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.
Kindness is everywhere, and its production is not dictated by whether you graduate high school, whether you’re homeless, whether you’re on drugs, whether you’re educated ( Sometimes. Education tends to inculcate acceptance, tolerance, perspective and therefore limits mistreatment of others with opposing beliefs/ways of living). Beyond this though, achieving a masters degree, wearing a suit every day–this life produces kindness equivalent with that of a stay-at-home mom who never graduates high school.
I’m affected by both lives in the same way, to the same extent, by both of these people whose lives have zero similarities. What do you say to that? What does this mean?
On the train to Portland, OR I sat next to a woman with so much energy that I knew she suffered without it. I’ve laughed that laugh before. She told her story. Another story. Another perspective. She was insightful, polite, and modest. Returning from a court hearing in an effort to retrieve her two daughters, to win custody over them. Her husband is abusive (she says). Physically, emotionally abusive. Has hit her, cussed her out. Her church actually banished her for divorcing him.
We talked a lot about addictions, morals, family, love, loving yourself, jealousy, worthiness. More specifically, sibling jealousy and how it relates to birth order. I confessed my discomfort of the unspoken distribution of love in my family. And when it is spoken of, I’m accused of being loved the most and being handed everything. She told me to stop punishing myself and stop feeling guilty for being loved by so many people who give me opportunities. Appreciate it…move on. No guilt. Continue to re-emit and reflect the love I receive. I need to believe that I deserve it.
She was kind. She is kind no matter what God or Gods she believes in. I hope she got her kids.
There are so many types of people. Holy shit. Such variety in tone, behavior, appearance, outlook. How could I ever seriously believe I won’t find someone to spend my life with?
Some people put me at ease almost instantly; while it takes me much longer to feel relaxed around someone I don’t identify with. Whenever I’m around my host, I can’t help but feel incredibly engaged and expectant. I knew there was so much potential if only we asked the right questions about each other. The third night, we asked the right questions–questions that revealed a rare and beautiful connection between us. I laughed harder than I had in weeks– a genuine laugh–and I had never been able to relate with a guy, concerning so much, until meeting him.
View from the top of the Rockefeller Center
We were lying there and for a brief, powerful moment, we stared at each other fully aware of what was to happen next. I broke away my gaze and went to the bathroom. I returned to find him closer to my side of the bed. I got under the covers as he inched further towards me. For a second he gave me this intense, sexy look and a quick smile. After a few moments of silence and a few deep breaths, he placed his head closer to my pillow and told me how attracted he was to me and how our conversation only intensified that attraction. I felt my heart race instantly and blood rushed to my face. He positioned his face so that our noses brushed up against each others as he exhaled loudly. He said he really wanted to kiss me. I took a few moments to respond. No words came out though. I just gave him an anxious smile. He knew I felt exactly how I did: In complete awe of one another and that chaos had brought us together. He kissed me and then..you know..
Little did I know that this would be the third guy that would kiss me on my trip. I did not plan for this…
The next night: I didn’t allow much to happen. I liked him but I also told my host from a different city( D.C) that I liked him too. I had crazy mixed feeling and I couldn’t wrap my reasoning around my choices. I felt so uneasy. I also like my NY host so much that when he wanted to touch my body more than talk, I took offense. I wanted to continue talking, laughing, and getting to know him. By his behavior, I couldn’t tell if he only liked my body. I was getting frustrated with being treated as a shell of a person, empty beyond my “sexy” body as I kept being told. If I hear that word one more time…
Coming from my last host, I already felt materialized. My present one had the same tendencies. He would change the topic of conversation and inch towards me convincing me to consent. I was angry and a little hurt. I turned over and let my mind wander until sleep cradled me.
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.
On the train. Should be in D.C within the hour. Maryland is beautiful; we’ve been traveling along the river for more than a couple hours. Thin, naked trees surrounding the riverbed and piles of dead leaves covering the earth. The sun is shining, illuminating the white rapids. Where the water is calm, almost completely still, it mirrors the bare forest above. How do I feel about my trip? I feel it’s important to press on. I have no idea what awaits me.
Today: John Hancock Observatory. Beyond beautiful. It’s weird to think about all the different forms of beauty–and the countless ways in which we can discover beautiful things…things that make my heart smile and bring my soul peace…things that essentially breathe life into me and spark passion, wonder, and gratitude. What could be more beautiful than this moment I am in? A completely spotless portion of existence with endless possibilities. Society can tell me whatever it wants, but I’m in control–and I live with my decisions. I suffer the consequences of listening an abiding by what others tell me is right. I’m learning how to be nice to myself so that I might be able to give the world all that I have. I don’t search for good feeling; I create it right now and allow it to sweep over me.
Also in Chicago:
Museum of Science and Industry = amazing.
Watched Arrested Development three nights in a row with my Couchsurfing host, Adam.
Went to a yummy Senegalese restaurant, came home and had an awesome talk about philosophy and relationships. He speaks with so much intelligence and fore-though. I hope we are friends for a long time. A book on Adam’s coffee table: Tibetan Book of the Dead.
Lincoln Park, Millennium Park, Lincoln Park Zoo, Hyde Park, Chapel Tour, Little Italy, Greek Town, Lake Michigan, Obama’s house, Michigan Ave., Water Tower ( wasn’t destroyed by Chicago fire), Tribune Building, Cultural Center, Chicago Temple, Chicago Theater, Rock& Roll McDonalds (mansion looking), Comedy show at IO Theater
My host, Adam, is 25 years old and has a graduate degree in music. He’s been to Tanzania ( pictures= amazing). Such a great person to talk to. So considerate and nice. Something about him is very pleasant to be around. I feel relaxed and confident when I’m with him. I felt rewarded for my efforts in blindingly trusting a stranger. It’s a good feeling– knowing my host won’t come up and stab me in the middle of the night–and, instead, will enrich my life, will breathe life into me. I haven’t been raped, mugged, or attacked yet. Never been so happy to say that. The world is a beautiful place if I choose to acknowledge its generosity. It will give me everything I want if I choose to accept it, if I choose to work for it. Adam makes me want to work for it.
Still to do: dye part of my hair a different color, buy a homeless person a meal, play soccer with strangers, leave # on check at restaurant, fall in love (ha), look through a telescope, ride on a motorcycle.
I’m noticing that goals like “pay 5 people compliments in every city” are things I do without thinking about it. I’m here. And my attitude is already “balls out.” I don’t need to remind myself to be adventurous and impulsive and giving. My approach to life in this moment is nothing but adventurous, impulsive and giving. Forgive people who treat me worst on the trip? I’m required to do that. Otherwise I beat myself up and take a train back home. It’s confidence and optimism or it’s nothing.
Jessica, my Couchsurfing host in Minneapolis, grew up in North Dakota (Fargo I think). She made me feel so welcome by insisting I take her food, light rail card, clothes to change into etc… I got to wash my clothes and stock up on grape-nuts and apples (my staple foods throughout the trip). Without her knowing it, she kept me going, kept me progressing forward. She gave me hope that I could meet more people like her. When we were eating at “Chatterbox,” her smile gave me the confidence to believe I’m doing the right thing by adventuring. My life has become enriched through meeting her and hearing her stories. And I’m now a better person for having met her. That’s what this trip is all about: opening my eyes.
My other Couchsurfing host, Michael, works at Sea Life. One more person who gives me faith in humanity. The first time I genuinely laughed on my trip was when we played fetch with a sea lion at the zoo. No one there. Except for us. And this animal chucks its toys over the glass, landing at our feet. We throw it back. Repeat five times. Who knew? Not me.
Went to a Couchsurfing event at a local bar (even though I’m 20 and couldn’t drink).
Went to the conservatory (green house, plants from around the world), and recognized a tree from Singapore, as well as sugar cane from Hawaii.
Zoo. I still hate seeing animals caged up like that. It was so awesome seeing them close up though. I’m torn, and I hate myself for saying that. Just seeing the Apes was chilling. They’re so powerful and so smart– and yet they don’t even get to utilize their skills in nature. This doesn’t make sense to me. And I don’t even have to look farther than the orangutang grasping a child’s toy to understand how unnatural the circumstance is. Don’t get me started on how IDENTICAL looking they are to humans. I’m looking in the mirror–except my reflection is behind bars, staring back at me.
Science Museum. Better than Omsi (in Portland). Visually stunning. And stimulating
Mall of America. Uhh huge freaking mall. That’s about it. Visually stunning as well. And the shops/restaurants are just nicer looking than most malls. Mom would love…she’d never leave.
Sea Life Aquarium (in mall). Just wow. Never see such unique sea life. Huge and pretty fish, jelly fish (lit up by rainbow lights– reminded me of Avatar). Rest of the room was dark–and all you could see was the jelly fish bouncing around in clear cylinders illuminated from the bottom by bright colors. Also at Sea Life– holy sharks! Dude. I have never seen a shark before, let alone like twenty hovering over my head in a narrow tunnel as delicate symphony music is playing in the background. Ya right!! That’s not going to stop my heart from racing. I’m sure there are Aquariums in Portland. It’s funny how I only do some things just because I’m in uncharted territory. However, I didn’t plan on going. My host works there and got me admitted for free. 10/10 would see sharks again.
Minnehaha Falls (frozen). We went there at night when it was -20 degrees, not including wind gusts. My host, Micheal’s, beard was frozen with ice crystals after 2 min outside.
Minneapolis Institute of Arts. After getting lost on buses for an hour in -10 degree weather, I finally made it there. Ya, I made it there alright, with 15 minutes till closing. I saw some cool looking stuff–art isn’t really my thing so I’m not distraught over lost time. As I was walking there, I was approached by an older black man smoking a cigarette. He told me I do a good job of holding up traffic on the sidewalk..lol. He was nice–offered to help with directions that ultimately led me to the right place. He made me smile. This got me thinking, once again, that for every time I’m treated rudely there is a time when someone treats me kindly and warms my heart. There is the bus driver who yells at me for not putting enough money in the machine; There is also the lady who goes out of her way to help me on the street when I’m lost, freezing, and gotta pee. There’s also my hosts, who aid me without expecting anything in return. Here is beauty. But would things appear beautiful if there was no ugliness? Is ugliness even ugliness? Or is it a different form of beauty? When someone is rude to me, like the store owner laughing when I ask her where a bathroom is, is this necessarily an ugly thing? It doesn’t have to be. And, essentially, it is not. Broken down into its parts, it is someone’s lips moving…her vocal chords vibrating…and the sound waves reverberating, crashing into air molecules. And I’m allowing this physics to bring me discomfort. I don’t have to. And would I not perceive beauty if I had no painful experiences to juxtapose it with? Discomfort gives me an opportunity to practice reassessing my surroundings–so that I may be able to deconstruct “negativity” into it’s parts which, if examined closely, are still beautiful.
Went to a restaurant called ” The Chatterbox.” ***** Five stars. A board game/ video game themed restaurant. Couches facing TVs; chairs in front of pac man; people playing board games at their booth while eating dinner. And somehow this places still appears classy. Jessica (my host) and I played Chutes and Ladders. I lost 3 in a row. A game purely based on luck and yet I got creamed–3 times. She told me about her boyfriend cheating on her, her parents’ divorce, her hatred of where she works, her Mom getting Alzheimer’s– and yet this girl is the happiest, most positive person I’ve met in a long time. She’s confident and calm and extremely nice. And considerate. Her roommate, Amber, is just the same. These people do exist. And in this moment I’m convince that humanity and goodness will shine down on my life. Because of people like Jessica.
Went downtown to explore the Skywalk. Pretty awesome. Like 20 blocks of suspended, indoor sidewalks–all connecting businesses, shops, and food. Although, I spent half the time looking for a bathroom. Kill me. Another half the time, talking to my sister and Mom and feeling homesick. That’s just a feeling I have to get used to. I know it will return.
Walked on frozen Mississippi River. I trust nature, but I’ve also Seen “Mr. Deeds” 5,000 times and couldn’t mask my fear of falling through the ice. Jessica, once again, so enthusiastic of wanting me to have a good time. Her boyfriend, Roger, was with us most of the time. The way Jessica interacts with him– so unrestrained, confident, affectionate…I would’ve never guessed she’s been cheated on and has a mother who won’t remember who her daughter is pretty soon. I don’t know how she manages to keep herself available. It is inspiring. The happiness she receives from opening up to people, to Roger, is only achieved through fearlessness.
Ate at “The Nook” with Michael (my first host). Popular/ highly recommended burger place. Pretty dang good. Well priced.
And now, NOW, I’m on the train once again headed for Chicago.
What did I expect? Or do my expectations even matter? What actually happened? or does what happened even matter? I can’t imagine anything more important than this moment I am in. My efforts are wasted if I put forth energy in pursuing/ avoiding things; it is also wasted if I concentrate on past experiences. All that I’m required to attend to is this moment, and to maintaining peace and hopefulness. The only person responsible for my happiness is me. Approach and recoil get me no where. Why not just stand still? Let the moment engulf me–its presence asking only for self-discipline and nothing more? Do I receive any benefit from my fear? Or does it drain me… and bring me to my knees? Does it bully me? Does it give me hallucinations? Is it showing me what’s real? The things I fear will happen–they will only happen if I don’t produce an opposing force: hope, the natural force. There is no acceleration in either direction if those forces are balanced. Why not just stand still–just be here?