The Garden is Greener

My mind is a rich garden,

one my mother grew

she watered the soil

systemizing roots.   

The first seed was planted 

when I was a child 

and climbed unmaintained 

until weeds grew too wild.

The thorns on my branches

were thoughts unpopular 

and Mother grew worried 

her garden abandoned her.

She trimmed the edges,

the spikes and the thorns 

“This garden is mine,

you’ll get hurt” I forewarned.

And she said to me

without saying a thing:

“The garden beheld

is my life’s greatest work

I’ll protect it and love it

even if I’m hurt.”

~Chris Lightner, August 2017


What Should I Do When I’m Bored?

Nothing drives me crazier than hearing someone say “I’m bored”, in any context. It could be at the DMV, at home, work, or school, doesn’t matter the location. When I was in middle school, this is something that would come out of my mouth ALL the time because it was a transition period between playing with toys, and beginning to have the freedom to spend more time with friends. Looking back on it, I think of all the ways I could have spent that time and cringe at once thinking “I’m bored”.

So, what exactly should you do when you’re bored? Below I have divided a number of activities into 3 sections in order of importance to go from being bored, to wishing you had more minutes in a day.

1. Best things to do when “boredom” strikes

  1. Exercise – Those first couple exercise sessions are going to suck, let’s be honest. Whether it’s dusting off the Nike runners, picking up that first dumbbell in 8 months, or pumping up the tires on your 1998 Trek bicycle laying in the garage collecting rust. Though I find that once you’re on the track or the yoga mat, it’s really not all that bad, is it? Pumping some classic 80’s disco tunes or feeling the hip-hop vibes makes exercising a time for jamming out and letting loose. Despite what sports companies try to tell you, you don’t need to go out and spend $200 on new sportswear as long as you have shoes without holes and a pair of shorts. Nobody is going to be judging your outfit but yourself. Oh, and the outcomes of this activity are good for your body in pretty much every way. 
  2. Apply for a job – Here’s one that will kill time and can eliminate boredom in the future. Do you find yourself busy from Monday through Thursday, with a huge gap in between Friday and Sunday? Even working one day during the weekend, or a night shift on a Saturday can pull in a little extra side cash and open opportunities you didn’t think were there. An extra job could also be an unpaid experience, giving more leniency to the type of position you’re seeking. Ever wanted to know more about photography? Ask a local camera shop for an unpaid internship or an extra hand. Wanna help out a cause that’s important for you? Volunteer with a community group or a soup kitchen. Build that resume and fill in your schedule.
  3. Schedule your week – Here’s a way to feel prepared for the week ahead of you while spending the present doing something meaningful. Instead of looking back on a week thinking “what did I even do this week?”, you could be checking off all of the boxes of things you actually did. If you struggle to manage your free time in a productive way, there are plenty of studies that say “planning your free time makes it more productive”. Finished with your schedule? Now try a long term and short term goals calendar to hash out where you’d like to be in 6 months, a year, or five years.
  4. Reach out to someone you care about – I have never regretted reaching out to someone I care about through a phone call or a Facetime video. It can be as short as 15 minutes or as long as a couple hours, but nonetheless you will hang up feeling like your connection has been rekindled. Oh, and they’ll appreciate you thinking about them too. It could be a relative, an old friend, an old coworker, or Grandma (it should probably be Grandma).
  5.  Fix your work space – If you’re anything like me, I can’t work and feel productive in a cluttery environment. Even little things like making my bed, a quick vacuum, clearing off my desk and throwing out un-needed junk (a thank you card from 5 years ago? Trash!), or finishing up those breakfast dishes. Not only will your guests feel at home when they come over, but you’ll feel like typing up the 5 page report you’ve been putting off.

2. Best Things to do for Personal Growth

  1. So the above list should be taken care of first, but you still have another couple hours before bed. This is the time to Pull out a good book – and catch up on what you want to read. I made a goal to read 50 new books this year, which comes down to about 1/week. If I read an hour before bed every night, only books eclipsing the 600 page mark will take longer than a week to 10 days. Not only is it great for learning and vocabulary growth, but reading is a moral building, connection building activity. I could spend two hours talking to someone else who has read the same book as I have because of everything it has to offer. Just the other day I had a conversation with a stranger about Charlotte’s Web, and we both hadn’t read the book since childhood.
  2. Meditate – I just finished reading Herman Hesse’s “Siddhartha” and meditation has become a regular practice in my day. Clearing your mind of all of the day to day troubles or long term stressors for even 15 minutes a day will leave you feeling refreshed and less anxious. Meditation is simply finding a relatively quiet place to sit, relaxing the seven points of your body (sitting, back, shoulders, hands, neck, eyes, mouth/tongue), and focusing on breathing. For beginners, try counting your breaths by inhaling through your nose to a count of 7, holding for a second or two, then exhaling through your mouth for 8 counts. Meditation is exercise for the brain, and should be treated as equally important.
  3. Make a new recipe – or pull out your favorite recipe! The best part of trying a new recipe with your spare time is that when the time comes to host a dinner party, you’ve already got some practice and new tricks up your sleeve. Even if the recipe goes horribly, at least you have a funny story to tell a friend the next day. If it does go well, you’ve got a nice snack or meal to enjoy. Try some vegan recipes for a real challenge, some of the best cooks I know substitute meat for healthier and environmentally friendly alternatives.
  4. Find a local event – because they’re happening all around you at every hour of the day. In the Twin Cities, we have a comedy improv show that starts at midnight every Friday. Not only do you get to enjoy something new, but the local artists and presenters will appreciate your attendance and you can make some new friends (Or LinkedIn connections) from doing so. A lot of these events are completely free, so check out some local theater websites or cafe’s for upcoming events.
  5. Write down your thoughts – It is truly the best way to decipher information buzzing around in your head and to sort out what’s important and what’s not. Got a problem with a coworker? Write them a letter expressing your feelings, read it once or twice, respond thoughtfully to your own writing, then rip it up. You’ll feel much better towards that person afterwards. If you’re really into writing, start a short story that could be turned into an e-book, or a collection of poems expressing your feelings. Your work doesn’t have to be shared with anyone, it is truly your own piece of creative genius.

3. Activities to Shy Away From

I should preface by saying that these activities can be enjoyable and relaxing, but shouldn’t be the “go to” when boredom strikes. These activities are fine in moderation, but when they become hobbies of themselves, you’ll notice time passing without much to show for it.  I know this, because I used to be guilty of a few of them.

  1. Watching TV – has to be number one on this list. Before you object and try to defend your favorite Netflix show that I just have to see, hear me out. I know there is some great content out there, or else people wouldn’t partake. I can’t even count the number of times people have recommended to me Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, or Orange is the New Black. They all sound like wonderful and rich shows, but look at how long they are. It would take me 2 days and 7 hours of continuous watching to catch up on Game of Thrones, or 55 hours. In contrast, the average person can read a 300 page book in 5 hours straight, but taking breaks in between could stretch it out a little longer. Let’s say you can read a 300 page book in 7 hours. That’s about 8 books or 2400 pages of material in the amount of time it takes to watch one show. Can you imagine putting 55 hours into writing your own book? Or perfecting a tennis stroke? Pitching a new business idea? The difference is, the person watching GOT will have little to show afterwards, whereas the reader will have new intellect, the tennis player a better game/fitness, and the entrepreneur a new business venture. Yes they’re great pieces of work, but I’ll watch them when I’m old and don’t wanna leave my couch. Remember, these are my own preferences and it’s okay to like what you like.
  2. Video Games – are another way to watch time fly. I loved video games growing up, from Mario to Call of Duty, the Civ series and now Fortnight. There are even studies that show how video games can help with hand-eye coordination and reflexes, which is great. In moderation. Just like TV, video games are a great escape from the real world and into someone else’s world that is often much more exciting. Shooting Nazi zombies? Can’t do that in real life! However there is plenty to do in real life that can provide much greater thrills than a screen ever could. Enjoy Assassin’s Creed? Plan a trip to Egypt and see where it takes place. Fan of Uncharted? Head down to the Amazon and see real, live danger. Again, video games are something I’ll do when I have gray hair and can’t feel my legs anymore. I’m still working diligently to limit my playtime so I can get other things done.
  3. Social Media – is one of the worst parts of my generation, and I feel it, I belong to it, and am guilty of it. How much time during the day do we spend scrolling through Twitter and Instagram, reading, but not really interacting? Laughing, but not learning? Some people say that social media will help them get a job, and that’s why they keep it. Have you seen any job offers yet? Others say social media makes them more connected to people they knew in the past. While this is true, so what? I don’t need to see what Lisa ate for dinner last night, I haven’t seen her since Sophomore year in high school. Finally, another advocate might say that “it’s where I get my news” and to that, I just shake my head. If you want a place to find news, type in ‘news’ on the app store and about 100 viable apps will pop up, without the fluffy content of Facebook. However, on the flip side I think social media is great during those times where I can multi-task easily or for sharing what I’m working on (like this blog! 🙂 )
  4. Drinking/Drugs – are one of the easiest ways to “cure” boredom. Yet they are also one of the most destructive ways as well. Not only do they render people less than fully functional while on them, they interfere with the “not bored” times like work and school. Going to class with a hangover is like not going to class at all. If you think “it makes you more creative,”I would suggest trying to be creative without a substance, then trying with one, and seeing how much you get done with each method(and checking the quality of your creative work). Everybody is different and can be really high functioning on a substance, but I guess it’s not for me. To each their own.


Again, these are merely suggestions and my own opinion about different activities, and with all things, moderation is key. Free time is the time I look forward to the most every day because I get to decide what I want to do with it, not what I am bound to like school or work. Therefore, I choose not to squander it. Minutes are way too precious to have nothing to show by the time your head hits the pillow at night.

I’m not going to judge someone for what they want to do, and like all opinions, everyone has them. Don’t take my words as offense, use them as breeding ground for thought. This is merely a list of things I’m trying to work on in my own life. What do you prefer to do when you’re bored?


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Photo taken at Quilotoa (crater lake), Ecuador


Untitled-1-Recovered in

daze out

The mind rocks recklessly,

An ocean of psychedelic Oz

Down the wishing well

and wishing well

it could wake up

and turn off the visions

The TV is broken and fuzz fills the screen

White noise; blank sound

Erotic figments; electric sheep.

Stripes that move through vortex space

but when they circle back

to reach me,

they break.

-August  2017

5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before College

1. Friends will come and go

        The saying goes “you will meet some of your best friends in college”, right? What that saying doesn’t include is that many, perhaps even the majority of those friends won’t last over time. I don’t mean cutting ties or some brutal falling out is going to occur, but instead, everyone in college is busy. Your friends and you alike have busy semesters (18 credits please God no), jobs and internships, volunteering, school clubs and activities, sports, and just plain old naps that need to be taken.

I have had some close friends throughout my time in college, people who I could depend on to listen to me, grab a quick coffee on a Friday morning, or party with (probably too much) on those sacred Friday and Saturday nights.

Then, Fall rolls around and all of your friends have moved to new places, sometimes so far you’re charged $15 for a Lyft home after a night of catching up. You end up in new classes meeting new people and finding new interests, and what happened to all of those people you knew so well Freshman year?

They’re still there, and in fact, they’ve done the same thing as you; they moved on. It’s nothing personal, so don’t let guilt drive you to sadness. It’s just the nature of proximity, changes, and schedules. They still like you, and who knows when they might show up again in your life down the road?

Don’t cut ties, just extend the rope.

That being said, maybe there is a friend who means more to you than the rest of the crowd, and you want to keep in your life. At that point, a 30 minute walk to their place once a week is completely worth it. Some friends just can’t be replaced.

2. Set up LinkedIn Before Orientation Day

I just got into LinkedIn, and WOW do I wish I could rewind the clock. LinkedIn is like grown up Facebook where all of those connections you make can actually help you down the road. If I had set up LinkedIn before my college orientation 3 years ago, my connection count would be through the roof. Here’s a brief guide for who to add on LinkedIn:

  1. Orientation Leader
  2. Professors, the TA
  3. Coworkers
  4. Your Boss, Supervisors, Managers of where you work
  5. Friends (ALL of them)
  6. Speakers, Presenters, anyone whose event you attended
  7. People in your ‘major’ classes
  8. Parents of your friends (make sure they know who you are first)
  9. Anyone you work with/for and have spoken more than “hello” to
  10. ANYONE you have more than a 10 minute conversation with

It takes about an hour to set up a quality LinkedIn account (or 4.1% of today) and it will work MAGIC for you down the road. Find a friend with a camera or go to career services on campus, and get a couple headshots for your profile picture. Also be sure to add a background header, nobody wants to see ANOTHER boring blue one. Add in your experiences and update them as you go. Use the site like you would Twitter: Every. Single. Day.

3. “Eat like a college student” …or not

I had this notion that college meals were going to consist of ramen noodles, mac and cheese (whose acronym is MAC hmmm…) and Chinese takeout. Freshman year is a lot of cafeteria eating with a meal plan, and I don’t think I saw ramen on the menu once.

Sophomore year is the transition out of the dorms and into apartments with their own kitchen (yay!) so I expected the notion of Mac Mondays and Takeout Tuesdays-Thursdays to come true, only it didn’t. Instead, it turned into a game of “what ingredients can I throw together tonight?”, and as long as I was grocery shopping regularly, relying on ramen was never an option. Sure, grocery shopping is a hassle and takes time and planning, but it really pays off. Our grocery store was a dinky little Target a mile away on foot with one option for every type of food. But it worked. The winter Target hikes were cold, the meals in return were warm.

It wasn’t until Junior year of college when I linked up with a new roommate who has a car (BLESS) and was able to go to better grocery stores. The abundance of Cub Foods, Whole Foods, Trader Joes, Targets, and Walmarts in the area made grocery shopping more of an engaging activity with more food options. Two of my roommates went vegan because they wanted to be more healthy and to better preserve the environment, and I went into chef mode.

I began building a recipe book online through and found a knack for spices and ethnic foods. And guess what, every night the menu is up to you. For $40-$55 a week on groceries, ramen is never an option.

4. Weekends ≠ Partying

…at least not automatically. One of my favorite parts about college as opposed to high school is all of the added freedoms that are gained. Freedom of schedule, freedom from parents, freedom of class selections, and the ability to manage free time how you want to. Though with great freedom, comes great responsibility (thanks Peter Parker).

I came into college thinking I would do all sorts of partying on my study breaks, and that’s what I did…until I got burned out. I found that partying every weekend makes time speed up like crazy. If you add in all of the time from getting ready to go out, the actual party, transportation, and feeling like living hell the next morning, where did your time go?

Then one Friday I had a novel idea (that actually included a good novel and a warm blanket). What if I just stayed in this weekend, caught up on some work, did some personal reading that didn’t pertain to public policy or immigration reform for once, and maybe even go to bed early. Well, one weekend turned into two, turned into a month, and then:

I had a huge laundry list of things I accomplished on the weekend.

  1. Chores? check
  2. Homework? check
  3. Finish that book? check
  4. Creative time? check
  5. Exercise? check
  6. Perform well at work? check
  7. Self reflection? check
  8. Call Mom? check
  9. Make a new recipe? check
  10. Enough sleep? check

Wait, so weekends can still be fun without drinking or partying? It took me two years to find out, yes.

5. Nobody Knows the Road Post-Grad

and if they tell you they do, they’re wrong. Let’s make one thing clear, for the most part (exception being nurses/doctors), your major ≠ your job. Once more for quick readers:

Your major ≠ Your job

I’ve heard of biology majors working at river pollution plants. Business majors working as social media trainers. Spanish majors in the stock trade. Philosophy majors at Target headquarters. History majors as web retail workers. The point is, college is a place to gain the skills needed to land a job. It’s the entry ticket for an interview. It’s making it past the first round of potential candidates for a job.

When a business major asks me the notorious question, “so, you’re a political science major, what are you going to do with that?” I say,

“I’ll probably be applying for the same jobs as you” and that’s because it’s called a job market, not a major market. Sure, some majors fit better with certain jobs, I get that. I wouldn’t want a Horticulture major giving me brain surgery, but for the most part it’s wiiiiide open.

Nobody knows the road, so don’t sweat it. College is a time for finding what you like and don’t like to do, and for developing all of those personable skills.

I wish someone would have told me these things, but I’ll be the person to tell you.


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Joe Smooth

coffee3Hot to the core,
the brown liquid slides
down the slippery slope,
the bitterest of chocolates
but sweetest of treats,
comes in the form of
a breakfast delight
that transforms
and transitions
to afternoon iced,
ever so carefully
spiced to ensure
I endure the longest of
days so I don’t sleep away
the sun while its high,
or the moon while it teases;
tickling the sky like the
feeling that pleases
me from the inside,
and I radiate and beam,
I smile
and I gleam,
and I just have to share with
you one little thing; on
the day when I found you
I was only sixteen
but you’ve changed me for good,
for the better
for always,
I owe it to you for carrying
me forward so now
I believe 
the morning is worth living
with you in my hand,
the gift that keeps giving
three hundred and
sixty four days and
a half,
your sugar a drug that will bring
me right back like
a shaft of tobacco
or swig of dry whiskey,
O’ java
O’ Joe
what would I do if
you left me?
– October 2017