23rd Birthday

Today is my 23rd birthday (2014-08-17). I was born 23 years ago in Daytona Beach, FL.

I am not going to write a long and arrogant essay like I did for my 17th birthday. I would like to think I’ve grown beyond that, but in truth my writing style and photography from when I was 16-18 were more prolific, spirited, and probably more interesting to people in general. It is ironic how getting older and wiser often makes one more cautious and less interesting. However, this is ideally a temporary condition which leads to a higher level of reason and understanding.

My 23rd year was the most significant to date and was highlighted by these events and accomplishments (yes, when you are 22 that is your “23rd year” and when you are 0 that is your “1st year” just as the 2000s are part of the “21st century”):

2013-08-22: 1st day of face-to-face classes at University of Central Florida, Daytona Beach (did one year online previously). Met Allie (friend).
2013-08-24: Received a wonderful letter of recommendation from Dr. Katherine Urquhart (psychology instructor).
2013-09-04: Last day working at Winn-Dixie as a cashier and bagger.
2013-09-06 / 2013-09-08: Attended and photographed Umicon 2013 in Daytona Beach, FL. Photographed Quinton Flynn and others.
2013-09-18: Visited the main campus of University of Central Florida in Orlando for the 1st time with Maya (friend).
2013-10-07: Took the Graduate Record Examinations and scored highly (V: 160, Q: 164, AW: 4.5).
2013-10-10: Completed “Communication Challenges Between Foreign Inmates and Norwegian Prison Officers” presentation (and presented it on 2013-10-17 for a class).
2013-11-02: End of my engagement and long-distance relationship with a woman in California.
2013-11-12: Joined the UCF Daytona Beach Psychology Club.
2013-11-15: Met Malinda (friend).
2013-11-17: Finished writing “Connecting Gender Inequality to The Muslim Next Door” (essay for a class).
2013-11-23: Grandma in China passed away.
2013-12-05 / 2014-01-07: Visited Mom in the Bay Area of California for the 3rd time. Visited Los Angeles, San Diego, La Jolla, and Las Vegas for the 1st times.
2014-02-15: Visited the Harry P. Leu Gardens in Orlando, FL for the 1st time with Iliana (friend).
2014-02-18: Got my 1st smartphone (LG Optimus L9, Android OS) and 1st tablet computer (Samsung Galaxy Note 8, Android OS).
2014-02-28: Interviewed for the Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology program at University of Central Florida, Sanford/Lake Mary.
2014-03-04: Photographed the Scooter Babes and Mardi Gras Parade in New Smyrna Beach, FL.
2014-03-08: Met Jackie (friend).
2014-03-10: Rejected from Clinical Psychology M.A. at University of Central Florida.
2014-03-10: Wrote “The Dark Side of Service to Others” (philosophic essay).
2014-03-18: Visited an Islamic mosque for the 1st time.
2014-03-21: Volunteered at Megacon 2014 (Friday only). Photographed Allison Mack, John Glover, and Laura Vandervoort.
2014-03-27: Finished writing “Changes in brain structure and emotional arousal in studies of subjects with amygdala damage” (scholarly review essay for a class).
2014-03-29: Visited Gainesville, FL for the 1st time to visit Cheyenne (date).
2014-03-30: Went to Universal Islands of Adventure “Universal Knights” for UCF students with Allie and Sam (friends).
2014-04-11: Attended and photographed Relay for Life (American Cancer Society) in Daytona Beach, FL with Amanda (friend). Heard Dr. Rick Doolin speak (shortly before he passed away).
2014-04-15: Attended and photographed a flute recital by Nathalie (friend) at Stetson University in DeLand, FL.
2014-04-30: Saw a live broadcast in DeLand, FL of the dedication of the Ft. Lauderdale, FL temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
2014-05-01: Conferred a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from University of Central Florida.
2014-05-11: Decided to stop attending the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints after three years of membership.
2014-05-13: Began writing poetry and prose.
2014-05-17: Created new webpages for my photography portfolio.
2014-05-18: Accepted to the Master of Arts in Applied Learning & Instruction program at University of Central Florida, Orlando.
2014-05-18: Wrote “Nemisis” (prose-poetry).
2014-05-31: Recorded and published videos of me playing piano for the 1st time in over a year.
2014-06-03: Began learning to play “Pirates of the Caribbean: An Original Medley” by Jarrod Radnich and “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Jon Schmidt on piano.
2014-06-06: Received a nice recommendation letter from Lisa (former supervisor).
2014-06-16: Interviewed to be a Financial Aid Specialist at Stetson University in DeLand, FL (was not hired).
2014-06-19: Began photographing Taylor (friend).
2014-06-27: Attended the Flagler Beach, FL drum circle for the 1st time.
2014-06-29: Wrote “Beyond Hipocrisy” (philosophic essay).
2014-07-01: Bought lighting and umbrellas for indoor photography for the 1st time.
2014-07-02: Joined Toastmasters of Port Orange, FL.
2014-07-12: Visited the Woodlawn Chartes Labyrinth in Gotha, FL, the Mall at Millenia, and Universal CityWalk for the 1st times with Allie, Sam, and Lindsay (friends).
2014-07-23: Gave my first speech in Toastmasters.
2014-07-27: Visited art galleries in St. Augustine, FL for the 1st time with Juliona (date).
2014-07-29: Wrote “Personal Finance” (philosophic essay).
2014-07-30: Attended and photographed the UCF Leaders Panel / Alumni Networking event in Daytona Beach, FL.
2014-08-03: Painted my 1st painting with instruction from Maya (friend) at her birthday party.
2014-08-06: Wrote “Establishing Positive Self-Talk” (philosophic piece).
2014-08-11: Started working out in a gym for the 1st time since 2011.

Over the past year, I have made many important decisions, found new friendships and strengthened existing ones, traveled more than in any previous year, completed my Bachelors degree, and greatly advanced in photography, piano, and writing. It has been an amazing year with many sorrows and heartaches, but also many achievements and adventures.

I was blessed to be unemployed for almost the entire year, and while this had a negative impact on my finances and future job prospects, it has also allowed me to pursue diverse interests and have far more free time than a normal person my age. While much of this time arguably was wasted, I do feel I was more productive overall than in any prior year—only 2007-08 comes close.

As I look forward to starting my graduate studies tomorrow, I am sad that summer break is over, but also excited to have new classes and textbooks to dig into, a long commute to Orlando on two days per week (I enjoy driving), to meet other students and people, to attend UCF in Orlando, and to be involved in a program that is so closely related to personal development and self-improvement. I am particularly looking forward to the “Motivation in Learning and Performance” class after having read Dr. Bobby Hoffman’s introduction and first chapter of the textbook he is working on, Motivation for Learning and Performance: Lessons from Leaders.

I am finally getting a sense of where I want to go in life and developing the habits and methodologies to make that direction a living reality. As a natural consequence, this is a time of change and upheaval. Many beliefs, practices, friends, acquaintances, and rituals will fall away during this time, but new friendships, schemas, and philosophies will also be developed and refined through reflection and observation. I am excited to decide where this takes me and embrace my 24th year with earnest appreciation.

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