Few things I know for sure. Few things I think I know for sure. I know that, to me, there is nothing more important than showing love to other people. This takes priority. And the result is that I’m not depriving myself of anything. By putting others first, I’m actually receiving the ultimate joy of providing love and support to someone who deserves it. Every single person on the planet deserves it. We didn’t choose this life.
This is what is what deserves attention…what is easy to discern as a path worth pursuing… and what is most meaningful to me. Treating people lovingly is not only the right thing to do tomorrow, or in 6 months, but is also the right decision in this moment, this very second. The right decision is timeless.
Change is a beautiful thing. Interacting with others is a large facilitator of change. I hear their stories, so different from my own, and realize how their life’s course has proceeded for so long without my knowledge of their existence. I didn’t know them yesterday and now I do. And I’m a better person because of it, because of my awareness of someone’s life.
Why would I ever be afraid of people? All they consist of is a voice and a life of suffering, faced with the same challenges I am. All they are is blood, organs, flesh, language, with some combination of experiences with limited conditions. I have to assume that everyone is more or less like me.
When I reached Sacramento, I didn’t know what to do. I had a vague plan but I didn’t intend on sticking to it. I was hot. Stuffy. Three days without a shower. Glasses. Sweater. Soccer sweats. Running shoes. Unfocused. Apathetic. Longing. Confused. Self-conscious. Self-loathing. What does one do with this outlook? When bombarded by these stray, uninvited, destructive, inaccurate assessments of life?
I can’t remember her name…but does it even matter? She is identified though her actions, her words. She was so interested in my life, in my trip.. asking me where I’ve been, where I’m going, who I’ve met. This soul sitting next to me fully entered my thoughts, absorbing each word as I spoke it. When someone is really listening to you, you can see it in their eyes. She told me where to go once I get off the train–take the metro to Market East station, which is where old town and historical monuments are. Once we arrived, she led me to the metro area and wished me good luck–the most genuine good luck I’ve ever heard.
IN Philly I spent the day mostly walking. No host. But feeling free. Entirely aimless. I truly loved the lay-out of the city–simple to navigate and the streets looked similar to Charlottesville. I took a train back to D.C to stay with Braden, my old host for a few days. I need to write about the conversation we had one night: him talking about his passions…what classifies a passion.. and also of how he judges someone–not based on their job/contacts/likes/dislikes but based on how they treat other people. He referenced the purposelessness and misunderstandings involved in war. People are so much more than their religious beliefs or the labels society creates for them. He said the only part he’s concerned with is the treatment of others, pointing out that couchsurfers invite me to stay with them without knowing what I believe in or without having similar interests. I’m still treated with kindness– and this treatment takes priority.
I spent the night on the train and woke up in Charlottesville, VA to witness a sunrise that makes me glad I didn’t kill myself a year ago. I would’ve died without seeing the Virginia horizon encompass a rising star, awakening my heart and my mind. It felt like waking up in a warm bed next to someone you love, whether family or friend. You open your eyes and are suddenly fully aware of how you woke up in this bed, with this person, and not in a different bed, perhaps alone. The warm bed is enough. More than enough. But sometimes you’ll wake up next to a person you care about and maybe that person is still sleeping. I just kind of take a moment to let gratitude envelope me– and, for a small part of space-time, I’m comforted by pure amazement.
The sun rose, lit the sky on fire and awakened my heart. Charlottesville was a nice, vintage looking town. I arrived in town with the intention of finding a homeless shelter to shower in. I found it, but chickened out in the end. I’m glad though. Not sure how smart that would have been– 20 y/o girl in a building with several homeless men. Also glad because I learned how to endure feeling “dirty.” Four days without a shower felt disgusting. But I conditioned myself to stop thinking about it, believing I looked OK without. The biggest problem, surprisingly, was my feet sweating and my socks stinking.
I should mention the girl I chatted with on the train out of Atlanta. Thirty-six y/o mother of two. Single mother of two. We talked about our lives, mostly about her, and I’m glad. I love learning about people. I love experiencing that circumspect feeling of knowing what others go through. Simple facts, simple conditions of her life help illuminate and redefine my own life. She was pregnant in high school with her son. The father was seemingly non-existent: in and out of jail, incapable of providing even his presence. Her kids don’t see or talk to him 18 years later. I told her about my trip and she said she admired me, told me she would love to mirror my decision if she was without children. She made me laugh and I made her laugh too. Our lives, running independent of one another, had collided on a train at 3 o’clock in the morning. When she left at 5:30 a.m, she left me sitting there and I was a different person at 5:31, alone with my thoughts. Each person I meet offers an opportunity to look at my life from an angle previously unrecognizable. What is more enriching than that?
The Holocaust Museum makes a horror story more vivid than history books. One thing stands out: After the concentration camps were cleaned, after the war, shoes of prisoners were collected. In one room of the museum, there lies about 2ft of raddy shoes (if you can ever call them shoes), all identical in style and in quality. The room is approximately 30ft x 15ft I’d say. They represent a small portion of people murdered for their belief in a certain god. The Germans killed those who were not even Jews— those who simply had Jewish parents or grandparents. A Jewish name or Jewish wife. Like what?? Also: those with handicaps– such as deafness, blindness, autism…etc. These people were killed too…as means of “cleansing” the population.
If my mom happened to live in Germany around 75 years ago, they would have sent her to a concentration camp to be killed not based on how she treats other people but because certain nerve cells are damaged in her ear. Oh ya, only logical. Some nerve cells die–>can’t hear–> deserves to be shot. It disgusts me that so many people managed to deify a horrific idea, an ideal based on such obvious inaccuracies of judgment.
Standing on the step of Lincoln Memorial, facing the Washington Monument. This is were MLK gave his famous speech.
But then I had this dream last night: I was watching the Laker game and simultaneously explaining to someone why I like Kobe Bryant. I woke up and in an intense moment of clarity, at 3 a.m, I asked myself if I would continue to idolize Kobe if he did something that went against my beliefs of right/ wrong. Then I realized he already has: he cheated on his wife and blah blah blah. But I choose to ignore this, and almost excuse this, because I like the way he plays basketball. Everything that he says or does is filtered by my admiration of him– and I put him on a pedestal because watching him makes me feel empowered and inspired. He could kill someone and I’d still make an argument for his kindness. How crazy is that? Almost as crazy as the Germans’ loyalty towards a man who slaughters innocent people but who also makes the citizens of Germany feel empowered and hopeful. It’s easy to demarcate good and bad behavior when you’ve never been forced to redefine morality. So that was in Washington D.C.
Also went to: White house, all Smithsonian Museums (amazing, AND free), Lincoln Memorial (more epic in person than in photographs), Washington Monument, World War 2 Memorial.