Things I've thought about
Trip Start Jun 14, 2004
27Trip End Jul 30, 2006
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Since the time I wrote last, I have learned some things that I would like to share. Things that make me love my life, my family and friends, that make me take a step back and take a deep breath before getting upset or stressed out, that make me want to be a better person and keep growing through these two years.
I would like to preface this first lesson with the fact that I am in a particularly dramatic and sappy mood and that the majority of this will be filled with cheeseballish type language similar to the way my mother speaks when she is trying to really hammer a point home, where I then usually react to with a roll of the eyes and mutterings about working for the cornballs at hallmark. I suppose I expect a similar reaction to what is written below.
The importance of family: On January 17th my mom and dad safely landed in belize against all odds, the odds being my mother being afraid to fly. I was a little apprehensive for the coming week. Who wouldn't be, knowing that the next seven days or 168 hours would be spent solely in the company of your parents. I can't even remember the last time I spent that much continuous time with anyone let alone my mother and father. But things went beautifully. We saw things that I would have never gotten to see unless there was a car or a lot of money to pay a guide. I got to eat out as much as possible and order the things that I could never afford on my peace corps salary. But more then the things I saw and the things I got to eat, was just enjoying the company of the people that love me the most. To realize and know deep in my soul and heart that there are at least two people that will love me and support me no matter what decisions or mistakes that I make. That they will always be proud of my accomplishments and actions. To know that people are proud of you is an incredible feeling and to feel the endless love that they give you is inexplicable. And I know that that never ending love flows from my brothers, my aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, friends and my nephew and niece. And from me as well. The love connects us all and binds us together in a way that can never be broken. People without this kind of infinite knowing that someone will always be there for you may never truly understand or appreciate its importance, while those of us who do, hold it close to our faces in cupped hands like a tiny flame we know will never go out.
Its not a competition: Why is everything a competition? I blame it on the fact that we are constantly being bombarded by advertisements for the best and newest. And somewhere along the line, its instilled in us that we NEED to have the best or the newest. Why? If the toothpaste ive been using for five years works, why get a new one? Don't get me wrong, a healthy sense of competition is not bad. Its pushes us to excel, gives us a feeling of validation and worth. But when did it all become about being the best. AT EVERYTHING. I just recently witnessed a mind numbing conversation between two people concerning the number of emails received in one day. In my head, Im thinking, do people really think about these things and then talk about them? And why?
Person #1: "well, perhaps, 50 if you count everything, work and personal." I think secretly he was also wondering why such an absurd question would be posed, but played along considering person #2 was his friend.
Person #2: "well I get at least 100 emails a day." It wasn't what he said, but how he said it triumphantly, like he had won. But won what? Who cares how many emails you get a day. I certainly don't and I don't know when discussing it and turning it into a competition became acceptable dinner conversation. And the way he looked at us, like hah! I bet you all envy me and want to be me and think im a better person because I get one hundred emails a day. When did we all start caring about these things? Like what brand of jeans that girl is wearing or judging her because of it. About being fat or thin or pretty. Do you feel good about yourself? That's all that matters. I recently read a book called Tuesdays with Morrie, about a college professor who's dying. He's at a basketball game and everyone around him is cheering "we're number one, we're number one." He stands up and shouts "what's wrong with being number two?" Then I realized, what is wrong with being number two? I don't really know.
Just trying: A few weeks back I had the privilege of visiting Ben's village. Ben is a good peace corps friend and also happens to live in one of the most isolated placements given to my group. Its name, san carlos. It is located in the district of orange walk, only a few miles away from the mayan ruins of lamalai. There are only 150 people that live there and there is no electricity or running water. It is beautiful and breathtaking. It is situated on the lagoon and if you go down at sunset, it somehow just feels like home. The peacefulness and calmness and lack of rushedness (not a word, but you know what I mean). Perhaps it wouldn't remind you in particular of home, but it reminds me and maybe would remind you of a place you would like to call home. It was not the scenery that struck me most though. It was the people I got to meet and spend time with. One family in particular. The father Max is Ben's counterpart, meaning they work together on projects for the village. His daughter's name is Keily, pronounced almost the same as mine. I felt an instant liking to this small girl and spent a good portion of our time in their house reciting numbers and letters in both English and Spanish with her. Max's wife Victoria made me feel like I was a part of the village. We talked about cooking and how next time I came, which had to be for a week she stated matter of factly, we would make food together. We talked about how Dominic, who had been in san carlos only the week before, was a softball superstar there. "well, next time you come, we'll all have to play softball." Victoria said. To this, I chuckled knowing that I have about the same hand eye coordination as a piece of concrete and told her that I would play, but that Im pretty awful. To this, she said with a smile that can only come from the wisdom of living that "well Keely, all we can do is try and that's all that matters." And that's when it hit me. That IS all that matters. It doesn't matter who's the best or the smartest or fastest. It doesn't matter if we win or lose, succeed or fail. All we can do is try and take with us those experiences and learn from them. And as they taught me while lovingly teasing Ben about sleeping like a turkey, also have a sense of humor and a little fun while you're at it.
A Waste of Time: How many times have I said this in my lifetime and how many times have I heard it come out of other people's mouths. Recently I was confronted with these four words and realized how completely wrong they are. What would you consider a waste of time? Sitting in traffic. Waiting on line at the supermarket. If you say something is a waste of time, you are saying that those minutes or hours where you were breathing, talking, seeing, listening and smelling were worthless. How can time ever be worthless? Time is a precious gift and if we don't appreciate it then I think we just become mindless zombies who can't appreciate anything. Happiness becomes unobtainable because you are always looking for something that is not a waste of your time instead of enjoying where you are at.
So this is what is all about. Like I said in my "Why I want to become a Peace Corps volunteer" essay, "I want to challenge myself. I want to pop the bubble before I forget that it is there and I lose all desire to live outside of it." To enjoy the smell of rice and beans and stew chicken cooking next door, to listen to the birds sing and watch the grass move with the breeze. To understand the important things in life.