I have achieved middle age

Hanging out before my flight.
Pre-security hangout.

Today is my 35th birthday. I am writing this post in the Albuquerque International Airport (Sunport for locals) waiting to board a plane to Dallas/Ft. Worth International Airport with a final destination of Missoula International Airport (that’s in Montana for those who had to look it up on a map like I did). This is a work trip, not a self-funded birthday vacation.

Having been through 34 birthdays before (none of which garnered much attention or celebration), I’m not sad or displeased with traveling for work on the 35th iteration of this event. However, it is a sobering sensation to know I am halfway through my life. This is not a macabre realization, it’s just a simple fact given my current bad health habits and stressful lifestyle.

In my teens and twenties, I never thought I would make it to 23 let alone still be alive and kicking 12 years after that lifespan estimate. Most people attribute my low expectations of an extended life with the army, but I have always harbored a sense of not living to old age.

As a teenager I was fully aware of my reckless, adrenaline seeking lifestyle and knew the potential consequences of those actions. Between fighting, fast driving, and generally bad decisions about my physical wellbeing I was astonished to see my 18th birthday.

Once I joined the army at 18, it was natural to think I wouldn’t make it out alive. With two active wars in progress, my young-man-pride in joining the infantry, and my willingness to ignore obvious signs of danger all contributed to a fatalist view of life. I am sure some would say I actively pursued an ultimate end while deployed to Iraq on several occasions, but I always felt it was in line with the job description.

In my mid-20s I started in government security contracting which, low and behold, could be a very dangerous job. I sought it out to fill the void the army left after my premature expulsion from the organization under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). I needed something to make up for what appeared to be a dull day-to-day grind as a civilian. I never made it on to one of those truly high-risk contracts which may have been a better outcome for me in the long run.

The past 6-years have been filled with the stressful life of the startup world. Whether it’s traveling with little notice, or devising a means of accomplishing an initiative without money or personnel, or simply working the forever long days, stress builds up in short order. However, there is an adrenaline/endorphin kick to this kind of work and the risk of failure appeals to my still rebellious inner teenager.

My hair is speckled with grey; the lines under my eyes are getting deeper; I can’t run as fast; I can’t pull all-nighters without consequences anymore; I find myself more contemplative than ever before. It’s not all bad, having reached middle age I am astonished by the experiences I have had in my life. I see the future as a true prospect now and am living in the present while allowing myself to secure a better future for myself and my husband.

Getting older isn’t all bad – I laugh more, I know how to smile now, and I have learned a lot along the way. We are all marching towards the same grim end, but we should all take a moment to acknowledge that our lives are unique, each experience is our own. Go out and take a risk, it’s usually worth it!

Time to board the plane 🙂

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6 Tips for Getting Through Airport Security – FAST

This morning I flew from Albuquerque New Mexico to Portland Oregon via a very brief layover in Phoenix Arizona. I was astonished when, in Albuquerque, two people in front of me in the security checkpoint (it’s not the largest airport) held up my progress for longer than when I stand in line for an hour tryng to get my boarding pass checked.

It is 2018 and commercial aviation has been in full swing for nearly a century, yet when you are in an airport, people don’t seem to have any clue what they are doing. Confusion abounds at the security checkpoint, milling individuals and groups block pathways, and loading a plane sometimes comes across as a disorganized disaster. How can this be?

The security checkpoints, run by the TSA (love them or hate them), have a purpose – attempt to prevent any lethal or damaging objects accessible to a passenger into the airport or the airplane. Granted, some of the restrictions on allowable items are a head scratcher (finger nail clippers and tweezers come to mind as past examples), but learning which objects are banned is pretty easy.

Let’s start with some resources. When you book your flight online (as a majority of people now do) there is a screen that lists out all the banned items you shouldn’t bring to the airport, let alone try to take on the plane in your carry-on luggage. This page has pictures and words and requires you to acknowledge their existence. Okay, so most people breeze through this page without reading it. Fair enough.

Confused about what you need to do at the security checkpoint? Confused as to what your children need to do at the security checkpoint? Here’s a lovely 2-minute video for adults and a separate 2-minute animated video for kids – if you are confused, scared, or just don’t know then take the 2-minutes to save yourself some time and hassle while reducing the frustrations of everyone behind you. Slowing down the process because of your own ignorance is one of the most irritating experiences for the people around you.

I typically travel with two laptops, an iPad, cell phone, Apple Watch, Bose Bluetooth Earbuds Charger (lithium battery requiring removal from my bag), and all the standard items that go in one’s pockets. Left to my own devices (and barring an issue caused by a passenger in front of me), I can go from having my boarding pass and passport checked to all my items in the bins and through the full-body scanner in about 45 seconds. That’s less than a minute. Less time than it takes to order a pizza or smoke a cigarette.

How do I accomplish this amazing feat? It’s simple, I do the following:

  1. I remove my belt and everything from my pockets BEFORE I get to the security checkpoint. Since I travel with a single carry-on (most of the time), I put my belt, wallet, keys, change, cell phone, Apple Watch, and wedding ring in my bag. This means I don’t have to fuss with it while being pressured by a long line of fellow travelers waiting for me to push my bins down the pass.
  2. I have my boarding pass and passport ready for inspection BEFORE I get to the person who needs to check it. This is a simple one, you need both these items in order to get into the checkpoint, don’t bury them in your purse or bag.
  3. I don’t chit-chat with the TSA agents beyond a friendly “hello”. Some of you out there are genuinely nice people, got it…stow it until you’re on the far-side of the checkpoint. Travelers are trying to get to their aircraft and the TSA agents have a job to do so be polite but keep the process moving along.
  4. I know how many bins I need to accommodate all my belongings. This one is a bit more difficult for first-time or infrequent flyers so it is probably the most forgiveable delay in security. Here’s a hint: ONE bin for your electronics (assuming they all fit without any overlap), ONE bin for shoes and everything else you may be wearing + toiletries (again, assuming it all fits in a bin without overlapping). Bags (briefcases, purses, backpacks, rollers, etc.) don’t need to go in a bin!
  5. I follow the directions provided by the TSA Agents. This is a no-brainer for most people, but some travelers want to argue a point (as if that is going to help anyone) or give an attitude to the Agents that is typically unnecessary. I worked security for many years, sometimes in environments similar to( but much lower volume) an airport security checkpoint. It’s a thankless job but vitally important to safety – deal with it and get to your plane.
  6. I make sure I don’t have any food or drinks in my bags! I get very irritated when people hold up the line to ask a TSA Agent, “Is this liter of water okay to take through, I mean, it’s only water?” No, no, NO! It may be water or it may be something else that looks like water, toss it and let’s move forward. “Wait, do 12 bars of Toblerone count as food?” Yes, yes, YES! It is food, toss it or don’t get pissed off when you have to stand around for 20 minutes while an agent wastes their time wanding every bar.

In closing, remember that you are not the only person in the airport, you are not the only person stressed out about catching a flight, you are not special when going through the airport security checkpoint. We are all trying to get somewhere, try not to be “that guy” – it’s not funny and no one is laughing when you muck up the system.

Here’s a picture of a pretty fountain at my hotel, I hope you enjoy and safe travels!

Portland_Radisson_hotel
A pretty fountain outside the Portland Airport Radisson Hotel.

Vacation: To stay or to go, that is the question…

Meteor Crater Selfie
The standard couple selfie at Meteor Crater east of Flagstaff, AZ.

The Husband and I recently took some time off from work and called it a vacation. We had some friends from back East staying with us so we mainly stayed in the Albuquerque area to show them the sites. The exception was a day-trip to Meteor Crater and Flagstaff in Arizona (no Grand Canyon despite being so close to it). It was a fun week that broke the mold of the day-to-day grind of everyday life and we had a blast!

Leading up to our time off, I had coworkers, friends, family, and clients asking, “Where are you going? Where are you staying? What tourist trap are you going to check off your list?” To me, these questions made sense, but were a bit disconcerting. The logical assumption when someone says “I am going on vacation” is that they are actually going somewhere. However, times have changed and so has the meaning of the word “vacation”.

It used to be that American families would pack up once or twice a year for a two week road trip to a national park, amusement park, or other attraction somewhere within the United States. Wholesome family photos documented these treks across the open road; they showed enthusiastic children, disgruntled teenagers, tired parents, and natural backdrops. The Golden Age of family trips.

Flash forward a few decades and air travel has become affordable to the average family. Now it’s airports and destinations further away from the homestead. New Yorkers are in Los Angeles and Seattlites are wandering through Orlando. Vacations become shorter, dwindling to a few days to a single week. The Kodak moments are collected, everyone flies home on a TWA jet, and life settles back into its natural rhythm fairly quickly.

This brings us to today. We live in a world where we live vicariously through other people via online communities. From the comfort of our own couch we can peruse our friend’s pictures of Cancun, gaze up at the Eiffel Tower, jump out of a plane and

Steep Tea Shop - Flagstaff, AZ
Steep Tea Shop – Flagstaff, AZ

experience free fall using our Oculus headsets, and enjoy the nightlife of New York City. It’s all at our fingertips. We can jump on a plane Friday afternoon, experience a new city for 48-hours, and be back at work Monday morning without missing a beat. For many millennials, the concept of taking two weeks off of work is sacrilege (especially within the tech community). Sure, we could go other places for few days, but what are we really looking for in a vacation?

For me, the answer is simple: Break the cycle of my daily grind. It’s pretty simple, by not going to work on a Tuesday and spending my day working on personal projects around the house I have successfully reset myself. Taking a four-day weekend to do some long hikes or day-trip to an attraction within 400 miles of the house sets me up for continued success in my daily life. I, along with many others, don’t need to do a brochure-esque trip to Disneyland to unwind and experience life.

By taking time for yourself you have a better chance of managing your mental health and your physical health for that matter. You’ll be more productive when you get back to work and likely enjoy the attention of people interrogating you on all the little things you did while away. Sometimes a vacation doesn’t have to mean “going somewhere”, it can just mean “not doing what I usually do on a Tuesday”.

What’s your favorite way to break your daily grind? Share in the comments and don’t forget to like and share this post on Facebook and/or Twitter!

In-Flight Reset

Post 10 - Railyards
Albuquerque Rail Yards

I have been absent from my blog for the past two weeks as I thrust myself into an experiment to prove what I am doing has been positive. Essentially, I tested whether my lifestyle before this year was actually a bad thing. Initial results: it absolutely was bad for me.

Early this week I had to travel to New Jersey for work which broke the routine I have been following since the beginning of the year. This lapse in commitment on my part led to the aforementioned experiment. I started to leave the television on for hours on end, my diet went to shit, and I haven’t been to the gym in a week. My energy plummeted, attitude suffered, and motivation evaporated. I found myself wasting hour after hour doing nothing of importance – I passed from relaxation into laziness.

All of this helps to highlight the fact that new habits and commitments to improving yourself are fragile. It doesn’t take much to backslide into your old ways and, if you’re not careful, stay there.

I did not set out to test my resolve nor did I anticipate such a fast return to my toxic habits of the past. Fortunately, I have been able to identify what is happening and fix the problem.

Today has been a more productive day (outside of the office) than any in the past two weeks. I am in the process of an in-flight reset to ensure I don’t lose all of my gains this year and push through this barrier as quickly as possible. To help with this, I am doing the following:

  1. Calendar Organization – I am blocking time out using my personal Google Calendar to help keep me on track each day. This is not granular enough to result in notification fatigue, but pings me with general guidance as to what I should be doing.
  2. Writing – This is helped by my calendar, but keeping this blog and my personal Dailies in mind at all times. Writing has always been a way for me to organize my thoughts and vent my frustrations before they negatively impact my day-to-day. This year is highly focused on building this habit and skillset.
  3. Three Goals Per Day – I use this technique at work to ensure I stay focused on what is important. I may complete 100 tasks in a day, but it only truly matters if I complete all 3 of my primary goals I set out with at the beginning of each day. These goals can be as small “go to the gym” or “write a Daily” anything that I want to make progress on in a particular day.

This post will likely read as a bit scattered. There is a simple reason for this: it is. I needed to jump start my writing and this post is what I came up with. I hope you get something out of it like I did.

What do you do to get back on track after a stumble? Are there any things you do to make every day a productive day? Leave your thoughts in the comments!