Tag Archive : relationships

I’m speaking in front of crowds of people. I’m acting, teaching, making a fool of myself for everyone to see. I’m being pushed to all my uncomfortable limits… and I’m loving every bit of it.

I only experience true joy when I am challenging myself, surprising myself, and becoming proud of myself.  I only experience true joy when I see my joy spread to other people, when I know they have received some benefit from my efforts.

Why is this?   I think it’s because I love life more when I give to other peiple, even if it’s hard at times. I think I receive more when I give more. Not in a victimized way, not anymore. I’m giving because deep down I actually want to- not because the act is expected from me. I’m exhausted and I’m happy. It’s all worth it.

Maybe some days my effort feels wasted or ignored or ineffective. But those days when I put everything I have out on the table, the days when I hold no part of me back, reaching as far as I can reach, I lean back and admire what I have done, and what others have done because I extended all of myself.

I think my mind is supposed to be shared. My ideas, my love- what use are they if I keep them hidden from veiw?  They have the potential to be a drop of red dye in a glass of water- dye that instantly spreads and is absorbed by the surrounding matter. That matter is the mind of each one of my students. And that dye is every thought I’ve ever had, capable of innundating the minds of others, and capable of so much more than I can predict.

I’m in a car with a Taiwanese mother and daughter who do not speak English. We’re driving on roads I’ve never driven on, passing by mountains I’ve never seen. I’m eating food that, two weeks ago, I never knew existed. But these roads, these mountains, this food, is all most Taiwanese people know. It’s all they’ve ever seen, and it’s all some them will ever see.

Ninety-nine percent of the people I’ve asked tell me they’ve never been to the United States. Of those 99%, about half of them have never even left Taiwan. And they are happy. They are content with their familiar life-styles. Who am I to tell them they are “missing out” if they don’t visit the U.S.? What exactly are they lacking, if they are happy? Awareness? Maybe, but most of them do not even have the means to be aware. And by that I mean money. They are poor by U.S. standards.

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A beach In Tainan, Taiwan. A new friend took this picture without my knowledge. I stared at this photo for too long. I was taken back by how different our perspectives can be, even if we are at the same place at the same time.

I gaze out the window and I smile to myself, knowing that there are so many sources of happiness in this world, and that pure amazement is one of them. I stare out the window and I feel warm and appreciative of simple things-like the fact that I’m in a car with this mother and her daughter, who is a student in my classroom. And the fact that they are simply there, offering me awareness of another life’s course.

Frequently my surroundings stimulate a powerful realization, one that is becoming more and more apparent to me the longer I’m here: there are very few customs that can be universally defined as “good.” You can argue which customs make you happy- but they won’t please everyone. You can argue that a certain way of living is ethically good. But there will always be someone who disagrees with you. What I think I know is good and just- I will be re-evaluating, exploring, doubting for the rest of my life ( hopefully). I want to doubt. I want to reconsider. I want to welcome criticism and I want to know better so that I might be able to do better.

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I’m learning- absorbing everything new and different, slightly disturbing, awesome, scary…Every day I am reminded that we can have beautiful moments with people without speaking, without knowing each others language. We can look in someone’s eyes and see them smiling, without needing to hear the words that describe their happiness. Every day I am once again blown away by the similarities among people all over the world. I may not know how to speak to you, but we both know what a smile means.

We both know what tears mean. We both know what embarrassment feels like. We both feel sadness at times. Both feel excited when good fortune arises, when we receive something we’ve wanted for a long time. We both feel.  We may react to stimuli differently, but we both react. Feelings, emotions run through every body whether that body is in the United States or in China or in Italy or wherever. And within those emotions we find common ground, we find connection. Not always within language.

Words can only do so much. But what if I don’t want you to talk to me, what if all I really want is a hug. What if all I want is a smile, a hand to hold, a person to dance with? What if I want the comfort  of your presence, or reassurance through facial expressions? Can you give that to me through words? Every day I am motivated by the answer to that question. I will build a connection with my students, because I know that connection is built upon so much more than language.

11739571_511115402376544_194161524_nI’m tempted to say that Taiwanese students are shy. But shy is an understatement. I feel like there is no word in the English language to describe their overall behavior, behavior that seems to be instilled in them from the moment they open their eyes as a baby. They demonstrate a shyness that is not just indicative of an awkward teenage phase. This trait is bred not just in students but in the entire culture. Adults, kids, teenagers…everyone, with the exception of a few people who we would describe as confident but docile in the U.S.

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In the classroom I do whatever I can to help the students feel comfortable talking, but a lot of times I’m left feeling frustrated an confused. The feeling of “talking to a brick wall” comes to mind. But I know they are just scared. I keep having to remind myself that they aren’t used to talking back to the teacher; education in Taiwan seems to promote teachers lecturing the students, while the students sit there and listen, mute. They have been taught to respect- and fear- the teacher. And not to talk back. So how do I make them un-learn these tendencies?? It’s not going to happen.

All I can do is try to get them to see me as a friend- a friend who knows English and plays games with them.

 

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In one week, I leave for Taipei, Taiwan. I’ll be teaching English to students involved in a program called World Passport. For two months I will live in and around Taipei. I’m excited but also partially frightened by the news I’ve heard regarding the weather in Taiwan. I mean, 3-4 typhoons per summer? Should I just walk myself out now…? Lol aside from the horrifying article that told me Taiwan is the 4th most dangerous place to live in the world, everything else I’ve heard is positive about the environment and the people. (Apparently) cheap food, polite locals, beautiful mountains. 

But for real, I have no idea what to expect. That’s what makes this experience potentially  challenging, thrilling, surprising, reawarding, and completely awesome. Travelling is unpredictable and that’s precisely why I love it: It provides me with a new breed of happiness from an unexpected source. In awe of new people, new scenery, new ideas, I thrive in new joy. I relish in the depths of learning, of a mind absorbing all that is foreign and frightening but also beautifully different. Here, in this state of mind, I am my best self.

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Near the Museum of Modern Art

January 29, 2014

I’m currently on the train, headed towards Atlanta. In New York, I met up with a Couchsurfer from Dubai. His name was Ahmed. He moved to Manhattan two days prior to get his masters in Business.

The first day we met, we walked throughout Central Park. After an hour or so of walking, we sat down on the cold concrete steps in front of a fountain surrounded by ice sculptures. I began explaining to him why I wanted to  visit Tucson- for the Rock and Gem Show. I told him a street fair came to Eugene last year and I bought an amethyst for the hell of it.  I had an inspiring conversation with the owner of the gem booth. The owner had informed me of the Rock and Gem Show; he swore I should attend before I die. I told the owner, “I’ll see you there!” in the same way I tell my sister, in Italy, that I’ll see her tomorrow.  Just a silly promise, an empty promise. But I have the choice to act on it, and that’s what I’m doing.

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From the top of the Rockefeller Center

Mid sentence, Ahmed interrupted me. “I”m sorry,” he said, “I can’t help myself,” and suddenly brought his face towards mine to kiss me deeply. This stranger… on couchsurfing…who I just met an hour ago. I  thought our conversation was going well but that was the last thing on my mind. I didn’t even get the vibe that he liked me. Life is unpredictable.  I broke away and offered a confused smile.”Wow,” I said.

I get mixed feelings about Ahmed because he has a default form of expression. It doesn’t fluctuate much. It’s hard to know what he’s thinking when there is a lack of emotion behind his words. I don’t know how much I like him because I don’t know how much I understand him. But apparently he’s my boyfriend right now-  ha!  When  I went with my last host to see Isabella’s comedy show, she spoke about how important it is to choose the correct tone and emotion behind what we say.

“Where are you?” and “WHERE ARE YOU?!” make me feel two entirely different ways.

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JP Morgan Museum

I may have an inclination that we’re not compatible with each other- but it is really nice to, for once, attempt to maintain a relationship. And when the other person has such strong, intense feeling for me… Why enter into a relationships I’m unsure about? Why not? I guess I don’t know why not yet.

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Sometimes I am so focused on exploring places I’ve never been that I forget to appreciate the one I’ve called home for the last 22 years: Oregon. I took this photo about 60 miles east of Eugene. Although I’ve lived in this state for a while, there still remain rivers I’ve never listened to, mountains I’ve never laid eyes upon, and, perhaps most importantly, people I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting.

Amid the familiarity, there are perspectives I can take which haven’t been taken before. 

As long as I am capable of changing my veiwpoint, I am capable of changing my reality- of surroundings, and of life.

 2013-05-13 02.10.10This  is Maui. Obviously beautiful. But is there anything more beautiful than seeing my mom smile? Anything more beautiful than instilling optimism, not just in another person, but in ourselves?

Is there anything more beautiful than someone saying “hello” to us as we pass by, never to see that part of nature again?  Or more amazing than showing acceptance for someone whose beliefs are not parallel with own own? Anything more meaningful than acting reasonably and purposefully when we are tempted to resign? How bout is there anything more satisfying than a complete indifference to towards all things that are not in our control?

Everything is beautiful if I’m capable of seeing it as so. This mind-set will not be given to me, though. It requires self-discipline.

An additional angle, a new lens, an intensification of passions. This is what I receive from listening to others. And it’s also what I can give back.

I headed for Chicago around 2 p.m. a few days ago. Took me all day and all night to get there from Minneapolis. I sat next to an incredible person–Mark–who recounted to me every.single.job. he’s had in 36 years. He was hilarious. We sat behind (and in front of) Amish people who smelled like a walking dumpster. On a train. They believe in using trains but not in using showers/deodorant? I need to be enlightened.

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Near the Colorado, Utah border

A few pages back, I recorded all of Mark’s past employment. Swing dance instructor, ski resort worker, bartender, horse groomer, website builder, photographer, stage manager, singer, usher, barista… the list goes on and on.

I think what really resonated with me is that there is no perfect job for someone–we are not “destined” to serve a purpose…we aren’t destined to do anything. And we aren’t fitted to a single kind of job. I do believe that we are naturally inclined to be better at some things. I might have a natural disposition for sports. But I choose to pursue or avoid this talent. And I’m not obligated by fate to do so. I told him about my trip and his eyes instantly lit up. He told me he’s always wanted to do something similar, but couldn’t bring himself to make such a leap.

“I’ve been thinking about it for so long, and you know what? After meeting you, I’m going to do it. I’m finally going to do it. Thank you.”

Direct evidence that by meeting people, you begin to look at your own life differently.

Back in Chicago, I showered–YES– ahhh felt beautiful… and I took a nap. Then my host and I experimented with Romanian Food..was soo yummy. I’ve had a cold for the past five days, and menstrual cramps for the last three. This, paired with the cold, snowy weather has been brutal. Lack of sleep on a train doesn’t help. Having a place to sleep, shower, and feel at home in is something to be savored. In the morning, I went to a corner market and got all the ingredients for pancakes from scratch. I made them for my host as a thank you…because I am honestly so grateful.

I love that he’s always eager to try new things with me. It’s exciting. Having company while exercising my interests is rewarding. Especially when that person is just as curious about life. Right now I’m on the train meandering through the snow-covered Rocky Mountains…and wow, this sight is worth every penny.

Tucson, Arizona; Undated 

People are so much more than their body language suggests. He barely looked me in the eyes. It’s a shame…because his eyes were so beautiful.  I try not to come across as intimidating but I can only do my best. “Bye Rachelle,” he whispered, as we went our separate ways. It’s ironic that he was darting eye-contact so frequently– and yet was attentive enough to remember my name.

On the way to L.A (last night) I sat next to an older man. My guess is late 50’s. Black. Wearing a top hat. Fixes airplanes. Several years in the Navy. His life was engaging, and his personality was gentle and humorous. Laugh was incredible. I loved that he laughed so hard at his own jokes. Like he waited to see if I thought it was funny and then full-fledgedly joined in, his deep tone echoing throughout the train.

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He listens better than anyone I’ve ever met. So attentive to each word I spoke– as if he entered my thoughts and felt them before he heard them. He talked a lot about himself, but when the conversation turned back to me, he was like a switch: Now, now it’s about you, and I am listening, and I want to know what you have to say. I want to be there with you.  That’s what I heard while I was talking.

His wife died. He re-married. Was on the train headed to meet his 2nd wife, who was in the hospital dying as well. This man made my heart light up and my smile brighten. I don’t think I’ll ever forget his laugh, for a reason I can’t explain. He spoke a lot about how his wife uses all his money for “art.” I could sense he resented her for this. He is a good guy and was being taken advantage of. I understood. And it’s a tough job–masking bitterness. I struggle as well.

 

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On the bus to Los Angeles, sunset

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.