Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Leading an Adventurous Life... in My Own Home

It's over. 

I have trouble with endings. 

Over the last two months I've spent a lot of time realizing that I'm having horrible withdrawal from the adrenaline that comes from a few years of consistent travel and a massive life changing move. 

When I left Pennsylvania, I swore I'd never return. Now I've moved back and am in almost precisely the same location I said I'd never come back to. I'm easily comfortable here, which ironically feels wildly uncomfortable. 

I've heard the line, "I'm so happy you're back, but I was really surprised you returned" more times than I can count.

It kinda feels like failure because I spent so many years talking about and preparing to leave, I finally left, and then came back after only a year.  

Ultimately, what I struggle with the most is that this is not what I thought would happen. I didn't have a plan per se, but this wasn't part of my unplanned plan. If you happened to read my earlier post this month, "Sometimes when you lose, you win", you know the main reason I came back was for love.

That's big, right? Most of us skeptics are generally pretty adverse to making big life decisions for such seemingly intangible concepts.

But for me, I've learned how important love is largely because of my mother and my best friend. I've been broken hearted and also very very lucky. 

During this gray area of my life, I'm learning that maybe searching for an adventurous and passionate life is like searching for happiness. I think it has less to do with searching and more to do with being open. Sometimes you have to just live your life and be open instead of frantically searching for the end results because really, there isn't an end to any of it until the very end, which is when we cease to be alive. At that point, then we can have our regrets or make our peace. 

Until then, the gray area is very often not just a piece of our lives, but a very large part. The new rage is to go out and find your passion, be exciting, be interesting, be different, daring and bold- which I think holds a lot of merit; however, how many people promoting that life tell you how difficult and sometimes painful it can be until you get there? And who tells you just how long it may take? Or that you could go the majority of your life before you find it? Or that, heaven forbid, you never really find that one thing?

I, for one, don't want to feel like a failure for the majority of my life simply because I didn't/wasn't able to figure out what exactly would make an adventurous passionate life for me in the eyes of others, and even myself.

I do want to live my life the best of my ability and often that's going to mean doing things that look pretty routine, and possibly even mundane, on the outside. (Grocery shopping, anyone?)

Currently, I have no plans for traveling to foreign exotic places or finding innovative new work. At the moment, I'm writing this blog then going to clean our cozy little house. 

My most exciting plans are going to a concert tonight with my boyfriend and making dinner plans with friends for the next few weeks.

Admittedly, though doing domestic house chores likely ranks up there with "routine and mundane," it feels pretty good to have a home to clean after living out of bags and cubbies. It feels particularly good knowing I'll have a clean home to have dinner parties in because I have tons of time to cook which is something I happen to love to do.

Perhaps an adventurous life has less to do with doing what looks exciting and more to do with doing what feels good to you, even when other people think it's boring, maybe especially when...

Thursday, October 10, 2013

"I Want to Die"

"If relationships matter most then [at the end of our lives], 
shouldn't they matter most now?" 
-Max Lucado 

Before any of you get concerned, I don't actually want to die.

But there was a time when I did.

Years ago, that phrase haunted my mind during most waking hours. If you've ever felt that way, truly genuinely wanted it to all be over because you just couldn't imagine how anything would ever be better, you'll easily understand this post. If you've had bad days but couldn't fathom ever wanting to check out, you are lucky and it might take a bit more, but try anyway.

On Saturday I found out one of my old friends shot himself the night before. I've lost a lot of friends to suicide over the years, and every single time I wonder what the differentiating factor is between who makes it through and who doesn't.

The age old nature or nurture question pops into my mind first- "How much is determined by environment and how much is an inherent strength?" Then I think about that cliche "you're never given more than you can handle," and wonder if maybe that's not entirely true.

I hear opinions varying from the sympathetic to the judgmental. "How could they be so selfish?? Why weren't they thinking about everyone who loves them? Why weren't they thinking about ME, how I would feel???"

But then I think two things. 1. Maybe they did think of you and (erroneously) thought you'd be better off without them and 2. Did they know you loved them or even cared at all?

I'm not going to write an in-depth analysis of suicide because I have no answers.

Sometimes I have what I equate to survivor's guilt. I have no idea how I survived the years when I wanted it to all be over. Perhaps it was because I was lucky, maybe because I was blessed enough to have at least one person who loved me at some point each step or maybe it's because of an uncontrollable character trait I was born with.

Most likely it's some incalculable equation of them all. I wish I knew how and why I'm still here and they aren't. Maybe some of them would still be here then.

The one thing I do know is there's a pervasive loneliness that I've watched shape the way people see themselves and the rest of the world. We live in a world that's more socially interconnected than ever, and yet our sense of displacement is increasing.

So often I've heard the last words were something along the lines of, "Nobody would care if I was gone. I can't handle any of this, I don't know how to fix it. I'm so alone. "

Why is that?

We hear the old wisdom and see it burned onto a crafty pieces of wood,"Love the ones you're with", "Home is where you feel love", and other stupid bullshit that sounds great and we whole heartedly agree, but we still ignore it or at least don't really live it out... till things like this happen.

We could use cop-out lines like, "they needed to change their perspective" or "they wouldn't have believed me, it wouldn't have made a difference," but sometimes I think that's a cover for the guilt we feel because we remember all those times we thought to call but didn't or said we were "too busy" to talk or hang out.

The world we live in will continue to move at unmercifully dizzying speeds. It's easy to have a rational sounding excuse to dodge putting the effort into the people we say we love, but when the end comes, we're too often left with regrets.

Love changes everything. I'm not saying that we can prevent all suicides. There are innumerable factors that play in, many of which we never know about. I am saying that there is a problem with the growing sense of disconnection and displacement.

We all have a role to play in that.

We don't get control over how someone else experiences life, but we do get control over how much love we give.

Sometimes, it makes a difference. I know it did for me.

"As the globalized placeless world spreads... it could be that the most radical thing to do is to belong."
 -Paul Kingsnorth

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Turning Point

I do this every year. 

Every year on this day, I add plus one to the count. 

Today makes 15. Fifteen years since mom died. 

It's weird every year. Every year I wonder how it's been so long already...

I miss her, always. Though, after years of contemplation, I finally realized I've had her on a pedestal. 

It's something we all do when someone we love dies. We forget the awful and remember the good, as I think it should be. 

Mom struggled with nameless debilitating health issues for over two decades which meant the whole family was just trying to survive. Our lives were dedicated to her.

The reality for me is that if she were still here, I would likely not have taken all of the chances and opportunities I did. I wouldn't have traveled so much, I wouldn't have lived in two other states and most importantly, I wouldn't be as close to my dad and sister as I am now. 

Last year (the 14th year) was a big year because it was the point at which she had been gone longer than she was with me. 

This year is big because, although on some level I always knew it, I'm finally fully realizing and admitting that while her absence has been scarring and I miss her always, dare I say it....

Life has been better since she's been gone.

When I say that life has been better, I don't mean that I've been enthralled to not have her here. I'm consistently sad when anything happens that I want to share with her- the good, the bad, the happy, the disheartening...

Hearing the trite old saying that she's still with me somewhere out there is annoying at times because her being "out there somewhere" is not an acceptable substitute for being "right here to hug me and tell me everything will be fine."

I'd give anything to have my mother here if she could be happy and healthy, but she rarely ever was for any of the time I knew her. So while I detest trite platitudes, the saying that she's better off because she's not suffering anymore holds some truthful solace.

This is a big anniversary because it's an intentional step away from grieving.

I can't spend the rest of my life wishing for something that I will never have again. I can spend the rest of my life grateful that I had it for the time that I did. 

Happy 15th year mama. Here's to peace for both of us.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"Sometimes when you lose, you win."

This is by far the longest I've gone without writing. Where did a month and a half go?

Generally, I do my best to put myself out there and share even some of my most vulnerable moments, but the last month and a half I felt as though I was being rolled in a giant wave and couldn't figure out which was was up. 

Honestly, it's entirely embarrassing. I left my job, my family and friends and Pennsylvania with the goal of finding my passion- that thing that makes me excited to wake up and go do it everyday (or at least not make me wonder if maybe I sold my soul to pay my rent). 

I spent an intensely life changing year in Estes Park, CO (which I seem to have left with impeccable timing as it's a giant flood zone currently) working at a residential high school with incredible teenagers who all had amazing resilience and strength; they taught me more about myself than I would've ever anticipated.

After a year of being constantly immersed in activity/work and surrounded by people, my fellowship ended and I returned back to Pennsylvania to be with my friends, family, and largely- the man I love. 

Initially, it was relief to finally be with my boyfriend, and especially to have the constant stress and frequent sensation that I was failing in being (good) enough alleviated. But as the weeks rolled on, I became increasingly more frustrated not knowing what my next steps were career/work/job wise. 

I realized that I hadn't found my passion. Not even close. 

"Who wants to read about my confused anxious floundering??" I'd ask when questioned about the lack of writing, but then one of my friends said, "Probably a lot of people. You're not the only one who struggles through times like these."

Oh. Right.

So, here it is. Even as I'm writing this, I hesitate and wonder if I should delete it all, but who knows- maybe someone out there doesn't need a 'how-to' or some profound revelation/inspiration, maybe they just want to know they aren't the only one wondering what the fuck to do next.

I realize that it may sound as though I regret returning; however, that couldn't be further from the truth. On the flip side of my angsty wandering/wondering is a revolutionary love that is, baby step by baby step, teaching me to let go and have a little trust in life.

I've never been good at waiting. Patience is not one of my (strongest) virtues. From what I can remember, this is the first time in my life I've felt this clueless and still, but that said, I've also never been very good at resting and allowing myself time to process and heal.

I'm currently in a position where I have the luxury of taking my time to figure out what it is I want so I don't end up in the same place I was in before I moved away (miserable and depressed), while stepping aside to finally attend to some old wounds.

At this point, I have no clear ideas of where I'm heading... but then again, maybe we don't always need to be heading somewhere. Maybe sometimes we need to learn to be still once in awhile so we're not always missing our lives while looking for the next big thing.

Maybe this moment IS the big thing.

And when I stop stressing out about my future for a hot second, I realize just how good my life is .right.now.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Different Kind of Love Story

This isn’t your conventional love story. There is no “happily ever after,” or, maybe there is…

Once upon a time about 10 years ago I met a boy while visiting a friend in college. Not just any boy, mind you. Admittedly, on the surface, he looked just as regular as any other boy possibly could- tall and lanky with dark hair and sincere playful eyes. He liked to write, seek out adventure, play pranks on his friends and fool gullible girls (me) into believing he could call squirrels when in reality, he was secretly dropping food behind him.

I met him in the darkest years of my life; I was reeling from a great deal of heartache and loss and had more days of not wanting to wake up than I could count. There were some days I tried not to, but that is a story for another time and place. He brought laughter and light to my darkness.

Under the seemingly regular boy appearance, this particular boy seemed to possess an uncanny ability to see through to my soul. He saw the best in me even when it was shrouded by years of abuse and neglect. He told our mutual friend after our very first meeting, “That is by far the best girl I’ve ever met in my entire life.”

I didn’t know that until 3 years later, a week after his funeral.

“What the hell? How depressing. Where’s the love story?!” you may be thinking, but give me a moment to explain.

After 6 (ok, maybe 7) years of anger, frustration, heart-shattering sorrow and never really allowing anyone to get close- I finally began to recognize the gift he gave me.

This seemingly ordinary boy left me with the lesson of what it means to love- really truly love someone when they’re not at their best, but more, what it means to love unabashedly, whole-heartedly, deeply and honestly with no hesitation and no fear.

My great love story is not one that involves two people enduring through the years together. Instead, it is a short story where one brave boy unknowingly taught an unsuspecting girl to let go of her fear and sorrow in order to love- love people and love the very act of being alive.

His death was a gift in that he taught me that the only thing we are guaranteed is the very moment we are in. Each and every moment is of infinite value, and we must strive to permeate each second with as much awareness and gratitude as possible because we may never get that chance again.

Today, my love story has opened my heart to a new chapter that involves taking the amazing opportunity to build a relationship with someone who has captured my heart in a way that hasn’t happened in 10 years. I don’t know what the future holds, but I can say that this moment I’m in is abundantly full and is enough in and of itself.

…and she lived happily ever after.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Who Are You?

“I’m such an idiot,” I thought one night as I re-analyzed my last mistake for the thousandth time.

A few days later a few friends and I were discussing how the language we use affects how we see the world and others.

Saying things like “I am an idiot” versus “I acted like an idiot” attaches a value on us as a person instead of on the action.

We hear it around us all the time, “I am so fat," "I'm really ugly," "I'm so stupid," "I'm such a klutz," and so on and so forth. 

The words "I am" are powerful because they, sometimes without us even realizing it, are defining who we believe we are bit by bit. 

What we tell ourselves in those milli-moments have a collective impact that influence how we consistently perceive ourselves, and thus how we interact in the world. 

Own your actions and take responsibility when you make mistakes, but don't allow your mistakes to define your identity. 

Because who you are is not the sum of your mistakes. 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Home Is Where The Heart Is (Also: The Final Weeks)

Nine months ago I left my cozy stable life behind in pursuit of what I hoped would be a better life. 

Did I find it?

Yes and no. 

It's a story that's so popular these days; leave your stable well-paying job, sell all of your things, leave your home, live by the seat of your pants while hoping that the universe really will conspire to assist you once you make a decision (I'm still not so sure of that, Paulo Coelho).

I've only got 5 weeks left in this too-beautiful-to-be-real living and working space tucked away in the mountains. The last several weeks I've felt completely and utterly excited to start a new chapter of my life mixed with a sense of complete and utter failure. 

I have just as little clue of what I want to be doing with my life as I did when I arrived. 

In addition, as I reflect on the past several months, I catch myself wondering how much any of what I did really mattered. 

Did I just pour everything I could into something only to find it wasn't (good) enough? 

Generally, I have the wherewithal to pull myself back into a more rational positive mindset, but lately I've been struggling with everything going on back home for which I'm not present; a death, a major health issue, a struggling wandering heart, a family crisis, and a love.  

My friends are an incredible blessing, and even those who are struggling are reminding me that this decision was not a mistake. I've learned lessons here that I may never have learned any other way, and, I have a love reminding me of the home awaiting me. 

"You had to leave to find what you really wanted. You know now where your heart is. I know you don't know the specifics of what you'll be doing, but you know where you want to be. You'll figure the rest out, and we'll be here for you." 

So, I guess I lied a little when I said "no" in regards to my opening question. The answer is simply "yes," I did find a better life than the one I had been leading. This one has been full of learning, adventures, new friends, eye-opening experiences and a redefinition of what and where home and love are. Trite as the phrase "home is where the heart is" sounds (and is), it also holds a lot of truth. 

And as far as feeling as though what I've done isn't good enough, I have to remember that when we do the best we can, at the end of it all, we have to be ok with accepting that is good enough because it's all we've got. 

Friday, June 21, 2013

Accepting A New Normal

"I doubt whether a quiet and unagitated life would have suited me- 
yet I sometimes long for it." -Lord Byron

I never thought I'd make it to 20.

I'm almost 30 now.

I've spent the majority of my life (sub)consciously planning to take care of myself and not allow anyone to get too close. Don't get me wrong, I have a few amazing friends who I would give my life for, and they for me. When I say "get too close," I mean the type of close who knows every inch of your skin, the weird noises you make at night, the stupid embarrassing things you find hysterical, your most fragile fears and vulnerable sacred hopes.

The kind of close that could devastate you in moments because they know the tenderest parts of your being.

After over 2 decades of watching people leave/betray/lie to me in some form or another, I had no intention to ever open up the possibility for someone to do it again.

...I opened up my life and the possibility for someone to do it again.

Over dinner with a friend I freaked out saying, "I can't do this. I'm too scared. I've spent so much time making myself ready to live my life alone- to travel and keep moving and not count on anyone and now this person is in my life. What if I let this guy in and trust him and then he just disappears like the rest?  I never imagined this would be possible... I thought my life was just going to keep being really fucking hard, and  now there's this potential for it to calm down and be happy?? "

He said, "You know, you may have to accept a new normal. Normal for you was not having anyone else there and staying safe in your defenses, but things can change. ...you also didn't think you'd make it to 20, but here you are almost 30."

Oh, right.

Aside from my absolute fear of being vulnerable and risking getting hurt because as much as we want guarantees someone won't leave us, that's wildly unrealistic- I was also afraid of letting go of my ungrounded wanderluster lifestyle. Is finding a(nother) stable(ish) job, a home,  a love and not living by the seat of my pants all of the time going to mean I'll become one of those boring mediocre drones who barely remember any of their lives?
But then I had this realization- I'm not letting anything go aside from what I think is expected of me. I won't become a drone because I've been cursed blessed with too many experiences that have driven in the lesson that life is short and we must do our best to LIVE and take nothing for granted. 
So here's the truth of the matter. Would I change a second of any of my traveling or moving? Not a chance. Will I stop having the incessant urge to see every bit of the world that I can before I die? Highly unlikely. Do I want a home base and maybe someone to come home to? Yep. Absolutely. 
And in order to do that last thing, I need to learn to trust- trust him, trust life and most of all, trust myself.
Here's to happiness in unexpected ways and places, even when, or maybe especially when, it challenges you to really see who you are and grow.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Starry Night

When night falls and the sun has given reign to the moon, look up. I don't mean just look straight ahead. I mean look up so that your neck is tilted back and you could potentially trip because you missed that rock on the ground. It sounds so basic, so easy- just look up. 

But how many of us really give any more than a passing glance to the star-lit infinite hanging over our heads at the end of each day? 

I spent a large percentage of today (and the last several) driving myself nuts while over-analyzing every situation I could possibly think of, getting engulfed in my 'To-Do' lists and trying to, once again, plan out my entire future all at once.

As I was walking back to my house late this evening, I felt compelled to look up. I have forgotten to do so for months. When I did, I was greeted by an incredibly sharp clear sky gorged with stars of varying intensities. I remembered immediately why it's so important to slow down, take a deep breath and, even if just for a second, let go of the 8 billion thoughts racing through our heads moment to moment.

It's like an instant meditation, a visibly intangible reminder of how infinitely small we are and that at the end of it all, most of what we worry about is insignificant in the grand scheme of things. 

We're so small, and yet every single thing we do creates millions of complex repercussions of which we will likely never know about. Our actions affect everything around us. It's a balance between understanding how profoundly significant we are and how absolutely minuscule we are at the same time. 

We're tiny, but we matter.

For me, it's the ultimate reminder to live the best I know how, to love with every ounce of my being and to be completely and utterly grateful for each numbered breath. 

Friday, May 31, 2013

Love Heals

What do you think of when you think of the healing process? Does some beautiful  light-filled vision enter your mind? ...or, does a long, painful, and sometimes scary process emerge?

Sure, healing is a beautiful process; however, it can also be incredibly difficult. Sometimes things look worse before they get better. Sometimes they hurt more intensely than when the wound was initially inflicted. Sometimes you feel weaker before you get stronger. 

Sometimes healing looks like you're completely falling apart when in actuality, you're putting the pieces together in a whole new way.

How many of us have been building defense mechanisms for years to avoid getting hurt? We carefully laid bricks of friendly looking detachment and avoidance or abrasive anger and indifference so no one could ever get near, but at some point, we find those bricks are starting to cave in on us. 

What once kept us safe is now what's beginning to crush and suffocate what we were protecting-- ourselves. 

There comes a point when we have to make a decision; continue trying to build walls that are preventing the very things we want most to get in because we keep clinging to the fact that they used to keep us safe, or gather every bit of courage we have and start disassembling years of defenses knowing that that's the only way we can even begin to heal those years of heartache and be open to the incredible joy life has to offer.

The last few months have been continually new revelations of just how much I've been holding back and pushing away, because due to the unexpected arrival of an incredibly kind and patient someone, I've had to face that I never fully bought into my belief that love heals. Until now.

I didn't realize that I was still nursing so many of my old wounds because instead of letting them heal, I tried to pretend they didn't exist. Denial was easy when I wasn't allowing anyone close enough to challenge me.

For the most part, it has been a happy process, but, there are some days when my fears get the best of me and I want to bolt back into my old comfortable crumbling walls. I have moments of complete and utter panic because, "what if I foolishly step outside of my walls and get hurt in the same stupid ways all over again? What if my half-stitched scars get torn open?"

Necessary and amazing as it is, there are times when it's uncomfortable, awkward, difficult and sometimes flat out embarrassing. It would be easier to keep avoiding it all, but then, what kind of profoundly life-changing depth and meaning would I miss out on because I was too afraid to be vulnerable enough to heal?

Day by day, fear by fear, he's helping me to learn how to trust and step out of the walls that were keeping me from experiencing a sacred part of life that I hoped existed, but didn't really believe in, or at least, didn't believe would exist for me.

Thankfully, love heals whether I always believe it or not.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Blood and Water (part 2)

How do you know when to hold on or let go? 

 For the last 10 years, I've been pursing communication with my biological family in hopes of meeting them one day. Sporadic emails over time seemed to be leading up to that point until a few months ago when I received the translation of my father's most recent email that may change the course of everything... 

I tried to write about it all just days after, but found I had to walk away from it all for a while. I had no answers, and still don't; however, one thing I've learned through this process is that the possibility exists that perhaps all of that searching was just to find that I no longer needed to be searching

I have people that love me, want me in their lives, and will make every effort to be in contact with me regardless of how busy they are. Why should I continue chasing after a "family" that would easily fall away as soon as I cease to make any effort? 

Sure, people have their arguments that I need to find my roots, and I agree to a point; however, not everyone's story is the same. Perhaps, just perhaps, it's ok if my roots were transplanted and I'm happy with where I'm grounding now.

Many of us have the driving need to have closure to every situation, but life doesn't always give us the closed ending for which we hope. Sometimes we have to learn to be ok with an outcome that ends with an ellipses instead of a period.

In this case, for now, I'm letting it go. I have the opportunity to build a family here with people I love and who love me in return. After a decade of chasing what's left me continually feeling confused, drained and empty, I'd rather pour myself into what will contribute to making my life happy and full.

Maybe one day I'll resume pursing my bloodline, or maybe I'll find that what I have here is enough in and of itself. 

"The old saying goes that we all have two families—the one we’re born with, and the one we find along the way. For some of us, the family we’ve found is everything, and enough."
(From the article: My Modern Family)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Very Inspiring Blogger Award

I woke up today to the unexpectedly pleasant surprise of having received the "Very Inspiring Blogger Award" from When In New Places. Quite serendipitous to have an expat living in Korea teaching English randomly connect with me, no? 

The rules of accepting the Very Inspiring Blogger Award are:

  1. Display the Award Certificate on your website.
  2. Announce your win with a post and link to whoever presented you with the award.
  3. Present 15 awards to deserving bloggers.
  4. Drop them a comment to tip them off after you have linked them in the post.
  5. Post 7 interesting things about yourself.
And now to pass on the honor:

Unfortunately, I'm apparently kinda lame, and I only have 9. Please feel free to suggest other awesome blogs that I should check out sometime. ^_^

Seven Interesting Things About Myself:
1. I was imported from Seoul, Korea.
2. Once upon a time I used to (try to) spin fire.
3. I'm a giant nerd at heart. (Lord of the Rings, anyone?)
4. Internationally, I've traveled to Ireland, Italy, Belize and Kenya.
5. I'm not satisfied with #4 and have a pretty wicked case of wanderlust.
6. In my past lives I've been a barista, bartender, server, fitness counselor, logistics management specialist, yoga teacher and an intern counselor.
7. In spite of #6, I still have no idea what I want to be when I grow up.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

That Month Long Gap

It's been awhile since my last post, huh? 

It certainly hasn't been for the lack of thoughts and ideas. I just haven't known how to verbalize any of them. Some of them have been too heavy for me to carry, so I let them go for now... 

During lunch with a friend several weeks ago, we discussed our concern for having not been doing the things we love- for her photography and me writing. 

"What's up with that?? I feel as though I'm losing some of myself, " she mused. 

I agreed and wondered why I hadn't been able to spit a single word out in weeks in spite of having so much to say. 

After a few moments of considering our dilemma, I wondered if maybe times that feel "dry" or "blocked" are actually a necessary part of our creative process. Perhaps sometimes we need to step back from whatever our craft is, regardless of how much we love it, to give ourselves time to rest, process, and allow new inspiration to find its way into our lives without us feeling as though we need to control how it enters and in what way. 

Maybe what appears to be lacking is actually finding new depth through a necessary hiatus from directly working and allowing ourselves to just do what seems right for the time even when it seems to be the opposite of what we think we should be doing.

That said, hopefully after a month of silence, some of the words that have been pent up will find a coherent way to assemble themselves into expression.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Tiny Triumphs on Tiny Buddha

(Picture source)

April 6, 2013- I woke up to an influx of emails, Facebook friend requests, followers on Twitter, and hits on my blog. Confused, in my half-awake haze, I sift through them trying to figure out if maybe I had been spammed.

Then it hit me. "My submission to tiny buddha must have gone live!"

I check the site, and sure enough, there it was; my first piece published on a site that is not owned by a friend.

Throughout the course of the day I was able to interact with people from all over the world who had read my post. I never would have expected such a massive positive response. I was honored and humbled to read stories of similar loss, of travel and adventure, of starting over again, of newfound passions and joys...

Did that just happen?

Did I really finally put a piece of my writing out there for the world to see?

Did I really just connect with people from all over the world because of the blog post (Finding What We're Missing: Our Lives Are Already Complete) I submitted?

It may seem like no big deal to many, but for a girl who has been too afraid to put something she loves so much out into the open, it was huge. 

Yesterday a friend said to me, "You hold yourself back from putting your writing out there, even though you've wanted to do it for half your life and've been told that it's good, but on the other hand you'll leave your life and job here and head out into the unknown..."

It took me the next 15 hours or so to process that, and this afternoon I finally admitted to myself (and him) that yep, I've definitely been spending a lot of time and energy avoiding that one thing my heart has been telling me to do for years.

The funny thing about fear is that it sounds exceptionally rational. In my head, "I want to be a writer" sounded horrifically similar to saying, "I wanna be a rockstar." That in conjunction with my underlying insecurities ranging from, "I have nothing worth saying" to "Of course my friends and family say I write well- they're supposed to say that. Maybe they just don't really know what good writing looks like..." joined together to keep me silent.

So, I set out to do everything but write.

It has taken me years of floundering, miserable jobs, hopeless looking nights, traveling to other countries, and moving across the U.S. to finally set the stage to have the realization that in spite of saying I wasn't running away from myself, I really was.

What? Shit. Really? Yep.

Now what?

I keep going in spite of all the old lingering fears and the new ones creeping in. I keep putting myself out there and believe that what I have to offer just might help someone else. I believe that I deserve to do what I love.

When I say I was running from myself, I am by no means saying that all of the steps leading up to this moment were superfluous. On the contrary, each and every step was entirely necessary to reach this point. And oddly, I wasn't running from my problems- I was running from my talents.

What the hell was I supposed to do if I put them out there and they didn't fail, but succeeded? It's easier to rationalize a failure than a success. When you succeed, you have to own your strength, your beauty, your brilliance, and your responsibility to humbly offer what you have to give. 

And for someone who has struggled with feeling the need to be worth the space she inhabits, it's much easier to be a failure and recede into the comfort of anonymity than to own up and face my own light.

This milestone was confirmation that there is a path that I must follow. My sister and I discussed that perhaps instead of thinking about life in terms of goals and how we want it to look, we should shift our focus onto how we want it to feel. I had a vague idea of how I wanted to feel day to day, but no idea what would draw that into my life... until now.

Writing makes the hours feel like minutes. It combines everything I love into one package that I can share with others, and in turn, it returns to me with a profound sense of accomplishment, value, and peace. And what's more, it is beginning to bridge a gap by drawing in like-minded people who amaze me with their own incredible stories.

This is the first time in my life I've thought, "This is it. This is what I want to feel like every day." I want to be connecting with other people and making the world seem just a little less lonely for all of us. I want to be a hub for sharing inspiration, motivation, and encouragement.

Who knew such a seemingly insignificant act would draw in the energy needed for me to finally work through yet another one of my long-lived fears.

Here's to pursing our true love and passion (even if/when it takes us years to face it), and to each and every one of you who inspires me to keep going.


Monday, March 25, 2013

A Place in This World

It hasn't been until the last year or so that I've begun to dig deeper into the part of my identity that I so boldly wear on my face, but ignore otherwise. I'm nearly considered an adult now. It's time to put on my big girl pants and confront myself. 

At the beginning of the month, I received the translation of the latest letter my biological father had written to me. I had all but forgotten about it until tonight. 

Well, that's sort of a lie. I didn't quite forget, but after a cursory review of it, I didn't read any further in depth. I read it the way I'd read a story about a stranger's life, and then promptly dropped it in case it would start to sink in that it was, in fact, not about a stranger. 

A couple of weeks later, I had a conversation with one of the staff members here about what I've been struggling with in terms of reconciling my 'too Asian to be white and too white to be Asian' issue as well as a bit about my apprehensions in visiting Korea to meet my family. She put me in touch with another Korean girl in LA who was a fellow at the school a few years ago. 

Nervously I composed my first email thinking, "What the fuck am I doing? Am I just going to pour out my life story to this poor unsuspecting stranger? What am I even trying to accomplish??" Thankfully, she was perfectly accepting and was, mercifully, better at directing the conversation than I was. 

After the exchange of several emails and a phone call, she sent me a list of resources for Korean adoptees. In this list contained a 4-part essay addressing several issues faced by Korean adoptees in the U.S. (If you have a moment, check them out. They're good for a different perspective. And for those of you who are close to me, they're another way to understand me. What's Your Name?When Adoption Became VisibleDating Inside and Out, and Return to the Motherland)

Shit. That's me. 

I read each part, and then read them again. "Holy shit," I thought to myself. "These are my thoughts and feelings written out by someone else." 

As I was reading the third essay, I came across the quote, "As much as I know my birth mother gave me a better life by putting me up for adoption, and as much as I'm grateful for my adoptive parents for doing so much for me… Do you ever feel like no matter how much someone will love you, there may be a day where they'll just leave?"


Looking back over the last 29 years, there's never been any question by me, or those who love me that I have a deeply embedded fear of being abandoned stemming from the adoption. A few people have brazenly suggested that, because I was adopted as a baby, it doesn't really affect me. 

Sure, right. I wasn't 11 years old. That unquestionably comes with its own set of obstacles. That said, who thinks about the ramifications of being inside a mother who is profoundly depressed and anxious for 9 months? About being born and instead of being surrounded by excitement, joy, and love- being met with disappointment, sorrow, and regret? About the first 3-4 months in an orphanage where no one knows if anyone responded to me when I cried?

The people who were supposed to love me forever rejected me the moment they saw me.

It's something I've been working on, and though I've come a long way, I know I still have a long way to go. Thankfully, I am blessed to have a few who love me deeply and have spent years by my side gently coaxing and convincing me that I'm stuck with them.

Love changes everything. It might be slowly, but it brings light where there was none.

After processing what I read, I remembered the letter from my father. After nearly a month, I finally went back to actually read it. 

"...And when I gave you over to Holt Child welfare agency I requested that your name be sent to America with you. However the employee changed the name I gave you "HyoJin" to an American name against my request. About the circumstances regarding your adoption... I was the eleventh generation of a "Kwon" and being the first born and without a son, my great grandmother threatened that if you were a daughter that she would force me to take a concubine so that it is why we eventually chose to send you off to be adopted, not because we had no money to perform an abortion. That isn't correct. I sincerely hope there is no misunderstanding about this."

(The files the agency sent with me said the reason for relinquishment was that my parents couldn't afford to have me abort. It also said I was the third girl. I was actually the fifth and final attempt to have a boy.)

The weight of the Korean culture forced my family to send me off into a world where I would spend many years struggling to find a place to belong. 

Day by day, moment by moment, I am finding my way into what I want for myself and my life. I'm learning what's important to me, and in a weird way, such a brutal form of rejection has been a blessing. It has allowed me to pull close what I know I want in my life in spite of the fear. I have a family who, in spite of our many years of distance and heartache, have been growing closer as times goes by, and a few precious friends who are not scared of my past or the parts that are still vulnerable and healing.

I haven't found that place that feels like home yet. Maybe I never will. Maybe this journey is home, and once I realize it, all my years of searching will find a place to rest.

Friday, March 22, 2013

No Title. Just Thoughts.

"Are you ok? You look really tired."

I feel as though I've been hearing that more as of late... 

Probably because it's true. 

I have been tired. I've felt drained and too full. I need an outlet and to be refilled. I need to be held and to be left alone. I need to breathe and let it all go. For the moment, anyway. 

In the chaos of the daily grind, I say very little about my own life- my personal challenges and the things that weigh heavy on my heart and mind. "Ain't nobody got time fo dat," as my students would say. 

But at some point, I'm going to need to make time for that.

For now, for today, I have some situations to take care of. 

In 25(ish) days I will be home. It's funny to think about how I struggled to get out of PA for nearly 7 years, and that's where I return to find comfort and rest.

What will I need most upon my return? 

To laugh. 

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Art of Space

To put the world in order, 
We must first put the nation in order;
To put the nation in order, 
We must put the family in order; 
To put the family in order,
We must cultivate our personal life;
And to cultivate our personal life,
We must first set our hearts right.

What if revolutionizing the world lies in our personal relationships- with ourselves and the people with whom we interact everyday? What if it starts unintentionally in a casual setting because there's space for conversation to organically carve the way through to what matters most to each one of us?

What if leaving open time and space instead of setting rigid agendas and goals is what we need to cultivate creativity and accelerate innovation?

What if setting goals actually inhibits our ability to unabashedly reach for our dreams by overly narrowing our focus?

I'm not saying that we should never set goals or agendas, nor am I suggesting that we should sit around silently doing nothing. 

What I am saying is that so often we frantically run around attempting to force improvements, conversations, advances, relationships, revolutions- when in reality what we need is to create an environment where people are able to just be- just be- just for a moment. I realize it seems counterintuitive. I'm asking you to, instead of looking and sounding busy every.single.second, sit still, be silent, and allow all of the genius swirling around inside of you have a moment to materialize and manifest naturally in its own time.

Have you ever noticed that some of your best ideas and most profound epiphanies don't come when you're being told to conjure them on command, but instead surface in some of the most unexpected moments when you're doing something else- showering, riding a bike, talking with a friend over a beer (or froyo, as was the case when this entire train of thought initially began).

There's great value in goal setting. I also believe there's immeasureable value in allowing open space for the unexpected to occur. 

Last week, I asked a friend what was important to him. His response? Leisure. 

My initial reaction was, "really?," but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that perhaps he's got it right. Leisure, from what I took from his response, is that open space to bring people together and just be. From there, a multitude of experiences and conversations have room to unfold in a way they'd never be able to in a structured setting.

I'm about to ask a mind blowing question. Ready?

What if our work/jobs don't have to have the goal of being revolutionary world-changing phenomenons? What if it's ok that what we do to make money isn't necessarily something we're passionately obsessed with, but simply serves as a means to sustain what we are passionately obsessed with? What if that could be just as effective in contributing to a brighter and happier world because a bunch of people are cultivating joy in their lives albeit not through a job? What if learning to balance acceptance and contentment with where we are and striving for more is how we change the world? What if changing the world shouldn't be our focus at all?

Allow me to make one thing clear: those whose work is their obsession- that's awesome. But for those of us who haven't found that niche, are we to constantly feel like unfulfilled failures because we can't proclaim the glories of our profession to the world? I get the argument that our jobs take up a very large percentage of our lives so we should do something that we enjoy, but my point is that we could spend a very large portion of our lives feeling like failures always looking for the next thing while searching for our bliss. That seems like a grand waste of time to me. Maybe it's ok to be ok (happy, even) where we are while being open to other possibilities.

That said, I'm also not saying that we should stay in miserable soul-sucking-spirit-crushing jobs just for the money either. There has to be a worthwhile balance.

I ask this because it is a journey I've been exploring, and the answer I've arrived at? 

No. Not knowing does not equate to failure.

Have I found my calling yet? Nope. Is that ok? Yep. I've had some pretty incredible experiences on the journey along the way. I've learned lessons that I wouldn't trade for the world.

What if I never find a way to reconcile what I love to do with how I pay my bills? 

I think that's ok as long as we keep making space to do what we love- to do what makes us happy and makes the hours fly by as though they were seconds.

And who knows? Maybe in that space, an unexpected transition will happen and we'll find that what we love and our work become indistinguishable from each other.

What's the point of all of this? Simply, that while setting out to change the world sounds like a righteous goal, maybe changing the world starts with us learning to make our own tiny universes better by loving each other and ourselves to the best of our ability by being true to what we believe and know is best for our lives instead of being governed by what we are told we "should" do- even when it sounds noble. Maybe it's ok to sit back and enjoy being around each other without feeling as though we need to charge out and save the world as our profession. Who knows, a life-changing-world-altering idea could come out of nowhere, or maybe, we'll form closer stronger bonds with those around us.

Maybe that's where revolution really begins.

Out on the Edge (also: A Continuation on Uncertainty)

Today, I went to my first yoga class in months.

It was -exactly- what I needed both in asana and in focus. I walked out with this thought resounding in my head:

True living lies in surrender to uncertainty.

We can plan all we want, but in the end, our lives will take twists and turns for which we could have never been able to foresee. My fears about my future being 'uncertain' are a straw man with no real substance. Why? Because my future never had any certainty, even when I thought it did, and the certainty I thought I had was looking rather bleak.

Being out on the edge is as honest as you can get with life. Out on the edge is where you are open to discover your passion, reveal a new talent, and maybe even find the love of your life. The most rewarding experiences in life carry with them great risk. A new job, a new love, a new baby, a new house... Nothing is guaranteed to not fall apart. The beauty lies in our ability to accept the outcome, and if need be, learn to rebuild.

So often the word "uncertain" conjures negative connotations in our heads, but uncertainty can bring a world of positive opportunity. We fear "uncertain" because we don't know what's around the bend, but what's around the bend may be exactly what we need- it could be that thing that transforms your entire life for the better.

In the end, one of our greatest lessons will be to learn to surrender- to let go- and allow life to offer everything it has to give and everything it has to teach us without imposing what we think 'should' happen.  When we surrender, we open ourselves to infinite possibility, and in turn, we make peace with an uncertain path.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Uncertainty and Beyond

I had a moment of complete and utter horror a few nights ago.

It was 2 AM as I tossed and turned in my creaky bunk bed reflecting on the fact that I had taken a giant risk, left behind my stable income, my amazing townhouse, and my closest friends and family in search of a more fulfilling and meaningful life, and was now lying in a creaky bunk bed with just as much direction as when I left Pennsylvania- which is none.


Now what?

"When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it," Paulo Coelho says...

I just want some freakin' direction, Paulo. That's all. I'm almost 30 years old and I still have ZERO idea of what to be when I grow up. I've got this giant network of highly motivated entrepreneur friends, who are all intensely driven by a specific goal and are (mostly) several years younger to boot.

I adore my students. They make every moment worth the frustrations and doubt. My time with them has transformed my life in ways I would have never achieved otherwise. Undoubtedly, I will be in contact with many of them for years to come.

That said, when the fellowship is over, I have no intention of pursing therapy as a career.

Shouldn't I have had some grand epiphany? Am I a failure for not having any clarity after leaping out of my comfort zone and free-falling  into a now incredibly uncertain future?

My friend reminded me that it's not so much about the "end point" because what she found inspiring was the courage to jump. And this is not the end. This is only the first step in the journey beyond what was supposed to have been the next 40 (miserable) years of my life.

It's ok that I don't have any answers yet.

And so, in the meantime, I write. I make bucket lists. I plot travel plans. I enjoy the moment I'm in because the illusion that there was ever anything BUT an uncertain future was... well... an illusion.

I suppose that this is really where the over-used cliché quote "it's not about the destination, it's about the journey" regains its meaning.

Because as over-used and cliché as it is, it's true.

Here's to the journey.