7 Days Later on an Island in Croatia – Lessons Learned

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And, when you’re in the midst of it all, it’s hard to fully collect your thoughts, feelings, and desires. You’re moving at a fast pace, with roughly 40 pounds of baggage strapped to your back, arms, and innately, your insides. You’re meeting people from all over the world, with hundreds of life stories that they are open to sharing because you’re in a foreign country with people who you may or may not ever see again. And, then, there’s the select few that you know you connect with so strongly that you will make the effort to meet at a another time, in another place.

Sometimes, you’re sitting lazily under a palm tree doing nothing and drifting off to the sound of local kids and a family having a picnic on the waterfront as the wind blows and the sun beats down on your legs. Other times, you’re watching the tourists completely flood the city, gulping down one too many drinks, leaving a trail of their trash as they head into the next pub. You ask the locals how they feel about this, and you know while it’s good for their economy, they’re sick of it, even if it only happens six months out of the 12.

You accept your ignorance of having not known the history of a region so rife with struggle and conflict, and truly understand the impact on personal lives when you become close friends with a girl who was displaced by war and separated from her family for two years. You hear the pain and growth from experiences you’ve been so privileged to have avoided merely by the fortune of being raised elsewhere.

It becomes clear that travel is sometimes glorified and beautified, and not always simple. But, you also realize that all you need to survive is food and water. You can change beds nightly and focus on the beauty of having the opportunity to meet more people because you’re in a constant state of flux. You see that there is a sense of stability in always being open to changing surroundings because you rely on so much less and can be ready for anything, at any time. Things really stop mattering so much. You can be alone and content. You can be surrounded and content.

At times, you’re disconnected technologically, so then, you’re totally connected in real time. As if real time even exists and has meaning. I’ve been consumed by people watching. By endlessly seeing that when people are in big groups and have nothing to say, they bring their phones into the conversation, avoiding eye contact and using their thumb to tap accolades to the edited photos on their screens. Or, they are taking snapchats of what’s live in front of them to broadcast to those back home, showing that they are here and you are there, not experiencing the same thing that they are experiencing behind a screen. I’ve been there. I’m happy I haven’t had the means to be for quite some time. It’s made days longer and connections stronger.

Mental pictures are my oldest and newest currency. They are the ones to cherish because they are becoming a part of my future.

I’ve pulled a splinter out of the toe of a stranger, a bee sting out of the hand of an older man, helped friends to their bed after wild nights that became mornings out, checked in on an acquaintance with low blood pressure, and jumped at any opportunity to help strangers when I have the means. I’ve had multiple nights in a row with no sleep and days of exploration, with days of simply passing the time and avoiding the heat.

I’ve talked about the meaning of life, God, love, desire, goals, fears and challenges with multiple people, mostly men, but also with some women, too. I’ve spent hours inside the busiest club on an island to talk philosophies with a friend. I’ve heard wild stories from wild nights of people who are finding themselves and learning what they seek romantically.

I’ve held onto the fact that many people derive the meaning of life from the relationships they make and the amount of people they can help.

Days roll by and time moves slower because you’re taking it all in. You’re connecting on very deep levels, having serious conversations over drinks and cheap eats while you realize the amount of talent and creativity people possess is broad, extensive and unique. You learn that people discover what they are good at over time, and sometimes later than expected in life, as well as having it come to them by chance. It gives you hope. It makes you realize that life doesn’t happen at ages, it happens in stages. And at various points in time because of the choices you make to take the chances and do the things that have always scared you most.

You see that, while yes, people do the same things to survive all over the world, cultures and norms are vastly different. Ways of talking, value systems, expectations, and actions take different forms. You understand that trusting your intuition is one of the smartest and most necessary tools you can bring to the table. You pick up on ways to know who means well and those that are just floating on by. You can spot the people still finding their way, and you can relate to having been there and then seeing those ahead of you, knowing you’ll get there, too.

You appreciate the inherent goodness in people and learn more about yourself through what people tell you they think of you. And, many times, it’s repetitive, which makes it the “truth”?

It’s not what you do, where you live and what you have. It’s who you are and what you do with the limited time you have here, there, and everywhere.

 

 

Late Night Rambles 

What the fuck am I so afraid of? Every person has a story, a history, a future and the power to act. Every day brings with it millions of opportunities for life to go one way or the other. It’s all about choices we make and the convuluted act of just going for it. 

We (maybe I should say I, but a collective make it easier to swallow) want to do something. Then, we spend so many days, months and years talking about it instead of acting. What is with human nature that makes us this way? We all know that life is finite, yet we procrastinate carelessly until it’s too late. Only then do some of us wake up and wish we could’ve done it all differently. 
Not me. Not anymore. 

I am going for it. I only have small inklings of what it is, but I will know when I’ve done it. I can feel that is the truth. I’m trusting intuition, finally. 

I am going to explore and do things I’ve never done and see what I come back with, or without. Mind games and tricks can put illusionary limits on capabilities. I am learning to quiet those unneeded thoughts. There’s a whole lot of brain power that I won’t allow to be left unused and potential lingering that needs to be ignited. 
T-3 days until takeoff. 

Things to Realize, Sooner than Later

  1.  It doesn’t matter your title or the company you work for, what matters is the work you do, day in and day out. Love it. If you don’t, leave it and find what you want to do. Then, do it. (*obviously, you have to have finances in order for this to work)
  2. There’s no such thing as “free time.” All time is the same. We get 60 seconds in a minute, 60 minutes in an hour, and so on. Only you can choose what you do with it.
  3. Possessions don’t make you happy. Relationships and experience are what really matter in life. You can buy things and realize that after a few hours or days, the momentary excitement is gone. You can go on a trip and realize that years later, the memory will still make you smile.
  4. Living too much in the future makes today more stressful than it has to be. Find a balance between short/long-term goals and your current situation. Do what you can today to reach those goals, but don’t live in the stress of what’s unknown.
  5. Back to number 4, you can’t really plan things out. Life is variable moment by moment. Be open to it.
  6. You need to love and accept yourself in order to love another fully, unapologetically, and healthily. If you don’t, all the flaws and holes you have will be projected onto them. You can’t expect someone to fill you up and do that work for you.
  7. Expectations breed a lot of disappointment and unnecessary arguments. Have standards, yes. But, expectations, no. No one deserves anything, except to be treated respectfully.
  8. Communicate. Over-communicate if you have to. People don’t read minds, and you shouldn’t expect them to. If there’s something you want, speak up. If there’s something that bothers you, talk it out before it turns into anger.
  9. Holding on to anger only hurts yourself. The other person is going to live their life whether you’re filled with fire or not. Go on and do the same. Let go.
  10. Competition is important, but you should be most competitive with yourself. Be better than you were yesterday. Build other people up while you make yourself better. Don’t tear someone else down to protect your ego- that’s just going to hurt yourself and keep you from leveling up.

Designing Your Life

Imagine that you’re given an empty room of any size in any kind of house. Your first thoughts will likely be- how to fill it with the things you need and how to decorate it so that it is aesthetically pleasing to both yourself and visitors.

Much like being given an empty room to fill, we are born into the world with untouched souls. They are pure and open for new experiences, teachings, downfalls, growth and meaning. In looking at life as a finite room, it gives the perspective that it is both open to interpretation and design, but also confined by the structures we’re born into, in this metaphor, the walls. Walls like race, arguably sex, and family are walls that as foundations stand without our creative touch and input. As much as we can design our lives the way we want to, we are categorized inside constructs and groups, the way that furniture must be measured to fit within a space. This is not to be seen as negative or limiting, but rather as a filter for how we come to see the world and decorate our lives.

Fortunately, we are the architects of our soul – we decide how we fill our time, who we interact with, and what kind of furniture we will allow to permanently remain within our space. This free will ushers in seemingly interminable choices and sometimes tough decisions that will shape who we become, to both ourselves and to the world.

The beauty in the design of life is that it’s malleable. While one choice leads down a path to a new intersection, your mind is always changing as experiences and moments move, shaping who you are. Therefore, when you arrive at the next crossroads, you have more experience to make the next decision- a ripple effect not a domino effect because ripples expand, while dominos fall.

Just like furnishing a room, tastes will change over time. While you decide to keep some key pieces (values), you will likely enhance or recreate the details surrounding those values with new choices (lifestyle).

Each phase of living in your room offers new function and informs new meaning. Nothing is permanent, and that is the essence of finding beauty in your design for it is all fleeting.

 

 

An Interpretation: Mark Tansey’s Achilles and the Tortoise & Forward Retreat

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Achilles and the Tortoise (1986) and Forward Retreat (1949)

A monochromatic blue, gargantuan canvas immediately captures my eye. In it, a rocket juxtaposed, yet racing ahead of a stoic pine tree, piques my interest as I assign meaning to it based on current events and personal feelings. At the Broad Museum, Mark Tansey’s Achilles and the Tortoise is a fascinating painting that sits adjacent to his Forward Retreat- both of which are simple, yet complex in their design.

The first includes portraits of famous people, including Princess Diana and Albert Einstein. While the foreground depicts Diana helping plant a tree with onlooking spectators, the background has a crowd of people with binoculars, watching a rocket blast into the sky. A man with a binocular stealthily watches the tree-planting ceremony, while another looks into the background at the rocket, shooting rapidly and growing taller. Directly parallel to the rocket stands a thin and long tree. Although the rocket is obviously static on the canvas, it still gives off a feeling of intense and rapid movement, clouded in white smoke that pops out against the beautiful blue backdrop. In juxtaposition to the darker tree, the smoke’s path resembles the tree to its right in its similar shape.

My interpretation is that while human development and technology race into the future, reaching figurative and literal heights that are unprecedented, nature has already been where people cannot go. The tree, as a representation of nature, stands tall, and without much attention, does the same thing that the rocket is doing (growing into the sky) with less effort and little attention. People are planting a new tree in the front of the painting with celebratory champagne, representing the human desire to create and our own celebration of our accomplishments.

However, while we can put time and effort into growing anything, from ideas to trees, we have certain limitations beyond our control. On the other hand, nature is free and will continue to exist even after we, as humans, die. Its relative immortality gives it power and beauty, and while the tree is simple compared to the other objects in the painting, it still garners so much of the viewer’s attention, much like nature does in the “real” world.

Although people stand in intense interest, staring with binoculars at the rocket blasting into space, there is one man who is facing the viewer of the painting, looking at the tree being planted instead. Perhaps, this shows that nature is more outstanding than anything humans can make on their own.

Additionally, the rocket can symbolize a tool of modern warfare and human application of the laws of space, time, and motion for their own greed and desires. Both the rocket and tree are powerful and although narrow, take up the most space on the canvas, showcasing that war and nature are potent forces to be reckoned with.

On the wall adjacent to this painting hangs a monochromatic red canvas by Tansey entitled Forward Retreat. In it, there is a pond with broken artifacts of art floating in the water and on the shore. Below it, men in military garb sit, riding backwards on horses, all of which are painted upside down. As they look off into the future, they are actually moving backwards. I think that the broken vases and pieces of history on the shore represent culture and the arts.

Although humankind believes warfare and military action can propel them into the future as they gain more “power”, the truth is that the destruction of war truly decelerates progression as it destroys the things that really move humans, namely art and culture. The title in itself is paradoxical, but it adequately describes the history of war. While we think we are moving forward, we are actually retreating and losing a sense of human nature in the process. While we aim to create and grow, we use violence and military action to quell any group of people or ideas that seemingly threaten the standing power, even when they have the potential to improve the status quo.

While both paintings are strikingly different in color and content, they both represent an overarching theme of art, culture, technology, human progress and war, even if only to my mind’s eye.

For Tupac

Its thorns got heavy

pushing through the cracks

it thought it so much easier

to die or turn back

squeezing through this concrete

in order to grow

when no one waters me

I’ve got no home

but maybe through the darkness

there will shine a brighter day

I will be the rose that grew

from

concrete

I will emerge with

real eyes on me

as I realize my dream