A Short List of my Rejections: 2013-2016

rejection

 

“Never compare someone’s highlight reels to your behind the scenes footage.”

 

We all like to publish our achievements on social media, regardless of what that achievement is.

 

Over the years I have notified my friends via social media on:

 

  • New jobs
  • Articles published on a reputable blogs
  • Short stories that were published in magazines
  • My weight loss
  • My participation in various conferences
  • My travels

 

These are just a few achievements I’ve been happy to share on Facebook and Instagram.

 

But no one likes to brag about what they were not able to achieve, and because of that I have decided to compile a list of things that didn’t go my way. Whether it was declining to accept a short story I wrote, a fellowship application, or a job.

 

Please keep in mind that this list is just documenting the organizations and people who responded back to me. Many gave me their “no,” by simply not responding at all.

 

I hope this post reminds you that persistence and tenacity do pay off.

 

 

Dear Sean,

 

Thanks for submitting “In the Name of the Father,” but I’m going to pass on it. It didn’t quite work for me, I’m afraid. Best of luck to you placing this one elsewhere, and thanks again for sending it my way.

 

 

From Nightmare Magazine

 

Dear Sean,

 

Thanks for submitting “The Stairway to Heaven,” but I’m going to pass on it. It didn’t quite work for me, I’m afraid. Best of luck to you placing this one elsewhere, and thanks again for sending it my way.

 

 

From Nightmare Magazine

 

Thank you for submitting your work to IMAGINATE. We received hundreds of submissions, and had the difficult chore of narrowing down the selections for our next issue. Unfortunately, your story was not chosen.

 

If you’ve submitted other work not mentioned here, you will receive another e-mail soon with regards to those.

 

We hope you’ll check out the next issue of IMAGINATE, and that you’ll consider submitting to us again in the future. Thanks for helping spread the word, and for participating in the process.

 

Best wishes on your writing journey!

 

Sincerely,

 

Dear Sean Goodman,

 

Thank you for submitting “The Stairway to Heaven ” to Apex Magazine. We appreciate the chance to read it. Unfortunately, we don’t feel it is a good fit for us and we’re going to have to pass on it at this time.

 

Thanks again. Best of luck with this.

 

Sincerely,

 

 

Dear Sean,

 

Thank you for submitting “Homo Superus” to Pseudopod. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite meet the needs of our podcast.

 

Thanks for submitting, and best wishes for you and your work.

 

Submissions Staff

Pseudopod

 

 

Dear Mr. Goodman,

 

We appreciate that you submitted your story to The Lovecraft eZine.  However, it just doesn’t fit what we are looking for.

 

If you want to submit it elsewhere, here is a list of anthologies and/or magazines that are looking for Lovecraftian or Weird Fiction submissions:http://lovecraftzine.com/calls-for-submissions/

 

We hope that’s helpful.

 

Sincerely,

 

Dear Sean,

 

We appreciate that you submitted your story to The Lovecraft eZine.  However, it just doesn’t fit what we are looking for.

 

If you want to submit it elsewhere, here is a list of anthologies and/or magazines that are looking for Lovecraftian or Weird Fiction submissions:http://lovecraftzine.com/calls-for-submissions/

 

We hope that’s helpful.

 

Sincerely,

 

Lovecraft eZine editorial staff

 

 

Dear Sean,

 

 

We are terribly sorry for addressing the wrong e-mail to you.  This is what happens when we write e-mails when caffeine deficient.

 

We liked “The Daughters of Terra,” especially the environmental message.  However it lacks the Cthulhu and romance elements which we are looking for in this anthology.

 

 

Hi, thanks for your submission to Creepypasta!

Your submission has been posted here:

For more information about why your pasta was placed on Crappypasta rather than scheduled for the main archive, please note the category you were assigned and read its description here:

Feel free to use any feedback you get there to rewrite & resubmit. Remember, being posted on crappypasta doesn ft always mean that we disliked your story! Oftentimes it means that we DID, but feel that it just needs a tiny bit more work before we give it the green light.

 

Dear Sean,

 

Thank you for sending us “Dreams in July.” We appreciate you considering “Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things” as a potential home for your writing.

 

We have decided not to include this piece in an upcoming volume of our anthology. However, since multiple readers review each submission, you may find the following excerpts from their notes useful or interesting. Please keep in mind that the intent is never to denigrate or dismiss the merits of your work, but to provide you with insight into how this piece affected a specific group of readers.

 

 

To All Mitchell Scholarship Applicants:

I want to thank everyone for your terrific applications for the 2015 Mitchell Scholar class.  We received close to 300 completed applications and will interview about 10% of those candidates next week.

I have spoken with all semi-finalists for the Mitchell Scholarship by phone and sent a follow-up e-mail.  Only those notified this week will move forward in the process.  I wish everyone well in your future endeavors.

 

Kind regards,

 

Thank you very much for your application to the Herbert Scoville Jr. Peace Fellowship for the fall 2014 semester. We received 197 applications; unfortunately, you were not among the small number of applicants chosen for an interview.

 

Our board of directors places a premium on applicants with strong academic and activist backgrounds in peace and security issues. We received applications from many people with training in international relations who were not selected because they lack a background in international security or related issues. In addition, the board gives priority to applicants who have not had substantial prior public-interest or government experience in Washington, DC. The board members who review the applications do not provide me with written feedback on each candidate and therefore I am unable to comment on the reasons why a particular applicant has not been chosen for an interview. Please refer to our website’s section on selection criteria for how we evaluate candidates.

 

You may wish to pursue paid employment or an internship with one of the organizations participating in the Scoville Fellowship by contacting these organizations directly.

 

Women In International Security publishes job listings of positions in the arms control and international security fields. Their website is

http://wiisglobal.org/wordpress1/wiis-jobshotline/

 

You may also wish to visit

Foreign Affairs’ Job Board

http://jobs.foreignaffairs.com/

 

the Job Board of Young Professionals in Foreign Policy

https://ypfp.org/jobs/recent

 

 

Dear Sean,

 

Thank you for your application to the 2015 Humanity in Action Fellowship.  We regret to inform you that you have not been selected as a Humanity in Action Fellow this year.

 

The Humanity in Action selection process is rigorous and very competitive.  Because of the large number of applicants and the limited number of positions available in our fellowship programs, we are mindful that every year excellent applicants must be turned down. This year was particularly competitive, with a record number of truly outstanding and inspiring applications.

 

We welcome you to reapply next year if you are eligible to do so. Please remember that you are eligible to reapply within two years of receiving your undergraduate degree.  Each annual application pool is evaluated independently, which means that the outcome of this year’s selection process will have no bearing on the next.

 

Once again, thank you for your interest in Humanity in Action, and we hope to hear from you again in the future.

 

All the best,

 

Dear Sean,

 

Thank you for your application to the 2014 Humanity in Action Fellowship.  We regret to inform you that you have not been selected as a Humanity in Action Fellow this year.

 

The Humanity in Action selection process is rigorous and very competitive.  Because of the large number of applicants and the limited number of positions available in our fellowship programs, we are mindful that every year excellent applicants must be turned down. This year was particularly competitive, with a record number of truly outstanding and inspiring applications.

 

We welcome you to reapply next year if you are eligible to do so. Please remember that you are eligible to reapply within two years after graduation from college.  Each annual application pool is evaluated independently, which means that the outcome of this year’s selection process will have no bearing on the next.

 

Once again, thank you for your interest in Humanity in Action, and we hope to hear from you again in the future.

 

All the best,

 

Humanity in Action Admissions

(I applied twice)

 

Thank you for applying for The Nexus Fund’s Fellowship. We appreciate your interest in our organization and your commitment to the prevention of mass atrocities.

 

We received more than 500 applications for the position, and the hiring process has been a very competitive one. Although we were impressed with your qualifications, we have decided not to move your application forward. However, we greatly appreciate your interest in working with us and wish you the best!

 

Dear Peace Fellow Applicant,

 

Thank you very much for your application for the 2014 Fellowships program for The Advocacy Project (AP).

 

We were very impressed by your application materials but are unable to offer you a position at this time. This year we received 400 applications for only 14 Fellowship positions.

 

We thank you for your interest in working with AP and wish you success in your future career.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

Dear Sean,

 

Thank you for your call this afternoon.

 

I regret to inform you that at this stage in the application process, inability to participate fully in Orientation precludes the possibility of participation in the coming Volunteer year.  We are not able to offer you a position as a Volunteer for the 2014-2015 academic year.

 

If a future opportunity arises wherein you might dedicate a year to service at LCS, you would be welcome to apply once more. We very much enjoyed getting to know you during your interviews and appreciate your time.

 

Please know that you are welcome to contact me with questions and that we prayerfully wish you all the best.

 

Peace,

 

Dear Sean:

Thank you for applying to City Year New Orleans. Unfortunately, we are unable to offer you a position at this time. City Year New Orleans received an overwhelming number of high-quality applications, demonstrating that the spirit of national service as a way to address the education crisis in America is thriving among young people.

We encourage you to continue serving your community and strongly suggest that you explore other AmeriCorps or service programs in your local area or preferred region. Please visit: http://www.americorps.gov/for_individuals/choose/index.asp for an interactive way to connect your interests and talents with other AmeriCorps programs across the country. Continued and demonstrated experience with service, tutoring, mentoring, or leadership all help to strengthen your candidacy, should you choose to reapply to City Year for the 2015-2016 program year.

Once again, thank you for your interest in City Year. We wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

Yours in Service,

 

Dear Sean,

Thank you for submitting an application for Teach For America’s 2014 corps. We appreciate the time and effort you put into applying. Log on now to the Applicant Center* to view the status of your application. 

Sincerely,

The Applicant Experience Team
Teach For America Admissions

 

*link notified that I was not accepted.

Five More Organizations That Give Me Hope for the Future

hope

Since today is the International Day of Peace, I have decided to highlight five more organizations that give me hope for the future.

 

Most of these organizations I have worked with directly, and have been mentioned many times before in previous posts. This just goes to show the continuous impact they have had on my life, and on the lives of others. If you are unfamiliar with these organizations and would like to learn more about their work, I would be more than happy to get you in contact with any one of them.

 

 

The Olive Tree Initiative

 

This is the organization that started it all for me. Beginning in 2007, The Olive Tree has given students the opportunity to travel to Washington D.C., Israel, the West Bank, Jordan, as well as Turkey, Armenia, and Georgia as a way to promote conflict analysis and resolution.

 

I joined the Olive Tree Initiative in 2012, and have been passionate about their mission ever since. What they have done and continue to do has had a great effect on the way I see the world.

 

Muslim Jewish Conference

 

If the Olive Tree Initiative helped changed the way I see the world, the Muslim Jewish conference reaffirmed the way I look at it now. Having its first conference emerge out of Austria in 2010, it has had 7 consecutive annual week-long conferences throughout Europe since.  Bringing students, activists, and young professionals from all over the world from multiple religious and ethnic backgrounds, providing a safe space to discuss various issues in an interfaith dialogue setting.

 

Youth to Youth Initiative

 

I participated in the first The Youth to Youth conference in Lithuania, 2015 and it made me take a 180 degree turn of what I wanted to do with my life. This is an incredible initiative that aims to promote youth involvement in the decision making process of their communities. It has connected me to so many young individuals that are trying to bring about change around the world that it is hard to view the world in a pessimistic light when I think of them.

 

Daughters for Life Foundation

 

This organization was created to invest in the education of girls and young women across the Middle East. They believe that, “Empowering girls and young women through education, is the key to long lasting peace in the Middle East and the rest of the world.” What truly gives me hope is the organization’s founder, Dr. Izzeldin Abuelaish. I recently finished his biography, which details his loss of his three daughters, “I Shall Not Hate: A Gaza Doctor’s Journey,” and it is one of the most heart wrenching books I have ever read. But it is his call for peace that provides the brightest ray of hope. If he can strive for peace, anyone can.

 

Free the Kids

 

In 2011 I visited Haiti all through the help of Free the Kids. Seeing the conditions of Haiti only a few months after the earthquake was the first time I saw extreme poverty first hand. But upon stepping foot on the grounds of the orphanage I would be staying at for the next week, I saw the smiles and sensed the happiness of the 450+ children. It taught me that the smallest gesture of kindness can mean the world to someone else.

 

 

And with that, have a happy, peace-filled day.

The Six Most Fascinating Places I’ve Visited (U.S. Version)

the-road

I’ll never forget flipping through the pages of Jack Kerouac’s famous novel, “On the Road,” as I sat on a 10-12 hour plane ride from Rome to Newark, New Jersey. It was the first time I was exposed to Beat culture and the love for the open road. Reading his famous lines, and having just finished my first visit to Europe was the first time I received a bite from the travel bug.

 

Come to think of it, I have been to more countries than I have states. The biggest reason for this is because I find the rest of the world to be ever changing and, whereas I find the U.S. to be stagnant and much too similar to my home in California.

 

With that being said, I still find the U.S. to be a fascinating country on its own accord, and can understand wholeheartedly why Americans travel domestically.
So, without further ado, here are the six most fascinating places I’ve visited in the U.S.

 

Washington, D.C.

dc

I have been to the nation’s capital on three separate occasions, and each visit has left a different, yet powerful impression on me. Whether it was a feeling of heartbreak I felt when I read the names on the Vietnam Memorial, the patriotism I while reading Lincoln’s famous words, or the self reflection about race relations gazing at the relatively new dedication to Martin Luther King, Jr.; Washington, D.C. represents the best of what my country stands for.

 

Crater Lake, Oregon

 

I finally understand why Oregon based punk band Broadway Calls wrote the song, “Back to Oregon.” When I would take annual visits up to the state of Washington, one of my favorite parts was driving through Oregon. Personally, I think Oregon is the most beautiful state in the U.S. – overriding Hawaii. Having a depth of nearly 2,000 feet, Crater Lake is the deepest lake in the United States. It is so vast that breathtaking is the best word I can find to describe it.  While there are plenty of other beautiful sites to see, this one took the cake for me.

San Francisco, California

sf

What’s not to like about this incredible city? Growing up near Los Angeles, I didn’t know what to expect when I first stepped off the plane, and boy, was I in for a big surprise. LA pales in comparison the vast density and monumental architecture of San Francisco. Whether it was visiting the famous Warf, witnessing the diversity in culture, or participating in the superiority of its public transportation, I felt that San Francisco was truly unique and remarkable.

 

Port Townsend, Washington

 pt

I didn’t realize how beautiful the Pacific Northwest is until I visited Port Townsend. The weather is cool and crisp, and the location seems oddly cut off from the rest of the world. Though it has a population of 9,000, I still felt like I was in a small town. The natural beauty combined with the city’s personality will always hold a special place in my heart.

 

San Juan Capistrano, California

sjc 

Okay, this city is literally a ten minute drive for me, and even though I frequent the local coffee shop known as Hidden House about once a week (which serves the best coffee in South Orange County), I still find myself feeling as if I’ve stepped into a different world each time I visit. The Spanish and Mexican influence is impossible to miss, and the peacefulness provided by the Mission (regardless of how I feel towards its past) makes me grateful that such a place exists down the street from me.

 

New Orleans, Louisiana

Me, my pops, and my brother J.P.
Me, my pops, and my brother J.P.

 

Maybe it’s the fact that Louisiana was the first state I ever visited outside of California. Maybe it’s the fact that the humidity was unlike anything I had ever experienced before. Or maybe it’s the fact that my ancestors settled here before it was even a part of the U.S. Whatever it is, Louisiana – the city of New Orleans in particular – is the most fascinating place I’ve visited in the U.S.  The best food in all of the United States can be found here: Catfish, Shrimp Étouffée, and Jambalaya are staple Cajun dishes. In addition to the food, there is a combination of Spanish, French, Cajun, African, and Creole culture that is unlike anywhere else in the United States.

 

Do you agree or disagree? What did I miss? Where are some places in the U.S. you think I should visit? Let me know in the comments below!

 

If you like what you read, consider subscribing for bi-weekly updates on traveling and health!

Why You Should Ease Your Way Into Change

change

I am back home and back on the exercise routine once again! This time I am playing it safe. I am slowly getting back in the mix of things so I don’t tear any muscles or tire myself out before I head into work. Which leads me into the topic I want to discuss today with all of you: easing your way into change.

 

How many times have you told yourself, “Tomorrow I am going to go on a diet and lose 10 pounds in two months”?

 

You start by bringing a kale salad to work with no dressing, drink only water, and finish your night with a can of tuna fish with no mayonnaise. You continue this lifestyle for a little over a week and then it’s back to all you can eat sushi or extra large fries with your double cheeseburger. Only you can answer that question, but I can only speak for me, and my answer is: too many times.

 

The same can be applied to working out. You tell yourself you will go to the gym four times a week, working yourself tirelessly before day three hits and all you want to do is binge watch a T.V. series from 2008 on Netflix.

 

I know this all too well, because that’s exactly what I did.

 

That’s because I never understood easing my way into change.

 

If you’ve been following my transformation story, you would know that my philosophy is that it’s all in the baby steps. When you want to change, you can’t step on the accelerator – you will burn out way too fast. If you pace yourself, you will find success.

 

So what am I going to do? I’m going to ease into it. A few pull-ups there, a few practice handstands here, a couple of days dedicated towards cardio.

 

If you’re in my position, remind yourself not to give up. You had it before.

 

Go out and get it again!

How I Found Peace in a Former Nazi Concentration Camp

peaceinconcentration

The bus drive felt like an eternity. I gazed out the window to look at the Berlin scenery, a collage of modern homes and forests that could have been the source of inspiration for any popular fantasy derived from German folklore. I thought to myself, “Were atrocities committed in these very woods? Or is this where so-called fugitives found sanctuary?” I knew where we were heading, but as the bus continued on down the highway I wondered if the prisoners held the same knowledge.

 

This past August I was a member of the Muslim Jewish Conference in Berlin, a seven-day conference that consisted of over 150 Jews, Muslims, and non-affiliates, such as myself, from all over the world. Part of our itinerary was a visit to the former Nazi concentration camp known as Sachsenhausen, a political prisoner camp that was in operation from 1936 until the destruction of the Third Reich in 1945.

 

As I stepped off the bus, the first thing I noticed was that the place was inconspicuous; lush trees and neighborhood homes surrounded it. We entered the camp by our committees, which consisted of about 20-30 participants per committee. A young PhD student led the tour, beginning with being seated in what felt like a classroom – Powerpoint introduction and all. As we started the walking tour she described to us how the prisoners were treated upon entering, the short biography of some of the individuals was there, and how they were marked with identification badges by religion, nationality, sexual orientation, and political affiliation. The tour felt strangely impersonal, as if we were simply being taken through the motions, as if were being communicated to us what the prisoners went through themselves.

tour

I continued to take pictures on my dated Nikon D60, because I found the area to be beautiful yet totally in opposition to what exactly happened over half of a century ago. I felt like I was on a film set about a concentration camp, or as if we were part of a test group for a virtual reality simulation. I’m not sure if it was shock or disbelief that made me feel this way, but it’s the only way I can explain my surreal feelings at the time.

odd-beauty

When we entered one of the barracks, a sickening fragrance hit my nose that I will never forget. It was that musty scent you receive after something has been burned, and it wasn’t just me, everyone felt the oppressing stench that filled the room. When we left the barracks, the weather, and my mood had changed. I no longer felt that surreal sense of existence I had minutes before. The fact of where I was standing finally began to sink in. I no longer felt the sun and humidity I had experienced in Berlin for the past five days. Instead, I was cold. Not a cold that one alleviates by putting on a winter jacket, but a bitterness that is felt in the bones. I felt like I had entered haunted grounds, a purgatorial abode of human atrocity and suffering with a sign that read, “Leave your soul at the door.”

barracks

We all walked toward the final memorial, and there on the rocky grounds were six pictures of victims. Jack, my new friend and colleague from the conference, told me to turn and examined at my side profile.

 

“You look like him,” he said, and pointed to a picture one of the victims, a blonde hair, blue-eyed man who looked as if he had just witnessed an incomprehensible entity of evil.

victim

I thought to myself, “Could I have been him? Or would I be the one pointing a loaded barrel at his face?” Given my Catholic identity and German heritage, I’m not sure where my mind would have been under the Third Reich.

 

We stepped down into a crematory below and saw a memorial on one end, and the ruins and description of the crematory on the other.

crematory

That’s when the feeling of hopelessness bubbled up inside of me. For a year and a half I told myself that if one wishes to bring peace to the world, one must find peace with the self first. But at this moment I asked, “What does that matter when human beings continue to kill each other?” I didn’t want to speak to anyone, nor did I want my thoughts to be distracted with music or writing. I simply wanted to disappear into nothingness.

 

As the tour ended, all of the members of the conference gathered round a small tombstone to say a prayer.

 

I closed my eyes, still wishing I wasn’t there, and listened.

 

The first prayer was a Jewish prayer known as the Mourner’s Kaddish, recited in Aramaic by my friend and fellow participant Schlomo. His voice cracked, and upon receiving tearful response by the Jewish participants who knew the prayer, a tear to slid down my face from my right eye.

mjc2

Then Yunnus and Nassr, two Muslim participants of the conference, recited the first chapter of the Quran, verses from chapter 81, and a supplication from “Keys to Heavens.” Unlike the Mourner’s Kaddish, these prayers were not call and response. They were more solemn and personally oriented, and I later learned that the content of these verses were a blessing of victims and martyrs. This time a tear slid down from my left eye.

mjc

They were not tears of sadness, nor tears of joy. They were tears of release, a catharsis. I could not understand a word what was being said, but the tone and anguish of these prayers went far beyond the language barrier. It struck something in me that I cannot explain, a feeling that I have never felt before.

 

Afterwards people embraced one another, but I stood by myself and recited the Our Father, the Hail Mary, and the Glory Be – something I would recite every night in my childhood and early teenage years. It was my personal way of saying sorry for humanity’s choice to look away from such a well oiled, impersonal, mechanized evil.

 

I thought I knew what to expect. I have visited Yad Vashem Holocaust museum in Israel, the Armenian Genocide memorial in Yerevan, and the Museum of Genocides in Lithuania. I thought I was well prepared. I had been exposed before. I was wrong.

 

This time I didn’t feel melancholic. I didn’t feel inspiration or the will to fight indifference. I was simply at peace.

 

Strangely, I think I found peace in the fact that human suffering is universal. As terrible as the Holocaust was and the crimes that have followed it all over the world have been, we feel them, we sense them, and we mourn them. I realized that not only does every man bleed, but that every man also cries.

 

I found peace in the fact that every human being feels grief, loneliness, hatred and despair. Just as much as I find solace in the fact that we feel love, community, happiness and hope.

 

The human condition is imperfect, but in that imperfection we share a commonality. And in that we are all united.

Sleep State: The One Indie Band You Need To Listen To Right Now!

sleep-state

A common enemy has invaded Los Angeles and Orange County: the overproduced, oversaturated, to cool for school, Indie band. Every time I attend a local show, I feel as if I’m seeing the same musical act accompanied by 10 different people for two hours straight. We get it: your verses are eerily soft, your choruses loud, and your bridges purposefully out of key. It’s been done before.

 

But somewhere out of the unilluminated crater of despair emerges a band that seeks to change all of that.

 

I first saw Sleep State in a dive bar in North Orange County as a two-man piece with front man Troy Ritchie on vocals and guitar, while Michael Haua contributed backing vocals and keyboards. Accompanied by a drum and bass track, their verses were well structured, graced their audience with catchy choruses, and distinct, powerful voices. They were so convincing, that my best friend and longtime band mate, Parker Jackson, decided to try out for them on drums. It was a match made in Heaven. I knew after he joined that they would be something special.

 

Flash forward two years, and Troy Ritchie has contained power in his voice, and it’s only become more authoritative over time. Keyboardist Michael Haua continues to make it look easy, and drummer Parker Jackson adds creativity with his 15+ years of experience.

 

Sleep State is now a full man band with a five song E.P., and a brand new single titled, “Making Up the Rules.”

 

Inspired by the likes of Cold Play and Foster the People, Sleep State songs make you want to dance and groove your way into work or school, and play choruses that are as catchy as anything on the radio (if not more so). Every time I listen to them or see them live I always ask myself, “how are these guys not signed yet?”

 

After hearing “Making Up the Rules,” it begs me to ask the question again. The song personally reminds me of something I’d hear on Funky Soul Night in Echo Park. However, I don’t know if there’s one thing that truly makes this song unique. Is it Troy’s baritone voice heavily inspired by Soul and Mo-Town? Is it Michael Haua’s simple yet terribly catchy keyboard melody? Or is the hard-hitting drums of Parker Jackson and heavy bass? As a musician myself, I can’t help but be envious of Troy’s epic guitar solo at the end. It’s not that I can’t play it, it’s the fact is I want to play it.

 

The song itself “was inspired by a time when I started seeing someone,” Ritchie explains to me. “Things were going amazingly and I thought we would start dating. I was a little more naïve and lacked confidence, so I definitely got screwed over by her… This incident inspired a few songs.”

 

As for the music video? It’s simply brilliant. Filmmaker and friend, Adam Villasenor, directed this epic one shot take that incorporates epic animation, and dance moves inspired by the great James Brown (yeah, the ‘Get On Up’ James Brown).

 

Sleep State aims to do this for a living. They want their audience to dance, to share stories, to inspire, and to make songs people can relate to while enjoying the music.

 

If you like what you see, then Sleep State is the band for you. Give them a listen!

 

I’ve Been Dreaming About Death: Here’s Why I Am Okay With That

death

The first dream I recently had about death consisted of being a passenger on a large, double-decker commercial airliner. When I walked up to the second half of the plane I saw the cockpit was wide open, and from there had an open view of the street before me. We were going down, and fast. As the plane crashed I hit my head on the floor and saw a dark greenish blue mist, and a feeling of euphoria swept over me before the flames engulfed half of my body.

 

Mind you, I had this dream before I went on my most recent trip to Europe.

 

In my second dream, not even a week afterwards the aforementioned, a man who had hate in his heart killed me. I think I was either shot or strangled, the death itself was vague.

 

In both dreams I “died,” and yet I would not consider them nightmares. I didn’t wake up in a cold sweat or sudden fright with a raging headache – a common side effect of my nightmares. In fact, upon waking up I found peace.

 

Maybe I am lying to myself, but at this stage in my life I don’t feel as if I am afraid of death as I once was. I think I’m not afraid of it like I used to be because there was a point in my life when I truly welcomed it.

 

I confronted this way of thinking through fictional writing. In one short story, the narrator confronted his depression in the most tragic way possible – attempting suicide. He did not prevail; however, and after waking up from a three-year coma the world he knew ended. This type of writing was therapeutic for me and helped in more ways than one, but even more effective than writing was reading about characters who were suffering from similar mental battles.

 

I’ve mentioned Brandon Sanderson’s High Fantasy novel, “The Way of Kings” before, and I’m going to do it again. Kaladin, a slave facing the worst conditions, considers attempting suicide. Once another character stops him from doing so, he figuratively “commits suicide.” The Kaladin who said no to life died, and a new man who was set out to change his life was reborn. This scene helped me tremendously. The man who welcomed death is gone, he may come back to haunt me, but he does not control the actions I take now.

 

Here is the second reason I do not fear death like I once did.

 

My grandfather died two years ago, and a few nights after he had passed I had a dream I saw had a vision of my personal heaven. It was in my backyard with the most beautiful combination of sun and clouds I had ever seen. My dad and his brothers and sister were sitting on lawn chairs reminiscing of old times. Beyond the horizon, where the pink and purple clouds stood suspended in space, was the space where my grandfather now roams.

 

Whenever I have trouble sleeping, I remind myself that my grandfather is watching over me.

If demons exist, so do angels.

 

My brother once told me about a dream he once had after one of his best friends had just passed away. In that dream my brother asked him what it was like on the other side. He grinned and asked, “What comes before the beginning?” And my brother responded with uncertainty, “I’m not sure, life?” He grabbed my brother by the shoulder and said, “You have found the answer my friend.”

 

That’s been an ongoing saying in my head for over 12 years. Before the beginning, comes life.

 

If I die today or 50 years from now it doesn’t matter to me. Life, like God, is to be experienced. In my travels, in prayer, and in meditation, I have experienced God, and know people who have as well. For these reasons, I have faith in an afterlife, and that is why I am okay with my dreams of death.

 

 

 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Traveling Abroad

travel dos and donts

This past month I backpacked through Germany, Czech Republic, and Austria. It was another travel goal I can cross off my bucket list, and an experience to remember for the rest of my life. The people I met – both locals and other travelers, the sites I saw – the ones I expected to see and the ones I discovered, and the food that I ate – like a hamburger in Hamburg and Schnitzel in Austria – have been permanently seared into my memory.

 

Every time I travel, I learn about new cultures, new customs, and most of all, about myself. There are things I’ve learned to do, and what not to do.

 

Here’s what I learned this time around.

 

Do: Bring snacks on the airplane

 

And an extra bag of nuts or trail mix for those long bus and train rides when you are in your country of desire. You are going to get hungry, and your trip isn’t worth being spoiled by being a hangry individual.

 

Don’t: Stock up on sugary junk food

 

This will just cause you to be lethargic and give you an upset stomach when you are in traveling from point A. to point B.

 

Do: Talk to Strangers

Not a stranger, but my friend and host Angelika
Not a stranger, but my friend and host Angelika

Anywhere and everywhere: on the bus, in the taxi, on the train, and at the café. Ask them how they feel about your country, and how they feel about specific issues in their own.

 

Don’t: Challenge locals on local issues

refugees

I went to Germany and I wanted to hear about the refugee crisis directly from the German people, not what others think how the Germans feel about the issue. I didn’t want to argue, I wanted to simply learn and listen without judgment.

 

Do: Ask for help

 

Whether you are lost, looking for a good place to eat, or what sites you can skip and what ones you shouldn’t. It’s always great to get a recommendation from the locals.

 

Don’t: Think you know everything

 

Speaking of recommendations from locals, there is always someone who knows something better to see and something easier to do than you. You might think you know exactly where you are going, what place is the best to visit, or what food is the best. News flash: you don’t.

 

Do: Eat breakfast

travelbfast

If you’re a budget traveler like myself, you will often skip one meal during the day. Make sure breakfast is not one of them. It is the most important meal of the day because you will lack a ton of energy if you skip out on it, so don’t.

 

Don’t: Ignore the local flea shop or super market

 

Not only will you receive quality food at a good price, but you will also learn how to bargain at a flea shop, and learn what is most popular in the country you are a guest in. Plus, you will save money on food and if you eat enough fresh fruits and veggies, you will feel great throughout your stay.

 

Do: Watch what you drink

drinking 

Pub-crawls are fun and having a drink, especially when someone offers to pay for yours (God bless the Irish who mastered this skill), is a great way to experience nightlife and culture. But that’s the thing: you are in a new culture, a new environment, and a strange and different surrounding. This isn’t your local pub where you know the doorman, be mindful of how much you drink and where you are receiving it.

 

Don’t: Travel with a hangover

 

I have never experienced a hangover in my travels. Never. That is, until I spent all night drinking in Prague with two hours of sleep. Traveling back to Berlin in a bus with loud, rambunctious families on little sleep and a headache is not the best decision I have ever made.

 

 

Do: Be aware of your surroundings, and how you are acting yourself

 

This includes anywhere, but in transportation centers mostly – especially airports. Never leave your bag unchecked, and help with customs and security by having your passport in hand and having all things out of your pockets

 

Don’t: Bring on luggage that isn’t yours

 

For the love of all things holy, make sure you do NOT do this. I thought I would be the nice guy and deliver a friends luggage back to the states. This was a bad idea. Three time-consuming security clearances and being thoroughly checked by the TSA did not make my travels go smoothly. Needless to say, I took this as my most valuable learning experience.

Count Your Blessings: On Being Grateful For Your Home After Traveling

blessings 2

It’s been less than a week since I’ve been back from my recent travel excursion in Europe, back in my lovely hometown of Laguna Niguel, California. Already I have acknowledged the fact that I am having a hard time adjusting to normal life. I’m suffering from post travel depression, or as my friend put it, PTD.

 

Why do I feel this way? Because I felt so free when I was backpacking through Germany, Czech Republic, and Austria. I felt so full of life. I will never forget that feeling on the last day of the Muslim Jewish Conference when I set out for the streets of Berlin with only the slightest idea of where I was heading, my headphones blaring German punk rock. I felt like I was on the open road. It was my escape. My fix. And I felt like that for the next two weeks.

 

It went by way too fast. Even after the jetlag I always receive upon returning, I still felt lethargic up until last night. Even after a double shot of espresso I consumed yesterday, I had very little energy. The Orange County heat was simply draining. Europeans always complain about the weather in their countries, but very few have experienced August heat in Southern California. Up until today, I didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t want to write. I didn’t want to exercise. I definitely didn’t want to go back into work.

 

That all stopped this morning.

 

As I was venting online to my friend who is studying abroad in Berlin, I told her how mentally oppressed I felt, but I didn’t want to elaborate – why put out more negativity into the world? Instead I turned to my gratefulness journal and went to work. I’ve added a new section to this journal, titled, “Today’s Intention.”

 

Today I wrote down that I intend to show gratitude.

 

I was such a fool to not count my blessings!

 

Yesterday I saw one of the most beautiful sunsets I had seen all summer. Did I appreciate it? Not in the way I should have. Not in the way I would have if I were to see it tonight (maybe I can sneak a peak at work).

 

Today, on my way to the free workout park I frequent, I looked up into the clear blue sky. I was well rested, in a bed that’s my own, in my own room – even if I still live with my parents. I changed my stereo to the classical station I listen to, enjoying the music that always puts me at ease.

 

As I worked out, I listened to the birds chirping, breathed in the fresh air, and appreciated my mobility (even if it is sometimes awkward).

 

To my friends who suffer travel a lot and feel the way I feel upon returning home: count your blessings. Home is home after all, and wherever that is to you, it is what made us who we are.

Five Positive Reaffirmations I Received at the Muslim Jewish Conference

mjc

Hallo and grüß Gott my friends! It’s been a few weeks since I’ve written something on here, but now I am back in action. Today I will continue my thoughts regarding my last post, which detailed what I learned at the Muslim Jewish Conference. Instead of listing what I learned, I will jot down a few experiences that reaffirmed some core beliefs I already have.

 

As I mentioned before, I will continually share my thoughts on this conference, because I wholeheartedly know that I am still processing what just occurred. I always seem to do that.

 

So get ready to hear a lot about this incredible experience, for now enjoy these reaffirmations.

 

Everyone has a story…

and it’s more hardcore than you think. I befriended a Turkish Jew, a French convert to Islam, and an agnostic Brazilian. Three stories I heard out of 150 over a course of seven days.

 

In my subcommittee, which was titled “Us and Them: Encountering Marginalization,” I heard over twenty personal accounts of people my age dealing with otherness, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and feelings of ostracism from the very groups they identify with. It is so easy to look at someone and think that you know everything about them, but until you actually take the effort to sit down and listen to what they’ve gone through, you don’t. It reminded me of something I wrote a while back;

 

Sometimes it’s not enough to simply walk in someone else’s shoes when you’re still coasting on soft flat surfaces of sand. Sometimes you need to crawl on the rocks upon which the waves crash to understand why someone’s head is filled with salt, and your conscience is clear.

 

Human beings are awesome…

interesting, inspiring, and everything in between. Total strangers can have some of the most amazing stories that are relatable to yours. There were so many people at this conference that I wasn’t able to hear everyone’s experiences, but I can say that every person I did encounter shared some fascinating perspectives. We are the most unique species in the world, but we think too harshly about ourselves, individually and collectively. Let’s rise above this notion and reclaim our awesomeness!

 

Comparing yourself to others is poisonous…

and does nothing to serve your self improvement. I met people from all walks of life and professions. Some of these individuals were my age, but were far more ahead in their careers and maturity than me. Guess what? That is totally okay! We are all walking different paths for our spiritual, mental, emotional, and career life journeys. Instead of worrying about this like I would in my past, I simply accepted this fact and it made my stay much more enjoyable.

 

Religion is a beautiful thing…

I have had a love/hate relationship with religion since I was about 16 years old. Once I graduated college I rediscovered an admiration for religion and spirituality, and since then my travels have taught me that religion is so much more than we typically make it out to be. I believe that God can be found and experienced in multiple ways (I guess you can call me “religiously fluid”). Religion, prayer, and meditation provides hope in the face of despair. I felt this during the Friday Muslim prayer, during a Jewish Shabbat service, and even in a concentration camp – something I will gladly elaborate on later.

 

There’s still so much work to be done

In interfaith dialogue, conflict resolution, encountering marginalization, and self-reflection. I believe that we’re on to a good start, but we are not even close to where we need to be. Personally, I believe that if peace is to be achieved, it needs to be discovered first from within. I can tackle these issues, but will also need to address my own simultaneously.

 

Self-imposed challenge accepted!