Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Meditation on Change

I am predominately using this space as a travel blog—as a way to keep my family, friends and loved ones abreast of my adventures in the world. The concept of no plan, no problem was a completely new and different one for me to adopt. For those of you who knew me in high school (and for many of you who knew me well before), you remember how vastly different I was then—how terrified I was to even go to college, never mind begin a journey around the world. I feel as though this past year has been a transformative one. It has brought with it challenges, difficulties, and pain—along with tribulations, happiness, and, ultimately, freedom for both myself and for many of the people that I love. I’d like to take a moment to talk about it…to use this space as an outlet for many of the things that I’ve been grappling with and that many people I know and love have been struggling with, too. Don't worry--the travel blogs and fun pictures and adventure stories are to come. But I would be remiss if I didn't share with you readers the questions that sometimes plague me in the middle of the night...if I didn't explain to you my thoughts on life and love and change and growth and how these factors have helped gently nudge me onto this amazing path of self discovery.

I spoke with two very dear friends this week about some difficult things that they are going through. One lost her soul mate after over 30 years of marriage, the other is going through a divorce with the man she has loved for 17 years. It’s difficult to imagine this kind of loss, this kind of heartache, and it put the end of my three year relationship in some much needed perspective. My problems (or what seem like problems…they are really just little bumps in the road) seem suddenly so small and insignificant in light of what these strong, beautiful, independent women were and are going through.

I began to think about what it is that we miss when we lose something or someone we love. Yes, for much of the time it certainly is the person. Through the initial, middle, and perhaps ending stages of grief, that thing that we miss is most certainly the person—who they were, what they did, how they affected our lives in meaningful and transformative ways. But after a while, I feel as though we stop missing the person and start missing the space that that person would fill. We see a void, we feel a gap—and we mourn for that which once filled it. It is like being attached to a door that breaks. You miss it only when you are aware of the draft that its absence allows in.

I began to think about how we sometimes stay with people not because we love them, but because we are afraid of what else the world has to offer. We, as humans, are creatures of habit. Many of us hate change; many of us love constancy. To change would be unnerving, terrifying. Thus we sometimes perpetuate relationships not because we still love our partners, but because we are scared of putting ourselves back out there—of rejection. We are scared and loathe to go through the motions all over again. We don’t want to do it. While there are thousands of relationships that do work, that are grounded in love and trust, there certainly are some that simply break. It is not always about a loss of love. Sometimes it is simply a matter of change. If we are lucky in enough to be in the real deal—the real relationship for the long haul, we know why we continue to stay in it. Something is wrong, however, when it’s difficult to differentiate love from a refusal to or a hatred of change. Or at least it was for me, and it is for many of my friends.

These thoughts proceeded to lead me into an existential discussion about the meaning of life with myself. I found myself writing about what it all means, what this is all about, our purpose for being here. Perhaps it is to find someone with whom we can share the trials and tribulations of life. That, however, seems to be too dependent of a view…it doesn’t rely on the self nearly enough to account for the importance of independence and personal freedom. What is it, then? Perhaps that is what my impending trip is about. Which, by the way, I still need to tell you about. Expect at least one more entry before my departure on February 2nd.

I came home from Georgia feeling altered, chastened. My experiences abroad had opened the door into a new part of myself, a part that I admired and wanted to explore further. I worried that upon coming home to the house in which I grew up that I would revert. This wonderful home houses so many memories--but that is exactly the problem. Regression is scary as hell. I worried that I would take five steps back from the two I had taken in Georgia. And for a few days, I did. I slipped into the past, into a part of myself that I had left for a few months. I mourned the loss of a relationship that had died, I mourned the loneliness that often accompanies transition. I felt like I'd lost something.

But somewhere in the past few days, I think I've found it again. I've entered into a new discussion with myself, a discussion about the world and what I have to offer it. I am beginning to realize the depths of my dynamics, of the solidity of my core and the rootedness I have discovered in myself. Suddenly I feel like there is an oak in my center and I am growing outwards, in a million different directions at once. But whatever way I go, I choose growth. I choose freedom. And believe it or not, I choose change. Would my nana be proud.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

A Conclusion and a Beginning

Hello, hello! And happy new year to everyone!

This post is so long overdue I can't even tell you. I meant to update this before I even got back to the States, but the last week in Georgia went by so rapidly--and add flight changes, jetlag, christmas shopping, and a vacation to maine and nyc...and you get a long overdue post. But fear not my friends...we're back on track! I want to wrap Georgia up before telling you of my new adventure...stay tuned :)

The finale of Georgia was both happy and sad. We went to Armenia during what turned out to be my last weekend. I went with two of my best girlfriends and a fun, great new group of people. We took a seven hour marshutka ride through the mountains to get to was a long day, for sure. Yerevan was a very interesting city. What I was most aware of, however, was how austere and barren it was. Yes, it was winter, but everything about the city felt hushed, serious, and bleak. It is a country of war and pain...a series of genocides decimated many thousands of people, and it has a terrible relationship with many of its neighboring countries (namely Ajerbaijan). Its relationship with Russia is complex, given that the Soviet rule both helped resucitate a suffering economy and devastated landscape but also chipped away at what was left of a national identity. Everyone was quiet and somber. We actually were yelled at by a patrol officer as we stood on the street chatting at 11:30 pm. It was quite different than the colorful, vibrant, and alive Istanbul. Nonetheless, it was certainly still interesting, and was definitely worth a visit. The second day we took a marshutka tour through the countryside which was nothing short of stunning. We visited two UNESCO world heritage about breathtaking. You can't believe how old the world is.

We arrived back in Georgia on a Sunday, and I had three days of work before leaving the country forever. My last few days were marked my saying goodbye to my students (there was much crying), goodbye to my friends (my crying), and goodbye to my family (their crying). It was definitely sad to leave a country that had helped me grow so much. Georgia was the first country I had ever traveled to...and I feel a kind of connection because of that. I was so uncomfortable during the first month there, and then I experienced a kind of freedom because I adjusted to a culture and could feel like I was really a part of it. That was growth...the epitome of it. I miss parts of it already, though I am happy to be going on my next adventure.

This leads me to the present, where I am sitting on my couch in Massachusetts, planning a trip to South East Asia with Caroline and Elana--the two girls I traveled with to Istanbul and Yerevan. We are trying to put an itinerary together to travel from Thailand to Laos to Cambodia to Vietnam. If it works out (fingers doubly crossed), it will be unbelievable. I'm sure it will bring with it many challenges of its own, and undoubtedly many rewards as well. While I love the States, I just feel like I can't be here this year. I need to be out in the world, learning, growing, discovering myself and what exists beyond the United States' walls. There is so much to learn. What better time is there to discover it than the present?

Anyways, please keep posted...I will update this frequently on my next leg of the adventure.

Until then--happy new year, and did madloba (thank you very much) for tuning in,