Sunday, December 30, 2012

Unselfishly Selfish

We have a problem in our culture. We seem to believe that doing what's best for ourselves is somehow selfish. Why should I get enough sleep, eat well, have some solitary quiet time, do something that makes me happy when I could be focusing entirely on putting that energy everywhere else? We have effectively bred a culture that feels it must always be on the go, expending every last bit of energy, but for what? To make more money? To have a bigger nicer house? To have a prestigious career? To make sure everyone else's expectations are met? To appear to have the perfect marriage and family?  To look like we're invincibly happy when we're utterly miserable? We're always busy and yet, somehow, still get nothing done.

I had a conversation with my good friend and trainer about her sister who found out she has stage 4 breast cancer who is doing unbelievably (some may even call it miraculously) well, and we discussed how something like that literally forces you to stop and really look at what's important. When boiled down, it doesn't matter how many hours you've worked, how many committees you're on, or how much "stuff" you're doing. Those things aren't going to sustain you when all else falls away. We all believe she is healing because she stopped and realized that she needed to spend more time taking care of herself- all of those seemingly "easy" things like resting, eating well, and exercising are imperative to improving not only our physical, but our mental health. Additionally, and arguably most importantly, she's spending more time with her family. When our lives seem as though they're falling apart, it's the people we love and who love us in return that matter most. I hope that the question I will ask myself at the end of my life will be, "Did I love to the best of my ability?" And even more, I hope that the answer is an unwavering confident, "Yes."

None of this really sounds selfish when you stop and actually think about it, but why then do we feel pangs of guilt  when we ignore the emails and phone calls from work when we're spending time with our families, or when we decide to take an hour at the gym and say, "I should be accomplishing (fill in the blank) task."? There will always be a million and one expectations and "shoulds" hanging over our heads, but if your rationalization begins with "I should..." stop and ask yourself why. Why should you? Why should you sacrifice your one and only life to the things that matter least? Because you want to and it will contribute to a richer more meaningful life that bring you and those you love joy? Or because the ominous -They- expect it of you? 

Over the years, I've learned that we need to learn to be unselfishly selfish. We need to learn to say 'no' to what isn't a positive contributor to our lives and accept only what brings out the best in us, and in turn, we inevitably will bring out the best in who and what surrounds us. 

It's becoming increasingly important that we learn to slow down, be less busy, and love every.single.precious.moment. We can have a glimpse into immortality when we are entirely present in the the here and now because every moment is of infinite worth. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

One Year Ago

One year ago, I started this blog with the intention of documenting my journey from quitting my job to moving halfway across the country. At the time, I thought I would only write here until I got to Colorado, but then I realized that the description of my blog "a blog about finding the strength to start all over again" is something I do nearly on a daily basis- not necessarily on the same scale as the massive uprooting I did last August, but each morning I wake up is, to some degree, a new beginning.

Every day I get to make decisions that will direct the course of my future. 

Every day, every moment, we have the ability to evaluate our lives, our actions, our selves, and assess whether it is something we can be proud of, or if we need to redirect. So often we get into the mentality that we've gotten too far into something to start over, but that's rarely ever true. My 66 year old father, after over 30 years in one career, is now exploring other paths.

So one year into reclaiming control and responsibility over my life, I can say that it has been incredibly lonely and challenging at some points, but the payoffs have only just begun. As we close out another year, I challenge us all to take a look at our lives and our selves and ask, "Am I proud of who I am and what I've done, or do I need to find the strength to start all over again?"

And if you're proud of where you are, find the strength you need to never stop learning and growing.

I said it before I left, and I say it now, I am finally proud of what I'm doing and where I'm going. 

When There's No Going Back

I've been home for 9 days now. It's a strange mix of feeling comforted by the familiar and sad that what I used to be so much a part of, I am now becoming an increasingly vague memory. I knew that would happen. Such is the nature of leaving- the spaces you once filled must necessarily be filled with something or someone else.

Some of them, anyway. There are a precious few spaces that I know will contain only me no matter how long I am gone from them. One of those spaces I am currently inhabiting, literally and figuratively, as I write this entry.

Family and home have always been elusive concepts for me; I've never really felt as though I belonged anywhere. My most comfortable place still possesses an element of disengagement because at the heart of it, I know it's not mine. This home welcomes me with open arms and hearts each time I come back, and here is where I take refuge from the rest of the world now that I don't have my own space, but when it's all said and done, I will depart and their lives will be unaffected that I'm gone; as it should be.

But I can't help but want something of my own- something that subconsciously brings a smile to my face because I know it's where I'm meant to be. That something could be a career, a place, a hobby, a passion... something that belongs with me and me with it.

A few days ago, I received an email in Korean text from my biological father. I plugged it into Google Translate (I know, I know- that does a horrible job, but it gives at least some inkling as to what he's said) and he apparently made some reference to when they gave me up. I've received a few like that before, but this time it felt different- it was frustrating and left me feeling as though a giant chunk of my identity is tied up in another country in a language I don't understand... because it is. It's strange to think that there are people out there who are intimately tied to me biologically, and I can't even have a small talk conversation with them. They wanted me to be sent to a country where I would stick out- where I would know I didn't belong so I would find them one day. Their plan worked- I did find them, and in turn, opened a whole different level of searching for meaning in family, home, and belonging.

Which brings me back to now. Part of me wonders if my search for somewhere to belong is the result of nearly 29 years of knowing I was sent to a place where I would perpetually stick out. In some ways, I'm lucky because without that sense of displacement, I don't know that I would have been driven to travel as much as I have or been as adamant about how important it is to live in a way that makes sense to me, even if everyone else thinks it's crazy.

People have asked me if I regret any of the choices I've made (like quitting my job), and for me, it seems like a pointless question because my choices were made and consequences are playing out. I can't go back and change what I did in the past, and frankly, I wouldn't want to. Of course I'm anxious sometimes because of all of the unknowns I invited into my life, but I also invited infinite opportunity. For example, I know that if I wouldn't have moved to Colorado, my search into my identity wouldn't have the depth it does now. I have no idea where that will lead, but I can only imagine a positive outcome.

Monday, December 17, 2012

(A Few) Things I Learned the Last 3 Months

After 3 incredibly long but fast-moving months, I'm going back to the place where the journey all began. I'm going back for a break, to rest, to sleep, to eat, to train, to enjoy being who and what I am without being weighed, analyzed, and judged. 

I'm going back to the place I hated for so long to find my safe place because many of my safe places are contained in human form; in the faces of my friends and family who are there waiting for my return. Sometimes, you have to leave a place to find what you love about it. 
That said, for those who are wondering, I have no plans to move back to PA anytime soon. I've realized how much I value and miss those whom I love, but I still have yet to find what I left seeking. Sounds pretty vague, huh? I know, and I can assure you, it's as frustrating for me as it may be for you. But in the words of Steve Jobs, "as with all matters of the heart, you'll know it when you find it." I don't know exactly what I'm looking for- I just know I had to leave to find it, whatever "it" is... a job, an adventure, a love, a new way of living.... the possibilities are endless. Maybe I'll find all of them. 

Another thing I have discovered is that my obsession with travel wasn't confined only to daydreams within my cube walls. My mind still wanders to far off places and dreams of meeting new people and learning how they live, work, eat, celebrate, mourn, and play. I imagine staring into vast blue oceans, exploring dirty dusty streets, climbing terrifyingly high mountains, and taking in views that would take my breath away while redefining how I perceive myself and my place in the world. 

For now, I have no big trips planned. My only focus is to go home to see my family. "Home" and "family" have also taken on new meanings as I hear the students' stories and re-analyze my own. Generic as it may sound, home has nothing to do with the location, and everything to do with the people.  Family isn't only about who gave birth to you, or necessarily even who raised you or who grew up with you- it's who holds your heart and you theirs. It's who loves you without pretense, without inhibition, and with everything they have. 

I'm going home to see my family.