Reflections from the Road: Pressure


by Matthew Feldhaus, Program Manager of Community Engagement for Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University 

This week I underwent a journey. That journey consisted of 2200 miles, spread across 9 different states, and lasted about 26 hours of driving time. Due to necessity, I undertook that journey alone. I made the heavy life decision to move from my hometown to a beach town in California, something I had been considering and trying to make work for years. I sold more than half of my belongings, packed up what remained in a U-Haul trailer, and set out on the grueling trek across much of the southern US. Although I have been on long trips with aspects of solitude before, this journey in particular afforded plenty time of for critical thinking, reflection, and self-inspection.

I occupied much of my time admiring the views, if there were any, listening to music, and above of, contemplating. Somewhere in New Mexico I was listening to a local broadcast station that started to talk about popcorn. In it, the host intrigued me by talking about something I have long wondered – why some kernels don’t pop and remain at the bottom of the bag. Turns out, some popcorn kernels are porous, consisting of microscopic holes that release moisture and pressure, the elements that create the *pop*. Perhaps it was the relentless similarity of the New Mexico scenery, or the blazing sun in my face, but I really got lost in my head thinking about this concept.

See, I believe we all share something in common with this popcorn popping phenomena. We all have pressure building up inside of us, whether from work, family, life, or various social pressures. And like popcorn, if we don’t find ways to release that pressure, we’ll pop. This build up, or stress, can take multiple forms. Some of us can tell when it’s starting to bottle up. These signs can be physical in nature, like trouble sleeping, weight gain or loss, or mental, like irritability, depression, or mood swings. It’s important we catch when these symptoms start to show and prioritize some time to decompress.

No matter what your career involves, taking time for yourself to decompress and release ‘pressure’ should be a top priority. Why? Because without a balance, the stress weighs us down, and we’re then operating at suboptimal efficiency and performance. Something I noticed for a while was this distant calling in the back of my head, and heart. It was the wonder to wander. The call to prioritize the things important to me, which in effect, would enliven me and allow me to be most effective in my work, my life goals, and my relationships.

I know it won’t be a life changing move across country for most. It may be getting a babysitter and doing a date night, or going to see an afternoon matinee, or going for a long hike in the woods. Whatever your escape and release entails, make sure it happens. We cannot build up others and reach our fullest potential without our own feelings of joy, contentment, and balance. Next time you eat some popcorn, think about those unpopped kernels, they were the ones that took a vacation, got away, and survived.

About Matt Feldhaus

Matt Feldhaus is a Program Manager of Community Engagement for the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University and Program Leader for several of the America Serves markets including ServingTogether in the National Capital Region.   Matt is responsible for fostering and maintaining relationships with community agencies within these  communities and offers comprehensive support for each networks coordination center. Matt is also supporting the development of additional communities for the AmericaServes program.

Matt  is a veteran of the PA Army National Guard. As a part of an Army Intelligence Company and an Arabic Linguist he served six years in various roles as a linguistics program manager, squad leader, and intelligence operations sergeant. He is currently enrolled at Syracuse University in the MBA program with a focus on entrepreneurship. He is also  is an avid fitness enthusiast and can often be found swimming, biking, or running. He has completed two 140.6 mile Ironman races and hopes to qualify for Kona National Championships one day.