Thursday, October 28, 2010

Write for Peace. Read for Peace.

Ever since I can remember, I have kept a journal. Scratch that. Ever since I can remember being able to write in full sentences with some sort of feeling or emotion, I have kept a journal. Cue sixth grade and a flowery, red Hello Kitty diary. It came with wide ruled lines (perfect for my illegible chicken scratch) and a big yellow lock. Thank goodness for that lock. Although it could be opened with merely a swift pull and no key, the lock let me sleep at night and it gave me some sort of reassurance that my parents weren't able to, nor would they ever dare break into the diary and read my deepest, darkest secrets. Secrets which included my undying hatred for math class and a strong dislike for my teacher Mr. Lucky, who for the entirety of my sixth grade year called me by the wrong name. That little red book was filled cover to cover with detailed accounts of Oregon Trail game days in computer lab and tetherball triumphs on the black top.
It was also filled with quite a few entries about Sam, my science lab partner and the person who sat directly to my right for an entire year.

In the beginning, the Sam entries consisted of how much I loathed him, how much he teased and bullied me, and detailed descriptions of how badly I wanted to kick him in the shins daily. Then in March, Sam found out his family was moving to California at the end of the school year and something changed. It was like a switch turned on in my brain, as my once angry and evil Sam entries turned to writings that could definitely be categorized as "mushy" stuff. Upon the completion of another school year and our elementary school graduation, I had countless " I love Sam" entries in my journal not to mention the four rhyming poems that I had stayed up writing during a couple of late nights and through a few tears. In a last attempt to tell him how I felt before he left me for the sun and beaches of Orange County, I wrote Sam a letter. I told him that somewhere in between his rude comments about my jeans that were too short for my abnormally long legs and that one time that he hid my glasses behind the classroom fish tank for an hour, I had fallen in love with him. In the end, Sam moved away and the letter remained tucked safely inside my little red diary along with my feelings for him and thankfully, my dignity.

However, the sole reason I remember that I was the sixth grade tetherball champion for two weeks straight and the undying love I once had for Sam, is because, this week I read through all of my old journals. A friend of mine and a writer himself, recently told me that he was inspired when he reread a journal that he kept while living and traveling during a break from college. Some time after his love affair with Europe, hidden in the scribbles and run-on sentences of his documentation, he found great insight, vision and was prompted to write an award winning piece. He said looking back and reading all of his thoughts showed him truth and what he really wanted out of life.

Reading back through the long, very wordy and dramatic journals of my own, I too discovered something. And though reading about my ridiculous on-and-off again high school relationship will neither put me in a good more nor inspire me to write an award winning essay, there is something to be said about reflecting on the things that you thought you wanted at one point in your life.

Sifting through documentations of wild nights on the beach in college and descriptions of each of the new friends I was making, I saw myself being completely and utterly irresponsible, just because I could . All I ever desired in college was to be as care-free as possible, and on the way to that freedom, and somewhere along that coastline, I lost myself. As I read about the city lights and the money, the cars and the endless amount of blonde haired people, I could feel myself drifting in the opposite direction of where I actually wanted to be going in life. I wondered if I knew at the time how far from reality I had gone and if at any point, I was ever scared that I wouldn't be grounded again.

Fast forward to junior year and the time that I experienced the most growth. Reading through my journal from abroad I still can't help but be amazed at the things I was thinking and feeling. Sure there were the silly entries, unfortunate stories of two hundred dollar drunk dials to America from Hong Kong or nearly missing our ship in Egypt, having to borrow a cell phone from a woman in a burqa to call the Dean and beg for a ship full of 1,000 people to wait just for us. But amongst reading about the immature and somewhat dumb things we sometimes did while traveling, I read through moments of change, moments of awakening. I talked about the suffering I had seen and how much I had learned. I wrote about the changes I wanted to make in my life and I wrote about holding myself accountable. And as I read on, I realized that while I fell deeply in love with the world, I quickly was falling out of love with someone who was my world before I started the voyage.

I read through my senior year of college next and nearly shed tears when recounting the goodbyes with friends who had become family and my last and hardest goodbye to my life by the sea. I read through the year after college spent both in Germany and Seattle trying to find my place in a city, let alone in the world. Sentences about being lost, full of uncertainty, and so confused filled the pages as I watched myself come to the decision to move and venture away from home once again. Then I came across some of my most recent entries, comments about reinventing myself, reaching my full potential, and growing in a new city with new people. I felt sad as I realized how much I gave up in leaving, and how many people I left behind, yet so proud of myself for taking such a large leap of faith.

Finally, I stumbled upon a list of goals I had scribbled into my journal before arriving here in Denver and shook my head as I read over it. There amongst the "hold yourself accountable for the things you really want in life" and the "include your family in the move to Colorado so that you will always remain close and apart of each others lives daily", was this simple bullet point:

"Write in your journal more often because it is here that you are most honest with yourself."

Without thinking, I grabbed a pen and began writing. I wrote about my new house, my new roommate and the four guys that live next door. I wrote about the fall colors, my favorite coffee shop, and a good conversation had over a great bottle of wine on a random Tuesday night. And as I closed my newest journal and admired the old tattered ones, I was thankful. Thankful that I have documentation of where i've been, so that I can look back and understand where I am and why in the future. Thankful that my parents did not shank me when (and if) they ever read through my wild phase which I documented in far too much detail during high school. And most of all, thankful that the red Hello Kitty diary and the letter to Sam are still in my possession, not only because they help remind me of my days ruling the playground, but mostly because Sam is now the unmarried father of twins, and Lord only knows, I could not handle that.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Like No One is Watching.

"I think i'll just stick with water" I absentmindedly told the waiter as he collected our sushi order and headed towards the kitchen. Focusing my attention back to my roommate who sat directly across from me, I couldn't help but shake my head and smile.

"Wow. Last night." She smirked, still looking exhausted and a bit hungover from the previous nights activities. "Who knew Wednesday's could be so much fun?" she added as we discussed the accidental wild night spent singing and dancing through the streets of downtown Denver.

Conversation flowed from the first and probably much too strong vodka tonics had in our living room after work to the free shots that Isaac a bartender from New York gave us for being new to the city, in addition to his phone number on a cocktail napkin. We giggled about our ridiculous dance moves through an extremely packed night club that we happened to stumble upon late night then laughed when recalling our conversations with two women in their thirties who were captivated by our ability to not care. "You two truly are the definition of dance like no one is watching" one yelled into my ear over the loud music and deep base. At the time I didn't know how to take her comment and I merely gave her a brief and awkward "thanks "while shimmying away as quickly as possible.

"Do you think we need to do less?" I asked jokingly with a bit of a serious undertone. "Are you kidding me?" She responded quickly. "The absolute last thing I want to be in life is boring." And it was then that it hit me. Twirling through the streets bopping in and out of bars, singing a dirty version of Grease (that I never knew existed until Wednesday) at a karaoke bar and dancing the night away (with ourselves) are the literally anything but boring. Looking back, that thirty-something year old woman's words were the greatest compliment. If life is about the stories, then you must get out there and create some. And lord only knows I have some good stories to tell.

Sitting there at the sushi bar, still nursing slight headaches and queasy stomachs we decided something. The two of us decided that no matter how much we get caught up in our careers or in the routine of daily life, no matter how many years down the road, married with kids or not, we will never be boring. We will always learn the bartenders life story, sing karaoke if given the opportunity, and we will always, always dance like no one is watching.

As the waiter walked by once again, I grabbed his attention and called him over. "You know what" I said with a twinkle in my eye, "That house Chardonnay is looking pretty good right now, can we have two glasses?"

"Absolutely." he said and headed to the bar. And in that moment, our ordinary Thursday turned into something special, something extraordinary, and the night turned out to be the absolute furthest thing from boring.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Home Free.

There we were. The four of us. Best friends from high school and most likely for life. Staring at one another over a bottle of wine and a table full of overpriced appetizers. Twinkle lights above our heads gave off a warm glow, illuminating the alleyway and the patio where we sat. Though the scenery and the restaurant were new to us, the feelings were all too familiar.

"I hate goodbyes" she said softly, speaking into her half empty glass of red wine.

"Come on Riley!" I pleaded "we haven't even ordered dinner yet and you're already doing this?"

Two hours, a lot of laughs and a few mutual flirtations with our waiter later, we were standing on the street corner. "I'll be home soon" I said with uncertainty as the four of us embraced in a lengthy hug. Walking away from my three friends, friends who had seen me off to college in California, sent me away to a voyage of discovery on Semester at Sea, and waved goodbye as I boarded a plane to Germany, I couldn't help but feel the all too familiar pain in my heart as I realized I was leaving them once again.

Two weeks later, here I am. The sun is peaking through the trees whose leaves are rapidly changing from deep greens to bright golds. I am in a new city and a new state and I can't believe how quickly things have changed. Thinking back to dinner with my friends a few weeks ago, I can only focus on something Ashley said to me through bites of the best carrot cake we've ever had. "You're afraid to settle" she remarked as if it was the most obvious thing on earth.
Though I had no response then and probably still don't have the appropriate one now, I have come to the conclusion that I am not necessarily afraid to settle, I am merely not settling until I can't anymore.

For some reason or another I have instilled in me an urge to be free. To be free from commitment, from ties and an urge to free myself to experience as much as possible on my own. Or at least as much as I can until someone or something gives me a reason or excuse to do otherwise. So, though I have been running and experiencing and traveling and moving a great deal over the past year, this blog marks a new chapter in my life and a new story to be told. Here in Denver, Colorado I am pursuing a life I have never lived in a city I barely know. These are the stories of me letting myself go, letting myself free-fall into the unknown, and though many of these will probably not be shared with my grandchildren, I can only hope that like my past experiences, this next chapter of my life will continue to shape me into the person I will ultimately become.

And though I can't exactly promise Riley that there won't be anymore goodbye dinners in the future, I can promise that this chapter of my life and these stories will last a bit longer than the last, because though i've only been here a few days, it already is beginning to feel like home.