When truth is stranger than fiction

After more than 15 hours of traveling, we finally arrived at my parents Cabin in the Woods. Having seen the movie Cabin in the Woods about five times, I had the punch lines down and was ready to play the role of Marty (acted to the nines by the amazing Fran Kranz).

The cabin is in scenic Nowhere, Michigan, about 22 miles from the nearest city. Suddenly my jokes about living a horror movie were getting a little more real.

So, you drive down this meandering farm road for about 10 miles until it turns into a dirt road. The road is full of abandoned corner stores and vacated houses. You then drive down that for about four miles until it turns into a gravel road. As you attempt to avoid the deer and other wildlife watching you from the sidelines, you drive another four miles until you reach a muddy road, navigating your tires on the two muddy treads that make up the last stretch of the drive.

In the dark, the Cabin in the Woods is quaint. It doesn’t show it’s charm until you get in it.

Yeah, that’s a woodburning stove with a charming teakettle on it.
And then you turn around.

Yeah, that’s a creepy wall of dead animals.
And then the secret door opens leading you to an underground bunker from hell.

Oh, hell no.
And that’s when we decided we didn’t want to die.
We will be spending the rest of our nights in my Aunt Donna’s basement. I swear to all that is pure and true, if there is a secret trapdoor there…

When truth is stranger than fiction

Rethinking Snapchat

When released in September 2011, many of us dismissed Snapchat. I certainly did.

Snapchat was a thing people did to get away with sexting each other with limited consequences. Those who know me well know that I’m a smartphone prude. I won’t download GRINDR (WARNING – any web search for this will most likely be not safe for work) much less take sketchy photos on my phone.

But this didn’t really matter as I’m an Android fan and Snapchat was an IOS app… until it just an IOS app. Snapchat came to Android last November. But still, I refused.

Last month, #MyEric, who has no use for social media in his life, downloaded Snapchat. Between that and the gentle prodding of two former students, I gave in last week and checked it out.

I should have jumped on the bandwagon earlier.

Why the sudden change of heart?

  • I read too much into the negativity of a social media platform and couldn’t move out of my own way.
  • We have the ability to craft social media and technology into ways that it is useful for us.
  • We have the ability to put our thinking caps on and see how we can interact with people in new ways.
  • I called myself out – didn’t I initially reject Facebook & Twitter? And look at me now…

After playing on it for a just a few days, I found Snapchat to be a lovely way to share pictures and videos with friends and students. My mind jumps at using this to show what’s happening on campus and how we can integrate it into our current social media strategy.

That said, send me a snapchat! I’d love to see what your day looks like – jasonrobert99

I’m going to enjoy Snapchat. I just had to get out of my own way first.

Rethinking Snapchat

On the topic of goodbyes

There are a lot of goodbyes happening right now… undergrads graduating and moving on, grad students getting their first jobs, friends moving on to the next stage in their lives.

At dinner last night with two recently graduated students, we talked about moving on and saying goodbye. What struck me  was the nonchalance we now have when we say goodbye.

I’ve had 17 different addresses in my life. That’s one address for every two years of my life. Most of these were accompanied by a big move and the need to say goodbye. It was never easy but I learned to let go and move on… to say goodbye.

Before email and social media, we were reliant upon letter writing as the primary means of staying in touch. As the world’s worst letter writer, that meant I had to learn how to say goodbye. That’s not the case anymore.

Social media keeps us clued in these days. It’s not that people say goodbye and move away, it’s that people and their relationships with us move to a digital space. Feelings, news and statuses are still shared. A connection is still easily kept, just in another way.

And I wonder if we’re not worse off because of it. Maybe its because I emotionally compartmentalize my life, but I feel more able to cut my strings and move on. I am equipped and able to say goodbye to people, experiences and institutions. My ability to let go and move forward is something I consider to be a strength.

I’ll give you this: My relationships with former colleagues and students remains strong because of social media and I wouldn’t give that up for anything. 

A book that has always stayed with me is Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. This quote sums it up for me:

If our friendship depends on things like space and time, then when we finally overcome space and time, we’ve destroyed our own brotherhood! But overcome space, and all we have left is Here. Overcome time, and all we have left is Now. And in the middle of Here and Now, don’t you think that we might see each other once or twice?
– Jonathan Livingston Seagull,  Richard Bach
To those of you we’re saying goodbye to, I’ll see you in the middle of Here and Now.
On the topic of goodbyes

What makes you happy?

The last five days were a blur of activity, laughter, and joy.

As the Coordinator for the National Association for Campus Activities Programming Basics Institute (#nacapbi), I had the pleasure of working with four institute staff members from all across the US, countless student leaders and a committed group of staff advisors who accompanied their students. While it was a whirlwind of work and chaos, I can’t imagine a more lovely (or recharging) few days. But that isn’t what this post is about –

After a conversation one evening, my roommate and new friend Dan proclaimed “NACA makes me happy.” Dan had the biggest grin on his face. It was electric. This was true joy.

And I wondered, what makes me that happy? What puts a grin like that on my face? What could possibly give me that much joy?

I don’t have an answer yet… but I’m close. In the meantime, talk to me: What makes you happy? 

What makes you happy?

Going off of the grid

On Valentines Day 2012, something strange hit me. No, not a loose arrow from cupid’s quiver, rather a weird desire to go off of the grid.

Inspired by a friend who had done the same a few week’s prior, I gave my cell phone up for 48 hours. Short of jailing my cell phone, I put my cell phone in my boss’ hand and told her not to give it back for 48 hours.


Hence began my first real experiment with going off of the grid.

Without constant work emails, facebook and twitter, I was able to spend a nice night cooking Valentine’s Day dinner with #MyEric and focus on the life around me. I instinctively reached for my phone more than once, but found no major withdraw symptoms. I learned I wasn’t nearly as technology dependent as I thought I was prior to going off of the grid. Truth be told, this was more stressful for my boss than it was for me.

So here we go again. Tomorrow, I board a boat and head off to the great wilds of Canada, essentially going off of the grid until noon on Sunday.

No texts, no email, no tweets, no facebooking, no friends bitching about the Red Wedding on last night’s Game of Thrones.

Two takeaways here:
1. A vacation is rarely a total vacation because we’re still on the grid. There are still glimpses of work emails, students tweeting, Facebook events, etc. Going completely off the grid turns your vacation into a real retreat.

2. In Higher Ed, we spend too long worrying about our absence and what it means to our campus. We have to get over ourselves. Truth be told, our absence rarely means anything. Students will still learn. Classes will still be taught. The world will continue to turn, even if I’m not tweeting about it.

Going off of the grid