We've made it! Another year, and that means another New Years Reflection. I've never been a fan of New Years Resolutions as I believe we should always be making new goals, adjusting, and striving to better ourselves and the world around us. With a constant mindset of setting goals and betterment, comes a lot of reflection. As I reflect back on 2015, I can't help but feel incredibly blessed for the amount of growth I went through and the lessons I learned along the way. I will share five of the key messages that weighed in on my heart this year and guided me to where I am now. The five key messages include: "The World is Huge, Yet So Small", "Spend Money on Experiences and Not Objects", "Things May Not Go By Your Schedule", Fight That Voice In Your Head", and I will wrap up how all of that falls into the biggest message of the year "Fear Versus Love". 

The World is Huge, Yet So Small:

When we look at the sheer size of the world, it is massive! Almost incomprehensive of how large it is. This year I have been on 13 different planes, with one of the trips being to almost to the other side of the earth, to New Zealand. From Colorado to LA to Auckland was a total air time of about 15 and a half hours. Funny how time change works, on Wednesday April 15 I was on two planes at 2:30 pm. I time traveled! Not quite but still a fun thought. Now that I just got off track lets get back on. My point is, that the scale of this earth is massive and there are 7.3 billion people living on it. One of the rewards of traveling to a different country with a different culture is that it opens your eyes up to humanity and what it truly is. I feel like we can get so caught up in our own culture that we fail to both recognize other cultures and understand them. At face value when it comes to different cultures, we may eat different foods, speak a different language, and have different traditions, but ultimately when it comes down to the core of our being we all want the same thing. We all ultimately want happiness, love, and to be able to provide for our families. It can be so simple! We look at so much turmoil in the world and want to quickly point and shoot down this culture or this religion because of a few bad eggs. We fail to realize the majority of any person on this planet is just like you and I. We may have different ways of getting there but it is so simple to connect to any being. It truly is a treat of travel to experience different cultures. 

That is one side of what I learned about the world being so large, yet so small and unifying, but also that it is closing in on and us. What I mean when I say that the world is closing in on us is that technology is breaking down the barriers of distance. A businessman can send an email to the other side of the world and that information relays within seconds, he can also hop onto a plane and be in any destination across the world within 24-36 hours. With social media you and I can connect from anywhere in the world through our laptops and smart phones. It is truly making our world smaller as we are able to grasp an international relationship that no other generation has seen. But what is crazy is that it happens face to face as well. My first day in Auckland, New Zealand, one of my roommates was Claire from Ireland. We had no plans of meeting up again, but on my last day in New Zealand I ran into her in Queenstown. I heard and saw people that met in South America and were reunited in New Zealand. When we are in a different place we may run into someone from our hometown. It is just amazing how small the world can be in that way. In another very weird way, I had this thought that we all know at least one person that knows another, that knows another, and in a massive drawn out way we are all connected! That can be such an abstract thought. 

Lastly with this thought of how big the world is and our place in it... When I was in a completely different country, I realized just how small my problems can be. At the time there was a lot of stuff going on at my work and I was stressing out about it, we all have that moment in life where we stress over our work, our bills, etc. But I realized there wouldn't be anything but myself stopping me from having the ability to make simple adjustments in my life, such as a new job, new people, moving to a different city, state, or country and just working and living there. We are not bound to the things that bring us down, besides ourselves. I am not advocating to run away from problems in life, but I am suggesting that there is opportunity to make a better future. 

Spend Money on Experiences, Not Things

This idea of spending money on experiences and not things is a pretty common and popular thought and attitude within our generation. That it is purely experience that will bring you happiness and not different things and objects that you purchase. I can't tell you how true this is! This year I have done both, purchased things that I thought would make my downtime better (which it didn't) and also spent my money on some incredible experiences! It is the experiences I keep finding myself reflect back on, look forward to, and strive for. For experience is what allows us to grow as beings. I find that it is truly is the only thing that allows me to grow inwardly, outwardly, and spiritually. No amount of pictures, books, tv shows, etc can replace an actual experience. I would suppose however, this would all depend on what it is that you want out of this life and what you find our purpose here to be. For me, I strongly believe that our purpose here is to get to know our God. So anytime I allow myself to go out and experience the world, I get to know my God better as I see His creations, how He works in other peoples lives, and ultimately how He guides my own. We just can't get that type of experience when we buy and collect things and objects. That isn't to be said that we shouldn't buy things, because ultimately we have to buy things in order to help aid us in our experiences. But it's to say that there are certain sacrifices that can be made to be able to afford the experiences we want, such as cutting back on our eating out and drinking expenses. If you can find an area within your lifestyle to cut back $20 a week, you will save $1040 a year, $25 would be $1300 a year. That is a pretty good start to traveling some where next year! That's more than a flight to anywhere in the US, to Iceland, and on the higher end a flight to New Zealand from LA! If you can cut back that much a week and then additionally save that much then, BAM! You just doubled your trip amount! When we save in order to achieve the experiences we want then we will find a great reward within it. This can be anything from going to a concert to traveling across the world. Set a goal, save up, and splurge on the experience! 

Here's a tip I use to save: If you use cash a bit, every time you receive a $5 bill set it aside. I then also began to add a $20 bill every time I received $20 in 5's. That way I was always doubling it and every $100 I had in $5's I had $100 in $20's. (Great for servers!) 

Things May Not Go By Your Schedule

"Things may not go by your schedule", this was one of the bigger struggles I faced, but also one of the most rewarding. As you found above, I have faith. Within that I can recognize the faults of our flesh. Our pride is one of these faults. We want, expect, and at times demand for things to happen for us right now or at least go according to our schedule. It is a balance, we face, as we have to be dedicated to a schedule to plan our day to day life accordingly, but we also can't expect everything to play out perfectly how we would like it in our head. For me at least I found that God's plan for me is greater than my own plan and that he is, and will help guide me along the way. 

My first big experience of this in 2015 was my planning for New Zealand. At the beginning of 2015 my girlfriend left for Italy to study abroad; a great opportunity for personal development as she saw it. She saw it as such a great opportunity that she encouraged me to take a step and take my own personal development abroad and travel on my own. (Something I hadn't done yet). So I began my search at the end of January and the start of February. I came across New Zealand and it peaked my interest! I was hoping to travel some where in June, but with New Zealand's seasons being opposite I knew that wanting to travel light would not happen traveling in their winter time. So I quickly planned my trip within 2-3 weeks, made sure I could do it, and booked my flights. But wait.. it can't be that simple.. I failed to verify with my work. Usually a very lenient job for requesting time off, was not so happy with this one. They gave me the ultimatum that I could go, but wouldn't be guaranteed a job when I got back. I have to admit I was taken back and first angry at myself and upset with the situation, I still found it to be completely fair, and decided to see if I could reschedule my trip. All was approved and I was NZ bound three weeks later. (Thank goodness for booking Southwest to LA for not having rebooking fees, I had eaten just a little bit on the NZ side of the flight). At the time what I didn't know was that God had a better time for me to go. To make this short, my trip was perfect! The weather was incredible, it rained on my travel days, was beautiful on my exploring days. He some how timed my homesick and bleh days to be the time for me to see a message I needed and was in the right state of mind to hear. He even some how managed to put me in the right place at the right time to see the Southern Lights! To put the icing on the cake, I met another travel photographer from Italy, Matteo Colombo who taught me so much and really helped take my photography to new levels. 

The other experience that I had this year with things not going by my schedule was my whole work experience. I had been working at this same place at the end of it for a total of 6 years. It was a great experience! I loved the people I worked with and the people I provided the services to. (I'm going to be pretty vague through this, I apologize but to an extent it is personal). Things were changing at the workplace, which change is completely fine for a business and I am always quick to learn and adjust. I was also very optimistic for change and to move our services forward. However, the one person at work that never liked me and as I would say is a work place bully, if you don't fit in with them, became my main manager. Also, insert my trip to New Zealand and I was in this awkward place of really wanting to pursue my photography, but also being realistic about the need to pay some bills and get myself ready for that type of transition. Going to work became stressful, as I could feel the tension build and the problems escalating. I remember early summer one night before bed I prayed to God and asked what I should do. Quickly he was at work, as the next day I swear it was bound that I be late for work that day and I found myself being talked to about my position at work. Reflecting back, this was my nudge, my nudge to take my leap and pursue my passion. But I wasn't ready for it. I was afraid. So I made excuses to stay. Only thing, the problems got worse at work and the stress rose throughout the summer. Again I found myself praying to God asking for guidance. Telling him my plan that I would stick it out until the spring. I have to tell you, he didn't like that idea because very very shortly after certain things happened, and I was no longer with my work. Just like that. My ideas, my plans, my schedule, just didn't go how I saw them But at that moment an overwhelming joy came over me. I was released of that toxic situation and free to pursue my passion. I was given the opportunity to do this and I am excited to see where it goes. Remember, we are not always bound to what we think we are. If we stay some where because we are afraid of change, or afraid to not achieve what it is in our heart and minds, give it to God and he will find a way. The things we strive for, the passions we have, they are more than just dreams, they can become our reality. We just have to give up our pride, give up our expectations, and dive into the path we were given.  For if we dwell in the things we don't have and and live in fear, then all we will do is wait idly, as time passes us by. Forge your path today! God will help guide the way. It will not be easy, it will be hard, but ultimately it will be worth it! You can fight that negative voice in your head!

Fight That Voice In Your Head

The movie "Inside Out" is such a great movie, as it brings to life our emotions. They literally have personalities and can direct the voices in our head. It wasn't an emotion in the movie, but the one I want to talk about if fear. This will also overlap into the last section of this blog but it was such a great lesson, to fight that voice in my head. I will admit right now I'm in a spot of unknown within my life as I'm searching to find my way. Pursuing a career in one of the most difficult and saturated industries there are. But with this uncertainty, I find peace and joy. It hasn't always been that way. There has been a lot of fear that speaks in the back of my mind. I hate to keep going back to it, but my time in New Zealand was so eye opening that I can't help it. I told myself in New Zealand that anytime that voice in my mind tells me to sit back, or just take it easy, or don't do this, I would do it. What I found was that anytime that voice in my mind tried to hold me back and I defied it and went and did it, it was one of the best experiences I have had. For example: When I got to Milford Sound and to my lodge, it was raining (as it commonly does there) the higher elevations receiving snow. The voice in my head said, just hangout here. But I fought it, put on my rain poncho, and headed out to walk through the rain forest. On my way back out of the forest I had one voice that said head back to the lodge, and then the other that said go check out the main view from Milford Sounds. Deciding to go investigate, this is where I met fellow photographer Matteo. If I had just gone in, this meeting would've never happened! Here is another example that I will tie into my final section and it comes from half way through my trip in New Zealand when I was in Wanaka. I didn't really have plans besides taking pictures of the lone tree and planning to skydive here. I took care of the lone tree within the first two hours as I captured it for sunset. It was then a new day, a very overcast gloomy day. I was invited to go hike Roys Peak with a group but had to decline because I was going to go skydiving. Well that plan was cancelled, and I was trapped in the gloom. I heard from home: my dad decided that it was best for him to move back to Pennsylvania and my mom also just told me that the company she was working for was selling her property so her job was uncertain. In my past, I had fought depression before, so sometimes it can be easy to get caught in that gloom. I hung around Wanaka and the next night I found myself in Queenstown. But when I woke up I felt bleh and wanted to just hangout until my skydiving trip that I rescheduled to do in Glenorchy. My body and mind were saying to just sit back, but then I fought that voice and the other voice came in that said "Corey just get up and do something". I did. I looked at my map, saw the Queenstown Gardens and decided to go walk around the little peninsula to think and clear my mind. I did just that. It was refreshing. Along the way, I saw a sign for the rose garden and let it lead me there. When I was up there my eyes affixed to a statue. I wasn't going to go look at it but before I left something pushed me to go look. There I was looking at it, my eyes wondered until they came across the memorials message of what it was. It was "The Last Message" from Captain R. Scott from their expedition to Antarctica that left him and his crew stranded. A strong message I needed to hear at the time and set the tone for the day and what I would find the be the greatest lesson for me in 2015. I finished the day out with skydiving Glenorchy (One of the most incredible experiences I've had!) and a star gazing tour over Queenstown where I was blessed to witness the Southern Lights! 
(I apologize for the abrupt ending to that but really wanted to save The Last Message for the last section)

Fear Versus Love

"We took risks, we knew we took them; things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint, but bow to the will of Providence, determined still to do our best to the last. Had we lived, I should have had a tale to tell of the hardihood, endurance, and courage of my companions which would have stirred the heart of every Englishman. These rough notes and our dead bodies must tell the tale, but surely, surely, a great rich country like ours will see that those who are dependent on us are properly provided for." 

I want to take moment and let you pause, re-read that, and think about what that message means to you...
For me, this highlights the message of fear versus love. But let me start with explaining what fear versus love is. I have a belief that in life we act out of two pure forms of emotion: fear and love. All other emotion stems from these two emotions. Judgement, anger, sadness, rudeness etc can all be reflected back to fear. Happiness, respect, bravery, etc can all be reflected as love. Love not necessarily as we think of it as a romantic emotion. But the idea of inward love, outward love, and spiritual love. So often you may see I shed a message of acting out of love rather than fear. If you look at how you and others interact it is so easy to see this highlighted and tell why someone is acting the way they are. It doesn't just have to be emotion; it can be an action as well. Taking a selfie and sharing it on social media. It can be an action of fear; fear of not fitting in, looking good enough, attention, etc. But it could also be an action of love; being confident in oneself, happiness in a moment, etc. But anyways, now that I have shared a little insight into what fear versus love means to me, we can dig into what I got out of R Scotts last message and how it can be transcended into our lives. The captain and the crew took a risk that pushed them too far and are now basically on their deathbed. "For my own sake, I do not regret this journey... We took risks; we knew we took them. Things have come out against us, and therefore we have no cause for complaint." Many would be fearful and many angry for putting themselves in that position, but when facing his death, R Scott has no regrets. He has no regrets because he took a risk out of love. I realized from this quote that there is no such thing as failure when we take actions out of love. Failure and regret stem from our fear and idleness. This is why some people are fearful for death: they regret not ever living. So let us take control of our lives and live out out love rather than fear. 

I would like to thank you for taking a moment for reading this as well as being supportive. If you like this please feel free to give me feedback or share. 

Thank you and have a blessed New Year,
- Corey

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