Burning Bridges And Tying Loose Ends

Bangalore, India
Bangalore, India

Today I saw a picture of a little girl hugging a fish – a huge grin spread across her face. The caption? “Girl saves fish from drowning.”

At first it was funny. Then it was convicting. Not that I have a spiritual experience every time I read a meme, but my mind couldn’t help thinking about how often I’m that little girl – grasping for something that needs to be let go so both it, and I, can continue living.

The problem is, I’m stubborn. Anyone who knows me can tell you that. And I hold on even tighter when someone tells me to let go of something. Call me a typical Virgo, or just an overly tenacious Irish/Norwegian woman, but I’ve just never been very good at saying goodbye.

Lucky for me (*insert sarcastic grimace*), in this intermittent season, between where I am and where I’m going, my life is proving to be heavily portrayed by two words: Letting Go.

If I’m perfectly honest, I’m not the best at change, or at transitioning myself from one time frame to another. When I moved to southern California, I was nauseous for weeks because I couldn’t settle myself enough to enjoy my surroundings (mainly including the Pacific Ocean and palm trees that were steps from my front door – hard life).

But we all have to face change sometime – and that point, for me, is right now. Finding out that I’m moving halfway around the world, with the potential of not coming back for a very long time, has changed the way I interact with people in the present. Actually, I’m starting to realize now, that if I had lived this way before, I probably would have had higher life satisfaction prior to present day.

To make this transition easier, each week, I’m giving myself an “assignment.”

Like last week, specifically: I challenged myself to be intentional about saying, and putting myself in a position to say, goodbye to people that I had simply cut out of my life. That being said, in the true revolving door fashion of my life, some relationships have been harder to close than I initially thought.

This week has been filled with emotions (are you noticing a trend here?). There’s been laughter and tears, hugs and high fives and finally learning how to drop some fish that I was trying to “save.”

Relationships are messy. And being raised with a “don’t burn any bridges” mentality, and an over zealous social media involvement, has resulted in me putting many on “life support.” You know, when you’re still “friends” with someone, even though you haven’t spoken to them in five years, nothing truly keeping the relationship alive.

My social media life (*cough* Facebook) easily gives me the false feeling of having dealt with things I’ve passive aggressively swept under the rug. After all, we’re still “friends,” right? I don’t need to wrap things up, say I’m sorry, or end on a good note with people. It’s the perfect system.

Or is it? See I’m starting to realize that, sometimes, it’s healthy to burn bridges, to say goodbye, or to walk away from things that are harming rather than helping. Sometimes, you need to do those things in order to really be able to move forward.

While change can be good, never confronting or having to make actual decisions about past chapters in your life is not. It’s like never deleting emails – yeah, they aren’t immediately showing up every time you log in, but they’re still accumulating and taking up memory.

I’m starting to mildly hate that I have, maybe a couple hundred friends/family members I actually interact with, but three times that amount of “friends” on Facebook. Who are these people? Ghosts of past seasons, floating amidst the ocean of my news feed and shared viral cat videos. Do they know me? Do I know them?

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being friends with people years after you’ve met, but what I’ve found myself doing is using social media to pacify my actual interactions with people. A habit that ends up being a lose-lose situation.

I’m not a fan of interpersonal shortcuts. I like phone calls more than text messages, and sitting down, talking to someone, more than Facebook messaging. And when it comes to saying goodbye, I’m no different. I want people who are close to me to be close because we’ve actually had a conversation in the past six months. I want people who I’ve decided are not healthy to have involved in my life, to actually be out of my life; sometimes, it’s ok to close the door, turn the key and walk away.

We don’t heal from ignoring injuries, we only make them worse. And, although, it can be painful to deal with them, I’m making an effort to enter this next part of my life in as healthy a way as possible; letting go of dead relationships, and nurturing those that are worth investing in.

It’s true; I’ve never been very good at goodbyes. But, I am starting to realize that I have an option, the power to decide, who and what remains in my life post this transition.  A decision I don’t want to waste. Yes, it’s terrifying to start everything off again with a clean slate. But it’s also unimaginably liberating to step forward into the unwritten future.

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Ten things I thought I knew about Bangalore, India

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It’s easy not to know what to expect when you travel internationally. When I went to India I really had no idea what I was getting myself into. And, despite my feeble attempts to prepare myself (I listened to a lot of MIA before flying out), culture shock would be a minimal way of saying I was a “deer in headlights” when I got there. There were some things I learned while I was there, though. And, in the end, I left with so much more knowledge and experience than I ever thought I could gather in one place. So here they are, 10 things I thought I knew about India (specifically Bangalore, where I stayed).  7727_1211892690863_2734341_n

1. Language: A majority of people in major cities speak English. I tried to learn Hindi for months before going to India, which was completely unnecessary (although, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy learning it).

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2. Dancing: Bollywood dancing is damn. hard. It looks easy in the  movies, but it will kick the butt of even the most in shape person. I would highly suggest trying to find a class if you travel to India. It was so much fun and a memory I’ll never forget.

3. Sickness: You actually CAN get sick from street food. It’s no joke. Several of my travel buddies got “Bangalore Belly” from eating the street food that looked/smelled so good. I’m not going to go into detail, but we’ll just say… you get sick in EVERY way. Indian street vendors do not hold to the same requirements when preparing their food as most do in the US, and tourist’s immune systems aren’t built to be able to withstand the same things as natives. Be really careful if you decide to try some.

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4.  Music/Hollywood: Kelly Clarkson and Lindsey Lohan were names I heard EVERY TIME someone found out I was American. I really think it’s funny that those are the two people who get associated with the United States. While I’m ok with the Kelly obsession, it mildly broke my heart that our international rep lies on the shoulders of Lindsey Lohan.

5. Social System: The caste system is real, and people abide by it. This really shocked me, because I thought that stories about castes had always been exaggerated. It was such an eye opening experience to actually sit down with people and hear their perspectives about what it means to be Indian and live in whichever caste they were born into.

6. Food: Indians take EXTREME pride in their traditional food. Once I sent back a barely eaten plate of food and the chef himself came out and asked me what was wrong with it. Nothing had been wrong with it, except that my mouth was on fire from how many spices were added. He was so upset. I finished my plate of food from that day out – spicy or not.

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7. Hang out spots: Hookah bars are like Starbuck coffees in Bangalore. When someone first casually asked me to hang out at one I thought, ” Wait. Can’t we just get coffee or something?” Little did I know they hold a completely different meaning and atmosphere than they do in the US. There were so many on every street that I got used to the idea. But, I’m still a fan of coffee shops.

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8. Animals: One of my first thoughts when I got to India was, “Why the hell is there a cow in the street?!” The traffic in Bangalore was pretty on par with a big city in Seattle during rush hour (except more rickshaws) and, yet, there she was. Not caring who was around, there was a cow crossing the street. Dogs were another animal that roamed freely in the streets, belonging to no one in particular. It was kind of fun to make friends with some of the dogs, but there was also always this thought in the back of my mind to call and report a missing animal.

9. Affection: Ok, so this one I HAD been “warned” about. It was fairly common to see men walking holding hands or with their arms around each other. In the US this would probably suggest some kind of romantic relationship, but in India? Just good (good good good) friends.

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10. Our Impact: I couldn’t help feeling like the whole time I was traveling I needed to apologize for the US. We have so much more of an impact than we can imagine in countries like India. People dream about running away to where we live. People know our music, our movies, our tabloids. The US has so much more of a global voice than I ever had realized. What are we doing with it?  I think traveling to India really made me become more aware of how I live and what I support. Just think of it this way – over a billion people are watching.

Do you guys have any good culture shock stories out there!?  Leave a comment and let me know!

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Rickshaw rides AKA rides of constant near death experiences.

 

Six Impossible Things

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Seattle, WA

This week I’ve challenged myself to finish a book.
Sounds easy enough, right?

Well, yes and no.

See, I have this thing about books. And TV shows. And life. I don’t like endings.

If you came over to my apartment, you would see an entire bookcase filled with books read ¾ of the way through. The bookmarks are still in them. It’s almost comical at this point. I’ve always had this thing about endings. I think I’m so terrified of reaching a “wasted-time ending” that, when I get close, I’d rather shut the book and imagine the rest.

The problem with this habit is that all endings aren’t bad. And when I choose to forgo the potentially bad ones, I’m also missing out on the potentially good ones. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. As a book reader, this is silly. But in life, it’s an all too real situation.

How often do we step back from something because of the potential for it going bad – shutting off the little voice in our minds that says, “But what if it works out?” Sure, by never taking chances, you can be safe and free from the embarrassment or disappointment of failure. But what about the rewards of succeeding in something that seemed impossible!?

If you know me well, you probably know I’m obsessed with Alice In Wonderland. It’s one of my favorite books/movies/tv shows. I love how it breaks conventional rules about how a story becomes relatable to readers, and when I was a kid I named my cat Dinah (the name of Alice’s cat). One of my favorite Lewis Caroll lines, from Alice in Wonderland, is about thinking up six impossible things before breakfast.

I actually do this.

At first it was just for fun, but after a while, I started to notice “impossible” things actually coming true; not that they were popping up out of nowhere, but that I was starting to notice them. Verbalizing, or writing things down, is an awesome way to be able to look back, and see your impossibilities becoming realities. These become milestones in our lives.

A few years ago, when I wanted to go to India, I was broke, I was a college student with a 20-credit load, I had never been out of the country and no one I knew had ever been to India before. But it felt right. And I’m a big believer in following gut feelings. When I found out how much the trip would cost, I sat down and wrote out how I could, even potentially, make enough money. It didn’t add up. It was impossible.

So, I wrote God a note. Classy, I know.

I said,

“Ok, God. I feel like this trip is something I’m supposed to go on. I have no independent travel experience, no idea what I’m doing, and financially this is ridiculous to even think about. But, if you want me to go, I’ll trust you. I have no idea where this money is going to come from, but I trust you to get me there.”

I folded up the note and stuck it in my journal. Then I went about my life, applying for visas and passports with money that seemed to come out of nowhere. I got offered a job that fit perfectly with my class schedule, and a raise at my other job completely spontaneously.The trip was going to cost me $2500 and, in addition, I needed probably $75 for spending money etc.

After buying all of my gear, getting shots and paying for passports/visas, I looked in my bank account: $2576.00

True story.

I dreamt about something impossible. And ended up half way around the world as a result. I tried something that had little to no chance of being able to happen, and trusted that the money would come if it was meant to be. It was blind faith, an unknown ending. I could have ended up getting to the end of the whole process and not having enough money. I could have failed. I could have wasted hours working my butt off, only to fall flat on my face. I had no idea, until the week I was flying out, that there would be a “happy ending”.

But there was.

That trip changed my life, in so many ways, that I couldn’t even possibly begin to write them here. Without it, I would not be the person I am today. Seeing the impossible become possible changes you.

My brother used to always say, “Fear isn’t in the present. It’s only something that lives in the future.”

When we allow it to overcome us, we’re, essentially, being crippled before we’ve even met our opponent.

For each of us, our fears are different. Maybe it’s something huge like traveling around the world. Maybe it’s small, like finishing a book. But, regardless, it’s so much more rewarding to fight for the impossibilities that we’re drawn to. We don’t know the future, so why fear it?

Instead, today, let’s think up some impossible things, dream a little bigger, and blindly take a leap of faith – or just finish a book.

“Throw yourself to the edge that you’re always scared of. Try being independent; do it your way. You’ll love it.”

Ameerah Al-Taweel

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