The Wizardess of Oz

An American's Adventures in Australia and Beyond

Category: Internal Ramblings (page 2 of 4)

Thoughts, Philosophy, and Other Musings

Some Life Advice for a Younger Me

I saw a prompt to write the alma mater speech for my high school. Though I have only been out of high school ten years, this seemed like an interesting way to think about and collate the ideals and things I’ve learned in the past ten years. I’ve done some hard yards and been blessed beyond belief, but here’s my take on some life advice I would have liked to hear when I was 18 (but probably would have ignored):

Celebrate all five of your senses as often as you can. Lift your eyes from the iPhone screen and look out the window at the riot of beauty outside. Taste a freshly-picked blackberry. Feel the warm grass under your feet. Hear the waves crash. Smell the jasmine and frangipani when you walk down the street. Stop and take a deep inhale of air. It may not always be pleasant, but use those five senses to their fullest extent.

Watching Television

Travel. Spend your disposable income on plane tickets instead of clothes or fancy cars. It is the single-best gift you can give to yourself, and it will be the highlights of these trips that you think of when you look back on your life someday. It is these trips that will change you.

Adventure is a path. Real adventure – self-determined, self-motivated, often risky – forces you to have firsthand encounters with the world. The world the way it is, not the way you imagine it. Your body will collide with the earth and you will bear witness. In this way you will be compelled to grapple with the limitless kindness and bottomless cruelty of humankind – and perhaps realize that you yourself are capable of both. This will change you. Nothing will ever again be black-and-white.

– Mark Jenkins

Get your heart broken, but sometimes, break it yourself. It’s easy to be a victim, but much harder to be the one who looks around and decides not to settle, or to demand more. This goes for friendships just as much as romantic relationships.

the Best

Do not ever compare yourself to someone else. It’s sells out what you’re worth, what you’ve done, who you are. Nobody’s life is a charmed as it seems, some people are just better at being grateful.

Comparison

No matter how successful you become, at some point, you will fail. Accept it early, and remember it when it’s happening. It will never be the end of the world. In some cases, it may be the beginning of it.

Experience

No matter how hard things get, when you start wallowing in that pit of despair, stop and think of three things you are grateful for. A clear day, a mother who loves you, snuggles from a dog. There is always something to be thankful for.

Alive

Risk everything, at least once in your life. Don’t live your life in the shadow of fear. You will never regret trying, but you will always regret not trying.

Risk

Have goals, set them high. Achieve when you can, be motivated, do great things. But don’t forget to enjoy working toward them. Don’t forget that goals are allowed to change with your circumstances and passions. Don’t finish for the sake of finishing, finish for the joy of the result.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

– Ernest Hemingway

From the Archives: Thoughts On Traveling Through Life

First, some background: In high school my very best friend Nicole told me I should start keeping a journal of our lives, chronicling what we do on the weekends when life was lived for which party you were able to get into. So I started said journal, and managed to keep it up well past high school, through college, and I still contribute to it sporadically today. Though the high school pages are a study in humility for me thanks to my immaturity and dorkiness, I can see how this journal eventually became an outlet for me. It’s a literary version of watching myself grow up, and sometimes some really great things came out of it. Re-reading some of the things I was discovering years ago almost feels like I’m giving myself advice from the past. As such, when it seems right I’ll share relevant portions of this journal.

This entry was written in 2005 – I was in college, working at a bank part-time, and living in Orange County. I hadn’t yet planned my life-changing study abroad experience, but you can see the seeds of restlessness were sown well before I ever stamped my passport.

We live in a world where we have to plot and plan every minute of every day, as if not knowing what we were going to do would kill us. We have to be on a career track, be going to school, always have a goal, an end destination. And when we don’t know what that destination is we freak out. Like death. Nobody knows what really happens when we die. So most people are so afraid of it, it can almost border paranoia. Unless you are one of those poor old people who are so tired of living that they don’t even care what happens, they are just over it. Some of those guys come into my work. Most of them are men too, that’s weird. I want to grab them and yell, “What are you thinking?! How can you be over it already? It’s only been 60 years!”

Maybe all this ‘have a foreseeable end’ stuff is making us live our lives too fast. It feels like I was 5 for years and 15 for minutes. What happened? Life was simple when I didn’t have a goal. Is that what makes it go fast? Racing, racing, racing toward what we want that we forget to look at the scenery on the way? Is maturity when someone has this goal? You know how they say, ‘He is so immature, so irresponsible, he is going nowhere in life.” Maybe he just beat the system, and is more interested in the scenery than the destination? What if these “deadbeats” have us beat? They just knew all along. I wonder how I can possibly remind myself to slow down and enjoy each day. It’s so easy to forget. There are little things I will notice, like how the sun feels good on my skin, or the sunset when I am jogging, but I don’t really savor it. And I can say, “Oh, I will try to enjoy this minute as much as possible,” but after a few days I will forget and go back to the hurry hurry hurry rush rush rush. Without even realizing it. That’s sad. Next time I feel something I really like, I am going to try to remember to savor it. Maybe it can become a habit. I guess we’ll see.

Out of the Box

In life, you will meet people who will be very eager to put you in a little box with a pretty bow and say, “there, that’s where you belong.” And when you peek your eyes out to see what’s happening, they will do everything in their power to slam the lid down on your head. And sometimes you might not realize you’re being put in the box until the lid comes down and it gets dark for a moment. But when that happens, you need to do every single thing in your power to rip the box apart at the seams, escape, and flourish out in the light and open air. You may need help doing this, and that’s a humbling experience. But once you’ve done it, you’ll emerge smart enough to know how to stay out of the boxes people wish to place you into, you’ll know the people who will be by your side when you need them, and you’ll witness and be empowered by your own mental and emotional strength. You will re-emerge smarter, stronger, tougher, and more aware. So don’t despair when things get tough (well, okay, despair a little bit because that’s only natural), it is just life’s way of identifying that you need to grow a little bit. So grab it, feel it, and grow.

Bring You Down

Connecting the Dots

I’m wary of becoming so accustomed to seeing the craters on this side of the moon that they start to become familiar, that I even start to love them, just to say goodbye. Like so many other things in a life of leaving, just when things feel like they are finished beginning, I make them end. It’s already too late. I already love the lopsided smile of the man on the moon here, turning over his shoulder with a saucy grin and a wink.

They say the dots eventually connect, but gloss over the friction of traveling in a line from one to the next. It’s a magic of closed throats, choked back tears, desperate kisses, belly laughs, lots of glasses of wine and wisecrack remarks, quiet rage, bewilderment, early morning coffees, fake smiles, and going where you never went before just because you could. Because you’re finally figuring out that the rules are going out the window, and you might as well make a big mess of things while they’re messy anyway. And because maybe some rules were meant to broken.

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Debunking Wanderlust

You can’t log on to Pinterest or Instagram these days without seeing a photo of an obscure foreign city, beach, or river, or some lofty quote glamorizing the idea of wanderlust. Usually backed by an aged map, photo of a beautiful landscape or a retro-cute Airstream trailer, these quotes do what all social networks are designed to do: make us long to live a life we could never live. It’s easy enough to apply a vintage filter to an image and slap some text in a little-known font across it describing some idea found from a Google search, and watch as it goes viral as those of us who use these networks desperately try to brand ourselves as believers.

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And if you’re like me, when you  pin these to your boards or post them to your walls, you imagine the magic of the life portrayed. You imagine bartering in the floating markets of Bangkok, swimming in the turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea, summiting a peak in the Himalayas on the back of a yak, and being constantly, wildly overwhelmed at the magic of what you’re doing. What’s not in this mental image you create? Reality. The swamp ass from a bad plate of pad thai, vicious sunburn from the harsh Mediterranean sun, bitter wind and stench of a one-ton animal. It’s easier to imagine these things as we will eventually remember them when things are back to “normal”; as the glorified version of the past, untainted by the burden of present reality. It’s highly unlikely anyone will Photoshop a photo of the toilet after that Bali belly hits with “Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost.”

I’m not saying that dreaming and romanticizing are bad things – I’m notorious for doing both. And I understand the aspirational nature of traveling. I picked up my entire life and moved abroad because of it. I’m just saying that when that familiar feeling of being strapped into place by an invisible leash kicks into place when you see those photos, quotes, and carefully curated images that unintentionally make you feel like your life is lame/boring/not good enough, remember that you’re usually assuming that one small part of the overall experience is the entire experience. I started this blog because I knew there was going to be a lot of bad accompanying the good of my expatriation, and I wanted to share an honest account with anyone who cares to read it. My Facebook and Instagram feeds are the glamorized version of my life in Australia – but this blog is my attempt to not only reveal the amazing photos but also show the figurative “Bali belly” that comes with living so far from home and readjusting to an entirely new life. Minus the toilet photos.

Demanding a Change

This morning, I woke and learned the tragic news of the shooting in a Connecticut elementary school. Along with this news swirled words about gun control, the appropriate and inappropriate reaction to such a tragedy, and a lot of different opinions about all of the above.

As for myself, I reserve my right to be utterly and unapologetically infuriated by the slaughter of 20 innocent children. I agree, we need to hug our kids today. I also think that we need to be angry that something this heinous was able to happen, and demand that something change to prevent it from happening again. Now, not once the shock has begun to fade and we can twist the facts of the case to explain why gun regulation wouldn’t have prevented this. Mental illness is an awful thing, and difficult to diagnose and control. I agree that more should be done to help those who are losing grasp with reality, sanity, and a sense of right and wrong. But until we have a foolproof system in place to do so, it should not be this easy for someone to obtain a weapon, an instrument designed to kill.

Solving this problem by arming more Americans is, for lack of a better word, stupid. Yes, I would LOVE to send my children to a school where a gun in each classroom is necessary. Sounds like a brilliant plan! A bunch of 5, 8, 12, 16 year olds and a gun in the same room. The fact that a society would need to have a gun for protection in a classroom full of five year olds should be proof enough that something in our country is seriously, deeply fucked. There are disturbed individuals in every country, all over the world. But many of them don’t have the means and ability to inflict the kind of harm American psychos can inflict.

You can try to squarely blame the root causes of a person’s break with reality instead of the tool he uses to massacre others. You can blame poor family structure, abuse, and mental illness. I wouldn’t disagree that those are problems. Many of those things are things we can’t change on a grand scale, not without parenting every poorly-parented child ourselves. What we can change is the ease of accessing guns. I believe in the right to bear arms – I’ve invoked the right myself. But I also believe that this right should be earned, not given. I think the definition of “arms” needs to be more stringently defined. I think that just being American is not a license to own a weapon that is primarily designed to kill en masse.

A man stormed into a school in China today and stabbed schoolchildren there. Stabbed, because access to guns in China is strictly regulated. Guess how many children died? Not. One. That doesn’t change the fact that this man did a heinous and ugly thing, just as the American man in Connecticut did. But the result is so drastically different. There are 22 children in China who will likely never be the same. But they will heal, have their lives, the opportunity to grow old, get married, have their own children. There are 20 children in the US who no longer have that opportunity, because a sick man with a deluded mind was able to get his hands on a gun.

So you can sit there and try to reason why tighter gun laws wouldn’t have prevented this. You can try to blame everything except the tool that allows such efficient execution of innocents. You can choose to focus on the sadness of the situation instead of the solutions. But try to imagine being a terrified six-year-old child, flinching with your hands over your ears while a grown man fires bullets into your friends. Imagine being a seven-year-old, instructed to hold hands and walk single file, but to close your eyes so you don’t see your principal lying a pool of her own blood. Imagine running for your life on your skinny little five-year-old legs. I do not want to return to a nation where the innocence of children is a willing sacrifice to make so we can cling to an ancient interpretation of a constitutional amendment. I don’t want to return to a nation where outrage and a demand for a solution isn’t the immediate response to such an event as what occurred today in Connecticut. I don’t want to return to a nation where I need to fear movie theaters, shopping malls, and school campuses because our government isn’t willing to protect us from mentally unstable citizens. We’re so concerned with terrorists invading from foreign lands that we’ve utterly failed to thwart the ones from within.

It’s time to change that.

All Too Well

Remembering a cold night, cold beers, sidelong glances through lowered lashes. Green eyes that make butterflies, leaned up against a fireplace waiting. A self-conscious smile and floating through a dark, wet street with a silly grin. Whatever it is and a dance in the dark, realizing that a foot out the door was pulled back in. Long drives and long talks and literal and figurative tsunamis that changed everything. Mountains and moments and knowing nothing would ever be the same.

Magic becoming misunderstanding, being broken like a promise, left crumpled in the name of being true. Ready to forget, but remembering all too well.

How I Know I’m Not Screwing Up My Life

I am a decisive person. When I decide I want to take a risk, I lay everything on the line to make it. And sometimes taking this risk comes at great cost to me: my comfort, my routine, proximity to people I love very much. But I have this wild faith that the risks I choose to take are calculated, risky enough to make me grow but not so risky I’m unable to live the life I dreamed.

But as a risk-taker, those choices are often clouded with doubts that can bar me from fully realizing that I did do the right thing, even if it was hard. Its easy to see what I’ve robbed myself of, and not understand what I’m giving myself. And then, I come across ideas from great minds like this, and everything is validated:

“Either we risk or we don’t. Either we change or we don’t. There’s no acceptable middle ground because it lulls us into complacency. Lasting changes rarely occur when we ease our way into the future. They come when we leap. The leaps themselves can be small or large. Once we take action, we see things differently and for many of us there’s no going back.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

With the benefit of retrospect, I can see how I made series of small leaps that led me to make bigger ones. I can see the things I did that changed my perspective enough that there was nowhere to go but forward. Going back to what I had been would have been trite and uninspired. And as those leaps lengthened, the reward has been commensurate to the risk. It doesn’t mean I haven’t gambled and lost; I definitely have. But the return has been greater than the loss in every instance of taking that chance, and so I’ll continue to optimistically believe that these losses will only be surpassed by even greater gains. Its one of life’s funny paradoxes: The more you’re willing to lose, the more you gain.

The Familiar and the Foreign

I’ve been struggling for the quote that explains it, succinctly captures what I consider “wanderlust.” I struggled in my own writing to try to define it, and ended up with passages and passages of ineffective words and phrases that couldn’t quite do it.

And then, there it was. And it was perfect:

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It’s perfect; it explains it all. That yearning inside for places unknown, as strong as the yearning can be for home when we’re in those exotic and alien places. This desperation for the unknown, it’s not a common thing for people in this world. But for those of us who do have it, we must chase it. We need what it offers, that feeling like our souls are being pulled in two different directions, one back to everything we know, and the other far from anything native to our lives. It’s an utter paradox, and you can palpably feel your heart stretching inside your chest as you struggle to reconcile one with the other.

But all this pulling of heart and soul is making both of those things grow, that pang in your chest the truest signal that you are alive, you are feeling something profound, and it is growing you into something bigger than you were before.

Try as I may, I’m afraid I’ll simply never understand the people who are satisfied with only the familiar, those who don’t desperately long for the foreign and strange. I’ll always lament the fact that you will never get to know what I know, or feel what I feel. And yes, that is arrogant, I know. It doesn’t celebrate the differences in people that make this planet so interesting. But I simply cannot reconcile knowing all that it out here in the world, and not feeling a wild and uncontrollable compulsion throw oneself into the thick of it.

An Open Letter to Any Heartbroken Girl

I’m no stranger to heartbreak. Like fingerprints, each one of mine is as unique as the relationship that preceded it. And regardless of the reasons or who initiated what, it always sucks. I will venture to say, though, that being the one who is on the receiving end of the decision to end things is a little worse than on the delivering end. So I’ve drawn on my extensive “getting dumped” experience and written an open letter to any girl who might need a little pep talk, any girl who has been deserted by someone they loved very much. Guys, maybe you’ll find this applicable too but I really can’t say I know what it’s like to be dumped as a guy. It’s helped me, and hopefully it will help someone else out there who might be hurting. These things are never easy, but remember that everything happens for a reason.

“You tried, darling. You loved him the best you could. You threw yourself in 110%. You tried to show him how to love you, and it just didn’t take. It’s not your fault, you did everything you could think of. Yes, this hurts. Because you gave so much more of yourself than you ever normally would have, more than you even knew you had in you. Because you compromised your own pride for love. Because you made him a priority, and in return all you were told is that you are optional. And yes, that really, really hurts. Especially when it comes from someone you loved so much.

You have to remember that compromise has to come from both sides of an equation, and you just can’t keep giving to someone who isn’t willing to give back. If you keep trying to do that, you’re just going to keep hurting. You tried to lower and lower the level of sacrifice, until he finally told you he couldn’t sacrifice anything at all. Yes, he was worth it to you, but you weren’t to him. So now you have to love yourself more than him. Now you have try to replace who you thought was irreplaceable, because you’ve been told that you are replaceable. You should not be made to feel interchangeable with whoever is convenient.

You have to remember that love doesn’t deal in “ifs” and “whens,” but in “always” and “no matter the circumstances.” “Can’t” is not in the vocabulary of love, only “how.” He couldn’t be bothered to figure that out with you, so you only got “can’t.” You deserve better than a man like that. You deserve someone who will think of ways to get the two of you around the obstacles that enter your path. Someone who thinks in “us” and “we,” not “I” and “me.” So keep fighting through the bad days, revel in the good ones, and remember that you’re worth it to someone. When you find him all this pain will make sense. You loved the wrong person so well, so just imagine how amazing you will be at loving the right person. Imagine what it will feel like to have all this trying actually be reciprocated. Trust that you will only go up from here, and push yourself to get there as soon as you can. You gave it everything, and as long as you keep that up, you’re going to be just fine.”

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I apologize for random Drake photo, I don’t know why that’s there but the idea is solid so I left it in here.

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