Relaunch. Renew. Re…commit.

20 February, 2012

When I started this blog nearly six years ago, it was intended to be a heartfelt commentary on the trials and tribulations of a historically-Midwestern guy making a jaunt to the West Coast.  If you were to tell me that, less than a year later, I would be making the journey back to the midwest to start a three-year journey through mounds of strategy coursepacks and research papers on poverty alleviation, I would have dismissed your tomfoolery with a curt psh.

Then, if you were to tell me that, in the course of those three years, I would wax philosophical while in South Africa, reaffirm my purpose while developing a farmers cooperative in Jamaica, and move to Detroit — Detroit?! — to work for a highly-prestigious consulting firm, I’d show you that the definition for guffaw in the dictionary would have a photo of me next to it.

THEN, if you were to tell me that, only eighteen months after graduation, I’d have kinda sorta lost my way through the rat race of moving to a downtrodden city, starting an unbelievably intense career, and pursuing a long-term relationship…I’d be frightened to think of the prospects.

Well, it happened.

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Patrick Carnes writes in his revolutionary book Out of the Shadows that graduate school is the first place where people encounter the challenge of  “proving one’s self in an arena where every inadequacy is evaluated”.  To a Christian that has embedded himself in a community of non-judgmental believers, even the process of applying to these programs — and receiving an impersonal rejection — can be a daunting task that ultimately shakes your perceptions of self-worth to the core.  For others, the constant need for approval from friends, family, etc. can have the same effect.

When I first read this passage by Dr. Carnes, I immediately flipped through the pages of my recent life story and had an “A HA!” moment: my brain was rewiring itself in a way that made me believe that I could achieve my way through life.  And my relationships — with others, and even God.

My recent circumstances showed me, clear as day, that such an attempt was nothing more than a charade.  Throughout Scripture, there is a clear indication that works are an essential component of the Christian’s service to God and others, but unless derived from a heart of service and adoration for the Creator, they are lifeless.

Lifeless.  Going through the motions due to overburdened work environments, stress, or simply trying to ignore the still, small voice begging you to be at peace…it’s easy to do.  But it’s neither life-giving nor sustaining.  We forget the profound responsibility we’ve been entrusted with — to love God, others…and ourselves with reckless abandon.

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This morning, I sat in a coffee shop in Detroit’s Mexicantown district, chatting with my friend Dan Sadlier.  As we shared stories of challenge and hurt, a simply profound dialogue took place:

“Dan, I still hurt.  I hurt a lot.”

“…I know.  But lead through it.

…Lead through it.  It can mean so many things, and at this present time it has some profound, specific applications for my life.  But it aligns directly with a verse that has been on my heart for the past few weeks, one that inspires the crippled man to get up and walk, and one that compels all of us to RISE.

Awake, o sleeper,
Arise from the dead,
And Christ will shine on you.  — Ephesians 5:14 

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Humbled, and All That Good Stuff

30 January, 2011

Honestly, I never expected this.  Yet I’m not surprised.

A week ago, I posted this brief little reflection on my battle with Hodgkins at age 13, and I decided to establish a somewhat unorthodox goal to celebrate it.  I shared it on my facebook wall and Twitter feed, hoping that my small network of friends and family would spread the word.

Well, the word caught on fast, and within a few days I was in contact with Detroit’s ABC affiliate, WXYZ, that found a bit of interest in the story.  And the next thing you know….BAM.

Social media has taken on a variety of roles in its young life, from serving as a protest platform for Iranian students and dissidents to, well, discussing things we all hate.  But in this world….EVERYONE has the opportunity to make their voice heard, and in some cases, your own voice is carried by others much further than you expected.

And that’s what has really happened here.  And it’s really all good.

My goal through this effort is not to publicize my life experiences, nor do I expect sympathy for what I endured.  There’s far too many people suffering from a variety of cancers that deserve our attention, our thoughts and prayers, and our donations.  The time for my receipt of these things passed seventeen years ago, and now it’s time for others to experience the same overwhelming tidal wave of compassion and determined giving that I was totally fortunate to receive in the past.

So.  Thank you to all that have given so far, and thank you to those that will give.  Every small amount counts.

 


$30,000 for my 30th Birthday: Make It Memorable

22 January, 2011

In a few short weeks, I’ll hit that little life milestone that seems to strike fear into the hearts of men: turning 30. Honestly, it doesn’t faze me much, besides wondering on occasion why I nearly demand at least six hours of sleep these days.

Now, I had given some thought recently on the concept of giving and how we tend to offer up presents, well-wishes, and whatnot to celebrate significant accomplishments in our lives.  It’s a good thing to remind others of our appreciation for the substantial events that occur in their lives too.  So, I recently thought about how I would want others to celebrate my 30th birthday with me — if they so felt like it. 🙂

What came to mind was this: I wanted to celebrate the avenues that have been a humble, immense blessing to me over these years.  My parents, my family, my friends — yes, all worth celebrating infinitely, and I try to do so every day.  But I wanted to find something unique, perhaps an event or cause that I don’t always reflect upon, but deserves to be uplifted.  And I think I found it.  But first, a quick story.

…four days after my 13th birthday, in 1994, I was diagnosed with a mid-aggressive stage of Hodgkin’s Disease, a cancerous lymphoma, that threw my whole young perspective on life into flux.  In the six months of intensive chemotherapy that ensued, I discovered that this battle wasn’t just between my body and the disease: a small army of doctors, nurses, caregivers, and community members took up arms alongside me.  And we won, convincingly, to the point that it has never chosen to rear its ugly head again for seventeen straight years.  Without this network of support, bolstered by an incredible network of researchers working diligently to find solutions to combating this disease, I truly wouldn’t be here today.

I reflected upon this a few days ago, as the 17th anniversary of my diagnosis approaches, and I realized that the greatest gift I would want to receive is to watch others acknowledge the importance of the work being done to help cancer patients and survivors like me.

So, here’s my wish: In the next three weeks, up to my birthday on February 10th, I want my network of peers, family, and friends to give at least $30,000 to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The LLS is one of the leading advocates for research, patient information, and survivor support for those affected by these cancers.  My family was blessed to have these resources during my trial, and it would be an honor to have us all support, in some small way, the efforts they undertake to bless others.

Giving is simple: just text HFC to 90999 and a non-recurring $5 charge will be added to your mobile phone bill. If you prefer to donate via other means, read up on those at https://www.leukemia-lymphoma.org/all_donate?item_id=8072.

$30,000 is a lot. It’s 6,000 people giving five bucks (there’re my math skills kicking in!).  So, spread the word.  Tell your friends and family to give a few bucks.  I don’t even need to know who gives — in fact, I WON’T know who gives — but if you want to send a note over stating you did, I’ll happy oblige with a “thank you” and perhaps even a kiss on the forehead if you really demand it.

Thank you, in advance, for making my 30th birthday a little more meaningful than a stack of “over the hill” cards. 🙂

Blessings.

 


Ten Things I Hate About You: Detroit

3 October, 2010

Aww.

I’m completely comfortable with admitting my love of the 90’s film Ten Things I Hate About You, the film from which the above clip was taken.  I mean, the cast in this film was, like, oh-so-dreamy: Heath Ledger.  Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Julia Stiles.  And, of course, how could we forget the cameo appearance of that guy from the Isuzu commercials?

Julia Stiles’ character in this clip has discovered that Mr. Ledger, who originally was paid to feign interest in the off-putting Stiles, was never truly interested in her — or at least she thought.  This poem reflects an outburst of frustration from a woman that felt betrayed, duped, and embarrassed by such treachery.

Recently I spent two weeks in Chicago, a city in which many of my close friends live and served as my home for a summer back in 2008.  While my time there is always enjoyable, this visit was a bit more painful as I continued to discover how far behind Detroit really is.  And while my reasons for doing so don’t entirely line up with the girl in the video clip, I felt moved to draw up my own list of the ten things I hate about Detroit. As a lover of what this city has to offer, I owe myself a bit of a vent session; it allows me to breathe normally, and it reminds me that a battered city needs to be honest with itself. (Disclaimer: most of these observations are tongue-in-cheek, but leave some breathing room for my sarcasm. 🙂 )

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We’re not Immune.

17 May, 2010

I haven’t been one to shy away from describing moments of hurt, human sorrow, or the realities we face on this little piece of the web.  One particular moment was when my family hosted a jobless, down-on-his-luck gentleman for dinner around Christmastime.  Other entiries described my own struggle with understanding what I would end up doing with my degree and whether or not I could be the servant to the world I hoped to become.

And then there was the post where I reflected on the death of three Stanford GSB students, and I wrote the following:

I don’t know who to sympathize with — of course, his family is paramount. But I can’t stop wondering — what would happen if three of my classmates suffered the same fate? And in that sense, I don’t doubt that this rocked GSB to the core. Yes, it’s just a school, and yes, it’s somewhat artificial, what with the countless hours of orientation and (ahem) happy hours and…well, learning alongside a hand-picked cohort of future leaders.

Business school has its ups and downs, just as the personalities of each student combine to create a sine wave that never seems to harmonize. But in this hour, I feel deeply for the unnamed cohort down there in sunny Palo Alto — they’ll be left wondering what impact those three gentlemen may have had on their lives, and how it could have been different.

Since October 2008, those words were just words.  I occasionally wondered what it would be like if a similar sort of event occurred at Ross and what the reaction would be.

Cragin just finished her first year at Ross, was excited about interning at a consulting firm this summer in Chicago, and was involved heavily in Follies.

She had a smile that could light up a room.  She would randomly send me facebook messages at 3am after a night out, and we’d laugh about the topics the next day.  She wasn’t just a classmate, but a friend who could always be counted on to cheer you up on the bleakest of days.

And today, at age 28, she’s gone. We don’t know what exactly happened, but the details will hopefully emerge over the next week.  Regardless, knowing how she was taken away does nothing to quell the devastation all of us are experiencing right now.

We at Ross who were blessed by her presence are left wondering.  As a fellow classmate said, “We lost a shining star today”.  Please, keep her family, and the Ross community, in your thoughts.


It Ain’t Glam.

21 June, 2009

I’ve been fortunate enough to incorporate a heapload of travel into my summer internship at UCF (Unnamed Consulting Firm), and I’m sure I could write a novella on the bittersweet symphony that is business travel. However, I think my facebook status updates paint a fairly simple, yet well-developed, chronology of how my recent escapades have been.

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m@ will give you one chance to figure out where he his right now. Those of you stalking him aren’t allowed to play, sorry. 26 May at 08:48

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m@ ….okay, here’s a hint: his sweet tea addiction is pleasantly appeased at his current location. 26 May at 19:51

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m@ Gaaaaaah SWEET TEA CHICK-FIL-A NOM NOM NOM 27 May at 13:39

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m@ ….congrats go out to Todd, correctly guessing that I’m currently in Pyongyang, North Korea, attempting to appease Kim Jong-il. 27 May at 19:27

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m@ isn’t sure who required more courage to wake up at 4am for the trip to BOS: himself or the cab driver. 01 June at 05:01

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m@ is stuck in the first traffic jam Greensboro, North Carolina has seen in years. 04 June at 18:02

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m@ …Boston-London: five hour flying time, two meals, inflight entertainment. Boston-LA: six hour flying time, zero meals, no TVs. Again, does not compute. 07 June at 15:18

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m@ ‘s body is finally rebelling. 08 June at 21:30

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m@ …28,552 miles. 14 airports. Hello, past 45 days. 11 June at 20:00

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m@ …is there a word used to describe “a married cougar”? Whatever it is, the Lufthansa lounge is full of ’em. 13 June at 15:05

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m@ somehow convinced his client — and his manager — to do an Irish jig in downtown Dublin tonight. If anything, he’s learning the art of persuasion this summer. 16 June at 20:35

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m@ has been called many things, but “Viking Boy”, concocted by the waiter at the sushi restaurant in Copenhagen last night, was a new one. Off goes Sven back to America. 22 minutes ago

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Another World Awaits.

19 February, 2009
Photo courtesy of Flickr user Zorro

Photo courtesy of Flickr user Zorro

7/12ths finished with this grand experiment, yet the intrigue and wonder of what’s next never seems to fade.

It was an interesting quarter, to say the least.  It certainly came with its fair share of dynamics, drama, and despair over the recruiting-based guerrilla warfare that permeates the first-year psyche this time of year.  As a seasoned veteran, I think my nerves were less focused on getting a job and more centered around getting the right one.  Aside from that, though…well, I guess it wasn’t a terribly eventful seven-week experiment, really.

Well, let me rephrase that.  Some sort of psyche broke through during this time period, and I attribute it just as much to my classmates as I do to myself: people started becoming more subdued about things, less dramatic and hyperactive, more cognizant of the fact that half of them will be departing for (moderately) greener pastures in just over two months…it’s a bit surreal that the people with whom I’ve shared so much life the past 16 months…well, they’ll be far too busy, and far too far away geographically, to share a Sunday morning brunch with me at Angelo’s, or to sample the finest cheap beer on tap at the Jug on Wednesdays, or to randomly drive to Circuit City to find a camera bag during finals week (thanks, Priya. 🙂 )  But moreover, I think we’re also discovering that May 2nd is not Armageddon in any religion of which we know, and the twilight of our time as MBA students shant be spent saying “good-bye”, rather “hello, I’m the life I’ll live for the next 40 years.  Do you want to be a part of it?”

It’s comforting to know we can look beyond the prism of an 18-month experiment and see that life, just as it has been going on while we sat huddled in a little corner of Ann Arbor, will certainly progress the way it did before we became masters of…business?  Naw.  Perhaps we faced our own insecurities, the few of us who chose to acknowledge we had them, and learned a few things along the way.  Hmm.  i get the sense that next year’s going to be somewhat anti-climactic: I’m already waxing nostalgic.

Anyway, on Saturday two-thirds of the Rainierisms entourage will board a plane to Colombia for spring break.  Pictures will might be posted at some point, but we may be too busy napping on the beach to take any.