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Sunday, August 9, 2015

My Final Goodbye

So ends my second chance… I am being intentionally vague, and it doesn't much matter.   The fact is that I am back home, and what I do with my second chance is a secret  shared between myself and God.

I still find it hard to believe that I spent an entire year of my life in Oz.  Nobody (including I) would have predicted any of this.  In the scheme of life, my life anyway, one year doesn't sound very long, but its impact will last forever.  This time around (returning home) there is a feeling of finality that wasn't present before.  It is an understanding, or a “knowing” that the message (lessons) Oz was meant to deliver is complete and the rest is up to me.  Free Will is said to be humanity’s greatest gift, but with it comes a lot responsibility.  The future holds the answers and it reports without prejudice.  I met so many people who shared their lives and memories that it is impossible to leave this experience unaffected.  My Aussie friends left an imprint on me that will never go away.  We shared stories, laughs, and more than a few tears, and I would like to think that each received their own meaningful gift from our chance meetings.  I learned that being less judgmental and more accepting leads to new and a fulfilling existence.

Strangely enough it took traveling to the other side of the world to meet none other than myself.   It was an opportunity to “pause” the life I was living and just long enough to take stock of the results.  I reviewed me, and I explored all of the explanations for the outcome.  What I discovered (one of many things) was a certain degree of pretense, and it was bothersome.  Most of the things that I thought true about myself simply weren’t, rather I had convinced myself of their truth.  I uncovered unattractive behaviors, patterns, and nuances that I had been overlooking since becoming a “responsible adult”, but I also noted the positive contributions that I bring to the world when I choose to do so.  This experience was a lesson in life and it provided many insights.  The insights are mine and for the most part they will remain private.  Here are a few that I am willing to share:

  • Every time I say “yes” to an invite or an event results in an understanding of how much I miss out on in life by saying “no”
  • The people that I initially dislike will almost always become a close friend, or at the very least, they will turn out to be a messenger delivering another great lesson from up above
  • I know a lot of opinionated people, but I rank high on the list.  Its time to chill
  • Some people choose a company/job in order to “get somewhere” in life, and some work to survive, but my job with Electronic Arts has rewarded me in ways that cannot be measured
  • If there is one person that I should be weary of in this life its “me” 
  • Nothing in life is certain- nothing
  • Its never too late to change

Every experience in Australia felt like it should be documented.  I wanted to capture every moment in video or in picture, because I feared forgetting.  It is ironic too, because when I first travelled to Oz I was fearful that my absence at home would have a negative impact on my relationship.  I feared the unknown and I worried about things that I might be missing.   In the end my relationship grew stronger and I realized what a small life I had created for myself.  Fear does a great job in slowing me down.

I continue to refer to this trip as my second chance, and it was, but each new day is also a second chance.  Not very profound, I know, but most people just utter the words without understanding the message being delivered.  I learned that it is never too late to take an inventory of life and set a new chartered course.  It is never too late to change direction.  I also learned that love is a bond that knows no boundaries or distance.  In my case, love is also the fuel that keeps me going and prevents me from giving up, but my fear of losing love is a potential poison and self-fulfilling prophecy if left unchecked.  Everything must, and will, eventually end.  Love is an inspiration, and it is usually easier to express love than it is to acknowledge it.  

The adventure in Australia is over, and so is my “second chance”.  It leaves me feeling happy, excited, and still fearful.  Writing this blog and sharing my thoughts and experiences will chronicle a tiny chapter of my life, but most importantly this blog will remind me that the future has a lot to offer if allowed.  Will this experience have a lasting impact, or will my life change as a result of this second chance?  Lets see. Free will, right?

You'll find some final pictures of Melbourne below.  If you haven't been to Australia and you have the opportunity, take it!  Hell, if you have an opportunity to get out of the house today, just take it!  There is a HUGE world out there and a lot of people just waiting to meet you!

Lastly, my two final videos are HERE and HERE.  Both videos require a passcode, which is 2011


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Return to Oz

Thirty days have passed since I returned to Oz, and they came and went in a blink of an eye.  If I am really being honest, the older I get the faster time seems to pass period.  It's so strange and it makes no sense.  Age also brings the realization of how little I actually know about life.  Its kind of like God’s practical joke on mankind.  As youngsters time never goes fast enough and every one of life’s riddles is solved.  Then adulthood comes along and it becomes abundantly clear that the joke is on us.  Regardless, my first month in Oz is now history.

The mystique and adventure associated with traveling clear across the globe to a foreign country could easily fade or even disappear this time around.  I am blessed to have friends in Melbourne now, and the streets, well the streets are as familiar as my daily patterns.  In some ways it feels like I never left.  Every opportunity exists for this trip to feel routine, but I know better.  There is unfinished business here for me to accomplish and the notion of routine is an excuse to slow down progress.  My first trip was filled with life lessons that impacted my career and personal life.  Each day held the opportunity for a new adventure or insight, but it required my willing participation.  The choice was always mine and there was never a right or wrong choice, just a choice.  Similarly, I chose to carry on some of the life lessons I learned from my first trip to Oz and others I forgot-conveniently.  Occasionally life provides another chance to choose again.  This is my second chance, so here we go… Round two…

A few pics of Autumn in Oz

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Home Again

Almost a month has passed since I arrived home from OZ and I am still processing the experience.  The people I crossed paths with along the way still occupy a piece of my heart and mind.  Welcoming and inclusive, the team at Firemonkeys made me feel right at home. Even now, a month later, I cannot believe that I was away for nearly eight months!  It might sound silly, but being apart from loved ones for that long was a big accomplishment.   As a child, my aunt once took me to Disney World.  I cannot remember if we went by plane or car, but I clearly recall throwing a tantrum less than 48 hours after arriving.  Why?  Simple, I did not like being away from my mother.   As such, our stay at Disney was much shorter than originally planned.  OZ had its own share of tantrums, albeit from an adult this time around, and I appreciate those who held my hand from thousands of miles away and helped me through the rough days.  One thing is certain though, and that is time really did go by quickly.  

Time is weird...  At first, it feels that time is creeping by ever so slowly.  Then, after looking back at everything that took place, it feels like time went by in a blink of an eye.   Every new experience in Australia was like starting a new chapter in my adventure, and with each new chapter came a new turning point or insight.  I learned more about “me” than I thought possible.  Two of my biggest accomplishments are learning to be comfortable with me as my only company, and being able to walk into a room full of strangers by myself.   My eyes opened to strangers, and in turn they opened their hearts to me.  

Look, my life is no more interesting or no less interesting than the rest of the world’s inhabitants.  We each have our own story and it is a story built on truths, falsehoods, experiences, beliefs, and faded memories that we weave together and believe as accurate.  Sometimes it is easy to forget that we are the author of our story.  Even worse, sometimes it is easy to forget that the story we are writing, like all others, will eventually end.  This may be one of my most important lessons.  So many different people demonstrated it repeatedly that it was impossible to ignore.  

Melbourne showed me that I am stronger than I thought and I can be apart from loved ones without fear of losing them.  The past seven months involved struggles, triumphs, politics, death, sickness, friendships, partnerships, love, loss, achievement, and growth to name just a few.  I realized things about myself that I never knew, and I broke habits that cursed my life for years.  Most importantly, I allowed myself to be vulnerable (at times) and in that vulnerability, I met new friends.  Its uncanny the way people came into my life at the exact time I needed them, and at times, when they needed me.  I learned that God would bring people into our lives when we need them the most, but it is up to us to be receptive to their gift of companionship.   

I was fortunate enough to encounter several of God’s messengers.  Whether they knew it or not, each of them came into my life when I needed them most.  Some people were right next to me all along but I never took the time to notice.  There are far too many people to mention, but a select few require acknowledgement.  

If not for the leadership team at Electronic Arts, I may have never realized this extraordinary adventure.   Denise Christie-Caputo and Joseph Marrello made this entire journey possible.  They believed in my ability to succeed and saw to it that I had the proper support to complete what I set out to accomplish.  Denise and her husband Joe went out of their way to make me feel at home and extend their friendship.  Carrie Fowler provided the gift of confidence and assurance that I required in order to accept this amazing opportunity.  Naturally, the entire staff of Firemonkeys made it possible to quickly acclimate and produce winning results.  Then there are the others…

The first to enter my life was Tanja.  She came into my life at a time when I needed the strength and courage to begin exploring my new surroundings.  We laughed together, cried together, and explored the city together for an entire day.  Two days later, it was time to say goodbye, but she left me with a newfound sense of freedom and took with her my fear.  If it was not for Tanja, I might have never met Cynthia or Frank.

Both Cynthia and Frank brought with them stories of love and loss.  I had the occasion to learn from them, as I did Tanja, the importance of love.  All three had unexpectedly suffered the loss of a loved one and they were dealing with that loss in their own unique way.  From all three I learned how important it is to give and accept love, and nothing is as painful as lost time.  My next three messengers would deliver their own lessons.

Each time I started to experience a bit of loneliness in OZ a new person would enter my life.  The only thing I had to do was allow them to appear, or take notice.  That is how I met Jonno Jones, Damian Grecco, and Belle Jean.  Oddly, all three were just passing through Melbourne when we met. The time we spent together was short, but it was still long enough to relieve the loneliness that I was experiencing.  Another lesson learned… Loneliness is most usually a matter of choice.  

Finally, after months of learning the same lesson repeatedly, I chose to open my eyes to those people around me that were reaching out to make a connection.  They were everywhere, and either I was too blind to see it or too concerned with my own stories about myself.  Some of the nicest, genuine, and most welcoming people were right in front of me all along-at the Blackman Hotel.  

The gang at the Blackman Hotel was incredible.  I would see them day in and out, so after a while they started to feel just like family.  The GM of the hotel’s two restaurants (Victor) even invited me to the reception for him and his new bride.  In the past, I would have politely declined, but I accepted the invite and met with the warmest welcome ever.  Natasha Boyden & Savhalla Óðr both worked with Victor, and I looked forward to their familiar smile and friendly conversation nearly each day.

My trip to OZ taught me that I can have anything in life that I want, but it may require a lot of hard work and sometimes sacrifice.  While in OZ I successfully kicked a thirty-year addiction to smokeless tobacco, achieved winning results at the studio, regained confidence, stepped outside of my comfort zone, and started running again.  This adventure provided me the opportunity to experience new and exciting people, experience a new freedom from social anxiety, a chance to empower myself and learn to rely on myself, conquer fears, and enjoy my own company.  Most importantly, this trip was a reminder of how many people love and believe in me.

Many people have asked, “Did you determine what the lessons were that you learned?”  Naturally, my answer is yes, but I wonder if others experienced their own insights while sharing my journey.  No, I don't intend to discuss my takeaways any further.  The only thing I can share is this:  I am a blessed man to have the world’s best job, partner, friends, and family.  Ironically enough it is at Christmastime when I finally realize that God has provided me the best gift of all, and that is the realization of love.   

This chapter ends with just one simple line, and it reads…

Farewell for now, God Bless, Merry Christmas, and until next time!

HERE is a link to my final video.  I hope you all enjoy it!  Please use passcode- 2011.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The Final Countdown

Last week my Friday began with tears as I accompanied Chris to the train station to begin his journey back home to the United States.  We shared the seven days prior exploring Sydney and enjoying one another’s company in Melbourne.  It's amazing how quickly time passes when it is spent with someone special.  Our week was no different and I wouldn't trade it for anything else in the world.

This Friday marks the beginning of my last week in OZ.  Next Friday I will board a plan and begin my journey back home.  I can’t begin to explain how much I have learned over the past seven months.  This journey has been incredible from start to finish, but it isn't over yet.  I have a lot more to accomplish in my last seven days, so in the meantime I leave you with this video of Chris’ visit.  A passcode is required to view the video, and the password is 2011.

I have to admit, this is one of my favorite videos as far as cool shots are concerned. :)

Our video is located HERE.  Passcode 2011

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

My EA Team!

So what is it like to work for the biggest and best game company in the world?  Here is your chance to find out!  

I met my teammates from EA's Central Sourcing Team (globally distributed) for the very first time last week and I was humbled by the vast amount of experience and expertise.  We are not only an amazing group, but we are a fun group too!  Our small but elite team spent two days getting to know one another through a series of preplanned events, which included painting the Golden Gate Bridge, personal introductions, enneagram discussions, yoga, and sourcing exercises.  So yeah, it was much more exciting than that just sounded.  

Have you ever wondered what it was like to work at EA?   Did you ever dream of visiting the world's best game publisher?  Well... HERE is a glimpse of EA's campus in Redwood City, California.  When I say glimpse, I truly mean a glimpse.  There is so much more that I couldn't share, but something is better than nothing.  Hopefully my teammates don't mind my sharing this video. :)

I can summarize my two days onsite at EAHQ in one very short sentence... SIMPLY AMAZING!  This is just one more reason that I LOVE my job!  

In case you missed it the first time, you can view my video HERE!

This is my last month in Melbourne so stay tuned for several more videos.  

Monday, September 29, 2014

My Truths

Almost everybody that I know has a set of rules that they live by, and I am no different.  Here is a set of my own that I wrote over the years.  Maybe you will find something that works for you, or maybe you will have one to share that I can add to my list?

1) Live on the edge just once.   While you are there, take some time to take a good look around.  Take notice of what exists over the cliff in order to avoid what you've just seen.  

2) Our entire world arises in language.  With that in mind, be mindful of the words you speak & know that if you don't, they can leave a lifetime of scars on you and those who love you. 

3) Believe in a higher power.  Call it what you want, and do whatever necessary to show your honor, but know that there is something greater than you in this universe, because there is.

4) Your stubbornness is likely the very source of your reality.  

5) Hatred & anger may come easily, but love & forgiveness feels better in the end 

6) Most men will dream of success & happiness, but only a few will set out to achieve it.  

7) Your youth is a gift like no other that you'll ever receive.  Enjoy it & make the most of it or when your older you'll wish you had 

8) Believe in yourself regardless of whether or not you feel anyone else does.  In the end,  it's what you say about yourself that will create your own boundaries 

9) Life is like a game.   Sometimes you are thrown a foul & sometimes you score, but you will only win by getting on the field and playing. 

10) Make time daily to take notice of the beauty of life and the environment around you.  Find it in nature, the people around you, and see it in yourself.  The experience will impact you for life. 

11) Allow yourself to love, but most importantly allow yourself to experience being loved. 

12) Admire your body because its the only one you'll ever own.  There will be a time when you realize how great it used to be

13) Happiness is your creation, as is being unhappy.  Choose powerfully & accept your choice 

14) The number of people that you call friend is by your own design.  There is no correct number, but choose wisely 

15) No matter what your "plan" is, you can count on life throwing you a curve ball when you least expect it.  This is a fact, and it is out of your control.  How you deal with this curve ball is all your own making.  

16) Live life healthy, but allow for some unhealthy living 

17) Live & love each day as if tomorrow doesn't exist, because it may not 

18) Your life is a like a story being written each day.  Never forget that you are the author

19)  The past need not define you.  Who you are today will impact you, and the rest lies in the future that you are creating.  

20)  When you're younger, you'll wish you were older, and when your older you'll daydream of your youth.  Somewhere in between you'll try to balance career, family, and self.  Take time to slow down. The world is a beautiful place, but it requires you to take notice. 

21) Study hard in science,  but take time to pray.  

22)  Honor your mother & father.  They did what they did, and they didn't do what they couldn't do or didn't know. When you are older you will realize just how much they did do, and often with very little appreciation from you.  

23) Seek wisdom from those your senior and learn to play from the young.  You won't remember the wisdom from your elders & you will forget how to play within seconds, but the opportunity you took to just stop for a moment will be worth your time.  

24)  If you can't forgive for others, forgive for yourself 

25)  It's important to search for answers in your life, but it is just as important to live life.  What good are the answers if you've forgotten to live?

26) Be soft enough to cry and hard enough to stand up for what you believe in.  When all is said & done, your greatest critic will be yourself.  

27) The way people occur to you will impact the way you relate to them, which in turn will determine who they become for you in your life.  

28)  When you try to fix somebody, you take on ownership of their problems.  Allow them to be who they are and take ownership of your friendship instead

29) It takes a lifetime to live your life, therefore it's best to let others live their own. 

30) Everyday is a fresh day & an opportunity to re-write the script called "life". 

31) Dream all you want but take note of the calendar.  

32) Children are a gift from above to remind us how carefree life once was and how complicated we have made it. 

33) We are put on this earth with others for a reason.    You cannot stand alone and we all need help.  Don't be too proud to ask or too selfish to give.  

34)  There are two sentences that when said either together or on their own will improve your life.  Practice them & "be" them.  The two sentences are "I am sorry" and  "I love you". 

35) God gave you the tools to survive & the rest is up to you.  Success or failure? Choose...  You define them both & you will be the one sentenced to abide by your definitions.  There is nobody else to blame or to thank but you.   Choose wisely, and in the end it is what it is!  

36) Mom is always right

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Melbourne & I

Someone recently asked me, What is the one thing you would ask for if you had one day to live?  My answer…forgiveness.  You can figure out for yourself how this ties in with the rest of my story.

As a child of about seven or eight years of age, I can remember disappearing to the neighboring street for hours in hopes of catching grasshoppers.  More than one vacant lot existed back in those days and most were overgrown, which attracted both the hoppers and the flyers-nicknames I assigned to both.  Their very names are a dead giveaway in terms of the obvious differences, but the flyers also happened to be quite a bit larger.  Clearly the flyers were much more difficult to catch since they could leap into the air and fly several feet before landing.  I will never forget their black and white wings and their grayish bodies.  Catching a flyer was like finding a pot of gold!

My preteen and teen years shared the same tone as my childhood.  Some of my fondest memories include traversing a ridge of wooded hills that wrapped around a large portion of our neighborhood and eventually gave way to homes.   The house I grew up in was about eight doors down from one side of that ridge.  I can’t count the number of times that I wandered those wooded hills.  Mostly I explored alone, but to be honest, until this very moment it never even occurred to me that I was nearly always solo.  Each time I hiked through those woods I discovered something new and fascinating.  I stumbled upon countless small water holes and each held an endless number of frogs and tadpoles!  Fascinated, I sat along the steep banks and just watched them go about their frog business.  Even on family vacations, it was just a given that I would be absent for several hours each day as I explored the natural beauty of our destination.  Alone, but by choice, and not requiring any person to share the experience.

Somewhere along the way childhood slipped away and I grew into a young adult.  Almost simultaneously, I forgot how fulfilling it was to just aimlessly meander about and still be comfortable with myself and my surroundings.  The fascination with nature and animals that I remember were replaced with a need to fit in, or even to standout.  Hanging out with the right people and spending a night out on the town took the place of catching grasshoppers and watching frogs in the middle of the woods.  It became more important to be seen, appear attractive, and earn as much money as possible, in order to be seen and appear more attractive.  (Yes, I meant to say it that way)  Miracles of nature still occur and the serenity I once knew and enjoyed in those woods is still available, but I joined the ranks of the shallow and I soon found myself unable to see the magic around me.  

This trip to OZ reopened my eyes and rekindled a feeling buried deep beneath a pile of adult nonsense.  Although I will never get over missing the people in my life who matter most, I am relearning the magnificence of nature and actually looking forward to my long walks alone each weekend, which I spend exploring my new location.  I literally head out for hours on end and just aimlessly walk through parks and nature trails.  Along the way I catch glimpses of my childhood that bring a tear to my eye, but most of all I rediscovered a piece of me that has long been in hiding.  I no longer feel the need to belong to anything, since I realize that I inherently belong just by virtue of being born into this world.  Fitting in doesn't matter much to me either.  I would much rather fit in more time.  That is, time to take in all of the beauty thats surrounds me, which I somehow stopped doing many years ago.  To that end, my remaining free time in OZ is earmarked for living again.   

Lots of people ask me, What is it like in Melbourne?  Well, there aren't enough hours in the day to write about how great this area is, but I will do my best to give a description as seen through my eyes.

The city is clean, and I mean super clean!  Even with a population that hovers just over four-million people, the streets are safe and the litter is minimal.  The city’s downtown, or Central Business District (CBD) as it is known, is easy to navigate and teeming with action.  It would seem that each turn brings something new to offer in terms of cuisine, coffee houses, or craft beers.  The CBD is famous for the many alleyways, and each offers its own uniqueness that keeps this guy wondering what to expect next.  I am constantly amazed by the lack of police presence on the streets.  Coming from America, it is just natural to see police patrolling neighborhoods as a deterrent to crime.  Patrols aren't the norm here.  In fact, unless you are at a train station or a major interchange, you will be hard-pressed to find the police.  If you need them, you call them.  Even still, there is a relatively low crime rate and a real sense of safety no matter where I have ventured.  

Almost a quarter of Victoria’s population was born overseas, and Melbourne has a significant number of Asians, Greeks, Lebanese, and Italians.  It is definitely a multi-cultural city and a great place to people watch.  Speaking of which, my favorite place to people watch is on a tram.  Melbourne has the world’s largest tram system and it connects virtually every piece of the city.  If you cant find a tram to get you somewhere, there are trains, buses, and nearly as many cabs as New York City.  Let’s just say that public transportation is easy and plentiful.  If you enjoy the performing arts you will love Melbourne.  The city is referred to as Australia’s cultural capital and there is plenty to see and to experience in the way of art, theater, etc.  The cost of living here is high, ranking fourth highest in the world, but the city will satisfy even the most finicky of taste.  Whether you are a city dweller or a nature lover, Melbourne has you covered.  It is no wonder that Melbourne has been voted the most livable city in the world every years since 2011!

There are a few oddities associated with Australia though.  English is the official language, but sometimes I struggle to understand the Ozzie version.  I put together a short list of words (or phrases) that I have grown accustom to hearing since I arrived.  There is no doubt that I missed a few, but you might get a chuckle out of my list and their accompanied meanings.

Each day spent in this country finds me reconnecting with another piece of myself that I somehow lost along the way.  This journey has been one filled with emotions of every type, and I am glad to have traveled this road.  I am blessed with this opportunity (THANK YOU ELECTRONIC ARTS!), and I am equally blessed to have shared it with the people who take time out of their days to read my ramblings.  

HERE (requires passcode 2011) is the original version of my video that will take you along as I explore Melbourne.  You will need a passcode, which is 2011.  The song reminds me of someone that I hold close to my heart.  Even though this person isn't with me, they are still present during all my journeys.  If the link doesn't work, the secondary video is HERE.  More than once I have written that I enjoy exploring alone, but what good is life’s experiences if you can’t share them with those that you love!    

You will find a few recent pictures just below my list of funny words & meanings.  

Until next time…
Arvo: afternoon
Bikkie: cookie
Bikie: a motorcyclist
Bities: insects that bite
Bogan: white trash/hillbilly
Bonzer: awesome
Bottle Shop: liquor Store
Brekkie: breakfast
Bush: a place without concrete/wooded area
Fair go: give a chance
Footie: an annoying, but hugely popular Australian sport.  It is a cross between rugby, basketball and American football
Garbo: garbage collector
Good Onya: well done
Hotel: normally just a bar
Icey: popsicle
Keen: interested (used way too often here)
Lollie: candy
Maccas: McDonalds
Mate: friend
Milk Bar: small shop selling food/corner store
Mozzie: mosquito
Mug: someone gullible
No Worries!: no problem
Nuddy: naked
Nut out: come to agreement
Piss: beer
Pissed: Drunk
Pokies: slot machine
Polly: politician
Postie: mailman
Pot: glass of beer, smaller than a pint
Prezzy: gift
Ripper: great
Reckon: I guess, assume (used all the time here)
Scratchy: instant lottery ticket
Seppo: an American
Shout: your turn to buy (drinks usually)
Sickie: day off from work
Spunk: good looking
Stuffed: tired
Sunnies: sunglasses
Toey: horny
Trackie: running pants
Tradie: plumber, electrician, etc
Tucker: food
Uni: university
Wog: person from the Mediterranean region