Defining Friendship

On my EMT shift the day before my birthday, the dangerous topic of religion came up for some reason while we were reviewing the ambulance (something we do at the beginning of every shift) to make sure we had all the right supplies. Like most careful Americans, we ended the religion conversation before we needed to say much about our personal beliefs. It was amusing to contrast the politically correct nature of the conversation with my experience in Paraguay. In Paraguay, religion is not a topic that’s avoided and people have no problem asking you if you’re catholic (the dominate religion there). I went to Paraguay with almost no religious experiences (and most that I had had were very negative)…but Paraguay brought me up to speed on their version of being catholic. And they changed my view of religion forever (though they didn’t convert me).

As I wrote when I was in Paraguay, the Paraguay I know is Catholic. That means that to my Paraguay friends the entire world is seen through the lens of Mary, Jesus, and the saints. A lot of what Mary and Jesus and the saints talk about is how you’re supposed to treat other people. Paraguayans put people, especially family, first.

A little after 9pm on my birthday I got a video message from one of my families in Paraguay. When I say family, I mean I spent every weekend with them. I went to church, out shopping, and to soccer games with them (in Paraguay, soccer is the equivalent of all sports in the US combined). I went dancing all night with the daughters, studied English and history for hours with the son, ate many dinners and lunches with them a week. I showered at their house when my water was out. I was in both daughters’ weddings…

My whole family was there in the video message. First they sang “Happy Birthday” in Guarani…then it was “Happy birthday Jett. May you have a blessed birthday and many blessed years ahead. I hope you’re having a wonderful time. Send us a video, Jett, so we can see you…We miss you Jett. When are you coming back Jett?”

It’s so nice when you realize that the people you think about all the time also think about you. And as my family’s familiar voices and happy words sunk in I thought about friendship. Even friendship is defined using a religious metaphor in Paraguay. And, with the topics of religion and friendship on my mind, it seemed fitting to share (again) one of my favorite stories about both:

Overheard in Paraguay: Friendship
Repost from October 19, 2015

We sat in a half circle around the grill. The men were cooking large slabs of meat, ribs and some unidentifiable cut, for the mother of the family’s birthday dinner. The husband of one of the birthday mother’s daughters sat by the grill passing one can of beer among the men there. A nephew walked up to the daughter’s husband. The husband was around 30 and the nephew was about 11.

The husband hugged his nephew first with one arm and then the other, squeezing him. The nephew squirmed, and they both smiled. The husband held the nephew at arm’s length and put on an almost serious expression. “Will we always be friends?” the husband asked.

“Yes,” the nephew said.

“Even when I am old and you are my age?” the husband asked.

“Yes, even when you are old and I have kids,” the nephew said.

The husband smiled and pulled the nephew into another hug. The nephew pulled away again and they looked at each other, the husband still squeezed the nephew’s shoulder with one hand.

“Even when you are in Heaven and I am old we will still be friends,” the nephew said earnestly.

The husband laughed. “And I will look after you from Heaven.” They hugged again. “And, when you come to Heaven, we will be friends in Heaven. We will be friends forever.”

The boy nodded and ran off to find his playmates.

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Are you lonely?

“Are you lonely?” is America’s version of the boyfriend question. I thought the coupling obsession was a Paraguayan thing. But, now that I’m back in the US, I realize I was mistaken. It’s also an American thing. Maybe it’s a human thing. Regardless, I’ve gotten a lot of practice justifying why I’m single. So, let me tell you…

…there is no reason why I’m single. I just am.

I know it’s hard to believe that a person can be happy just being. But, try to imagine it. Consider, for example, that I can go hiking on the fly and not wait for a soul. I could move anywhere and would only need to bargain with my future landlord and maybe the visa office. I can (and do) eat when, what, and where I want and don’t feel even a hint of obligation to coordinate with anyone.

Perhaps you’re thinking something like, “Fine, Jett, you’re busy and independent…but really you’re just waiting for the right guy. You’re lonely, but you forge on propelled by the dream of the prince who will sweep you off your feet one day.”

If something like that is on your mind, I must ask: Doesn’t that argument seem archaic? By now we should all know that princes only live in fairytales. They aren’t real, but metaphors for love and good fortune. I don’t need the metaphor. I’m not looking for someone to fend off the dragons. I do that just fine on my own.

Don’t despair, you’re partly right. I’m busy and I have great friends. But that’s the whole point. If I lived my whole life as I am—doing good work, engaging in hobbies, and enjoying friends—then I would have an awesome life. You see, my life’s not on hold. I’m not working toward finding that perfect man. I’m just living…and I also happen to be single. I’m not worried about love. Why should I? It’s spontaneous and stubborn. It will do whatever the heck it wants. Just like me.

I might one day stumble upon someone to be my partner in crime. I might uncover a person who makes me happier than I already am. If I do, I’ll marry him. I also might not find such a human. Either way, the trajectory is grand. I realize that many believe that singletons need to be saved. But let’s remember that when we, you and I, were taught about the American dream it was never said that it could only be dreamt by two.

Thanks for your concern about my emotional well-being. But, the better question is “What do you do?” I assure you the answer is interesting. I have a lot to say about me and my doings. And don’t worry, I’ll let you know if me becomes we.

Old Haunts

I stared at the metro station that had been my home stop for several years as the train doors binged open and closed. That day I had no reason to get off there. I tried to remember what I had thought about all those times after interning, working, volunteering, and adventuring when I got off on that platform and observed the name written in white on a brown pole, “Cleveland Park.” Too many different thoughts to remember. Feelings arose—that of being too hot or tired from a long day at the office, but those were more sensations than memories.

It had been over three years since I’d visited DC—three years, but a lifetime of learning. The trouble with my recollection wasn’t so much that I didn’t remember all the good and bad things that had happened while I was in our Nation’s capital. The marathon training runs through Rock Creek Park when the sun glistened through the trees as I padded along the winding creek dodging bikers and baby strollers. I remember the roly-poly red pandas who I visited many weekends. The tart and sweet of frozen yogurt and mango. The smell of coffee emanating from my clothes after a shift at Starbucks—you can’t escape that scent, and coffee smells different when it’s associated with work, rich and bitter at the same time. I remembered the night I drank my first energy drink, my only all-nighter of college, so I could walk down to Obama’s first inauguration. I had tickets! I remember the cherry blossoms and the autumn leaves reflecting in the pool at Jefferson’s feet. The flags on the Vietnam memorial stark against the black stone. The quiet white lines of tombs at Arlington—so many lost. The smelly humidity of the metro before a marathon. The chili fries at National’s stadium—Harper, Zimmerman, Gonzales…the presidents racing. The long night walks in the neighborhood when families strolled and the smells of different restaurants wafted across the sidewalk. The Greek deli where I got my college graduation lunch.

The trouble, though hardly that, was that the feelings of weariness and frustration that had laced my time in DC were gone. Completely gone and only the happy memories of my old haunts remained. The Kennedy Center at dusk. The strange winding of the canal through Georgetown. The roses. Roses in almost every garden. The long walks to the grocery store and the strolls past embassies. It was strange to think of embassies now. I’d been an expat. I knew what it was like to visit your country’s stronghold in a strange land. Oddly not comforting considering the comparison between American politics and the warmth of Paraguay.

I watched the people rushing out of the metro. I was sure not to esca-left—unforgiveable. I’d forgotten about all the fancy men’s shoes and checkered shirts, but seeing them I realized how unchanged cloud DC was. Suits of a cut only seen on the Hill and in old boys’ clubs abounded. I smiled. Funny to think those young men, dreaming of great titles and accomplishments, where not as unique as they imagined. As for the women, the boring shirts and sensible skirts. Even below the Mason-Dixon line so many folks lacked the flare that the south brings out if you let it. “Not far enough south,” I guessed. Of course, these folks were more complex than their clothes, but they’d lead you to believe their clothes were an expression of themselves. Hard to say, not knowing them.

Wandering the streets made me feel the freedmen of disengagement. This was not my home and could very well never be my home again. It was an easy thought. Whether the metro ran on time or late mattered little—it was no longer my metro. And besides, I’d waited hours in the hot sun for buses a fraction as nice as the dirtiest DC metro car.

Old haunts. They weren’t haunts at all, really. Just little snapshots into the past. But I no longer saw any of the scenes as I did then. No. They all had a different filter. And this time, the view was bright as the afternoon, January sun in Paraguayan. The vignette lens that had once allowed the shadows to creep in around the edges of my old stomping ground had been replace by a softening and brightening filter. I noticed the sidewalks, their cracks had been filled. The sidewalks were new just like my path. And the corners of my mouth creeped up all on their own. If my positive outlook, adopted from Paraguay, could endure the city where politicians were trying to put our country forty years behind in education, rights, and healthcare, then it was safe to say I’d come to visit just at the right time. The right time to prove that rain and sun are different sides of the same sky. I saw the sun.

Welcome 2017

You know, 2016 was a pretty awesome year. It was one of transition. My service in Paraguay ended and I returned to Vermont. As you may recall, I grew up in Vermont. I fled the state when I went to college. I swore I’d never return. But, minds and hearts change. Here I am. And, I’ll be in Vermont for a stint longer than I was in Paraguay.

So where does 2017 find me?

I’m in the midst of a post-baccalaureate, pre-med program. What does that mean? I’m taking the undergrad classes required to apply to medical school, which I didn’t take when I earned my BA in Public Relations.

The end goal? Becoming a medical doctor. But, one step at a time…

I guess we can say that 2017 officially marks the end of my Peace Corps journey and the beginning of my doctorhood quest. And it is a quest. A long, long adventure full of all kinds of tricky science and learning new things. Luckily, I gained some endurance and determination abilities while in Paraguay.

As always, I’m doing many things. I’m studying and working. I’m on the verge of becoming an EMT. Got my cert…now I just need a volunteer position. Further, I’m considering what other delights I can fit into my jammed schedule.

While I start 2017 as a busy bee, like every year I remember, this year isn’t about the work. Work is what I do, I’m just like that.

2017 is about attitude, not tasks.

We can’t know the future. Life is exciting because of tomorrow’s mystery. But, I have high hopes for 2017. And, despite some giant obstacles (not the least of which is a despicable human storming the Oval Office) I have some happy goals.

I’m expecting 2017 to be full of positive thinking and pep talks. That’s the nature of having hard professional and personal goals. But big goals aside, my main resolution for 2017 is to create moments of caring and sharing. What does that entail? Carving out time to spend with people I love. Smiling and seizing opportunities to discover new people to love. I know, it sounds wishy-washy. But it’s not. This year is simply about being happy as a human and sharing that happiness with others.

With that, let’s go 2017. I’m ready. Are you?

May I Carry This Always

I’ve learned and seen enough cool things in Paraguay to fill volumes. But, I will not do that (at least not right now). So, in the simplest of terms: Paraguay is an awesome place. Paraguayans have taught me to be a more confident and caring person. And, there are some aspects of their culture I’m incorporating into my life for always, no matter where I am. My top five favorites of Paraguayan culture are:

1) Commitment to humor: Find a Paraguayan and in short time they will make a joke and be laughing. Find a Paraguayan and they will smile. Paraguayans have plenty to be negatively about, but most don’t let those realities rob them of happiness. Paraguayans are always looking for the next smile, the next bright speck in the haze of life.

2) Unwavering gratefulness: Paraguayans take time to be thankful for what they have and with who they share their lives. Of course, Paraguayans are human and want new, different things. However, they don’t let their desire for something else distract from their enjoyment of what they have.

3) Attention to detail: Paraguayans, especially and mostly the women, notice the smallest detail. They notice how one little bow can make a table at a baby shower look all the better. They notice and remember when one’s birthday is, how one’s family is doing, what one prefers to eat, what size of clothing one wears, what one likes to do…I appreciate Paraguayan women’s attention and think it is a form of being truely present. I want to be as present in my life as they are; I hope to be as understanding of the people who are important to me as they are of the people important to them.

4) Relationship building as a priority: Paraguayans work and study and do all the things that people do, but first and most important are the people in their lives. I was raised as a fierce individualistic American who believes my dream should not be bent for anyone or anything. I still believe that I must follow my dreams and not let anyone distract me, but I’ve also realized that people bring joy to life and that people in my life are important to me. I don’t ever want to get lost in a rat race that is so hectic I don’t have time to share with those I love.

5) Unrelenting curosity: Paraguayans never stop asking questions and I love them for it. They do not feel shame when asking the most outlandish, in my mind, things. I want to carry their unwavering confidence…it takes confidence to ask questions people might refuse to answer. I want to always be curious and willing to learn like I have found my closest Paraguayan friends to be.

5 Confessions of a Paraguay Peace Corps Volunteer

When I was preparing to leave for Peace Corps, returned volunteers told me that the experience would change me. Of course they were right. Most of the changes I’ve experienced are internal, feelings more than anything else, and can’t be summarized easily in a few words. However, there a some things I now do that are amusing to me. These new habits aren’t particularly profound, but they offer a glimps into my life in Paraguay.

5 Confessions

1) I automatically prepare a 2-liter thermos of ice cold water in the morning regardless of whether or not I have imminent plans of drinking terere. I know I’ll finish the 2 liters by the end of the day one way or another. Before Paraguay, there was nothing I drank every day (other than water of course), not tea and not coffee.

2) If it’s raining in the morning I sleep in, make mate, and decide it’s a “me” day. Only “big” commitments have a chance of breaking that routine. I used to be an “A” type who could not sit without work for even two seconds.

3) I plan the amount of groceries I buy based on how many families I think I’m going to visit that week. No matter what I do, every Paraguayan family I visit will insist on feeding me and giving me food to take home. This country is a land of super-hosts. I’m not a moocher and I don’t like to accept any kind of gift without a clear way to repay it, but Paraguayans have shown me a generosity so profound they’ve eased my “repay” obsession and given me the chance to just enjoy their company.

4) I have so many humorous, invented reasons for why I don’t have a boyfriend and why I don’t want do date whoever is asking me about my relationship status, I don’t remember the real reason for my singleness. In Paraguay, it’s just as common for people to ask me if I have a boyfriend as it is for them to ask me my name (well, almost). I don’t enjoy the prodding so common here in Paraguay, but having to think about what is up with my romantic situation so often has given me the chance to be creative. I do hope I keep the humor when I return to the States, but I won’t miss the prevalence of questions about my love life.

5) I know all the tricks to get out of eating a second piece of meat. Everything from what I finish first on my plate to where I look while eating is calculated for best results. Paraguayans eat a lot of meat and they are aggressively generous with sharing their food. I appreciate my hosts’ invites to eat, but I just can’t consume as much beef and pork as they can. When left on my own, I hardly eat meat of any kind.

When the Days Are Numbered

On March 8th I’ll have 30 days left in Paraguay. At that point, I’ll no longer be able to deny the countdown I’ve struggled against by hiding behind weeks and months before departure. The days are numbered like pages. As with a good book, I’m excited to start a new chapter, but sad to move forward because the story is so interesting I could just stay in the middle of it…indefinitely.

March leading to April is a good time in Paraguay. School is up and running again, students pass my house in their uniform skirts, pants, and leather shoes. The weather starts to cool and the citrus are coming in–lemons and fat grapefruit, oranges and mandarins will come later. Catholics begin to prepare their souls for Easter. This year Easter week, called Saint’s Week here, falls in March. I arrived in my community for Saint’s Week two years ago and I will leave Paraguay just after it this year. Saint’s Week is the week of chipa, family, and disturbing TV series about the rise, fall, and rise of Jesus.

During March and April two years ago I was finishing my Peace Corps training and adjusting to my new home in my community–everything was a first. The same months last year, I was glowing with the accomplishments of a volunteer who rocked her first year in site and had stellar prospects for the coming year. This year, I’m saying goodbye and everything is turning into a “last.” It is hard to imagine things that have been fundamental in my life for two years as lasts… My last party in site dancing until dawn. My last soccer game. My last…Why does “last” have an innately depressing ring to it?

The days are numbered and it would be a lie to say that I’m not ready to take the leap to the next thing. When I leave my little house on a Paraguayan hill, I have three weeks of wandering until I land in my next home, which will be in northern Vermont. Vermont will be a launching pad; there I’ll be catapulted into the trajectory of becoming a doctor. I’ve had two thoughtful years in the hot, humid land of Paraguay to meditate on doctor-hood. It is the right road to take next, but the irony of leaving Paraguay to go to Vermont to germinate my new self is not lost. Anything can flourish in Paraguay, but only the hardiest of seeds sprout and produce in Vermont’s stingy sun.

I do not miss places. Place inherently have a mix of favorable and annoying characteristics. And, in most walks of earth, I can adapt and even prosper in the mix of features that makes the place.

I do not miss entire cultures. Cultures are like ecosystems; they have many parts that rely on each other to stay together. Like I find it difficult to appreciate mosquitoes and ants, I find it impossible to accept every aspect of a culture. There are beliefs I adore and there are those I hate. I navigate by focusing on what resonates with me and ignoring the rest to the best of my ability.

I miss people. I feel their absence from my heels to the top of my messy bun. There are lots of people in our world, but there are few individuals who are mostly good. In Spanish we could call those people who tip the balance dramatically to the side of kind, fun, and just “buena anda.” “Buena anda” translates to something like “good way” or “good walk”– maybe the English phrase is “good people.” I’ve struck a fortune and made friends with some buena anda people in Paraguay. And, the readiness I feel to leave the red earth of the Guarani is dulled by the thought of moving far away from the people I love here.

My young Paraguayan friends have Facebook. There is the mail system and the chance that I will return to Paraguay for a visit. Yes, it is undeniable that the tools to “stay in touch” are available. But, having played this game of geography before, I know it is not the tools that are the most important factor to staying connected.

My closest friends and I can pick up where we left off after any amount of time, and no matter how brief our reconnect. And, my Paraguayan friends will be like that, we will carry on when we talk or are together. But, I have learned that as life goes on the time between catch-up sessions with far away friends grows. It lengthens until the relationship is mostly founded on the memories of times when we lived close. I have vivid and profound memories with my friends from this overlooked, South American country. I know what we shared will live on in our metaphorical hearts. But, I still find myself pausing in the way I learned during my years sweating in the Paraguayan humidity and lounging in mango shade.

The days are numbered. I can count them. Soon the count will be zero and I will embark on the road less traveled. I must go. I want to go. But, I don’t want to forget. I don’t want the people I knew here to fade in my life like old photographs. I don’t want the indescribable understanding of life that Paraguay gave me to get lost in a cobweb corner of my mind. Now, as I look to the horizon, I don’t just ask what is to come. There is a more emotional question that plagues me: How will I remember?

Fewer Than 100 Days Left

The end of December marked 100 days left in my Peace Corps service. The mix of heart-break and joy I feel thinking about leaving Paraguay is beyond my power of words to describe. But, this moment is a good chance to think about why I came to Paraguay in the first place and where I could see myself in the future.

I came to Paraguay to grow. I came to help others, and myself, cultivate new skills and ideas by sharing—my dream is that Paraguayans have learned something from me over the past 2 years. Paraguayans have changed my way of being, from adding terere to my routine to warping how think about machismo. In the formal setting of my classes, I hope that some students grabbed something that they can use…whether it be how to put on a condom or a vague understanding that there are ways to see the world that are very different from their own. On a personal level, I look forward to life-long friendships with the amazing people I’ve met.

New Years 2014, I was getting ready to leave the USA for 2 years. I was excited and petrified. I wanted the adventure of living in another country for a chuck of time and I was eager to see what would come of my Peace Corps service. But, every single piece of service preparatory literature and every former and current volunteer I talked to said to try not to form expectations about Paraguay and what my service would be like because I could not know until I started. The fog about my future was chilling. I did my best to have a blank slate mind when I landed in Asuncion after an exhausting flight filled with raw nerves. I remember it was sunny and hot when I arrived in Paraguay. Everything here was new and exciting when I piled into the van that took me away from the airport and the world I’d known.

Since middles school, perhaps before but I don’t remember, the world beyond my itsy, bitsy town in rural Vermont held my interest. Places outside the borders—state, country, and continent—called to me. In 8th grade I began a love affair with Spanish, which continues to fester and prod me to evaluate every move as not only a personal or professional decision, but also a language choice. When I fell head-over-heals for Spanish, I knew that one way or another my path would meander beyond the land of the free and home of the brave to places whose values and virtues were unknown to me.

With fewer than 100 days left, I can say the hardest part is leaving. Leaving friends and loved ones. Leaving routines and places that are familiar. It is easy to float along doing what seems logical and secure. It is comforting to have a home-base, a set schedule, and a clear purpose. And, going abroad destroyed all those things for me. But, in their place equal, though different, pleasures germinated. I now know I can bend and sway and operate in foreign lands. I know that there are parts of myself that will always be true and strong; for example, I value honesty above all things and will never drink alcohol. And there are parts of me that will adapt to the environment, such as what I eat and how I spend time with people.

Volunteers like to ask each other, “If you knew what you know now about how your service would be, would you still have decided to do it?” My answer is a definitive “yes.” I would choose to come to Paraguay when I did in every alternate path of my life that could have been. This New Years, welcome 2016, I am not the lady I was 2 years ago. My biggest crop in the Paraguay season of my life has been me. I could not be who I am today without the laughs, frustrations, and pleasures Paraguay gave me. I am leaving Paraguay soon, I may only return for vacation (who knows), but Paraguay has a piece of my heart.

Am I achieving what I came here to do? Heck yeah, I just didn’t know in coming to Paraguay that my main accomplishment would be learning how to crack the hard shell of life and let happiness sprout wherever the wind takes me. We can not foretell the future, just as we can not guess the weather no matter what meteorologist try to make us believe, but Paraguay was the thunder before a storm. Bring it on 2016.

Blogging Abroad's Boot Camp Blog Challenge: Starting January 2015

Twenty-Six

Today I am officially closer to 30 than 20. Thirty-year-old guys aren’t too old. In fact, not only are they a good age for a possible significant other, they are basically my peers. I’m almost old enough to be my high school students’ mom and could feasibly be my junior high students’ mother. I’ve seen Internet in my backwoods, childhood stomping ground of Vermont transform from nonexistent, to dial-up with the nightmare beeping, to wifi so fast I can stream movies. I remember when landlines were the only way to invite my friends over for dinner.

I’ve lived in 3 countries and 5 cities. I’ve worked 8 different jobs and 6 internships. I graduated high school and college and then got a job using my degree. I then left that job for Peace Corps Paraguay. In Paraguay, I’ve taught leadership, identifying abilities, goal setting, sex education, and other things related to self-esteem to grades 8-12.

Birthdays are pensive times for me. Not because I’m scared about getting old. I’m more curious than fearful of what I will look like with gray hair, wrinkles, and a schedule filled with doctors appointments. I hope my health weathers the years and that there are not too many doctors appointments. Mostly, my birthdays are a time of reflection because they are logical milestones in life.

I am 26. My toddler self thought I’d be an Indian princess by now. My childhood self believed I’d be a famous dancer or musician. My high school self imagined I’d be a published writer, fluent speaker of many languages, and world traveler. My college self planned I’d be a ballin’ public relations expert, to great to fall, who was married and traveled to awesome places on vacation. My post-college self assumed I’d be a powerhouse for change and a person with a irresistible personality.

Now I know, and I would hesitate to say I am any of those things. At 26 I feel old. I also realize that old isn’t bad and is relative. I’m still a spring chicken compared to some and prehistoric in the eyes of others. Twenty-six is the beginning and end of a chapter, so starts my “post early twenties.”

I used to dream of who I would be. I set goals for my future self, someone who was better than my current self. But, today, I don’t dream of being someone different by next October or any future October. I expect that every October from here on out I will be Jett, nothing less and nothing more, and I am thrilled at such a prospect.

Don’t get me wrong, I have plans. I’m a dreamer and a plotter, and I am not scared of working hard to get to where I think I should be. But, honestly, so far I have never been where I thought I’d be. And, despite the disparity between what I thought and reality, life has been stellar. My 26-year-old wisdom tells me that in the end it’s not the grand title and spectacle of who I am come each October 2nd that is important. What matters is every moment between, all the small presents that come from living life to the max. And so, for year 27 my main mission is simply to seize every moment as an opportunity. I don’t want to worry about what I didn’t do when I remember; I want to smile because of what transpired.

Breaking the Mold

Origin: Ponderings on a rainy day in Paraguay.

Subject:  A limited attempt to justify my actions.

You know how when you put water in an ice tray, bag, or anything and then freeze it the water expands? If you’re not careful, the ice will break the container as it freezes or you end up with not-so-aesthetic ice cubes.

I feel like freezing water—the mold trying to keep me in shape will not hold up. I’m already overflowing, just imagine what’s going to happen when I solidify. Living and working abroad is the freezer, I’m the water molecule, and the molds are who I think I am and who I try to be. I often view myself as a homebody, but a homebody that tends to try to live more like a cosmopolite. Thinking about ice cubes made me realize, however, that I don’t fit nicely into the homebody or cosmopolite types.

Familiar. Routine. Known. Planned. Those are all things that I’ve always thought were important, and without which I’m usually harried, uncomfortable, and general miserable. But, at the same time, my fondest memories archive events that arose from spontaneity and going beyond my routine. And, I often do things to leave my routine behind: studying abroad for a time in high school, leaving Vermont to study in Washington, DC for college, and joining the Peace Corps. This juxtaposition in my personality—being comfortable only with the familiar but wanting and taking action to explore the unknown—started to make me wonder if I’m a masochist.

Don’t worry, after a thoroughgoing investigation I can say with certain confidence I am not a masochist. I just misjudged my character. I will explain.

When I left for a semester in Spain my junior year of high school people said it would change my life, and that I’d have amazing memories forever. When I left for college, people said to cherish my time studying because those years would be my best. When I left for the Peace Corps, people justified my leaving by reassuring me that the experience would be profound and the pinnacle in my life. I believed them, and now I think those thoughts were based at least partially on flawed assumptions.

All those times add up to more or less 6 years of my life. I am 25 and I want to live for a while yet. Were people telling me that my best years are now almost over? That might be the greatest tragedy that fate’s devised. I won’t accept that my life is a tragedy. What people meant to say, I think, was that studying abroad, college, and Peace Corps would be awesome because they would change up my routine and make life a fresh adventure.

“A fresh adventure”, that is the point of this rant. I like routine and familiar because they are easy. I periodically leave behind most everything that fits into the known not because I want to torture myself, but because comfort isn’t enough for me. I am on the trail of something else, and if I have to be uncomfortable sometimes to get there, it is a worthy sacrifice.

I do not think I could handle the life of a nomad; I’m just not that flexible. Nor do I think a fresh adventure is based entirely on changing location. However, I am reminded of the quote that pops into my mind more than any other as I go about my doings, “You have more power over your life than you think you do.”

In my heart I know I can not be happy just talking about the old times. Trying to accept the ordinary makes me restless. I am not a great adventurer or the bravest person, but I’m not scared to expand. I don’t want to just remember glory days, I want to be ever on the path of times worth retelling. That’s what I realized. Changing things up is scary, if it were easy everyone would do it. There’s always a chance for a real flop. But, since I can remember my favorite stories have always been those of people who took a leap. There is a beautiful, quaint simplicity to the stories of people who have spent all of their lives in the same place. But, there is something exciting and fantastic about those who can call more than one place home and who can say they’ve dabbled in many things. Molds are a way of setting a baseline. They’re a suggestion. As all expectations, molds are something to be surpassed.