Experiments in Loving Life

Life is journey, let's enjoy it.

Schools are bad for passion

I think that formal education (College, University, High School) is just about the most surefire way to suck the passion and enjoyment out of learning and doing things.

Maybe I’m just being dramatic but I can say from personal experience that it definitely happens. Not always I suppose but it happened to me with photography, and it happened to me with coding. What’s that you say? It’s just a personal problem and I should suck it up? You know, I thought about that as a possibility.  Instead of going there, let’s talk about my love for photography.

pot

(See more images at the bottom of this post.)

I use to absolutely LOVE photography. I would go out on the weekends, on the weekdays, in the mornings, in the evenings, any time I could get out. If someone said they wanted me to take pictures for them I was like, SURE! I would LOVE  to do that! and then I started my freshman year at Pacific University as a photography major. Suddenly, I was being forced to take pictures of things that didn’t inspire me. That I didn’t like or enjoy, and that had absolutely nothing to do with where I wanted to take my photography when I graduated. On top of that these unpleasant assignments had deadlines that pushed my ability to do things and take pictures of things that I enjoyed far far away from reality. I couldn’t even do it on the weekends because I was busy writing essays on ghosts or doing Discrete Mathematics that was assigned Friday and due on Monday. And I hope I didn’t forget to mention that I was working 40 hours a week to pay my tuition bills that going into debt didn’t cover. I had no time. None whatsoever.

And so my only experiences with photography for the next two years were both rushed (because I was so busy) and they were unenjoyable (because I was photographing not what I wanted to photograph but what I was assigned to photograph.) And again, I understand if you think that’s just “How Life is.” College is super busy and you get through it. If you don’t like it then drop out. And by the way, if you drop out, you suck.

I disagree. I think that’s a terrible way to look at it. I believe that college is kind of . . . wrong. The way that it is set up now. It’s a system that encourages stress, unhealthy eating and living practices, and doesn’t focus on the things that you really love and want to do.

Anyway,I stopped studying photography, because, while I had once been making a steady income from what I was doing and loving, I began to hate what I was doing and loving. For the next two years, I pretty much only took pictures out of obligation, somebody wanted me to, somebody needed me to. Somebody knew that I was, at one point, a pretty decent photographer and wanted me to shoot something for them. And I never said no because I knew that I could do it. I just didn’t want to. And I always hated my results. I hated what I came home with on my memory card at the end of the day. It was so bad that I couldn’t give myself permission to delete bad photos because I would literally delete them all. Instead I would have to just give the files to whoever wanted them and hope they saw a few they liked.

I went to china for two weeks last October and brought my Camera. I shot over 1,000 photos and almost deleted all but 5 of them. Instead of deleting all the ones I didn’t like however I simply extra saved the ones that I like. I made them desktop backgrounds on my computer, put them in different folders, and then hid everything else in some deep subdirectory of my computer’s harddrive. 6 months later, early April of 2013, I was able to look through the images again briefly for about 15 minutes during which I pulled out another 3 images that I actually really liked and then put the rest of them back in that same subdirectory.

And then something crazy happened. I picked up my camera a few weeks ago and realized that, I actually WANTED to take pictures again. The traumatic horror of two years ago had finally begun to wear off. It was that point, when i tried to really take pictures again, that I realized my camera needed some open heart surgery and I sent it in to the doctor. And since I’ve gotten it back, I’ve been taking it out almost every other day and truly enjoying photography again. Something that I honestly never thought would happen. Which really just goes to show that it was in fact the external stimuli that was driving me away from what I enjoyed doing.

After all, how CAN you enjoy something if you never have time or the ability to do the parts of it that you find enjoyable? But isn’t that how life is? Everything is just so busy rush rush that if you have spare time to be doing something that you truly love you must be doing it wrong? No. Surely that can’t be right. It just sounds wrong. It doesn’t resonate with any bone in my body. I just can’t handle that being the truth.

And yet a very similar thing happened to me this last year when doing computer science at the University of Idaho. I enjoyed using programming languages. Nothing but symbols on my keyboard to make beautiful things happen. I truly enjoyed that. And then two semesters and 4 classes later when I hadn’t actually made a single thing because
a) I was being assigned meaningless little tasks that in no way advanced towards an end goal or outcome outside of, can you use an “ifstream” properly,

and b) taking 18 credits and working 40+ hours a week left me no time to work on personal projects that would advance towards some sort of goal or outcome. It just wasn’t happening.

And if just about the only thing that I need to feel is that I am accomplishing things and creating things and making life happen, when I don’t get any of those things, I slowly start to evaporate into a puddle of terrible feelings and sad emotions. Because I am not being fulfilled.

But isn’t it the case that most if not all people need to feel like they are working towards a goal and making things happen? Not just sinking into an ever expanding pool of quicksand? I would think so.

And if that isn’t the case then I guess I really am the problem. But if it is the case. If the vast majority of people on this planet have a deep need to feel like they are accomplishing things and working towards goals, then our education system does absolutely nothing for the vast majority of people but make them be miserable for the first 20 or so years of their life. And that’s a loooong time to be miserable.

Thankfully next year I will be both working on my senior project and be firmly entrenched in our project management class, both of which should keep me from feeling as though I am not doing anything worthwhile. 🙂

Would you like to see a couple of the pictures that I took yesterday?

carrots rope

Sometimes I like to pretend I’m a chef

It’s a true story. I get so excited when somebody is coming over and I get to fix THEM food. Put it on their plate. Arrange it all nicely. Ask them how it tastes and what I could do differently. I have this one friend that generally comes over at least once over the course of a weekend and plays a game of chess with me. And for anyone wondering, yes, she is the same person that I have yet to beat at a game. 0 – 1 – 6 is a beautiful record friends 🙂

Anyway, this friend, Savannah, pretty much likes ALL vegetables and fruits and things. Which is absolutely perfect for somebody who is secretly aspiring to be a Vegan Chef. I usually run a brief question by her, “Do you like such and such and such things?” And her usual reply is a resounding “YES!”

So Sunday night I had been planning on a sweet potato lentil Chili as I said last week, but at 80 degrees it just wasn’t going to happen.

So with a last minute run to the CoOp, I picked up what would eventually become three things:

– A rhubarb Compote
– A sweet potato
– And a steamed onion

Yes you heard me. A steamed onion.

I don’t know about you but I thought that sounded like an incredibly strange thing to eat. That being said, I can assure that an onion steamed with oregano and black pepper is nothing to pass up. Nothing at all.

I also cooked up the Jerusalem artichokes that I snagged at the farmer’s market last Saturday. Cooked at 400 degrees with peanut oil, thyme, black  pepper and a touch of salt. Equally delicious.

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My good camera was still in the hospital on Sunday so I apologize for the quality of the pictures. I promise they will be beter in the future. But you can’t tell me that that doesn’t look good.

The sweet potato would have been perfect all by itself; Organic, juicy, and perfectly orange as it was. Did you know that if you simply stab your sweet potato a bunch of times with a fork at stick it in the oven for an hour you will get a sweet potato with a caramelized inner wrapping seeping out of the newly discovered pores? That’s right. Sweet Potato caramel seeping from the sides. You should try it. Just make sure to put something down underneath it.

What really took the stage though was the rhubarb compote.

I first tried a variation of this two weeks ago at our local CoOp while they were giving out tastes of this on bread and I immediately knew that at some point I would be trying it out in my own kitchen.

I’m not much for doing things exactly the same every time so I don’t usually right recipes down but from what I can recall this one consisted of:

  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • some raisins
  • some ginger
  • 1/2 cup demerra sugar (you can use whatever kind you like)
  • 2 stalks of rhubarb

Put it all in a sauce pan (except the rhubarb) and heat gently on medium while stirring until the brown sugar has dissolved.

Chop the rhubarb into smallish bites.

Mix the rhubarb in with everything else.

And keep stirring until it looks like Jam.

Conventional wisdom says to serve this warm, and I certainly can’t argue with that. I kept stealing pieces of rhubarb out of the sauce pan and letting them melt into my mouth. SO Delicious.

But I really wanted it to be cold so that I could fully appreciate the contrast between the warmth of the sweet potato and the tangy chill of the rhubarb.

Like I said before, absolutely amazing.

Of course, cleaning everything up after our game of chess wasn’t exactly fun. Peanut sauce at 400 degrees becomes Tar fairly quickly.

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Do you have any secret aspirations? Like becoming a Vegan Chef? Let me know in the comments below.

Have a great evening!

~Austin

A lifetime of Inspiration

shoots

Sometimes Inspiration comes in oddly wrapped packages. An overheard compliment. Criticism. A smile. Roadkill. The ocean at 2 A.M. Illicit Kisses. Community Service. All these things have the power to represent some form of inspiration in our lives. All we have to do is tap into the universe and listen.

As I’m getting closer to going into my senior year I find myself thinking about things like,
“What do I want to do with my life?”
“Is this what I’m supposed to be doing?”
“Is my senior project going to take me where I want to go after graduation?”
“For that matter am I 100% sure of what my senior project is going to be just yet?”
“Am I prepared for this?”
“Am I good enough?”
“Can I do this?”
“Is my relationship going to let me do the things I want?”

And the list goes on and on.

Occasionally I think things like,

“I’m so excited to finally be done with these 4 years!”
“It took 20 years but I finally get to be an adult.”
“People will respect me soon.”
“I’m gonna have the best senior project ever!”
“Jeez I’m ready to be done.”

And other expressions of excitement to be at this point in my life.

But it is certainly clear to me that there are many many conflicting emotions bubbling around in my head. And so, what I try and make a point to remind myself is quite simply that I am indeed good enough to be graduating from college in 12 months. I worked hard to be here, and even if I didn’t take the most conventional route to get here, (transferring, changing majors, dropping classes, getting terrible grades for a semester, transferring back to where I started, spending 3 months trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, and just being generally conflicted) My life has still led me quite satisfactorily to this point. And regardless of what the future holds for me after these next 12 months are up, I can pretty much guarantee that it won’t be anything completely terrible.

By the way, I can see the question forming on your lips now,

“What does any of this have to do with inspiration?”

I thought that maybe I could tell you a story over the course of the month of May telling you about the different inspirations in my life that have gotten me to where I am today. I thought that it would be nice, not only to reflect on that, but to talk about how you can take inspiration from the everyday. I also thought that perhaps it would inspire some of you to reflect back on how you got to where you are today, and that’s really somewhere that you want to be. After-all shouldn’t we all be right where we want to be? And by the way, occasionally I feel as though for me, that’s playing the role of cashier at a whole foods grocery store or Food CoOp.

While I may not know exactly what I want to do with my life, I know that being a professional web developer has the potential to be extraordinarily fulfilling and that even if I don’t do that, there are plenty of other fulfilling options available to me.

I look forward to undertaking this journey of inspirations with you.

~Austin

rock steps

Oh by the way,

I took the first photo yesterday, it’s all my fairly grown up vegetable plants that I won’t have time to put in the garden this year.

And the I took the second one on a walk that I took yesterday with my friend Sandi 🙂

My Camera is back – Photos and Chess

I got my Camera Back today!

chess

This means (hopefully) no more terrible photos 🙂

In case you didn’t know, my camera has been in the hospital for the last week recovering from a lifetime of abuse. I couldn’t even manually set the shutter speed anymore. How terrible right?!? Anyone who loves their camera AND shoots in manual or even plays with manual from time to time can surely sympathize with my pain.

I had actually pretty much completely stopped taking photos because it was such a pain to use my camera. As somebody who had absolutely loved taking photos for 3-5 years I started dreading needing to use my camera. A little confusing I suppose but, sometimes life is confusing. I assumed it was because for some unknowable reason I had just become an incredibly terrible photographer over night. Either that, or my standards were raised higher than they should have been and I just felt like I was suddenly no good at taking pictures. I think another problem that I may have been having was that I lost all sense of objectivity, I would look at a photo and immediately think, I could have done better, this is crap. And quickly, my confidence in my ability to take pictures was shot to crap.

So when I got my camera back today I promised myself one thing, I am just going to enjoy taking pictures, and not really care if they are technically good or bad. All that I am going to choose to care about is that I enjoy the feeling of taking the pictures and that I kinda enjoy looking at them later.

And on the subject of that, here’s some pictures I took this weekend.

bike

This was a picture I took at our local farmer’s market this weekend while sitting on a bench and eating some Vegan doughKnots thats I regretted purchasing before the many even left my hand. Oh well. I was able to sit down and take this lovely picture with my point and shoot camera. I later (as I’m sure you can tell) turned about half the photo black and white. The blue tent in the upper left hand corner was just too overpowering.

chairGirl

I also took a picture of this lovely girl sitting in a char and listening to live music that was most definitely of an era long before she was born. I only know cause that’s how I felt and she didn’t look nearly old enough to be my mother and a half.

I also finished my chessboard this weekend! As I’m sure you could have guessed from my first photo.

earliest-chess

This is the first picture I have of what was then my soon to be chessboard. After one failed game that I blamed on not really being colored appropriately and distraction.

Shortly thereafter I had this . . .
laterChess

. . . with the laquer drying on the roof of my car. It definitely plays a good game now 🙂

Though I may have lost on it the first time I played on the finished board. I am determined to win before I leave this town.

I can’t wait to share with you what I ended up making for dinner sunday night! Though I warn you now, the pictures were taken with my point and shoot that has a terrible light sensor.

Until then,

Have an excellent late late evening. So late that it’s actually tomorrow. Which actually means,

I’ll catch you with some inspiration later today 🙂

Have a great one!

~Austin

Simplicity is hard

Hallelujah Friday! It’s definitely been a good week. Despite the fact that it was my first week back as a Delivery Driver on top of my day job as Web Coordinator of the College of Art and Architecture. 70 hour weeks for the win! Nah, I may complain from time to time about being busy but I’m really just thankful that I can pay the rent and eat as healthy as I want as a college student. No. In a state with 6.2% unemployment I am definitely thankful to have two jobs.

So, as most of you probably don’t know, I am an extreme minimalist. Or at least, I am on my way to becoming an extreme minimalist. I got rid of my bed back in October 2012. Ditched most of my clothes at a Goodwill in January. Dispersed an entire bookcase worth of things in February. And I keep going. I recently posted my external computer monitor on craigslist because, while it is certainly nice to have around, it definitely isn’t a necessity and I feel like I have a slightly unhealthy attachment to it.

But you see, as much as I run around getting rid of things, at some point I thought it would be a good idea to start filling those spaces back up. And I did it without any real conscious thought! That’s what bothers me the most! But the other day I started to feel crowded again and when I looked around I noticed that, just like before I got rid of everything, every single corner of my room was filled with something.  And while certainly in most of those corners it was plants, and plants are hardly bad, it struck me how extremely difficult it can be to live a minimalistic lifestyle because filling our lives with things just seems to be the way that things inherently work these days. Oh what’s that? you have space in your life? Fill it! Fill it Now! Surely I am not the only one who feels this way?

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And it’s interesting right? because while I am going out and trying to actively simplify my life and the things that I need and have and the things that cause me to use up my precious time, here I am purchasing LIVING CREATURES. That I have to take care of, lest they die. That doesn’t sound uncomplicated to me. No, it sounds much the opposite actually.

In an effort to re-simplify and get back to the necessities as defined by myself and not by society, when I move back to Portland in July I will be taking only what fits comfortably within the sphere of my Jeep. In fact, I may have to downsize long before then as I will be effectively homeless for 4 days in June while I am between leases. Everything that doesn’t fit in my car then will definitely just have to find a different home and I think that some of my plants just might be the first to go.

What are your thoughts?

What do you think is unnecessary? Should I keep the plants and lose something else instead?

Let me know in the comments,

~Austin

Yams Lentils and Snow

Hey there! How’s it going?

I’m super conflicted today! Because I really wanted to try my hand at a yam lentil chili sort of dish but it’s just SO warm outside! And Tuesday it was blizzarding! How can it go from 30 to 70 degrees in a 2 day time span? It just seems incredibly cruel.

And here’s a perfect example of why:

Tuesday morning I wake up with the window open and think to myself, “Huh, It’s pretty cold outside, better dress warm today.” And then go on merrily with the rest of my day. At around 1:00 I walk to the CoOp all bundled up in my jacket thinking, again to myself, “I’m certainly glad I wore a hat and gloves and a hooded coat today.” and I begin to notice snow falling from the sky and landing on the ground at my feet. 15 minutes later, seated at the CoOp And looking outside at snow falling harder than it had fallen for several weeks.

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It may not look like much in the picture but I assure you it was falling pretty hard. Regardless, all of a sudden this girl walks in wearing short shorts and a tiny t-shirt, a-shivering like Mad. And when I asked her if she was cold, she responded that she thought it was supposed to be 70 degrees.

This is the reason that weather should be consistent on a weekly basis. I propose that within 7 days, weather should never change by more than about 17 degrees Fahrenheit. Can we make that a rule somehow? Please? Who’s the God of Weather? I’ll go talk to him/her and put in the request.

Anyway, like I was saying, it’s a bit warm now and I’m not sure if Yam lentil chili still sounds completely as appetizing at it did on Tuesday.

Here’s the “recipe” I saw that made me think this sounded like such a good idea at the time.

IMG_0637

I think that instead of making this a chili I’ll make it more of a plated dish.

Yam
Honey
Lentils
Pecans
Nutritional Yeast
Currants
Black Pepper
spices to be determined
crushed tomatoes

What do you think?
Is there anything else I should add to this recipe in the making?

Have a wonderful Thursday evening!

~Austin

Inspiration #1

Hey guess what?!?

It’s the first Inspiration Tuesday Post!

And I’m going to start off by saying, have you ever met (or rather, have you ever heard of) Scott Dinsmore?

He’s a pretty awesome, and definitely an inspirational, person!

Here’s his Ted Talk!

I think that one of my favorite things that Scott talks about is the importance of finding that which drives you, that which makes you tick, and spending your time doing the things that you absolutely love.

In fact, Scott has created an incredible amount of resources regarding finding and living off of your passion at his website liveyourlegend.net.

Going through his course allowed me to learn much about myself, including what my strengths are, what I value, what I believe in, and more. Anyone looking to learn more about themselves and their passions would be well off to look at his work.

Have a wonderful evening!

 

~Austin

My Last free weekend and a return to blogging

Hey guess what? I’m back! It was a long break, but it was a necessary break. I needed some time to figure myself out. To learn what makes me tick. To understand my insideness, you know, the stuff inside me. I will be slowly integrating this site with my personal site austinprohl.com , and yes, it still needs plenty of work. But I’m partnering with my friend, mentor, and the most amazing designer that I know, Cecily Ellis Sakrison, to make things come together perfectly, or, at least as perfectly as a non-perfect system can be 🙂

I also have a posting schedule! It may change a little bit over time as I do this more and my desires and passions evolve but for now it’s gonna look like this.

Monday: Weekend Snapshot. A little bit about what I did, what I didn’t do. What I made. How I felt… The weekend! By the Way, I made a huge pot of spicy beans this weekend. I also managed to burn them three times. Yes, three. Ridiculous I know.

Tuesday: Things that inspire me, get me fired up, etc.

Wednesday: What I’m working on now.

Thursday: Any recipe’s that I’m either planning on attacking over the weekend, perfected last weekend, enjoyed during the week, you name it. Thursday is food day!

Friday: Thoughts on life. How the week went. How things are going. What I think, believe, etc. and why I think, believe, etc. it too.

Yep! Super excited! Just in case you weren’t sure, that’s 5 posts a week. 5 * 52 means 260 posts over the course of the next year. Do you think I can hit the mark? I betcha I can! Certainly I can hit 200! That gives me an entire two months worth of bad days. Shouldn’t really be too much of an issue.

But anyway, I just thought I’d et you know that I am back! OH! And I’m moving to Portland! Not sure if I mentioned that earlier or not. I’m definitely moving back to Portland!

Have a great Monday and I’ll catch you with some inspiration tomorrow 🙂

~Austin

Hugs and Human Contact

Since becoming single on the first of January, I’ve been spending a significant amount of time trying to be wholesomely alone. Embracing the benefits of alone-time and trying to figure out what I value, and how I want to spend my time. It’s been good, and I definitely as though I have grown over the past month. However I would be lying if I was to say that I didn’t miss being with somebody.

I have heard, many many times, that it is essentially impossible to be entirely happy and healthy if you do not get at east 12 hugs a day. While the number 12 is almost certainly incredibly arbitrarily chosen, I feel as though there is definitive merit to the idea that without a certain amount of human contact on a daily basis, we are not meeting our human needs as completely as we should be.

And upon consideration, the idea makes sense.  We are, after-all, social creatures. And if you subscribe to any sort of psychology, Maslow’s hierarchy of needs place love/belonging below only our biological needs and our need for safety. Seems like a pretty high indicator that physical contact with other humans is pretty significant.

And after almost two months of having not received a single hug, I have definitely begun to feel the lack of human contact.

So this week will be dedicated to making plans for the coming weekend. To do what, I honestly don’t know. With who? I have a couple of ideas. 😉 I’ve got a friend I do calc with who is newly single, a co-worker 11 years older than me that I might have a chance with, and, beyond that, I’ll figure something out 🙂

So here’s a question,

Is it wrong, to be seeking human contact just for the sake of human contact?

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