Todd’s Thanksgiving Thankfulness Testimony

Today marks the first time I have ever been out of the United States for Thanksgiving.  I can admit that I’m a little bummed about it (not as bummed as I was for missing Halloween, but I digress).  People who aren’t from the States or have never experienced an American Thanksgiving just don’t get it.  They don’t understand why it’s a big deal to Americans.  They think it’s just another American excuse to eat a lot (which might not but super far off the mark).  I heard it described by someone from England as “it’s pretty much a Christmas day feast, but Americans are greedy and want two.”  I’ve gone through the process of explaining to multiple people what Thanksgiving is all about- family, giving thanks, and football.  Sadly I can only do one of these this year.

I was able to enjoy a Thanksgiving dinner of sorts here on the ship though.  One of the Nurses (Jodi from Washington state) had her contract extended and her one stipulation was that she was allowed to have a Thanksgiving dinner.  It was the first Thanksgiving dinner I have ever had with people from outside of the states.  There were only 3 Americans out of 14 people.  But even so you could still feel the friendship in the room.  Having turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn, and PUMPKIN PIE helped too though.

So to my family please enjoy without me.  Remember I love you all and miss you.  Don’t let the card games get to intense, because at the end of the day I’m still the best buck player in the family.  However, I will temporarily release my crown until Easter.

And for football, all I’ve got to say is Go Lions.  Calvin Johnson is a freak of nature and will one day rule the world.  (Still love the who would win in a fight between Calvin Johnson and LeBron James, I’m taking Megatron).

With all that said I can give thanks for all I have.  So below is a list of 10 things that I am thankful for this year.  This list is a combination of things.  Some of the things I am thankful for are people, others are things, and some are characteristics that I’m thankful that I possess.  Please realize that I am thankful for much much more but these are just the highlights.

1.My Health

Without it I wouldn’t be able to do anything I’ve done.  I’ve been lucky throughout my life in having no serious health issues or concerns.  You start to appreciate this more and more when you see mentally and physically handicap people on each cruise you work on.  If see them doesn’t make you appreciative for who you are and what you can do then check your pulse.

My Family and Friends

This one may sound cliché and I know that people say they have great family and friends.  But in truth those people don’t have anything on mine.  You don’t really realize how close you are with people and how much they mean to you until you go halfway across the world.  I appreciate every single e-mail, tweet. facebook message, and snapchat I’ve gotten.  You guys are all great.  It helps to make me feel like I’m still home.

3. The opportunity I’ve had to travel

Anyone who knows me knows that I encourage people to travel as much as they can.  I once read “travel is the one thing you can buy that makes you richer” and I can’t agree with that more.  I’ve been out of the States for 3 months and I can’t express in words how rewarding it has been.  From the people I’ve met to the places I’ve seen it’s truly enriched my life and been a blessing.  So I implore you to please take that trip you’ve been putting off.  I don’t care if its across the country, over the ocean, or just one town over.  Go.  See something new.  Experience as much as you can.

4. Having a job- one that I enjoy (most of the time)

Thousands of people across the world wonder where their next meal is coming from or how they are going to pay their rent each month.  I don’t have those worries because I have a job.  My basic needs are met.  Moreover,  I am able to buy things I don’t need because of my monthly income.  Never lose sight of that.  Don’t care if you’re a CEO or working at a gas station.  Be thankful you can afford the necessities and a little extra.

5. My love and desire for reading and literature

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, reading makes you a better and more useful human being.  Not everyone likes to read which is something I can’t fathom.  I love being immersed in a book.  I love going to Hogwarts, Narnia, Middle Earth, or any other of a million places while never leaving my bedroom.  I love reading what the great minds before us- Vonnegut, Emerson, Wilde, Frost, Nietzsche- thought.  Their beliefs are right there in front of us all we have to do is open our eyes.
“We don’t need a list of rights and wrongs, tables of dos and don’ts: we need books, time, and silence. Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever.”

-Philip Pullman

6. Technology.

I know it seems like a super obvious one but you don’t realize how amazing technology is or how far we’ve come until you are 13,000 miles away not only talking to your parents or friends but literally seeing them as well.  You know it’s 2013 when snapchats make you more homesick than anything else.

7. My background.
I didn’t grow up with a lot of money.  But I was lucky enough to grow up with everything I needed with a little more. Wide open spaces, friendly people, and good morals. I was blessed with parents who trusted me to make my own decisions. How many parents are okay with their kid major in Philosophy, ditching law school, then jumping on a cruise ship in Australia?  Yeah I know. My parents rock.  They’ve always given me freedom and confidence to live my life my way and take whatever comes in stride.

8. Being born in America.

This is NOT an “AMERICA IS THE BEST” thing.  This is me stating the reality of the situation.  Like it or not, being born in America is a huge life advantage.  I constantly have people telling me how much they want to live there or visit but can’t get in.  There are hundreds of people working on the ship who are smart, nice, and friendly but were born in a less then desirous location which has lead to them taking a job like this to survive not to see the world and meet people.

9. Finding the courage to go after what I really want.

People have a tendency to dislike change and play it safe.  I could have stayed in Omaha working at Gavilon and just been “punching the clock” so to speak.  But I knew I would be miserable in the long run.  So I asked myself what I really wanted to do.  I came up with: travel and work with people.  I then started looking into jobs that did both and ended up on a cruise ship in Australia.  When I was first hired I admit I had second thoughts.  It was a huge change.  But a change of scenery was something I needed.  I don’t know what the future holds.  I don’t know if I’ll do another contract or move to Europe or to So Cal but I do know what at the end of the day I know what taking chances is a vital part to an interesting worthwhile life.

10. Being me.

I was driving one day and the following thought came into my head: if you could be reborn as yourself or ANYONE else at random would you want to (yeah these are the thoughts that just pop into my head)?  This means you could end up being Warren Buffet or LeBron James, but it also means you could end up being the homeless man down the street.  Within a few seconds I knew the answer for me was a big fat No.  Nothing against anyone else but I’m super happy with who I am and who I’m slowly becoming.  I once read “I don’t change, I simply become more myself.”  Regardless, working with people every day it really started hitting home how fortunate I am to be who I am and have what I have.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving and family I leave you with this:

“What is family? They were the people who claimed you. In good, in bad, in parts or in whole, they were the ones who showed up, who stayed in there, regardless. It wasn’t just about blood relations or shared chromosomes, but something wider, bigger. We had many families over time. Our family of origin, the family we created, and the groups you moved through while all of this was happening: friends, lovers, sometimes even strangers. None of them perfect, and we couldn’t expect them to be. You can’t make any one person your world. The trick was to take what each could give and build your world from it.”

-Sarah Dressen
Stay Gold.

As always,

“with mindfulness, strive.”


On Sports and Life…

I once came across a poem while I was reading Wooden, a book written by the late John Wooden former coach of UCLA, one of the greatest coaches and people of all time.  The poem is titled: A parent talks to their child before their first game (see below).  The premise of the entire poem is a parent sitting down with their child before they competed in their first ever sports competition.  Explaining what to expect. why sports are important to us, and what they represent.

This is your first game my child. I hope you win.
I hope you win for your sake, not mine.
Because winning is nice.
It is good feeling.
Like the whole world is yours.
But, it passes, this feeling.
And what lasts is what you’ve learned.

And what you learn about is life.
That is what sports are all about. Life.
The whole thing is played out in an afternoon.
The happiness of life.
The miseries. The joys. The heartbreaks.

There is no telling what will turn up.
There is no telling whether they will toss you out on your first minute,
or whether you will stay for the long haul.

There is no telling how you will do.
You might be a hero.
Or you might be absolutely nothing.
There is just no telling. Too much depends on chance.
On how the ball bounces.

I’m not talking about the game my child.
I’m talking about life.
But, it is life that the game is all about.
just as I said.

Because every game is life.
And life is a game.
A serious game.
Dead Serious.

But, that is what you do with serious things.
You do your best.
You take what comes.
You take what comes.
And you run with it.

Winning is fun. Sure.
But Winning is not the point.

Wanting to win is the point.
Not giving up is the point.
Never being satisfied with what you’ve done is the point.
Never letting anyone down is the point.

Play to win. Sure.
But loose like a champion.
Because is not winning that counts.
What counts is trying.

Those that know me well know that I disagree with the last part about how “trying counts more than winning” but that is a topic for another day so I will digress the point.  As you can read for yourself, the entire poem represents how sports are a lot like life.  Both at first glance and once you delve deeper the similarities are striking.  How there is no way of knowing ahead of time how well you’ll do- if you’ll be an all-star or a complete zero.  No telling how long you’ll “play”- if you’ll live to be 114 or if you’ll be one of the “good die young” crowd.  It is filled with metaphors comparing sports to life- most of them spot on.

The line that always stuck with me the most is when the parent talks about the feelings we exude during a competition.  It says how all of the emotions we experience during life are felt in a single afternoon of sports and competition.  Think about it.  Playing or even watching a sporting event, our emotional swing is unbelievable.  One minute we’re on Cloud 9 so excited about what is happening and the next we’re devastated by some random failure or happenstance.  Five minutes later we’re hopeful and then next instant we’re enraged by the injustice of the most recent play.   I agree that the emotional side of sports and competing is one thing I love the most.  Passion is one of the greatest gifts we have in life.  Anything that helps us discover and get in touch with it should be cherished.  Yes, you are going to experience the bad things, when the ball doesn’t bounce your way but the beautify of sports-and life- is there is always another moment, another chance that you can seize to make sure the ball does bounce your way.  We are never fully broken or destroyed until we give up and decide to be.

I started to think about the poem again when I started thinking about ship life.  I sat down to write about relationships and human interaction on board (still a work in progress) but couldn’t get away from this poem and topic.  I know it may be a weird comparison to some, but living and working on a cruise ship is living life condensed in a lot of ways.  Relationships may shorter but tend to be more intense.  You are literally together nonstop for days and weeks on end.  This makes both friendships and relationships escalate for both people involved.  You can play an entire relationship out in a week.  You are able to have the highs, lows, regrets, mistakes, drama, and recovery more quickly than most would believed possible.  It’s life played out in a week.  Throughout our lives we have moments of happiness and points of despair.

However, it’s not just relationships that promote the “life in an afternoon” theory.  There is also the constant arriving and leaving of people.  Comparable (in a morbid way) to life and death.  Because in most cases you will never see or even talk to most of these people again.  So you are required to both accept people quickly for who they are and let go of them when you must.

For some other reason your peaks and valleys are both more extreme as well.  Honestly, it seems that each feeling is amplified whilst working on the ship.  The bad days are worse than they would be at home.  But on the flip side your good days are at the height of bliss.  A few weeks ago I was struggling through the day wondering what I had gotten into and why I was doing this to myself.  I just had a lot of stuff on my mind and no one to really talk to about it.  The next thing I know I’m parasailing in Cairns, Australia with some of my coworkers and life couldn’t be better.  Every few so often you have a moment and realize how good life is.

Kurt Vonnegut said it best when he wrote “I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim, murmur or think, at some point, ‘if this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.”  Don’t take the good times for granted and don’t let the bad times be written in cement.

Most people couldn’t handle this type of emotional swing.  They like consistency.  They strive for predictability regardless of if it is slowly killing their spirit.  Change terrifies them.  They only see the now because they lack foresight.  They don’t realize that only through change and growth can we become the people we want to be, the type of people the world needs.

So the next time you play or watch a game please remember the similarities it has to life and cherish them.  Enjoy when you’re happy, but endure when you must.

Stay Gold.

As always,

“with mindfulness, strive.”

Cruise update: Promotion and things

Hi All,

It’s been a few weeks since my past update and for that I apologize.  Life happens, events escalate, and time evaporates.  However, in that time, quite a bit has happened.  Since then I’ve switched jobs, been to Fiji, mopeded in Noumea. experienced Papa New Guinea, and started scuba diving.  Of all these changes, the biggest one, the one that has had the most profound impact on my life and my overall happiness has to be the switching of jobs.

As many of you know I was originally hired to work with the kids (11-17 year olds) on the ship.  After a few weeks of doing that, I’ll be honest, my heart wasn’t in it and I was already sick of it.  I had decided that there was no way I was going to do another contract because I was borderline miserable for 8-10 hours a day.  Understand you can only be so miserable sailing around on a cruise ship in the Pacific Ocean, but still…

The work wasn’t challenging (unless challenging my patience counts).  Don’t get me wrong, I was able to meet some nice kids but I also had to deal with tons of little brats dumped off because their parents were tired of dealing with them. I was literally babysitting for a majority of my day.  I know, I know, you’re probably asking yourself “what did you expect it to be like when you took a job working with kids if not babysitting?”   And I came to the solution that I knew what I was getting into but I didn’t know how much I’d end up not enjoying it.  I thought meeting interesting people and traveling would make the fact that I could turn my brain off less exasperating.  I thought that I could lie to myself and tell myself that it was okay that I wasn’t thinking or being challenged or even enjoying my job because at least I was seeing different places and finally working with people.  At least it was a step up from sitting in a desk all day answering phone calls and emails right?

As you may have noticed, life has a funny way of catching up with you and eventually you admit you’re fed up or you breakdown.  Personally, I’ve never been one for breaking down, so the only thing you can do is admit you need a change and seek said change. For me the final straw was when I had “lego training.” Yes.  It’s exactly as ridiculous as it sounds.  This training was an hour long and caused me to miss one of the nicer ports that I hadn’t been to yet.  I can’t really express why this was the straw that broke the camel’s back but it did.  The next day I woke up, went and told the Cruise Director (One of the most legit women I have ever had the pleasure to work with) that I was interested in doing “Cruise Staff” and that if there was ever an opening or any chance of that happening to let me know.  She looked right at me and said “Yes, I’d love you for that.”  I give all credit to the CD on board for making this switch happen.  When you’re on a cruise ship it’s really hard to make things happen.  There is very little direct contact with the outside world therefore people can keep putting you off.  Also, in my case, rarely are people allowed to switch jobs during their first contract.  Pretty much never actually.  However, the CD made it happened.  I was fortunate that at that moment they were short staff and also had no males working in that part of the entertainment department.  A perfect storm if you will.  I am just completing my first full cruise as “Entertainment/Cruise Staff” and I can’t put into words how much better it suits me.

Most of you won’t think that there is much of a difference between “youth staff” and “cruise staff” seeing how they both put on/host events for passengers that include arts and crafts, sports, parties/dances etc.  However, and I can’t express this enough, there is a huge difference.  When I was a Youth Staffer, I had large amounts of time when I was “working” but wasn’t really doing anything except making sure the kids behaved.  Now, every time I’m working I am doing something hands on.  And those of you who know me know that I don’t mind being in charge or having a mic in my hand/ talking.  The other obvious yet still needing mentioned difference is the passengers I am working with.  I’m not working with 11 year olds anymore.  I get to work with adults of all ages and talk with them.  I don’t have to filter my vocabulary (as much, I mean they are still Aussies, kidddddinng, but seriously).  And I can talk about pretty much anything they bring up.

I am learning more and more about Australia and its culture because I’m actually interacting with the people who make it up.  On my schedule I literally have a segment everyday that is “M/M” This stands for mix and mingle.  My job during that time is literally to walk around the ship and talk to passengers about their day, the cruise, their lives, and answer any questions they have for me.  These are usually about being from America, my accent, why I have an accent, if I own a gun, and any other American stereotype.  I truly enjoy answer questions about the homeland because a lot of these people have never left Australia.  I guess that is a side effect of living on a giant island in the middle of nowhere.

It’s also nice to put on an event and know that the people there are there because they actually want to be.  When working with the kids,  we would have to make them do some activities and if you know anything about 11-17 year olds you know that this can be a dreadful experience.  Now however, I show up to do trivia, shuffleboard, golf chipping whatever it is and know that all I really have to worry about is putting on the activity and not if there will be fighting, yelling, or teenage drama.

As I keep learning and relearning, at the end of the day you have to do what you love- if you value happiness that is.  If you aren’t happy then the best thing you can do is admit it and pinpoint why you’re miserable and what would make you happy.  People aren’t mind readers and your happiness is YOUR responsibility and no one else’s.  I think a lot of the time we project blame onto others for our insecurities and lack of happiness.  In these instances, the best thing we can do is to take responsibility and commit to the change.  I would have survived 6 months as a youth staff but I realized after 2 it wasn’t a great fit for me or what I wanted.  So I took a proactive step and now have a job I truly enjoy.  I’m even considering doing another contract as a “cruise staffer” because I am enjoying it that much.  If happiness is your goal you can’t be afraid to chase dreams, take chances, and make leaps of faith.  Because at the end of the day only when you risk something can you find something greater.

“Any path is just a path, and there is no affront to oneself or to others, in dropping it if that is what your heart tells you.”
-Carlos Castaneda


“With mindfulness, strive.”