I want honesty, openness, vulnerability. I want to be direct. I want to ask for what I want. I want to share how I feel. I want to know how you feel. I want to ask all the questions, even the hard questions that challenge my prejudices, my opinions, and the idea I have of who I am. I want you to ask the questions that linger on your tongue for fear of offending me, or getting hurt. I want to be REAL with people. I want to talk about pain and fear and dreams and hopes. I want to hear about your hard times, and what you learned from them. I want to be with you through your lows as well as your highs. I don’t want to hide under a social media mask that only shows the pretty, cool, impressive, successful parts of life. I want to value the less palatable experiences just as much, for I’ve learned that they have the potential to bring so much grace, patience, and understanding of people and the world at large. They offer a rare opportunity for true, deep connection between people. I have suffered alone too many times, and I know far too many people who have suffered alone as well. As Alan Watts said, “Just as manure fertilizes the plants, so the contemplation of death, and the acceptance of death is very highly generative of creating life. You get wonderful things out of that.”
I’ve failed a lot on my quest for more authentic relationships, and I’ve lost a couple of friends along the way. But I’m not giving up.
I can be super emotional. I honestly didn’t even know this about myself until about a year ago, when my dad (who I call a “zen master”) said something like “Sometimes I feel like maybe I’m a bad person, because I’m not as deeply affected by things as you are.” That put it into perspective to me, for I find my dad to be incredibly empathetic. I am empathetic even with situations that don’t relate to me personally. The best example of this is here, but I also deeply connect with this character’s description here, and the long quote in large font here.
I’ve noticed that in the last few months I’ve barely cried. I was a little depressed in the winter/spring. (I should mention, that depression to me is not sadness, it’s absence of feeling, which makes me feel alive and connected.) It was mainly winter blues, but partly because I have no fucking idea what I’m doing with my life – something I now find to be a blessing.
You don’t think in depression that you’ve put on a gray veil and are seeing the world through the haze of a bad mood. You think that the veil has been taken away, the veil of happiness, and that now you’re seeing truly. It’s easier to help schizophrenics who perceive that there’s something foreign inside of them that needs to be exorcised, but it’s difficult with depressives, because we believe we are seeing the truth. (Soloman)
I cried on March 31st when I shared the dullness I was experiencing with my dad, finally admitting to myself that I need to take my emotional health into my own hands and get myself to a better place. I stopped distracting myself with TV and wine, I surrounded myself with great friends, and I started meditating and doing yoga. And miraculously, on April 17th I found myself literally dancing in the woods out of happiness! It’s the fastest and most dramatic recovery I’ve ever experienced!
I cried on my birthday. The good kind of cry. I used to get bummed out by my bday, because I think of it as a day where I should get to do what I want, yet that’s rarely the case. This year was one of my fave bdays ever! I threw myself a small party and had friends over for champagne cocktails, pizza, and cake. Exactly what I wanted. See how happy I am? My dear friend Ikram gave me a card and wrote this poem in it. All the feels took over me!
Was passt, das muss sich ründen,
by Adolph Selmnitz (see full poem here)
What suits has to round/form each other
I’m so embarrassed to share this, but this video of Obama singing Amazing Grace at the funeral for those killed in the Charleston church massacre made me tear up at my desk. I tend to remain neutral to politicias. But Obama’s been pretty damn impressive. This video made me cry because it’s so rare that a person in a powerful leadership position shows such genuine empathy. All politicians kiss babies, but this dude mourned in public. Now that I think about it, he’s been the most authentic politician I’ve been exposed to. He adheres to his values despite the potential dissent from the masses. That’s admirable.
Selmnitz, Adolph. Den Mond Wollt’ Ich Dir Schenken Poetische Präsente. Comp. Hans-Peter Kraus and Werner Schmitt. on Demand, 2015. Print.
Solomon, Andrew. “Depression, the Secret We Share.” TED. Oct. 2013. Web. 30 June 2015. <https://www.ted.com/talks/andrew_solomon_depression_the_secret_we_share?language=en>.
Mason: Dad? …There’s no, like, real magic in the world, right?
Dad: What do you mean?
Mason: You know, like elves and stuff. People just made that up.
Dad: Oh, I don’t know. I mean, what makes you think that elves are any more magical than something like… like a whale? You know what I mean? What if I told you a story about how underneath the ocean, there was this giant sea mammal that used sonar and sang songs and it was so big that its heart was the size of a car and you could crawl through the arteries? I mean, you’d think that was pretty magical, right?
People talk about the miracle of life, and it is a miracle! Cosmically speaking, it’s magical that life exists at all, and even more magical that you and I exist. Hereistoday.com does a great display of this in terms of time, but the same is true in terms of space. I also think some parts of modern day living are magical, like penicillin, and the internet! The way my cousin in New Jersey, and me in Illinois are listening to the same music RIGHT NOW*! Maybe life is magic, and science is the explanation of how magical things happen, like entire oak trees growing from a tiny seed.
*Thanks spotify :)
In the last month, NINE people have welcomed me into their homes (6 even welcomed Hurricane bunny!) While abroad I was welcomed by family I haven’t seen or talked to in 8 years. And friends I made years ago in Chicago welcomed me to their homes in Paris and Bangalore. Once I returned, I asked four different friends if I could crash with them the three nights I had in Chicago before I drove to Atlanta for Thanksgiving. All four said yes. I stayed with Myriam, Sara, and Elena, and Emily cooked me a delicious homemade meal! I even crashed with a good friend in St. Louis on the way to Atlanta – and will see her again on the way back up! And then, when I was brainstorming an apartment with my future roommate, she offered to let me stay with her and her parents for two weeks in December! I’ve only hung out with her four times in person, but she’s got such infectious, magnetic energy – I can’t wait to spend more time with her!
I’ve used keys as a synonym for life in the past. They are a very literal representation of everything we have in our lives: a home, a job, a lover, a family, a car, a bicycle, etc. Right now I only have two keys, to my storage unit, and my PO box. But this first week I’ve had keys to my friends’ homes as well. This teaches me that home is not necessarily a physical thing, a place of one’s own. Home is a feeling we have inside, of connection and belonging. I may not have an address to myself right now, but I have at least a dozen places that I can call home, all over the world. I feel so blessed!
I intended to choose one favourite day in each city, but that proved impossible. This list is ridiculously long, but shows how ridiculously fun my trip was!
- My trip was off to a great start as I spent my first day with Patrizia and Roberto by the sea in Fiumicino. That’s my actual favourite day, but it’s technically not in Rome.
- Day 3 was an action-packed day where I walked all over the city and saw Piazza Navona, fell in love with the Pantheon, and saw Vittoriano, and saw an Argentinian jazz concert.
- Or, actually this day was awesome, when I went to the Italian market, saw a bunch of beautiful sites on Patrizia’s bicycle, and went clubbing in Rome with Chuck!
- The first day that came to mind as a favourite was the day I hiked down to Positano with Frank & Cathy, swam in the ocean, and after being stranded in Amalfi, hitched a ride on the back of a stranger’s scooter.
- Oh, and this day I swam to a beach-cave, and saw the most breathtaking gardens in Ravello, high above the town with a gorgeous view of the sea!
- And this day, when I met Fraser & Olivia in Capri on the way to the blue grotto, and ended the day in Naples.
GREECE (mostly Crete)
- I loved the day I visited Preveli Beach, which has a fresh river that pours into the beach.
- Chania was a beautiful town, with history and the prettiest lighthouse.
- But I can’t leave out the views from Santorini, and eating shrimp for the first time in 12+ years (and learning how to dissect it!)
- I absolutely loved the day I spent with Marieke, Myrthe, and Iris riding the trains and hiking through the Swiss Alps. Breathtaking!
- But I also really loved the day we harvested pumpkins on the farm, and the dutch pancakes Marieke made for dinner.
- And the last day on the farm, when Bastien took me out for a fondue dinner in Lausanne.
- My first full day in Brussels, Yves took me on a long walk through the city and taught me so much! I also fell in love with Magritte that day.
- I absolutely loved the family dinner we had, and picking up my cousin’s kids from school.
- Oh, and then Vanessa took me makeup shopping, and I took the train to Paris to see Flora and celebrate Caroline’s birthday. I can’t believe all that activity was one day!
- My first full day I reunited with Diane, Bastien, Antoine, Julie & Arnaud, and Flora of course. We had brunch and walked past le Louvre and to the Eiffel Tower.
- I really enjoyed kicking around with Julie & Arnaud, seeing Notre Dame, and then finally eating the boeuf Bourgunignon I’ve been dreaming about.
- This day was downright amazing – I saw a view of all of Paris from Sacre Coeur, and the Arc de Triumph, and ended it with Flora at Pitchfork, the concert.
- I only spent three days in Goa, and this day that ended with Ondi was spectacular.
- Off to a crazy fun start with a fancy rooftop brunch.
- I loved shopping for Indian fabrics, seeing the craft fair, and hanging out with Divya’s friends.
- And on this day, Divya’s family took me out for lunch, I learned how to eat on a banana leaf (and embraced eating with my hands), and went to Weekender music festival!
- And the last day was the best day, when Divya and her family surprised me with the gift of a sari, dressed me up, and took me to an Indian wedding!
- I loved the day I scuba dived and hung out with Kamey, Ruth, and Serkan.
- And the day Kamey and I checked out Villigilli and took a bunch of pictures.
- The day that ended with a night at the airport wasn’t my favourite, but it’s a fun story.
After dozens of friends joked about this trip being like “eat pray love,” I looked up flights to Indonesia; it would be easy to hop there from India. But I wasn’t sure… I don’t like to follow pop culture, and Indonesia didn’t really speak to me. I like to find my own adventure. I looked at visiting Nepal, or Tibet before realizing that India is also close to the Maldives. I had found my final destination.
I was going to say that for me, this trip is “Eat Pray Dive,” for I found a scuba diver in me. But I did fall in love on this trip. I fell in love with the world, with life, with myself.
I have never felt better. I have never even imagined the feeling I’ve had the last few weeks. I feel such deep peace and contentment. I feel Love, exuding from my pores, in the rays of sunlight, in the air we breathe, all around. The world seems so welcoming. It’s grand, with more to offer than we can imagine, yet it all seems so accessible.
It’s like each moment, no matter what I’m doing, feels like the high after a focused yoga class, after connecting with people authentically, after sharing a homemade cake with someone I love. My heart rate is lower, and I breathe so slowly, all the way down to my solar plexus. Pain – intense hunger, exhaustion, heartache, anger, and worry – often manifests in my solar plexus; I noticed that as a teen, before I knew what to call that soft spot in the middle of my chest. But I don’t think I’ve ever felt this frission, this joy, this energy in my solar plexus. Like the bubbles of your soda tickling your nose, this energy is so tangible.
Life is full of possibilities; I’m incredibly aware of that, but I’m not exactly excited. How do I explain this feeling beyond excitement? Excitement is like hope or fear – it’s uncertain and full of powerless imaginary ideas. I feel calmer than excited, I feel ready and sure that everything I will is within reach and will come to me. There is nothing to fear in this life. We are born fearless, but fear is learned. Life is, simply, good. Fear and worry are so incredibly unnecessary. We should embrace our fear rather than run from it. Life is so open and full of love and opportunity; all you have to do is say “yes”.
This trip has been a palate cleanser. It’s reminded me that yes, I do want connection, discovery, and wonder in my life. I want to be scared, and uncertain. I have the most fun when I embrace my fear and let it take me someplace I couldn’t have imagined, like deep in the belly of the ocean. Or eating unknown food off a banana leaf with my hands. It’s so fucking wild out there, and I greatly prefer that to stability. I’ve struggled with my values over the last few years. Once I got this awesome job at Argonne, I saw the possibility of a comfortable and stable life. Of an excessive, shallow, and sheltered life, where you can’t imagine anything more exciting than leaving work early on Friday to eat the same damn nachos at the same damn place you’ve been proudly going to for 20+ years. I got comfortable too; for a while I couldn’t think of anything more exciting that a fancy new couch, or a glass of wine at the end of the day. I didn’t lose sight of how much more there is in life, but I wasn’t living in a way that reflected that idea, and I started to question if that’s what I really want. When you’re comfortable, you don’t grow, or learn; you don’t take chances, and you don’t experience life fully. My doubt has been completely eviscerated. I’m no longer tempted by comfort. It’s like the skies opened up, and I am reminded of an entire other realm of life above the trivial things we fixate on.
For months I couldn’t resist telling people about my loss; I didn’t think they’d be able to understand me or my life without knowing about it. And though I still struggle with that loss, it’s in proper perspective now. There is so much more, and so much that’s more important. This summer the loss felt like I was trying to go through life after losing a limb: completely debilitating, suddenly off-balance, and needing to relearn how to do basic things to care for myself. Now, I’d say that loss is more like a mosquito bite: a small irritation that is always there, but only sometimes bothers you. I have dozens of mosquito bites at the moment, but I’m still having the time of my life.
I’m not religious at all. I wouldn’t say I’m spiritual either. There’s no creator or higher being, or even higher purpose that I believe in. But I do believe in spirit, energy, and vibes, in the light within us all. I am highly sensitive to it; I’m energized and comforted by people’s positivity, creativity, authenticity, drive, and openess. And conversely, I consider spirits of judgment, negativity, banality and limitation to be poisonous in a very literal way. I’ve encountered such great energy, such amazing vibes on this trip. My heart and my energy have been filled, buffed to the brightest shine I’ve ever seen in myself. It’s so funny that just a few weeks ago I feared myself an introvert, or recluse. I am thriving now because of the connections I have with others.
I know this post sounds like I’m high, but I swear I’ve never been more sober. I feel cleansed, renewed, replenished. Mental clarity IS found in the water.
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