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I just returned from my college reunion at Hamilton College in Clinton, NY. I won’t tell you what number reunion it was for me, but I’ll just say it was “a big round number” as I like to call these things. We had about 30-35% of the graduating class back, and, while this is the third time I’ve been back to College Hill, it is the first time that I was there where I felt like I was fully present. I think that a lot of people step into sites that were scenes from earlier in their lives and they revert to the person they were there, and stop being the person they are now. I’ve done that in the past, and was working really hard to be present in the fullness of who I am now.
One thing that I think is the norm for any college reunion is drinking. I think I had more in 30 hours than I normally have in a month! I was lucky to be staying in campus housing so I didn’t have to drive anywhere. In some ways I think that is to numb yourself from feeling everything as well as to try to relive your old activities, and get away from the staid live of the present. I got to see a number of friends that I was close to while I was a student, including choir buddies (I sang most of my time there are was a
member of numerous singing groups), roommates (Eric, I swear I will go to Wellesley soon in the Meditate Mass 351 Challenge. Thanks for following!), suitemates (great to meet your family Dave!), and even people I never talked with while I was there. I even met someone who I never spoke with in my four years on campus to find he lives a little over a mile away and might be interested in my career consulting (yup, it’s a tax deduction right there!). I even got to go rock climbing for the first time in my life. They certainly never had that when I was on campus!
I also tried to do some thing that are being true to me. There was a yoga class that I took, and I first did yoga on campus where I was the only student to an upperclass woman from Brazil. That, and the health food store in the village of Clinton were things that got me to think about health issues and set me up for the 26 years that I’ve been a vegetarian. These were the seeds that grew to make me who I am now.
A really new thing for me was that I got to attend a GLBT Alumni gathering. I was not out to myself then and very few people on campus were. Now they have a building where they have programming and are very visible on campus. In talking with a number of the current students, it sounds like it’s not always the easiest thing, it’s a lot different than my time. I also got to meet other GLBT alums and find out that there’s a GBLT Alumni group! It’s amazing to think of being all of myself there. (Note: another gay alumnus of Hamilton wrote a great article for the New York Times about his experiences at reunion, which mirrors a lot of what I’m saying here.)
There are three things that really struck me while I was there:
- One of my fellow alums was there who really made an impression on me. I didn’t know her that well while I was on campus, but we knew each other enough to say hello and chat. She’s obviously had challenges in her life as she was walking with a walker and utilized an iPad to type out what she had to say that couldn’t be relayed in hand gestures. She was in yoga class with me, and was everywhere during the weekend. I know that she had some assistance, but she was very self determined and was definitely showing up fully as she is today. I didn’t get to speak with her much, but I did tell her she if a very strong woman.Thank you, Classmate, for your presence.
- A friend of mine that I’m still connected on Facebook asked me what it was like being gay in college and if I was out, did I hide it from people, etc. She said it must have been very difficult and she felt badly that she couldn’t have done something to make it a better experience. This was totally unprompted and really made me feel cared for. It was something small, but made a big difference in my heart.Thank you, Friend, for your presence.
- While I was not out in college, there was a guy who was. He was an athlete and well liked, and was really the first colleague that I had that was out. I didn’t have the words for it at the time, but I realize now that he was the first guy I had a crush on. Unbelievably, he was there and I got to say thank you to him for being out, and that it made a difference to me even though I didn’t come out then. He said it was awkward, but he knew that he had to do it. I wish I could have been that brave.Thank you, Role Model, for your presence.
I was working hard at being present and being me authentically while I was there. This is difficult in lots of situations, but by forcing myself to do that, I gained some strength and that I can be more me in any situation and can take that into my future.
So, are you being present even when it’s tough?
It’s past Memorial Day, so in these parts it means that summer is officially in session. I know that many people have a reading list for the summer. I have not been one of those people. I don’t tend to read books as a “start here, finish book, start the next” type of reader. I tend to pick up about four or five books and read them spottily and sometime finish them, sometimes not.
My bookshelf has been crammed with books that I thought would be great to read, but I’ve never gotten to them. In the quest to be more intentional and to actually do things that I say I want to do, I’ve decided to publish my summer reading list and write a review of each book after I’m finished. I don’t tend to read fiction and as you’ll see most of them have something to do with spiritual, career, or productivity matters (or all three at once!) I wish I liked to read fiction, but as you see they are all non-fiction
Here are the books that I’ve decided I want to try to finish this summer:
- The War of Art by Steven Pressfield: This book has been suggested to me more times that I can imagine from so many people, and I understand this is about how we can be with our creative selves.
Transitions by William Bridges: Career development is all about changes, and this is the standard book in my field. I’ve never read it before, so this is sort of my “good medicine” that I really need to experience.
- Embracing Your Inner Critic by Hal Stone & Sidra Stone: I, like so many, have some internal issues to work though, and this book was recommended by my friend Elsa (a mental health counselor) as a good resource for looking at this issue.
- Planets in Work by Jamie Binder: Another recommendation from Elsa. I have been researching archetypes, and I’ve been looking at how those show up in astrological readings. This looks at how astrology could be used in career development decisions.
- A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle: This book was given to me by Casey Miller and he read this many times on his cross country bike trip. I’ve seen videos of Tolle speaking, but never read any of his works. It’s about time.
- Awakening in Time by Pamela Kristan: I was at a presentation Pam gave at the Theosophical Society of Boston, and Pam’s work has to do with the intersection of productivity and spirituality. As you can imagine, this is right up my alley. I had to see how I can incorporate her ideas into my work.
- Living & Loving Well by Joseph Stuczynski: Joe presented at Easton Mountain a few years ago, and his work focuses on getting clear with our values in order to make good decisions in our lives, especially about our personal relationships. This is more of a workbook to clarify your goals, so this should be a quick win in getting it done!
- Mastering Respectful Confrontation by Joe Weston: Joe is an amazing human being and presenter, and I have been to numerous workshops that he has done, and this book puts done in words what he preaches. Joe’s main concept is that the concept of power in our culture has gotten to be connected more with physical strength and power over others, and he bases his alternative vision on Easter philosophy as the power within and with other people, and how we can have conversations that empower everyone and don’t deny our own needs. This is great stuff!
- Making It All Work by David Allen: I have been a “Getting Things Done” (GTD) fan for a number of years, as David Allen’s philosophy about personal productivity is all about how to free yourself from the stress of life and having a “mind like water” so that you can easily accomplish things in your life without fretting about them. I was lucky enough to attend a seminar last year that David personally taught, and Making It All Work is the continuation of those theories.
- How to Eat, Move, and Be Healthy! by Paul Chek: In 2008, I was part of an online weight loss challenge through RealJock.com (which I won!) and DIAKADI Body was the exercise consultants on this. Though continuing to follow their great advice, I found out about Paul Chek’s work, which integrates the concepts of health, exercise, and nutrition with a more holistic & spiritual sense that really attracted me. I don’t know it so well, but have liked what I’ve seen.
- Mindfulness by Ellen Langer: This book was given to me by my boss back in the early 1990′s, and while I’m obviously interested in it, I never finished this book that was one of the first on the subject. It’s time. Thanks Dave!
- Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert: Dan’s research into what makes us really happy (as opposed to what we say makes us happy) has been really enlightening to me, as I work with people to get at the core of their happiness.
- Eating Free: The Carb-Friendly Way to Lose Inches, Embrace Your Hunger, and Keep Weight Off for Good by Manuel Villacorta: In the aforementioned weight loss challenge, Manuel’s crew at MV Nutrition in San Francisco was invaluable to giving me the knowledge to eat better and lose weight. This is a new book that just came out last month, and again, I need to read it to remind myself of all the knowledge that I’ve learned (and maybe forgotten!) I highly, highly recommend that you pick up this book!
I might not get them all finished by Labor Day but it’s an intention (not at goal!).
So, what are you reading? Do you have any comments or experiences with any of these books?
On the way out of West Stockbridge to get back on the highway, I noticed a sign for West Center Road and Alford Center. I had never even heard of Alford. Since there was a road here, I figured it wasn’t too far off. When I came back after my reunion weekend, I decided to take a side trip to Alford.
It was a little further than I though, but I guess I shouldn’t be surprised when you’re in that rural area of the state. It was a very pretty area, and it seemed like the type of place that’s a destination, as you wouldn’t go through it to get anywhere else. When I finally got to the center of town, it was just about as quiet as the roads I had been driving. In fact, in the 10 minutes that I hung around and walked the town center, there were only about 5-10 cars that passed through. It’s sort of what my father would call “a wide place in the road”. On one side, there’s the church and the cemetary, and a small building that I think is the town offices. On the other side is a building that houses the library (I think it said that it’s open from Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.) with a function room. There was a sign outside announcing a monthly community pot luck.
Upon looking at the website for the town (and the Wikipedia site), I see that it’s the third smallest town in the Commonwealth in terms of population (with 300 or so people) and only Monroe and Gosnold are smaller). The town has its own police, fire and public works departments, but does not have its own post office, and there isn’t cable service in town. They are right next to some bigger towns (notably Great Barrington) so they can get what they need from working with other municipalities.
So, do you know what skills you don’t posess and where to get them?
In the ever engaging pursuit to visit all 351 towns and cities in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, I’m always looking for an excuse to go to some place that I’d never been before. In the first week of June, I went to my college reunion at Hamilton College in Clinton, New York. As I was driving out there and going the length of the state, I thought I should use this opportunity to get off the highway and visit a new place. A number of years ago, I hit a traffic jam right at the New York-Massachusetts border and got off the highway to go around it, and drove through West Stockbridge, but I didn’t stop. This time I was determined to actually see what was there.
I got into the town center and stopped, as I figured this was a good enough place to get out my lunch. I walked around the block (there’s not too much here!) and saw most of the town with seems to be centered on the Housatonic River. Right next to the river, I found the type of store that is so ideosyncratic that it could only be in a town like this. Charles Baldwin and Sons is in an old mill building right next to the river, and it’s been in business since 1888. Right now, it sells lots of little knick knacks and other things that would fascinate a 4 year old. The most interesting thing about it is that they are famous for their vanilla extract. They’ve been making it for over 100 years and a few years ago Martha Stewart mentioned them in her magazine and their sales went through the roof. They still have the old fashion cash register, but they also sell on line. In addition to vanilla extract, they also sell a lot of other different kinds. I got root beer, pistachio, and black walnut.
Across the street is the hardware store that’s been around almost as long, and was founded by AW, the brother of Charles Baldwin. They tend to stay loyal to what they do well here.
So, what skill do you have that your good at and you keep improving?