About a month ago, I was asked if I would talk at Ignite Boulder 29. Though I supported it for some seven years as an organizer, I had never once been on stage to present a five-minute “spark” (what we call a talk). So I said yes, expecting I would have plenty of time to prepare and share something interesting. Five weeks later, and I was struggling with a topic; Sunday night before the Thursday event I scrapped my previous ideas and furiously set to work creating some visuals to share a travel story and some thoughts. This was a small test of my own limits, all the meanwhile reminding myself that I could do this.
Was it my best talk ever? Probably not. And yes, I was a bit anxious about standing in front of a packed room at the Boulder Theater. But I recognize something, following that evening: folks want you to succeed. And that’s a fantastic audience to have.
Building community is important to me. Whether we live together in a neighborhood, the same city, within a single state, in a country or merely on this same earth — our lives are connected. We (hopefully) spend our daytime hours working alongside like-minded individuals toward a common goal.
When moving to Portland, I sought out to build a new community and group of friends. I’m fortunate to have met and been invited to help support the folks who organize TEDxPortland. Last Saturday was my third event in the Rose City, and the team’s sixth year: TEDxPortland 2016. Our hope was to inspire, and celebrate, this amazing area which we call home.
Today, the city and region are changing fast. Growth is exciting, and brings with it new challenges. I’m here to participate, and to build a better place.
This time last week, I sat in my childhood bedroom. Clothes and other goods ready to be packed, strewn across the floor and over the bed. But instead of packing in any reasonable manner, I spent the evening reflecting.
My love for Boulder is endless, a beautiful small town along the front range of the Rocky Mountains. Skiing is almost second-nature, having grown up spending weekends on the slopes only an hour or so away. Picturesque landscapes and exploration of the outdoors fill my memories. I cannot imagine growing up anyplace else. And yet, this place now feels small.
Returning allows me to see not just family, but those friends I’ve made over the years—whether from growing up here, to university, to my first few years after school. We’re all growing up, so quickly, so fast. We’ve found new adventures, new friends. But we have a common thread, those shared experiences which make us who we are today.
A lot has changed since I last called this place my home. Over the past few years, I’ve grown and learned and explored and made a new place for myself in PDX. But I always cherish those opportunities to visit Colorado. I finished packing past midnight, occasionally looking out into the moonlit landscape. Remembering, and celebrating, those moments which led me here.
With Sarah’s family in Santa Barbara for the holiday, a quick flight and ocean escape made for a fun and sunny way to bring in the new year. Days full of coffee and wine, great food, enjoying films and the beach, enjoying books, and spending time with delightful people.
Portland has been home for two years, and in that time I’ve hardlywritten. So here’s a recap.
Moving to a new city is challenging. Part of it is overwhelming, the constant learning and discovery upon adventuring in a new place. Streets have silly names, I can turn at a stoplight with a red arrow (seriously, Oregon?). Another part is loneliness, not having those friends I’ve known for years. But over time, those feelings change, and the confusion is replaced with delight when encountering a new favorite coffee shop and building new friendships.
The Pacific coast is amazing for adventures. An hour west and you reach the Oregon coast, a perfect weekend getaway with friends. To the north, Seattle is a quick trip, with Vancouver only a bit farther. East of Portland lie the Gorge and Hood River, for hikes and quiet escapes. Some distance further, the town of Bend and its many breweries. And short flights south bring us to San Francisco and Los Angeles and Southern California, to visit family and find some sun in the rainy winter months.
This time last year, I had my Trek commuting bike stolen. It sucked. But it’s a good reminder that things are replaceable, and that good things take time. I have a new bike, perfect for these rainy winters. And I’m having even more fun riding around, exploring.
A year passes faster than expected. Full of surprises and new adventures, Portland has been a chance for new beginnings. And no, I have not written nearly enough. Plenty of challenges and surprises filled the past twelve months; I’m looking forward to what comes next.
Just like the “Oregon Trail” game, I followed the American Dream to move west and continue my adventures in Portland, Oregon.
Slowly, pieces are falling together. Plenty of coffee, good microbrews and exceptional food trucks (make time pass fast). And—without exception—lovely people. Already many days spent beside the window, rainy fog on the other side. A new place I’m only just beginning to explore.
Looking back at 2013 and everything which has come before, I am astonished and so incredibly excited for what comes next.
I’m sitting with my grandmother. It’s on me for not visiting during the past two years, but I’m here now. She asks about my future plans; listens as I describe stories from abroad; and shares her love and excitement for my next adventures.
Just a week ago, I was driving along an empty mountain road on Colorado’s front range. Snow began falling just after midnight, both picturesque and quieting.
Memories are beautiful and complex and tragic. While old memories are fast becoming fleeting, I aspire to leave a few new ones.
I sometimes find myself wishing that growing up were less challenging. This is a part of life; I’m struggling with acceptance. I never expected visiting my grandmother would be this challenging. Family frequently suggested I make this trip; it took far too long, but I’m glad I made it.
I have so very much for which to be thankful. More than anything, I am thankful to have such an amazingly supportive family. I am fortunate to have returned safely from travels. And to share this journey with an incredible partner, Sarah.
Ten years ago, I registered my first domain name: benjaminchait.net.
I never imagined the value it might have. Some years earlier, I had published my first web content via Pico (in Unix) and was jumping between static HTML pages and into dynamic frameworks, learning more advanced techniques and dabbling with ASP.NET and MySQL. At some point, it made sense to centralize my identity online, before Facebook and Twitter and everything else we have today. The world wide web has grown and changed immensely in the time since I first “settled” online. It impacts every aspect of our modern lives, acting as both a tool for work and providing entertainment. Without the internet, backpacking would have been a far different experience, from booking flights to communicating to sharing stories. My current endeavors as a freelance consultant rely upon the web. And yet, I’m fortunate to have my name as my identity.
A lot has changed in the that time. But I’m even more excited about what the next ten years might bring.
I had the great opportunity to work with some incredible folks in the Boulder community these past few weeks to produce TEDxBoulder 2013.
Waking up Saturday morning, I was already exhausted; putting together any live event is daunting. The preceding week was packed with meetings, responding to messages and getting everything ready. But walking on-stage during sound checks, meeting speakers and volunteers—the excitement and energy grew quickly. Time blurs among all the preparation. Then, at 5 pm sharp, I hit play on the TEDx intro video—no turning back.
Some four hours, three musical acts and fourteen talks later, we finished. And even with technical challenges, I think the evening was great. I am constantly impressed by people in our community and what they do every single day.