A Millennial’s Path to Awakening

It’s the big bad world.  And according to Time, my narcissistic tendencies are the only reason  I spend hours on social media and I have been in my parents house since March.  Truth be told, I am stuck and have been stuck since I returned to Colombia. I  thought I had a job in Texas.  I really did.  Finally an interview, and a 6 hour one at that.  It was moving forward, though sometimes felt like moving backwards.  I am still confused where I want to go, or where I can go in this economy.

But apparently me even trying to figure this out or my entire generation trying to find out who we are in within such constraints as a crumbling economy, a government that is broken, the social services our parent’s generation was guaranteed us are being taken away by that generation, we are strapped with debt that cannot be settled, and our jobs and training are being by held hostage by people who are so afraid of not being hirable if they are let go that basic information and knowledge is not being transferred to the future.

But me wanting to share what I do in during the day to prove to myself that I am not useless.  Yes I sit here on my parents couch, no place I ever thought I would be this long, connecting with social media.  Trying to make connections on Linked In, finding people from college on Facebook to see if they know of any job openings, or building houses and gardens on Pinterest board because I cannot afford them in my life.

Every time I hear my computer ding from an email or Facebook message I still get this small pang of hope inside that maybe, maybe it was a job offer or someone finally responding about even a volunteer position.  It’s not, at least not normally.  Normally it is a friend responding to posts about applications for teaching English somewhere or someone  posting pictures with motivational quotes.  When I get up in the morning, if I can get myself to leave the bed having absolutely nothing to look forward to, I say I will just spend a few minutes looking for a job or a few minutes on Facebook.  It always ends up being hours and hours.  Searching through job posts, reading status posts, looking at pictures of your friends’ children, houses, and everything you do not have.  I make myself walk my dog and garden for my parents, but when the weather is not pleasant I do not know what to do.

The hardest part though, is the most narcissistic   If I cannot be an Engineer because I am too qualified or under qualified, or I cannot get a part-time job because my last 8 years of experience is all professional experience, what do I do?  If I spend all my time figuring out what I would do if I could do anything and then get a “real job,” can I give up my dreams to replace them with the dream of paying my student loans of and having a beautiful garden? The dream of settling down and having a family was always unknown for me, I never saw me in a conventional life.  But, now that future for me, and many other people in my same shoes is inconceivable.  The “normal” life path is unable to be achieved in the near future.

So, us narcissistic Millennial’s focus on what we can to get through the days and dream of what we can have in our out-side-of-the-box futures.  What can get us by and is it that we want?  What can make us a generation that does not need Prozac to be happy?  I sold most of my stuff to get rid of the expenses of materialism.  It helped.  I traveled to the number one place on my bucket list.  It helped. Just in this brief amount of letting go, I lost 40 pounds.  It helped too.  But now what?  Now where?

I need work, temporary as it might be but seem to be stuck in a rut that even I am having problems crawling out of.  No one wants to hire me in case I leave them for a job that is in my field, which is plausible.  If I cannot find a permanent job, how do I pay my loans?  We are a generation with more questions than answers.  Sometimes it is exciting that we mostly have a blank slate to make what we want out of.  Sometimes it is overwhelming, like jumping off a cliff into an ocean.  Are you too high?  Is the water deep enough?

For me, I have an opportunity to travel to Spain in the fall to teach English, if I can find enough money to get me by until then and for my first few months. The Camino de Santiago is next on my bucket list so it works out well in that regard.   Money will be tight, but it is already.  It will be stressful, but it is already. So, until them I am going to pour my energy into figuring out what to see in Spain, when to do my camino, what I want to eat, places to volunteer for board.  And, hopefully, if I follow something I know I like and I want, more pieces will fall in place. I have followed the rules my entire life and those rules are now useless and broken.  So, I am making my own.  And that might make me entitled, but I think it is better than blindly following the most narcissistic people who thought creating these rules to get rich off of was worth the loss of so many people’s livelihoods.  I don’t think we are any more narcissistic, I think we are awakening.

Our elders are really the victims, we have a wide open future to fix the mistakes, their livelihoods are falling apart, what they believe is found to be a world-wide hoax.  Yet, this is apparently what they think of us.

Either way, if you are in Madrid in the fall, we can be narcissists together.

Survival Tips

A few helpful hints for surviving Colombia that seem to work for the entire continent, or at least the countries I have been to.

  • Close your eyes and ignore the health/safety issues that you cannot do anything about and just be as safe as you can.  Well do not close your eyes when you cross the street, that traffic is lethal.
  • By all means, ask other travelers about safety in an area but don’t be too alarmed by reports of theft, crime, or disease in every city/barrio/country/bus. Usually when you get to the bottom of it, the person did something stupid or dangerous (they went to the beach alone with all cards/phones/money at 2 AM or tried to sell/bargain/cheat/abused the prostitute to a drug dealer).  Also do not take reports of complete carefree safety, they might have been lucky.  Ask locals, they know more and put the two reports together.
  • Always carry toilet paper or wet wipes or both.
  • Pick the nicest meat market you can find (that is not a touristy gringo trap), ignore the smells and the fact the lady just put raw chicken on the scale without a paper and gives it to you in a regular plastic grocery bag with chicken juice all over it.
  • Ignore the children running across the street with cabs gunning for them or the fact there are no safe alternate routes when a road or sidewalk is closed, just cross the street.
  • Watch to not step in dog poop and puddles of mysterious brown liquid coming out of pipes and when you see the pipe being fixed under ground and while its fixed all the liquid running into the street.  And for your own sake, hold your breath.
  • Ignore the fact that even though your door is locked with four locks your neighbor can still break in for you with a broom, but be safe and use all of those locks.
  • But, make sure you have a store of medicine you need for crazy diarrhea because with all this other stuff happening, you will get it and it is not a pleasant taxi ride, moto chiva ride, or walk to the drug store to get it when you are worried there will be an accident.
  • And, be sure to push your way in front of the people trying to push you out of the way to get in line first, no matter how much they call you a pushy dirty American gringo.  Or let it all loose (your incredibly irritated bowels, not your mouth) and see how they react, you probably wont see them again.
  • People will give you unsolicited advice about every medical problem you might not know you have and offer every herbal remedy they know.  Don’t tell them about it and you will still get the advice if you hold your stomach or head, have acne, your hair looks out of place because you are a backpacker and do not care, you sniffle/sneeze/cough, you have but bites (you will) or another rash, your are standing near a pharmacy.  The likely hood of unsolicited advice increases dramatically ever second you talk to someone.  If the cure is a yummy tea, hot chocolate, or cocoa leaves, or some herbal spiritual remedy (read: hallucinogenic), which is almost always is, partake as you desire.  You might even get it for free and make a lifelong friend.
  • Somehow though, this advice sharing does not go both ways. If you have not integrated more in your community or known a person long, you giving unsolicited advice can be interpreted as you being an arrogant gringo who thinks they know everything and you also must think they are completely ignorant and uneducated and stupid.
  • Only, if you are worried about this stuff all the time, you will get more stomach problems and not enjoy yourself. Have fun!

The Things You Can See When You Open Your Eyes

I know, I am bad blogger. I have not posted for a reason though.  A reason I still cannot say.  But, I realize that is no reason not to update!  So, I am back in Cali Colombia.  Maybe to stay for a while.  I finished my TEFL certificate and just need to get the number.  I have started an English group for kids a nearby park, and two yoga classes a week too.  One class is for kids and one for women.  My Spanish is improving leaps and bounds and I feel I am really starting to understand the culture more. But, the more I see and learn, and the longer I am here, the more realize the culture different and the more I realize it is the same.

I mean, when will you see a sheep in need of shearing head butting a pet dog on a very nice patio with the door open and both goat and dog wandering freely?  In the middle of the third largest City in Colombia?  Just as frequently as you see the chickens hopping from patio to patio in search of some food.  Or horses pulling carts to haul away rubble pulled up by expanding the sewer system and fixing the streets.  Oh, and don’t forget the horse or goat that is “mowing the lawn.  I t probably isn’t even their goat or horse, they just shoo it in and let it out when they have eaten their full.

The City is so full of contradictions.  Poor, but dressed nicely.  Modern, but antiquated.  Friendly and open, yet protective and wary.  Incredibly conservative, but incredibly promiscuous.  Simple yet complicated.  Eager to learn yet unwilling to change.  Hardworking and yet lazy or drunk.

It is an enigma waiting to be explored.  I have not taken any pictures yet, but I will be soon and I have tons from Peru and Ecuador.

Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving.  I did.  I made baked chicken quarters, biscuits, Mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, and something similar to an apple crisp on the stove top. I invited some friends over and it was a big success.

Hola from Cali!

I am apparently in the Salsa capital of the world, Cali Colombia and having a great time!  There is a lot of yoga, a big hippy vibe, lots of meditation classes, including a very nice building house a branch of the Self Realization Foundation, and of course a lot of dancing.  It seems in Colombia, music is in the veins of the people like coffee is in the veins of people from Seattle.  Instead of memories of the smell of coffee defining the important moment of life, it is the sound of music playing out of every car, suitcase salesman’s bag, house,tienda, restaurant, and sometimes people just sitting around listening to small speakers. Often the music will start before I wake up and be going after I go to bed, if it ever stops.

Kids all dance around at home, at restaurants, on the streets, in stores.  When a song everyone love comes on there is pandemonium.  They seem to be able to move their hips and torso and arms and knees in ways I cannot fathom how to learn. Everyone seems to come to Cali to try to learn.  Knowing I am certainly not going to ever know how and being incredibly intimidated by the locals, I was going to skip that and do Cali as a quick stop that had cheap flights from Medellin.

But if you happen upon Cali during the Salsa Festival you should really stay, or so I was told.  And they were right.  There are demonstrations, free classes,discussions, cultural displays, and a lot of dancing.  And after a beer or two it is really all fun and only admiring how the Colombianas move instead of being incredibly jealous and intimidated.

Dance is really such an important form of expression for so many people here.  People use it to really show who they are and it is amazing.  Especially for someone trying to figure out who she is and learn express it to people who want to try to define her.  You do not apologize for people for them infringing on your dance space, you are not the wrong size for your clothing, the clothing is the wrong size, and they are most definitely not ashamed to admit to show that they take good care of themselves, all sizes and shapes.  Every woman below a certain age wears tight clothes and is not ashamed of showing what they have.  No one is afraid of looking stupid on the dance floor because their expression is just as beautiful as yours, why should they be?

So to the dance floor I went last night, with a new friend who is an amazing dancer and had a great time dancing with him and watching him dance with some amazing Colombianas who I can can just watch with amazement (ok so a little envy and maybe even a little curiosity).  I was wearing my new tight (though not tight by Colombian standard) Colombian jeans and not caring what might not look perfect in them because I figured out you can buy a nice Colombiana ass with the right pair of jeans (or literally buy it if you want, its cheap here, medical tourism).

So, my two-day trip to Cali has been almost a week and will be more than a week in the end.  My 3-4 week trip to Colombia will be 6.5 weeks.

Acting My Age Traveling

So the area around Guatape is very mountainous and hilly.  There are also a lot of incredibly slick and crumbly gravel roads and trails to walk where you can see absolutely amazing and beautiful scenes of the area, the jungle, the waterfalls, etc.  So you are mostly walking uphill on rubble or literally climbing up the side of a mountain or through a mountain on a little .  I love this about Guatape.  My knees, however, do not.

I remember sitting in a therapy session once talking about weight and health issues.  I was very frustrated that I could not lose weight the way I used to be able to a few years before.  I cannot believe my therapist was able to keep a straight face through the entire conversation we had because looking back at the memory I laugh at my audacity.  He kept saying things along the lines of “but that is years ago, this is today,” or “I am not trying to be mean, but you are older now.”  I must have looked at him like I did think he was mean or crazy.  I guess the thought never occurred to me.  I have always felt older because of my actions and my lack of feeling fulfilled with my life, not my body.  It was eye opening I suppose.

But now, I am definitely feeling the difference between me at 20 and me at almost 28.  I cannot hike everyday uphill because after about three days my knees are swollen and sore.  I am hoping some of this is just not being used to mountains as Florida and Michigan do not offer that type of landscape.  I am thinking of picking up some kayaking or something to give my legs a break.  Though it is a bit intimidating since my neighbors here are professional rowers and kayakers.

I also need break days, fairly often.  This is the difference of me physically and emotionally now.  I do not like being on the go traveling around constantly.  In fact I dislike it and it makes me tired without the benefit of feeling as if I have accomplished anything.  So, I go to bed early, wake up early, enjoy watching the sunset on the hammock and have not been out partying once since I have been here.  In fact, most of my nights consist of calling my grandmother or mother, cooking dinner, a beer or hot chocolate, and a book.

My memory is horrible.  It really is hard learning Spanish.  I try as  I might to not have to use the words for have (tener) or to go (ir) because they are irregular verbs with conjugating patterns that I can only remember for saying I have or I go.  if all else fails I use the  not conjugated word and hope people understand what I am saying. Sometimes it works.  Sometimes we laugh and I just point to something.

I like to talk to small children and animals more than adults.  It used to be the opposite, I liked talking to adults more than children when I was a child.  Now I much prefer the nonsense or non verbal love given from dogs and children.  Except here the dogs have little packs based on what community they live near.  The small community near by has a different pack that the one near the hostel which is different from those in town.  When you walk through the other areas, sometimes it is better to carry rocks or let a dog see you pick up a rock.  A younger me would have felt bad intimidating dogs that are probably used to being hit by rocks.  The me now just enjoys not getting rabies.

So, my traveling and who I am is different and in some areas I need to catch up to getting older.  It is somewhat sad because I am just getting used to acting young and feeling young in ways I never had.  The pure selfishness of traveling for no purpose except to travel because it is what I want to do at the moment is exhilarating.  So is not having a plan and knowing any day can contain whatever I want it to, the possibilities are endless.  However, in some ways I do need to start acting my age and taking care of myself as I need to at this current moment.  Re-tearing old injuries from younger days when I could afford the healing time because I healed quickly is not something that will benefit me today where I cannot even communicate with the doctor in the same language and will take a longer time to heal.

Also, maybe I should grow up and wear shoes. I tend to wear sandals and flip flops in the most ridiculous circumstances and have some pretty funky looking feet because of it.  I blame Florida for the habit through.  Oh, and uncomfortable sock seams.  I hate that feeling of sock seems rubbing against your foot.  I used to not wear socks with my shoes when I was a kid because of it.  Not much has changed since first grade I guess.  Only now I have the oddest suntan lines on my feet…

Maybe I should act my age and wear shoes with socks occasionally.  For now I think not…

Stillness

I have always had two sides of me that struggle with each other.  I am sometimes quiet and elusive and at other times a chatter box that hums and vibrates with excitement.  I think there are even some people who think I am quiet and shy and others that think I am brazen and outspoken.  There are a few who know both sides of the coin and deal with it amazingly, and I love them for it.

I can be a person who walks through a crowd, head up smiling and greeting everyone who walks by.  I can take in all of the energy of the people and activity and become energized, reveling in the commotion.  I can also be the person with her head down, overwhelmed and self conscious.  In these times I feel as if I cannot connect with the crowd and that I am not a part of the crowd.  In these times I wish for nothing but to get to where I am going and get out.

In the same way, I can find a quiet evening alone lonely and oppressing.  Other similar nights the evening feels calming and full of still energy.  There is so much potential energy in the stillness of a rock before it falls or a dam before it breaks.

Traveling can sometimes feel like crazy commotion that never ends or a lonely place where you do not know anyone.  It can also be a place full of new adventure and new people and pure amazement at what exists in the world.  But as much as constant movement seems like high energy when you are in the situation, I am realizing how similar everything and everyone is.  I am also realizing how much we are in control of that feeling everywhere we are and yet how insignificant it is.

I overlook a town that is bursting to the seems with people on the weekends and seems dead silent during the week.  Unless of course you venture into the market or near the school.  There is still the ever persistent buzz of daily life.  Life that is similar to anywhere in the world.  Happening to walk by the school when the children are release, chatting excitedly.  Listening to a women discuss her cut of meat with the butcher.  Watching a mother marvel at the pure joy of their young child learning something new.  A warm and sunny Sunday evening with families in their lawns, dogs bellies being rubbed, young girls squealing with laughter and their parents sharing a content smile.  A young couple holding hands and gazing into each others’ eyes.  Its so familiar without any words.

In our lives, all of the big moments, scary, exhilarating or both, fade in their enormity.  The butterflies abate, the fear softens, and the excitement simmers instead of flares.  If you can look past the things that distract you from the moment, you can find the same stillness in a crowded market as in the empty plaza hours later.  It is the clear head and the knowledge of my existence in the crowd that makes me confidently walk through the world with a smile on my face.  You do not see the noise and are not distracted by the people because you are a part of it.  Ever evolving and changing to what is around you on the surface, while never changing at the core.  At the core your big exciting adventure of the day is normal and average on the scale of a lifetime or the scale of everyone’s lifetimes yet it is so unique.

Instead of feeling boring or as if there is no point or the need to squelch desire and still the energy around me, I can feel the stillness more inside me and all around me.  And it is wonderful and beautiful and awe-inspiring.  It is life and death and the sun rising and my whole world expanding.  It is peace and bliss and I am the one who controls whether I recognize it and cultivate it.  I have heard people say before that trying to reach nirvana/bliss/overcoming humanity/buddhism would be boring because there is no good without even, no life without passion, and no success without strife.  Where I am does not matter.  Who I am is all that matters.  Right now I am a traveler and writer and nap taker and I know whatever I am tomorrow I can bring this bliss with me if I choose to.  That is not resigning to fate but living it. This is there in good times and bad and I do not need either to see it.  I simply must choose to see it.

Some times it is so easy to see, to feel.

A bit nostalgic

So many nights after having dinner with Kathy and her family in Winter Haven, I would sit on my patio, candles and twinkle lights lit, a nice fire in the fire pit, jasmine blooming, Boney James’ “Pure” album on and sit with my dog on the swing drinking a glass of wine. Curled up with a blanket for the cool Florida winter nights and fall asleep on the patio. Memories. Sometimes you do not realize how good a moment is until long after. So simple yet so luxurious.
I am trying to keep every day this simple and luxurious for at least an hour.  Weather it is a new fruit for a quiet breakfast over the lake, a sunset with a nice bear overlooking the lake, a picnic lunch over viewing the region from the top of a mountain, a nap, or playing jazz music instead of listening to the reggaeton around.

This is possibly sexiest song ever.