Finding the Light 

I want to pour the milk in your coffee

And watch it dance in circles 

Round and round it goes

Turning darkness into light 

Drink up the love 

And soak up the sun

Are you still by my side? 

Or have I left you behind? 

We traversed the corners of the nation 

But took a backseat at home 

Like wax dropping down a candle

The moth never survives the flame 

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Love Does.

“I used to be afraid of failing at something that really mattered to me, but now I’m more afraid of succeeding at things that don’t matter.” – Bob Goff

If you haven’t heard of the book “Love Does,” here you go. Yesterday, I was sitting in a friend’s loft hanging out under her stairs, and I noticed a pile of three books. All looked intriguing, but this one stood as I was drawn to the title. When it comes to books, if I’m not captivated within the first few pages, I likely won’t finish it, so I don’t begin (tough critic, I know – especially for someone with ambitions to write a novel one day).

But, my intuition was right. I read the first line of this book and was immediately hooked. I actually could not put it down and finished it in 1.5 sittings (given I had to sleep). It’s one of those books that you cannot wait to read, but you also never want it to end. Each chapter represents a story from Bob Goff’s life, from the seemingly mundane to the extraordinary, like becoming the counsel for Uganda even though he thought the whole ordeal was his friend playing a practical joke on him. Each story has a message and lesson that resonate universally. Throughout the pages that I couldn’t turn fast enough, I laughed out loud and teared up, ending on the last page with wet eyes. Like people, I think books come into our lives for reasons and if we are lucky, at just the right time.

Despite some of the religious undertones throughout the book, the gist will mean something different to everyone, regardless of your belief system. For me, at this stage of life, it really illuminated the fact that when you do what you love and shed light unto the world, the possibilities and opportunities continue to open and multiply. Here’s the thing, this past week of doing seemingly “nothing” in Costa Rica have probably been the most life-changing and eye-opening as the time has been introspective. And, it’s been introspective with a purpose – the purpose to find what really calls to my heart and soul so that I can create actions that bring this love to my life and others. Small things become the big things when you have the time and energy to notice them.

I could go on and on about all the moments that have become strung together, like a fragments of glass creating a new lens to see, feel and understand the world.

Suffice it to say that the quote above really hit me hard. Growing up, with both school and jobs, I’ve been the hardest on myself. For example, in both high school and university, if I were to get an A-, I wanted to add an extra line to turn that into an A+. When it came to work, I never knew how to leave it at the desk when I went home (or shut down when I worked from home, because I never did shut down). That’s something that seems oddly unique to America. We talk about “work/life” balance, when it shouldn’t be balanced. There’s the cliche “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life” But, sometimes we work jobs that actually don’t matter to us personally because we use them as a means to make ends meet [or to buy things we don’t need], yet they consume us. If you’re lucky enough to love what you do because you do what you love, then that is and should be your life – there’s nothing to balance.

It’s all a case by case basis, definitely not a one size fits all mentality that every person with a job should feel forced to subscribe to. That’s why I’ve decided that whatever I do next will be something I love and care about deeply, so that no matter if I’m “taking it home,” it’s because I want to, not because I feel like I have to be available around the clock to build someone else’s dream.

Read this slowly:

The small things (that we should notice and that do really matter) can become the big things (that do really matter) or  the small things (that don’t matter) can become the big things (that don’t matter) – just depends on what we give focus to and our perspective.

Measures of success growing up were written in stone by outside factors, but as you grow up and away from the constraints and definitions that institutions create, you realize how much they really do not matter. You begin defining what matters for yourself and if you follow that path that brings you joy and, in turn, lights the way for others to learn, grow and prosper, then, success is everywhere. Failure is something most people fear, but like failure, fear is not real.

When I return home, I’m going to have a day job that aligns with causes I care about and that way, there will be no way to succeed at things that don’t matter because everything I do will be set with an intention that really does matter. And, it’s not just about my job – it’ll be everything from the mundane to the extraordinary, because that’s what allows us to live fully, and that’s what love does.

Sand, Se(e) and Shorelines

People say the world is small, and that’s an expression to showcase how the seemingly coincidental moments occur. When you really think about it, the world is large, vast and in a way, can be considered infinite. Often when I’m at the beach, I think about all the grains of sand and how there is no way to walk over every piece of sand. And, that’s just one beach. What about the rest of the world? It’s impossible to traverse every inch of ground around the planet, let alone your own city.

We get so caught up in what we are doing in the place we are doing it, without every thinking about what’s happening all over the world. We make our worlds small because it helps to categorize life in buckets of things to do, people to see, new places to try, etc. etc. But, it also adds to the anxiety of making every small decision seem like it’s bigger than it really is. When we live inside these bubbles, everything we do on the daily is magnified, but when you consider the fact that people are living their lives in all different ways a mile, 10,000 miles, and 100,000 miles away, you realize that the world is large, and you are small. While you’re overthinking about the choice of the moment, the world is still turning and no matter what you decide, life will still happen.

It’s like looking up at the stars on a cloudless night or standing on top of a mountain and looking out at the view. It all gives a really good sense of perspective to know that both the good and the bad are small blimps in the timeline of your life. While you need to appreciate each moment and each day as they come, it’s okay to also realize that if it won’t matter in 5 years, it likely also won’t matter in 5 minutes, and you can stop dwelling on the tiny things that cause unnecessary overthinking. The funny thing is people always look to others for advice, from the mundane like “should I wear this shirt or that one?/”what coffee should I order?” to the more dramatic “should I quit my job?/should I move to this city?” when they really know what they want. That’s why so often, when we ask a question and someone gives the answer, we still end up doing the opposite – it just takes the courage to listen and accept what you already know to be your own truth.

I’m making an effort to consider choices like I do a grain of sand – they are infinite, both small and large, and like the waves that come and go to create new grains of sand, I don’t always (and more often don’t at all) control the decisions that will follow after I decide. But, when all is said and done, we still traverse the shoreline of our lives and have the power to sink or swim.

 

Perro Descendente

Last night, I went to a yoga class like never before.

I had zero expectations and was ready to do my downward dogs and chaturangas for the following 60 minutes. Classic of me – I was the first to arrive, even before the studio doors were open (because for me, early is on time and on time is late…except when you’re in Costa Rica and on time is obviously early).

The entire space was solely the room used for the practice, as opposed to having a lounge, shop, locker room, and various rooms like most places in Los Angeles do. There was so much beauty in the space’s simplicity. Form, only for function.

When you open the glass door to enter the studio, you immediately ascend a few stairs and then, there you are, on the wooden floor. Glass windows and doors surround the square floor as trees fill the views. To the left, there’s a sliding door the length of the room that opens to a small deck covered in trees.

This was the first time I was doing yoga in a dim lit room, to the sound of music and pouring rain, and, of course (a small element I had forgotten) in Spanish. The teacher, from the Netherlands, looked at me before beginning class and asked, “Class in Spanish ok?” Who am I to say no?  We are in Costa Rica, plus it’d be good for me to brush up on how to say body parts like chest (pecho), shoulders (hombros) and hips (calderas) in Español.

Midway through the class, the torrential downpour began. That’s how it is here – clear skies and then instantly a storm. It was the most peaceful and beautiful experience. The room would get flashes of brightness from the lightening and as we held each pose, I could focus on the sound of the raindrops, which like the sweat beads dripping down my face, flowed freely.

At the end of class, we ended in the pose that most yoga classes do – shavasana, or “corpse pose”(in Sanskrit, “Shava” means corpse and “Asana” means pose/seat). It’s a balance between relaxation and meditation, where you steady your mind and body completely as you lie in supine position. After the hour of poses, it’s a much appreciated position, and often times for me, the place where I really feel the benefits of the practice and completely mentally succumb. I also appreciate the fact that it is completely different each time.

I was so deeply into it that when the yoga teacher came over and unexpectedly touched my legs, I literally jumped. She did something no teacher has done during this pose. Taking my legs into her arms, she swung them back and forth like the motion of a hammock, then shook them up and down and quickly massaged each foot before laying it back on the floor. Immediately as my legs touched the ground, I could feel the blood rushing upwards, against the flow that comes so naturally with gravity, and felt the sensation moving towards my heart and head. It was magical. I then fell even deeper into the relaxation, so much so that it actually felt like my body was sinking into the floor. With the clapping sound of the rainfall, I imagined myself becoming a puddle of water, and felt almost disconnected from my own body, while still feeling it immensely from the inside out.

Needless to say, from the Spanish instructions (which admittedly made me feel anxious at first) to the nightfall, incense, music, dim lighting, storm outside and entire set up, the class was a magnificent way to end an otherwise mundane day.

 

Nomadic Inhabitant

It’s times like these when surroundings weigh heavy on the questions of meaning.

By definition, inhabit means to live or occupy (a place or environment). Right now, I’m inhabiting Costa Rica. This is the seventh country I have inhabited  in the past two and a half months. More importantly, I feel like my headspace has inhabited many different worlds. Everywhere I’ve been, I’m there, taking it all in, but different pieces of me are on display to both others and myself.

Here’s the thing about moving from place to place and not having a permanent home  – you discover things about yourself that only come up because of your surroundings. Especially when time is slowed down.

Costa Rica is very laid back. And, I don’t mean Los Angeles style chilling at Venice Beach laid back. I mean, people say “good morning” at 2:30 PM, they run on “tico time,” which basically just means time is a figment of imagination, there are no street addresses, mail doesn’t really exist, bus schedules are by word of mouth, and shops close when foot traffic is too slow. The weather is fickle – one minute the sun is shining, and the next minute, there’s a torrential downpour with thunder and lightening.

But, it’s here that you can take it all in. You appreciate each moment and nature’s beauty in her purest forms. You notice the clouds cascading in front of the rainforest-laden mountaintop on your way to the local farmer’s market. You smell the scent of asphalt in the morning after the rain has soaked the sand and debris. You hear the sounds of children kicking a soccer ball on a muddy grass patch. You watch the bicycles glide on by as the cars honk their horns. People exchange “holas” on the street, and everyone knows your name because the small community is built on connections.

While wages are low and living costs are relatively high, the important things really matter here, like the environment, art and people. The community cares deeply about recycling and compost. Wherever you see a trash can, there’s a recycling bin right next to it. Beer companies pick up empty bottles from bars, take them to sanitation and reuse them for the next brew. Street art and hand-crafted items are ubiquitous. The art of making coffee is crafted with a passion as strong as its aroma.

But here’s where it gets tricky. The down time and silence becomes loud and powerful. It’s asking me what I want to spend my time doing. It’s telling me to do something meaningful. Maybe it happens when you stop fighting it. That’s when the answers come through like the sunshine after the storm.

Everything about life here is much different than what I’m used to. Like everywhere though, purpose is needed to satiably inhabit the spaces we navigate as humans.

Inspired by: The Daily Post

 

Finally (Un)Settled

After taking trains, planes, buses, subways, cars and boats every couple of days and moving around between cities and countries, I’ve finally been somewhat settled in the London area for over a week (….it’s still hard to keep track of days). But, here I am, halfway across the world, calling this apartment my “home” because it’s where I can cook my food, simply hang out and rest my head at night.

That’s the funny thing about life – you’re born in a location you don’t choose, and for many, it’s home forever. I think our generation is really shifting this fact. From workplaces to living situations, offices and bedrooms are becoming global, and the world is both our play and work ground.

People always say “do what makes you happy” and then society places this box around what’s accepted and expected. If you were to truly design your life, start with just one day. How would you wake up and spend your time? What routines would you like to implement? What would you avoid wasting your time on?

Every day, here, while traveling, I’m trying to wake up and do the things that I actually want to do. For example, yesterday, I went for a 3 mile run near the Thames and then went to a coffee shop nearby to read. This morning, I’m listening to music and writing, then I’ll spend the day with my friend, because that’s exactly what I want to be doing.*  I’m very aware that there’s privilege in this set-up because I don’t have to be at work at a certain time or take care of kids, etc., but if there’s something that you want, there’s ways to make time work on your side, regardless of responsibilities. With a surrounding fortunate set of circumstances, I’ve worked to make this my reality.

Some people have asked when I’m coming home. I don’t have the answer. For as long as this is what I want to be doing, I’ll do it and make it work, however I have to. I once made the mistake of flying home from Australia instead of continuing on with a friend to New Zealand because I felt like I had to (or should) go home and jump back into a job. I’m not going to prematurely end what I want to be doing because of external influences that make me think I should be doing something else. Now, after having a taste of actually doing what I want, when I want (this has become my definition of freedom), I am willing to do whatever it takes to continue.

Life is a series of choices. We are faced with big and small ones everyday. Choose whatever it is that sets your soul on fire and practice day in and day out.

“I am the master of my fate,

      I am the captain of my soul. ” – William Ernest Henley
* Side note: other skills I want to learn – if you have advice on the best ways to do it, please share – graphic design, another language, basic coding, an instrument

 

Stranger Things Have Happened (Pun Intended)

“Other side,” he said. I’ve been in England since Thursday evening, and every time I’ve walked up to my friend Luke’s car, it’s been mistakenly on the driver side. Naturally, it’s understandable given I’ve come from America where our driver side is their passenger side, but it’s still comical to me. It also serves as a reminder that there is no such thing as “normal.” Despite the fact everyone here speaks English and it’s the most like where I come from out of the places I’ve recently been, I can’t help but feel like people just know I’m not from around here, even before I speak with my hard “a’s” and emphasized “-er’s.” Plus, crossing the street is always enjoyable when you look the wrong way first.

After spending at least 10 minutes with Border Patrol promising them I plan to go back to America despite not having booked a flight home, I proceeded on an hour long train/bus journey to meet my friend. It was painless and easy because the public transportation here is really incredible. I met some friendly strangers along the way, one Kiwi girl who actually shared some of her scone with me on the bus because she knew I was really hungry. There’s still good in the world…

I’ve been wanting to see London for quite some time, and timing couldn’t have been better. When I mentioned coming in passing to a really close friend of mine from here, whom I met two years ago in a hostel in Australia, he said I should definitely come and welcomed me into his home. He and his family couldn’t have been more gracious hosts. We explored the country side where he lives, went for delicious meals, and shared serious stories over drinks at the local pub. And, we took part in one of the most British pastimes – a pub quiz (of which I contributed next to nothing).

I was really taken aback by the scenery and my thoughts of how dramatically different the landscape is from what I experienced during my childhood. We literally walked through woods to get into town. Rolling hills, cows, cloudy skies, and brick houses fill the quaint neighborhood. One of my favorite parts about neighborhoods here are the flower pots hanging everywhere because they add so much color to the streets, and of course, the British accents.

Apparently, some people find it quite strange that he was hosting me, considering we only met once in person for a few days across the world two years ago, but when you meet people like that, it forges a friendship for life, and I’m really grateful for this chain of events.

Even better is that it all worked out when it did, as I was here during his 29th birthday weekend, which we celebrated in a treehouse-like pub surrounded by his close, and obviously great friends. I say obvious because I’m a firm believer that you’re the sum of the parts with whom you surround yourself.

And now, for the real kicker. During my travels in Croatia, when I was “stuck” on the island of Hvar waiting for my “new old” iPhone 5 to make its way through customs, I met a woman named Emma in the hostel bar/restaurant. We struck up a conversation when she complimented my laptop case – my laptop which was only out because of my phone being broken (see previous post about being phoneless on an island). Immediately, we began talking with another guy I had previously met (from Georgia) and got into a deep conversation about race, family, culture and more. It was clear that she and I have a lot in common and a lot to learn from one another.

We then spent the next few days together, walking around Hvar, eating and cooking, sharing stories, and going out at night with groups of new friends we made during our hostel stay. (Sidenote: If you’re ever in Hvar and need a hostel to stay at, follow the path to The White Rabbit, where it’ll feel like you’re with family).

And now, I’m here in Twickenham, London in Emma’s apartment,  waiting for her to come back home from her touring some of Europe on a Bus About trip. Then, we’ll see more sights here as she’s welcomed me into her home as if it were the “normal” thing to do.

It’s funny how the world works when you stop planning and believing you have control over what’s to come. Granted, you need to make moves and take steps to accelerate, but you also have to be open to speaking to strangers who, when the timing is right, become your closest friends.