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Play it safe or take a Risk?

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Today marks a year and two months since I left my home state of Michigan.  I enjoyed some of the best times of my life in that great state, but I always felt like something was missing.  I constantly traveled across the US and to countries close by, but I always ended up coming home with a sense that something was missing.

Like most of my peers,  I held a stable job for over 5 years.  Along with a good paying job,  I had great benefits and was thriving in the city that I was born and raised in.  However,  after 27 years in Michigan,  I decided it was time to stop playing it safe. Sure,  I had family, friends, and a great job; but I just wasn’t happy anymore with being safe and stable.  While I enjoyed my work to an extent,  I saw no room for growth,  no room to challenge myself,  and no desire to continue in my line of work.  Looking at my coworkers,  I realized that if I didn’t make a change, I would be trapped at my desk job for the next 40 years.  Sure,  I would collect a nice salary until I hit retirement age, but I would be a grumpy worker wondering why I never made a change or took a risk.  I can honestly say that I hit my midlife crisis.  Yes,  I was a hell lot younger than most who go through this process, but I reached my limit. 

After some careful thought and consideration,  I made the decision to go back to school. Pursuing a completely different field,  it would allow me to pursue a job that would best utilize my skillset and give me a chance to do something more fulfilling.  Schooling was initially a challenge.  Having been out of it since getting my Associates degree,  I simply just wanted my free time back.  However, after finally engaging with my school work and pushing through everything,  I found that I needed the work more than it needed me.  Going back to school would push me to think again,  and to actually set goals that would help me succeed.

Once I neared the end of my Bachelor’s journey,  it was time to make the career change that I so longed.  Doing so left me with another decision,  as the job market for my field would be dictated by the major cities in the US that had a need for someone of my skillset.  Putting me in a position to take another much needed risk,  I chose to take the leap and move to Austin, Texas.  Being the best city for job growth in the US, Austin was a city that I simply had to check out.

Being in Austin for over a year now,  I honestly don’t regret the decisions that I’ve made. My career and life had hit the point where I was losing a part of myself for the sake of being safe and avoiding any potential risks at losing my safety net, which was my job.  The risks that I’ve taken have helped me jump right into the digital media field,  meet some new people, make some lifelong friends,  and try new things.  Moving has finally given me the chance to clear off my treasured Bucket List, which I wasn’t able to do before. 

While Michigan will always be home,  sometimes what we need in life is a nice change of pace, and also to just open ourselves to new things and experiences.  Now I feel younger, energized, and I feel like I serve a purpose in what I do.  I look forward to more challenges, changes,  and also hope to eventually take my hand at living abroad as well.  I encourage anyone who feels like their trapped or lacking motivation to take a risk and throw caution to the wind.  You’re missing out on some great experiences if you don’t. 

Clearing the Bucket List, Part 7

After checking out Paris and Brussels,  it was time to head back to Germany.  On the way back home,  we encountered a routine border check.  Oddly enough with all the countries that we had driven through,  this was the first time that we were pulled over.  Definitely a change versus traveling through the US and Canadian border.

Before heading out to Oktoberfest, we decided to grab some Turkish food in the heart of downtown Wittlich.  The small shop offered some decisions Turkish pizza, as well as some Pommes Doner.

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Our trip to Germany wouldn’t be complete without having a genuine Oktoberfest experience.

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Although this wasn’t the official Oktoberfest,  it was still amazing.  We were greeted by the locals dancing on tables with beer steins in hand.

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Along with German songs being played by the band,  we were also treated to classics from Journey,  Backstreet Boys, and Take That.

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Overall,  the trip to Europe was simply amazing.  Having seen the sights and sounds of Europe,  I can definitely see myself working abroad to take in the full experience.  That’s it for my Bucket List of items for 2015. On to my traveling plans for 2016, and a chance to further trim down my Bucket List. 

Mixed Race Racism

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Yes, as odd as it may seem, racism does exist for people that are mixed.  It’s something that I’ve personally dealt with for over 30 years now.  Being mixed with Hmong and Caucasian decent, it’s something that almost never goes away.  Although the media would love to expose the typical racism that might occur between Black and White or Asian and Latinos; mixed racism does exist.

The problem with being mixed is that you truly never fit into one race or the other.  Growing up, I only knew the life of that of a Hmong person, as I was raised by my mom and dad in a strong Hmong community.  While I was light skinned and white on the outside, I only knew how to live life as a Hmong person.  I predominantly ate Hmong food, attended Hmong functions, and could speak and understand Hmong along with English.  When you’re growing up mixed, you’re typically left with two choices.  You either choose one of your races that you’re mixed with, or choose to be an outcast and not fit in with either one.

I should probably provide some insight into who Hmong people are.  To those who haven’t heard of Hmong people, Hmong people are a Southeast Asian ethnic group predominantly based out of China, Laos, and Thailand.  The Hmong people based in Laos and Thailand helped out the U.S. during the Vietnam War, leading my father to make the journey to America.

While I love being Hmong and identify more closely with that side of my family, there are still constant struggles that occur.  I’m sure that although I have my own struggles, the same can be said about most people who are mixed.  Ultimately if you’re mixed, you face issues with not being the right skin color, not knowing the language, or not knowing the culture.

Skin Color

As most mixed people can attest to, skin color plays a strong factor in fitting in.  Being white skinned versus my darker skinned Hmong peer’s, I stuck out like a sore eye.  I was never dark enough, or just completely brushed aside as having nothing to do with my extended family or even being Hmong for the sheer fact that my skin color wasn’t like my peer’s.

Language

Language is a key issue if you’re mixed with another race that isn’t an English speaking race.  While I had the benefit of speaking and understanding Hmong, some of my siblings lacked this and were chastised by family and other Hmong people for this.  It’s almost as if you were less of a person for not being able to speak the language.

Culture

Lastly, culture plays a big part for mixed children and adults.  Rather than being seen as maybe too modernized for your peer’s, you’re seen as too American or too white washed.

At the end of the day, I love being mixed.  I didn’t fully understand it as a kid, but there are great things about being from both races.  I’m sure the struggles that I have gone through are similar and probably fail in comparison to other’s who are going through the same thing.  While racism might still exist in the obvious form of Black and White or Asian and Latino; it’s also still very well alive for those of mixed decent.

Is the American Dream Dead?

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The more that I think about the American Dream, the more that I’m convinced that it’s no longer what it used to be.  Although there are many interpretations on what exactly the dream is, the dream ultimately is the belief that everyone who comes to our great country can succeed, make an honest living, and live without some of the everyday problems that trouble those in other countries.  While this might remain true in some aspects, I beg to differ that the American Dream is not what it used to be and very near close to dead.

I’ll probably be in the minority on this, but I feel that the two factors that are stopping the American Dream are Education and Healthcare.  Education and Healthcare are huge factors that are effecting the so-called dream that we all strive for.

Education

The costs to obtain a college degree in the United States has simply gone past the point of being affordable for most Americans.  While an Associate’s Degree is still quite high at $900 per class (3 credits), the cost for a Bachelor’s Degree and above have gone up past the point of being reasonable anymore.  Compared to the costs of an Associate’s Degree, the cost to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree is in the neighborhood of $2k/per class.  High education costs are definitely contributing to the end of the American DreamUnlike the United States, several of our wealthy and well known allies across the globe either offer college education at a much lower discounted rate, or for free!

  “Please point to a developed nation somewhere else on this globe that has   multiple universities with yearly tuition costs higher than the average      salaries of most entry-level positions? Oh, wait — you can’t. They don’t  exist.” – Michael Restiano

Healthcare

Healthcare, just like education, is hampering the goal of the American Dream.  While our allies and neighbors offer their citizens with free healthcare, the United States still works the healthcare system as a stand-alone business.  Unlike other developed countries across the globe, citizens in the United States must make the tough decision of going uninsured, paying high co-pay’s and premiums for insurance, or staying with a job that you don’t like to strictly have the benefits.  All of these factors with healthcare alone impact one’s ability to live out the dream that we all strive for.

In conclusion, the American Dream is definitely not what it once was.  High education and healthcare costs will continue to plague our country and deprive all American’s of their true goal of living out the dream.

Clearing the Bucket List, Part 6

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After spending a few hours at a well maintained service stop in France, our next stop was supposed to be Germany. However along the way, a last minute decision was made to go to Brussels, Belgium. Although not initially planned, it was the best decision that we made on the trip.

From the get-go, Belgium was simply beautiful. Arriving in Brussels, we received a very authentic European experience. Although the city was much smaller than Paris, it was great and just felt much different.

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Once we settled in and found a parking spot in downtown Brussels, it was time to explore. First on the list, Belgian Waffles!!!

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Unlike French Fries, it was nice to see that Belgian Waffles were truly a Belgian food item, and it was definitely delicious. After that we had a chance to try some Belgian chocolate, as well as grab some authentic Belgian beer.
Moving on in our search of lunch, we caught of view of the Peeing Boy. Definitely something that you wouldn’t see in America, but it was unique and somewhat expected in Europe. We later had a chance to grab some beer at a Belgian pub, which sealed the deal for our experience in Brussels.

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Next up on the European tour, our final stop in Wittlich for some authentic German Oktoberfest, but beer was needed before leaving the great country of Belgium. The beer was simply the best that I’ve ever had, and cheap compared to how they would be priced back home in America.

Clearing the Bucket List, Part 5

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Moving along to the next part of our journey,  we decided to stop by the City of Lights,  Paris! Paris is a city that I’ve always dreamt of visiting and had to include on my Bucket List.

Taking the scenic route via our Opel van,  we drove through the countryside of Germany, eventually driving through the beautiful country of Luxembourg.  When arriving the Paris metro area,  we opted to park at Disney Paris,  and then take the metro into the city.  Finding the parking garage was the easy part,  but fitting in the garage was another.  The ramps and entry points were clearly built for Mini Coopers,  not for any other type of vehicle. 

After finally getting the van into the garage and finding a parking spot,  we finally started our adventure into Paris.  Knowing a little bit of French helped save us from going the wrong way.  Our first stop in the city was Notre Dame.

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The view around the area was amazing and exactly what I expected when visiting Paris.  On the downside,  the streets lacked traffic lanes, which was one scary sight.

After scoping out Notre Dame,  we want out to taste the local eateries.  We stumbled upon a local Vietnamese eatery,  so pho and vermicelli were a must.

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While the food was definitely not worth the money,  the area was picture perfect.  The architecture was fresh out of a social studies book, and there were bakeries galore. 

Moving on from grabbing lunch,  we ventured out to the Arc De Triomphe and The Louvre.  The attraction made the visit well worth the wait.

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Simply amazing when you take into account the history behind the Arc,  as well as the crazy 10 lane round about that circles the Arc.

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Next on the attraction on list,  The Eiffel Tower!

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When you think of Paris,  there’s no other attraction that comes to mind more than The Eiffel Tower.  The views were stunning,  and the lights around the city were priceless. 

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Compared to the rest of the city,  the area around The Eiffel Tower was relatively calm and safe.  Outside of the people constantly trying to hassle tourists with beer,  wine,  and souvenirs; it was a nice area.

After a long day it was time to head home.  Although along the way,  plans changed,  leading us to our next stop.  Beautiful Brussels,  Belgium!