One of the perks of working at a big company is the paid travel. One of the downsides to working for a big company is the paid travel. So in about 6 weeks, they’re sending me to…China?
I am someone who hasn’t done much traveling in his life. When I was younger I lived in Florida for a few years, so I have had the chance to live on the ocean, which was great. I remember driving back and forth from Columbus, Ohio to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida and mentally checking off all the states I passed through as “states I’ve been to.” For some reason, it was a big deal to me to say I had been to 8 different states in my life. I don’t know why.
Anyway, as I grew up, the opportunities came and went and I added a few more states to that list (this time only checking them off if I ACTUALLY stayed there and saw more of the state than food exit signs and gas station bathrooms). I went to Oklahoma and Mississippi to play baseball. I went to Texas, New York and Washington D.C. for school trips. Then more recently, with my wife, I’ve gotten to check off Nevada (VEGAS!!!), upstate New York, Georgia and a few other weekend trips off my list. But I had still never been outside of the country.
Then I started working for an international company that is based out of Japan, that has production factories in Mexico and China, warehouses in Texas and a US headquarters in California. Well, they sent me to California to give a presentation and Texas to see how the product comes and goes, but then it was time to get my international sea legs wet. I went to Mexico a few weeks before my wife and I got married. She was certain that I would be decapitated by the cartels, but luckily I was only going about 3 miles past the US border and I made it back to the States in one piece.
Then my wife and I went back to Mexico for our honeymoon to a place slightly more exotic than Reynosa (although I hear the winters there are…just about the same as the summers probably).
So now I have to turn to a new page in my mental checkbook where I can start adding international destinations to the places I’ve been.
Then, about a week ago, I got told I am going to Tokyo to our head office, then to Shanghai, China to visit another one of our factories and meet some of our international employees. Before I come home, I’ll fly into Hong Kong where I’ll board a flight back to the US.
I guess part of me is excited about the idea of going to Tokyo and Shanghai. My wife, not so much (although she does get to sleep with the dog when I’m gone which I know she loves to do, but I wonder if she prefers it sometimes to having me there). When I first told my wife about the trip, the first thing she said was “Malaysia Airlines. You’ll eat dog. I’ll never see you again.”
I promised her I would be very careful and also learn how to say “no dog” in Chinese before I went.
Anyway, I am glad I am finally getting a chance to see different parts of the world outside of what I’m used to. I really wish it wasn’t a work trip and I could bring my wife, but I guess when these kinds of opportunities come up, you have to make the most of it and try to look at the bright side.
In general, I am not a very “stressed” person. My mindset is usually one where I absorb whatever unpleasant situation that might arise, decide that “what’s done is done” or “what will be will be,” and figure out how to move past it. Sometimes, I think people want to dwell on stress for entirely too long. I don’t know if it’s because they want to believe that their stress trumps anyone else’s stress or if they think there will be some sympathy on the back end from people. I know people who over dramatize whatever happens to them in order to, I can only imagine, almost make you envy them in some backwards kind of way. In any case, people handle stress in any number of ways.
Today is the Thursday before Easter. Every year since I can remember we would go out to my Dad’s side of the family for Easter Sunday and we would have a big dinner, which would usually take place at 12:00 or 1:00 which is still funny to me that it’s called dinner. Anyway, today I was looking through Facebook and I saw a post from my Sister-in-Law addressed to the Facebook page for the “Rauch Family Easter Dinner” explaining that she and my brother and niece weren’t going to be able to make it out this year.
Side Note: The fact that there is a Facebook page dedicated to our family holidays cracks me up. This is the family that 3/4 of the entire family lives on one stretch of road in Newark, Ohio and still has the same red barn I remember growing up. It seems like a world that will forever live in my memories, but now they have Facebook to organize holiday dinners.
I’m losing focus.
The point is, I completely forgot about going out to “the farm” this year for Easter. Usually by this time, I have talked to my Dad and we have arranged a time to get out there and when to leave. Here’s the point: it stresses me out that I will let my family down that I will not be out there this year. It stresses me out that, although it’s not like I am staying home, that I feel like I am losing touch with that side of my family. It stresses me out that my relationship with this side of my family exists more on Facebook than it does in real life.
Today, for whatever reason, I have been feeling stress more than most other days. A lot is happening in my life and maybe it’s all catching up to me. Maybe it’s normal to feel stress and my way of shrugging when the weight of the world hangs over me isn’t always the right way to handle stress. I’m stressed about moving. I know I should be excited to start looking for a house but I can’t help but wonder if I am ready or if I want to settle in Columbus, Ohio. I’m stressed that I can’t write more blog entries. I’m stressed that I don’t know what to blog about some days. I’m stressed that I cannot finish books. I’m stressed because I don’t have any money to play poker and even though I’m confident that I’d win, I cannot justify gambling money I can’t afford to lose. I’m stressed that I can’t justify buying a hat or a golf shirt I want (This could be a whole other blog post and it will be eventually. I have inability to buy things for myself. It is what it is.). I’m stressed that I have debt. I’m stressed that I pick at hang nails until they bleed. Stressed that I don’t know if I do this because I’m stressed or if I do it which causes me stress. I’m stressed that this list is getting so long. I’m stressed that I started in fantasy golf Graham McDowell instead of someone else and I only will have 6 starts left with him and he is shitting the bed.
So before I ramble off the edge…
I am not trying to turn this into a pity party blog entry and I am not trying to make it seem like what I stress about is any more or less important than anyone else. I know there are 100 million people who would read what I stress about and tell me how lucky I have it. And I think that’s why I never allow myself to show stress to anyone else. I feel like I am blessed to stress about things like hang nails and not being about to blog. But this way of thinking prevents me from stressing about the things that actually matter, like feeling like I am losing a part of myself because I am losing touch with the side of the family I do not identify with as much as I used to.
I think we stress because we cannot quite grasp what really matters. We stress about the little things because we don’t want to admit what really scares us. Fear and stress are very closely related. Stress is the blanket we use to hide ourselves from fear. My wife stresses out when I do not answer the phone when she calls because she thinks I got into a huge car crash. I stress about not seeing that side of the family enough because I fear the day when I don’t see them anymore. It doesn’t mean one stress is more legitimate than the other, rather, it means we all interpret our fears differently allow stress to affect us uniquely.
So how do we cure stress? Should we cure stress? Is there a world where we can honestly say we do not fear anything? I think we are born without fear and the more we understand and more we know, the more we learn to fear. I think the right approach is to embrace stress. Understand stress. If we can be honest with the reasons we stress about something and get down to the root of what we’re afraid of, we can learn to manage our fears and get through the hard times. To conquer stress, I believe we have to be honest about what we fear, decide if we are able and willing to address our fears, and ultimately either do something about it or learn to live with the daily worry that our true fear will someday come to fruition.
If you pick up a Men’s magazine in any given month, you’re likely to come across an article about what it means to “be a man” in today’s society. Now, if you’re reading Muscle and Fitness, you’re probably going to find out about how being a man means staying fit and pushing your physical “manliness” to new heights in the weight room. If you’re reading Esquire, being a man probably has more to do with what’s in your closet than what’s in your head. And I’m sure you could probably even find an article about what a man should be in technology magazines, hunting magazines, and maybe even a Playboy.
The point is, with all this conflicting information out there, men are likely to try and spread themselves too thin (both mentally and physically) by trying to be somebody else’s version of what they think a man should be.
Now I am by no means old enough to write a “this is what I’ve learned in my years” kind of an article. What I can write is a a list of simple truths that can apply to any man’s life no matter what age. Being a man isn’t about being stronger, smarter, more able to survive in the woods or even who has the longer……resume. It is about being comfortable enough with who you are to acknowledge your strengths and showcase them, recognize your weaknesses and work on them, and being able to handle whatever comes your way when life happens around you.
Know your strengths and weaknesses
Are you a computer-whiz? Does your life revolve around sports? In order to build a foundation in life, you have to know what you’re working with. Knowing yourself means you have to be honest with yourself, flaws and all. If you can’t walk into a room and strike up a conversation with every single person there, then you’re probably not going to be a good sports agent. That doesn’t mean that you have to give up your dream of signing the next LeBron James, but it does mean you have to work on some things before you can expect to make it in that industry. Knowing yourself means
Stand up for yourself and your family
There comes a point when being right is less important than standing up for yourself or your loved ones. The only time in life this does not apply is Jeopardy. Life is a playground game of dodgeball and you have to pick your team. Your wife, your kids, your friends and your family are your team. Sometimes your coworkers are on your team, and sometimes they’re on the other team. Sometimes your wife and your mother seem like they’re on different teams, but that’s when it’s your job to remind them you are all on the same side. The point is, if someone you care about is being attacked, or you can tell they are uncomfortable, then stand up for them.
If you tell somebody you are going to be somewhere, be there. If you tell somebody you’re going to do something, well you know. Sometimes, we fall into this trap of trying to please everyone around us and we end up letting more people down because of it. Don’t be afraid to tell someone you can’t do something if you know you wouldn’t be able to do it. Now, don’t take the easy way out and just refuse everything asked of you to protect yourself from letting people down. Do what you can to help where you can, but know that people will understand if you have to say “no” every now and then.
When you are young, your parents probably told you that you could be anything you wanted to be. Now, you read success stories and you hear people say “if you want something, you have to take it.” I know someone who has a masters degree and assumed that entitled them to a great job. This person is smart, but is not at all ambitious and is consequently working an hourly without much room to grow. Don’t let someone else take something that you want. Whether that is a girl, a job, or anything else in your life you have your eye on.
Have you ever watched a TV show and noticed how much “chatter” there is around what is actually happening? “Chatter” is visual busyness. If you’re in front of a TV, turn it to Fox News or CNN. You’ll probably see something like this:
Now that is an exaggeration, but it’s not too far off from reality. Don’t let “chatter” into your mind. If you are doing something, then just do it! Turn off the TV. Turn your phone on silent and let Twitter update without you for a few minutes. You’ll amaze yourself with what you can accomplish if you put your mind to something and see it through.
Think before you Act
For that matter, think before you speak too. For whatever reason, people think that the quicker you answer a question the more believable you sound. This is wrong. Take a minute next time someone asks you something and allow yourself time to process what they are saying. Think about what you want to say, then articulate it. If actions speak louder than words, do yourself a favor and make smart decisions instead of quick decisions.
Believe in Something
I will never say you have to believe in God. I believe that is up to each person to decide for themselves. But even an atheist needs to believe in something. Believe in yourself. Believe in the government, or the Yankees or even in the idea that Tupac and Biggie are somewhere on a beach laughing at the rest of us. The point is, you have to believe in something in order to ever get anywhere. Belief begets purpose, and a man without a purpose is a waste of space. Don’t be that guy who moans about how empty life is and how we are all just here and then we aren’t.
But don’t Believe Everything
Being a man means making up your own mind about things. Gone are the days of teachers telling us what is fact from fiction. Likewise, the days of mom and dad telling us right from wrong are over. Your life if full of questionable content. The New York Times released a study where they found the average American is exposed to anywhere from 3,000 to 20,000 ads per day. Conservatively speaking, lets say you sleep 6 hours a night. That means in the 18 hours you are awake every day, you will absorb an ad every 5-10 seconds. Think about that. Every ad is full of “9 out of 10 doctors recommend” or “studies have proven.” Give yourself some perspective when it comes to making decisions and don’t let anyone but you influence what matters to you.
Unless you are a UFC fighter, than there are very few things in life you can’t do while being considerate and thoughtful. And just because a man is kind does not make him weak. Be aware of the differences between being kind and being a pushover. Be kind, but know when you have to take a stand and when you have to say no to someone. Being kind makes you more likable, which makes people want to be around you and get your opinion on things. You will meet more people, and your kindness will give way to a more positive outlook on things.
Having perspective allows you many things, like never over looking people, never underestimating people, and always seeing a situation in more than one way. A lot of men think that being driven means you have to be so focused on the end goal that you lose sight of the people and places along the way. Be driven, but don’t be blinded by the light at the end of the tunnel. Be focused on where you want to go, but remember that there are plenty of ways to get there.
There is no handbook to what being a man is in today’s world. Everybody has to find there own way and there isn’t a self-help book or seminar in the world that will hand you what hard work allows you to earn. Being a man means being comfortable with who you are, and not letting anyone else’s ideas of what you should be or who you should be get in the way of what you want to be.