Happy Birthdays are for Others

September 14th. It was a Monday when I was born. This day is becoming more and more of a day that I just let pass by me. Sure I like birthday parties, having others around me, celebrations, music, cake, laughing at almost nothing, staying up late, and enjoying other people’s company. Of course I love that. Still, I don’t like to make a big deal of something for myself. That’s just not how I do things.

When my 28th birthday was coming up, all I could think about was where I thought I’d be, how old I was getting, what I haven’t done, blah blah blah. But then I realised just what I HAVE DONE. How very much has happened to me. The people I have been blessed to have conversations with, laugh with, know about. I have listened to stories of pain, and joy…sat with people in their darkest, and their brightest. I have felt the weight of a culture nearly forgotten and a people fighting to staying alive. I have learned to be a better professional and a much better human.

Continue reading “Happy Birthdays are for Others”

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HBD or Hike Before Death.

Lately, with the beauty and wonder of the New Zealand countryside at my disposal, I have been inspired to seek out hikes. I am slightly transparent when it comes to hiking. If a friend of mine was stuck on the side of the road in need of help, but at that exact moment I also got an enthusiastic call from another friend telling me that the caravan for a hike was about to leave….well, my other friend better have an AA card (AAA for Americans). I’m being facetious…kind of.

Also with the fact that I am leaving at the beginning of the new year for my country of birth, I have started to see opportunities for hiking everywhere. Urban hiking, day hikes, 5 hour hikes, multi-day hikes, mountain hikes, camping trips, road-trips TO the hiking destination. It doesn’t matter. Lately I have even been going on hikes on my own, which has actually been incredible. I want to soak up as much of this incredible country as I can before I leave.

This got me thinking along a very specific train of thought. I started thinking about ALL the great hikes. The spots that cause you to stop walking, look in front of you, and take deep breaths. Spots that need no camera because they leave a lasting imprint on your life. It’s places like these that I want to fill my time finding. If I am to have a hobby, then this is my craft. The hike is my vehicle, and the trail is my highway. Let’s get lost.

So what ARE the great hikes.” one may ask. The answer: Too many. Here is a list of the places I want hike before I die. Starting geographically South and going North. Once you reach the bottom, I’ll sum everything up.

CALIFORNIA (side note: I want to do the entire Yosemite Valley)

Half Dome Yosemite

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El Capitan Yosemite

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UTAH

Bryce Canyon National Park

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Springville Overlook

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Fisher Towers

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Angels Landing Zion National Park

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Mesa Arch Trail

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OREGON

Neahkanhnie Mountian

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Canyon Beach

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WASHINGTON

Mt. Baker

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Noble Knob

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The Enchantments

he Enchantments called Colchuck Lake.

Chikamin Ridge

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Blanca Lake

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CANADA

Cheakamus Lake, BC

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Banff, Alberta

Lake Louise (since I was a boy, this destination has been a place I vowed to visit)

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Johnston Canyon

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NORWAY (one day, I hope to visit the country of my family’s origin.)

Trolltunga

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Kjeragbolten

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Geirangerfjord

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Preikestolen

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So there you have it. My HBD list.

The first few locations are recent additions from places that I have always longed to go, but never have. The locations in Canada and Norway in particular have sentimental significance to me. My father’s side of the family came from Norway and I have always been insanely curious to go there and experience my heritage. And Canada. I grew up knowing that my Dad had his first honeymoon in Banff, Alberta. Since I was a little kid, I have had this tourist pamphlet from the 80’s for Banff National Park. My little eleven year old self vowed that at some point in my life, I would go to this magical land that captivated me.

I don’t know how many of these I will cross off my list, but I think that it is good to have something like this in your life. What is life without a little adventure and something to look forward to? The Wild runs through my veins. Always has. Even living in flat Chicago all my life. I was born for the mountains. I live for the ascent.

Alright, time to cross a few off my NZ list. Until next time.

Memories

Two nights ago, I started doing something that I haven’t been able to stop. I started writing about my past. I started writing down any and all memories that I could think of, unhindered and unfiltered. I then started to categorize them into Good, Neutral, Bad, and Good/Bad memories. I can’t really explain why I started doing this, but I haven’t really been able to stop writing for about two days now. Any free time I get, I jot down a memory that comes to me, which will lead to another memory…so on and so forth.

The process has been incredible. All of these memories are inside my head, just filed away somewhere and pulling them out/recalling the details of events has been both challenging and incredibly therapeutic in some ways. This is an exercise that I would recommend to my clients. I just decided to do it on my own for whatever reason. The memories I choose are generally before high school, as in, any time after high school seems closer to “recently happened” rather than “past”. Semantics. I would say that about 98% of my memories are things that I would be able to share with my two sisters and parents, as they are all characters in said memories. 1% of my memories they don’t know because only I experienced them, and the last 1% are memories that I don’t see myself telling anyone. Some things belong in memory.

I have written about 11 pages so far, or 6,500 words, and if I had to do maths on what I’ve done, I could probably write another 20-30 pages (12-18,000 words). It goes without saying that I am not going to start posting my memories to everyone, as that cheapens my experiences and I’d like to share those with someone special someday….not the rest of the world. Still, there is an example memory that I can share with you all, and I think it accurately reflects my process. Enjoy this memory of mine, circa August 1999.

Once, my family and the Zehrs, a family I grew up with knowing and hanging out with, took a vacation to Michigan. It was Robyn, Nicole, and myself in my family. Ashley (Nicoles age) Alaina (my age) and Allie (Robyns age) in the Zehr family. We rented a beach house somewhere off Lake Michigan. I still remember pulling up to that house. Turquoise in color and fully awesome. I ran into the house and threw my stuff on the bed that I called dibs for. I then ran to the backyard…we had a HOT TUB! This was awesome. I was never allowed in the hot tub before. We jumped into our suits and ran down the beach. Freshly sun screened and eager, we marveled at the size of the waves. Equal parts frightened and gitty, we made sandcastles, sand towns, rivers of water, and sand angels. We burried each other, and swam in the lake to wash off. We ended up in the hot tub, me with my cubs hat and shirt still on, the others being crazy…which was business as usual. I remember that house being so beautiful and reeked of  “summer” with scents of sunscreen, bugspray, and BBQ. The house even looked like summer with shells everywhere, rope, sailing pictures, fish art pieces, wicker furniture, plenty of windows to let the sunlight in, etc. I loved it. Our families took turns cooking dinner, and we would all congregate around the big glass table to eat. Unrelated, but this is around the time that Prince of Egypt came out, and I was listening to the soundtrack the entire trip, ha. Loved that movie. To this day, both the Peterson family and the Zehrs remember fondly on that trip and how incredibly relaxing/fun it was. It was a golden week. Untouchable.

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What I’ve Been Doing for the Past 6 Months

Convicted murderer, high gang affiliations, addiction, domestic violence charges, and theft. I have to admit, I was quite nervous. Still, Te Whakaora Tangata wanted me to interview some people who attend their organization. I had never conducted interviews before, let alone talked for an hour at length with Maori people. What could I say? What couldn’t I say? What would be taboo for me to bring up? Will I insult them? What do I need to know before going into this? These questions and about thirty more were cycling through my head.

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For those who didn’t know, for the past 6 months I have been living in New Zealand, working with Maxim Institute. Maxim Institute is not the think tank where they come up with a bunch of ideas for a dirty magazine (sorry if that joke flew over your head), but rather a political think tank where we discuss policy and inform the leaders of the nation about issues that matter. Yeah, it’s been an interesting time. And for those who know me and are like, “Eric? You? Working at a political think tank? Yeah, okay. So what are you actually doing in NZ, common, you can tell me.” Ummm, I don’t know what to tell you. I have been.

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I graduate on Thursday and reflecting on what I’ve done here has been bitter/sweet. The beginning of this post was describing the project that I have been working on for the past 4 months. Basically Maxim and Te Whakaora Tangata (an organization that works on the Marae (a sacred meeting place for Maori (the native people of NZ))) have partnered to bring their first placement together in the internships history. Mainly to best take advantage of my specific skills as a Social Worker. What can I say? I’m kindof a big deal.

The day that I applied to the Maxim Institute, they asked me what I was passionate about. I told them that I loved being on the ground floor, helping people in their place of need. TW saw this as an opportunity to do something that they have been meaning to do for some time. They asked me if I could go to the Marae and interview people who have used their services. The object was to hear them out. The opportunity to be heard is a very powerful thing. To be noticed, to feel loved, cared for, and heard…can sometimes mean the difference between life and death. Additionally, as an organization, it is important to know that you are serving the people in the most effective and efficient way possible. This is done by the very popular and arduous process of research. I was to ask specific, and yet representative people questions about their past, present, and projected future through the work that TW has been doing in their lives. I was beyond excited. This was an opportunity for me to do what I have always wanted to do.

With my mentor Luke helping me through the process, I felt much more confident, as he has done this very thing in Germany 4 years ago. I knew from the start that the interviews would be incredibly helpful for the organization and for myself. I would gain knowledge and understanding about the people and culture, and TW would understand what they are doing well and maybe not so well.

Looking back on the experience now, I could not have been set up with a more perfect fit for my placement. This is Social Work. Helping people where they are at. Not in a cold office with a fluorescent light beating down on you, but on the streets, in their meeting places, in their homes, with their families, seeing the problems they’re facing, understanding their stories, and doing something about it. Social Work requires action, and I feel that my placement allowed me to know more about what that looks like. Now I am left with the question: “So what? What will you do about it?” Honestly, I can’t wait to answer that call, and this placement has given me the confidence to act.

This project was my baby, and tomorrow I present it to the organization, Maxim as well as the Lion Trust. I am excited and hopeful that the results will spur further action to aid the people in the Manurewa area. From here, I go on to bigger and more challenging opportunities in Social Work.

I will continue to live in the Maxim Intern Residence that I’ve been living in, until November, when the new batch of interns move in. There I will be living with the guys that I will be flatting with for the coming years in NZ. I have to say that I am excited for the changes ahead. Change, historically for me, Eric Peterson, doesn’t usually hit me until about 1-2 weeks later. At least not the sad things. So whatever comes, let it come. I’m ready for you.

Writing for Another

Hello readers. I just wanted to update you on a new development recently regarding my writing. About two weeks ago, I was emailed by a website called rednow. Rednow explores the “wonder” in the media we experience. To quote the website, rednow exists, “to provide opportunities to feel and think: to wonder.” Their tagline for the website is, “Rednow: The Art of Wonder.” What does their name mean? Even that is left for us to “wonder” about.

 

Naturally I checked out the site to see what they were about, and after reading their mission statements, I was on board 100%. I began by writing a piece about Garden State for them about a week ago, you can see that here. After editing it a few times and running it by their editor, they liked what I had written enough to put it on their site! I was very excited, because even though I have many viewers on my blog here at wordpress, this was a new and exciting opportunity that I never thought I would get to experience.

I want to let you know here that I am not going to stop writing on my blog, but I WILL be running my articles that I write for rednow through my blog. I’d like to give my friends over there some much deserved traffic, as their site aims to explore media from a totally different lens rather than just letting it wash over us from a numb, mindless, perspective.

I hope that you can check out their site and read some of their articles on film, music, tv, and other fascinating stories. Most of them will make you wonder yourself, and frankly, that’s not a bad thing in todays world.