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Abe Observes

abe villarrealAbe Villarreal is the Director of Communications at Western New Mexico University. When not on campus, he enjoys writing about his observations on marketing, life, people and American traditions.

By Abe Villarreal

Lately, I’ve been learning to write without words. There is so much you can say without putting pen to paper, and I’ve been doing it in the form of art.

An empty canvas can be so liberating. When I found myself staring at one, a rush of thoughts came to mind. Why is this happening to me? Why can’t these problems be solved? Why can’t things be like they always were?

Because I couldn’t find the answers that set me at peace, I turned to a paintbrush, acrylics, and an empty canvas. It was the only way I could speak my mind.

By Abe Villarreal

All families have their highs and lows. Times of unity, and times of separation. And when you hit a valley, a flood of childhood memories fill your brain.

Like the time you stayed up all night because you couldn’t wait to open your first Christmas gift at the stroke of midnight. Latinos celebrate Christmas during the Noche Buena, at midnight.

My mom always put out a single candle in each window. We didn’t need strings of colorful lights to hang from roof corner to corner. Just that simple candle in each room.

By Abe Villarreal

When big, dramatic, events hit you – the kind that are life changing – sometimes it feels like you have to start all over again.

Those really big kinds of events like a career change, or a death in the family. They can mess you up, but only if you let them.

Every morning I listen to the local radio station. Turning on the radio is part of my daily routine. Wake up. Hit the on button. Brush my teeth. Even though it seems commonplace, every day is a new beginning. Life is starting over again.

By Abe Villarreal

They say that when you visit Washington D.C., you become a patriot. For a moment, your ideological thoughts are washed away as you stare over the beauty of the Potomac River.

The majesty of the Jefferson Memorial, and the grandeur of America’s most recognizable President, Mr. Abe Lincoln, looking down at you as he sits upon his throne – it’s almost too much to take at once.

At least it was for me during one summer in 2004 as an undergrad when I had the privilege of interning for the late Senator Pete Domenici. It was a summer to remember.

By Abe Villarreal

When talkies first made it to the silver screen in 1927, they marked the beginning of a new era of communication. Al Jolson was The Jazz Singer and movie audience senses felt something they had never experienced.

There were doubters sitting in those dark movie theaters, but within a few years no one could resist the new era of entertainment. There are always doubters, no matter what the inevitable curb of progress brings our way.

By Abe Villarreal

I am anxious and excited to run my first 5K this coming Labor Day weekend. For several weeks I’ve been preparing because I’m not a runner. Never was.

The event is in Alamogordo, New Mexico, a town I’ve never visited but one that has been on my radar for several months. When I recently discovered that my great-great-grandfather lived there for the last few years of his life, I became determined to learn more about my one and only New Mexico family connection.

By Abe Villarreal

In our short and often tumultuous history, there have been dramatic highs and lows that are often bookended with words as powerful as the moments themselves.

Today, at this moment in 2017, there are dark clouds on the horizon and we are waiting to hear powerful words. The kind of words that give us reassurance when we are confused. The kind that mean something when they are spoken with authenticity and truth.

Future classroom textbooks will tell the history of our time in much of the same way they tell of the civil rights era of the 1960s. Kids will learn about marches. They will see images of passionate people, yelling at each other – I’m right and you’re wrong. Less and less can we understand each other.

At a time when we see our neighbors, our countrymen, standing and staring at each other with anger and high emotions, we are waiting for a unifier, a man in power, to let us know that there is a way forward for everyone.

There are always two sides and two points of views. But sometimes they are not equal. Not even close. When one side is wearing white hoods and holding symbols that reflect the darkest moments in our history, there is little chance of moral equivalency.

Yes, this is 2017 and there are men in white hoods trying to hold on to relevance. The final remnants of a time in history, which we had forgotten.

Unfortunately for us, the man with the bully pulpit is failing to give us clarity. He is assumed to represent the conscience of a nation, and yet his words are something we don’t understand and to which we often disagree.

We are looking for a Churchill, a Reagan, a Lincoln; with a strong and positive voice. We are looking for a Mother Theresa, a Martin Luther King Jr. A soft and tender tone.

Today we have a loud and consistent drumbeat of absoluteness. The message is not clear. There is no gray and no in-between. Words are losing their meaning.

Olive branches are nowhere in sight. People are not shaking hands or sharing hugs. We all want to stand our ground. Understanding what we don’t know is not so fashionable anymore.

It seems we are heading towards a climactic moment. The man in charge has lit a fire, and the nation as a whole is feeling the heat. Many of the cooks have left the kitchen, leaving the decider-in-chief a man often alone. He’s deciding, and saying, the things he thinks we represent as individuals and communities. But the words seem strange and distant. Washington D.C. feels like a far away place.

Most of the time we ignore the inside-the-beltway gossip. This time, it’s a drip, drip, drip, and the Potomac River is flowing in all directions, carrying the vitriol and hatred that we expect to come from the kind of places we try to avoid, not the nation’s capital.

Words are powerful tools used by powerful people. The problem today is that we do not hear the kinds of words we expect to hear in challenging times of turmoil. From top to bottom, everyone sounds the same.

Abe Villarreal is the Director of Communications at Western New Mexico University. When not on campus, he enjoys writing about his observations on marketing, life, people and American traditions.

By Abe Villarreal

When Robert Frost penned the poem The Road Not Taken it struck a chord with his readers, and it still does today a century after its publishing in 1916.

The words are famous, not only because they are beautifully written, but also because they speak to us in ways that make us think about ourselves, the decisions we make, and how valuable a new beginning can be just when we need it.

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both,” the poem opens. It’s an amazing statement because the writer begins with an apology. 

It seems apologies are less available these days. We are all correct always, no matter what we do and say. Your way of living is ok and so is mine. My truth is truth, and so is yours, even though it’s different. Everything is relevant. Not much is black and white anymore.

Think of the power of the apology, someone is admitting something about himself when he says it. I’m sorry. It’s a powerful statement.

The poem continues “and be one traveler, long I stood and looked down one as far as I could to where it bent in the undergrowth.”

Life is full of making decisions in the moment. Look around you and suddenly you realize that there is a path to choose and there is no way to take both. We fool ourselves regularly, telling others that we can do everything. We can be all things to all people. 

It’s out of fashion to be really good at just one thing. If you’re a carpenter, be the best carpenter you can ever become. It’s ok if there is not much else that makes you special. Choose one path and stick to it.

“Then took the other, as just as fair, and having perhaps the better claim, because it was grassy and wanted wear, though as for the passing there had worn them really about the same.”

 When we finally do make a decision, we immediately question ourselves and we try to justify what we did no matter the consequences. Think of today’s popular phrase “sorry not sorry”. We want to be sorry, but being not sorry is so in. No matter what we decide, it was the right choice. At least that’s what we convince ourselves to believe.

 “And both that morning equally lay in leaves no step had trodden back. Oh, I kept the first for another day! Yet knowing how way leads on to way, I doubted if I should ever come back.”

We waste so much energy trying to retrace our steps. Every time we look back, we’re not looking forward. It’s O.K. to walk the path that others have not. There is risk, but often great reward.

“I shall be telling this with a sigh somewhere ages and ages hence: Two roads diverged in a wood, and I – took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

Step out of your comfort zone. Stop following others simply because it feels good and safe. The next time you are thinking of which direction to follow, take a deep breath and look forward, take the road not taken.

Abe Villarreal is the Director of Communications at Western New Mexico University. When not on campus, he enjoys writing about his observations on marketing, life, people and American traditions.

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