Don't Be Afraid

To my beautiful little sister,

I’ve just spent the past week with you. This is the first time you’ve hosted me. Thank you.

After some terrifyingly honest and revealing discussions, I have one thing to say:

Don’t be afraid.

Fear is a powerful and dreadful emotion. One that is ever pervasive, and as you’ve discovered, will control every aspect of your life.

Don’t be afraid to be alone.

Don’t be afraid to unleash your potential.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know.

I know that you can get through this. It’s going to be hard, but with every step forward you will relinquish your fear little by little.

I have been where you are.

Please don’t be as stubborn as I was.

You are my best friend. I am honored to be your brother and blessed to have you as my sister.

You are better than this. We both know it.

Don’t be afraid.

Love, your big bro,

The Lost One

Great-Grandma Walton,

I just visited you in your new care-facility. I spent 45 minutes with you. You wont remember though.

At 93, I doubt I’ll remember much either.

I enjoyed our visit very much. Most of your sentences made sense. Some had nothing to do with anything. But that’s all part of the fun.

There are very few details of your life that you can recall. The stories are gone. I doubt you remember your hometown in Kentucky, or how many kids that you have. You weren’t sure who Great-Grandpa Walton was. He’s the man, whose picture is hanging on the wall in your room and your husband of over 60 years.

But no bother.

All that matters now is that you are happy, that you are safe, and that you are not forgotten in your new home.

Your personality still shines through the incoherence though. Your laugh, your southern drawl and those beautifully kind eyes that you can’t see out of anymore are all still there.

It was hard to see you. It was wonderful to see you.

While it’s a challenge to focus on much anymore, please know that you are loved by so many, including me.

I hope you are warm. I hope you are well cared for. I hope you don’t keep trying to escape the building.

You don’t know me anymore . . .

. . . but I know you.

And who knows? Next time I’m in town I may take you up on your offer and we’ll run away together.

It’s never too late for an adventure with a strange man that loves you.



Scholarship Essay #2

I don’t think that just by looking at me you would assume that I’m all that diverse of a person. I’m a 30 year old, Caucasian male. That’s what people see when they first meet me and I’m ok with that. I’m also gay. I’m ok with that too. In fact the narrative of my life since “coming out” has made me the diverse man that I am today.

I was excommunicated from the LDS Church for falling in love with another man. I was expelled from BYU and had to face my family with the grim news upon my return home to Denver. All of this occurred just four weeks after I came home from serving an LDS mission in Eastern Europe. While that experience was one of the most difficult of my life, it has made me the person I am today and I wouldn’t change a thing.

In Utah, I have the best of both worlds. I can converse as fluently in the culture of the dominant religion in the state as I can in swapping stories with my friends over a beer. To be frank, I love being able to do both. I find tremendous value in being able to relate to others regardless of their backgrounds, to find some common bond, to connect on the human level.

Being a diverse person, to me, is of course shaped by your heritage and your life experiences. But those are inward looking traits of diversity. It is the ability to project an outward embrace for everything and everyone that may come into your life that is the hallmark of a truly diverse person. It is the ability of seeing past the black and white in life and celebrating all the beautiful shades of grey.

A diverse person is someone that truly reflects the attitude of “what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” While admittedly I fall short at times, this is a philosophy that I strive to live by. It is within the grey of life that I tend to find the most joy.

It stands to reason that the urban planning program attracted me for just that reason. It is the responsibility of our profession to see our communities as the sum of many parts. To be effective, we must be able to see that the many aspects and needs of responsible, sustainable planning are intricately woven together. The issues that we address are as diverse as the people that populate our towns and cities. We are required to make decisions that have an immediate impact on the parties involved, but also have the awesome responsibility of being able to shape our communities for generations to come. It is difficult to do this wisely when only viewing the world through a black and white lens.

I am excited to be the first planning student from the University of Utah to participate in a study abroad program. As our college diversifies and matures, it is imperative that we reach out on a global scale to experience and build upon the successes that other societies and cultures are enjoying.

I am honored to represent our college and the GLBT community in this pioneering effort. I am confident that we will set the standard with future exchanges in being able to see the many diverse shades of grey.

Scholarship Essay #1

Before the various colored revolutions made their way through much of Eastern Europe, the “singing revolution” set the stage for the collapse of the Soviet Union. The tiny Baltic nation of Lithuania bravely threw off the shackles of nearly 50 years of occupation; not by guns or violence, but by gathering in the tens of thousands around their parliamentary building, joining arms and singing their beautiful national hymns that had previously been outlawed.

I was privileged to live in Lithuania ten years into their newfound independence. Their sense of national pride was still palpable at the time. It was there that I learned firsthand, that it is impossible to repress the human soul. While I had no cultural or familial ties to Lithuania, it was hard not to fall in love with a nation and her people, in whom, the reawakening of a culture and society was occurring.

The sense of national identity is not something easily defined for the crucible that we call America. Yet, for a place like Lithuania, the simple beauty of celebrating their heritage, through everyday life, was breathtaking to behold. I will admit that it took me some time in the region to fully grasp the intricate dynamics that were taking place. I don’t pretend to be able to understand it fully. How can I?

Being aware of their struggle for freedom though, I began to see the world through a different lens. My old thoughts of the superiority of the American “way-of-life,” slowly left me and a deep sense of reverence and respect crept in for things that I once viewed as foreign and inferior.

When the orange revolution swept through Ukraine in the winter of 2004, I was inspired to watch the national awakening of that amazing country. While they have struggled politically to make progress on the orange promises, the nation is alive.

When the parliamentary elections were scheduled for 2007, I knew that I needed to be there. I convinced my father to go with me amidst the general confusion and scorn of our friends and family as to the purpose of the trip.

To be there though, out on the public square with thousands and thousands of Ukrainians, was something that makes me emotional to this day. We talked with them, looked in their eyes and saw the glimmer of hope that comes along with the mantle of a national awakening. It is inspiring and for me borders on the holy.

There is nothing that can substitute for the experience of actually being there, cheering on the similarities in our cultures and celebrating the differences. It is only by seeking out the cultural differences that we grow in appreciation and respect for one’s own.

As the first urban planning student to go abroad for the University of Utah, I will seek out the similarities in Argentina, but more importantly, I will look to harvest the successful differences in their planning approaches. As the saying goes, “Think Global, Act Local” and within this opportunity comes an important first step for the University and our College in becoming a leader in sustainable planning for the future.


My Codependency

So I was feeling pretty good about my green footprint when it came to transportation.  I traded in my ’99 Toyota Tacoma for a ’07 Honda Civic.  I went from getting around 20 mpg in the city to nearly 38 mpg.  I’m only filling up a 10-gallon tank twice a month instead of an 18-gallon tank every week.  The prompting for this came when gas prices were hovering around $4/gallon.  $80 versus almost $300 per month is a no brainer.  Now that gas prices are even less, I feel even better.  That is until I hear the chatter coming from my fellow students and professors in the department of city and metropolitan planning.  For fear of a Monty Pythonesque witch-hunt, I keep the fact that I drive to campus everyday a closely guarded secret.

  I will freely admit that I am completely codependent on my little car.  I drive everywhere.  What will compound the level of consternation even more on behalf of my colleagues is that I literally have a bus stop in front of my house.  I know, I know, the urban planning gods have sealed my fate.  However, I have absolutely no plans of changing my habits anytime soon.  I simply do not live in a walkable area.  I’ve done a brief survey (thanks to Google Maps and UTA’s very cool trip planner) and I have compared walking times, transit times and driving times from my home to various locales that I frequent.  (The gods already know this, but prefer to keep this information stuck in committee somewhere).




Transit (transfers)


Smith’s 2100 S.

1.3 miles

25 min.

18 min. 1 trans.

5 min.

St. Paul’s Church

(On Sunday)

3.9 miles

1 hr. 18 min.

49 min. 1 trans.

12 min.

U of U Campus

5.1 miles

1 hr. 45 min.

32 min. 1 trans.

14 min.

24 Hour Fitness

3.2 miles

1 hr. 3 min.

17 min. 0 trans.

9 min.

Tryangles (bar)

3.5 miles

1 hr. 8 min.

31 min. 2 trans.

10 min.

  Walking is totally out of the question.  A bicycle may be a bit more realistic, but I know myself well enough that the convenience of the car still outweighs any other perceived benefit I may attain from utilizing a different mode of transportation.  I think Salt Lake will get there.  I rode the light rail everyday back home in Denver when I went to school, but parking was at a premium downtown, so it was worth it.  Here the costs are low to drive and park, everywhere.  So the question is, for this city studying capitalist pig, how do we provide the proper incentives for people like me to ditch their cars and try something else?