A Letter to 21-year-old me

Four years ago today I walked across the stage in my graduation commencement ceremony. This letter is meant to describe what happens over the four years that follow.

Dear John,

Take in every moment of your graduation day. Every one. It’s something you’ll never forget. The seventh of 8 siblings and the FIRST to graduate from college. I’m still proud of that, though Adrianna quickly became the second. The following events take place over the next four years, which won’t play out how we’d have expected.

2013

You finished school and our plan is to write. And we do. We write an entire book over the coming months. The book may not be comparable to Lee Child or Michael Connelly, but our name is on the cover. Don’t forget the hours we devoted to accomplishing one of our goals.

The book is released in the October following graduation. Again, soak in every moment of this day. It’s unforgettable. You’ll immediately start on book 2, early the following year you’ll abandon it. Nearly 4 years later and that manuscript is no closer to completion. We’ll get back to it. we will.

2014

2014 is rather uneventful until the second half of the year. Then, oh boy does it get juicy. See, during this time we have a friend. She’s someone we met in 2010 just before graduating from high school. Over the course of the four years that followed we realize how utterly fantastic she is. I’m still not sure what it means to love someone, but I know we loved her. And you’ll make the agonizing decision to tell her. It didn’t turn out as we’d have liked. The feeling isn’t mutual. But don’t worry, remember who we’re talking about here. She doesn’t laugh at you. She doesn’t throw it back in your face. She thanks you for thinking so highly of her. Doesn’t mean the feeling you’ll experience doesn’t suck, but it’s something. The worst part of this event is we essentially lose her from our life. Rather than talking regularly about anything, we stop talking altogether. I guess that’s what happens when you confess something like that and it isn’t mutual. Unfortunately, it’s 2017 and we still don’t really talk.

Immediately after that decision you’ll finally apply to your first police departments. You’ll be rejected by both. The beginning of many rejections from departments to come. Keep your head up. We’ll figure it out.

2015

This entire year is rather forgettable. In August you finally quit working at HEB to begin working at Half Price Books. You’ll meet great people and you’ll be paid to be surrounded by books. What could be better, right? Well it turns out it isn’t as great as we’d expect. But that’s not until next year to discuss.

In December you’ll get your fourth tattoo. Still waiting to add to our collection of ink.

2016

The tale of two halves of the same year. In May we’ll go on our first vacation as an adult to Washington, DC! Boy, those four days flew by and before we knew it we’re back at Half Price Books. The trip was nothing short of magical. Cherish the memories from our first vacation. It’ll only grow more distant into the past with each passing day.

In July we quit working at Half Price Books. We refuse to continue working for such a low wage and only 35 hours rather than 40. Our plan: law enforcement. You’ll immediately begin applying to departments all over the state. I don’t have the list in front of me but my memory suggests it’s around 15 departments. You’ll take written tests, you’ll be polygraphed, you’ll participate in multiple review board interviews, and you’ll devote several months to the process. But you’ll fail. Not a single department is willing to give you a chance to become a police officer. Not one. You’ll even cry a bit. It’ll suck. You’ll vow to never go through the process of applying for jobs in criminal justice again. The process is time consuming and we’ve gotten nothing out of it.

Once the law enforcement applications are completed you decide to apply for jobs you feel more qualified for. You’ll submit somewhere in the ballpark of 30-40 applications. Different companies. Different positions. And you. Some will never call. Some will invite you for an interview. Then there’s Travelers. They call. They invite you for testing. They invite you for an interview. But after all of that you have three more weeks to learn of the hiring decision. We’re up to five months without full time employment. Can we afford to wait?

2017

We turn a corner as the calendar turns a new page. We decline two job offers that would have given us more pay and hours. We do so because we’re waiting on Travelers. That opportunity is too important just to pass up before a final decision is made. The second week of January we get the offer. Travelers wants to give us an opportunity. We accept immediately and even cry a bit. It was the longest seven months of our life. But we finally had what we wanted.

Just two months after starting the new job we’ll go on vacation to Boston for eight days. It’ll be absolutely incredible. Now we’re setting ourselves up to visit many new places in the years to come.

Look, the next four years aren’t going to play out like we’d have hoped. They will be rough. You’ll be deflated and nervous. But you’ll always remain confident in yourself. You’ll never back down from what you believe in. You’ll stay true to yourself even in times of great uncertainty.

I’m proud of our growth we’ve experienced over the last four years. And looking forward to what’s to come for us in the future.

Sincerely,

The only person who knows exactly what it’s like to be you,

John Guillen

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Why My Stance on Recommending Books Has Shifted Dramatically 

Any longtime reader of this blog knows one thing has remained constant throughout my years on WordPress. My stance on recommending books. For those who may not know, I’ve always said I’d never recommend books because I really have no idea what another person will enjoy. I still believe that to be true. But any time someone asks me to recommend a book going forward, I always will. Why? I’ll tell you.

I’m 25. I don’t claim to have a pot of knowledge unavailable to others. Heck, I don’t even claim to have answers to some of the most pressing questions we face. But I know the lessons I’ve learned from books. I know firsthand the power the written word can possess. I still haven’t answered my own question.

I’m most often asked to recommend books in a general category. A book that’s sad. A book that’ll cause a laugh. A book with a strong message. Those sorts of requests. I feel like I’m able to meet those requests much more than trying to guess what someone will like.

For instance, if someone asked me to recommend a book with a strong message I could come up with dozens. Different messages. Different authors. Different topics. I’m not telling anyone what they should or shouldn’t believe in. I’m telling them what I was able to take from an individual story.

What’s changed isn’t the ability to learn from books. What’s changed is my increased desire to spread messages of positivity, inclusion, and the consequences of decisions made by generations before us.

I told someone new into my life recently that I want to help as many people as I can during my brief time on earth. And I believe books are my greatest asset in achieving that constant, lifelong goal. If I can open just one person’s eyes to an event or topic, then I’m content to do so.

Harvard Library Will Stop Charging Late Fees

Harvard library will stop charging late fees for regular loan items. Why? Because it’s stressful for students. I actually just read an article that pokes fun at this new development. Basically saying that all students at the school are rich and a genius and this new perk will do nothing for them. I disagree.

I’m not of the opinion that the most stressful topic in the minds of Harvard students is their overdue library books. I’m also not going to criticize the library for making this change. What good comes from that?

Boston: In Pictures

This post is pretty self-explanatory. Every picture in this post was taken by me.

The flag hanging at the JFK Presidential Library and Museum.

The view from the Museum of Science, Boston

What qualifies as contemporary art

Early human skull

This is what qualifies as fine art. Also, I fell inside.

Dr. Seuss!

They really love their Dr. Seuss.

Where the armed resistance we know as the American Revolution began!

I also jumped on a spaceship and landed on this thing.

This qualifies as wearable art.

Okay, guys. This is just a tiny snippet of the pictures I took during my trip, which I’ll be sharing on my Instagram account over the coming days and weeks! Follow for more!

Boston: Final Thoughts

I could write a 10,000 word post about everything I loved during my trip to Boston. I could. I won’t.

Boston was simply magnificent. There are 300 year old buildings next to modern hotels. There is history on every corner. And there is water everywhere. Several of the museums and places I visited were on the water. The best view was probably from the JFK Presidential Library. I wasn’t able to do anything out on the water, but that’s okay! It was more than enough to just get a glimpse of it.

The beauty of this whole thing is I know for certain I’ll be going back. I’m not sure if it’ll be in 2017, 2018, or beyond. But I know it’ll happen. And I’ll be just as excited for round two as I was for the first time.

Again, I cannot encourage you enough to visit as many places as you possibly can. Austin, DC, and Boston have been first on my list. What’s on yours?

Why I want to Visit the World’s Museums

Over the next few days I’ll likely be posting a wrap up of my vacation. But first I wanted to post once more about why I want to travel to cities all over the world and visit their museums.

It comes down to one thing, but this one thing is as important as any other thing in my life. Learning. I understand that some people kind of give up on learning new things once they’ve earned their degree and gotten a good job. But there’s so much out there I’ll never get to experience. We like to think 70-80 years on earth is an eternity. But it isn’t. Not even close. My primary purpose is to learn as much as I possibly can during my brief time on earth. That’s it. There are other things I’d like to do, but learning trumps them all.

I’m one person in a world of billions. I only know one life experience. Mine. Is it so unbelievable to want to learn about the experiences of other cultures, people, and geographic areas? I don’t think so. Museums work to preserve. And I work to learn.

A Letter to Boston

Dear Boston,

I’m leaving you today. I suppose we both knew this would be the end result. But there are so many things I’ve loved about you. I wanted to let you Know a few of them.

The history. There’s history everywhere. Which means there’s ample opportunity to learn. And that’s my sole aim. To learn as much as I possibly can during my brief time on earth. 

The museums. Boston is a city of museums. This of course is right in line with the history. Museums are about educating, and it seems that Boston is doing a wonderful job of educating.

Education. I’m from Houston. There are a number of universities located within the city. At least one is highly ranked among all universities in the country. But Houston simply doesn’t have the university presence Boston does. Which leads me to believe that the city is a hub for obtaining knowledge. Boston University. Northeastern. MIT. Harvard. I mean, wow. And yes, I realize Harvard is actually in Cambridge but SHH.

The diversity. Again, I’m from Houston. A city regularly touted as the most diverse city in the country. And heck, maybe it is. But everywhere I went in Boston I saw it on display. I heard more languages spoken than I can possibly count. In Houston I regularly hear two. English and Spanish. In eight days in Boston I probably heard 10.

But at the end of our brief time together there was certainly some negative. The roads. The roads here are terrible. And what’s with those weird three way intersections with no stop lights or anything? Are you asking for car accidents to happen?

But this isn’t about being negative. We had a spectacular eight day relationship. Maybe we can still be friends?

Sincerely,

A Wannabe World Traveler

John Guillen