Archive | Reflections RSS feed for this section

Summer 2011: A crash course in self-discovery

20 Aug

Last summer literally changed my life.  QLQ’s maiden voyage to the Dominican Republic and the genuine love with which we were received changed my outlook on people, the world, & my personal life goals.   Follow that with the door-to-door salesman life of Southwestern: we called ourselves “Book people” because of the 20lb bags of educational books we lugged around from house to house for 80 hours a day.  2 months, 2000 families, countless blue light specials, and more life experience than I bargained for later, and all the friends I ran into back home had the same verdict:

“You know, you’re alot different than last year.”

“Have I lost weight?  Umm… I cut my hair, are my new found devilishly good looks throwing you off?”

“No.  Seriously.  You’re alot different… Don’t get me wrong.  It’s a good different.”

Well.  Turns out they’re right.  As comfortable as those Huggies were, I graduated into big boy undies.

This time around, I want to articulate what I think I’ve learned since I seem to have a gift for learning the same things over and over again.  And again.  And again.  At least it’s a good laugh each time.

5) Me time (even for extroverts!).  I get excited for bus rides.  Seriously.  This may be a side effect of a mental disability caused by the mind-rattling 96 hours of public buses I’ve taken in a 2 months span, but I look forward to the chance to enjoy the countryside of a country and just think.  Life in the states–now in university here too–is so fast we never have time to simply chill out and reflect on our own thoughts.  Everything’s GO! Go! GO!  And we’re too caught up in the system and pressures inherent in our lives to notice when something is genuinely wrong.  “Me time” is getting a little jealous of “go out and achieve goals and accomplish things and stuff and work alot and check things off lists time”.  Don’t get me wrong, aspects of a purposeful driven life are essential to reaching a sense of fulfillment– as long as they don’t rule my life.

Some clear their heads with mind-boggling yoga positions, some smoke illicit substances, some cook delicious goodies and choose to share the love; I take chicken-buses across borders.  To each his own.

4) Being a little kid.  They have it so great!  Everything is new.  Everything is amazing.  Every walk down the street is filled with a new adventure & their facial expressions rotate like a broken record between Surprised, Amazed, & Happy.   And, yes, I’m choosing to leave out all recollection of bratty little kids; they’re not nearly as much fun.  I can’t remember having a day this summer that wasn’t amazing when I woke up loving everything around me and thinking, “Damn, I’m lucky to be here.”  Genuine appreciation for the world goes a long way to putting a radiant smile where it belongs.  Which brings me to the next one…

3) Gratefulness.  There’s SO MUCH I’ve personally taken for granted growing up in the states.  The opportunities we’re born with and don’t ever give a second thought to are mind blowing if you sit down and think about them: freedom of speech, quality education, reliable power & water.  I could go on with the endless list of things we take for granted that are scarcely seen in this world, but I’d rather mention an under-appreciated right we never think about.  The Passport.  Did you know that if you life outside Western Europe, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, the US, Canada, Australia, and Japan you have to apply for a Visa, wait a few months, fork over a few hundred dollars, and cross your fingers in order to travel to a foreign country.  Now imagine trying to travel to 8 countries.  That’s at least a grand and a few bottles of advil that never crosses the minds of privileged citizens of our beloved US of A.  We are born with the right to see the world.  In essence, the world is our playground while other kids have to ask mommy for a permission slips and call little Jimmy’s parents to come out and play.

I don’t know where this brings your thinking, but I wake up each day grateful for everything and trying to share this feeling of gratitude with everyone I meet.

2) Worries.  There are very few things in this world actually worth getting upset over.

For example, I gifted a gentleman in Nicaragua who’s life has taken some wrong turns one hell of a $400 shopping spree, then my bank decided to give me $550 a week later.  The “street name” for this phenomenon is Credit Card Theft; I like to call it a unintentional act of kindness.

Also I’ve learned to never complain or criticize unless there’s something you can do or offer some sort of way to better the situation.  Life is too wonderful to spend it worrying about things, circumstance, or what others do as long as personal dignity isn’t infringed upon.

Malesh.  Hakuna Matata.  No worries.  Tranquilo.  ¡Pura Vida!

1) Passion.  Regardless of hardships, circumstances, and anything I’ve experienced thus far in life, I’m unconditionally and genuinely content when I have a purpose.  Sometimes that takes the form of a simple goal, other times it’s a life consuming project for a brief period.  Without some sort of defined purpose I’m like a zombie going through the motions of normal people life, and it’s when I start doing normal things that I stray away from happiness.  While I haven’t found something that grabs me enough to dedicate my whole self to a project or cause, I’m anxiously awaiting the day when I find this passion.  Don’t be surprised if it takes the form of Social Entrepreneurship; it gets me as giddy as a gradeschooler on a field trip.

On a side note, reading for fun is AWESOME.  I’m officially a book devourer-er now and newly appointed disciple of Herman Hesse’s Siddhartha.  The 3rd time might even be better than the first- It’s hard to put down a book that makes you smile for days after reading each chapter.




Summer Wrap Up

16 Aug

I’ve been blessed to have lived (and survived) an incredibly eye opening and rewarding summer.  It’s been a roller coaster ride that’s without a doubt shaped me, my perspective on life, and my future path.

Here’s a map of my travels (originally for the parents) with a few stories of the inspiring people I crossed paths with:

The Scenic Route from Charlotte to Costa Rica

Pictures capturing the journey are now up under the Photography project tab.

Everything from the 3000 yr old Mayan ruins of Tikal, Guatemala below

To the heart wrenching reality of poverty forced since birth on street kids.

This was taken from inside our van at 5mph as we were literally driving off.  The kids persisted through the open windows until we were driving too fast for them to hang on.  Imagine life if mom & dad sent you to the street every day to sell trinkets because school isn’t in the realm of possibilities for you family.

“Please.  One dollar.  Para libros.”

But don’t think for one second this is the story of Central America.  Every person I met had their own charm, and the living vibe & joy of Latin Culture is contagious.   It’s hard not to fall in love here.

If you have any questions, shoot them my way.  I’d love to answer any nagging thoughts you have.  Thanks for keeping up with me this whole time.

As they say in Costa Rica, where I am now:

¡Pura Vida!