“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” – Mark Twain
It’s that time of night, when it`s quiet and everyone else has gone to bed. It’s the time of night where dreams feel like reality, and monsters just might live in closets. It’s the time of night where it suddenly hits me that when I wake up in the morning I will be boarding a flight that will carry me to the next 6 months of my life. It hasn’t felt real honestly, up until now. When I spent my last night in London I lay there, looking at the ceiling, willing myself to understand that this is the last time I would fall asleep to the light patter of snowflakes on my skylight. Ever. But I could not force my mind to understand the gravity of the tilt of the walls, the finality of this silent goodbye.
When I woke up this morning the first thing I saw was the beautiful oil painting that my mom painted of Bolivia and hung in my room. It’s of an island that I loved in Copacabana, the village on Lake Titicaca where we spent my first new years in Bolivia, almost exactly two years ago. Almost exactly a year later my parents told me they were moving out of my house in Bolivia, much to my displeasure—I was losing yet another home just as I had found it. And last night I couldn’t escape the irony of only a year later seeing that painting hanging on that wall for the last time. By the time I return it will hang in a new bedroom, in a new home.
I watched my Dad speaking if Fort Erie for the first time on January 1st, which happened to fall on a Sunday this year. He fittingly spoke about “the God of New Beginnings” and, pertinently, about how change always comes with a cost. I know in my head, that all the adventures I am about to have wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t let go of the things I’m holding on to right now—just like I knew that my home here in Canada required me to give up the home I loved so much in Bolivia, and my home at Colgate, the life I lived before that, and so on and so on. But as wonderful as the change may be; change always comes with a cost.
The beginning of 2012 brings a medley of changes, and with that, a medley of costs. The last night of 2011 brought my last night in London, and the first day of 2012 was my first day in Fort Erie. And tomorrow marks the first day of whatever my time in Europe will bring.
Which brings me to the real monster currently growling under my bed… I have absolutely no idea what the next 6 months will bring. Last New Year ’s Eve I wrote a blog post entitled “Low expectations, pleasant surprises”. It had been a hard few months and everything was looking pretty bleak, and I wasn’t quite sure what I had to look forward to in the new year, and yet, God continuously surprised me with the blessings he had for me, and the adventures I discovered. This year, the world seems full of excitement of possibility, and now I am only afraid it will let me down—that my time in Europe can’t possibly live up to the expectations that everyone has been putting on it. But I’m trying to believe that the God of 2011 is also the God of 2012, and that he still is the God of new beginnings, and pleasant surprises. So my goal for 2012: No expectations, pleasant surprises. I give God the next 6 months to do what he may. And I don’t care if these are the best 6 months of my life, or the hardest, (or a mixture of the two), I just want them to be his months. That God of new beginnings.
“Oh, there are so many lives. How we wish we could live them concurrently instead of one by one by one. We could select the best pieces of each, stringing them together like a strand of pearls. But that’s not how it works. A human life is a beautiful mess.”
Oh it seems awfully far for us to find at all. Well all these years will wash away and we’ll be clean but we’ll have nothing more. Well I can say there’ll come another day when money and our time affords. But on our hands our wrinkles understand we never really wanted more.
1. Be prepared to sweat. Hard work should make you sweat. Nothing worth having is going to come easy.
2. Go with the flow. Take your time. Don’t judge your own worth by comparing it to the person next to you. Life is a practice, not a competition. There is no winning, no losing. All you have to do is show up and try.
3. Practice as often as you can. The more you practice, the better you get — not that getting better should be your goal. There are no goals in yoga. Just breathe, be, and pretend not to stare at your reflection. You might stare at your reflection, but in time, you’ll stop seeing your flaws and you’ll see instead what isn’t flawed. The way your body bends and responds to a teacher, who will never command, just suggest.
4. If you brush against someone practicing next to you, realize you each have chosen to spend this hour together, in this space, in this way. Get to know the people practicing next to you. Say hi. Smile.
5. Do what you can at your own pace. Getting hurt is not the goal. Testing yourself can be the goal, but only if you’re ready to listen to your body. Don’t stand on your head if you’re not ready to take a fall.
6. And when you’re on your head, remember that you’re in the only position that puts your heart over your head. Love over logic. Who couldn’t benefit from leaping without looking and listening more often to your heart? Don’t talk yourself out of trying; be prepared to not get it right. Notice that you’re not prepared to fail. You’re prepared to do it wrong until you can do it right.
I remember the first Christmas that my big brother didn’t come home. I must have been about 8 or 9; still at the age where the magic of Christmas had seemed impenetrable. That changed that year—the year we put the angel on the top of the tree without him.
It had been a few years coming. He had left for boarding school 3 years prior, and he would fly home a few times a year to visit. It was before the days of imaginary weapons of mass destruction and suspicion, when the security guards would simply stand back and chuckle as my small, excited 6 year old body slipped under the barrier and ran to him at full sprint and leapt into his arms.
I remember too, the last time I saw my older brother; the Christmas before I turned 15. Even then, I didn’t quite know what to say. I was shy, and awkward, and still at the stage where I was desperate to be just like my older sisters, but sure that I never would be. The 3 of them stood on this pedestal of awe, and I didn’t know how to make him want to be my older brother. But I didn’t quite know how to go back to the 6 year old girl to whom this stranger was my hero.
A lot has changed since that Christmas; 6 years to say the very least. A lot happens between the ages of 14 and 20. When you’re little you can’t tell the difference between someone simply leaving, and you being left. It all seems terribly personal, that absence. And so it’s been, for almost as long as I can remember, a long lost brother that existed only in home videos and old pictures, and a few fuzzy memories. They say that blood runs thicker than water, but what about when that water fills two oceans, and more than half a decade?
But it seems that might all be about to change. By some act of random cosmic chance, or perhaps divine coincidence, it seems my brother has settled (at least for a little while) in the French countryside, only a few hours outside of Geneva; by far the closest he has lived to me since I could count my age on one hand.
Yes, absence is synonymous with rejection, when you’re little. But this Christmas I am starting to see it a little differently. Every day my little brother asks when I’ll be leaving for Europe—and pouts as I answer, and asks me how long I’ll have to be gone, why I have to go at all. And I realize, haven’t I spent the last 6 years doing the same thing to my little brother? Kissing him goodbye every 3 months to leave him for my own adventures?
I heard my brother’s voice for the first time in a long time today. Most Christmases, when we actually have a phone number that works, and a time where the time zone still reaches him awake and available, I’ve stayed purposely out of earshot— perhaps, subconsciously, punishing him for his absence with my apathy. But today when I spoke to him I was shocked by the familiarity of his voice—like a picture of a day long since forgotten, found in a closet, from which somehow emerged a vivid memory from the recesses of my mind. But within his familiar voice was an accent foreign and unexpected enough to reflect the years of adventures that he lived during the years as I changed from a child to an adult.
A lot of years ago I convinced myself I had lost an older brother—and now, now I have a phone number and a French city—and instructions to find the Port and ask for Ryan—for my older brother. For a brief second, when I told him I was planning to come, I was terrified he wouldn’t want me—that my greatest fears from all along would be confirmed—that he had left because there wasn’t enough to keep him here—that he had never looked back because there wasn’t enough to miss. And yet, I heard him say “I’ll tell you this: you can come whenever you want, and for as long as you want. But if you can’t make it to me—I’ll come to you.” And for the first time in as long as I can remember I believed that perhaps I’ll find more than cheese and adventure on my trip to Europe. Perhaps I’ll find my long lost big brother.
“Every day, every hour sees a change in you, although the ravages of time are easier to see in others; in your own case they are far less obvious, because to you they do not show. While other people are snatched away from us, we are being filched away surreptitiously from ourselves”
Winter has officially graced Hamilton NY with its unwelcome, though beautiful, presence. Though, I must admit that this year, winter’s icy arrival did not arrive along with my normal dose of chilly distain. Winter came late this year; the only hint of its impending arrival was the velvety dark blanket that fell earlier and earlier each afternoon. It seemed to suspend reality, this strange warmth… as if the world was not rotating, as if time was not passing, as if the semester might just decide to continue on forever. So the snow, believe it or not, came almost as a relief. It might be the only thing that makes me believe that in about a week , 6 essays and 4 exams will have been aced (cross your fingers), my room will be a mess of boxes, and I will be loading the McBeth-mobile getting ready to go home.
This, this fact I can believe. But even the snow cannot make me believe that in less than 3 weeks I will be on a plane to Geneva. Yet something in me knows that even my fierce denial cannot make it any less true. And though the snow might not make me believe it, the goodbyes do. It comes in a rush right at that moment when I realize I’m giving someone their last hug. Suddenly, when I start planning last dinners, and people start getting on planes, everything seems to get far too real. I begin to understand that Geneva might not be that far away.
I must admit it’s all feeling a tad anticlimactic at the moment. On nights like this, when I’m tired, and cold, and the deep melancholy of prolonged paper writing has set in, I wonder if I might just be better to stay in one place. To be here as all the friends I have missed so much begin to arrive back, and to stay here with the friends I love who remain. To get more than a week with my family—to help them move into our new home, and to meet their new life.
And I know that this isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way—in fact it’s how I always feel before a big change or a big move. So I also know that that feeling will slip off the second I board that first plane—the moment that engines conquer gravity and my feet lift of the ground. And as the plane reaches cruising altitude, so will my love for adventure, and by the time the plane lands I won’t remember why I was ever scared to leave.
But tonight, tonight my feet are firmly planted on this frozen ground, and gravity still has its hold on me. Tonight I am postponing taking down the pictures and the postcards on my wall. And tonight I am pretending that Friday might be farther then it feels.