Wildness

Sometimes I think about myself as a tiny child, wild and messy and conquering things, climbing stairs on all fours, beating my chest, yelling geronimooooo as I’d hurdle off of furniture and fling myself down railings like a happy, yet controlled little beast.  I lose my wildness constantly just as I lost it when I came to an age of reason, as if such a thing really exists.  The only thing I’ve reasoned since then is that to be under control is overrated and while listening is good, some listening is just an admission—to servitude and docility.  But to behave is often to don a cloak of little color, to be, as it were so grossly marked and wrongly defined some time ago, an adult.

Behavior is an oddity, because surely the Capitol Hill Moms Society, many of whom I wait on at the restaurant, forcibly smiling and placating their snotty, animalistic, screeching children, sort of like this: “Hi, buddy!  Oooo look mac and cheese!! Tasty!”  But I think of the moms who sport expensive accessories and flaunt Obama 2012 bumper stickers and disproportionately large bike racks on their Honda Fits and dress their kids in Fair Trade beanies and dark wash jeans and baby Toms, I think of them and their odd techniques, their definitions of how to keep a child, how to make the child do, say, be.  They are so wildly mistaken.  This is where it starts; it starts at the women who pretend their doing something of benefit for the future generation.  But here’s the thing, those who revolutionize don’t form public policy from a social studies textbook.

If the Capitol Hill Moms Society keeps pushing behavior, then from where does the wildness come?  And when it comes, will kids be afraid of it?  Will they say: “What I this I feel?  This master morality, this inclination toward the Thelma and Louise?  Why do I feel as though the edge of the cliff, which I was once cautioned to turn from, only begs me, ‘come child, this is where you say yes to life.’”

 

There are times when the reward reaped from a risky, unpremeditated action is so grand that the act itself does not even skirt the baseline qualifications for misbehavior.  Let’s take a cripplingly bad hangover.  You’re eyes don’t want to open, your body aches and your esophagus brims with bile and other unsettling remnants of glucose.  You feel like there is an oversized snail swimming about your insides to and fro emitting a fermented slime that causes a feeling somewhat similar to being stretched out against a slowly turning, upright wheel, limbs hooked tight to the edges, eyes fixed open to a blurry edifice you’ll never reach.

There was, of course, a caveat.  You learned it in middle school, high school, too.  You learned that drinking coffee, that taking a cold shower are merely fabricated remedies, and do not, in fact, “heal” a hangover.  You learned there’d be no real cure but time, perhaps interspersed with a few healthy dry heaves and a 12-pack of ginger ale.  But you were caught in celebration last night.  It was 2:30 am and you needed that shot of bourbon.  You were pursuing a wildness that is both real and necessary to your being.  For our dry-bellied friends, the un-imbibers, that may mean reaching out to a long-lost someone or beginning a relationship with a word or a cute, unimposing shrug, or attending an anime convention because they really like anime and it does and should not matter whether a parent or a friend is condemning of the wild act.

The hangover takes place in many forms.  Often, it feels remarkable—snails don crowns and sprinkle fairy dust throughout your insides.  It is only when facing the general public, those who sit on thrones and wag index fingers and grimace, that the bile may erupt.  There is rarely any component of the wild act to be feared.  It is the dawn, what one should encounter upon waking, that throws us, that bars us abruptly before we hit the road and elicits in our minds a montage of things that could go awry.  Often caught between I want to and I would want to, if…, we lean toward what we deem to be a comfortable choice, a choice without repercussions, when in actuality, that safety, that comfort, is a fear of committing that which we were taught not to do—not to borrow trouble, nor test waters, but rather watch them ripple gently, unperturbed, just simply performing a stationary dance, like the human breath, or the feline purr.

Behavior is a highly scientific, and, what’s more, medical term.  It conjures up thoughts of labs, monkeys, mice on wheels.  You must behave; you must not misbehave.  It is highly detached from our being, and merely a step within our daily activity .  But wildness, wildness is a component of myself, not merely my actions, but my whole self.  Often, though, it is an unrealized component.  For me, wildness was something I’d subdued and even barred off for years as I focused on “being good.”  I stayed the course of what I’d perceived as goodness: not drinking, not smoking, not having sex, not talking about sex, not talking about much of anything I was thinking about, getting good grades. Before I continue, let me clarify misconceptions before they begin to occur:  There’s nothing wrong with exhibiting traits that are classifiably “good.”  What there is something wrong with, though, is aiming to please and get through life, unmarked or unbruised, to an extent where one begins to wholeheartedly dismiss a large component of self that actually craves the seat of the pants, the skin of the teeth.

It’d be a seamless anecdote if I brought in the time I went bungy jumping in Nepal and detailed the mind-numbing freefall.  You know the anecdote: AND THAT’S WHEN I FIRST FELT TRULY IN TOUCH WITH MY WILDNESS: WHEN I TOOK THE LITERAL PLUNGE, OFF THE BRIDGE AND INTO THE UNKNOWN.  But truthfully, this is not when I first confronted and embraced my wildness.  There was no first time, it simply happened, because as I grew and mere goodness left me with only more questions, I gradually allowed wildness to be, pleading it to come forth from the recesses of my soul.  Recently, I’ve felt the hangover more frequently than I had for years.  I am not often happy, but I find that when I am, it results from moments, events, or conversations in which I am deeply in touch with my wildness.  I am discussing unorthodox business ventures, I am drinking pitchers of margarita, I am not as quiet as I used to be.

I might spend an evening cracking jokes, inserting dry humor into already uncomfortable conversations, singing loudly, discussing the benefit of having cats in ones life.  And to boot, I might do this all shamelessly.  This is wildness.  As a young adult in a world of questionable, questioning young adults, I am stepping out, consuming, risking the hangover, the mind warp, the high, the decline.  And although I’m swearing and discussing bodily functions, I am not misbehaving.

I am wild.

I am reflective as I ponder how I will one day “teach my children” to act.  How will I teach future sprouted generations of me how to bar natural inclinations, how to sit still without going crazy, without suppressing a need to dance.  I have no idea.  I don’t know if I can successfully execute the best of all worlds, without being perceived as a mother who dresses in kimonos and hair curlers, keeping a home brimming with fumes of marijuana, decked in finger-painted murals.  How will I raise small humans, fully in touch with their wildness, without losing my mind?  Perhaps they will have to spend a few years sitting still, for my own sake, at the very least, but I will tell them each day about how the day will come when they’ll be in the corvette hair waving in perfect follicular patters, like a miniature tunnel of fall leaves, and then, then they will spread their arms, let go of the wheel, and invite wildness to take hold.  Then they will say yes to life.

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In the meantime, though, before I create new life, I’ll stack building blocks onto my own.  I’ll trust myself, ridding my mind of the harrowing fear of misbehavior.  For I’ll know, it is the fear of remaining stationary, of being without being, that is most threatening to a full and flourishing life on earth.  I will break open the lock box and be as the great god of wine: a little brunette, freckled Dionysus: unafraid, close-mouthed, fixed in an unrevealing smirk, open-eyed, wild.

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Resurrection

I have arrived back to the world of the blog after extracting heaps of self-inflicted stress from my life.  After allowing for literally zero stimulation and no liveliness to even prick at or touch me in any way, I moved to Washington, DC–into a place that was strewn with death, weeds, poison, and darkness.  A first-time renters fantasy.  See below:

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The responsibility I felt almost immediately toward land that was mine only temporarily was profound.  I do this thing where I can’t claim most of what’s inside me.  I’m pretty terrible at it.  It’s one thing to be wildly free spirited, but it’s another to be wildly a mess.  I have trouble claiming myself, the wild mess.  But, I easily establish ownership over things outside myself.  You may be asking yourself: “Is Leah really edging closer and closer toward exacting a cheesy garden makeover::inner-self makeover analogy?  Maybe I am. OR maybe I purged a near trash pit and turned out a kick ass garden, while simultaneously ridding myself of a (metaphorical) poison that had me burrowed away, completely ashamed of my inability to land a dream job and represent semi-unattainable ideals to a world I was mindlessly cartwheeling to impress.  The result: I turned out a pretty kick ass garden.

Time to get real: In all truthfulness, when I am a sweaty mess, racking composted soil in methodically designed horizontal lines along my yard, I am creating.  Creating is a concept that is worlds apart from that of achieving.  In the past month since I’ve been here, I’ve met artists, real artists, who are crafting and practicing, sometimes even playing and experimenting.  They have shown me a beauty I forgot about: the beauty of persistence and self-discipline for the purpose of pleasing oneself, not others.

My kick ass garden grows awesome plants.  It creates and makes.  I do that too.  Me and my garden make each of our existences.  We are resurrecting.

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What it did for me I’ll never forget, but what it did to me in the moment, I’d like to try to forget. I bring you a post and general topic I’ve wanted to tackle for awhile: Leah Writes on High School

“True terror is to wake up one morning and discover that your high school class is running the country.”
― Kurt Vonnegut

(I’ll come back to Vonnegut, but part of me is still thinking I just let Kurt get some words in there before me since he tends to have a way with thoughts that most cannot express).

*Begin romanticized imagery and language now*

I was a proud 17-year old that fine day on June 6, 2009.  My skin was a deep shade of fake brown, my hair made as straight as I could get it, and I looked in that mirror and thought, “It’s over.” Pause.  Now, as the tears welled up I went from one version of, “It’s over” to another.  It was over.  High school was about to be finished.  I was sad.  I’d never make the morning drive again, hear the bell ring, I’d never experience any of it after that day.  But then I remember that moment when I realized, on a different level, “It’s over.”  Everything I’ve faked, felt uncomfortable with, struggled through yet triumphed through, everything I’ve hurt, everything that’s hurt me.  This is all over.  That is one of the feelings I will never forget.  Knowing that some of the hardest years were about to be put away and if I wanted to I could lock it all away and recreate it.  I could tell my kids I was the prom queen, that I dated lots of cool guys, that I made so many amazing friends.  Now I know I’ll probably just tell them that I ruined a play when I was 15, skipped gym class almost every week to go “meet with teachers,” and was most intimidated throughout my four years by my biggest bully: a 70-something year old choir directing nun.  But still, I thought that was it.  And liberation day only marked the very beginning of a long process of realization and understanding of what exactly went on from 2005-2009.

I’m going to begin at a place with which most of us are eerily familiar: the exterior.  If anything makes preteen and teenagehood easier, it’s wearing the right things and looking the right way.  Some of us don’t always do this.  Okay, some of us have never done this, even when they’ve tried.  Alright, let’s not beat around the bush, I was a disgrace.  I was just coming out of a summer spent at Shakespeare camp (I’m warning you, when it rains…….) where I experienced my first kick of being fully convinced that I was some sort of free-spirited hippie and had all the rights in the world to wear whatever I damn well pleased.  I wasn’t dressing myself in clothing I liked, I was like a statement-making bulletin board–I would continue this for years and years.  So, my favorite look included a random ass t-shirt with a belt around the thinnest part of my waist and many beaded necklaces, usually bought at a thrift shop (trend-setting-14-year-old-leah), accompanied by some like patchwork jeans or jorts.  And the best news was, I didn’t even enjoy these get-ups.  Splendid.  THEN, I did something, I did something to my beautifully-fresh, young, freckled face that would define me for the rest of high school and even the beginning of college (until I could at least escape from anyone I’d known during these dark times).  I developed the worst trademark for myself.  Alright, I’ll tell you, I essentially spackled the holy hell out of my naturally pink lips with yellow-y concealer (for men, this is women’s under-eye cover-up makeup).  No worries, though, this eventually morphed into a trend of glopped-on light colored-mood ring, opal-y toned lipgloss.  I applied it so many times a day that in retrospect I am able to say that it was absolutely obsessive-compulsive.  I carried it in my skirt pocket at all times, along with, uh, nothing else, and I sometimes went to the restroom for the sole purpose of applying my lipgloss.  Looking back, this is the defining factor for why I now know that I was not okay.  A simple overly-regimented lip treatment may not seem like that much, but when I play a matching game with vivid memories of lipgloss mania and significantly negative life events, well, it all seems to play out as one awfully harmonious transformational time in the life of leah.

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I remember freshman year, though, as also being one of the most beneficial years of my entire life.  Although they may not be so present in my life anymore, I established my first ever real group of friends.  This would forever change then entire course of my highschool years.  For the first time, I was going to dances and going out on the weekends with friends.  Things were looking up, even though I was looking like the makeup aisle at CVS gone wrong mixed with a bad Limited Too ad.  Then…………..my friends started dating and I started, um, going to bed at 11 instead of 10.  The relationship bug infected most if not all of my friends, but the fact that I seemed incapable of heralding attraction at this point wasn’t the biggest worry of mine.  In fact, looking back, I was much more apathetic towards guys and relationships than I gave off.  The biggest annoyance and scarlet letter-like mark of loserdom was the fact that I was one of the very last girls to have her first kiss (Ok, this is, in fact, quite the opposite of the scarlet letter, I understand that a little hormonal prude in Urban Outfitters jeans and a flannel shirt who had never dreamed of being kissed was not nearly the same as a guillotine-going adulteress).

While that did eventually happen for me at a whopping sixteen and a half, I’ll always remember the year that followed with mixed feelings.  This was the year I lost myself big time.  Sure I could say that I was both swarmed in and surrounded by non-ideal relationships, but the truth of the matter was that I was a sad teenage girl who, unlike many, did know what she wanted out of life (and on top of it, had already been through many things people twice her age would never experience) but was too afraid to push everybody out of the way and go get it.  There are times when I still wonder what would have been different if I had lived this particular year-a year where I simply went from static to downward sloping- differently.  But I lived it in such a way that I followed blindly, I conformed my beliefs and attitudes to those around me, and frankly I rarely vocalized in the way that many know me as being infamous for now.  I had also taken a year-long break off from singing, something I’ve only now become comfortable to express my love for and embrace.  After a period of time with a nun who, all jokes aside, jolted my confidence, which was already in the tank, into the damn ground.  I believed I was both incapable and unsuited and I turned away from a form of expression I loved, and like I said, have only been able to rejuvenate within the last year.  Out of that open elective spot where I’d usually be singing, though, came the opportunity to embrace another talent.  It was through my creative writing class that I’d meet one of my best and most influential teachers: a spunky young lady who taught me that the metaphysical stuff I was writing was not weird, but was in fact pretty cool.  I credit the 50% of my current college major that is writing to her, and honestly, I credit some of my sanity to her as well.  Writing was the silent weapon of my self expression, particularly as I was not expressing much of my true self in the vocal sense throughout my entire third year of high school.  I tried to write poems about love, family, stories about friends and nature. But what came out instead were some of the best things I’ve ever written and ever will write: several stories about losing loved ones, vague poetic pieces about what it was like for me growing up, poems about the “picasso pieces of my mind,” a screen play about an alternate cyber universe, almost anything escapist, and finally, a final piece that I was supposed to read at the unveiling of the 2008 creative writing class literary magazine.  This one was a stream of consciousness reflection about a car accident I had been in just 2 months prior that was still having great impact on me.  As I shall breeze by details, it wasn’t so much this reading that was my penultimate test of strength, but it was stopping some friends at the time from blackmailing me via recording my reading.  I’ll never forget putting my hand out and telling them “NO.”  I don’t care how small it was.  I had done it.  This had meant something to me.

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I came back senior year confused as ever.  I felt overripe and overdone, like I was long ready to leave, like nothing made sense, like I made no sense to anyone.  But, I was starting to make sense to me.  I was starting to grasp the fact that I was damn weird, ready to leave from day one of that last school year, and uncomfortable about past choices I’d made mainly because I had just spent 3 years fairly aware of myself and my desires, but never voicing any of it aloud.  And I am one vocal mother effer.  I remember focusing really hard on school that year, focusing on getting into schools.  I started dressing in ways that I genuinely loved.  I loved my style, my hair, my makeup now looked like it belonged on a human being, although there was still a lot of it.  My relationships, though, were fizzling out and I hated it.  I hated it mostly because I felt it but I tried so strongly to force everything to feel okay.  I felt like I was growing up in double time, and I felt like everyone else was not.  On the bright side, I felt an inexplicably strong pull toward a university that I visited on a whim, a place where I’d go one to meet a partner for life and 3 to 5 outstanding lifelong friends.  I had no idea what was in store for me, yet I had an idea that there was something that was next to come.  I had “This can’t be it” syndrome.  And I felt confused and angry and wished I had spent my last 4 years differently.  But I didn’t.  But you know what?  At least those 4 years of unassured angst and insecurity were over and done with by age 18.  Most don’t get that lucky.

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So I stood on that day of graduation and honestly, I was sad, yes.  But, most of me took a deep breath and thought, “I got through that.”  I remember being so thankful for experiences, friendships, classes, teachers, but I was happy to be finished with that old skin, a hard shell that just wouldn’t crack until I left my mom and sister crying on August 23, 2009 and stood in front of a university chapel where I’d play an ice breaker in a circle that literally beheld some of the best gifts I’d ever known and gifts I had never known: a few people who helped me be me and who loved me.  And you know what Vonnegut, I’m getting closer and closer to that day when I will wake up and realize my high school class is running the country, but let’s rest assured that the other members of the graduating class of 2009 will be waking up to know that the one running the country, as least in a not-so-executive-branch kind of way, is me.  And on June 6, 2009, I thought to myself for the first time ever, “I got through that.  I can do things.  I can do big things.”

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So no, I’ve chosen not to use my men in black mind erasing tool to disregard all thoughts of anything high school because 1) they don’t sell those on ebay and 2) even if I had them, I’d still keep these memories.  I’d even keep the one of me slipping on a wet floor and crashing into the wall of the cafeteria in front of the seniors freshman year, or the missed cue during opening night of the play sophomore year, or the intense embarrassment in realizing my first kiss was a well-played set up of events because some young ladies don’t realize that it is in fact not normal to make the boy wait 1 month to kiss you after you’ve initially started dating, I’d even keep the worst ones, the fights, the tears, the last time I ever talked to her and her and her.  I’m not letting these memories go away.  They are such a critical part of me and let’s face it, they’re the ones that’ll matter most to the four years I will always remember as the time wherein I developed most, during four years where it seemed like nothing took place in me at all.

Years later, that is what I am most inspired by: the silenced version of the now very audible me.

peace, love, and ongoing musings about things that are forever impactful on one’s life,

LR

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We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.Eleanor Roosevelt


“So many people live wi…

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“So many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more dangerous to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.”
― Jon Krakauer, Into the Wild

You said it, guy who wrote Into the Wild

Crossing my fingers that I’m just as interesting when writing from Pennsylvania as I am when writing from South Asia…Presenting: Leah Dissects the Meaning of “Home”

Three days ago my sister arrived home from a month of crash course college life at her soon to be locked-in university in North Carolina.  She was less than enjoyable as she returned from what they dub the “Summer Experience.”  She was sure to ready herself in the fetal position on the sofa almost immediately crying out “I wanna go back to school.  I hate it here.  You don’t understand.”  In retaliation I clicked my tongue and and wagged my finger, “Ah, young grasshopper, but I DO understand.”  Clearly after 3 years of radical mood swings, trying to grasp the true concept of home, going from about 12 friends to 1 who still resided close to my hometown, spending hours in the house staring at walls, thinking “Why am I here?” (that one may have been a bit dramatic but let’s ride with it), I was certainly the first person to understand.

I have this wild and unquenchable jealousy for a select few of my friends who experience equal amounts of joy and glee when at school and at home.  For myself, and as I know for a few others, I cannot say the same.  Facebook often notifies us of the radiating happiness of almost each and every individual as they finish finals and set out for winter break.  My deplorable news feed reads like this (at least in my mind): “Going back HOME, 1 month, back to the 215, 631, 610 (this part is the absolute worst to me because, come on, you are not a rap song, and moreover, nothing is cool about me saying like ‘going to visit my long-lost friend, *enter their social security number here*)’.” Bottom line: every across-the-board university vacation time leaves my head spinning with a single question, “Is something wrong with me?”

Abington, PA is not the most boring place in the world (There’s still like towns in Iowa that have it beat out, right? Ok, I jest).  That’s not the problem, but here IS the problem.  It is small.  The physical smallness may not be the problem, either.  To me, though, it has become the smallest place I’ve ever been.  I’ve exhausted this place.  I’ve ran through its parks, gone to its schools, gone to its target (Seriously, in middle school I would do this for fun), gone to its mall, gone to its churches, its single bowling alley, its bakeries, restaurants. I’ve even had 3 jobs here 1 boyfriend (whatever, some of us go through teenagehood more apathetic than others), about 6 hospital visits, I haven’t counted but I’ll round it to maybe 12 theatrical performances, I made honor roll here (all without my mom donning one of those bumper stickers, go mom!), I won some art contest in grade school here I think, I beat up a boy at my summer camp here, I wet my pants during music class in kindergarden here, I went to family engagement parties, too many funerals, and birthday parties here.  I loved it here.  And now, I respect what I loved, what I experienced, but I don’t want to be here.  And you know what, that is okay.

Home is taken far too literally, in my opinion.  And let’s face it, not to exert my opinion, but I think this statement holds much truth overall. “I want to go home,” says Sally.  Well you know what I want?  I want Sally to explain to me what that means because I want to go home too, in my mind at least.  I hope that I can always be “home.”  Usually I like to use quotes, well in general, but also to enhance my points, but here I will put my old childhood acquaintance, Laura Ingalls Wilder up against my devil’s advocate-style of argument as I copy and paste her curious quote and then throw out a few questions:

“There is no comfort anywhere for anyone who dreads to go home.”
― Laura Ingalls WilderLittle Town on the Prairie

Alright, let’s start here.  You haven’t even defined home for us, Laura.  Now, as my definition would read as being akin to my own life, I’ll give you one from the zen teacher himself, Tich Nhat Hanh (I’ve been really into him recently, and you should be too), “Your true home is the here and now.”  So, not to judge Laura Ingalls, even though I’m about to, but her books tend to read as if the exemplary home is the “little house” on that dang prairie.  Maybe my negative energy toward my physical “home,” my little house on the dang street where everything looks the same and I’m frankly a cranky 21 year old who’s bored of it, will channel into something good.  Maybe there is comfort for me.  Why shouldn’t I compare it to me getting worked up, and in a sense, angry, about women’s rights? For as confusing as I may sound right now, I have drawn a conclusion that my dread of this house, this neighborhood, this town, is exactly the thing that has pushed me to broaden my own definition of home.  What’s my here and now?  Well, I’m here in my home in Abington, PA, but I’m also happy, in love, focused on friendships, focused on pushing myself.  Yet, there is no comfort for me you say?  All the time I spent dreading home, I somehow learned to appreciate it more, in the sense that I appreciate what it has done for me.  Do I appreciate sitting around realizing that there really is very little to do here?  No, I don’t.  But I was able to configure a long list of things I’ve appreciated, and I think that’s pretty good.  So, where’s my comfort?  It’s in knowing I was to keep moving and going, in knowing I grow comfortable out of challenging myself to experience DIScomfort.  In knowing when I travel, I find myself saying, “Let’s go home,”  in knowing I just spent 6 weeks abroad in South Asia and although inside my physical home I felt hot, tired, often cranky, and uncomfortable, I still felt “at home.”  It was my here and now.  But I am comforted to know most of all that “home” is not simply this house.

So I hope my sister Hannah feels at home as she begins here four-year long venture of education, friendship building, heartbreak, and happiness at High Point University, but I also hope that through her whining, crying, and bickering, she learns to make her own list of things she can appreciate about this place we’ve been conditioned to view as the one and only “home” and what it has done for her.  But, I hope she also realizes it’s okay to dread and become frustrated because home, above all, is in the mind.  And maybe, in mind, she’s still at school.  And maybe, I’m still in Nepal.  And maybe, my mom’s “home” is still back when I was sixteen.  But let’s be real, it’s probably not.

peace, love, and writing about scattered thoughts,

LR

PS: Here’s a shout out to my one and only remaining friend in the Abington area, but greatest, and strongest girl I’ll ever know on the day after her 22nd birthday, Rachel J! (This was appropriately filed at picture no. 22)

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They Don’t Call it Reverse Culture Shock for Nothing (Goodbye, Nepal part 2)

As I began to disembark the plane, I found myself barking “MOVE” through gritted teeth at those in front of me, only to realize, I’m not in Nepal anymore and any amount of anger or impatience would not necessarily solve my issues now, in a land where people understand me and I’m not always needing to aggressively assert myself.  When I arrived home, my dog jumped and barked excitedly and I was afraid t0 touch her, or even go near her after 6 weeks of avoiding rapid dogs on the streets.  I soon drove with my mom to pick up sushi.  Throughout the drive, there were a few stop signs and one traffic light.  No one was walking around on the streets, as is typical with suburbia, but still……

Last winter, I talked non stop about my summer plans, until it looked as if it wasn’t going to happen, but even then, I was going to Nepal.  I had a feeling.  I usually know when I am right about things.  Weeks ago I said to myself, “I’m having sushi as my first meal when I get home.”  And I did.  I had my sushi and I went to Nepal.  As I stare at my bag, half full of gifts, thinking about how I got away with its heaviness without paying extra fees, thinking about what I’ll tell people as I distribute gifts, thinking about if people will care, especially care that some of my best memories weren’t all emotionally intense cultural experiences nor beatnik earth-embracing base camp treks.  I’m thinking about what they’ll say when I tell them that I am changed in the best way possible, that I’ve met individuals, Americans and Nepalis alike, who helped me to better realize what I want and don’t want out of life, that some of my best memories weren’t ones where I sat in solitude, celibate from spending money, but rather times when I took a break from whatever else seemed chaotic around me and spent a little money here and there on meals out, day trips, 4 green tea smoothies throughout an entire day spent at a cafe with a friend, mostly in silence, but still in one another’s presence.  Maybe I’ll tell people that one of the best parts of my days was coming home to blog about it, because certain days, it almost didn’t feel right just keeping it to myself.  I had to share.

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Nepal will most likely go down in the history of my life as the strangest place I’ve ever been.  Never will a place repulse me so much, yet give me so much to feel good about.  And I’m not talking strictly city versus country, although the country does win by quite a bit.  What I mean is the sense of empowerment I gained from learning to be fully myself in a house full of volunteers, in an office full of Nepalis, and walking around on a street full of maniac drivers and oftentimes creepy pedestrians.  Sometimes being fully myself meant yelling, “Oh, you think you can charge me this much because of my white skin!?  I want Nepali price, not white price!”  And sometimes it just meant freeing all the awkwardities that amount to myself rather than trying to put a cap on all those qualities and tendencies that make me the truest version of me.

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Self discovery also took place during interviews with teachers and young children.  I’ll never forget one brave teacher who told me that just because she is a counselor and teacher to child domestic workers and teaches them to voice their fears and concerns and sorrows aloud, just because she encourages openness and future-oriented minds,  because she encourages the children to have goals, because of this she fears that she will be persecuted. She is afraid to walk down the streets at times, fearing that people will see her as the revolutionary teacher who is untraditional in her methods.  As she said this, I remember thinking that every view I took would be stronger and stronger from this point on in.  Every risk I took would be more intentional.  Thank you to CWISH and my general work as an intern for allowing me the opportunity to think and feel and be inspired in these ways.

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Even for all the times I lied about myself, i.e.: I am 27, 25, 24, married, work for the government, study law, am married to a congressman, getting my PhD, work in human, own and operate an NGO here, am from Ireland, I still managed to feel more myself in the end.  I believe it happens most always when one gets out of where he or she is from, but there was something stronger about Nepal that pushed me to break away from feeling enclosed, quiet, nervous.  Whether I go back or not, I’d like to think that I’ll have a new adventure soon enough, and I’ll feel more confident, more excited, more ready to engage, serve, understand.

I’m not finished blogging, although some may be bored by blogs simply about life and not life in South Asia, but I have to keep going because one day, I will find the words and they will be simple.  But for now, I leave you again with these words:

“Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed.  That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” -Pico Iyer

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Namaste, Nepal

& Dhanyabad, & also, Dhanyabad to you guys:

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Love,

LR

Goodbye to Nepal, part 1

I wanted this post to be written sweetly from my room in Kathmandu, while gazing out my window at that now highly-progressing construction project.  I’m a romantic for reasons like this.  Instead, I got my ear pierced then got a phone call from my mother the next instant warning me that I was under the impression that my flight was 2 hours later than it was.  So that was the end of my last blog in Kathmandu fantasies.  Although, here I am in Abu Dhabi where I started documenting this whole thing and I am still pleased to be logging this last installment.  30 blog posts later and here I am, simply gazing back, observing, like I’ve been doing this whole time, but from a different direction.

My final larger-scale venture took place this past weekend in a small village above lakeside Pokhara at Sadhana Yoga Center.  My friend Devyn and I spent 2 nights and 1 full day relaxing, eating phenomenal food, taking in incredible views, meditating, chanting, mud bathing, doing yoga, but most importantly focusing on ourselves, in ways that westerners are often not taught about.  Our full day of yoga may have been the most mentally peaceful day of my life.  I may have been an abomination of a meditator, as I am incapable of sitting still (probably rule 1 in meditation), but all in all, the day seemed to be not so much of a pampering sort of day, but more of a day of mindfulness, of understanding where I was and where I had been, of how many gifts I had, though sometimes it seems like I have more bad than good.  I felt reminded of what I wanted out of life, and I realized it was, in fact, much less than I sometimes thought I needed.  My trip gave me so much in terms of experience, understanding, learning, self-expression and self confidence, but it was small moments like centering in, learning about myself, listening to what I wanted, hearing myself, spending time with others that made me realize how very small, yet big in impact, that which I longed for was.  The day before I left, so yesterday, I had a late lunch/early dinner with one of my closest friends and housemates, Devyn.  This was another example, and perhaps the best ending memory to have left with.  We ate at a wonderful Israeli place where the seats were cushions and the lighting was mood-setting, and the food too was actually quite good. And for sometime between 2 and 3 hours, my favorite thing occurred.  Conversation.  I realized why I would miss spending my time in Nepal for the summer.  It was because of the people I’d met who had reaffirmed to me the meaning of time spent together, whether in silence or in conversation.  I can honestly say I was so grateful to have had my last meal out was relaxing, long, and full of love and openness.  This was something I wasn’t sure I’d be getting as often when home.  My dates may be a different story, but meals with friends are more than often quick, and you barely have time to do more than eat.  Maybe I’ll take these things back with me: meditating, quieting myself, conversation, lingering.

 

Moral of the story for now:  I’m happy I went, I’m happy I’m on my way home, but I’ll always remember that feeling of walking away from my office, driving away from the volunteer house.  For as much as I dreaded some days, the men on the streets, the smell.  I am grateful.

 

Love,

LR

“Go out on a limb, that’s where the fruit is”-Jimmy Carter

On Saturday, June 30th, I found my fruit while dangling over flowing rapids, bookended by two large cliff-sides.  I found my fruit in denial, confidence, in a simple jump.  It sounds silly, but extreme-sporting it for the weekend was one of the most  self-gratifying yet mindful and cleansing things I have ever done.  The drive up to The Last Resort, the location of my jumps, was not as antagonizing as I had presumed it to be.  Anticipation occurs far less intensely for me nowadays, but I was sure that I’d be a jittery wreck the whole way up the mountains.  I do remember arriving and thinking, “Leah, what is your problem?  Why are you doing this?  Are you ok?  You should just buy a box of Godiva for yourself when you get home.  Don’t do this.”  Well, clearly, something kicked in.

There was something about being here.  I know I’ve said it before, but truly, I remember looking out while on the bridge getting ready to do my first jump, the canyon swing, and thinking “For as terrifying as this looks, it is gorgeous.”  I had to remind myself that I was on the border of Nepal and Tibet and right below me was water and to my sides was the most beautiful scenery I had ever wwitnessed.  I went canyon jumping first.  It is the second largest canyon swing in the world at 160 meters.  The way it works is you essentially are harnessed in the lower body area and hold onto a rope as you just feet first for a 7 second long free-fall.  For those who think this is a short amount of time, it’s really not.  I remember being fairly frightened for this one, thinking to myself, “Dear God, I’m throwing my life away.”  But at the moment of jumping, I immediately knew it was quite the opposite feeling.  The drop really did feel long.  The beginning brought on more of an excited feeling but there was a second wave where I thought to myself, “Great Scott, I’m still falling!”  Then I felt my body twist and I began to swing with great distance back and forth in a canyon, hovered about rushing waters.  And the rest is history.

The canyon swing was done out of desire, but also out of fear of the bungee jump.  Well, after the swing all I could think about was going again.  This time, the bungee.  The price was right, I was still on a self-gratifying high, and there were some pretty cool Nepalis going in my group, I contemplated, and seriously in a blink of an eye, as they say, I found myself in the office, paying and thereafter, found myself back on the bridge, feeling much more at ease.

Although a bungee jump happens in an instant, it is an invincible instant.  I remember watching a guy jump before me and fumble a bit, jumping feet first rather than head first.  This doesn’t cause issues its just not the right way, and frankly, doesn’t look as cool on video.  My motivation may have come in the form of wanting to look cool on video, but I was okay with that.  I had my friends voice in my head, saying “Be like Pocahontas,” over and over.  At least girls out there, you know what scene I mean, she was one fierce nature lover.  So, I spread my arms and tried to be at peace.  I got situated, waved to the camera, yelled, “I’m gonna jump,” and took off.

I believe that taking risk is relative.  My risk may be very different than someone else’s.  Perhaps more extreme, or more mild.  Telling people deep, personal things about myself sometimes seems more extreme to me than my bungee jump in a lot of ways.  Relative to myself, though, this trip takes the risk cake.  I think jumping off a bridge, though frightening,  was a sort of physical representation of an entire journey, of a metaphorical leap of faith which I feel I had already taken.  There is much to learn in traveling.  Travel is like some sort of holy mystery-you know there is something working within you, but you cannot yet envision the day when the culmination of all your experience, excitements, joys, and fears hits you flat in the face and makes you realize that travel is the holy limb you once climbed out on, bungee jumping is that holy limb, and only one day will you be graced with a fruit.  You will taste it and be glad that you did not simply stay inching slowly up the tree’s trunk.

“Travel is like love, m…

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“Travel is like love, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, undimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” — Pico Iyer

In the morning, it will be my birthday.  No gift can measure up to the gift of experience.

And honestly, the gift of my mother, who loves me with this kind of undimming love, and always pushes me to try things and allow myself to be transformed.  While I will miss family and loved ones on this day, I feel their presence even stronger in some ways.  How I got here, to this point in life, this physical place, is not all my own doing.