Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Gaining Perspective

This post comes from the Dominican Republic, where I've been for the past 3 weeks. It's been a good while since I've published a blog post; I have a few posts I've started and still need and intend to finish. So watch out peeps! And despite this hiatus from blogging, I personally consider it one of my life mantras to live wholeheartedly. I guess that just makes me a little more wholehearted than everybody else*
So, yep!  I'm currently in the Dominican Republic, helping to oversee and volunteer for a humanitarian organization called "HEFY" (Humanitarian Experience for Youth). It's a chance for youth ages 16-19, to travel to a foreign country in need, and help in a local humanitarian project in an effort to 1)better the world and 2) just as importantly, better the perspective of the participants involved. The organization goes everywhere, including places such as Tonga, Fiji and Belize, and it was my great luck to come to the Dominican Republic. This experience as it has been for me thus far, wholeheartedly fulfills the previous two objectives I mentioned. While I could speak a lot on both (perhaps more than even any lds high councilmen could while giving a sacrament meeting talk),  for this post I'd like to focus on the 2nd, seeing as I'm selfish, and it applies to me, and because I guess I like myself, a lot.
I have gained a better perspective. Of myself; Of people; Of life. Of God.
This new perspective was not easy to come by. God knows it's been a rough year for me, and He also knows how much I needed this change. I've experienced more loneliness, self disappointment, anxiety and pain in a  short amount of time than I'd ever previously thought I could handle. I know there are others who have it much rougher, nevertheless, It's been hard. 
Within it all, I kept wondering when my trials would end. Was there a way to escape all the pain I felt, or was there a silver lining to the dark clouds in my life? The hardest question I'd ask myself was if all of this adversity I faced was self inflicted, and if it never ended because I wasn't strong enough, or even worse, because I wanted to be in pain.

  I had much to be grateful for in my life, sure, I'm not anywhere like these kids I meet here in the DR: no home, no means of support or love. I do believe that meeting them has helped change my perspective most assuredly, if it's not the #1 reason for it.  But as those who experience pain know, it's hard to appreciate the good in your life when it seems the negative is from every angle inescapable. So I felt trapped. And scared. Scared things would never change; scared I would never change.

 I came on this trip believing it had the chance to change me. I wanted it to, so badly. I needed an escape from the mundane things in my everyday life  that suffocated me. I'd feel on a nearly daily basis the desire to just run, as far and as fast as I could. I wanted a new life, a new setting.

So with this in mind, I took the leap to the DR, with HEFY, and with 22 other selfless minded people (unlike myself). This was my chance.

Since being here in the Dominican Republic, I've had the chance to meet several people. I've met starving kids, hanging around at the beach, who will lunge at the opportunity to eat your leftovers. I've met kids, parents and community members alike  from the school HEFY is helping to build here in Santo Domingo, who sit and stare at you all day, simply because they have nothing else to do with their time and because they cling to the hope that your contributions will better their lives.  One such kid, Anderson, is around 10 years old, deaf and usually nearly naked, clothed only in tighty whities, and emaciated from lack of nutrition. These are poor, humble people whom I've met. The thing I find the most impressive amidst them all, is to see their joy.
(This is Anderson, he wanted me to pick him up and twirl him around, so I did)

(This is Margarita; She loves it when I refer to her as my Dominican Mother. I love her)

Their is something enriching and empowering about helping those less fortunate then you. I can't at the moment think of any more worthy, pure motive, than trying to help others for the sake of caring. I'm not sure where it happened for me that my perspective changed. It could have happened the moment I stepped off the plane, picked at coral in the ground to help build a foundation for a wall, or laughed with a little kid at his jokes. But what I can see and feel now continually is joy. And peace. I think everyone needs this kind of experience in their life. In fact, I feel safe to say it's  essential if one hopes for any sort of relief, or self improvement.

I don't want to leave here. I have 9 blessed days left before I do. But I know I'll have to, and that's okay. I've gained the perspective I've needed, to improve my life, to improve the world. Perhaps it's because I wanted this trip to change me that it has. I think desire is part of it. I also believe it's because I've been willing to work hard, humble myself, and simply put others needs first. I've seen all of these firsthand help me reach the serenity I feel now. And I'm grateful.

I'm not yet at a  Superman physique, nor am I a certified scholar, or an inspiring artist, but I do have perspective, I feel confident I can and will be all those things.  My friend Apryl shared  a quote from Steve Jobs on facebook the other day that said "The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world are the ones who do".  I believe it, and I intend to. Nothing and no one can stop me but myself. And I won't, because I believe in me.

(Yeah consider me a cliché guy, but it needs to be said, in order to happen)

(My Dominican/HEFY brothers)

*(Said in the voice of "Penelope", a Kristin Wiig sketch from SNL)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Starry Night

It's been awhile since I've written a blog update, I apologize for those of you who sincerely care. For this post today, I thought I would share a poem that I wrote awhile ago actually, back as a freshman in college for my humanities class. It was written semi hazardously, the night before it was due. Yet, to this day, I still feel it to be one of my moments of greatest inspiration. You may find that my poetry skills are a bit elementary, and assuredly they are. But nevertheless, I hope you enjoy.

 Starry Night

Once Upon a Starry Night
In quaint a little town
A man caught vision of Great Destiny,
A world above, so heavenly

The stars they shined
The moon was bright
Peaceful bliss shone through the night

The man’s one thought
He longed’ declare
Was rising from him in the air

“Awake my heart! Don’t sleep within
No more withhold these chains I’m in
Let me soar within blue skies,
Mind and Soul loosed from all ties

From bitter darkness, my song ring free!
To Him! Will all my anthems be
Please let me out of prison’s gate
Must my longing still have to wait?!”

Yet the man still dreamed, and the skies still shone
The man’s once longing to you he made known
How can we look! And mock and stare
When all his burdens Christ too did bare

Of man’s own worth, we all comprise
Something Special, within his eyes
A lifelong journey we must also take
To be the stars that heaven make

This poor man’s soul does now soar free
From death depart, Mankind shall see
Here on earth we too must try
To clear the mud out from our eyes

Ring out Wild Bells! Bright Music sing
Joy and Calm, The Night does bring
Soon rejoice in Greater Light
When and earth and heaven meet
On that wondrous Starry Night

By Bryan Clark

Monday, March 11, 2013

Being Superman

Wonder with me for a moment:

When you think of your ideal self, what comes to mind? Do you see rippling biceps  (ladies, say it aint so) and washboard abs? Is there a brighter smile or more fit body? Would you be smarter, more outgoing, or more kind to others?

Looking into that mirror of idolized reflection, what is it you see staring back at you? Perhaps you're one of the gifted few who see yourself just as you are. If that is you, please tell me how you got there, I'm trying, really I am. I often find myself peeking into this mirror and I hold no reservations nor feigned intimations about what ideal self image stares back at me: Superman.

Yes, Superman. The Henry Caville kind.

(You can see why, right?)

Sure, I may be childish and a little naive. I do recognize here that Superman is not an actual being. But what if he were? Superman has it all, and that's what I want. The godlike physique, the moral character, not to mention the woman and the superhuman capabilities. Add to it all that he saves the world on a daily basis. Yes, fictional or not, Superman is my aspiration.

While I now put the face of Superman to my dream self character, this superhuman aspiration is no recent epiphany of mine. I remember once when I was 7 or 8, a simple prayer I had offered. Short and heartfelt, I gave what I believe to be as mighty a prayer as any, asking God to grant me the chance to fly... You can probably guess I was let down by His lack of response. I remember crying about it. To this day I'm still a little let down; hold me.

Thus prevalent through childhood, adolescence and into my now adulthood years has always remained this perpetual infatuation with man's transcendence. Now I wouldn't go as far to say I hope to be the next 'Super Saiyan' guy on youtube, I still like to think I have a small grasp on reality. Yet here, deep embedded in my being, resides this voice challenging me to be a hero, telling me I can. Wow, now that I say this in words I realize how disneyesque it sounds. Hercules was right, I can go the distance!

In a sense,  this idea of being someone admired and important like Superman  is all I've held on to. It's given me a release from my every day fears of self inadequacy. It's helped me cope with failures that inevitably have come my way. It's also given me hope when life is unkind, or when I'm lonely or when I've eaten one too many donuts. Yes, becoming superman seems to hold all I could ever ask for. The life I've always dreamed of.

It's time for the moral of the story now, which doesn't come easy. After some healthy self analysis and real life humble pie I've really come to notice something one of those wise philosophers once said: all that glitters isn't gold. Silver, glass and even water can too. In fact, any object or thing can glitter if treated properly ( you get my point, right?).  What I'd never really noticed in grasping onto the Superman like ideals of  myself,  is that I was also simulatenously letting go of one priceless ingredient: my self.

Self worth that is.

Don't get me wrong here, I think it's always important to find ways to improve the man staring back at you in the mirror. Sometimes he needs a good shave or eyebrow pluck  (yes, for those of you who wonder, I do tweeze my eyebrows). But that's the point, that man staring back at you in the mirror has to be YOU, not some other rated version.  Any other way will only ever prove allusive and detrimental. I'm as big of a perfectionist as any out there, so I know how hard this is to realize.

The truth remains: I as a human being am innately imperfect, and yet I'm beautiful. I don't need to be perfect to feel that way. No, in the end I do not need to look and act like some iconic fictional character, no siree, I can be beautiful today. I can be important now.

Now please don't misinterpret me here, I am sure my desire to be like Superman will always be there, like I said it's a part of me. I will also never get mad at you for telling me I look like him over my brothers or anyone else.  But Superman is not a person I need to become so much as it is a person I am and can continually develop. Do you get my drift?

I see so many Supermen along my path every day whom I admire. We as a people need to give ourselves more credit than we do, no one is perfect. The admiration belongs to the person who stumbles and picks themselves up, time after time, rather than the person who seems to have it all together. No one does.

Here's a good visual example for you to draw from:

Yes, there's no doubt about it folks, Derek Redmond is Superman. On a more personal level, I'm grateful for all the superheros I've seen in my life. Imperfect most definitely, but wholehearted most assuredly.

I'm staring back into the mirror again. This time it's a real one and no idealized version. I'm searching long and hard into the worn face I see. It's not easy but yes, after an arduous introspection, there it is, I think I'm finding him, the Superman staring back at me.

Bryan Clark

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Making Acquaintance

Hello Blog World.

It's nice to make your acquaintance. I know we both don't really know each other, but I hope in time we can change that.  Let me start by introducing myself to you. My name is Bryan Clark and I'm a Mormon. Wait, Stop there. I know what you're thinking: this sounds oddly like one of  those pestering "I'm a Mormon" advertising commercials. And here I thought I could be so clever to snag that in there! So close. If only I had the talent of Brandon Flowers, or the unique job capability of designing roller coasters, or that debilitating disease which left me arm less in  childhood. Then, then I could use that as my claim to Mormondom fame. If only.  I'm pretty normal. Well relatively normal that is. I'd like to think of myself as a special person with unique gifts when it comes to seeing the world and those around me. But who knows, maybe I'm delusional, you can judge for yourself.
Here's me:

Sexy, right? I think I was going for classy fella meets debonair model here. Do you see the Superman like physique here also? Perhaps not. I'm working on it, Henry Cavill has a hard physique to live up to. One day soon, mark my words. 

Let's shorten this introduction shall we? Afterall, what kind of college student stays up till 2 am in the morning, creating a blog, ignoring the inevitable homework he has to finish for later in the day? Sometimes I also have the feeling of doing crystal meth, but then I think 'Hmm, better not' (name that movie!).  So on second thought, I'll keep ignoring the homework due. Reality check no thank you. 

A couple other tidbits to get things started: I'm a triplet and 8th in the family of 9 kids (big family I know, I love it). The number 8 also happens to be my lucky number.  I grew up in New York, moved to Utah as a teenager and am now currently finishing school at BYU. I'm a lover of milkshakes, awkward moments (just wait for when my dating book comes out in the future), and Taylor Swift love songs (does she write anything else?). Call me a hopeless romantic. 

Oh, and here's a picture of me with my beautiful triplet sisters:
(Sorry fellas, the one on the left has long since been taken, and the middle sister is too good for any normal chum. You'd need to go through me first)

On the more serious side, I'd never till recently decided on writing a blog. I've always thought it beyond my comfort zone.  But life is meant to change you,and I've been experiencing a lot of change lately. So here I am, embracing this change, hoping it serves some greater purpose for me and who knows, perhaps you also. I'd really like to think it will. 

I love this quote. This is what I hope to embody in my blog. I must confess that the whole premise behind this blog comes from a TED talk given by this same author, Brene Brown. Within this talk she speaks about the transforming power of accepting vulnerability in our lives. From her research, she decides to refer to those who accepted vulnerability and seemed to have a sense of worth as being 'wholehearted'. If you have not watched this talk, do it, and take notes. Here's a link to that talk before I forget it:

'Nuff said, right? What an amazing insight to life. So here's to living wholehearted. Here's to embracing the beauty in every person, situation, and idea. Here's to risking the unmeasurable, and accepting imperfection. This blog will be an open forum of ideas, thoughts and experiences I believe embody wholeheartedness. It's meant to be insightful as much as educational. It will most likely get deeply personal as much as fun lighthearted. I can't limit it.  What I do know is that whatever I choose to share on here will be meant to stretch me. I can do this. We can do this. Afterall, we're worth it. 

It's nice to finally meet you Blog World, and here's to the start of hopefully a beautiful, enduring friendship.

Bryan Clark