Writing this blog currently from John Wayne Airport. The weather is foggy and chilled, but in California it’s still 15 degrees warmer than Colorado. Who would have thought you could go to the beach in January?
This week has been one of the most densely packed travel week in my young life. I loved it. I am exhausted. My feet smell like the beach, but I ready to don my flannel as soon as I land on the other side of the Rockies.
Let me tell y’all about my week.
Tuesday - Wednesday: Kansas City – Crash Course in STEM
Early in the week I worked at one of the top ten STEM (Science/Tech/Engineering/Math) high schools in the nation – Blue Valley CAPS. It felt less like a high school and more like an education accelerator. With an open floor plan, a lot of natural light and design thinking and lean launch quotes plastered on the walls, this place is the Disney World of high schools.
I spent a whole day working with students, meeting administrators and learning more about what they did. These students are absolutely unbelievable to me. The majority of them carry themselves with the stereotypical Midwestern politeness and mildness, but they are clearly highly intelligent and engaged human beings - I met everyone from student entrepreneurs to future Russian spies (okay, she said she was studying International Relations with an emphasis on Russia, but let's be real, Russian spy). Really rad conversations with them, and great time had by all.
It was a 20 hour day of travel / presenting / workshops / meeting people. I would go back and do it again in a heart beat.
Thursday: Irvine – College Swagger
On Thursday I hopped on a plane and went west. I spent Thursday night with engineering seniors at University of California Irvine. These students are commercializing technology with IP values that will easily dwarf my lifetime earnings. I got to work with these students in conflict management and team dynamics. It was a lot of fun working with students only a year younger than me, and it was definitely a learning experience.
Additionally, Irvine is a beautiful campus. OU is great, but the red soiled plains of Oklahoma are lackluster in comparison to the rolling orchard hills that comprise the backdrop at Irvine. I’m definitely more than okay with the idea of going back there.
Friday: Los Angeles – Hope from People Turning Around Their Lives
I hopped on the 405 and went north to discover a city that has been advertised to me in hundreds of movies throughout the years – LA. One of the last major stereotypical, large American cities that I haven’t visited yet. I finally checked this one off the list.
I went into the city to tour Homeboy Industries, one of the only places in the country successfully turning around gang members. It is sustained through a mixture of private donations and spinoff companies like Homegirl Bakery, a pastry shop staffed by the previously incarcerated.
My hour spent there was an intensely emotional experience. My tour guide was a 46-year-old man who spent 30 years of his life in jail and was released less than a year ago, and he was well-spoken, articulate, transparent and full of hope for his future. It’s a reminder that where you come from can shape you, but there is almost always room to bounce back and try to start life anew.
Friday - Saturday: A Moment of Calm
I stayed over in Irvine for an extra 24 hours – it was worth the extra $80 for a hotel – to see the beach. Yes, call me an aesthetic sap, I wanted to see the Pacific Ocean from the American side (as opposed to the Chinese side). And it was absolutely beautiful.
California is a gorgeous state. I don’t know if I could ever live there (traffic / air pollution / laid back culture / mountains too far away), but it was rad that business took me out there for a couple days.
I also got to catch up with my main man Jake Bescherer who is doing the grind at MediaVest. We enjoyed brunch and blowing up the GroupMe chat of our mutual friends.
All and all, it was a wild week. In KC I met fantastic people, and California showed me a gorgeous view and a full panorama of people – from highly intelligent engineering students to ex-convicts turning around their lives a la Jan Valjean. (And don't forget all the Uber drivers - life talks from parenting to education to the secrets of staying up for 48 hours in a row).
What a week, what a ride, what a story. It’s time to go home, but it has been good to be on the road again.
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