To Those Who Have Touched My Twenty-One Years of Life But Are No Longer A Part Of It

To those who have touched my twenty-one years of life but are no longer a part of it,

I hope all is well with you. It’s been a while. It could be a month or two. Or maybe over a decade. Either way, hello.

I turned twenty-one this past January. Crazy, I know. I hope you’ve had beautiful birthdays since the last time we’ve spoken. And I hope the years between those birthdays have been beautiful too.

I’m a lot different since I last saw you. I’m learning more about myself every single day. Sometimes it feels like I’m backtracking, or like I don’t know myself at all. But I can’t even say I’m the same person I was a month ago. So I’ve realized it’s okay to get confused by myself every once in a while.

I wanted to write to you for a lot of reasons. To say hi, to reminisce, to say some of the things I never said that I wish I had. But most of all, I wanted to write you to thank you.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about my life. About where I’ve left my fingerprints and where I will leave them in the future. I’ve been thinking a lot about all the choices I’ve made and the people I’ve met and how every teeny tiny decision I’ve ever made and every single person I’ve ever interacted with (directly or indirectly) has in some way pushed me into the trajectory my life has taken and will continue to take.

So I want to thank you.

Because in some way, shape or form, you have been a part of my twenty-one years here on earth. Maybe you had been with me since the very beginning. Or maybe, as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow so aptly described, we were just two ships passing in the night. Either way, our lives have been intertwined, for no matter how long or short, for good or for bad. And I want to thank you for being a part of it.

  1. To the friend who I had my first sleepover with: thank you for letting me leave the hallway light on, it made me feel safer.
  2. To the girl who taught me how to make friendship bracelets (and gave me my first one): thank you for being my first true friend.
  3. To the person who co-authored my fantastical stories as a child: thank you for fighting the dragons, flying with the faries and helping me bring my ideas to life. You made my childhood enchanting.
  4. To the girl who first talked behind my back: thank you for helping me learn the importance of friendship.
  5. To the boy who was my first crush: thank you for my first butterflies.
  6. To the bus driver who got me to school safely for nine years: thank you for waiting those extra two minutes when we were running late.
  7. To the people I rode that same bus with for all those years: thank you for putting up with all the stupid nicknames, coming up with all those silly games and for spending all those miles with me.
  8. To the teachers who helped my imagination flourish: thank you for giving me that part, for getting me into that class, for encouraging my ideas and for making my parents happy at all those parent-teacher conferences.
  9. To the teachers who always seemed to want to hold my imagination back: thank you for showing me how much I truly appreciate my creativity.
  10. To the actors and actresses who acted with me: thank you for helping me nail that spin, for being patient with me when I was learning my lines and for making theatre such an amazing experience.
  11. To those who turned me down: thank you for helping me see that rejection isn’t the end of the world.
  12. To the kids who were always “too popular” to be my friends: thank you for allowing me to learn to give everyone a chance.
  13. To the boy who gave me my first kiss: thank you for making the wait worth it.
  14. To the coaches who pushed me to my highest potential: thank you for not giving up on me.
  15. To the coaches who underestimated me: thank you for teaching me that I’m more than what others think.
  16. To the first person I loved and who loved me back: thank you for opening my heart up and for showing me parts of myself I never saw before.
  17. To the friend who I would talk on the phone with until 3AM: thank you for making me know how it feels to laugh until I cry and talk about nothing for hours.
  18. To the club that helped me find my passion again: thank you for finding me a home I didn’t know I was missing and giving me a pen so I could write the stories I needed to write.
  19. To the person who’s heart I broke: thank you for all of the memories and for letting me go so I could find myself. I’m sorry.
  20. To the friends who turned their backs on me: thank you for helping me learn what true friendship means.
  21. To the one who listened to me when I wasn’t okay: thank you for asking.
  22. To the faces in dorm hallways I would always smile at: thank you for smiling back.
  23. To the strangers who’ve complemented my outfit: thank you for making my days brighter.
  24. To the people I’ve met at 2AM in pizza parlors: thank you for understanding me.
  25. To the strangers who’s stories I’ve heard, no matter how briefly, in gas station rest stops, planes, trains, subway cars and everywhere in between: thank you for allowing me to see a small piece of you; it’s an amazing thing to see.
  26. And finally, to the thousands of old versions of me and all the future versions of me that will ultimately leave me: thank you for all the life lessons, the tears, the smiles, for allowing me to look back on my life with happiness and for sacrificing yourself so I can continue to find myself over and over again.

Our lives are touched by hundreds of people every single day. Life is, in essence, a mess of connections, of threads connecting each one of us together in some strange way, shape or form.

I invite you to take the next few minutes to maybe think of someone who you haven’t thought of in a few days, a few months, a few years. And send them a silent thank you for the thread, no matter how frayed or worn, that holds you two together.

 

I Didn’t Find Myself When I Studied Abroad and Neither Will You

When I stepped onto to that two-hour delayed, London-bound plane the night of January 6th, 2015, my eyes were tired, my heart was pounding and I had probably never been more excited in my entire life. Since my freshmen year of high school, I had dreamed of studying abroad in the United Kingdom. And now, five and a half years later, here I was, ready to begin the journey of a lifetime.

For Christmas, my mom had purchased for me a softcover copy of Wild by Cheryl Strayed, a memoir about a woman’s three month backpacking trek along the Western Coast. It was a book about love and loss, but ultimately, it was a book about self-discovery.

Picture me, strapped into my seat on that airplane, clutching that new book in my hands, rereading the back cover in excitement before finally cracking the spine and devouring the first chapter, just in time to grab a complementary glass of airplane wine and (attempt to) fall asleep.

With all the traveling, school work, cooking and cleaning over the next four months, it would take me (a devout book worm) the entirety of my spring semester and longer to finish that book. Nearly a month after my plane had touched back down in the United States, I finally turned the last page. I was on the NJ Transit, on another kind of journey. Looking back, its ironic it was on that train ride I finally got around to finishing Strayed’s book. Because it would be exactly a week later that I would begin to think long and hard about the themes of self-discovery peppered throughout its pages. It would be exactly a week later that I would begin to question the whole idea of “finding yourself”.

“Study abroad” and “self-discovery” have come to be almost synonymous. Its why my mom got me Wild, its why books like Eat, Pray, Love and On the Road are on various lists of “Books You Have To Read Before You Go Abroad”.

Now I know, as does anyone who has studied abroad, as will anyone that eventually does study abroad, that going abroad will change you. You will step back onto your home turf a different person than the one who got on that plane a few months prior. You will emerge from baggage claim a more educated, worldly, wiser person. You will be changed.

And, most importantly, if you’re anything like me, you will be confused.

Because you’ll experience things and see places that will make you think thoughts you’ve never thought before and make you feel emotions you didn’t know you had. You’ll say things that will surprise you and you’ll do things you never thought you could do.

You will realize a truly frightening and exciting thing: you really don’t know yourself at all.

One day, while I was in Budapest nearing the end of my semester abroad, I spent a day on my own. I wandered around the Fisherman’s Bastion, stopped where I wanted to stop, shopped where I wanted to shop, saw all of the things I wanted to see and skipped what I didn’t. I ate breakfast on my own, sat by myself at lunch, had ice cream even though it was 30 degrees out.

Right before I was about to head back to our apartment for the weekend, I made the last minute decision to venture into the Labyrinth of Buda Castle. It was a tourist trap, so I didn’t expect much from the eight U.S. dollars I spent to get in. But when I found myself in the series of dark underground tunnels beneath the city, I realized that this was the most alone I had ever been in my entire life.

A little bit on the history of the labyrinth. The labyrinth beneath Buda Castle in its prime functioned as both a prison and as a torture chamber. In the 15th century, its darkest, deepest chambers was inhabited by its most famous resident: Vlad Tepes. Today, we all know Vlad as “Dracula.” The story goes that Dracula was imprisoned in the labyrinth after he went behind the back of his good friend King Matthias of Hungary and married Matthias’ cousin. Dracula’s wife would end up throwing herself off the top of a tower and into the river Arges after her home was invaded by the Turks, claiming she “would rather have her body be eaten by the fish of the Argeş than be captured by the Turks”. A classic tragic love story.

Playing off of this idea of tragic love and betrayal, the labyrinth also depicted the story of Verdi’s opera A Masked Ball. In the opera, a King is conspired against, and is ultimately betrayed by his most trusted friend. Filled with illicit love and murder, the opera was actually banned for a period of time in Italy.

So here’s a mental picture for you. Me, alone, in the damp underground labyrinth/torture chamber. After reading about the horrors endured by the prisoners housed here, learning more about Dracula than I ever thought I would, and after venturing through a part of the maze devoid of light (I had to use a rope to guide my way through the pitch black darkness), I heard opera music echoing down the hallways. I emerge to find prison cells filled with mannequins, dressed in lavish costumes from a performance of Verdi’s opera at the Hungarian Opera. It was one of the creepiest/beautiful/surreal moments of my life to this date.

You may be wondering why I’m telling you about my day in Fisherman’s Bastion and what any of this has to do with why I have given up on finding myself. And the reason is this:

It’s because that day was the first time I had asked for a table for one. It’s because that day I wandering through the darkest darkness possible all on my own and because that day I learned that, hey, I really do like opera music.

We are filled with endless possibilities; infinite amounts of potential hobbies and likes and dislikes and opinions and fears and triumphs and thoughts and actions. That day in Budapest, I realized how complex we really are. And that very same day I gave up on finding myself. Because I realized that finding myself meant that I had stopped growing and learning and changing. And I hate the idea of stagnantity.

I bought a postcard to commemorate that day, with a beautiful sketch of the Fisherman’s Bastion etched on the front. And on the plane ride home from that trip, I took a Sharpie to the back of it and wrote in big, bold, fearless letters, “You did it on your own.” It was a tiny baby step on the endless road we call life, but in reference to infinity, every step, no matter how large, is insignificant. And that’s not a bad thing. It just means that hopefully, no matter how much we learn about who we are, we’ll never stay the same long enough to find ourselves.

That day in the labyrinth, I stumbled upon a tiny, lonely, dark room occupied by a projector showing film clips from different operas and operettas. I can distinctly remember even now, sitting down on the steps, in the damp, echoing darkness, just living with myself for a while. I ask you to find a place where you can be alone, and sit and listen for a bit. Live with yourself and just know you are an infinity of possibilities. It’s an amazing thing.

The Fragility Of Humans

I’d be lying if I told you the last few weeks have been the easiest few weeks of my life. And over these past few weeks, I have felt the raw forms of an assortment of different emotions, some of which I think don’t even have a name.

With everything I have been dealing with, it has felt sometimes like my brain has gone haywire. Suddenly your mind is like a kamikaze pilot, a martyr desperate to prove themselves; your mind turns on itself like a cancer, poisoning every thought to the point where you feel like your eating yourself alive, where you almost seem to relish in the sadness and the anger and the guilt. You are a turncoat, a traitor, your own Judas, your own worst enemy.

There will come times in your life where you feel profound and deep emotion. Pure ecstasy, yes, but also anger that boils your blood so much you might be ashamed of it, and pain so deep it not only surprises you, but numbs you to the core. I guarantee if you haven’t already felt emotions that amaze you by how exceedingly powerful they are, that astonish you because you didn’t know you could even feel that much, it will happen. That is the human experience: there’s no need to be scared by it, because it’s a beautiful thing, really, that we can feel something as pure as emotions.

I’ve been reflecting a lot recently, on this idea of emotions, on happiness and sadness. My sophomore year of high school, I struggled a lot with self-confidence and self-image issues. It was an unhappiness I didn’t quite understand, and, much like the unhappiness I mentioned above, it was a dangerous sadness that turned my mind on myself. I often wondered to myself, if happiness was a choice (a statement I now only believe up to a certain extent), why couldn’t I just be happy.

One day I mustered up the courage to confide in a friend that, “No, I actually was not okay.” This was a turning point; I confessed my feelings, expressed my insecurities, and I finally felt free. I had found the path towards happiness and chose it. And it was a rocky road that would take time to walk along, but it didn’t matter because I had come to a fork in the road between happiness and sadness and I had chosen the “right” one.

Ironically, four years later, the summer after my sophomore year of college, I found myself facing a somewhat similar problem once again: here I was, fighting this wave of sadness, all the while saying to myself, why can’t I just be happy.

It might have been because four years ago, I was younger and my emotions were less complicated. Now that I was older, the emotions I was dealing with were more complex, and thus, something I needed to deal with again when I was more mature (a theory I would like to mention, but I personally seriously doubt).

Yes, the complexity of emotions cannot be argued against, but I don’t think this complexity is something that develops over time. Emotions have always been complex and my age has nothing to do with it. When I had dealt with my sadness at 16 years-old, it had been just as complex as the emotions I felt now as a 20-year old woman.

There are two main things I’ve learned so far during this part of my life.

One. There is nothing romantic about sadness. Yes the films and the media, books and stories, they all portray a one-faceted light of what it’s like to suffer; what it’s like to cry and learn, forgive, forget and move-on. But something as complicated as the emotions of a real, breathing, honest-to-god human being, cannot be summed with a movie montage, a clip of our hero having an “a-ha” moment in a thunder-storm, and a quick, happy ending tied up in a red bow.

I don’t want to discredit works of art of this sort: many times these works are based on people’s real life emotions and growing experiences. Thus, they can be important tools for understanding, healing, and learning. There are so many movies and novels that have touched me down to my core, that do, and continue to, inspire and conjure up feelings inside me. But even the most well-executed piece of theatrical production, or the most poignant book, can not completely capture real, raw emotions in the light that they are truly felt.

There is nothing romantic about disease, depression, eating disorders, or self-image issues. There is nothing magical about crying for a loved one you still hope one day will come running through that door again, or learning how to grieve over a broken heart while wondering what it will mean if they choose to never return back. The only thing waiting for a cancer diagnosis is, is scary as all hell.

These are all very real emotions, felt by very real people every single day. They show just how beautiful and absolutely fucking terrible emotions can really be. They are actual problems/feelings that can’t be fixed by simply finding the “right” path and “choosing” to be happy.

Which brings me to my second point.

Two. Anger and happiness, guilt and sadness, and all the feelings in between, all are messy and frustrating. They are unfathomable and simple at the same time. Life is all a huge convoluted, tangled mess that you will spend the rest of your life trying to figure out.

When I was in high school, I mentioned that I had felt like I came to a fork in the road: happy versus sad. And that dealing with my emotions, and learning from them, led me to pick the path for “happiness”.

When you’re faced with sadness, you feel like it has consumed your life; you are dejected, depressed, you are sad. And the same can go for happiness as well; you feel bright and warm and ecstatic, so when you hit that bump of sadness, you’re left wondering, “What happened? I was so happy”.

Here’s what I’ve come to realize. These past few months, I’ve dealt with the worst pain I ever could have imagined (dismal, I know, but it’ll get more cheery). It has left me breathless, confused, dazed, like a visitor in my own body: I don’t wish it on anyone. But the funny thing is, I can sit here and acknowledge that, yes, this is the deepest pain I’ve ever felt in my whole life, I know that. But still, through it all, there are flickers, sparkles and glimmers of happiness.

In the workout I just killed that I could barely finish a month ago, in leaving the office to grab Chipotle with good company and now, good friends. In cracking up and (yes, even shedding tears) to a horribly, wonderful TV show called The Bachelorette. In half crying, half-laughing with my friend on the phone as he told me lines that sounded like they came straight out of a John Green novel (I kid you not, that kid is a genius). From the guy at the gym who told a shrimp like me I was “amazing”, to the humor of a group of girls who were still able to support their tipsy friend who was all the way in Mexico, I felt happiness. And for 3 minutes and 21 seconds, while I sang along to every word of The Spins by Mac Miller, while driving with my windows down along the Long Island coast next to my best friend, I felt euphoric.

Before, I said that I only believed happiness was a choice up to a certain extent.

Sometimes, I think we do get lost in this idea of the “romanticism” of sadness: for some reason some of us can fall into this trap where we relish this sadness and soak in our misery. This is the choice part, when you choose to foster this sorrow and give in to this idea of a “glamorous” sadness.

The choice lies in either cultivating this sadness, or accepting it. Because you sure as hell can’t choose to not feel sad. Sadness happens. For some people, it’s harder than others. But don’t you dare ever tell someone to just be happy.

Happiness, sadness, fear, jealousy: emotions are not states of being. There are no paths or roads, or even choices sometimes. Your feelings do not define you. You are not happy. You are not sad. You are unapologetically you. You are you who feels things in a way unique to all other people and every day you will feel hundreds of different, unique combinations of emotions.

As for me? I am strong, with an even stronger support system behind me. I can be happy when I am sad or angry or hurt. And, if I’m going to be completely honest, I’m really fucking scared. But I’d rather feel all of these things, than nothing at all.

I just want to leave you with the last line of a short story I wrote when I was a senior in high school. It was a story about heartbreak, something I didn’t truly understand at the time, but recently, it has come to mean a lot more to me.

The message I was trying to get across at the time was the idea that pain hurts, it hurts like hell, but the fact that you feel such strong pain, is because you care so much. Because the fact that you feel such strong emotion is because you are human, and that’s what’s beautiful about you.

“The fragility of humans cannot be denied, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

52 Things I Learned When I Studied Abroad

“Bizarre travel plans are dancing lessons from God” – Kurt Vonnegut

  1. I love bacon.
  2. I also like pepperoni pizza.
  3. They DO have cilantro in the UK, they just call it coriander.
  4. Appreciate the good guacamole when you have it.
  5. There was once a polar bear that lived in the Tower of London and the King would let him swim in the river Thames.
  6. Bernard Shaw, one of the greatest play writes of the UK, lost his virginity at age 29 to his mother’s friend.
  7. Ralph Fiennes originally did not want to be Voldemort. His nieces and nephews had to guilt him into it. And the character design helped too.
  8. Tesco reigns as the supreme super market in the UK (not just in market share but in awesomeness as well).
  9. Tesco Metro is cheaper than Tesco Express, if you ever get the energy to get to Tesco Metro.
  10. You can bring your dog on the tube. It’s awesome.
  11. Easy Jet REALLY does only let you take one carry on bag.
  12. The Eiffel Tower twinkles at 9pm, 10pm, 11pm, 12am and 1am. It’s worth rushing from dinner, getting an Uber and sprinting to see it at 1am.
  13. There is an overabundance of selfie sticks in Rome, that’s why everyone wants to sell you one.
  14. Eating outside is underrated. I intend to do it much more often.
  15. You can save money on plane tickets by clearing your history first.
  16. To enter into the lottery to get a Wimbledon ticket you must hand-write your application and mail it in. There are people who’s job it is to check the handwriting of EVERY single application to make sure people aren’t cheating and applying twice.
  17. The tube closes at 1AM. It really does.
  18. In England, you don’t go out for a beer, you go out for a pint.
  19. The epitaph on Shakespeare’s tomb reads something to the effect of “Don’t dig up my bones”.
  20. A star trap was used for special effects in the early theater for dramatic entrances, usually by either fairies or demons. They were eventually banned because of all the injuries they caused.
  21. Richard Digby Day has staged more Bernard Shaw plays than any other living director.
  22. My favorite book is Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.
  23. Before you can become a cab driver you have to take The Knowledge aka you have to ride around on a motorcycle and memorize all of the streets in London.
  24. Dracula was a real person. His name was Vlad Tepes and he was a prisoner in the labyrinths underneath Budapest, trapped there by the Hungarian King Matthias Corvinus.
  25. Champagne is only really champagne if its made in Champagne, France.
  26. The Blue Lagoon is a geothermic hot spring in Iceland and is one of the 25 Wonders of the World.
  27. The Northern Lights are the strongest and most visible in Iceland from January to early April.
  28. The oldest pub in Ireland, The Brazen Head, is from the year 1198 (go Ireland!)
  29. Marketers at Guinness used to advertise that a Guinness a day was good for your health.
  30. The Irish keep the Guinness produced in Ireland for themselves. So there’s a very good chance that any Guinness you drink outside of Ireland was actually brewed in Africa.
  31. The founder of Guinness signed a 9,000-year lease for the Guinness brewery.
  32. If you place a glass of red wine underneath a light and on a white surface, you can use the color of the hue reflected onto the surface to approximate its age. The more deep and dark the color, the younger the wine.
  33. A koffie shop in Amsterdam is what we would consider to be a normal coffee shop. A coffee shop in Amsterdam is NOT what we would consider to be a normal coffee shop.
  34. A few months before his death, Vincent Van Gogh was averaging a painting a day.
  35. Pussy Galore (Honor Blackman) was the oldest Bond girl.
  36. There are approximately 6 million bodies buried below Paris in the Catacombs.
  37. The Palace of Versailles was first built as a hunting lodge for Louis XIII.
  38. In Italy, its very easy to call out sick and its contributing to the bad health of their economy.
  39. DON’T buy five jars of pasta sauce, even if its on sale, if you know you’ll be leaving in a few weeks.
  40. Kinder Eggs are Illegal in the United States: A Tragedy by Brianna Woodward.
  41. Wine and cheese is fabulous.
  42. Speaking as a twenty year old who slept in a creaky bunk bed for four months, bunk beds are not as fun as they were when you were eight.
  43. Spell check is important. There’s nothing like a typo (or twenty) in an e-mail to make someone sound unprofessional.
  44. Talk to your taxi/Uber drivers. You might hear a great life story or two.
  45. Things will NOT go according to plan. And that’s okay.
  46. Museums are great. But its alright if you skip them and explore on your own instead.
  47. It’s okay to go out and spend a day by yourself. Time alone is healthy.
  48. Being homesick does not mean you’re unappreciative.
  49. Missing home does not mean that you’re not strong, or that you’re immature.
  50. Being sad does not mean you’re ungrateful.
  51. I have to spend tons more time getting to know myself.
  52. I still have a hell of a lot left to learn.

Take This Waltz

My mom once told me that I’d be lucky to have one true friend by the time I got to be her age.

You may think this is a pessimistic way to start a post, but its true.

Life is transitory.

It may seem like things have sucked forever, it may appear that you’ve been in high school for ten years or you’ve been stuck in that job for a thousands or you’ve been friends for a million – in the moment, everything seems permanent. It is only with foresight that we look back and realize how far we’ve come from that time of “permanent-ality”.

You can think of this as a sad thing, you can put on black and mourn how life refuses to stay the same, how we’re always moving, always changing.

Or you can throw your head back and roll your windows down and blast your favorite song while the wind tangles your hair and smile at the fact that life refuses to stay the same, we’re always moving, always changing. 

It’s hard to live in the present, I know. It’s one of the things I struggle with the most. The past always seems to be beckoning you to come back and the future is eternally tempting you to wish to jump forward. But forgetting to live in the present, I have realized, is one of the most dangerous things we can do.

This past weekend, I was blessed enough to have a beautiful, beautiful day. My friends and I ventured out of the outskirts of Paris, where we were staying, hopped onto a old, battered overground train, and headed towards Versailles and the palace that lived there. I could only described the weather as a perfect balance, so perfect a balance you could never tell whether you were hot or cold, because you were, in actuality, neither. We explored the halls of the kings of France, our footsteps drowned out by the drone of tourists from all corners of the earth, speaking languages I couldn’t decipher. I saw glimpses of lives I couldn’t even begin to fathom, stories I could only try to weave with my own imagination. I wandered the gardens of Versailles, the sun smiling down on all us tiny tourists, my shoes dusted with the same ground graced by Louis XVI and his entourage. I counted out my coins and bought sorbet and ate it in the grass pond-side, watching the paddle boats lazily drift across the man-made waterway. We rented a rowboat, and wore our sunglasses, and took turns attempting to paddle our way around the pond, while listening to an amazing assortment of music, from classical all the way to “Sweet Home Alabama”.

That day my friend turned me and said, “I wish you could Instagram a moment”. And it was true. It was a moment of pure happiness, a moment I wish I could take you to exactly. It was a moment of sunshine and strawberries and contentment and beauty. But I know, no matter how hard I try to describe it, its a moment that cannot be described completely accurately and a moment that will never exactly happen again. It was one of the few times in my life, despite the stress and the homesickness, that I’ve felt completely and utterly present. And it is because of that feeling of “present-ness” that I can only hope you have a moment of such clarity yourself, so you can feel it too.

Life is transitory.

There is a saying I’ve heard somewhere, sometime, that says you will never step into the same river twice. Life is like a river, always flowing downstream, never halting, never reversing. And we can try to control it, we can build dams and reservoirs and attempt to stop it, but what’s the beauty in a river that cannot flow? There are many things I can look back on in life with sadness, and there are many things I can look forward to in life with happiness, and that’s okay. Reflection is healthy. But I’ve come to realize the very simple fact that it’s not worth jeopardizing my present happiness for things I cried about in the past or things I’m going to smile about in the future. I will never step into the same river twice. So I intend on taking advantage of every single river I’m lucky enough to experience.

So, you again might be thinking, doesn’t it still suck that I’ll only have one friend when I’m as old as my mom?

Yea, you can think of it as a bad thing.

Or you can reflect back on the past with happiness, knowing that wherever you’ve been and whomever you’ve loved, have become a part of you somehow. And be anchored in the present, knowing there’s a person with you who was special enough to bend the rules of the transitive property of life.

That beautiful day, in the rowboat, one of the songs we listened to was “Take This Waltz” by Leonard Cohen. Like I said before, I can’t take you exactly to my own moment of “present-ness”, but please take a moment to sit and listen, and make the next few minutes, a moment of “present-ness” of your own.

An Infinity of Invisible Staircases

“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

We rely on trust a lot in our world.

This epiphany, this realization that almost every interaction I have, every moment of every day, is based on some form of trust, occurred to me a few weeks ago. And it came to me not in a state of meditation, nor a moment of prayer, nor even the shower (where I must add many epiphanies of the sort happen). This insight came to me, of all times, when I was getting my eyebrows done, for far too much money, at a small salon on High Street Kensington.

Let me explain.

I was sitting there, in a salon in a foreign country, with a woman who I had just given the responsibility of fixing up my unmanageable eyebrows, when I realized I did not know the woman’s name. Here I was, reclining with my eyes closed in a plastic chair that squeaked whenever I made the slightest movement, letting a stranger dictate the fate of my eyebrows.

How easy it would be, I thought, for this woman to simply take off half an eyebrow without me even knowing.

I had seen no certification of this woman, I had not inquired about her prior experience at eyebrow threading; for all I knew, she could have no clue what she was doing.

But here I was, sitting in a creaky chair, paying an absurd amount of money to a woman who, if she was feeling extra rebellious that day, could easily remove half, if not all of one of my precious eyebrows.

I’ll inform you now that I luckily left that salon that day with both my eyebrows in tact. But leaving one-browed was a real possibly I hadn’t thought of before. Because I had always trusted that all those beauticians at all those salons I’ve frequented just simply wouldn’t do such a thing.

This may seem like an absurd way to introduce this idea but the fact of the matter is:

we rely on trust a lot in our world.

Every time you step into a cab, you trust that driver to bring you safely to your destination.

Every time you go to a restaurant, you have faith that the food they serve you won’t make you sick.

And things do go wrong in our world: there are car accidents and there is food poisoning and there are inevitably people that will let you down.

But the point is, we trust so willingly so unknowingly, every second of every day. We take steps towards infinite amounts of invisible staircases from the moment we wake up trusting that our crappy insta-coffee will have the caffeine we need to wake up, to the moment we go to bed at night worrying about everything we have to do the next day, with faith that our roof that someone built years ago will still be there the next morning.

How truly blessed we are to be able to have faith in such simple things such as these. So many people cannot say the same.

Trust is such a beautiful thing. There’s something very human about it. There’s also something very optimistic about it.

So you can talk all you want about how this world is going downhill and hey, its definitely not perfect and we have a lot of work to do, but trust is believing in the inner good of people and at our cores, embedded in our very human nature, I believe we do have trust.

So today, make an effort to notice those little moments of hidden trust.

And don’t be afraid to keep moving towards those invisible staircases.

With Love In Lisbon

I will never know your life and you will never know mine. And there’s a certain sort of tragedy in that. 

We all have our stories, every single one of us. Stories of drunken nights and quiet mornings, of love lost and love found, stories that bring tears to our eyes if we ever attempt to tell them and stories that only we find funny.

Our lives are a string of stories, in a way. We’re all walking unbound books with thousands upon thousands of untouched pages still left to fill up.

This is probably why the idea of strangers has always bothered me. I’ve always loved a good story and there seems to me to be an unfairness of sorts, a kind of aggravation, that I can’t possibly know every single one of them.

And it is this aggravation, this desire, this itching to know all these lives, that made me so fascinated with the love locks in Rossio Square in Lisbon, Portugal.

Because each and every one of those metal hearts etched with Sharpie in handwriting of all shapes and sizes, in all different languages and dialects, is a story on its own. Each lock is a glimpse into the mind of the person who wrote it. It is what mattered the most when they were asking themselves, “What piece of me is worth writing down and locking up?”

As an onlooker, these locks were not full stories. They were only snapshots, but they were stories nonetheless.

Here are some of the ones that I lucky enough to know, if only for a moment.

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How wild it was to let it be! 2015

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First time traveling alone

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Miss you Martin

 

∞ + 1

I  got breakfast at a cafe across the street from the love locks and as I was sitting, sipping my coffee, staring at all those locks with all those stories, I thought “What’s the purpose?”
They don’t do it for recognition. No one will truly understand “∞ + 1” like the one who wrote it down understood it; I’ll never know who Martin was and what he truly meant to the person who felt so compelled to write his name down and leave it in a square in Lisbon, Portugal.

I think that people write love locks for different reasons: for themselves, for others, to commemorate something amazing, to leave something behind. But overall, it’s not for recognition, it’s not for understanding, it’s merely for the sake of existing.

And that’s a beautiful thing.

So I just want to leave you with one last story I found that morning in Lisbon.

I’ll never know what this song meant to the one who wrote it’s lyrics down, but I invite you to close your eyes for a moment and listen to the song at the end of this post. For two or three minutes just sit and enjoy.

And simply exist.

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“I’ve got you under my skin…” 11/02/15