Travel Lightly Down Life’s Road

It’s indescribable how the future changes things.

This week’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is: “indescribable.” Use the actual word in your post or just base your post on something that defies description.

If you’ve ever kept a diary you’ve probably experienced looking back at something you wrote in the past that has changed in meaning. Perhaps you were nervously anticipating an upcoming challenge that turned out being no big deal at all. Or maybe you were sounding your trumpet about an event that now, later in time, seems to have lost it’s sheen.

At 46, I could never explain this and I don’t know why I’m trying to do so to people younger than me. It’s less important to define everything and more important to define those universal themes that have stood the test of time for ones life. Like the photo above I found on Tumblr, we can’t see the track ahead clearly. The forest/city/town that we’ll see down the tracks will likely defy all current description. The best advice I can give as you travel through life is to take it easy and believe all things do change.

How the Face of Poverty Helped me Grow Up

Poverty is something most young people can’t comprehend until they experience it or even just see it. Seeing it transformed me on a trip I took to Mexico at age 18. I was forced to grow up in an instant (or a series of instants).

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “When Childhood Ends.” Write about a defining moment in your life when you were forced to grow up in an instant (or a series of instants).

This is me graduating with my first degree, AA General Education. That's my Grandpa with me. My experiences at a Tijuana orphanage at 18 influenced my desire to be college educated.
This is me graduating with my first degree, AA General Education. That’s my Grandpa with me. My experiences at a Tijuana orphanage at 18 influenced my desire to be college educated. I’ve gone on to get two more degrees and a teaching credential. Every day I seek to help children of all socioeconomic backgrounds as a teacher.

When I was 18, I went with a group of Southern California kids and adult leaders to give food and supplies to an orphanage in Tijuana. I had the opportunity to give a child a bike. The place was actually situated behind a dump. It was regular practice for the kids there to trash pick for food and other items. The leaders gave me a rebuilt bike to give to a boy who they told me had just discovered his parents stabbed and dead in the dump. It was sobering and sad.

I learned a lot on that trip. As an OC brat, I took a lot for granted growing up. That experience really made me grow up in an instant. I saw that security was not granted for everyone as it was for me. Poverty is real. I think all children growing up in the lap of luxury with Disneyland right in her/his backyard should spend time in poverty. It made me thankful for my parents and my family. It made me realize that I was always just a couple paychecks away from being in poverty myself and that I needed to invest in myself in college and savings to ensure a life far from poverty. I also learned that Tijuana poverty is far below any poverty I had seen in Southern California all my short life.

When in the Valley, Look to the Mountaintop

I would call my second year as a Pizza Hut Manager a valley that I rose to a mountaintop from. I left teaching because I was overwhelmed and the result was a valley I thought I’d never rise above. I control my destiny, I decided where my career would go, twice.

The Daily Post writing prompt: Describe a time when you quickly switched from feeling at the top of the world to sinking all the way down (or vice versa). Did you learn anything about yourself in the process?

Damien Riley Jet Propulsion Lab WrightwoodFrom 2000-2002 I managed the Pizza Hut in Dana Point, California. I had 10 years prior experience there and I was bilingual and highly educated, perhaps beyond necessity. They took me in and made me a manager. The first year was exciting, it was different from teaching and I liked that. The second year was drudgery. I couldn’t make the numbers they set for me and I didn’t have much time off. I felt lower than low. I was living alone and dreading each day walking into the place. I think they could tell as well. After some highly revelatory personal experiences, I knew that teaching was for me so I quite Pizza Hut, started subbing and within months has several interviews. In August of 2002 I was hired as a 5th grade teacher, I was 33.

I think what makes me proud of my valleys is that I looked up at the mountaintop and I didn’t let despair take over. This is an important life skill: When down in the valley, look up at the mountaintop. If you can see it, don’t take your eyes off it as your destiny and you’ll get there. I’ve been a public school teacher now for 16 years. ALL my experiences, especially the valleys make me the great teacher people recognize today.

Definitely Literally and not Figuratively

People have been overusing and hence misusing the word literally for many years now. It’s literally reached a point of no return.

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “No, Thank You.” If you could permanently ban a word from general usage, which one would it be? Why?

Literally is a word that signifies the opposite of figuratively. If you use a similie, metaphor, idiom or other form of figurative language, you do not mean what you say. For example: I am starving to death. This is a phrase to emphasize ones hunger, not ones nearness to the undertaker. It would be correct to say “literally” if one had gone weeks without food and the literal distinction could be made.

Literally is a word that should only be used as a colorful distinction when a figurative statement is in fact true. People in our world use the word literally incorrectly and too much. It has become an adverb to signify intense degree. Example: I am literally going over there to complain to the manager. Before the grammar books start bending this usage and making it acceptable, I vote we scrap it altogether, for the good of English communication.

On Being a Listener More Than a Talker

The best advice I ever got from my father and others but didn’t take, through much of my 20’s and 30’s, was to be a listener more than a talker. You give more to people that way than you will ever know. I started to get it in my 30’s and am now still working at it in my mid forties. The challenge marches on.

Damien Riley ListeningAll people in my circle from my family to the strangers I see in the supermarket could use more of a listening ear from me. Can you listen when someone is silent? Yes, it’s called giving someone your attention. This advice is really about being focused on someone and giving them your attention. Listening to someone’s words is just one way to give that attention, it’s not always easy. You can listen to people’s body language, their clothing, their mannerisms, gestures and more. You can even listen to the way people walk by you. For my purposes, the most important way to listen is through listening to other people’s words. This doesn’t come naturally for most people, and I certainly need a lot more patience in this area.

I’m learning more and more that the quotes like: “A closed mouth gathers no foot” and “I would rater remain seated in a group and be thought a fool that stand and speak removing all doubt” are among the most profound. I see every day as a chance to do a listening experiment. At the same time, listening is an act of love because it embraces someone else’s perspective if only for a moment of consideration. It’s not important that you agree with the other person but that you listen and attempt to comprehend what she/he is saying. If I could offer one piece of advice to those seeking a fulfilling life, I’d offer the advice to be a listener more than a talker.

Is there any advice you should have taken through the years from Dad or anyone else?


This post was inspired by Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop, prompt #3. It is also a response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Take It From Me.”

My Blogging Health Food List – ROW80

ROW80I wrote some awesome goals last ROW80 check in but today I realized I had not included reading other people’s blogs. As I wrap up my goals for this round, this is what it’s all about for me. What good is any success or personal growth if it doesn’t include connecting with other good people out there blogging. I know it can be easy to forget the importance of reading and commenting when all out personal goals take so much of our time. Reading other people’s blogs is the most important thing I can do, the way I see it, even more than writing my own posts. So with that in mind, here is my adjust list of goals going forward as the round closes:

  • Meditate daily in the am and write down things I’m thankful for. (non public)
  • Read/comment on other people’s blogs for 20 mins to 1 hour daily.
  • Write a Daily Post Prompt, tag with #postaday on Twitter.
  • Write a daily movie review post. I have a lot of catching up to do!
  • Write a weekly post in Mama Kat’s Writing Workshop.
  • Write a Stream of Consciousness Saturday post each Saturday. Use blog tag #SOCS
  • Write blog post updates for ROW80 Wed and Sun (on hiatus til Round 3)
  • Add Twitter hashtag #ROW80 to Wed/Sun updates.
  • Add updates to the ROW80 Facebook group.
  • Rate every movie I watch on IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes. If I have time, write a review too.
  • Participate in the Gratitude Circle challenge the last Thu of each month.

My macro goals are to read more blogs as a member of the community, review more movies, and become a better writer.


we all invent ourselves and you know me

Hello fellow life traveler! Can you relate like I can with the words in the image below? Like a captchya, I think they identify humanity.

The way I reinvent myself is usually from a visual stimulus. I’ll see something on vacation: a view, a work of art, I’ll meet a new person and I want to reflect that in my life. Sometimes ordinary settings cause me to be enlightened like the school where I teach or at home. Sometimes looking at my flickr or tumblr accounts will inspire a reinvention of sorts. I’m a very visually driven person.

There have been repeated times in my life where I was driven to construct a new me or a part of me. The most recent started with wearing my fedora hat. Before that, several years ago I decided I wanted to be a blog film critic and I started a movie blog apart from this one. I was very committed at first but it wasn’t until about a year ago that I dedicated myself to becoming something as a critic.

I hope I am always reiventing myself, even if the changes aren’t always permanent. An ideal life to me would be one that ended with the remnants of all the “reinventions” that lasted. I think the best end of a life should be determined so one can order the steps and decisions of the present life. After all, there really are no time constraints on us. Think about what Spider Robinson the eminent sci-fi writer said, “We are all time travelers moving at the speed of exactly 60 minutes per hour.” True huh?

If you consider yourself an artist, self-invention is fun. I love the REM lyric in Crush With Eyeliner. Michael Stipe sings: “We all invent ourselves and … you know me.” The allusion is, do we really know anyone? There is a lot of self invention going on. I know I am heavy into it myself. It’s like an art project for me but for others, they may not enjoy art. Guess what though? We are all inventing ourselves anyway whether we pay attention to it or not.

Another big example of recreation is in clothing styles. A few years back I decided I wanted to wear more v-neck sweaters in the Winter with white t-shirts underneath. That was a very wise one as it kept me warm and stylish. One way for me to see the many choices I’ve made about style is to go back through my flickr photos. You’ll see quite a few looks there. Do you have a flickr? If not, I highly suggest it for a lifelong app. Are there people who never alter their clothing style? Probably. I try to mix mine up once in a while.

I can’t close up this post without recommending tumblr to you. The images there give you plenty to think over. The best part about it is that you build the feed you read. There is no standard view. I’ve put together images and quotes from other tumblrs that I know have inspired me in the past. tumblr is fertile with inspiration for me. In your journey through time, I hope you find places you derive inspiration to reinvent yourself from.

The Lovers, the Dreamers, and Me – #throwbackthursday

Someday we’ll find it, the rainbow connection,The lovers, the dreamers and me.

Source: The Lovers, the Dreamers, and Me | Riley Central

In the spirit of #throwbackthursday The above excerpt is from a post I wrote in 2009. I’ve always loved the song The Rainbow Connection and the post from 2009 explains a little about why. Thanksgiving is a perfect day to think about higher aspirations as a human.