Inspiration & Conundrum

M.A. Gavin,

I hope this does not find you too late. In reverse order my advice is as follows:

  1. Perhaps tap the gentleman on the shoulder and offer him a blanket, or a coffee.
  2. Express your distaste for violence and that you seek to achieve higher things through peaceful means.
  3. Come live with me. Last time we began this enjoyable blog.
  4. Having a pet is perhaps the best thing in my life. Perhaps even better than having you, although that is likely because they are always near at hand, while you are quite out of reach. Name it M.R. Gavin.

I’ve never been much for advising, so I recommend taking my opinions with an entire salt shaker.

What inspires you? I find myself thinking about inspiration a lot recently. Not because I lack it, but because I’m not sure how to turn the things that inspire me into something more. But before I get to that conundrum, I’d like to tell you a few things that inspire me.

First, are people. My family and friends especially inspire me to try things, to persist, to engage in life. I watch my family and friends on each of their own journeys and their resilience in difficult situations and even normal life circumstances, and it inspires me, because those situation are scary. Furthermore, the love of family and friends and their constant believe and encouragement is ever so helpful when I get trapped inside my own head.

Second, is little moments. Any small moment that puts a smile on my face is truly inspiring because I never know when they are going to occur. It could be a sweet moment between PenelopeBlossom, a random interaction with a stranger, or even a smell. Actually, to be honest, smells and sounds get me a lot. These little moments occur when I am least expecting them – most often while people-watching and I see others interact in adorable or comical ways. This inspiration has been helpful in growing my list of potential writing topics.

Third, is learning. I am inspired by almost everything I read. By the writing quality, the descriptions, the content. Even when I dislike something I read, I am inspired not to repeat that writer’s mistakes. Additionally, learning can be an almost constant occurrence. I learn from activists, from colleagues, from everyone because everyone has different life experiences to share and learn from.

Now to the conundrum.  I am inspired by so many things, but I have yet to find a sufficient way in which to utilize that inspiration as something “more.” By more, I mean a job that people would respect and consider admirable. I’m not looking for recognition, but I am looking for respect. That my passion and inspiration can be turned into something that makes a difference. They make a difference to me and they are respected by those closest to me, but there is a distinct difference in reactions when you tell someone you are a doctor or an engineer verses working for a nonprofit or even teaching. It is one of the more challenging things I’ve had to deal with in adulthood and hope that you are never faced with the feeling of inadequacy it generates. With that said, I am not writing this post to complain, but just to explain some of the things that inspire me and some of the questions I run through on a regular basis. I am extremely content and even invigorated by my current work, but it is not something easily shared as of yet.

Finally, I just chugged a bottle of water and am now shivering. This happens almost every time I drink a bottle of water and I think I need to find out why that is. Or just drink my water more slowly.

I’ll leave you with a quote that is a current inspiration for me. Helen Keller once said, “When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.” I will continue doing my best and what makes me happy, and hope I see the impact some day.

Always yours,

-M.R. Gavin


In need of input, please advise.

Hello M.R. Gavin,

I have a few things I’d like to discuss with you.

First and foremost, I want to  adopt a bunny. Now I recognize that given my current status as an income-lacking and at times very busy student, adopting a pet must be done only after careful and reflective consideration. I must answer many questions before diving into the rewarding and challenging world of pet parenting. These questions include but are not limited to:

What would I name the bunny?

What if the bunny already came with a name?

Floppy eared or pointy eared? (Admittedly I am unsure what the correct term is for non-floppy bunny ears)

Should I buy the bunny a sweater?

Should I buy the bunny a bunny sweater?

As I’m sure you can agree, these are difficult and life altering inquiries to address. Please advise.

Second, I am trying to decide what to do with my summer. As you are aware, I have a summer stipend to use, and I could get an internship or study abroad (a third option is an independent project, but I’m not really sure how I’d swing that). I’m hesitant to take just any internship. I’ve done the internship thing more than once now, and if I’m going to do it again, I need to know that I’ll be doing more that putting together spreadsheets and making copies (this is not to say that I did not enjoy or benefit from previous work and internship experiences, simply that I’d like to take on bigger projects if I intern again this summer). If I study abroad, I will not have any money. That would not be ideal, especially if I adopt a bunny and want to buy it a sweater. Please advise.

Third, I am filling out an application now which requires me to write a reflection on the notion of “punching above one’s weight.” I’m not much for violence, unless of course it is for WWE or hockey. Therefore, I am struggling to answer the question. Please advise.

Finally, as a sit in the library writing this post, a man sitting two seats to the left of me has fallen asleep and is snoring relatively loudly. This would not be a problem except for the fact that we are sitting in the quiet zone. I would kick him to wake him up, but, as previously mentioned, violence is not my cup of tea. Please advise.



M.A. Gavin



Growth (Despite being Short)

My Dearest M.A. Gavin,

I know it has only been a few weeks, but I miss you immensely and I hope your travels and studies have treated you well in the interim.  I am glad to see you have been reading and will add all of your suggestions to my list.

While you completed a sort of recap of 2017, I’ve decided to write about my hopes and goals moving into 2018.  With that said, I have never been a fan of the colloquially “New Years Resolution,” and prefer to make changes when I recognize they are needed or desired. Nonetheless, I do like to sit down and reflect on the past year and look forward to the new year with those reflections in mind.

As I reflect on 2017, I noted many changes in my professional life, and – partially because of those changes – growth in terms of my mental and spiritual well being. Those are the things I am seeking to continue as 2018 proceeds and they simmer down into the following three big ideas.

  1. 30 Day Challenges. I watched a TED Talk by Matt Cutts (linked here) several years ago about trying something new and sticking to it for thirty days. While his oratory style is not my favorite, the message he gave stuck with me. Doing things over a period of time make them a habit. Last year I made a concerted effort to read everyday. Now if I don’t read at least of few pages, my day feels incomplete. The point is, I plan on using this “challenge” to try new things and better my overall physical, mental, and spiritual well being.  I have several months already decided, but if you have additional suggestions I would love to consider them.
  2. Engage in a community of learners. You may not know this about me, but I am incredibly shy and unfortunately instead of my shyness ebbing with age it has increased.  While I have the most beautiful circle of close friends and family a person could ever want, close friends and family are not always the people who will push one’s thinking, teach one something new, or provide unbiased feedback. This is not to say you do not challenge me, because you do. Instead it is about sharing with others and learning from others I would not otherwise engage with. Be this on a social media platform, a book club, or a volunteer position, I hope to work to get out of my shell and engage with others in order to learn and grow, and to contribute to important conversations.
  3. Read to learn. I have always been in love with reading and over the past year have successfully returned to reading for enjoyment and making reading a priority. Whilst doing so, I made an effort to read a variety of literature from diverse authors in order to learn about other people, their opinions, and how they view the world. This year I plan to continue exploring those writers, and I am hoping to expand my reading to other formats as well. Find a newsletter like the one you suggested, read articles from diverse authors and publications, scholarly publications, ect.  

Ultimately, for me 2018 is going to be about growth. And in truth, isn’t every year about growth? When we were kids each birthday meant we had grown physically, mastered a year’s worth of school, and experienced a plethora of new things, because when you are young everything is new.  I hope to keep that in mind this year.

Happy Reading,

-M.R. Gavin


Hi M.R. Gavin,

I’m baaaacccckkkkkkkk. I’ve been reading quite a few books recently. Which isn’t unusual, except for the fact that this is pleasure reading. Not for school. Not for class or applications or professional development. Exclusively and selfishly for me.

As it’s only the second day of the New Year, I thought it still appropriate to share my favorites of 2017. Following in the footsteps of Our Lord and Savior Barack Obama, it will be a compilation of all things of importance of 2017.

Let’s kick off the list with The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides. I can’t say this book was good. That seems inappropriate given the entire story is about the suicides of five sisters. But damn was it fascinating. The entire story was told from the perspective of the middle-school aged neighbor boys, thus lending itself to discussion on voice, perspective, representation, ownership, etc. Please read it.

Next on the list is 1984 by George Orwell. Once again, given its content, I can’t say the book was good. I also can’t believe I waited this long to read it. Though given current national and international affairs, it felt applicable. Can we please see the play?

I also started reading The Broadsheet, a newsletter devoted to sharing stories for, about, and by powerful women. Nothing kicks off my day like a healthy dose of empowering literature about badass women.

“The Real Slim Shady” was my most listened to song on Spotify for 2017. There’s not much I can say about that.

Langston Hughes poetry became my jam in 2017. Let America Be (America Again) was a personal favorite. If you haven’t read it yet, please do.

Word of the year: teleological.

Personal catchphrase: Do Better.

I could go on, but 2018 is fleeting and I have some Eminem to catch up on.


M.A. Gavin


Dear M.A. Gavin,

If you can’t tell from the title, I am ecstatic it is reading month.  I think this comes only second to my excitement for Banned Books week in September.  You are currently at a point in life and school where everyday is reading month based on how much you have to read.  For me, however, reading month is permission to carry a baker’s dozen worth of books everywhere, wear my Green Eggs and Ham chucks everyday, and shamelessly spout the importance of reading to anyone who will even half listen.  Fortunately, as a teacher, I am not considered crazy despite my overwhelming excitement (yes, overwhelming is accurate word – as my students stare at me wide eyed and jaw dropped 97% of the time).

We have a pretty intense love of reading, but it is impressive how the love of reading comes in different forms.  For example, there is a bibliophile who is a lover of books.  According to Oxford Dictionaries website, a librocubcultarist describes “someone who reads in bed.”  A more colloquial term is a “bookworm,” which we have been called on more than one occasion.

While I think all three of these terms accurately describe me, I don’t think any of them accurately describe  a simple love of reading.  Reading anything and everything you can get your hands on, consuming an abundance of information, in various digital and print forms.  Remember when you first started learning to read, and the feeling you got when you started seeing and reading words all around you?  It is that ecstasy, that simple love and wonder of reading and the world, I return to each March.   I wish there was a word for that feeling, for that love of reading, not of books, not someone who reads quickly, but for someone infatuated by the act of reading and who engages in it as often as possible.  If you know the word for it, let me know; I should add it to my elevator speech.

Additionally, our love of reading is founded in personal idiosyncrasies.  For example, my ability to read in a car, but inability to read for more than five minutes after work without passing out book open in my lap, mouth agape, and drool dribbling down my chin.  Instead, I choose to get up earlier than I need to, in order to enjoy reading in the morning.  The peace I feel on Saturday mornings is near perfection, as the sun rises through my front window, birds chirping, a warm cup of tea in my favorite mug, my current read in my lap, and one or two puppies curled up nearby.  The absurd croaking – RIBIT! – I hear in my head or aloud anytime I come across a gushy part of a story adds to my reading experience every time.  Going back to reread old favorites, receiving recommendations, and exploring new genres, help my love of reading continue to grow and flourish.

I wish you and everyone else a most joyful reading month, full of adventures, romances, inquiries, and discoveries.  I implore you to share your love of reading with children by reading to or with them, and with friends or family members by giving recommendations or discussing what you’ve read.  I leave you with a well used, but ever accurate quote from George R.R. Martin, “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.  The man who never reads lives only one.”

Happy Reading,

M.R. Gavin

suMMer is calling my name!

M.R. Gavin,

Hello hello hello. It’s GORGEOUS in my corner of the world right now, sunny and 65 degrees! The past week has been crazy hectic and I don’t see it slowing down any time soon, but I’m glad I found a quick moment to reply to your letter.

Like you, I am very excited for this journey, and I have a feeling our letters, stories, jokes, and opinions will only get better as time goes on. We have a lot of  e x c i t i n g things coming our way that I have no doubt will lead to philosophical discussions on the meaning of life and to funny, embarrassing, and gut busting anecdotes.

This beautiful weather has me thinking a lot about summer, and I cannot wait for it to be here. In order to keep my excitement in check, I made a list of all the things I am most excited for this summer:

  1. LONDON – I can neither confirm nor deny that I’ve been listening exclusively to British classic rock in preparation for my London summer adventure
  2. ICE CREAM – We eat a lot of ice cream to begin with, but copious ice cream consumption is deemed socially acceptable in the summertime.
  3. WARM WEATHER- It’s warm right now, but tomorrow there could be ten inches of snow on the ground. I prefer consistency.
  4. ALASKA – What can I say, this summer’s travel itinerary rocks! Also, did someone say whale watching?
  5. YOU – I’ll get to spend a whole week with you (and M.J. Gavin, Momaroo, Gramsicle, et al.) and we’ll be on a boat (woot woot!)
  6. BOOOOOOKS – Something about summertime reading is just magical
  7. DOGS – I miss all the puppers while I’m away, but I’ll get to hang out with Bubba for a few weeks in May
  8. SHORTS – and t-shirts and anything that is not a sweater or a coat.
  9. LONDON – I feel like this needs to be listed twice (also ALASKA)

(For the record, I made this a nine point list because I like square numbers.)

This week I read Five Point Someone: What Not To Do at IIT by Chetan Bhagat. I have some criticisms of it, but I think it’s worth reading. There is also a Bollywood movie called 3 Idiots based off the book. I watched it Friday, and I’ve had the soundtrack stuck in my head ever since (~ zoobi doobi zoobi doobi ~).

Talk soon!


M.A. Gavin

On Journeys

M.A. Gavin,

Thank you for the book recommendation.  I am rapidly approaching the end of a reading journey, and am looking for some new literature to explore.  As I complete The Dark Tower series by Stephen King, I am reminded of what P.D. Duck would say, “The point of the journey is not to arrive.”  That quote is oddly fitting in both the context of a reader, and of the story.  The series is essentially about a man’s journey to the Dark Tower.  It is his entire life’s work, and although I have not finished, I am afraid the main character, Roland, may be disappointed in what he finds when he arrives, but hopefully, he recognizes the beauty and impact of his quest.  In the context of a reader, finishing a book is not the point.  If it where we would just skip to the end.

You offered a quote that very accurately describes our current political situation.  It is funny how you can always find a quote to describe a situation, but I find P.D. Duck’s quote – borrowed from Neil Peart – to be one I regularly reflect on.  If the point of life was to arrive, would we simply want to arrive at death?  Thank heavens that is not the case!  Each leg of life is a journey, and those journeys build and intersect to create a series of journeys  we call life.  Unfortunately, I often find myself less focused on the journey, and more focused on the outcome.

Imagine if instead of reflecting on a journey at its completion, we were more open to embracing the journey as it happened.  There could be more learning, more willingness to experiment and explore, more meaningful interactions; the possibilities are endless.  Consequently, a journey is just aimless wanderings if there isn’t some sort of end game or goal.  I guess my point is, while it is important to have goals and plans, we need to be willing to embrace changes and opportunities as they present themselves to make the most of the journey, and have the best outcome at the conclusion.

I am glad our journeys have largely overlapped, and for once I am not too anxious to see how this particular journey (writing) ends.  Instead, I am ready to embrace whatever our writing journey brings us, and enjoy every word, sentence, and paragraph we string together.

While you left me with a book suggestion, I am not yet sure how I want to conclude my half of our correspondence.  So for now, I encourage you to embrace your journey, and hope to hear from you soon.

Happy reading, and happy writing!

-M.R. Gavin