Thursday, December 31, 2009

on two thousand and ten

Dear Two-Thousand-and-Ten,

A decade ago, I was only thirteen and brought in the coming millennia playing in the snow and contemplating where I would be on this very day, ten years and many roads later. I wondered if I would be married or have children, and in my head then I’m certain I thought I would have graduated college or become a successful travel writer or marine biologist by now (sorry to disappoint, Miss Dayna who was thirteen).

A year ago today I resolved my resolutions from the year before. I concluded that I would make no promises or resolutions for 2009, and in lieu of those I would simply try to live more deeply and abundantly. As this past year ebbed and flowed, I sometimes succeeded in that, and those were beautiful moments.

Earlier today I stood on my porch and let the snowflakes drift past me, letting a few hit my face and turn to droplets. As I sipped my lukewarm coffee, I wondered what I should resolve to do – if anything – and how important I would make said resolutions. This year, in place of resolving much of anything, I am simply going to try much harder to do a few fairly important things. This eliminates the hassle of exactly one year from this moment when I will undoubtedly return to read this blog and wonder how I failed so miserably at simple things, thus triggering my mental self-flagellation. Setting painstakingly concrete resolutions can be a drag, let’s face it, so I’m trying something a little different.

(As a treat for next year, I’m going to save my opinion on why we only set goals for ourselves on one day out of the year and then waste the other 364 thinking we can’t decide to resolve anything until next January rolls around. You’re welcome.)

Part of why I hate resolutions is because I’m very bad at sticking to plans. I am awful. It’s embarrassing. Those who know me well will attest to my spontaneity and free-spirited wandering as being endearing yet simultaneously burdensome and annoying. Especially Kurt. He’s a planner. I’m a drifter. Most especially my mother, but only because she’s worried I will waste away as a hitchhiker while never recognizing my full potential as a world-changing writer/singer/songwriter/political activist/what have you. The people that choose to love me in life are rewarded with anecdotes and pretty cool stories while simultaneously being stuck on the rollercoaster that is my life.

The past few weeks I have been realizing just how badly I have been treating my mind through most of this last year. I haven’t been feeding it with new things to encounter and process and enjoy, like books or documentaries. Much of this will be remedied by the obscene amount of new books I received for Christmas thanks to my wonderful parents. Thanks to them, I have beside me a stack of books that, when I look at it, makes me so happy I want to pee my pants. I love the written word; Steinbeck, old classics, obscure travel writers, even local newspapers. Until a month ago I had forgotten how it felt to spend hours in a book. It is lovely. Thus, my first Unresolution is to read more and more diversely, to feed the amazing working thing that is my human mind.

Following along that same thread with Unresolution II, I need to write more and become more serious about it. Save this entry and notwithstanding my lack of practice, I promise that I can be a great writer in time. The general idea is not to give a hoot if I make money but to send in freelance work to build up a portfolio so that when I do again have money to travel, I will be able to make extra pennies (I’m under no delusion, they will be pennies and not dollars).

My third Unresolution is that I will write more music and pursue outlets to hone that ability within me, seeking out smaller coffee shops and performance venues that will help me get better while keeping my head and ego at a nice and manageable level. (Back when I toured I started to think I was a big deal, much like Will Ferrell, so this is more important than it sounds, especially as I lack the office that smells of rich mahogany.)

So 2010, you are Unresolved at last. I want to read more books, learn and practice the craft of writing, and reignite my passion for writing music. I would also be okay with sending more postcards, winning a Nobel Prize, finishing my novel, quitting smoking, and trading in my cat for a dog that doesn’t pee in the corner.

Nice to meet you 2010, I think this year will be great.


Monday, November 9, 2009

on your shopping habits and where my paychecks go

It's easier to be stagnant
than to want something to change.
Easier to stay comfortable in our first world living rooms
televisions on, food in the cupboards.
It's easier that way.

Keep your distance
from what and who is broken in this world.
Maybe send a check to a charity.
Yeah, that's the way to go.

It's more difficult to find what is simple
in a world this complicated.
Harder to find time for real life
when the cell phone is ringing
on the bedside table.

We become more shallow as our
accumulation of things and stuff gets deeper.
Acquire, buy, sell, pay the rent, make a profit.

Go to college for what?
So you can equate excess with success
and accumulation with personal growth?
Or are you doing it to do what you love?
To make a difference?
To fight for something that actually matters?
For you and me, I hope it's the latter.

What an empty life and superficial existence.
Yet few fight for more than that.

Sometimes and in some cases, less is more.
I think life is one of those cases.

You can have your designer jeans
and fancy things.
Keep your fifty dollar shoes that
reek of waste and the American Wreck.
Watch the NFL game on your
larger-than-life television screen
that no one really needs.

A family could eat for months (maybe years)
on what we spent last year on frivolities
and junk we won't use again, or ever.

You know how much it takes to provide
a permanent well for a village in need
of clean water?
Water to brush teeth, to bathe in,
to drink to avoid disease and death?
Two thousand. Dollars.

But never you mind.
What I am saying is obviously written
toward somebody else. Not you or me.
We have bills. We are exempt.

Because you need that television,
and that SUV that the pretty
bikini-clad lady told you that you need
to find happiness, and maybe have some sex
or a hot date.
You need job security, and the nice apartment
with a closet full of clothes you will never wear.

When people finally find Love,
and the rich finally meet the poor:

I hope there are no more big screens.
I hope designers go out of business.
I hope that we learn to take care of those in need
before pampering ourselves.

I hope we start to find what is Real and True.
I hope that we fight the American Dream
of excess of waste,
of consumerism and greed.
I hope we turn off our televisions
and go outside
to dance in the sunshine or the rain.

I hope we provide microfinance loans for small businesses,
giving up what we don't need to give to someone else.
Putting others before ourselves.
Learning that looking good and owning lots of crap
just makes you another face in the crowd.

When love wins, I hope there is no 'us' and 'them' anymore,
just people who need one another, who need community.

Just people who know how to Live. Not just exist for themselves.

I hope I learn to be that way too.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

on the damaging and the beautiful

The more I learn about the malevolent forces in our universe - the conflicts, cultural misunderstandings, corporate greed, corrupt governments, preventable diseases, force-fed democracy, unsustainability, and rampant poverty - the more deeply I am moved to stand for something. To fight for something honorable with my life.

The more I learn about what is damaging, the more I want to create what is beautiful. I wonder why celebrities become more news-worthy than wars or things that matter, hoping to train myself to subscribe to higher thoughts and deeper things someday. When I look around my beautiful apartment, with rarely-worn clothes hanging in the closet, the only word that comes to mind is 'excess'.

Nights like tonight I find myself wanting to trash the excess, throw away anything with a brand name, give away what is useful, and buy a car that runs on trash. Nights like tonight I wonder at the world and all the bitter mixed with the sweet, and I realize that I am just as much part of the problem as anybody else.

I hope I spend my days learning to become part of a solution instead.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

on september the eighth

Growing up and growing older is funny.

Sometimes it hits me that I am on my own now, that it's been several years since high school, that I am way past the date I always had set in my mind that my life would make sense, or that I would have it all figured out. I think when I was little I always assumed that this age was around 16 or 18. Now, about a month away from 23, all I can do is chuckle knowing that in ten years I will still be growing and smiling at what I thought I knew and understood now.

I don't like moving.

That's not entirely true, because there is something beautiful and mysterious and new about leaving behind the familiar to embrace what is uncomfortable. It changes you. Most of my family and friends know that if anyone is prone to randomly decide to move to a new place on a moment's notice, it is probably me. So, maybe it's not the moving that bothers me. No, it's the packing. It's the memories that flood your senses as you pick up a picture frame or wrap up your history in cardboard and tape.

I chatted with my beautiful mom today for awhile as she packs away our belongings and gets ready to put our house up for sale; the place I have thought of as home for the last seven or eight years. While procrastinating on my homework I wondered at this mystery of life and love and moving on to new things. It's hard sometimes to set those old things on the sidewalk and walk away, and even harder not to look back and wonder if it was okay to just leave them there.

I had time today, for the first time in a few weeks, to just spend some time with myself. To just hang out, me and myself, listen to some beautiful acoustic melodies, play some of my own songs, and dwell on what is good and true in my life. I forget to take these moments for myself often, especially with school, work, my social life, and trying to cram in study sessions at all hours of the night.

It's times like these, when everything is changing and racing forward, that I realize how blessed I am to have those places I have called home. Within four walls can rest more memories than the ocean could hold, and I remember my sister Brittany and I sleeping under the glow of the Christmas tree to try to catch Santa (we were 18). I remember hard nights and tears shed, writing on the walls in our basement, relationships ending, campfires in the backyard, the conversations that changed me on the front porch. I remember my exhaustion and relief when I finally stumbled into the living room after my misadventures this summer to a room that I recognized and faces I love.

Sometimes I get lost in the moment, I freak out about the drama queens (and a couple kings) that dislike me for whatever reason, I worry about finances, or I dwell on things that don't matter. Days like today come along, when I can stand on my porch and watch the clouds changing colors, feel the cool breeze in my face, sip my coffee and feel autumn crashing in around me... and I realize that it's all okay. That I have the brains to ignore the superficial, the gift to write music, friends that are constantly coming into my life to bless me, and ramen in my cupboard to eat.

And I realize that I don't have to know it all. I don't have to have all the answers. I don't have to change the whole world, I just have to keeping working on myself. And home will follow me wherever I go, whether I'm moving or staying still.

Monday, August 3, 2009

on missing you

Dear Open Road,

I miss you. I crave you like I crave coffee in the morning. In fact, I may crave you infinately more than that.

I think of you and I smile, as if you were a lover that I had and lost. I miss your beauty and the faces you would bring to my life. I miss traveling without an agenda and every day something and someplace new. I miss feeling like my life was a love affair with myself, finding and discovering a new layers every day... like I was an onion. Or something else with layers. I miss having no money and feeling more rich and full then I have in my life.

I think you are more important than school, and than settling down in Moscow, or than living what most people would call a life of normalcy. I think I could fall asleep on the streets of this world and be happier than anyone with a fancy car and 9 to 5 job. I think people that judge me for thinking that just don't understand and haven't met you yet. They should meet you. I think you would get along with them great. Well, not all of them... it takes a mindset I suppose.

I am planning to see you again, just so you know.

As soon as I can line up my ducks in a semi-straight row, pay off some of my urgent debt, get my license back, and convince my family that I'm not crazy (well, I wouldn't hold my breath for that one), I am setting out to find you. I will sell all my belongings that just end up owning me, I will say goodbye to the friends I love, I will quit my meaningless job, I will declare myself a nomad and kiss your sweet face.

I look around my apartment at everything I own, and I don't want it anymore. An unpacked backpack lingers in the corner of my room and all I want to do is throw it on and go out to meet the world. But I will wait a few months. I will pay my bills. I will be responsible about this whole nomadic thing. Get ready, though.

Because I have one life. One. I have one shot, and that's it. I want to know that if I died tomorrow, I lived for what was most important. Not some stupid materialistic dream, not the accumulation of worldly stuff, not a piece of paper that tells me I can make it on my own. Not those things.

I can't wait to see you again, and I will miss you every moment til I get there.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

on love and the end of the open road

My eyes are getting heavy.

It is 3:26, and not in the afternoon, and it seems as though all my waking thoughts and dreams are of travel and what I have learned and am learning. I have been sedentary for only five days, and the open road is already teasing me with sunsets and mile marker signs glowing brightly in my mind.

I have loved this last month. It has moved me and made me dance, and sometimes it has made me question everything. Not just question everything. But Everything, with a capital ‘E.’ In fact, just for dramatic emphasis, you can capitalize the rest of the word as well. EVERYTHING. Because I feel that the weight of this statement is still vastly misunderstood, I will also ask that you add an exclamation point at the end. EVERYTHING!

It becomes easy to question everything (capitalized-with-an-added-exclamation) when you begin to realize that really you know nothing. Despite our best efforts; despite how full of fervor some of our conversations or debates have been; despite how we often feel that our way of living is the way it should be… we don’t know everything, and we haven’t even scratched the surface. You think you have been open-minded? Yeah, I did too.

No matter how often we volunteer our time or money, regardless of how we may be studying to make a difference in this world, despite how we avoid Starbucks to make sure farmers get a Fair Trade price for what they grow, and even though we insist that we are NOT the center of the universe…. we still struggle with looking beyond ourselves and just LOVING. No agenda, no conditions, just love.

I write this now as if I have learned the secret to life, but the truth actually lies in some split-second a week from now when I will be the one honking at the car in front of me for not moving the instant that red turns to green. It becomes evident in the way that we judge strangers instead of hugging them, assuming that what the world sees as beauty, is in fact beauty. It is in every day, when we forget that other people exist and need us to notice that they exist. In the midst of trying to find love, we forget that others are looking as well.

In everything that I have been questioning, this has turned into my new mission in life.

I don’t give a damn whether I have a degree, pay all my bills, am dating anyone, travel the world over… if I have not loved and lived well, none of it will matter in the long run. So for the first time in a very long time, my mission is only to love. Wherever I’m living, whatever I’m doing… Love.

I have no doubt that I will spend a long time figuring out exactly what that means.

And that’s okay.

on the open road part IV

It has been a month now since I set out on the road. 35 days, to be exact.

It all started at a local CouchSurfing barbecue, when my new CS friend Josh and I decided we needed to pack our bags and set out. All we knew is that we wanted to utilize CouchSurfing to meet as many amazing people as possible in as many places as we could afford, and that we needed to attend Tentsurf 2009 in Colorado. I have to say, quite honestly, that my life was changed.

I had some expectations, not a whole lot of money, no idea what awaited, and just carried the hope that this trip would be everything I wanted it to be. Now that I am sitting peacefully in my parent’s living room here in Seattle - the day after leaving the open road - I finally have the chance to piece together all that this month has meant to me.

There was camping at Tentsurf 2009 with a few hundred other surfers from around the world, where I was blessed enough to get to know at least a dozen people very well, and dozens more by their face and their smile. Within that event was a community like I had never seen… the sharing of food, water, and life stories. It was like nothing and everything belonged to me at the same time. There were community breakfasts with more than twenty people, conversations that changed me, and friends that I have no doubt will be in my life for years to come. There were drum circles around an open fire, thanks to Coyote Dave and his open heart and willingness to share the instruments that he makes. There was a wedding between two surfers, Anthony and Niven, and we were blessed enough to participate in it as friends and campers. There was a conversation between Houston’s CS City Ambassador Taryn and I that lasted hours on end, comparing and contrasting the roads of our lives and where we came from. Most of all, and most moving, there was deep and unconditional love, fueled by our spirit of surfing and our passion for our global community.

I spent the next three weeks visiting new hosts, and meeting up again with those I had come to know at the CS campout in Colorado. From having dinner at the monthly Salt Lake City meetup, to laughing on the front porch in Portland with Ben and Holly, to live music on the beach with my host Kasondra in Santa Cruz, to a barbecue with our host Rose Marie in Montana, to watching live jazz in the park and pub crawling with the local Denver group, it was entirely a CS trip.

What I walked away with, most of all, was a more important understanding of what CouchSurfing really is… the opportunity to know others and have others know you. The real you. The chance to learn to be and fall in love with who you are, unapologetically, and encounter others who love the person you are as well.

I have only been CouchSurfing since January, but I can safely say that I am a surfer for life. I can only hope that I get the chance to host - even more than I already have! - in my humble abode in Idaho! Forget the free place to crash… I have made friends for life on this trip.

And the world is welcome on my doorstep any time.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

on the open road part III (or on sleeping on the couches of strangers)

I just walked back inside through the screen door of this brilliantly-Californian evening. I took a stroll down a lane lined with palm trees, took off my sunglasses and let the sun hit my face. I stepped foward. I gave myself a moment to inhale slowly, to look around, and fully realize how beautiful I have allowed my life become.

It is beautiful, isn't it?

The last few weeks have been a montage of amazing memories that all seem to flow into one lovely chapter of my life... a chapter I have no desire to put a conclusion to. So I won't. It can only continue. People dream of travel and far-off places, of Italy, Brasil, Morocco... and being one of those dreamers myself, I can understand. But I'm starting to realize the depth and beauty of what is not so far-off in the first place. Who knew so many amazing people were within this half of the U.S.? And ones that wanted to meet me? And that I want to meet too? Who knew I would feel like such a dramatically different and free woman after only three or four weeks on the road? Who knew that I would find friends and relationships that would change me, would challenge me, would move me and that would provide for me when life on the road got rough?

The deeper I delve into CouchSurfing, the more I find how much of a family we are, how connected we all are. The reason? Most people aren't okay with that type of openness, that type of trust and adventure. Most people get uncomfortable with newness or with accepting how safe something like this could be if you use it with caution and correctly. As a result? Most people on CouchSurfing are some of the most amazing and experienced that you will ever meet. All the ones that wouldn't fit are weeded out by default. Which is not to say there isn't diversity within the community. I have met mothers, fathers, elderly, the newly-graduated, the homeless, the rich, the well-travelled, the well-read, the uneducated, the wise... the list goes on. I have met atheists,Protestants, liberals, conservatives, introverts and extroverts. I have partied hearty with hosts and I have just as happily rested in silence.

The point is that I am learning to be me, to be Dayna. To embracing this adventure without plans, without much money, without an agenda of where to go or see things... and it is completely changing me. To being okay with things and knowing it will work out when your ride takes off, or you're stuck in San Francisco, or you run out of money in Santa Cruz. To shedding things that I don't need and that don't define me. Who needs materialism and cute clothes that were made in Indonesia by sweatshop kids anyway? Who needs to spend an hour getting ready to know they are beautiful? (Not to say that I don't love cute clothes or going out and looking nice, but I am just realizing I can survive without it WAY more easily than I thought possible.) I am finding freedom in letting go, in realizing how little I need to get by, how easy it is to give away or recycle clothes that just make your backpack heavier along the way anyway, and might make somebody's day. You never know til you try.

What I'm learning most, even if you can't tell from this post, is that I know nothing. I know nothing! I thought I knew a lot. But I know what I know, which is so little. I thought I needed to travel the world to feel this content (not that I still don't want to, I'm stoked to be abroad again). I thought I needed to go to far-off lands to satisfy my thirst for travel and new faces. But let's hop back to one thing I said earlier: "fully realize how beautiful I have ALLOWED my life to become."

Allowed. It is up to me, and has always been up to me. It's always been up to me to wake up in the morning and say "this may just be the best day of my life, so I'm going to make sure I do my best to let that happen." Doesn't always work. But it almost always makes me grin in knowing it's quite possible, and if I try to MAKE it possible, it's way more likely to happen. If there is rain, dance in it. If there is a headache, curse at it but know it will go away soon. If there is sunshine, take a walk in it. If there is lightning, check out how crazy beautiful it is (then run away). Take Today and breathe in it, spit on it, swim in it, fall in love with it... just be there.

Be present in your own life. Be THE factor that decides if your day is going to be wonderful and good. That's not to say hard days won't come, or times won't get rough. But if there is one thing I was meant to learn - and have learned - on this trip, it is that.

Feeling very accomplished with this novel, I am signing out. Presently. Ha.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

on kurt and saying goodbye

You are deeper than the sea.

More complex, more God damn difficult,
more full of mystery and more profound
than words could ever know.
I like it that way. I do.

You drive with your eyes unfocused
until I steal a smile
when you catch me staring.
Your tattoo peeks at me from under your sleeve,
your arm tanned from our day on the beach
and the drive from Reno.

I like to look at you when you are serious
when I know you are thinking
-and likely worrying-
about money or your next pack of cigarettes
or where we will sleep tonight.

You are one of the few, you know.

One of the few that is real and true,
one who doesn’t waste words like so many people do.
You pick and choose, you don’t fill empty space with empty ideas,
and you aren’t afraid or intimidated by Silence.

Your New York accent draws a smile in the morning,
and I twirl your hair in my fingers and repeat after you.
It’s not coffee. It’s caw-fee.

You wince.

I’ll be missing you, but I think you know that.
I will miss your eyes, and the way they shine green
like emeralds.
Or something green like that.

I will miss looking left from the passenger side
and tracing your profile with mountains as backdrops
and open roads ahead.
But this is life, and life is an open road in itself.

Open roads are what connected us to begin with,
winding their way through our claustrophobic souls
until we screamed out loud to be nomads,
to live nowhere and everywhere;
to dumpster diving in Santa Cruz
and dreaming of painting curbsides in black numbers.

You will always have the road, and the road
could always lead you back to me.
Regardless, it led you TO me.
It is what it is.
For that, and for you, I am thankful.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

on the open road part II

June 21, 2009

It’s been eleven days since I wrote. Several times I have sat down with the intention of writing, but it’s so hard to spell out your heart in black and white when all you have seen is color and mountains and bodies of water passing you by out the passenger window. It’s hard to explain love in a language that is not embraces, smiles, or warm faces and hearts. But I will try.

Camping in Fairplay was life-changing. I knew this trip in itself would be, but I wasn’t sure in what way, or how it would come about, or who I would meet on the way and why. But as the days have passed me by the last two weeks, I have known nothing but laughter and fresh faces, new stories and mental snapshots to take with me.

I felt a sense of Utopia, an overshadowing feeling that in the midst of three hundred other people in the wilderness, I was special. I was important. And it wasn’t in a pompous way, or a conceited way, but you knew you were loved and wanted by everyone around you, and everyone wanted to know your name. There were no handshakes, there were embraces. There were no barriers or roadblocks to getting to know one another. It was like we had been on the road together the whole time to begin with.

I would wake up every morning to a community breakfast of thirty to forty people, offering blueberry pancakes, fresh fruit, eggs, bagels… it was as if nothing and everything belonged to me at the same time. People would wander into the camp, give us a hug in the morning, offer us whatever they had. It was a sense of community, togetherness and love, more so than any gathering or church service or group of friends I have ever experienced in this lifetime. There was love instead of hate. There was an overwhelming peace regardless of the storm in the world around us.

For me there were difficult moments as well as the sweet, which is to be expected with the way I bounce my heart around like a beach ball sometimes. But even in the brokenness there was something beautiful. If tears were shed, there were people that would find you, somehow, and just sit with you. No words to fill empty spaces, no false promises or superficial comfort. They would hold you, they would smile, and they would be there.

There was much that happened, so much beauty with a drop or two of pain, that I fear words won’t be enough this time. But I don’t want to forget the way that we loved for those five days. We were strangers but the closest of friends at the same time.

What I walked away with is, I’m sure, the reason I came on this trip. I walked away with a sense and a completely real awareness of myself. It was like I had been blind for so long, and the curtains opened and I realized how loved I am. How fun it is to be around me sometimes. How beautiful I am, regardless of popularity or repute. How talented I am as a musician, and how I have been wasting that gift for far too long. How I have the ability – if I use it – to draw people together and help facilitate new friendships and relationships.

I walked away being Dayna, without apologies, without doubts, without self-consciousness or fear. For the first time in a long time, I was so proud to be Dayna that I wanted to scream out loud from the rooftops, and declare that I was free. I wanted to open my arms up to this great big world and thank it for reintroducing me to my soul.

So I did.

Monday, June 15, 2009

on the open road thusfar part I

June 6th, 2009
I packed up. I finished work. And then I set out.

It was raining, and as Josh and I pulled the Rodeo out of Moscow I was beginning to wonder if this journey would be as beautiful as I had been hoping and expecting. I began to doubt the purpose, began to wonder why it is that I feel a road trip at this point in my life would set me free, would make me more alive and awake. The clouds felt dark, and I still harbored a bit of excitement in between my nerves and my exhaustion, but it was overcast slightly in my soul as I thought of all that could go wrong.

At the precise moment that we rolled down the hill leaving Pullman, the sun broke through the clouds and the skies began to clear. It may be cliché that we compare our emotions and our moods to the weather, to the sunshine and the rain. But at that moment in time, at 7:23 pm, the sun washed me in light and I bathed in it and took it all in. I cleared my mind and began to realize that I could choose to make this journey wonderful regardless of circumstance.

One thing that my mother is beginning to learn and teach to me is the art of being present in the moment that you are in. To fully realize yourself, right now. To take the moment and talk with it, roll it around in your mind like a flavor on your tongue, and taste the bitter with the sweet. I resolved that this would be the focus of my road trip. I would look forward to camping in Colorado, but it would not be the highlight. Every moment would be the highlight. I wouldn’t waste today being excited about tomorrow or worrying about how to get where I needed to go.

I would embrace childlike wonder, fall in love with the open roads, the mountains, and the dozens of people I would meet on the way. I would meet with this vast and beautiful world, and reintroduce myself.

So I let the sun shine on my face, and watched the clouds come back a moment later, but in that moment I knew. I would learn more in these two weeks, with these friends I didn’t know a month ago, than I have in a very long time.

I smiled and watched the world behind me disappear into the rearview mirror.

June 7th, 2009

I couldn’t sleep last night.

Josh and I pulled into Gerene’s parking lot sometime around nine or ten, the Rodeo packed to the roof in both the trunk and the backseat. We stayed up late, exhaling. This was it. This was really going to happen. I tossed and turned once we finally decided to call it a night, knowing that this was the day that all I had saved up for and planned was really going to pay off.

And today, we drove.

Gerene and I took off in the Subaru, with Josh close behind in the beloved Rodeo. We watched the rolling hills grow into mountains; we saw the beauty and the wonder instead of the destination or the miles. I spent the good half of an hour with my window down, throwing my hand out into the wind like I did when I was younger, letting myself be amazed by the physics and the way all of this works.

Beyond the scenery, there was also depth and conversation. I met Gerene one time before yesterday, and I believe beyond the shadow of a doubt that we were meant to be friends. We were meant to take this journey together. The more I continue to learn about my new friends, the more deeply I believe this.

Gerene is beautiful. I don’t think she realizes how beautiful she is, or how heads turn when she walks past, but to be honest, her heart puts her lovely face to shame. She is deep and introspective, while somehow managing to be one of the most hilarious and generous people I’ve ever met. I’ve learned that she lost someone this year to suicide, someone who captivated her and made her whole. Gerene shared much of this story with me, and while some stories get old, I was fascinated by the strength in her heart and her desire to find out who she really is in the midst of this storm. This strength and desire is what drove her to answer my request for a carpool to Colorado in the first place, within just an hour of me posting it on the internet. I am moved by her, as I am moved by her story and her passion for writing and sharing.

Josh and I were instant friends when we met at the CouchSurfing barbecue that I planned, not even a month ago now. He is a self-proclaimed extrovert in the making, and has used our get-togethers as a way for him to be in situations that will stretch him and challenge him. I have completely fallen in love with his personality and who we are as friends, me letting him know that he should be himself more often, because he is a great guy, with a huge heart to offer anyone he calls friend. That’s when he gives me the look and tells me that when he tries not be awkward ‘things just get more awkward.’ It took me most of two weeks to convince him that he should skip a week of summer classes to come on a grand adventure with our new friend Gerene, who eventually made it down from Spokane to a CouchSurfing game night at my place.

During the two weeks planning the road trip, I found out that Josh recently lost a brother in a tragic accident. I drew a blank, speechless, moved beyond words by what he told me next. Josh wants to make the most of his life, wants to meet new people and hear their stories. He wants to learn to love being around people and learn to be himself in the process. He’s doing it for his brother. It’s what he would have wanted. Josh brought some of his brother’s ashes with us, and they sit between us on the consol of the Rodeo, every now and then reminding me how beautiful it is to be here and to be experiencing and breathing in this journey.

I know we have all loved and lost, and that this in itself ties us all together. But I never want to grow numb to stories, to open hearts and the opportunity to be a listening ear. I feel so challenged by these new amazing friends, by their openness and their willingness to transform what is ugly into something beautiful and life-changing. In turn, they are changing me.

Yes, there is music up loud, and sometimes we roll our windows down and let the wind play in our hair and over our faces. But there is a strong current of the Something Deeper that we were meant to find on this trip.

We arrived in Bozeman in the late afternoon, and our host Rose Marie greeted us with a barbecue and new friends. We met a couple from Switzerland, and a few other locals who made for great conversation over a burgers and pork ribs. We made our way to the local tavern to listen to Open Mic night. I got up onstage alone for the first time in years, and played and sang my heart out at a dive bar in the middle of Montana, with all of my new friends at a table nearby cheering me on.

Everyone went crazy, clapping and wanting more. It wasn’t their attention that made me so filled with joy, but the fact that I was doing something I loved and that complete strangers were loving it with me. I sat around afterwards, conversing with two nomadic musicians who play punk music and live on the road. One of them had several huge dreadlocks, but only in the front. Once you saw past them, there were deep and soulful brown eyes, and I could tell his heart was like mine… open, and ready for that Something Deeper.

I think we all are.

June 8th, 2009

Today’s drive seemed longer and more drawn-out than usual. The Bozeman group kept us up late with good music and conversation, so our sleep was fleeting and we woke up early to get started on today’s leg of our journey to Casper, Wyoming, about six hours away.

We picked up Seth this morning in Bozeman, another CouchSurfer who needed a ride to the campout in Colorado. He is reserved but insightful, and I think he’s a great addition to the group. I rode in the Rodeo with Josh for awhile, and in between singing along with some great music by Sublime and conversation, I had a lot of time to think.

We saw three rainbows today. I actually think it was the same rainbow, just from different angles, as it rose up and disappeared into the clouds that were hovering low to the ground. I chuckled at the clichés I always seem to come up with… we saw both ends of the same rainbow. We saw both ends of one story, both sides of the coin, regardless of what was in between. I hope that after this trip I am more well-rounded and aware, having heard more stories and opinions, more sides of the story than just mine. Maybe someday I’ll see the whole metaphorical rainbow, but I doubt it… I think life is about continuing to learn always.

We made it to Casper to our host Christine’s house tonight. She is a sweet lady with an adorable four year old named Christian. Christine, dubbed ‘Chris,’ is a travelling nurse. She has travelled the world, and has many stories for us. We were Chris’s first guests using CouchSurfing, and I was amazed that for her first time hosting she agreed to take in four of us. I am being constantly amazed by the grace and hospitality of our hosts along the way… I can imagine that this will only continue the farther we get in our journey.

June 9th, 2009

Oh the glory of sleeping in.

Christine let us stay in her home even after she left for work this morning, and showing that kind of trust to the four of us really humbled me. I’m not even sure I would be that trusting, especially as a woman who lives alone as a single mom. She was the perfect host, offering us anything she had to give, even though we really needed very little. She was one of those people you feel you could learn so much from, but just don’t have the time. We have to keep moving on…

I am typing this on the open road, while we cross the border into Colorado, headed for Denver tonight. We woke up to sunshine, and the ability to sleep in, which has proved to be VERY necessary to have a successful and happy day on the road. We took our time, lingering in Chris’s living room and checking our email, reading the books we brought with us, Josh doing homework to make up for the entire week of class he’s missing to come with us. I sat on top of the Subaru and ate half of a grapefruit, watching the clouds roll by and waiting for our caravan to finish preparing for take-off, so to speak.

We piled in, stopping to grab a couple cheap hot dogs at a convenience store to tide us over until we make it to Denver. Gerene and I found a great 80’s and 90’s mix, and danced in the car while the boys followed us in the Rodeo, probably wondering what the hell was going on up there. Gerene and I have decided that after the campout we will likely head to Arizona, then on to visit my sister in Los Angeles, heading up the West Coast for our route home. I’m excited to find a kindred spirit as free and wanderlust-filled as mine. We will drive. We will eventually make it home when we run out of money.

That’s all we know, and we like it that way.

We dressed in summer clothes, as it was hot this morning, but two hours into our journey, along the Wyoming/Colorado border we watched the storm come at us from the horizon, getting some amazing lightning from a distance, then eventually getting pelted by rain so heavy we had to pull off the interstate and wait it out.

We’re an hour outside of Denver now, and I can see the Rockies creeping closer through the clouds, their immensity too large for me to begin to understand. I see the snow on the peaks, the blue sky in the background, and signs letting us know our destination is coming soon… at least the destination for today.

The campout is tomorrow, and I feel far from prepared to sleep at 9,600 feet in the freezing cold in the Rockies. But that's okay. I'm sure it will be great.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

on working double shifts and the two weeks left

Two more weeks.

That's it. Two more weeks til I set out on the open road with next to no money, no job to worry about coming home to for a little while, no deadlines locking me in and new friends to keep me company. Two new friends I have met through CouchSurfing and I will set out to become better acquainted with one another, and more importantly with ourselves. We will drive. We will drive all day, with the windows down and the music up, making strangers into new friends and seeing more of this enormous continent that we sometimes overlook in our attempt to see the rest of the world.

I have been able to save enough money only for gas and a whole lot of ramen and granola bars. But that won't stop me. I need this trip. I need to do this. I have batteries for my digital camera, and a new notebook to capture my thoughts in. I have four days in Colorado to camp in the Rockies with hundreds of other travellers from around the world at Tentsurf 2009, with our guitar cases and hearts open to learn something new. After that? A week of unplanned and uncharted waters, with maybe a stop in Salt Lake City, or maybe somplace else. We don't really know. Maybe we will meet some friends in Colorado and feel like making a trip to kepe hanging out with them. The thing I love about Gerene, my partner in crime, is that she is just as open and receptive to change as I am. We are happy to be drifters, to be blown by the wind to new and beautiful places.

I have wanted my whole life to take a road trip. A real one. One that is not burdened with a detailed itenerary and landmarks I have to see. One that is for no reason other than for my own soul and my need for freedom from this corporate sludge I keep trying to break free of. We will make the mountains our landmarks and we will throw most itenerary plans out the window on our way there.

All these things I have to keep remembering as I work twelve hour days, taking any shift I can find, putting all my money in a 'deposit' envelope (to avoid myself from making any 'withdrawals' to have a night out on the town or go out to eat). I have to remember this when I feel trapped, when I feel like my life here is without purpose and mundane. I have to remember why I'm doing it all... why I am in school again, why I am working full-time, why I am not drinking much these days, why I am starting to walk places instead of drive.

It's so I can be new... free. Healthy and full of life.

It's so I can be the Dayna that I was meant to be, so that I can take road trips like I will soon and feel the wind in my hair, put my shades on, and enjoy the glare of the sun on my face. So, as I get ready for another long and tedious day of waiting tables, putting on my plastic smile and pretending to enjoy getting paid next to nothing, I will remember why. My plastic smile will turn into one that is genuine, and I will look forward to the open road.

Just two more weeks...

Friday, May 8, 2009

on california, and my flimsy piece of paper

It's been two years since I left Azusa.

I spent some time today, in between homework and cups of coffee, thinking back on those days, and these days, and all the days in between. It's not that I'm unhappy now, or that I would wish to go back, because people change like the seasons and so does everything else, myself included. But I miss the sunshine and I miss my sister. I miss the palm trees and the way every day of class felt like the last one before summer break. I miss Ian's playlists and running to Donut Man in the middle of the night. I miss Long Beach and I miss Pizzamania with Brian. I miss a lot of things.

As a general rule, when I make decisions of any magnitude, I have to do it quickly. I have to put on my coat, say my goodbyes, and close the door behind me without looking back. It usually takes me quite some time before I sit and count my losses, or gains as the case may be. Tonight is one of the few nights since packing up my car and leaving behind my California world that I wonder if I made the right choice. I wonder if I chose the wrong life, or if I am just being useless in this sleepy town that I feel I can't make a difference in. I was in Azusa for a year. Everyone else was there throughout their entire college career. I was a blip on the radar, a passerby, someone to be thought of on ocassion when old pictures flash across the computer screen.

Then again, I am always a passerby, aren't I?

I wish I could decide. I wish I could decide whether or not I want to be sedentary for awhile so I can get a flimsy piece of paper to prove my worth, or whether I want to just chase what's important. Not a career path, not another trail of corporate waste and greed, but Life. Fresh Air. Love and Relationships. An open road before me and my belongings in a faded backpack, a heart ready to live nowhere and everywhere at the same time. Life is fragile anyway, right? Who's to say I will live past my twenty-somethings anyway? What if this is all I've got?

I am so ready to just lay behind everything this corporate-driven nation thinks is valuable or fashionable. I am so ready to meet the World, to sink my feet into it, to swim in it and to hear as many life stories and meet as many people as I can.

I'm just... ready. I'm ready for more.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

on being crazy and a conversation with self

I am sitting.

Where am I sitting, you ask? On my bed, if you must know, but that wasn’t really the point. I am sitting on my life, here in Moscow, and from time to time comes a night like tonight. Out of nowhere, I allow myself to fully realize my nomadic soul, and it glares me in the face and screams that it is dying. We have a brief conversation that I will let my mind linger on for awhile longer, sometimes an entire evening, and the talk usually goes something like this:

“Dayna, it’s me! IT’S ME! For the love of God, please stop… stop with the work, and the classes, and the boyfriend, and the friends, and your never-ending social circle, and your mindless browsing through Facebook, and all of that other crap you use to keep yourself busy… stoppit! Just STOPPIT and talk to me. I miss you, and I’m still in here, you know. In that thing called your heart. Talk? Now? Please?”

“Oh hey, sorry. How have you been Nomadic Me?”

“Damn woman, that took forever. I am suffocating, if you must know. I know we love Moscow, and that it is home and that those things will never change. But you know you don’t belong here, right? You are starting to scare me, and to be honest with you, I’m dying.”

“We went to New York City two weeks ago, didn’t we? Geez, I thought you’d be happy for a bit.”

“No, that’s the thing. It wasn’t long enough. It was like a teaser trip because the trip wasn’t your own. It was for the UN. I didn’t see enough. I mean, meeting up with people and seeing the town through a native’s perspective was so great, and you know how I love meeting new people in strange places. But you got so caught up in what most of your classmates were doing, all those dumb touristy things that millions of other people have done, you didn’t even let me truly breathe.”

“Of course you’re breathing, you idiot, you are me. I’m still breathing.”

“Smart ass.”

“Well, I have been busy!”

“No, you MAKE yourself busy! You make it IMPOSSIBLE to make time for yourself. Hell, we are sitting in bed having this talk, and in ten minutes you are supposed to be ready to go out with Danny and his friends. You don’t even give yourself time to be you, Day. Or for us to be us. I’m not really sure how this works. Anyway, I need you. I need you to recognize that I need you.”

“Fine. I recognize that I need you. And I do so much for you, by the way. I learned Spanish so it will be easier to travel and communicate with strangers, I am studying International Studies, for goodness sake, so that we can learn how to be better global citizens and how to work for more than just some stupid corporation… so we can live for something, you know? So that after I get my degree, we can peace out. We can live in Alaska and count fish, or we can go to New Zealand and live on an organic farm, or we can Couch Surf our way across Europe, you know? I am doing all this for YOU, Nomadic Me. You have some nerve, you know, showing up this late at night, making my day all crappy.”

“You need me too, you know.”

“That’s true. But still, I do a whole hell of a lot. My life is filled to the brim with things to be done, places to see, and you have to just LISTEN when I tell you that being sedentary for awhile is okay. I know we have been in Moscow over a year, and that you start to FREAK OUT at me when that one year marker goes by, but just chill out. Chill.”

“I have been chilling for a long time, D. I need to breathe, to see things, to meet people, to be filled with experience, to be a stranger in a land that you don’t have memorized. I need to hitchhike, to turn with my arms out to the open road, to put unconditional trust in humankind. You need all that too. I am you, by the way.”

“Now who’s the smart ass?”

“Me. Day, I love you. You know how beautifully made you are, and the way your soul is built is not a bad thing. Most people can survive and stay where they are. We were never that way. From day one you colored outside the lines –“

“Because I suck at art.”

“-you took your inflatable globe of the world and planned your life out. You wanted that, even then. You wanted to learn languages and find out more of yourself. The world will teach us what we need to know, why the hell are we still in school?”

“I need a degree.”

“Bull sh-.”

“No, that’s what the economy is. A degree is different. A degree is smart. Ask any college graduate.”

“Yeah, and hey, while you’re doing that, can you ask them how those student loan payments are going?”

“I’m serious, I need one.”

“No, you like learning, so you like school. But you don’t need to be here, Day, here in Moscow. You don’t need to have a stupid piece of paper to tell you that you can do good in the world. You don’t want money later in life, really, so what’s the point? People do it for job security, so they can get paid more, which makes sense. But if you don’t care about money and would live in a shack in Nicaragua, then why? So Mom and Dad will be happy with where you are at, and will say they are proud of you? So your friends that are already graduating anyway will think of you their equal? You already ARE their equal. Cut it out.”

“That’s not true.”

“It IS true. Stop being so defensive and listen to me. You want to travel, right?”

(sigh) “Sure.”

“Yes, you do. So, go teach English abroad. Go hitchhike for a weekend just to get your ass out of Moscow. I JUST NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE!!!”
“Calm yourself. Well, calm, me. We’re gonna work this out.”

“Woo, sorry. Freaked out.”

“I know, it’s fine. We’re cool. We will make a plan. We will get out of this awful place that we still are somehow madly in love with. I just need some time. Some space.”

“You have HAD your space, it’s my turn now.”

“There are no turns.”

“There are SO turns.”

“I will make a plan, don’t worry about it. We will save a few bucks and go to Spokane.”

“Not Spokane again.”

“Spokane. Or Seattle. Or someplace. Maybe find a way to get back to Azusa. I promise you this, we will not be stagnant or sedentary, we will not settle and we will not turn into a degree-seeking person. I mean, we will seek a degree, but that’s not what we’re all about, it’s just a way of getting there. And we will get there. We will go back to Andelfingen and see the sunset over the Alps, and we will go back to Valencia, and you will get to breathe the air of Eastern Europe, and feel the South American spirit floating through the Andes. I will not forget you, and you will not die out like so many dreams do. You are part of me, you know. And I do need you. People think I’m exaggerating when I say that my only passion is to travel and to see things and help people… they think it’s just A passion, or A thing that I love. No, it’s more than that. You take up more of my heart, my thoughts and my time than anything else in this world. This is who I am. I was meant to be a nomad, to be homeless, to live everywhere and nowhere at the same time, to throw away these stupid materialistic lives we get sucked up in, to sell it all and just go. To live on the road, and make money doing odd jobs and meet amazing people doing it.”

“Thanks Day. I really missed you. So, now that you have all that out… you won’t forget me?”

“I really never could, even if I wanted to. I promise.”

Sunday, April 19, 2009

on the boulder in central park by the bridge at midnight

I have wandered.

I have wandered and it has been beautiful. With the chilly air on my bare toes, sitting in Central Park on a boulder that was larger than life, looking at the skyline reflected in the water, the moon keeping me company, and the moving clouds a faded red from the city lights. I have seen. I have seen diversity, and more often than not I have seen beauty instead of ugliness. I have seen strangers become old friends, and I have seen beggars smile with all the riches of the world in their eyes. I have seen safety in what most would deem as dangerous, found comfort in the uncomfortable, found wisdom in what the high and lofty would deem as unwise.

I belong. As new-age as it sounds, as idealistic as I may seem, I have seen these things, and I have found that we are all connected. Somehow. I walk down the crowded streets, and the mostly-vacant ones, and as my eyes connect, I do something unexpected. I smile. Not the half-assed smile of a car salesman trying to sell you a Volvo, or the bartender that just wants her smoke break, but a brilliantly clear, honest-to-God, could-blind-you-in-a-blacklight smile.

And you know what happens?

They smile back.

Common courtesty? Sure, if you think so. What do I think? Connected. If I could spend the rest of my life just learning those connections, just finding that common thread in our clashing tapestries, just discovering new ways to be human and embrace that we are all messed-up and royally complicated... If I could do all those things, then I would die happy and complete, fulfilled in knowing that I learned this world and its people the best I could.

I think I will.

Monday, February 23, 2009

on five noble trees and monopoly

I sip from my coffee cup slowly and feel the cool air hit my face and play in my hair.

I like our deck, but sometimes it feels too big for me; like I'm out in the open and exposed. Without any buildings nearby I feel a bit naked in front of the crowd. There are five very noble trees facing me in a row that I sometimes think are watching me... sometimes keeping me company, and other times just making me feel more alone. The wind blows and I can hear chimes singing someplace distant and the trees look like they are waving at me. I pull my jacket closer and cling to my coffee cup.

I wonder of life and it’s tragedies, of love lived and love lost, and then I stop to wonder if life is a game and I am playing it wrong; if I’m missing a game piece or not passing ‘Go’ and collecting two hundred dollars when I should. It could also be that I think life is a game when it’s really very serious and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Most likely, it could be that I’m too analytical and need to just be present and live in today, and take what I can from it and move forward.

I wonder if I am wrong sometimes because I look too far ahead in relationships and in planning in general. Today someone’s heart is hurting because of me, and mine feels devastated and broken too, but I feel like I don’t deserve to feel bad when it’s my own decision.

All day, while moping around and being a general downer, I have been asking myself one question. Why do we love, anyway?

Why do we let ourselves open up and share our own humanness and vulnerability, when we have read the statistics, we have heard the stories, and we know how most of the stories end? Why do we put ourselves out there, risk our hearts and share our souls? It seems so funny that we are surprised when the honeymoon is over, because life is so full of endings as well as beginnings, and letdowns often seem to come more frequently than successes.

After dwelling excessively on this question all day, I have no answer except that which is my own. Maybe that’s the best answer, for me and for this weekend, and tonight, and all of the hours I have spent over-thinking and asking myself if I am really being wise after all.

I have loved before, and lost just as often, but I think what is beautiful is who I am becoming through all of this, and who I am turning out to be. I think love is a choice and not a feeling. It’s that broken thing that all those movies are talking about, that love songs on the radio are singing about, and that people spend a lifetime trying to find and then another lifetime trying to figure out.

I think the reason we were born looking for love is because we inherently know that we need it. In our humanness we know that most of what we need to learn in life is not of ourselves… that the lessons we have to offer up to others pale in comparison with what others can teach us. It hurts when we lose and are let down, but the reason we keep getting back up is so we can try again. We might fall, we might fail, but we persist because we are always learning things, and sometimes we walk away from a relationship with a newfound sense of self and of what is real and true in life. Some people have taught me to laugh. Some have taught me how to cry and how to fear being alone, and others have taught me to dance and to just be Dayna, in all of her beauty, depth and imperfection.

Pain is real and true, and as deep as the sea, and as I’m sinking into it I’m beginning to talk with it, to feel it, to swim in it and to know that even though it is haunting and piercing it is also turning me slowly into something more polished and beautiful. For now rest is far from me and I am sleepless and contemplative, but maybe my soul can find rest in that. Let’s hope it can.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

on life and hiro nakamura

So beautiful.

Life, you are so beautiful, but you are so difficult and hard to understand sometimes.

Even when you are lovely and I am happy
-even when all is going according to plan –
you can find a way of baffling me.
Maybe there are worse things in life.
Maybe bigger struggles exist in this crazy world
than a silly girl trying to understand
what philosophers have spent lifetimes trying to spill out on paper.

Life, you are so beautiful, but I do not understand you.
If I have no time to waste – if you are as fleeting as I keep hearing –
then why am I sitting around?
Why haven’t I grabbed my backpack, sold my car, and fled the country?
Why do I spend time here when the world is waiting?
I’m sure Mexico wouldn’t mind someone immigrating south for a change.
As you know, I’m quite certain I would love it there.

Life, you are so beautiful, but sometimes I just can’t understand you.
Why change and why memories?
Why seasons and why trouble?
Why War instead of Peace? Hate instead of Love?
Why do the ones I love seem far-off and my dreams so many years away?
Why can’t I sell my possessions and go live as a nomad?
Contrary to popular belief, I still think I would be a great nomad.

It’s so funny, you and I. Even on my happiest days, with the deepest conversations,
I am wondering of my purpose and my plans.
I am nostalgic and simultaneously living in the future.
Top that, Hiro Nakamura. My space/time continuum is more messed up.

But, seriously, Life.
I love you a bit more every day, with your sunrises and the people I meet.
I love that I am living you with purpose.
Tan bella.

Vida, eres tan bella, pero difícil, y a veces no te puedo entender.
Cuando eres hermosa y me siento feliz,
todavía me confundes.

He vivido de una manera diferente a los demás…
lo he intentado todo.
Pero supongo que lo mío es vivir, como si fuera el último día.
Ayúdame. No puedo entenderte.
Así es.
And that’s okay.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

on things that move me and nickles and dimes

I love things that move me.

Sometimes it’s that glint of sunshine on my windowpane in the morning when all I had expected was a cloudy sky. Other times it is passionate conversation of politics, spirituality, feeding the hungry and seeing places far-off and foreign. Lately I have found that, more often than not, it is my life that is moving me and making me feel deeply more than anything else.

Granted, I am learning what it truly means to be your run-of-the-mill college student who pays for gasoline with quarters (and occasionally a handful of dimes that warrants a glare from the attendant). Despite sorting through every stash of change I can manage to find, my gas tank is usually no more than a bit above empty, and in my waking hours I am finding myself on campus more than in my apartment. I don’t have more than thirty dollars to my name (though if my negative balances and loans were reversed I would be very well-off for quite some time). I have yet to finish unpacking the daunting task that is my new bedroom, and there is always the voice screaming in the back of my mind that I should be picking up more shifts at work, getting another job, making more time for friends or even just for myself and my own heart.

But I cannot recall feeling this contented and learned and just… well, happy, in such a very long time. Using the word ‘happy’ feels like such a copout. In Spanish, I think it sounds more beautiful. Happiness. Felicidad. Finalmente, he encontrado felicidad. Finally, I have found happiness. Granted, happiness is an emotion and it is fleeting, and tomorrow I may be a thousand miles away from that sporadic feeling, but this week, this month, this moment and today… I have found it. I can rest in that.

I think if I would have stayed on the straight and narrow of academia – gone straight to school and skipped out on Europe, travel and other nomadic activities (and not instilled the fear in my parents that I would become a career-waitress and never recognize my potential) – I would not love school nearly as much or as profoundly.

I love my major. I love it a little more every time I walk through the Admin and see staff that is happy to see me and wave hello. I love that it feels like I have a support network and a family of sorts. I love that every class I have is filled with open eyes and open hearts that crave the things that I do… travel, feeding the hungry, adventure, compassion, politics, foreign cultures and languages. I love walking on campus when traces of snow still linger at the foot of the fading brick buildings, and I love it when I run into familiar faces that I somehow know after just a single semester here. I love that I am too busy to be stagnant and complacent. I am thankful that my classes are already challenging beliefs and my preconceived notions of the world, inviting me to become well-rounded and aware. I love that I am in a relationship that allows me to be busy unapologetically, that he and I can be content sitting in the same room together but focusing on essays and reading textbooks.

I am thankful for today. My eyes were heavy most of the day (much like they are right now, but that’s what I get for waking up two hours early to watch the inauguration), and I spent three hours in a library before trotting off to class, but I came home to a warm apartment that already has the personality of a home, and a roommate that I love living with so far. I have small quantities of food to eat when I wake up in the morning. I start work again tomorrow after a full day of classes. I will wake up bright and early, and probably be exhausted by the time I throw my keys on my desk after walking in the door.

It has the possibility of sounding like a drag, especially with my less-than-avid description, but my life has structure and purpose and meaning. That in itself makes it a thousand times easier to pull myself out of bed in the morning. I have lectures that I don’t want to miss, assignments to conquer, a man that I love spending time with, and a fireplace to curl up next to when I get home.

Life doesn’t get much better than mine is right now.

God, thanks for today. I loved it.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

on lacking resolution

Dear 2009,

I won’t lie, sometimes the idea of you frightens me.

It’s not because the years before you have not been good to me, but because with the way things seem to change in this swiftly-tilting world, I never know where I will be when you are over. But, as 2008 will tell you, I have been working on consistency, being balanced, and trying to stay in one place (I have been in Moscow for almost 17 months, which is a record since being on my own). It’s not that I’ve given up being a nomad or my passion for travel, people and languages. On the contrary, I have found that the quickest way to get where I am longing to go is through higher education and a degree in International Studies. Besides, Ecuador and Peru are waiting for me once your reign is over next January (knock on wood), and after that it’s just one more year until I can spread my wings, pack my bags, and set off on the grand adventure that will be my life.

So keep me focused 2009, because usually once March slips away into spring I find myself craving the kiss of summer and the rays of the sunshine playing on my face. Maybe it’s that lingering bit of California in my veins. Don’t let me slip into stagnancy in my schoolwork, and let your sunrises remind me that every day is new and spilling over with opportunities to change myself and the world around me.

Here are some hopes that I have for us and our relationship during your stay in my life: I hope that your days are beautiful and that I don’t waste them with empty words or broken promises. I hope that you give me rain as well as sunshine, so I can live deeply and know that regardless of the demons I am wrestling, it will all give way to brilliant and beautiful light again soon enough.

I hope you continue to teach me, as last year did, that listening is a more attractive quality than being filled with self and always knowing the right things to say. I hope that you help me learn humility and honesty, letting my pride give way to something more well-rounded and wise.

I hope the journey we are on together is one worth retelling someday, filled with mystery and wonder, new lessons learned and new faces to carry with me always. I hope the path I am walking is one that will radiate love and understanding, compassion and open-mindedness. I hope that I learn the uselessness of possessions, the depths of friendship, the fragility of my existence, the power of my mind, the hope in perseverance, and that life is as beautiful as I let it become.

Welcome 2009, it’s nice to meet you, and thank you for your lack of annoyance at my refusal to make resolutions this year. I am appreciating your kindness already.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

on resolving my resolution

On the 3rd day of last year – exactly one year ago today - I wrote a blog called ‘On Resolution.’

I don’t think of resolutions as things that are concrete or things that will give me reason to deem myself a failure if left undone. I don’t believe in social trends that come and go (not to say that I have never bought into them myself), and I don’t think all of life’s problems can be solved by losing weight or changing your fashion sense. I also don’t think, as my best friend does, that people who set resolutions are morons (I laughed out loud when I read that, but only because I love you so much my Natalie).

I do think it’s important to set goals, however, even if those goals end up changing, or turning out to be not-so-important in the long run. On this note, here is 2008:


Be more socially active instead of asleep. Read articles. Learn geography. Challenge yourself to be involved in the world any way you can, even if it's uncomfortable. Check. Thanks to a geography quizzing website, I am now knowledgeable about many areas I was clueless about before… Eastern Europe, Asia, Oceania, and all those random countries in Africa that actually do exist. If you feel so inspired: Getting involved can weigh heavily on your heart, especially when you begin to learn about concentrated wealth and how very easy it would be so solve third world issues if the wealthy of the world thought as one.

Strive to be more organized. Who knew that Dayna would turn into an anal-retentive, not-always-fun-to-be-around roommate who flips out when she occasionally has to do dishes or step in a plate of chicken. Check; but I may have taken it too far (Thanks to Adrienne and Senja for always putting up with my weirdness and my newfound love of bleach and Windex).

Begin to collect ideas for a book. Compile them in a notebook labeled 'Memoirs of a Life Deliberately Lived.' Then try to promote consistency by living deliberately. Sort of a check, I collected ideas for a book, didn’t label them though, I felt like my life is too outrageously spontaneous and random to fit into one title. I sort of lived deliberately…

Intentionally befriend people who defy social norms. One or two checks. No names though.

Frequent pawn shops and garage sales, and start collecting records. Organize them by artist, color, genre, or date released. This will perhaps help with the enjoyment of the organization. Upon rediscovering the typical ‘starving college student lifestyle,’ and paying for meals in quarters on occasion, this aspiration was promptly discarded.

Begin to read more foreign authors. Search for perspectives you may not have experienced before. Soak in the themes and even if they seem too complicated, try to get what you can from them. No checks here, though I did really enjoy some poems by Spanish-speaking authors, particularly ‘Bajo un Palmar’ by Pedro Flores Córdova.

Play guitar with a homeless person.< Check. Summer 2008, Seattle.

Dwell in scripture; not in the amount read or the pages you turn in a day, but in the content of the message, and the weight of the words. Do not underline what is read, in case someone else might notice. Try to let it rest in your heart. Nope.

Everything is going to be fine. Work on realizing this when in a bind or having a rough day. I would like to say I have discovered the secret of not being stressed out or turning into an occasional basket case, but as of a few weeks ago, while trying to move and find a way over the pass, while working 30 hours a week and studying for finals… and subsequently wanting to end my life, I am okay with not checking this one.

Attempt to understand the subtle nuances between coffee blends. Also, and probably more socially helpful, wine. It would be nice to learn more about wine; goes nicely with cheese. No checks, and no newfound knowledge about coffee (except that really cheap, pre-ground coffee from Winco starts to sound really good after paying for Starbucks drinks in quarters). I do, however, still claim that wine goes nicely with cheese. A few new favorite wines of the past year: Zen of Zin, Big Red Monster, Lo Tengo, Martinsancho Verdejo, Prosperity Merlot, and 3 Blind Moose. Most are affordable occasionally for the average college student.

Learn how to photograph professionally. Not just take pictures, but to capture the essence of someone's heart in a frame. I would especially like more pictures of inanimate objects, sunsets, and facial expressions. Perhaps this is not the most pressing issue in my life.

Give more. Whether that means around the house I live in, my family, financially, or the giving of my time to organizations that need it. Could’ve done better.

Listen more. Talk less. I have heard (from Shani) that I am getting better at this. I definitely still have a long way to go, but I have made some headway.

Write as often as inspiration strikes; a sunrise, an open door, a brightly painted windowpane... create, be moved, help to move others, be inspired and open. I wrote a lot this year, and am proud of most of it.

Get at least another semester of school done. If financially possible, finish your AA. I think this was my favorite thing to finish this year… I managed to get a 3.0 GPA, which could have been higher, but I am just content to be back in school and chasing after what I want to do in life.

Reach the intermediete level of the Italian language. Spanish is great, and when you begin to struggle with the nuances of a different tongue, try to realize the benefits you will reap when you can carry on a meaningful conversation with millions more people than you could have before.< Upon getting back into school, I did, in fact, decide that pursuing fluency in Spanish was more important and useful to me than Italian right now. I would love to learn it someday, it is such a beautiful language, but I decided that I have my lingual hands full for now.

Think of something more creative than stickers and pictures to send to my 3 sponsored kids. They are in need, and they deserve the best. Poor kids.

Write a song of thanks and gratitude for someone else and the impact they have had on your life. I did start writing one for Popo, my grandpa, if that counts. And I sang my mom the song I wrote her two years ago for Mother’s Day…

Host a Compassion Day at church. There’s always next year.

Make amends with people you have wronged in your past. Whether that is asking forgiveness or letting them know you care. I wasn’t stellar in this area.

Live with purpose and stand for things that need defending: children with empty bellies, families with no roof over their heads, stories that need to be told, and hearts that need friends.< I genuinely, honestly, feel like I am doing this. Finally! The entire focus of my education right now is learning about the international community, and what will come of that eventually will hopefully be a career that I can actually help people with… not help people that just want to make more money… not help the people that don’t need it… not putting more money in the pockets of the world’s wealthy… not working for a self-serving company… but finding solutions to get a step closer to eradicating poverty, getting water to villages in Africa, pushing for peace over violence, and most of all trying to make sure that we as a generation did the best we could with what we were given.

Live intentionally. Love more and more unconditionally. I believe this phrase will always need working on, and it’s a lifelong pursuit. For all of us.

Welcome 2008. I think we will get along just fine.< For the most part, I think we did. On to the next adventure…