Hello hello, mes chéries! I apologize for being rather radio silent on the blog this month. The start to this year has been quite interesting and much busier than I anticipated. There have been plenty of weekend trips, birthday dinners and parties, and quality time spent with people in my life. I don’t want to make excuses as I promised myself to stick to my routine in 2018, so I plan on holding myself much more accountable as February rolls around.
Before we go any further into this belated post, stop everything you’re doing and make sure to check out my last post and enter the giveaway as it ends Thursday, February 1. There is $149 credit for a brilliant white smile up for grabs!
As you saw on my Instagram, I spent MLK weekend in the Poconos with a group of coworkers in the same start class as me (at our company, a large number of university graduates start working each fall, so we are often called a start class or new hire class). After two days in rural Pennsylvania, I arrived back in the city feeling inspired and less pessimistic about everything going on in my day-to-day life.
We left for the cabin on the Friday of MLK weekend. Unfortunately, there was a rainstorm, and temperatures reached a high 60 degrees. Driving to the cabin on the small and slippery mountain roads was a nightmare, especially because the fog was so thick you couldn’t see more than one foot in front of your cars. As if that wasn’t terrifying enough, 30 minutes after we all reached the cabin, there was a power and water outage for 14 hours. On top of that, we were mildly convinced the cabin looked haunted especially when we lit all the candles for light (it was not thankfully…or at least that we know of). It was definitely a bonding experience.
Our cabin sat on a hill off a dirt road in a small town called Kunkletown, PA. The town is adorably quaint. Upon entering, you’re welcomed by a general store, small pub (with no liquor license), a single (broken) pump gas station with a few broken refrigerators from the 1950s, and some historic barns and buildings lined up on the side of the main road. The vast hills and valleys surrounding the center of town were dotted with cozy homes and fields. Ten minutes away was Blue Mountain Ski Resort. Twenty-five minutes away was a well-known vineyard called Blue Ridge Estate Vineyard & Winery.
Since the rainstorm and heat wave made the slopes rather icy, all the snowboarders on the trip decided to sit this one out and forgo their lift tickets. Instead, we paid this vineyard a visit. Little did we know, it is ranked #1 on the east coast and #13 in the list of top vineyards across the United States. Opened in 2010 by Randy Detrick, one of the happiest and most passionate entrepreneurs I have ever met, it is home to some of the most unique wines in the world.
The tasting house sits on top of a hill with a wrap-around porch giving you a 360 degree view of the mountain range and vineyard itself. Inside, you can do a wine tasting of five of any of their signature wines for $5 and take an engraved wine glass home. On some days, the winery even hosts a dinner for all the locals, providing a community center for all his neighbors. Randy gives tours of the wine cellar where you can see bags holding about 1700 bottles worth of wine 🍷 (@collegestudents, that is NOT a bag you would want to slap! 😂) and learn his story as you watch the machines package a wine bottle and put on the label.
I can sit here and tell you all about the special wine at Blue Ridge: how it’s only sold in local supermarkets to preserve freshness, how unique the notes are in their special Chardonnay, and how they bury 15 gallon Bourbon barrels filled with wine about five feet under for nine months throughout the winter and spring to create one of the boldest, most powerful, and most unique wines in the world called the Underground. But it’s not the wine that made my visit to Blue Ridge so memorable; it was the owner Randy.
Randy is probably the most happy-go-lucky guy I have ever met in my life thus far. His passion for his job beams from his eyes and exuberant smile. The love he has for his family and community pour out of him through the warm hugs he gives all his regulars. Randy grew up with his mother who raised him as they hopped from shelter to shelter. He eventually started ski racing where he learned about sacrifice, hard work, perseverance, selflessness, and respect for authority as he trained and competed. It was a sport that constantly pushed him to the edge of all his boundaries and taught him the importance of discipline.
About ten years ago, his mother passed away from cancer (if I remember correctly). It was then that he knew he needed to make the most out of life while he could. He came across a few barrels one day and started making wine for fun in his basement. The next thing he knew, he made enough specialty wines to open his own vineyard and winery in 2010, which was recently named top on the east coast and #13 across America by Travel+Leisure magazine. His wine is one of the most popular wines sold all across supermarkets in Pennsylvania. But throughout it all, Randy stays grounded and humble. He wears regular old sneakers, jeans, zip-up hoodie, and wide smile every day. He never gloats about his success but rather expresses his love of wine making. He maintains a constant zest for life despite hardships growing up and losing his mother.
A few years ago, Randy was asked to give a speech at a regional conference for FBLA (Future Business Leaders of America) organization, which I was coincidentally heavily involved in during my high school years. In this speech, he discusses what it means to be a leader in today’s society. He talks about how leaders are not born but rather made. They have to posses certain qualities and be willing to go down a path no matter how burdensome and lonely. Most importantly, he stressed that a leader must forge his own character, a character that is reflected by his work, rather than chase after wealth and power. As he says, “In order to create something, you must BE something.”
I won’t attempt to truncate his speech, as the way he delivered it was truly captivating. I wasn’t able to get the best photos of it, but I’ve included them below for anyone who is interested in zooming in and reading.
After reading it and speaking with Randy, my coworkers and I left Blue Ridge awestruck. We headed for a local pub, the same one without a liquor license. We sat down with a beer and chatted with the bartender who entertained us with hilarious stories about her nights out and the debauchery that would ensue. She was extremely independent and gave little to no f*cks about anything which made her stories exhilarating, albeit morally questionable. Regardless of the times she’s flirted with danger, she was happy to just be alive and have fun while she could.
Being in this small town and interacting with people who enjoy simply living life changed our mindset about our own lives. As fresh college grads who grew up in relatively sheltered and above middle-class families, we have a habit of complaining, stressing out, and looking at everything negatively. Sometimes we are so wrapped up in our own head that we need to take a step back and think about how lucky we are. We dig ourselves into gloom as we constantly crave more: more money, more power, more achievements, more success, more attention, more friends, more everything. But at the end of the day, does that genuinely bring you happiness? Or is less really more?
The following Monday after the trip, I took a moment to stop and look at the city I lived in, a place where people dream of visiting and living in. I stopped to listen to the noise of traffic, feel the cold air swirling around through the wind tunnels, and gaze at the skyline around me. I slowly sipped my coffee at work instead of gulping it down like medication. I took the time to ask those who couldn’t make our retreat about their weekends and listen to their stories. Even when petty people started pissing me off at work, I reminded myself how blessed I am to start my career right out of college at an established company with brilliant people. I’m so focused on everything that needs to be fixed that I forgot nothing is really broken. Time tells all and time heals all. Between now and wherever I’m supposed to end up, I simply need to just enjoy it day by day.
If you ever find yourself in the Poconos, pay Blue Ridge and Randy Detrick a visit. You won’t be disappointed. Until next time, remember that nothing is ever too complicated. Enjoy the little things while you can. And if you’re feeling disappointed about where you’re currently at in life, remember that everything is created rather than born. Focus on the growth of your spirit and character rather than power and wealth, and the latter two along with success will follow.