeing family or friends. Any chance I get to see a familiar face is something I really enjoy. Whether it’s for a day, several days, or just a couple of minutes, I love catching up with people. Friday night, I had my happiest moments in over two years of living in Florida. Getting to spend a little bit of time enjoying my favorite Disney World show with one of my favorite people was something I will never forget. It was my happiest experience in Florida. I hope she reads this and knows how much I enjoyed that short time we got to spend together.

Don’t spend your time obsessing over what other people think. Focus on you. Do what is best for you. Live your life. Do what makes you happy. You will never be disappointed when you quit trying to impress other people and just focus on your own happiness. I am happy to be doing what I’m doing now. I wake up every day excited to live my life. It’s a great feeling when someone else shares my excitement and happiness, but I am perfectly fine with enjoying that happiness by myself. I hope everyone who reads this finds that same happiness. Life is pretty great when you wake up excited to live your life.

Thankful

I’ve been thinking about this for the past couple of weeks. When you take the time to really think about what you’re thankful for in your life, the list (hopefully) ends up being pretty long. Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays. With all of the negativity in this world, we can all benefit from taking some time once in a while to think about all of the things we have to be thankful for in our lives.

First of all, I will start with the obvious… I am thankful for family and friends who support me and encourage me to keep chasing my dreams. They’re always there to pat me on the back when I accomplish something, and to give me a kick in the butt when I get lazy.

I am thankful to be living in a place that I truly love. The people here are great, the first thing I see when I look outside is palm trees, the weather is (for the most part) what I had always hoped for, I am surrounded by lakes and golf courses, the beach is just over an hour away, and I can visit Walt Disney World pretty much any time I want.

I am thankful that I get to live my dream, for the second time in my life. Golf has been a hobby of mine since a young age. Getting to not only be around golf, but to teach it is amazing. I never wake up and say, “I HAVE to teach golf today.” I wake up and say, “I GET to teach golf today.” I love it!! It’s not only fun, but I find it to be incredibly rewarding. Seeing the smiles on the faces of my students is the best part of doing what I get to do.

I am thankful for the opportunities I’ve had. I’ve traveled across much of the United States, have visited places I never thought I would get to visit, have met people from more countries than I can count, have met some of the most incredible people in the world, have lived my lifelong dream and am now getting to live a new dream, have experienced things that most people can only dream of experiencing, have met some of my favorite celebrities, and have been in a position to inspire and make a difference in the lives of many people.

This year, specifically, I am thankful that an incredibly stressful situation I’d had to deal with for nearly two years is now behind me. I lost a lot of sleep and ended up constantly worrying about how it would turn out, but it is now in the past and I no longer have to worry about it.

I am thankful for the opportunity to share my thoughts here on Positively Rolling Through Life, and am even more thankful that people actually take the time to read the things I write. People from several countries around the world have read my posts over these past four months. The thought of my words reaching people around the world and hopefully meaning something to those people is a really amazing feeling. There can never be too much positivity and happiness in the world. If I am able to help spread that positivity and happiness, then I feel like I am doing something worthwhile in my life. I can’t thank you all enough for taking the time to read my blog, and I sincerely hope you enjoy it!!

I am thankful for the memories I’ve created throughout my life, and am thankful for the memories I am currently creating. I feel that I am in a position right now to be a part of something special, and am just happy to be a part of a team that will hopefully have a major positive impact on the lives of a lot of kids.

I could probably keep going on for a while listing things I am thankful for in my life, and I am thankful to have so many things to be thankful for. Life isn’t perfect. Things won’t always go your way. To be brutally honest, sometimes life just sucks. But, if you ever think that you don’t have anything to be thankful for, just remember that there is always someone out there who is in a worse situation than you. Be thankful that you woke up today. Not everyone was that lucky. Start with that. Once you realize that you can be thankful that you are still alive, you can start to focus on the things around you that you enjoy. In the best of times, it’s easy to be thankful for things, but don’t forget to be thankful even in the worst of times.

Whether you live in a place where Thanksgiving is celebrated or not, I encourage you all to take some time today to think of the things you’re thankful for in life. If nothing else, it may at least put a smile on your face. We all can never smile enough. Be happy, smile, and be thankful for your life.

Happy Thanksgiving, everybody!!

Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone

I’ve never really kept it a secret that I’m not exactly the most adventurous person in the world. I’m getting better all the time, but I, like most people, like to stay in my little bubble… my comfort zone. I am pretty good at motivating and inspiring others to take chances and do things they may not normally do, but I am terrible at following my own advice. As I’ve said before, my life is a complicated combination of taking crazy chances and playing it excessively safe.

I tend to get talked into doing things I don’t like or don’t want to do, and I usually end up confirming what I expected… when the thought of something doesn’t interest me, then actually doing it isn’t much fun. I take away an attitude of, “I’m glad I tried it, but I will never do it again” from those situations. My gut feeling tends to be accurate.

Anyone who has read my previous posts (and those of you who know me) know that I live just a few minutes from Walt Disney World. I am proud to admit that living where I live has put me in a position to try a lot of things that I very likely wouldn’t have tried otherwise. However, 99% of the time, my gut feeling is right. Something that I don’t think I will enjoy ends up being something I don’t enjoy. I am deathly afraid of heights. My brother pretty much dragged me on Splash Mountain last year. I’m glad I can now say I’ve been on the ride, but I just didn’t like it. Dropping 40 feet, or whatever it is, absolutely scared the living sh*t out of me. Tonight, my brother basically dragged me on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train. Once again, I didn’t like it. People wait 2+ hours to experience this ride every day, and I didn’t like it. It wasn’t a bad ride, and wasn’t exactly scary, but it made my back hurt. Splash Mountain was a ride I hated because of the big drop, and also because I got soaking wet on a 45 degree night. Mine Train was just a ride that, for me, was not a good choice. I was born missing one of my vertebrae and I have a hole in my spinal cord. That ride was a bad choice. I can now say I did it, but I will never do it again.

Although these specific experiences I just mentioned weren’t something I will do again, at least now I can say I tried them and know what I think of them. So many people miss out on experiencing things in life just because they don’t want to take chances. As I said, I’m not the most adventurous person, so I can relate to those people. It does feel good to be able to say I’ve experienced things I never would have tried by myself though. With each new experience, I learn a little more about myself. What I seem to be learning more and more lately though is that my gut feeling is accurate. If nothing else, I am learning to trust myself more. I am more willing to take chances than I was in the past, but I still have a pretty good idea of what just isn’t for me.

As much as this post is about Disney World, it really does relate to all situations in life. People, in general, tend to not want to take chances. There is SO much in life that we miss out on when we don’t step out of our comfort zones. But, as you start to learn more about yourself, you will also learn to trust your gut feeling more often. When you learn more about yourself, you will learn to trust yourself more. I will never be the kind of person who will go on a bunch of crazy rollercoasters, but I am proud of the fact that I am at least willing to try new things and learn more about myself.

I would never suggest putting yourself into a situation that could cause harm in anyway, but I really do think people need to start taking more chances in life. At the end of your life, do you want to look back and say, “I survived”, or “I lived”? A line from a great Jimmy Buffett song goes, “I’d rather die while I’m living than live while I’m dead.” While certain things in life may not be for you, you won’t know if you don’t try. Within reason, try things. Experience life. Live while you’re alive!!

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