Thursday, August 2, 2012

Sweet Sweet Summer

It’s the eve before my big move to Spain, and as I sit here writing this I am overwhelmed with emotion. I am of course feeling all the standard feelings: excitement, nervousness, happy, sad, etc. etc. However one emotion that I wasn’t expecting to feel is appreciation. I find myself relishing in appreciation for this past summer. This summer healed me; it gave me exactly what I needed.  It’s funny; the universe always has a way of giving you exactly what you need when you need it. And apparently the doctor prescribed a good ol’ fashion dose of summertime fun and relaxation to heal everything up.

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby

My life has began over, and indeed it started with this summer. I came back home in April broken, and exhausted, and yet somehow this summer has healed me. That first month I mostly spent sleeping, hiding out from everyone and everything.  However after that, after I regained my footing, I started to be able to enjoy life again. Enjoying the simple things of life in America with friends and family, and what better time does that happen than summer??

It’s a familiar story; we climb out of our cold isolated cocoons and give ourselves permission for a few brief, hot months to have fun. Bike riding, outdoor concerts, wine tasting, beach lazing, book reading, weddings, cook-outs, train riding, picnic in the park-ing, mai tai mixing, at-the-top-of-your-lungs-too-loud-singing: this is what the sweet, invincible summer looks like to me. This is what I have been doing, and its been one of the best summers. I feel rejuvenated, and as this summer comes to a close I feel that I am ready to move on to the new life summer has given me.

Family, friends, drinks, and sunsets. :-)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Universe's Sledgehammer

“Everything happens for a reason”. I’m sure if you had a dime for every time you heard that you would be rich. And yet, there seems to be this unspoken understanding amongst people to respond in some sort of platonic and philosophical manner. Whether it’s a slight nod of the head, or a response like, “you’re absolutely right.” However sometimes in the heat of the situation it’s difficult to understand what that actual reason is.

We’re busy. I mean that in both a physical and mental way. Our day to day lives make us constantly on the go. We’re programmed from culture, society, personal experience, to “go, go, go.” In fact, not only do we pride ourselves on being multi-taskers, but a lot of times we are rewarded for it. The problem is we all become so busy that when the Universe is talking to us and sending us signs, we don’t always listen, and pay attention. So sometimes the Universe has to use extreme forces and bring out the figurative sledgehammer to get our attentions.

A couple of years ago I was in this car accident. However I think I should preface this story by going back a couple of days. I was going through this horrible break up that lasted WAYYY longer then it should have. (I was young what can I say?) And I’m not talking like a bad break up where you eat a pint of ice cream, cry yourself to sleep, and all is well a few days later. I’m talking like the mother of all bad break ups. The holy grail of heartwrenching, jaw dropping, oh my god I think I might die break up.  I was completely depleted, depressed, and had loss all hope. Finally one night the last straw had been set on the camels back and I had lost it. I got in my car and just drove all night. Crying, screaming at the Universe for putting me through what it had. There was absolutely no reason for the cruel and horrible torture I had been suffering. I wondered if the Universe had forgotten about me, wondered if the Universe even cared about me. Fast forward to a day in a half later, I got in a car accident. I was driving down the interstate, there was black ice, I was on a bridge, and there was a semi in front, next to, and behind me. I hit a patch of black ice and spun completely out of control. I had no way of regaining control of my car. I was just waiting to hit something or someone. I remember at one point my car had spun backwards into the next lane and I was staring dead at the truck driver who was next to me. Although at this point my front was facing his front as I was driving backwards. I’m sure it only lasted a few seconds, but I swear it felt longer and I could see the look in his eyes. I finally hit the guard rail on the side of the bridge. The car finally stopped. I was in utter shock. I was literally a couple feet from where the guardrail ended and the drop-off from the bridge was open. A few feet more and I would have gone off the bridge. I wasn’t hurt, not a scratch on me. Luckily, I didn’t hit anyone even though I was surrounded by all those trucks. And finally it hit me- My not so quiet conversation with the Universe less than the 48 before…  it was answering back. Hitting me, (and hard) with its sledgehammer. Telling me that I was not alone, and no I had not been forgotten. And if I’m being completely honest I feel that the Universe was telling me that I better have a little respect because my life could be taken at any moment if it so desired.

Did this accident happen for a reason? As crazy as it sounds, I believe it did. Because life is not some mere roll of the dice, but rather, a woven tapestry of experiences of great significance. Every event we have is important, from the most inspired and enlightened to the seemingly unexplainable, or incomprehensible. Unfortunately as humans we don’t really have a good perspective on the “big picture.”  Sure some are better at seeing it than others, but for the majority of us we have to practice, stop and really think about how everything is connected. If I wouldn’t have been in that accident right after my huge meltdown, I wouldn’t have known if the Universe was really there, and paying attention to what it was doing. That accident re-affirmed my belief, which in turn made me believe that what I was going through with my ex had a purpose. Years later, looking back I could tell you exactly what that purpose was, what I learned, and how better off I am for it. Sure it was hard, and it sucked, and yeah I could have lived without some parts. But overall, I needed all of it (the relationship, the grueling break-up, the accident) to all happen.  Because who knows what kind of person I would be today if all that didn’t happen?  It all happened for a reason.

You might be a little skeptical, which is okay, but think about this: by believing that everything happens for a reason you are consequently avoiding blaming others and yourself. Blaming yourself or someone else only makes the situation worse. It NEVER fixes the situation.

Imagine for a moment that you 100% believe everything does happen for a reason. No matter how big or what the problem is, it’s all for a purpose. Now how do you feel? For me, I feel calmer, lighter even, knowing that I am part of some bigger plan, the criticism, the negative emotions they are all diminishing. Try it, I think you will agree.

Look for those times in your life because everything will change. You will become stronger, more confident, and feel a greater connection to the Universe. Walking with a purpose to live the life of your dreams, all while knowing that everything does indeed happen for a reason.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Road Less Travelled vs. The Road Not Taken

People always say, “Take the road less traveled”.  I’ve always used this as a sort of mantra for my life. Because when you think about it, why do people say this really? They say it because taking the road less traveled requires discipline, bravery, and strength.

 Scott Peck said it best when he said, “The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.”
M. Scott Peck

So in my mind to take the road that is travelled most is like depriving yourself of the opportunity for the truer answers and the finer moments. The being out of your comfort zone, the feelings of uncertainty, these are all necessities which can only be obtained when pushing you down that uneven, bumpy, road less traveled.

Then I remembered a poem that I read awhile back by Robert Frost called, “The Road Not Taken.”  It’s a famous poem for its “hooray for the future” interpretation. When people read it they can immediately relate by recognizing the “fork in the road of life” metaphor.  The crisis and decisions that are usually accompanied when someone feels they are at a fork in the road is symbolic to almost everyone. Because the choice of which road to take is a great connection between free will and fate. Now whether you believe in fate or not is your own prerogative. But for me personally I believe it’s a bit of both. I believe we have some choice in what our lives become because we wouldn’t be who we are otherwise. However in my past posts I talked about gut feelings and there is a part of me that thinks that those gut feelings is the universe way of guiding us toward our destined fate. But that’s a whole other topic so kind of going back to the poem…

 The author stands in the woods with two roads in front of him. In this poem there is no road less traveled. Both look equally the same. Neither is more travelled or less travelled then the other. Nonetheless, the speaker knows he needs to make a choice so he just takes one to travel down.  What I like about this poem is that the speaker knows he is going to question his decision later down the line, he will wonder what is on the other road, and he will question if he made the right choice or not. I find this to be so honest, and quite frankly, reality. How many times do you find yourself thinking, “is the grass really greener?” But the truth is in this poem there is no right path. Just the chosen path and the other path.  At the end of the poem the speaker is sighing. Not because of a wrong decision, but because of the decision itself. Because each decision he made is stacked and stacked upon themselves. Which consequently marks the passing of life. It’s the decisions he made in those particular moments that made his journey the way it was.  Hence, the poem’s theme being a nature of “seizing the day”.

So, the road less traveled or the road not taken?  I guess it’s kind of like the age old question, “is the glass half empty or half full?” When I originally started brainstorming about this post I was going to write about how I feel like I am constantly attempting to live a life that most people wouldn’t. But now I don’t think it’s about that. Now I think it’s about picking a road and just going. Because it’s not actually about the road it’s about the decisions you make while on that road. So rather than my mantra being “take the road less travelled”. I think I shall now change it to… carpe diem.

“The Road Not Travelled” By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

So Risk and Regret Walk Into A Bar....

When most people think about regret, it’s usually not about the stupid things they’ve said, or the questionable things they’ve done (teenage belly button piercing, I’m looking at you). The most difficult regret to make peace with is the regret for the things we did not try, say, or do-the risk we did not take. I’m sure everyone when reading this has one thing that immediately pops into their head. Whether, it’s standing up for yourself to someone, applying for a job, or making a difficult choice even though you knew it was the right one to make.  It’s a huge fear of mine, the non taken risks. I don’t ever want to look back, and think “what if?”  This is a topic I think about often, not because I have all this non-risking regret, but because there are so many things I want to do, and so many things I want to experience. So far I’ve been pretty good about doing them. I wouldn’t say I’m risk-averse, more like risk-prone. I don’t know if I was born this way, or my enormous fear of asking the ever elusive “what if?” has anything to do with it. Nonetheless, my magnetism for risk taking is what it is.  I do have to say that sometimes I question if I’ve pushed myself too much and gone too far. Like one day all the risks that I’ve taken to prevent myself from having regret will back fire and end up turning into regret within itself. I’ll think, “Why didn’t you just stay home and find a proper job? Why didn’t you stop moving around so much and find a nice boy to marry?” Marriage, a stable job, and a permanent address are all risks true, however not necessarily the right ones for me at this point in my life. It definitely would make more sense to my family and friends around me who don’t understand my choice of lifestyle. (No, grandma I’m not trying to put you in an early grave, and yes mom I know you’re not getting any older and would like to have grandchildren one day)  Yes, I might fail and staying home may have been the righter course.  And yes, maybe the certainty of a stable job would be a more appropriate choice for success. But then I remember- nothing is certain and failing is a necessity for growth. Things can fall apart for anyone, anywhere, at any time. And so back I go to my thinking that it’s just better to be my “risk-prone” self, making my “risk-prone” choices. That’s why I’ve decided to move to Spain in the beginning of August. Because I choose risks, and I choose uncertainty, and I choose failure. All while hoping for the occasional triumph and going after the best version of me that’s out there.  

Got A Gut Feeling???

If you have a gut feeling, you sense something about a person or a situation, without knowing why, but you're sure what you sense is true.  Whether it’s something bad or good, you have that sense, and you feel it deep in the pit of your stomach.  “Go with your gut,” is a popular phrase that people use when trying to figure out what to do. They say this because that gut feeling in the pit of your stomach is like a kind of sixth sense, an intuitive sixth sense that can’t steer you wrong. I know this to be true, and I know that most people believe this too. Then why is it so hard for some people to “go with their gut”? Is it because of fear? Or are they just so wrapped up in the hard facts, and things that they can see plain out? What type of person are you? Do you follow your intuitive sixth sense, or do you do everything in your power to work out the situation with common sense? 

                I re-made my blog from what it was when I first joined the Peace Corps to what it is now. I re-made it stating that I wanted to write about the happiness of being in Samoa rather than the hardships. I was so gun-ho on doing everything in my power to look at the positives and not dwell on the negatives. And that’s where I think I made the mistake. My first year, I was so far on the negative side of the spectrum it was hurting me. I decided the only way I was going to survive was to change, and make my second year more on the positive side. But then it turned into being so far on the positive side that it too was hurting me. And here’s what I learned... too much of one thing and one way of thinking is neither good nor realistic. In the end, you lose focus and can’t see what’s good for you anymore.  The truth is I was living in hell, and no matter which way I spun it, and no matter how hard I tried to find something positive about my situation, it was still a hot, horrible, hell. So then why even when I knew that I was living in hell, didn’t I do what I needed to do- do what was in my gut?  Let me tell you a bit about the hell I was under just so you have a better idea. My first year I lived in a small house with another Peace Corps Volunteer, Jenny, who’s village was next to mine.  Normally, Peace Corps does not allow for volunteers to live together, however because the house I was moving into wasn’t the safest PC thought it would be best if another volunteer lived there as well.  The house had its problems just like any other volunteers’. Of course we had bugs and rats, but they just mostly stayed in the kitchen which I just learned to live with. However, during that time Jenny and I had to deal with some bigger problems. For example, men were trying to break in, in the middle of the night, men were looking through our bedroom windows, and people were stealing things from outside our house.  Again, it was easier to live with because Jenny and I had each other, and we felt safe since it was the two of us.  However, when December came Jenny finished her service. So when I came back from Christmas break, I was coming back to the house alone. Truthfully I thought I would be fine. I had been living in my village for over a year and I knew most of the people.  However it wasn’t fine.  When I came home from Christmas break I came home to a huge hole in my ceiling from where someone broke in. About once or twice a week I had guys outside my house. The rats were no longer staying in JUST the kitchen, but rather my bedroom as well (I thought we had unspoken rule about that, but apparently not).  I woke up to a rat LITERALLY next to my head in my bed. That was the first time, it happened two more times after that.  It got so bad I wasn’t sleeping. I was so afraid of what was not only inside my house, but what was outside as well.  Looking back now I knew what the answer was to my problem deep down, but for some reason I was doing everything else instead. It was like I had this band-aid on and I was pulling it off and then re-applying it back on.   I went to the office numerous times seeing if they could help me find a solution.  They built me a better front door; I got outside lights installed, and was given a blow horn. (Didn’t do much)For awhile my principal stayed with me. When that wasn’t working I stayed with her at her house for awhile. I tried poison after poison, traps after traps. Nothing was working. It took a friend coming to stay with me for the night, and experience what I had been going through for months for it to hit me. She said that in all of her time in Samoa she had never experienced a night like that. That it was NOT OKAY the way I was living. I asked her what I should do. She gave me some ideas, her opinions. I was clearly torn, and she said, “What does your gut tell you?” My gut was not telling me, it was screaming at me to go home. As soon as I realized that, it was like everything made sense. My answer was there, and I knew what I had to do. So I went with my gut, and decided to take an ‘Interruption of Service’.  Sure I still had thoughts of, “Is this really what I should do? Maybe there is another solution?” But deep down in the pit of my stomach I knew the answer was no, I knew that I needed to come home.  So then why did I not follow my instinct earlier!? It could have saved me so much misery, and sleepless nights.   Truth be told I don’t know why I didn’t make this decision earlier. Maybe it was my pride, my stubbornness, or my undying determination to follow my new goal of “positivity”.  Whichever the case it kept me from doing what I should have done.  And as I sit here in my nice comfy room in the U.S (rat less, and creeper less) I know I made the right decision.  

So the next time you get that gut feeling remember it’s there for a reason. Believe in your intuition and have a little faith. And just maybe you’ll end up in a nice comfy place knowing you made the right decision too.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

When In Samoa, Do As The Samoans Do

I had fleas. Yea, fleas like dogs and cats get. I’m sure every one of you reading  this is thinking two things: “Oh my god that is so gross”and“I didn’t know people could get fleas!” Yes, it is absolutely gross and apparently people can. Well, actually what had happened was the fleas were living in my foam mattress. They mostly come out at night and bite you all down your sides and under your arms.  This isn’t uncommon.  I know of a couple other PCVS who had the same problem. The only problem was how to get rid of them! I went to the Peace Corps nurse asking for tips on how to solve the issue. She said to put my mattress out in my yard and let it sit in the sun for a couple hours.  Even though she has dealt with many other PCVS who have had the same issue, and I’m sure knew what she was talking about, I didn’t really believe her. It is a regular practice for Samoans to lay things out in the sun. Dish towels, pillows, and mats (the mats are what Samoans sleep on) I’ve been told that doing this does kill whatever germs or bugs there are, but again I never believed it.  Nevertheless I was getting really desperate. The bites on my body were really getting to me and I could feel the fleas jumping all over me at night. I would wear long pants and  a long sleeve shirt to bed (even though I live in the tropics and its super hot at night).  I did it just to try and prevent the biting. It didn’t work. So I took my nurses advice and put my mattress out in the yard for about 4 hours. That was yesterday, and I am happy to report that after a night of sleeping in my new sunned mattress I have no new bites. J

(I have to say that is something to definitely be happy about. )

Name Change In Blog

So I’ve changed the title of my blog from Lindsey for Peace to Travels Towards Happiness. Let me explain. After a very VERY long first year in the Peace Corps, a wonderful trip home for the holidays, and the ambition to knock my second year out of the park, I have decided that the only way to get my blog going again is to switch it up a bit. I stopped writing posts a very long time ago. At first, it was because I was going through a very difficult time in my service (“the bottom of the rollercoaster” what people in the Peace Corps like to call it) and I didn’t think that anyone wanted to listen to me bitch and moan and complain.  So I decided to wait to write until I was a little higher on the rollercoaster. However, by the time that happened I had changed and didn’t really want to write about the things I had been writing about before. Talking about rats, Samoan food, or whatever, just didn’t seem pertinent anymore. I had been here long enough to where I was now calling Samoa “home” so talking about the oohs and aahhs just didn’t do it for me anymore.
                So when I got back to Samoa after my vacation I thought about what I did want to write about. And I decided that what I want to write about is happiness. I spent so much of my last year in emotions that were anything but happiness. Anyone who really knows me, knows that I am not the most positive person in the world. But it’s kind of funny because I think last year, a year of anything but happiness, taught be how crucial happiness really is.
                I should preface this whole thing by saying I have no intention of writing a “feely do good” kind of blog either. I just plan on writing about things in my life that are or maybe will one day lead to my grand life goal of true happiness. Because really, isn’t that what everyone wants? So as I am abroad now and have intentions of continuing to teach abroad; as I learn, experience, fall into, and grow throughout the days please stay tuned in my travels towards happiness. J
“Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or that religion, the very purpose of our life is happiness, the very motion of our life is toward happiness.” –The Dali Lama

Here We Go Again!

Year 2. They say it’s a lot easier and goes by a lot faster than year 1. Since my year 2 is just starting, I’ll have to take their word for it. Not that I don’t believe them because I do. I was fortunate enough to be able to go home for Christmas this year. It was amazing to be home and kind of re-live my old life. Take hot showers, sleep in my old bed, hang out at my regular spots, etc. But as my trip ended, and I was getting ready to go home I thought back to how I felt the last time I was leaving for Samoa. The last time was the first time  I was going there and the word ‘nervous’ doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt. I remember having a range of emotions at any given moment that could, and most likely were, all over the emotional scale. But this time, this time I wasn’t nervous and wasn’t on an emotional rollercoaster ride. I knew what I was coming back to. I knew what to expect, and what people were going to be in my Samoan life.  That’s why I believe year 2 will be better than year 1. Last year I had to learn the language, and the fa’asamoa (Samoan way).  I walked on egg shells every day and with everyone. But now I know the language and I know the fa’asamoa. I’m more confident with day to day interactions and experiences as well as more confident in general. I know how to say no to people in a polite and respectful manner, and I know how to get my point across without being rude or stepping on any toes.
There are a lot of things that I have learned from my first year in the Peace Corps, mistakes that I have made, and expectations that just plain weren’t practical.   One of the biggest mistakes I made last year was setting expectations for something that I knew little to nothing about. Last year I had expectations of doing several projects in a certain amount of time (usually a short amount of time). It took a serious crash into a brick wall to realize that this was not the way to go about it all. For this year, my plan is to make no plans, and have no expectations. With this, I won’t have all the pressure and no brick walls to run into. 
I am excited for my year 2 of teaching. I will have all the same kids. I know their abilities and I know them as individuals. I am excited to bond with them more, and I’m excited to revise my lessons in a way that I know will work best for each of my kids.  I know I said before that I’m not making and plans or having any expectations for year 2, but I do have a goal for this year… my goal is to just accept things for what they are and how they come. Whether it’s bad or good I’m just going to accept it.