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.
Being away from my belongings and distancing myself from materialism shows me just how valuable clothes, jewelry, and “statuses” are. Like what…? I’ve been wearing the same outfit for over three weeks (washing whenever possible). I walk into Macy’s in downtown NY and the truth could not be any clearer. So many people long for costumes so that they might be defined in a positive, superficial light. I haven’t worn make-up in over 3 months. Nor have I worn something “stylish”, or even changed my hair. And yet I’ve gotten more attention from guys than I ever have before. Need I say more about the pointlessness of masking ourselves?
No one would believe me straight up though. If you told me five years ago that, if I stop wearing make-up, it won’t change how guys see me, I wouldn’t believe you. These types of things people only discover on their own. Having confidence feels so much better than feeling inferior and embarrassed. I would like others to believe in themselves. The least I could do is set a good example. What do I have to lose, exactly?
My Couchsurfing host took me to see Isabella Rosolini and then out to an Italian Restaurant at 11:00 p.m. We drank a few glasses of wine over a candle lit dinner. The dim light flickered on the table and created shadows on his face, accentuating the friendliness in his eyes. We talked about his divorce, his kids, his doubts over finding someone else to marry. His delicate tone and hesitant word choice had me sympathizing with him from the first sentence to the very last. How did you deal with such heartbreak? I asked and he answered as if it had happened yesterday. He told me the divorce was not mutual. She left him. This guy is one of those rare characters who is incessantly nice to people without asking for anything in return. He said his marriage was going well and was essentially blind-sided. Good people get treat like shit and there’s nothing else to it. There are no mean of prevention. As much as it hurts to endure mistreatment, it’s ridiculous to try and prevent mistreatment. It is simply a condition of life. As Marcus Aurelius says, it’s assigned to everyone.
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.