2018- “The Year of Great Potential”

Happy New Year to all of you around the world!! 2017 is now behind us and 2018 is here. I decided a few weeks ago to declare 2018 “The Year of Great Potential”. A lot of really great things are possible, but, as always, nothing is guaranteed. My attitude going into this year is different from previous years, so that is why I expect different results this year. In 2017, I learned to love myself. In 2018, I will love myself and love life.

There is a lot of uncertainty in my life as I begin 2018, but I will love life regardless this year. It’s what I have decided. Whatever happens in life seems to happen for a reason, so I am just going to embrace and enjoy whatever this year throws at me. I have no expectations, except to be happy and love life. I learned in 2017 to take responsibility for my own happiness. 2018 will not go as planned, I already know that, but I will find happiness in whatever happens.

I’m over setting expectations for myself and trying to live up to them. That just leads to disappointment. For the first time in my life, I love myself and love what I’m all about. I’m going to live my life this year, and know that, whatever happens, I am doing what I am supposed to do in life. I don’t care who does or doesn’t like it. I’m not trying to impress anybody. Whatever I do will be what is best for me and what will eventually lead to my happiness.

I feel truly inspired right now and will probably write a lot in the near future, so I will keep this short.

To all of you around the world, whether you know me or not, I wish you a 2018 that exceeds your greatest expectations. Don’t wait for life to happen. Go out and MAKE life happen!! Don’t wait for someone to make you happy. Take full responsibility for your own happiness. If someone else adds to your happiness, consider yourself lucky, but don’t wait for it to happen. Years fly by too quickly, and life is too short. Make 2018 your best year yet!!

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Living Inside “The Disney Bubble”

Over the past couple of years, I have noticed a major difference between where I live and other places. I like to call this area “The Disney Bubble”. Living just a couple miles from Disney World has a major impact on the overall way of life here. I tend to be reminded of this frequently.

If you can’t be happy at Disney World (or even close to Disney World), then I don’t know how you can be happy anywhere. Disney is all about happiness and escaping reality. It’s about being immersed in a fantasy world where you can forget about your problems for a while.

Living so close to Disney, the influence of Disney spreads to the people who live around here, the other businesses in the area, and just the attitude here. People here seem to be friendly, polite, and helpful in most cases. Customer service most places tends to be excellent, because there is so much competition between businesses. If customers aren’t happy with their experience or the way they’re treated somewhere, they will go somewhere else, and they know they can find better here. Overall, I feel like this area is just different from anywhere else I’ve ever been. Life is good here. I’ll be honest, I feel pretty spoiled to have experienced life the way I have for nearly 2 1/2 years.

Last night was a great reminder for me of just how lucky I am to live the life that I get to live. I had a pretty crappy day yesterday. My car wouldn’t start, and my refrigerator suddenly stopped working. The fridge won’t be fixed for a few more days, so I tried to get my car started. I know almost nothing about cars, so I tried to rely on people to give me ideas over the phone and try to figure out what they were telling me to do and how to do it. One of my neighbors that I had never met saw the hood of my car open, and offered to try to help me. Turns out he has experience working on racecars, so it was great to have someone who actually knew what they were doing take a look at the car. Once we got it started, I drove to Wal-Mart to buy a jump starter that I can use until after New Year’s when I can have somebody replace the battery. It had been a busy, stressful, less than ideal day, but when I got home from Wal-Mart, I got to sit in the parking lot outside of my building and watch Magic Kingdom’s “Fantasy in the Sky” fireworks show. “Fantasy in the Sky” is the New Year’s Eve fireworks show, but Disney has two show times per night both December 30th and 31st.

After such a crappy day where it seemed like everything that could possibly go wrong was going wrong, I got to end my night with a huge smile on my face watching quite possibly the most amazing fireworks show I’ve ever seen. Other places, I may have just gone to bed still stressed out from the events of the day. Instead, I got to be distracted for a few minutes and was reminded that anything that doesn’t go as planned is just a minor setback. I’ve lost count of the number of times that Disney has managed to completely change my mood/attitude and bring happiness to my life. Watching the fireworks last night was no different.

Tonight, I’ll be keeping a tradition alive for the 3rd New Year’s Eve in a row. I still haven’t found that special someone to share my life with, so there will be no midnight kiss for me to look forward to as I ring in the new year, but I will be sitting outside watching the fireworks again when the clock hits midnight. I will pour a glass of champagne, then head outside to watch the fireworks, and then come back inside to enjoy my champagne and begin to look ahead to the great potential that the new year brings with it.

Happy New Year to all of you, wherever you may be!! I hope your New Year’s Eve is a fun and safe one! I wish you all a fantastic 2018 filled with love, happiness, positivity, good health, success, and continued growth. Cheers, everybody! šŸ˜€

Wishes

2017: The Year of… I Don’t Know

Every year at the end of the year, I take some time to look back and reflect upon the past year. It’s a great way to remind myself how far I’ve come, and what I need to do better in the coming year. Here is a look back at my 2017, a year that has been hard to describe.

I ended 2016 by graduating from Golf Academy of America’s Orlando, Florida campus. It was an exciting, yet scary time for me. There is endless potential in the golf industry, but nothing is guaranteed. As is usually the case in life, you get out of it what you put into it. I was proud of finishing school, but scared to death not having a clue what I was going to do next.

I began teaching golf at the end of 2016, and I quickly realized that was what I wanted to do when I finished school. My mom taught preschool for 20 years, so, without realizing it, I was learning to be a teacher just by being around my mom while I was growing up. Public speaking had always scared the living sh*t out of me. It just did. I have never enjoyed being the center of attention. I think a big part of growing up in North Dakota is being taught to not talk about yourself or draw attention to yourself. That is how I was raised, and it has taken me 32 years to break away from that mindset.

In January of 2017, I, once again, got to attend the PGA Merchandise Show here in Orlando and volunteered at the PGA Demo Day. Both were great experiences. The highlight for me had to be on the second to last day of the show when somebody randomly handed me a wristband to get into the Cobra/Puma after-party where I got to meet professional golfers Greg Norman, Blair O’Neal, and Jesper Parnevik. I knew that I wasn’t supposed to be in this after-party, so I did my best to act like I belonged and not do anything stupid that would get me kicked out. haha

The weekend after the PGA show, one of my teachers from Golf Academy who became my boss when I started teaching golf asked me to attend a certification class and learn to teach golfers with all kinds of special needs. At the end of the day, I was asked to go through my pre-shot routine and explain to people how I play golf. For those of you who don’t know me, I was born with Spina Bifida and rely on a wheelchair to get around, but I play golf standing up. I ended up speaking to the group for about 10 minutes and hit a few shots to show how I play. Immediately after the class wrapped up for the day, my friend/teacher/boss pulled me aside and asked me if I would be interested in taking over the role of Program Director and Lead Instructor for his special needs junior golf program. At this point, I had been done with school for six weeks and had no clue what, if anything, I would be able to do in the golf industry. I was thrilled to accept this position with Little Linksters!!

February was a new beginning for me. I was now the Director of the Little Linksters G.O.A.L.S. program, and had no experience whatsoever. This whole year has been a learning experience for me, but I am now starting to realize what I did well and what I need to do better.

In March, I got to volunteer at the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill here in Orlando again. This time, I knew what I was doing and enjoyed it even more than last year. Those of us who volunteered in 2016 had the incredible honor of knowing that Arnold Palmer himself was watching us work our asses off to make sure the job we were doing was acceptable and made him proud. I’ve said this in a previous post, but one of the greatest honors of my life and one of my proudest moments was when Mr. Palmer made eye contact with me while I was working, smiled, and gave me a thumbs up. It was a moment I will never forget as long as I live. Since Mr. Palmer passed away in September of 2016, I didn’t know what to expect going into the week of Bay Hill this year. When I arrived the first day of setup, those of us who hadn’t seen each other in a year hugged and took a moment to catch up, then we all said, “Let’s make him proud this year.” To be perfectly honest, I think we all worked even harder this year. We all kept waiting for Mr. Palmer to walk into the merchandise tent and ask, “What do we have going on in here today?” His presence was felt all week long. Although he is gone physically, we all knew he was there watching over us all week long. The tournament was a success, and I believe Mr. Palmer would have been proud of us. The highlights of that week for me were getting to watch the unveiling of the new bronze statue of Mr. Palmer, and getting a brief moment to say hello to Mr. Palmer’s grandson, PGA Tour player Sam Saunders.

My dad spent a few weeks here in Florida at the end of February through the beginning of March while he recovered from back surgery. I rarely get to see most of my family now that I live 1,500 miles away, so I always enjoy any time I get to spend with family. One funny moment for me was the day of my dad’s surgery. One of his nurses said I looked familiar for some reason, but we had never met. A while later, she came back and asked if I play golf. I said I teach golf. She apparently recognized me from a segment about junior golf that aired on Golf Channel. I wasn’t interviewed for the segment and my name wasn’t shown on TV, but there were several brief clips of me teaching lessons shown, and she somehow remembered seeing me. I think this was the first time my dad realized that I am getting to do some pretty cool things in my life.

April was when I started to feel a change in myself. Our Little Linksters G.O.A.L.S. program is partnered with Jordan Spieth’s foundation. A picture of me teaching a golf lesson was posted on the homepage of Jordan Spieth’s website. There was also an article about our program on Jordan’s website. This was really great exposure for our program, and, selfishly, it was an incredible moment for me. I have been a fan of Jordan, both as a golfer and as a person, since he first debuted on the PGA Tour. Knowing that my picture and name were on his website during the week of The Masters was a pretty big thrill. As I said before, I grew up not liking being the center of attention. I was taught to not draw attention to myself. This was the first time in my life that I was thrown into the spotlight and absolutely loved every second of it. I was proud to be someone who people could recognize as one of the faces of our Little Linksters program. Not THE face, but one of the faces.

May was a busy month. One of my favorite singers is Jimmy Buffett. I’m a Parrotthead, and actually have a cool story about that. The first time Jimmy Buffett’s fans were referred to as “Parrottheads” was at his concert in Cincinnati, Ohio on June 28th, 1985. I was born (1,000 miles away) at the same time that concert was beginning. In a way, I feel like I was born to be a Parrotthead, and, randomly, I have ended up having a strong connection in my life to the Cincinnati area. I got to see Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band in concert for the first time in Orlando in May. It was well worth the wait. What an amazing show!!

Since I volunteered at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in March, I was able to go back to Bay Hill in May to play a round of golf. Although I had been teaching golf all year, I hadn’t actually played golf since before I finished school back in December of 2016. Spending most of my time in a wheelchair and being active all the time, it’s easy to forget how little I use my legs and how little I walk when I’m not playing golf regularly. I was completely exhausted after 3 holes, and was very thankful when a massive thunderstorm rained out the rest of our round. Physically, I wasn’t able to continue anyway. We were told we would get to come back at a later date to play again.

The last weekend in May, I got to catch up with one of my best friends for the first time in over a year. For those of you who don’t know me, I got to live my childhood dream of traveling with my favorite band for 6 years. The band’s sound engineer/tour manager was my roommate on the road and he is still one of my best friends. Earlier this year, he was hired to run sound for an internationally known Country music artist that we have been fans of for years. I actually got to sell merchandise for this artist for a night back in 2012, which is when I became a fan. Anyway, this artist played on the final day of the Country 500 Festival at Daytona International Speedway, so I drove up to Daytona to spend the day with my friend and catch up. I got to see several familiar faces that day from my years spent on the road. Wheeling up on stage and looking out at a crowd of 75,000 people was pretty amazing. Getting to watch Kip Moore, Keith Urban, and Kid Rock from the front of house tent was awesome. Keith Urban is one of the most genuinely nice people I’ve ever met, so it was cool to see him, his band, and his crew again. I would never expect Kip Moore to remember that I sold merchandise for him for one night 5+ years ago, but it was cool to see him again, and it was even cooler to see my friend run sound for him. My friend is the kind of guy who, for as long as I’ve known him, has always worked harder than anyone and has always done a really incredible job. In our years as roommates on the road, he was still up working on things for the next night’s show when I fell asleep, and he usually woke up before me the next morning, too. He deserves to do what he loves to do at the highest level, and I’m damn proud of him.

At the end of May, I got a phone call that turned my whole year around. I was involved in a really bad car accident back in September of 2015, 3 weeks after I moved to Florida. A passenger in the other vehicle who was perfectly fine at the scene of the accident, decided later on that he wanted to take advantage of the situation. He ended up suing me, and it turned into a 10 month process that led to countless sleepless nights, a ridiculous amount of stress and anxiety for me, and pretty much made my life a nightmare. The phone call I received was from my attorney, telling me that the lawsuit had been settled, and I could put it behind me completely. Instantly, I felt my stress start to melt away. It’s a pretty horrible feeling to spend 10 months of your life scared to death to check your mail, answer your phone, or hear the doorbell ring, because it might be more bad news. The effects of that time in my life are things I’m still trying to get over. I’m not the kind of person who would ever intentionally harm another person, and I legitimately feel horrible if I do anything that takes away from another person’s happiness, so being sued over a car accident was something that probably affected me more than it would most people.

For the most part, June and July sucked here in Florida. Specifically, the weather was unbelievably terrible. It rained most of the day literally every single day for almost two months. The temperatures and humidity in Florida are pretty brutal in the summer typically, but this year was a special case with all of the rain we had. I spent most of those two months sitting at home, stuck inside. It was depressing.

I got an e-mail informing me that my rescheduled round of golf at Bay Hill was on the afternoon of June 28th, which was my 32nd birthday. Happy Birthday to me!! haha Every single day for several weeks, I used my crutches and walked back and forth across my living room until my legs completely gave out from exhaustion and I fell to the floor. I pushed myself as hard as I physically could to get in shape for that round of golf. It was a special treat for me to be able to play golf at Bay Hill on my birthday, and I wanted to be as ready for it as I could possibly be. My hard work paid off. Although I played horribly, my physical condition improved a ton. Weeks earlier in May, I was exhausted after 3 holes. On my birthday, I was able to play 17 holes. I was disappointed in myself for allowing myself to get that out of shape in the first place, but I was proud of the progress I made in such a short time. I’m not the kind of person who makes excuses or wants to be treated differently from anybody else, but, for someone who uses a wheelchair 99% of the time, to push myself to the point where I was walking 10,000 steps per day and was so exhausted and in so much pain that I was crying and fell to the ground every single day, I feel like what I was able to accomplish in getting myself ready to play golf again is something that people should recognize and applaud.

When I got to Bay Hill that day, I knew that I hadn’t practiced golf and knew I wouldn’t play well, but I just hoped to finish the round. I enjoyed my day on the course, and got another awesome birthday surprise when I found out baseball Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. was playing in the group in front of me. What a thrill!! I love baseball and grew up watching Cal Ripken Jr. play.

In July, I had a lot of time on my hands, since the rain still hadn’t let up. For years, people had told me I should write a book or start blogging. I ignored it, and figured no one would care to read anything I would write. Finally, in the middle of July, I gave in. Positively Rolling Through Life was born. I will be honest, establishing a blog and getting people to read is not easy. Some people have had more views in their first month of blogging than I’ve had in over five months, but it’s all good. I write for me. I write what I want to write. I want to share a message of love, positivity, and happiness. If people choose to read and enjoy what I write, that means a lot to me. If not, I’ll keep writing for me. I would love to make this blog a success. I would love to make money doing this. So far, that hasn’t happened. If it never happens, I’ll still keep writing, and I’ll keep hoping someone somewhere likes it and gets something out of it.

August, September, October, and November were all about a few things for me: blogging, teaching golf, trying to make sense of life, and Disney.

I spent most of August at Disney World. Every day that I could be in the parks, I was there.

Due to a lot of uncertainty in my life, August wasn’t the best month for me. If certain things hadn’t worked out the way they did, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to continue my current path in life. The thought of being forced to move back to North Dakota became an unfortunate possibility for me, and I had to try to find a way to not let it happen.

September began worse than most months of my life. I was relieved that I would be able to stay in Florida still, but immediately after those details got worked out, hurricane season happened. Hurricane Irma was headed directly toward Florida, and became the strongest hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic Ocean. To make things worse, a guy I met during my time on the road who played a major role in helping our band take its first steps toward getting to the next level was tragically killed in a helicopter crash. I only got to meet Troy once, but he immediately treated me like an old friend and welcomed me into his world. I will never forget that. Although I really can’t say I got to know him on a personal level, the impact that he had on what became my future made that loss truly heartbreaking for me. I felt like someone punched me in the stomach and knocked the wind out of me when my friends started sharing posts on Facebook about the crash. I hoped it was just another celebrity death hoax, but quickly realized that it was all too real, and that Troy was gone.

Because of the timing, I don’t feel like the reality of Troy’s death has really hit me yet. Two days after that tragedy, Hurricane Irma moved north off the coast of Cuba and headed directly toward Florida. It was my first experience feeling the full effects of a major hurricane, and it was something I will never forget. I was one of the lucky ones. I never lost electricity, and I didn’t have any property damage. When the outer bands of Irma moved into the Orlando area, I was on the phone with my dad. I got an alert on my phone saying there was a Tornado Warning and that the storm was moving 90 mph. Within minutes, it looked like a bomb exploded outside my window. I dropped to the kitchen floor and hoped I wasn’t about to die. Within a few short minutes, the tornado passed by, but buildings and trees around me had been heavily damaged. Power lines were down, yet I somehow still had electricity. In the distance, I could see somebody’s house on fire. The hurricane was still 200 miles away at this point. If you want the full story, I wrote updates during the hurricane, so you can go back and read those if you’d like. My takeaway is this, as bad as Hurricane Irma was here in central Florida, we got lucky. The things that happened from the Keys all the way through the Caribbean are pretty unbelievable. I can’t begin to comprehend how horrible that storm must have been for the people who had to ride it out. If that wasn’t bad enough, Hurricane Maria was shortly behind Irma. I have made a point of saying all along that no matter how bad things were here in Florida for some people, we are not the ones who need help. The Caribbean is still destroyed. Those people need help. I hope they get that help. The whole world needs to do their part to help these people. That is the only way they will get things back to somewhat normal.

In November, I got to catch up with some people I hadn’t seen in a long time, and it was much needed for me. When you go 5-6 months without getting to spend time with anyone from back home, you get homesick. The way my life has worked out, I haven’t been able to go back home to visit since May of 2016. There are a lot of people that I am really missing right now, as much as I don’t miss North Dakota itself.

When you move away from your family and friends, you realize fairly quickly who cares enough to keep in touch. You realize who is deserving of your time and effort, because they also put in the time and effort to keep in touch with you. I’ve had a bunch of wakeup calls this year, and I feel I’m better off because of it. A friend that I have known for several years now was down here the week of Thanksgiving visiting Disney World with her family. We never spent a ton of time together when I lived in North Dakota, but she was someone I always enjoyed seeing and being around. Since I moved, I feel like I have gotten to know her better (from a distance). She is somebody that I really admire, and she inspires me every day to improve myself. Although it was very brief, I got to spend some time with her at Disney World, and it was THE highlight of my nearly 2 1/2 years in Florida. When you meet someone and then move 1,500 miles away, you never imagine that someone from your old home will be someone you get to share a memory with in your new home. It was just a really special experience for me. I know that she reads my blog, but I hope to someday tell her face-to-face why that was such a special night for me.

December has been a busy month for me. My dad just spent two weeks here visiting again, and we stayed pretty busy the whole time. I am now starting to take a little time to let 2017 sink in and get ready for 2018.

When I look back every year, there is a common theme that has come up throughout the year. I have decided that 2017 has been the year of “I Don’t Know”. There has been so much uncertainty and so much that has changed in my life that I really don’t know what to think of this past year. Even more fitting, the Jimmy Buffett concert I went to back in May was part of his “IDK (I Don’t Know) Tour”. 2018 is a year that has a ton of potential. 2017 was just a lot of uncertainty. It had its ups and downs, but I can take away some great lessons learned from this year.

Every year until now, I have written a Facebook post at the end of the year telling the story of the past year. I have now transitioned that to my blog. Last year at this time, I wrote that I hadn’t changed as a person over the past year. I was still the same person I had always been, except I had learned to accept who I am. This year, I am not the same person I was a year ago. Not even close. I am forever changed. This year, I learned to love myself. I’m sorry if this sounds arrogant in any way, and I apologize if it does, but I’m a damn good person. I KNOW that I’m a good person. I do what makes ME happy. I live my life in a way that I want to live it. The things I focus on and the things that are my top priorities are the things I want to be the most important in my life. I am far from perfect, but I am happy with the person that I am now. I no longer care if someone wants to judge me in a certain way. It won’t change who I am or what I do. My goal is to spread love, positivity, and happiness with the world. I want to be remembered as someone who made a difference in some way, and every day of my life I am working toward that. I’m the most optimistic person you could ever meet. I love life and I believe in making dreams a reality. There is no reason why a fantasy world and the real world can’t become one. I basically live in a fantasy world. I spend every possible second of my life at Walt Disney World. In 2017, I visited Magic Kingdom 110 times, Epcot 31 times, Hollywood Studios 3 times, and Animal Kingdom 6 times. You can do the math on that. In 365 days, I visited Walt Disney World 150 times. Some people get to visit Disney World once a year, some people just a few times in their life, some only get to visit once every few years or once ever, most people never get to experience Disney. I am there enough that many of the performers recognize me. Other cast members recognize me, and some know me by name. There is nothing cooler in the entire world than going into Magic Kingdom and hearing a cast member say, “Hi, Danny!! Welcome home!!” It truly is the “Most Magical Place on Earth”. It just is.

A lot in my life is going to change in 2018, and I am now better prepared for it. I love who I am as a person and I have learned who matters most in my life. I know what I want to do and how I want to go through life. Knowing those things, I am better prepared to take on whatever comes my way in 2018. This may not be my last post of 2017, but if it is, I want to thank all of you for taking the time to read this. When I started blogging, I figured a few of my close friends might take the time to read my posts on occasion. I am far from being a successful blogger, but people from around the world read my posts, and I think that is pretty incredible. Hopefully the message I share is something that can make a difference in the world. If I am able to, in some way, make this world a better place than it was before I came along, then I feel like I am living my purpose.

I hope you all have had a great 2017, and I wish you all a 2018 filled with love, peace, happiness, positivity, and good health. Thank you all for joining me in this journey of Positively Rolling Through Life!! šŸ˜€

Making A Difference

I hear people say all the time, “I wish I could make a difference in the world” or “I want to make a difference in the world”. I say this often, too. People want to have a lasting impact on the world. That is great to hear. It’s awesome to know that so many people want to do good things in this world. There can never be too many or enough good people doing good things. But the real difference is made when people stop wishing and wanting, and they start doing. It’s great that people want to make a difference. It’s great that people wish they could make a difference. Well, what most people fail to realize is that you CAN make a difference. You just have to do it. Do good deeds. Treat others well. Help people in need when you are able to do so. Be nice to people. Be polite.

We all hear about people who are labeled as “heroes”. If you want to be considered a hero, then you can be. So many people think of certain job titles when they think of heroes. The truth is, it doesn’t matter who you are or what you do for a living. Your actions and your character are what determine whether or not you’re a hero. There are people who risk their lives every single day to protect others from danger, and they do it simply because it’s their job. They took that job because they want to help people. Those people are heroes. But, there are also people who go out of their way to help others in need simply because they want to help in some way. Those people aren’t getting paid to do what they do. They do it just because they are good people. Those people are heroes, as well. There are many different types of heroes and difference makers in this world, and they all help to make our world a better place.

If you want to make a difference in this world, you can. You don’t necessarily have to jump in front of a bullet for somebody or carry them out of a burning building. Smiling at a random stranger, saying hello, and asking how their day is going could brighten their entire day. You never know what the people around you are dealing with in their life. You never know how badly they may need a simple nice gesture to put a smile on their face or to revive their faith in humanity.

I am a very fortunate person. I tend to meet a lot of great people. I’ve had my fair share of bad experiences, too, but I often times cross paths with really great people. We all rely on others in some ways to make it through life. Next time you need to rely on someone else to help you in any way, just remember that somebody in this world is relying on you just as much.

I make a point of going out of my way to do nice things for people as often as possible. Whether it’s something minor or something significant, I enjoy helping people. It’s just the kind of person I am. The happiness of others brings me joy. I don’t ask for any kind of reward or recognition. I usually don’t tell anyone else when I’ve done something for someone. The smile on that person’s face and knowing I made a difference is reward enough for me. I believe in karma. I believe that, if you are a good person, good things will eventually come back to you. My life is far from perfect, and I really hope certain things fall into place for me soon, but nights like tonight remind me that the things I’ve been wishing for will eventually come my way if I keep going.

Earlier tonight the battery in my car died in the parking lot of a grocery store. I had no way of charging the battery or jumping it by myself, so I had to just hope that somebody would be generous enough to stop and help me out. Immediately when I opened the hood of my car, a nice lady stopped and asked if I needed help. The battery in her car was in a place that was hard to get to, so she was unable to help me jump start my car, but she got the attention of somebody else who was walking by. This person happened to be an off-duty sheriff’s deputy. He was willing to help, and we got my car started quickly. Both of these people could have easily just passed by and not paid any attention to me, but they we were very willing to help. Both people refused to accept any kind of compensation for their time and help, and they both refused to even tell me their names so I could thank them by name. They were both just really nice people who wanted to help someone in need. When my car started, the deputy said, “Don’t thank me. If I can’t help others, then what good am I? Of course I would help someone who needs me.” The world needs more people like that. Anyone who would selflessly take the time to help someone in need is a hero.

The actions of these people who stopped to help me are things anyone could do. It doesn’t take much effort to hook up jumper cables to the battery of a car, but the fact that they took the time to help me when they didn’t need to is what made them both heroes in this situation. If nobody had stopped to help me, my car would still be sitting in that parking lot, and I would probably still be sitting in the car. You don’t need to donate large amounts of money, you don’t need to risk your life, and you don’t need to do anything life-changing. Smile at people as you pass by them. Say hello. Ask how their day is going. If you see someone in need, ask if you can help them. Something that takes a few seconds or minutes could make someone’s day better. You may not always be able to help in every situation, but help whenever you can. You may start a chain reaction of kindness that impacts the lives of several people. Whether that happens or not, you will know that you at least helped one person. Leave the world better than you found it. Make every situation better than it would have been if you had not been involved. And really, just be a good person. The good you do for others will find its way back to you eventually. Just believe and do for others what you would wish others would do for you. That’s how simple it is to make a difference in the world.

Enjoy What You Have Right Now

Life is unpredictable. One moment, things can be completely normal, and the next your life can be forever changed. It’s easy to focus on the things in life that we wish we had, but you may not have any control over whether or not you are able to actually get what you want. Instead of focusing on what we don’t have, we need to focus on what we do have. We all need a reminder once in a while that there are others who are less fortunate than us. They would give anything to have the things that we sometimes take for granted. This is a lesson that I didn’t learn until I suffered the greatest loss of my life… the loss of my mom.

I have been thinking about my mom a lot lately. I always think about her even more than usual during the holidays. The last Christmas I got to spend with my mom was 10 years ago. It’s hard to believe that it has already been that long. Christmas 2007 was the last Christmas that my family got to spend with my mom. We knew she wasn’t doing well and that she didn’t have much time left, so I think we all made sure to enjoy that Christmas a little more than we had before. What we didn’t know at that time was that Christmas would also be our last with our grandparents. My mom and both of her parents passed away within 10 months of each other in 2008. Needless to say, it was the worst year of my life.

The more I have thought about my mom lately, the more memories of past Christmases have come back to me. Every year, I looked forward all year long to spending Christmas Eve with my family. It was myself, my parents, brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces, and nephews. The older we got, the busier everyone became throughout the year, so Christmas Eve was one of our few chances every year to get everyone together at the same time and just have fun. I looked forward to opening presents every year, but when I look back now, I remember very few of the presents I received. The memories that have stuck with me were just the memories of getting to spend quality time with my family.

When my mom passed away, all three of my brothers were married and had kids. My mom was the person who always really held my family together. She wasn’t afraid to speak her mind when necessary. After we lost her, my family still got together on Christmas Eve, but it just never felt the same to me. Everyone had their own ideas for how we should celebrate Christmas, and I seemed to be one of the only people who wanted to keep our traditions exactly the same as they had been for as long as I could remember.

Over the next several years, Christmas started to feel more and more like just another day of the year to me. As much as I had always loved celebrating Christmas, it became a day where I started to look back every year and remember the great memories from the past, instead of creating new memories. To be perfectly honest, I started to feel like I was sitting there watching my family have their Christmas.

When I moved away, I attempted to revive some of the traditions that I loved while growing up, but it’s just not the same when you’re celebrating by yourself. Christmas 2015 was my first Christmas since I moved, and I spent it alone. I cooked a big meal for myself, drank wine, and watched TV. It was 86 degrees and sunny. Back home, that would be a hot summer day. In Florida, it’s just another day. Although I was happy to bring back some of the traditions I had been missing for the past few years, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day just still didn’t feel special to me.

Last year, my dad flew down here to spend a few weeks with me. He was here for my graduation from Golf Academy, and he stayed through Christmas. Once again, I made sure we continued some of our old traditions that I had revived the previous year. Since it was my second Christmas in Florida, things started to feel a little more normal this time. My dad, however, had never experienced a Christmas without snow and freezing cold temperatures. He thought a hot, sunny day on Christmas was just weird. haha

This year, once again, my dad is down here visiting and spent Christmas with me. Both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were lazy days for us. We ate way too much food, and just relaxed. While we were watching TV tonight, out of nowhere, it hit me that today had finally felt like Christmas to me once again. I wasn’t sure why, but something about today just felt different from the past 9 Christmases.

After giving it some thought, I realized that I was just happy to be spending Christmas with my dad. The rest of my family was 1,500 miles away, but I was enjoying a relaxing day with my dad.

For the past decade, I had been so focused on trying to keep things the way they had been in the past that I completely failed to just enjoy the moment. I failed to be happy with what I had. I do still wish Christmas could be the way it used to be, and I especially wish I could still celebrate Christmas with my mom, but life changes constantly. You can’t stop things from changing. You have to adapt and make the best of every day.

Hopefully someday I’ll have a family of my own, and I can continue some of my favorite childhood traditions with my wife and kids. Until then, I will cherish the new memories I get to create with the people who mean the most to me while still keeping those old memories alive.

I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas!! I know that not everyone who may be reading this celebrates Christmas, but, whether you do or not, I hope you enjoyed a day filled with love, peace, and happiness. That is my wish for everyone, every day. Enjoy the great things you have in your life. Spread happiness to everyone around you. Love one another. šŸ˜€

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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˜€

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