Life starting to pick up…

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The following are the two directions I had been pondering about for months at a time prior to 2019, which had been keeping me from being 100% in either direction, which, opposed to other life choices, will drastically change the outlook of my life.

Retail Professional
More mobility – Don’t have to work full time Safe $ wise for mistakes                                
Easier to move from one job to the next (not only time wise). All 120 hours of the week will be sacrificed for job.
Could live in a new place every year. Can afford to travel further away
More time to explore while traveling. Will have less time to explore
Freedom of choice not to stress about staying competitive.  Freedom to relax for longer periods of time without intellectual growth. Will need to constantly grow and stay up to date, especially in my field.  
More time to reflect/introspection.  Would have more time for blog. Potentially, surrounded by like minded, bright people, which would be essentially better for growth.
Can’t live alone, well unless I am living in car(#vanlife). Would have $ to live alone.
Wasting more time stressing about my parents thinking about my well-being.  It’s exhausting. Less time thinking about my parents thinking about my well being, though this is more of a letting go, mentality issue.
Retirement could be harder. Retirement is an option or at least would easier.
Health would be harder to maintain. Health would be easier to maintain
Would never have an anchor or at least it would take more time to obtain.  Lose the freedom of choice. Would be able to afford to buy an anchor (house).

While, very balanced, I decided to take the professional route, also after my first semester into my Masters at Towson University, things started to take motion.  You could say I have mapped out a plan until the end of August 2019.  In reality, all I really need to do is execute it.

In other news, I switched part time jobs.  In late, 2018, I had turned 26, which means I am no longer eligible to be covered by my parent’s health insurance so looking outward at jobs that would cover health insurance for part time hours, and I noticed that Starbucks, REI, Costco, Whole Foods and Lowe’s all offer health packages for part time employees.

From this list alone, REI had my eye.  I stay up to date backpacking gear wise and have experience in the field, but I knew at position with REI would be significantly more competitive.  REI, not only has fewer stores, but I have also noticed (from the past year of scanning their career’s page for openings) that they have two designated hiring times during the year so I applied to Starbucks.  Starbucks called me back in a mere two days after submitting my application!  To be clear, my focus on just Starbucks was influenced.  The plan was to first apply to Starbucks and then if they were not hiring, to then apply to Costco, Whole Foods, or Lowe’s.  Apache was the influence.  Katie (Apache) had worked at Starbucks for years and while she lived in Maryland, I visited the store where she worked several times in Edgewater, near Annapolis, MD.  From what I noticed, working at Starbucks gave off a partner vibe, or rather, for lack of a better expression, an in-this-together culture vibe that I quite honestly envied.  She had also spoke highly of her experience throughout the time I have known her.

The funny thing about this switch is that this would be the perfect job to have retail wise, if I were to take the retail route.  Since Starbucks has more than 27,000 locations worldwide, this could enable me to be mobile and travel every year or so to a new store and be covered health wise as long as I averaged 20 hours a week.  While my main motivate for my switch was the part time health insurance, here are some of the other benefits as a partner at Starbucks worth mentioning:

  1. Part time health benefits (Need to maintain a 20 hour/week average).
  2. Free 16 oz bag of coffee every week.
  3. 30% off merchandise/food/drinks.
  4. Free Spotify!
  5. Free drinks 30 minutes before/after and during your shift (The amount per shift depends on the store/management from what I have been told).  There are more than 999 million possible combinations!
  6. One free meal item per shift.
  7. Stock options (All Starbucks employees are hired as partners!)
  8. 401k with a 5% match after first 90 days.
  9. If you are working at least an average of 20 hours a week, there is an online Arizona State University program that Starbucks will pay a portion of for your first bachelor’s degree. From my understanding, you pay half upfront, then get reimbursed for the rest after the semester ends via a check, though don’t quote me.

I have now been working at Starbucks for a little more than one month and I have to say, so far so good.  The store has exceeded my expectations, though to be fair, my positive experience could be very well be based on the superb management.  My boss and the current store manager at this location is honestly one of the best bosses I have ever had.  He is very level headed, more of a leader than a boss, and to my surprise is younger than me.

Besides work, school is going well.  Due to mostly my impatience with the seemingly slow progression of the Computer Science Master’s curriculum, I am taking some self-paced online courses mainly on Udacity on the side.  They are also good for refresher courses.

Growth wise, I am continuing to read…or rather listen.  Right now, I am listening to, “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.  Honestly, this is a must read for in my opinion, everyone, especially for those in retail.

Physically, I could do better.  I want better, “but” as many excuses start, I also want time for everything else.  😂  No need to tell me the benefits, I am keenly aware, and will be forever reminded every time I open my to-do list as it has and will carry over until death as a quadrant two objective, the not urgent, but important quadrant.

Mentality wise or rather emotionally, I am good.  I am definitely more mellowed and back in the groove of everyday life.  I no longer feel as if I am wasting energy, in other words, I am more intentional with my time.  I continue to plan trips, though will likely not be able to plan any trips further than the bordering states of Maryland considering my very limited free time through September 2019.  That being said, I’ll likely not have another blog update regarding my mental, physical, and emotional self until September 2019.

 

Post Trail depression is real.

I knew about post trail depression from research and word of mouth on trail, but actually going through it was another animal completely. Re-acclimatizing back to society could explained similarly to that culture shock feeling one gets from the first week back from an abroad trip, though it lasts way longer than a week and hurts a little. I for a while over-valued my worth. With all the energy I had, I felt like I could move mountains, to put the overvaluation into perspective. At least it was better than prior to the trail when I was undervaluing myself, but as a consequence, I for a long while had not been able to fulfill my goals for the first five months back from the trail, longer than I would like to admit to myself, trying to take bigger bites off of more than I could chew.

When I got off the trail, I had big plans, but too many and too big, easily getting discouraged in the process. I wanted positions that I did not have the skill level to acquire. For example, I wanted to start a food product business idea without ever having any business experience.

Discouraged, there have been times I felt lost with direction, idling. I’ll have all this energy to do something, energy I do not know for sure would stay for long but due to my lack of direction and fickle self, all that valuable energy and time has gone to waste. Even now want several directions, but I know I need to focus on one and follow through, despite the moments at times I feel I as if I am following blindly. I want to grow as I was growing on the trail. I want to escape into the mountains. I want to go back to my economically comfortable job. I want seek a career in travel. I want more face time with people. I want more outdoor time. I want to travel young while I am still physically capable. I want to stick to the state of constant growth, without hiccups, without my impatience, without wasting my time and money on something that is ‘not me’ too long, but that is life, the reality of the matter. That being said, I need to remind myself to focus on what I can control, the “little goals,” and not get discouraged when I am unable to accomplish a goal too large. Despite the desire for trying out different directions, I know, I do not have the luxury to be trying multiple different directions. Weighing out my options, I eventually choose a direction.  I decided to pursue further education.  I am also now perusing a Master’s degree in Computer Science via a Data Science track.  For work, I took a job as a stocker at Target, building up what I can in reputation while I more carefully look for opportunities in the data science niche.

I know how this blog reads, but I am not sad nor depressed. I simply thought I would be much further along in my life than I am currently. While discouraged at times, life is so much better than pre-trail. I feel liberated. I am finally in control of my life and have goals. Control wise, I have noticed something interesting in my behavior. I used to be very self-consciousness of my external appearance and worried constantly with no off-switch. Specifically, worried how I would look through the eyes of another person, and now I operate without a worry of how I look to another. I can finally be myself, obstacle free. As to how this change happened, I cannot name a specific date, but I think it had to do with spending time with myself distraction free. Maybe I got so sick of myself on trail, that I had no choice but to change.

Another change which I believe relates closely to the previously mentioned behavior, is that I am less organized. I used to be extremely organized and would feel unbalanced if I was not. While still very capable, from the many years of experience, I no longer feel the unbalance. Despite enjoying the internal peace, I no longer have the innate desire to stay constantly organized, making the rest of my life, quite simply put, difficult.

Prior to the trail, I used to day dream about traveling, now the majority of the time if I am daydreaming at all, I will think back to my experience on the Appalachian Trail. I definitely miss the life style, but more, the distraction free environment.  I love my tech, but if you don’t use your phone for example as a tool, one can sometimes get caught up in the not urgent, not important quadrant of your life, wasting valuable time.  Despite the days of being in constant pain, I miss the peaceful days alone with my thoughts, without service, hearing sometimes only the wind blowing in my face.   I have a better idea of how to block out certain noise, but no where close to where I would like to be.

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Bigelow Mountain
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Old Rag Mountain

As for hikes, I have hiked since I have been on trail and do plan to eventually post about my travels when I can. If you would like to see the photos from any of my hikes earlier, here is a link to my Facebook. Fair warning, I do not add people I have not met in person, though if you would like to just see my photos, all my travel photos are public.

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Cucumber Falls – Ohiopyle State Park

Welp that pretty much summarizes my life, post-trail, up to this point. Oh, website wise, I updated some information such as its layout, updates, new pages, gear, links. Aside from the new information, I am in the process of evolving the blog into an outlet of personal thoughts, travels (past + future), and life. Updates will not be regular as I would like due to the number of more important life tasks such as grad school, but you as a reader can at least always count this website being live to reference whenever needed.

A year ago today…

A year ago today, I started my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. I want to keep this short…so here goes my attempt at short. 🙂 The Appalachian Trail will always be a special place for me.  When I look back at photos or my close friend’s artwork of those photos, I get emotional, left in astonishment that actually did happen.  It was the type of experience I don’t think I’ll ever be able explain ever fully. My go-to for a while was that had it had its up and downs, 😄 figuratively and literally.  I had some of my most strenuous and best days of my life on the trail.

Anyway, I am so very thankful to the community, my family, and friends who supported me through my journey. ❤️ I will never forget the generosity (The kind that really makes you reflect), refreshing (!!!), open-minded, supportive, charismatic, insanely awesome people I’ve crossed paths with.  To all who I have met on and off trail, thank you for being. 😊

 

As for the completion of the blog, I plan to complete it.  I lately have just not had the free time.