Thursday, July 26, 2012

Golden Birthday Reflections

In two days it will be my golden birthday. A golden birthday is the day you turn the age of the date of your birthday. My birthday is July 28th and I'll be turning 28. To some this is no big deal, especially if they were born at the beginning of a month. In fact it's probably not a big deal but it's always nice to find a reason to celebrate good things. Right? 

It's amazing that one year ago today I had perhaps $20 left to my name and I was in Poland. In fact I think this is the day that I made a run for it from this house after things went awry when some guy that was staying there as a guest (of another person who was traveling to their home in France) decided he wanted a key (which I was told not to give him while my friend was traveling) and when I refused he went to the managers of the building and while he was on the phone to them I made a run for it! With my 20+ kilo bag I snuck out the front door, went out the back and ran
  as he was yelling for me to come back. I left the key hidden and a message to my friend and a mutual friend who lived in the city of Wroclaw and I just high-tailed it out of there. You see, I wasn't staying there legally since I wasn't about to be thrown in jail for trespassing since I couldn't pay some fine they'd come up with. I left..running as fast as I awkwardly could, found, zig-zagging through puddle-filled gravel walkways until I found a random bus stop and took the where I had no idea I just wanted to be OUT of there so he couldn't get me in trouble. That guy was just trouble waiting to happen. So, it was on THIS day exactly that I found myself going to the edge of Wroclaw and hitch-hiking to Podebrady, Czech Republic for a two week summercamp.

On this last birthday I was alone and to be honest, I was just tired. I had been traveling since March of that year, traveling to a new country each month. By this time I had almost completely ran out of money and had definitely lost some weight. I decided to eat at a restaurant finally. I had some Czech dish, I believe it was a mushroom soup. Absolutely delicious. 

So what has happened between now and then? Have I changed? Do I have all of the answers I was hoping for? The secret to longevity and happiness? 

Yes, I've definitely changed. I've become more responsible in work and play. Although at times that may come to question depending on the circumstances. I really found Istanbul to be a mix of so many different feelings and emotions. The greatness of the city far outweighed any negatives that could be brought up from experiences. I learned one of my biggest lessons of humility after having my cameras stolen while coming to the aid of a woman in the street who was being beaten. For about 7 months I was without a camera. For the most part I took it in silence unless you talked to me online. I met some amazing people in that time too. I kind of closed up a bit on myself after this time because it was such a messy event. I can't thank my couchsurfer Inna enough. We immediately clicked with out familiarity of missing the Philippines and having done and seen the same things there while also being from the USA and  both having a love (and need) for travel. She also could see how much it killed me not to be able to take a photo of anything. I LOVE taking photos of the world around me and what I experience. I feel as if the camera is a part of my body, an extra appendage. So when it was taken from me..well yeah I had the missing arm syndrome. I could still feel it attached but it was never really there. She sold me her old i-phone 3gs and so I was finally able to take photos. I explored Istanbul with her and it was just great. Her understanding and awesome presence popped me out of self-loathing and reminded me that there is so much more to this world than material things.

I also found that sometimes you just can't completely win or have things go your way. Things happen unexpectedly and you have to either have prepared for them earlier, and whether you have or haven't, go with the flow and make due with what you have. I was suddenly dismissed in a very shady way by the company I was working for on outlandish grounds. There was not much I could really do. It prevented me from saving much money to visit home with (as I was determined to visit home) and thankfully with the suppport of my friends I was able to get through this difficult time of suddenly being jobless. Sadly I had to break a promise to my good friend Z and wasn't able to visit her in Barcelona while she was traveling there on her Birthday. She's one of the most incredible woman I know and has known me online for something going on 8 years now. It hurt a lot not being able to keep that promise.

Thus is life though. Sometimes it throws you some curveballs and you just have to swing and take the bases you can. 

Now I've been home for the first time in what felt like 4 years (I don't really count my 1 month visit in Feb 2010 because I was absolutely miserable from the blizzard-like conditions and being unable to go anywhere while my siblings were in school and parents were at work), and I've had my ups and downs. At first I just hit the ground running, guns smoking hot as I tried to get as many thigns going as I could. I was going to take motorcycle classes, compete in my first barrel racing competition, and do some photoshoots, play games with my brother and sister, really bond with them some more because they missed me so much.
Well, I did a lot. I wasn't able to do it all.
I visited my dad longer than I expected and our time together went much better than I expected.
The last time I had visited we were at each others throats in the short few days I had visited him.
This time we were much more understanding with each other and spent many nights watching movies and playing Dr. Mario, something we used to do when I was a kid. 

However, I do still have one weakness that I've noticed in myself.

This ever present desire for companionship. Whether it be of the friendship kind or more. And to be around a multi-cultural group of people. Not having people to hang out with or do things with my own age has been a bit tough. So much so that I decided to 'fast' on drinking alcohol during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. I hope that I can somehow overcome this and learn to really be able to be comfortable and happy in my own company. I found this was the hardest part of traveling as well. Being solo and having nobody to share the adventures and stories with in a way that only somebody your own age can understand and accept.  

Going to Wisconsin Dells to visit my friend Kursad was a great time. It was like drinking from an oasis in the middle of the desert. I was surrounded by people from all over the world and made some great new friends. I spent some fun time with Kursad as well...from what I can remember of my Jack Daniel's loving buddy.

Now I'm back in Iowa with my family and I've got just a month left before I return 'home' to Istanbul. Since I came back I was actually kind of depressed, so much so that I hardly slept, showered...or leave the couch for 4 days. When I suddenly read a blog post from Jessica Ghawi, a victim of the Aurora Theater shooting, that had recently written a blog about escaping ANOTHER shooting that happened in June. It was her last blog post.
"I say all the time that every moment we have to live our life is a blessing. So often I have found myself taking it for granted. Every hug from a family member. Every laugh we share with friends. Even the times of solitude are all blessings. Every second of every day is a gift."

I then started thinking, I am being so self absorbed when I should be up and taking advantage of the air I'm breathing and most importantly the family I finally have around me! So I've been trying to take advantage as much as I can by playing games with my brother like he wanted, making my sister laugh, helping my parents, texting my father, and trying to get one personal goal done a day.

I'm doing pretty good in most except my personal goals.  Today I returned a lost/stolen wallet to this guy. This week I had 2 interviews for different universities in Istanbul. One went really great and the other asked me to give a sample lesson over skype by tonight however I was too busy today to create a lesson plan and materials to teach that lesson over skype so I postponed it. Hopefully they accepted this, but I haven't heard back from them.   I've also got three photoshoots I'm trying to organize and plan.

Which comes to the end... What are my goals for the 28th year of my life.


Do something different.

I'm not sure how or what this will be, but I have a lot of things I'd like to do.  I'd love to start a travel blog, photography/modeling(?) portfolio that is actually halfway decent if only I could figure out the layout and of course organize myself.

Ahhhh right...    Goal two will have to be to       GET ORGANIZED.  

I've got ADD. I can't ignore it anymore. I need to start taking medicine regularly like I did back in university, when I was actually able to get work done consistently. If I want to be successful in anything I have to be able to focus on it consistently which has been a constant challenge for me. 

So,   I need to TAKE CARE OF MY HEALTH. 

I guess, last but not least...I need to APPRECIATE THE SMALL THINGS and find a reason to smile everyday. No matter how small it is.  And..maybe I should write it down. 365 reasons to smile.

 Now that's an idea.

My first challenge.

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