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…