Confusion in Numbers

I spent the last ten days on the Greek island of Santorini, exactly six more days that I had originally planned. My trip was partly delayed due to the black sand beaches and the perfect weather. The connecting ferry to Turkey only ran three times a week and Thursday became Sunday, which became Tuesday all too fast. But my trip was also delayed because of the incredible group of travelers I met during my stay. This group of people seemed to be as captivated by the island as we were with one another and we spent every waking moment enjoying this little slice of paradise together.P1050189

The group, composed of Canadians, Australians, Germans, Philippinas, Haitians, Spanish, Greeks, Colombians, Indians and Americans, all shared a love of travel. And in this love, we also shared a mutual desire for some change from our lives back home. Three women (including myself) quit their jobs to travel alone. One woman spent a month in a meditation retreat and an Australian girl longed to return to Santorini instead of attending university in the fall. Chanae, the person I met in Athens and followed to the island, hadn’t been back to Australia in almost two years and had no clear date for returning home. I felt as if we were all searching for something–an answer perhaps–without clearly defining the questions at hand.  

Some travelers want to see the world. For them, the questions are simple: “How can I travel forever?” or “How can I increase my maximum vacation time?” But for others, I think the search is much less defined. Will I find someone to love me? What should I do with the rest of my life? These questions will not be found within stamped passport pages or months overseas. But that doesn’t mean we can’t try. P1050161

One evening, I found myself wandering the streets of Oia before meeting up with the group for the famous sunset. The day had been full of sightseeing and my skin was tight under a layer of sea salt and sweat from my morning swim and afternoon hike. I was dehydrated and my legs threatened to give out as I trudged up a rocky path to get a better view of the coast. 

P1050437Down the hill and to the right, I spotted a car. It had been unoccupied for quite some time based on the model and the thick layer of rust underneath the faded blue paint. No wheels remained and someone has piled large rocks onto the driver’s seat and under the hood. On the back left end of the car in scratched white lettering, the words What is life? had been written. P1050438I sat in the fading light of the Santorini sun for a long time staring out to sea and contemplating the words of the car. I thought about this new group of friends: our morning yoga during the sunrise on Perissa Beach and the nights spent comparing cultures over wine and ouzo shots. I thought about my imminent move to New York City and my undefined relationships with people back home. I thought about the pressure I put on my European exploration to conquer some great internal unknown I had yet to identify.

P1050267Despite my desire to travel alone, I secretly craved a community of people who loved exploring the world as much as I did. I wanted to find others who would rather shoulder a backpack and book a flight than map out their next logical career path. And in every hostel in every country, I found those such people. They, like the car, didn’t have the answers to life’s big questions either. And that was something…

For I’d rather spend time contemplating the meaning of life with equally confused people than trying to figure it out all alone. P1050150

 

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A Life Guide to Packing Light

A Life Guide to Packing Light

Pack light.

Have a plan—and keep it flexible.

Carry only the essentials.

 

Do not accept unmarked baggage from others.

Do not have others carry your baggage for you.

Know when to leave those belongings behind.

 

If items become too plentiful, give them away.

Accept gifts in return.

 

Heavy hearts and containers of regret

exceeding 3.4 oz

must be checked.

 

Bubble wrap your best relationships.

Handle with care.

 

Do not fear the unknown.

 

Tread lightly and if you must carry a big stick,

make it a walking stick.

Leave it at the trailhead for the next pair of dusty boots.

 

You will be neither the first nor the last.

 

And please, send postcards.

Mount defiance NY (Lake Champlain)
Mount defiance NY (Lake Champlain)

Moving Home

I have returned to my parents home. I have moved all my books, clothing, artwork, half knitted scarves and various kitchenware from my cozy space in Northampton to my parents’  living room floor. From the floor, the stuff has moved to the couch and into  large bins and  smaller bins that are stacked one on top of each other in the hallway of the narrow second floor hallway. I have inserted myself back into the home where I grew up in a way that feels strange and strangely familiar. IMGP2892

And to their credit, both my parents have let me slide back into their world without a fuss. In our family puzzle, my own multi-sided piece fits back in with minimal wedging of grooves and notches. I would be lying if there weren’t disagreements at the dinner table or prolonged silences in the car. I do not pretend that our little yellow house is absolute bliss from sunup to sundown. But I appreciate the extent to which both my mother and father have gracefully accepted the immediate and lasting presence of their unemployed 24 year old daughter back under their roof. [And if they have begun the countdown, it’s 3 weeks and 5 days.]

How often to we treat those closest to our hearts with indifference and exasperation? The rivers of tolerance and grace, which flow from us so willingly with strangers and acquaintances, run dry as soon as we step over the WELCOME mat of our own homes. Those who deserve the most kindness and love  seem to pull the short stick and our shorter temper. The people I care the most about are the people who accept me for my imperfect but truest self. But is my truest self unkind and condescending? I think not.

So I’ll try to take a deep breath before I speak. Treat my parents and my loved ones with the respect they deserve instead of taking their love and support for granted. Transcend daily disagreements. This continued process is one that I am working on every day. Every. Single. Day.

Thanks Mom and Dad.

 

Sweet things

My life is feeling jumbled recently. I moved back into a cubical after a brief stint sharing an office with two fabulous windows and natural light. Our little house on Henry St. had adopted a fuzzy mouse guest that likes to nibble through plastic lids, butternut squash, sacks of flour and sweet potatoes. The weather swings wildly back and forth between frigid wintery chill and balmy spring day. I’ve begun online dating. I’m flying to Washington DC in a week.

2014 is already proving to be a wonderful and terrifying year. So here is a short list of sweet things in my life:

1. Birthday Cards- I sent off a couple birthday cards in the mail this week. I’m bad, very bad, at remembering friends’ birthdays. It’s not for lack of love but more the sporadic nature with which I check my calendar and organize my numerical thoughts. The sending of birthday cards–stamping well wishes and trusting the US Post–feels warm and fuzzy knowing someone far away will physically touch the same envelope and reach the same words that you wrote days earlier. To all my friends whose birthdays I have forgotten, do not despair. There’s always next year. photo (15)

2. Brownies- Not just any brownies but Slutty Brownies. I made these beauties for a co-worker’s birthday and they are most intense, dense and luxurious brownies I’ve ever made. It takes all the decision-making (Cookie? Oreo? Brownie?) difficulties out of your dessert treat. Not for the dieter or faint of heart.

3. Sue and Donna-On Mondays and Wednesdays I wake up at 6:10am, stumble out of bed and navigate my way to the gym as my eyelids slowly unglue themselves from sleep. Sue teaches step/rep exercise classes on these mornings and I love her for all her high energy music and dedication to step aerobics. Donna, a spright 50 year old Asian woman, has more energy than a classroom of kindergardeners and personally recruited me for these deathly early morning workouts. But they are quickly becoming part of my personal routine and considering how much butter is in a slutty brownie, it’s probably for the best.

4. Movies- I don’t see movies much, if at all. And yet by tomorrow morning, I will have seen three within a week’s span. And good films at that. The bare and hauntingly beautiful music in Inside Llewyn Davis and the questions of meaning and longevity in Nebraska have stayed with me long after the lights of the movie house faded back into reality. Food for thought. I can only hope Dallas Buyers Club dusts me with an equally powerful residue that I’ll carry out into my daily comings and goings.

5. Untraveled Places– For obvious reasons. Because they’re waiting for you.

Post-Graduate Depression

Dear Friend,

You have graduated from college. Your parents and relatives have congratulated you but there remains a doubt that your accomplishments are worthy is of a congratulations. But you smile and nod. After all, it may be the last time cash tucked in greeting card wishes come in the mail.

I’ve seen the days you’ve spent pouring over cover letters and resumes. I know job searching seems like a black hole, a bottomless pit where you throw all of your career dreams and future aspirations. Networking becomes a dirty word and if you have to attempt one more phone interview or draft one more inquiry e-mail…well what choice do you have?

Or maybe you already have a job. I hope it is everything you wanted but maybe it leaves something to be desired. Your working life is broken into two categories–big and small–without Goldilocks’ approval of “just right”. Your cubicle, paycheck, meaningful romantic relationships, checking account? Too small. Your student loans, job aspirations, responsibility, credit card debt and desire to be loved? Too big. And all you want is for Baby Bear to give you his porridge, his chair and his bed.

Maybe you resort to Facebook pictures of peers who look like they have figured life out already. Or the friends who are still at your alma mater-smiling and laughing because they are safe in their academic campus bubble. I’ll will never lie and tell you everyday is easy. But there is the good news. It gets better.

You ARE talented, beautiful, kind and innovative. Everyone is struggling just like you to move out of their parents house, afford nice things, be proactive and make a change in the world. Think of just how far you have come. Instead of looking at your life as one overwhelming existence, tackle small projects and small goals. One cover letter. One day learning how to cook a new meal. One class on something new. With each small success, your confidence and definition of “possible” will grow.

Yesterday, I successfully balanced a checkbook. Last week, I returned to childhood and picked apples with my parents. And two weeks ago, I was sitting at my desk wondering how I was possibly going to survive another 8 hour work day in my grey-colored cubicle.

There is no longer a right or a wrong. You will not get validation that you chose the right path and life from now on will be easy. There is only the curiosity to try something new. Do not abandon your fear. Use it to explore something difficult and beautiful.

Good luck.