My Phone’s Camera Roll Photos #2

Hey guys, I hope you’re doing well out there!

For this photoblog I scrolled through my phones camera roll and picked out 8 photos I wanted to share with you today. These photos aren’t necessarily my favorite, or best capture, but they’e meaningful to me and I think you’ll like them!

Camera roll stories


I took this photo while walking around downtown Bristol, RI. It’s actually composed of two photos. I used a picture I took of a blue cloudy sky to frame the group of friends watching sunset. I then used a white border to bring it all together. I’ve been finding it interesting all the ways you can compliment a photo using borders and frames.
This is the canon ae-1 program I picked up last week. For those of you who don’t know, the canon ae-1 was a popular film SLR back in the 80’s. When I did my research for what camera I should buy a lot of people recommended I start with the ae-1 for its price and simplicity. I’ve only shot with it a handful of times but so far I’m having so much fun with it.
Another example of how I’ve been experimenting with borders lately. I took both photos a few years back in Pico, Azores and I used a shot of the ocean to frame my subject throwing up a peace sign. The ocean picture alone is boring, but when paired with the second I think it really brings out a cool aesthetic.
The sign reads, “Wall of Lost Soles”
I stayed at a cottage over the weekend down near Cape Cod, MA and our neighbor had a wall full of lost &found sandals, flip flops, crocs, and swim shoes. On my last day there, I lost my own slides trying to cross over to the beach. I hope they too end up on the Wall of Lost Soles one day.
I took this photo on a camping trip to upstate New York this past summer. Pictured is my Uncle and Auntie overlooking Lake George from one of the many viewpoints at Prospect Mountain.
When I was staying in Buzzards Bay, MA, the cape cod canal was perfect to walk and get good exercise. A lot of the times I’d bring my camera with me and take pictures along the way. There’s always a bunch of people camping, fishing and doing outdoor activities which makes for awesome scenes to photograph.
A few more:

# 7

I took this photo while I was visiting my brother in North Dakota. I found Minot beautiful in its own empty way. On my walks I would get to a certain point where for miles and miles all I could see was fields and winding hills.

Another shot at sunset:

#8

For the last photo I picked this one of me waiting at the airport. Long layovers are the worst.

Check out my other articles on travel and photography!

Finding Gratitude over a Cup of Coffee

I turned 24 years old last week. Throughout the day I took some time to think about what I’m grateful for.

It occurred to me that we don’t stop enough to appreciate all the good in our lives. Sometimes it’s easier to focus on what’s missing than it is to focus on what we’re already fortunate enough to have.

Down below is a simple list of 5 things I’m grateful for.

5 reasons I’m grateful.

1. Family & Friends

Since March I’ve relied on my family and friends for just about everything. They’ve given me food, shelter, and love. I couldn’t ask for more.

I’m grateful that I have a large family and that we’ve been able to stick together even through long passages of time without talking, seeing, or hearing from one another.

Now more than ever I realize how important a solid foundation is.

2. Youth

My uncle has these philosophical moments.

“Enjoy it, kid!” referring to my youth

He says one day I’ll wake up and be old and what took me 5 minutes now takes 15. I’ll start saying things like,

“Oh I remember when I used to…”

I think about time and how valuable it is. I don’t want to waste these years.

I want to be young and energetic before the day comes when everything takes an extra 10 minutes to get going.

3. Good Health

I’m grateful for the fact that amid the Covid 19 pandemic my closest friends and family remain healthy.

I’m fortunate to be in the position I am where I don’t worry about my health, safety and well-being. Not everyone’s as lucky.

I wake up, breathe, eat, drink and everything works smoothly. That alone is a treasure.

4. Travel

Back in late February I took a flight from Pico Island to Boston where I’ve spent the last 7 months living in New England.

Even with tight travel restrictions, and initial stay-at-home orders, I spent a lot of time between Massachusetts and Rhode Island and had the opportunity to go camping at Lake George in New York.

In late June,early July I visited my brother in North Dakota for the first time. Two years passed without seeing each other! I’m just happy we made it happen and were able to celebrate 4th of July together.

5. Pets

I have two darling black labs at home, Lucy and Diamond. I miss them terribly.

I was thinking the other day, how much impact animals had in my life for teaching me about empathy.

They’re a perfect example of teaching a child how to play, take care of, and love unconditionally.

Without pets- be it dogs or cats or snakes or hamsters- the world would seem much greyer.

Luckily while I’m here I get to play with Eevee and my Nana’s best friend, Princess Mica.


What are you grateful for?

Check out my other articles here:

Why We Travel

Why We Travel is a short poem exploring ideas about the fundamental importance of traveling.

Travel Anecdotes from the Ocean State

Chapter 1 Arriving

Any foreign place that evokes wonder can eventually become familiar and indifferent. On a day like today, mostly grey, storm clouds hover right outside the kitchen window and the once green hillsides appear dark and distant beyond the white mist. If I take a breath and be for but a moment that traveler’s “wanderlust” returns which makes me believe it never truly left. And although I wish I could feel what I felt the first time I saw this place, I know I cannot.

Places echo the past. They hold our memories. Our minds filter novelty with everyday experiences and what was once imbued with awe is now… regular.

To travel is to express that deep residing curiosity, and to have traveled is to be familiar with what was once unknown and otherworldly.

Until I arrive in New England there’s plenty to focus on here. Like, rediscovering appreciation, practicing gratitude, and understanding that many people- most people actually- have never laid eyes on these Islands I have the pleasure to call home.

CHAPTER 2. Books

Picking up an interesting looking book, turning over the cover and reading the first few pages is always the hardest part.

Once I’m hooked though, reading is my preferred form of entertainment and education. With fiction novels theres something fundamentally satisfying about letting the author guide your imagination into a detail-rich world and then creating a bond between you and the characters.

On the other hand, there are certain non-fiction writers who eloquently bridge the gap from ignorance to awareness & understanding in the reader’s mind. They do this in such a way that you have to re-read to fully grasp the significance of the author’s words.

In both cases, how magnificent is it to be utterly absorbed by a body of text?

CHAPTER 3. What it feels like to buy a ticket home

For every adventure I embark on I feel I must bring something back home that either summarises or symbolises my trip. That something doesn’t have to be physical, in most cases it’s not. It’s usually knowledge of some sort, a new perspective that widens my overall awareness.

Buying a ticket home means that upon my arrival I’ll be able to share what it is ive found on my most recent trip. I’ve been on Pico Island the past eight months and despite this fact I worry that I wont have the words to describe everything happening thats changing me.

When my friends and family ask, so what have you been up to these past eight months, how was it, do you have any crazy stories you can tell- how will I respond?

Many of my friends and family haven’t seen me in years. They don’t know the half of it- only what I post on Facebook and Instagram which is minimal. How do I explain what happened, who I am, my goals and objectives. Do I have to at all or will they see it in my face, hear it in my words?

Buying a ticket home means leaving the home we’ve made here.

CHAPTER 4. At the Airport.

I’m sitting at gate 1 waiting for my flight to Ponta Delgada. How am I feeling? Heavy-eyed mostly. I guess you could say I’m calm. Everything went smoothly this morning. I packed what I needed, left the rest, gave my farewells to Mom, Ray, and the pups.

During the flight I questioned whether or not the farewell I gave to mom was good enough. I mean, If mom were to die while I’m in Rhode Island would I be content with what I last said to her?


“I love you.”

Yes, I would be. but I guess it doesn’t feel like enough. I struggle with the idea that the last conversation you share with someone happens without knowing it’ll be the final time. People always say, there was so much more I wanted to say, to ask and to know, but I’ll never get the chance again… they’re gone.

I know I’ll talk to her soon, but do I actually know? I assume I’ll talk to her but what if im not able to, what if something happens between now and then?

Chapter 5. Dual Citizenship

I called three or four places and each person I talked to lead me in the right direction.

First, I needed a long-form birth certificate with an original signature from whom issued it. I went to the vital records office in Providence at Federal Hill. Within 30-45 minutes I was in and out with said certificate and directions to the Secretary of State’s office.

I brought my long-form birth certificate and that’s where they certified it with an apostille.

I spent months in the Azores trying to do this same process but to no avail. I’m excited to finally see progress!








I handed all the required documents to the Portuguese consulate and the women running things told me it was now just a matter of time for all the information to be processed.

I don’t have anything physical to show besides a few receipts. Is it too soon to call myself a dual-citizen?

CHAPTER 6. 30 Days without a phone

Without a phone I realise how draining it can be to have both the real world and digital world competing for your attention. How can one be present for the people around them if they’re constantly checking notifications, updates, messages, texts, photos, articles, news, ect?

It is not possible to give your full undivided attention to the person you’re talking with if at the same time your phone beeps and cries for your time and attention.

Without a phone I’m constantly that person whose company is occupied elsewhere, somewhere in the digital space seeking SOS from the boredom that moment to moment experience entails.

Everyone looks like and exhibits qualities of a full blown addict. The only difference is that phone usage is sociably acceptable and encouraged.

CHAPTER 7. I won’t soon forget

One day I’ll wake up and be old.

I can see it now.

CHAPTER 8. On Boredom…

Where else but here and now is the perfect place and time to practice mindful awareness?

If boredom is what fills your day then let it be the object of your meditation. Watch for the unsettling feeling as thoughts and things compete for your attention.

Will you be compelled to look at your phone, or observe that feeling in stillness?


Instead of giving into your impulses, shake their hand and try to understand them. If you’re able to sit with boredom, are you even bored? If you’re able to sit with anger or any emotion for that matter, are you it (emotion)?

What does boredom entail, what does it consist of, and how long will it last as a fleeting state of mind?

I can see no reason as to why we should succumb to boredom with such an opportunity to be present.

CHAPTER 9. March 29, 2020

I dreamt of Colombia last night. I woke up and went for a long run.

Cars lined the streets on both sides bumper to bumper. A few people were out but I couldn’t see much in front of me as the grey mist shrouded downtown. Sunday morning church bells broke the silence, birds chirping, shoes shuffling. An old-fashioned-pipe-smoking man waves me good morning.

“Good morning”, I said. Yes indeed it is a good morning.



I’m sitting inside now drinking black silk and writing under a dim light.

In trying to find time to sit in silence. I feel unearthed, unable to grasp ground with my roots. Wherever I go life is happening, wherever I go I find myself looking back at where I’ve been.

I suppose this is my silence- pen to paper- and I shouldn’t look further for solace.

CHAPTER 10. Nana’s Grocery list

  1. Soap
  2. Hand soap
  3. Face wash
  4. Waste basket
  5. Mop
  6. Wet dog food
  7. Ketchup
  8. Mustard
  9. Toilet Paper
  10. Lysol
  11. Night light

CHAPTER 11. Belonging

I feel like I don’t belong to any one place.

Here I am in Rhode Island thinking back to my roots. They extend from little ol’ Rehoboth to Pico Island.

All that happened is somehow with me, a recollection of events I recall in my playlists of songs. I remember a powerful sun who’s warmth I carried both in my smile and in my chest, beating to a mid- summer thunderstorm.

I would sit outside on the entrance steps watching our dog Bo sit cross-legged waiting for mom’s arrival like an honourable companion.

I think back to late September after my South-American summer. Six months passed in shadows and then there I was again walking the same shorelines I came to know so well.

Now I’m here, but so much of myself is scattered elsewhere.













CHAPTER 11. Tacks on a Map

I’m not sure what I think or believe until I either say it aloud, or write it in ink.

If nothing else, this journal is a psychological expedition into the unknown parts of my mind.

CHAPTER 12. Quarantined…

-you know you’re regressing as a person when you start eating pop-tarts in bed.

I did not expect my Spring to be spent cooped up inside waiting for Summer’s arrival and a deadly virus’s departure.

My days are spent thinking about what I should do and then doing something else entirely. Why write when I can play, why read when I can watch?

All this social media optimism pisses me off. As much as I respect and appreciate an optimistic perspective amidst a shitty situation, why can’t anyone be a realist for a second?

Yes, with new-found time we can focus on passion projects and things we usually don’t have time for, but people are dying by the thousands everyday.

And to be honest,(maybe this is pessimism) as imperfect, habit engrained, stubborn creatures we’re likely to become depressed and anxiety-ridden rather than creatively productive.


Speak for yourself, you might say.

I see you, though. For fuck-sake we are not these optimally functioning, highly productive, creative saints. We gorge ourselves with food and media. We obsess over pop-culture trends and political headlines. We want so desperately approval and confirmation from our peers that we pretend, or over-emphasise our productive behaviour.

Despite my clear frustrations, I do throw my hands up to those taking advantage of their time.

I just feel like the idea that the majority of people suddenly turned a new leaf and left their self-destructive habits behind is bogus.

CHAPTER 13. No-Man Mentality

Saying “no” to bad decisions gives you more time and energy for good decisions.

When you make a bad decision it’s usually because one of two things: lack of impulse control or bad habit. Or maybe you find it much more difficult to say no than to say yes.

Think of it in terms of opportunity cost.


Usually a bad decision has immediate and temporary benefits whereas a good decision has delayed and lasting benefits.

Thinking in terms of opportunity cost is a great way to measure your choices and therefore the value of the decisions you make.

Chapter 14. Buzzards Bay, MA

Water glistens like summer eyes. 
Blossoming spring, birds chirp the theme 
and the sound of woodwork beyond the pond centres me

CHAPTER 15. To North Dakota, I go

I have nowhere to be, no particular place to go. This is the traveler’s freedom and burden alike.

I feel content right where I am and wherever I go.

North Dakota- I didn’t think I’d be going there anytime in my forseeable future and now I’m set to stay for the summer.

I arrived in Minot, North Dakota last night after a full day of waiting in airports. Right now I’m with my brother Kegan and his wife Mariah who I haven’t seen in almost two years! I didn’t realize how much I missed them. I didn’t realize how fast these last 24 months went by. I never thought I’d go to North Dakota in my life, you know what I mean? It wasn’t exactly in my travel itinerary. Here I am though with family living life and creating moments, memories that I won’t soon forget. Oh, how could I? I do feel like I’m the middle of nowhere but I’m with my bro and that alone makes happy to be here.

Minot, North Dakota

I bought a flight to North Dakota with the purpose of reconnecting with my brother who I hadn’t seen in almost two years.

After basic and technical training in Texas, the Airforce assigned Kegan to the antonym of things-to-do Minot, North Dakota where if you look out into the distance all you see is land stretched out like a limber body.

I mean for miles and miles theres nothing but land.

The Great Plains is what they call it: Three-hundred-forty miles from east to west, 240 miles north to south for a total of a shit ton of nutrient-rich grasslands which farmers and migrating buffalo love(d) alike.

Here in Minot there isn’t much to do, or see for that matter especially for Airmen who request to be stationed in picturesque Colorado. Unfortunately location requests don’t hold weight when certain places have a higher need for particular jobs- that’s what my brother told me anyway.

Military Police, for example, are in much greater demand in Minot due to the nature of the base’s responsibilities which I have been reminded is classified, though a quick google search gives the general idea.

Minot, The Magic City

Nicknamed “The Magic City” for its relatively quick expansion in a short amount of time, Minot is not what is conventionally considered “magic.”

However, that doesn’t mean the magic city doesn’t cast a charm. It does in its own rural way.

While taking a walk I followed a dirt road that lead me to fields of yellow flowers. I came back later for sunset and found myself smiling at the scenery you see here in the photo. I stayed put for a while longer. I stayed until the sunset faded into a dark twilight.

I’ve been here since June 15th and although this place is in the middle of nowhere with not much going on I can’t bring myself to complain. I’m with my brother who’s life unfolds here for the next few years and I have the opportunity to be part of it again.

On the flight from Minneapolis, the woman I sat next to told me what to expect. She didn’t tell me much. Searching for adequate words she paused, looked at me and said ” It’s a great place for peace and quiet. Definitely good for reflecting.”

She was right.

In the week or so I’ve been here my brother and his wife showed me around town. One of the first days they brought me to a Vietnamese restaurant where they served delicious shrimp pho. Afterwards we went to a game shop and stopped for coffee. On the way home they told me I just saw 75% of Minot!

Since then I’d say I’ve seen another 10% or so as we walked around Scandinavian Heritage Park. To my surprise a large percentage of the local population is from Scandinavian countries and they showcase replica buildings from that area.

Beyond that, there’s not much to it. The airforce is the largest employer in Minot so you have mostly military folk and their spouses living in a place they don’t prefer and/or plan on staying in for any amount of time longer than required.

Coming up on two weeks that I’ve been here I have had time to reflect. I’m greatful for this. I see Minot as a buffer between the first and second halves of 2020.

I know by the time I leave North Dakota I’ll be well-rested, re-focused and ready to execute the rest of my plans for this yea

A strong gust of wind lifts hundreds of wispy dandelions into open air, under the bluest of blue skies.

Dakota Sky
Taken June 21, 2020
Minot, North Dakota

presence is the antidote to boredom

Wherever you are right now,

stop and look around.


How often do we do this? Just sit and be. For the majority of us, probably not a lot. You have things to do and places to go.

I understand.

But If for one reason or another, those things you have to do and those places you have to go suddenly disappear, how would you react?

Would you reach for your lifeline of a phone, scour through social media, binge Netflix?

What I’m asking is,

How do you deal with boredom?

It isn’t difficult to keep ourselves occupied. We have, essentially, limitless ways to entertain ourselves.

Entertainment is the antidote to boredom. Until it’s not.

I mean, think back to the last power outage you experienced. The first thing you notice are the lights going out. The second? No wifi, no internet access. You probably panicked and complained, checked and re-checked for signal, and frankly, acted like an addict without their fix.

It takes some time, doesn’t it, to sit with that uneasy feeling and accept that you are, in fact, bored.

Fuck. What am I supposed to do? I can’t do anything, I can’t go anywhere. What.the.fuck.

Even the in-between moments of the day like, for example, the commute to work or waiting in an office, or anytime you can think of when you aren’t actively doing something is filled by using your phone.

Imagine what you would do if you didn’t have a phone. What would you use to distract yourself from boredom? Maybe you’d pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read, or maybe- just maybe- you’d talk to the person next to you instead of ignoring them.

Let me set something straight, I’m not saying our phones are a negative thing nor do I believe we’re better off without them. My point is that we are unwilling and completely uncomfortable with being bored.

We will do anything and everything, jumping from one thing (or activity) to the next to not feel bored.

What if boredom isn’t some obstacle we need to overcome, but is instead the way to presence?Instead of immediately trying to distract ourselves from the feeling, why not be bored for once?

Allow boredom to be the object of your focus.

What feelings are associated with being bored? Where does your mind wander when you sit quietly? What do you think about when you aren’t actively doing something?

I think these are important answers we can gather by simply being present amongst boredom. On a psychological level, maybe you’ll be able to learn something about yourself that you didn’t know before. Maybe you’d start to recognise your impulses, thinking patterns, and motives.

Being bored isn’t an excuse to not be present. In fact presence is the antidote to boredom.

How do I know this?

Wherever you are right now,

stop and look around.

Double Exposure Film Photography: Merging Two Homes Into One

“Double exposure is caused by taking two pictures on the same piece of film.” – Fujifilm Troubleshooting

That’s the notice I received when I opened the envelope to see my developed film.

Most cameras are designed to prevent double exposure, but my Nikon one-touch 100 was not.

Nikon One Touch 100 and my film selects

This past summer I brought two rolls of film with me to the Açores. It wasn’t until two weeks ago that I got them developed.

Before getting them developed, I had bought two new rolls of Fujicolor 200 that I planned on using to take pictures around Rhode Island.

At some point I mixed up the four rolls and loaded my Açores film a second time thinking it was a new roll of film.

The outcome of these photos were surprising to me. At first glance I didn’t even recognise what I was looking at.

I found an even light, turned the photos multiple ways, and looked closer to see which photos of mine merged during the development process.

Some of the images came out odd, the others I found intriguingly abstract and peculiar in a good way. I didn’t intentionally make these images, but overall I’m happy with how different they are than my normal digital photos.

After looking over the 76 photos or so, I selected these 10 Images that I want to share with you today!

Photos taken:

Pico, Azores in July, 2019

Rhode Island in February, 2020

2.

3.

4.

5.

6.

7.

8.

9.

10.


Although It would’ve been nice to see the original photos I took (especially from the Açores) I can’t complain with the outcome. These photos are unlike anything I’ve taken before and part of what makes me like them so much is how my two homes found a way to merge into one.

Cheers to that.

If anyones had a similar experience I’d love to hear about it! Tell me your story and whether you liked the outcome or not!

Check out some of my previous articles from New England and of course, the Açores.

Breath in the Evening Air

Pawtucket, RI
Wednesday 2/12/20

I remember Rhode Island winters being unbearable with its mounds of snow, frozen windshield wipers, black-ice roads and dry-cracked lips, but since I arrived winter feels like nothing more than a chilly spring.

I put a windbreaker over a sweatshirt and keep my gloves in the left pocket just in case. Once I start moving the winter cold isn’t all that bad. Mornings and nights are the worst of course, but it’s nothing a hot cup of tea or coffee can’t remedy.

My favourite part is watching the wind take my breath after I exhale into the evening air. I know it’s such an ordinary thing, but I haven’t seen It in a while and it’s that sort of ordinariness that jogs back forgotten memories.

To me it’s a reminder of where I come from.

Rehoboth, MA

5 Life Changing Books

Finding an interesting-looking book, turning over the cover and reading the first few pages is always the hardest part. Once I’m hooked reading is my preferred method of entertainment and education.

With fiction novels theres something fundamentally satisfying about how the author guides your imagination into a detail-rich world where you feel a genuine bond with the characters and their experiences.

On the other hand there are certain non-fiction authors who bridge the gap between ignorance and awareness in such a way that you feel compelled to re-read the text again and again to fully understand the significance.

In either case, how remarkable is it to be enticed by a good book?

I’d say it’s life changing.

That Was Then, This is Now

As a kid I didn’t gravitate towards reading.

I thought, “Why would you take the time to read a book when you could just go see the movie instead?” It made sense to me even though my mom and brother were avid readers. They’d both tell me the movies got it all wrong, they left key points out, lacked character development, and the story didn’t play out like how they imagined it in their mind. This was especially true for the action-fantasy film “Eragon.”

Growing up I loved Dr. Sues and Shel Silverstein. Anyone else remember Where The Sidewalk Ends? By the time I was eight or nine I enjoyed The Magical Tree-House series and at my Elementary School’s book faire I found “Deltora Quest” which, thinking on it now, probably ignited my love for fantasy-adventure novels.

It wasn’t until my seventh grade social studies teacher Mr. Hamilton assigned our class S.E Hilton’s coming-of-age novel “That Was Then, This is Now” that I found my love for reading. I don’t recall much of the plot at the moment, but I remember I picked up the book one weekend and I couldn’t set it down until I finished. The last few pages of that book were so emotionally powerful I was shocked at how a book could evoke something within me that I only felt watching sad movies. I had never connected to fictional characters like that before.

Tuesdays with Morrie

I was first introduced to Mitch Albom’s work by a friend’s Facebook post which quoted a page from The Time Keeper.

“Try to imagine a life without timekeeping. You probably can’t. You know the month, the year, the day of the week. There is a clock on your wall or the dashboard of your car. You have a schedule, a calendar, a time for dinner or a movie. Yet all around you, timekeeping is ignored. Birds are not late. A dog does not check its watch. Deer do not fret over passing birthdays. Man alone measures time. Man alone chimes the hour. And, because of this, man alone suffers a paralyzing fear that no other creature endures. A fear of time running out.”

When I first read that quote I connected with it instantly. I felt as If time froze and in that moment I was able to look at society in a way I hadn’t before. Albom’s words were true. Everyone’s always pressed for time, running their life on a tight schedule, counting the minutes, the hours, the days, weeks, months and years. I mean, it seemed to me that timekeeping was the crux of human suffering.

Initially this observation frustrated me. I felt trapped by society, and like any naive teenager who hasn’t considered the virtues of timekeeping, I rebelled against the machine and swore I would never work the status quo 9-5 desk job and end up like all the other cogs. Above all, I was curious to know and understand more about how society functioned.

The first book I fully read by Mitch Albom was The Five People You Meet In Heaven. That book was simple yet philosophical. It lead me to pick up Tuesdays With Morrie from my local library. I enjoyed both his easy-to-read style, and also his willingness to write about intimidating topics like life, death, illness, regret, dreams and so forth.

Tuesdays With Morrie follows a young Mitch Albom reconnecting with his old sociology professor Morrie Swartz, who’s dying of ALS. The whole book is essentially heart-to-heart conversations they shared during their weekly visits. After every chapter I could look at my own life and relationships and determine what I needed to fix or improve. It was if I was there in the room with the two of them partaking in their conversations.

Mitch Albom and Morrie Swartz. Watch the Nightline interview here

The Way of Zen

Alan Watts became a huge influence on my life & philosophy. Before I read any of his books I came across a Youtube video called What Do You Desire?

What do I desire? What is that I want above all else in life? I thought it was a worthy question to pursue and as a teenager I felt pressured to want what everyone else supposedly wanted. I needed to first figure out who I was and one of the ways of doing that was to ask these deeply personal questions that Alan Watts presented in his writings and lectures.

After high school I found myself on a quest of self discovery. I was looking for transcendental answers for my lack of identity and purpose. I didn’t know who I was or what meaning my life had until I started digging into my up-bringing, my values, beliefs, experiences and interpretation of those experiences.

When I first read “The Way of Zen” I felt as if Watts expressed exactly what I felt, but couldn’t articulate. Every page seemed to turn itself and the only time I stopped was to re-read and check to make sure I understood the text’s entirety. His writings introduced me to schools of thought from eastern philosophy without it relating to religious dogma. He wanted to translate Zen Buddhism to the western world to demonstrate how much closer akin it was to psychotherapy than it was to religion.

Alan Watt’s On The Taboo of Knowing Who You Are and The Way of Zen acted as a reference point. His teachings and translations had a profound impact on my life and I recommend him to anyone seeking to learn more about themselves and practical wisdom to live a happier life.

The Doors of Perception

You may know Alduous Huxley from his scholastic book A Brave New World, but I stumbled upon him through my research on altered states of consciousness. The Doors of Perception details Huxley’s experience under the influence of mescaline where he entered “that magical place where every pebble is a precious stone.”

At the time I was interested in learning more about both the benefits and dangers of psychedelic drugs and most authors with a similar interest almost always refer back to this book. Huxley was interested in knowing from the inside what was meant by the visionary experience described innumerable times by mystics, religious groups, and artists across the board. Like Watts, Huxley articulated what I experienced but wasn’t able to clearly process in verbal/written form.

What I related to most about Huxley’s account was his emphasis on the significance of ordinary things. His attention shifted from being concerned with time and place to complete dedication to being and meaning. “Visual impressions are greatly intensified and the eye recovered some of the perceptual innocence of childhood, when the sensum was not immediately and automatically subordinated to the concept.”

Towards the end of the book, Huxley now writing about the history of visionary experience in religion and art, details how throughout time there have been users of psychedelics who experienced the complete opposite of bliss. A spiral into madness- a glimpse into the mind of a schizophrenic in full-blown psychosis. I was finding all these positive, life changing anecdotes online, but no one talked about the other side which was just as real, just as powerful, and just as transformative.

Memories, Reflections, Dreams

“Through my work with the patients I realized paranoid ideas and hallucinations contain a germ of meaning. A personality, a life history, a pattern of hopes and desires lie behind the psychosis. The fault is ours if we do not understand them… At bottom we discover nothing new and unknown in the mentally ill; rather we encounter the substratum of our own natures.”

Carl Jung is considered to be the father of analytical psychology. I always heard about him but never took the time to read any of his work until I picked up Memories, Reflections, Dreams. What I love most about this book is how insightful it is about his internal world. It’s divided into chronological order starting from the chapter “First Years” where he recollects his first memories of childhood, to “Late Thoughts” and “Retrospect” where he looks back at his life.

Apparently he continued to work on the final stages of the manuscript until shortly before his death on June 6,1961. What he laid out in the field of psychotherapy and psychiatry is the groundwork from which modern scientists build and extend off. When reading his book Memories, Reflections, Dreams I could relate to his observations despite having completely different experiences than him.

Part of what attracts me to Jung’s writing is his complete dedication to unraveling the unconscious self by identifying cross-cultural archetypes and myths we all live by. In doing so, he sheds light on truths that we never thought about questioning, or examining within our own lives. Jung’s writing has transformative qualities and although I’ve only read one book out of 15 I’ve already noticed a change in how I interpret the world around me.

The more I read the deeper I dive into unknown parts of myself…which is both exciting and terrifying.

Going into the New Year like…

Five days until 2020…

As I was reading through my journal entries from early 2019 it was clear to me that I still face many of the same obstacles today as I did then. I felt demoralized by the fact that, one, I didn’t accomplish everything I originally set out to do, two, I didn’t kick my self-depreciating habits and tendencies and, three, If I’m not able to do what I say I’m gonna do then how can I expect 2020 to be any different?

The more I read the more I doubted myself. Have I not made any progress this year? I mean, surely I have, but there’s so much more to do, so much more to improve on and change.

Do any of you ever feel like that? Like the goals you want to complete, the places you want to travel, the person you want to become is so far out of reach that even achieving some of your goals is insufficient? I know I’m not the only one, but it sure does feel like that at times.

For example, In various entries I wrote about never succumbing to procrastination again. Yet again and again I succumbed. In the beginning of January I wrote, ” What I dislike most are my negative tendencies to procrastinate and consume. They’re behaviours that don’t bring any value to my life. If anything they depreciate and prevent who I am from evolving into a greater me- a better me; Someone who not only recognises their potential, but who acts on it. I want my days to be filled with consistent action. Focused and purposeful action. I don’t want to waste time being an inferior version of myself.”

I swore to resist that ugly-artist characteristic which Marcus Aurelius described in Meditations as, failure to answer the call of your nature.

Aurelius wrote, “At dawn, when you have trouble getting out of bed, tell yourself: “I have to go to work — as a human being. What do I have to complain of, if I’m going to do what I was born for — the things I was brought into the world to do? Or is this what I was created for? To huddle under the blankets and stay warm? So you were born to feel “nice”? Instead of doing things and experiencing them? Don’t you see the plants, the birds, the ants and spiders and bees going about their individual tasks, putting the world in order, as best they can? And you’re not willing to do your job as a human being? Why aren’t you running to do what your nature demands?”

Reflecting on 2019

This past year brought me an abundance of happiness and love. I hold onto that gift closely. It also showed me all the areas I excel at and all the areas I need to improve. In a way this year revealed me to myself and for that I’m grateful and humbled alike.

For one, I reconnected with a friend from work who over time completely exceeded my expectations and reminded me how we should neither expect nor doubt. She shared her sorrows, insecurities, and pet-peeves. She shared her experiences, perspectives, and emotions. She gave me companionship, love, and asked for nothing in return though I was always happy to reciprocate.

A large part of this year like every year revolved around family. My sister taught me more about mental fortitude than I care to admit. She taught me about patience, compassion, and unconditional love. My mom demonstrated the virtues of tolerance and empathy. She taught me about forgiveness and the importance of strong roots. My dad practices was he preaches. He taught me consistency, visualisation, and the art of re-framing bad situations into good ones.

Despite feeling under-achieved this year, life isn’t just about success. It’s more so about the setbacks, the challenges, the obstacles we have to overcome. To me, success means nothing if there isn’t a back and forth struggle to get there. If anything I’m aware what I need to work on in 2020 because of my setbacks, not despite them.

Another challenge I faced (still face) this year that I’m committed to working on in 2020 is my depression. I admit calling depression a “challenge” is devious, however I like to think a mental illness is conquerable with the right combination of help. It’s an extremely personal thing and trying to articulate my thoughts about it in a detached way is difficult. My last article, Coming Face to Face with Emotional Pain, was an attempt at both distancing myself and giving the best advice I could to anyone struggling with depression.

What I’ve noticed about depression is how anytime I fight against the grain I usually feel better with time. For example, sometimes I need to force myself to be social because I usually tend to stray away from people, however when I put myself into a social situation I almost always feel better afterwards. The same dynamic applies to getting up in the morning, working, exercising, writing.

There are days and sometimes consecutive days where I just feel burnt out, meaningless, and exhausted. My plan is to prevent my overall “downtime.” The less downtime I have, the happier I am. Going back to the journal entry I shared with you guys above, if I fill my days with consistent, purposeful actions it should reduce my overall symptoms. One thing a psychologist recommended to me was to keep focusing on physical exercise since I love it and it’s proven to be a highly effective anti-depressant. Going to the gym daily will be a core habit that fosters all the benefits and positive characteristics I need and want.

Travel plans and becoming a Portuguese citizen

One of my primary goals for 2019 was to travel to Portugal.

I’m writing this from my home in the Azores which is an autonomous region of Portugal. So did I accomplish it? Well, partly.

Although I really had my eyes on the mainland– specifically Porto. My plan was to get my dual-citizenship, move to Porto, start working at either a hostel or restaurant while continuing to pursue photography and freelance writing.

My plan wasn’t super specific, I’ll be the first to admit it. And maybe that played a role in it not coming to fruition, however the first part, to get my dual-citizenship, was a much more tedious process than I expected it to be. As of today I booked my ticket back to the States where I can get all the necessary documents, stamps, translations and information to further the process along. The first half of 2020 is dedicated to becoming a Portuguese citizen so that when I do travel to Portugal in the second half of the year, I won’t have to worry about renewing my visa, or working under the table.

Acquiring my dual-citizenship is also part of a larger goal. Being a Portuguese citizen will allow me to travel through Europe with freedom of movement. By no means am I in a rush to see all of Europe, but with a Portuguese passport I’ll have the ability to travel as I please without worrying about a return date. Eventually when the time is right, I can branch out and immerse myself in new cultures.

Welcoming 2020 with open arms

While writing this blog post I realised I left out a fundamental part. Every new year– actually every day– theres an opportunity to improve yourself. Not by achieving personal goals, but by helping those in need. A simple act of kindness to a friend, loved one or random stranger has an impact we can’t quite quantify. Sometimes the greatest reward has nothing to do with how much you achieve, rather how much of yourself you give.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service others.

Looking back at what I wrote in the beginning, I really should not be demoralized or feel under-achieved. I think part of the problem is that I try to measure my self-worth with achievements. At the end of the day the only thing that truly matters are my good deeds, how I communicate and care for others, the love and support I give. This is the true measure of self and happiness.

To those of you still reading, I thank you. Give more than you have to give this year. Try when you don’t want to try. Think of what a gift it is to be alive. It’ll be a year to remember.