Post travel procrastination

A year ago I quit my job, packed my bags and waved teary goodbyes to my loved ones as I entered border security. I wanted to challenge myself to experience life from a different angle, and I did. I left my comfort zone to explore the unknown… and I was so naïve at the time that I had wine at a strip club thinking it was just a regular bar. Oh, how I’ve changed!

Naturally, coming back to South Africa unemployed and still single, I have ample time to reflect on my year abroad. At first, my thoughts were like the Seattle sky – grey, gloomy and awfully persistent. I tried to focus on the things that made coming back worthwhile, but my brain would continuously default to something better over there every damn time. That’s when I realised, “Oh shoot, this is why my gut told me to cut ties and go… again… just like I left here a year ago”. I came back thinking “Great, Nadia, you went on a life adventure and here you are, still not knowing what the hell you want,” when, actually, I had what I wanted all along…

It’s a fact, most people my age want stability: marriage, kids and money for regular manicures. I don’t blame them. Hell, those things are great! (Maybe not the manicures, I couldn’t give a damn about having flawless fingers for five seconds, because that’s just about how long mine usually lasts). Needless to say, the things listed above are not what I want. And why would you care to read on about what “I” want? Because here’s the thing: every day of our lives, we’re all searching for or chasing after things, people, achievements – wants. But what if I told you that you have everything you want within you and what you should really chase is the things that will stimulate WHO YOU ARE.

So now for the golden question: who are you? Well, who knows! You can be whatever you want! I want to be free from other’s opinions, because I don’t hold on to things that don’t grow me in any way. I want to be independent, because I am most productive when I get to do my own thing. I want to be adventurous; because I feel empowered each time I achieve something that scared me a few seconds ago. I want to help people, because I know I would not have gotten anywhere in this life if no one had ever helped me. And most importantly I want to keep on learning from each person that crosses my path, because if I only learn from my own experiences, I’d have to make a hella lotta mistakes all by myself, and one person can only deal with so many consequences… sharing is caring 😉 So, these are the things that I want, because this is who I am. I am not “Unemployed” or “The One Who Is Still Single”. I am Free, Independent, Adventurous, a willing Helper and eager to Learn.

So, I’ll ask again: Who are you? Are you “Married” or “The One With Kids”? No, it’s not even that complicated. You are YOU. You like certain things – do them! You have dreams – make it happen! (Now if you’re married and/or have kids, don’t think I’m telling you to quit your job, pack your bags and go wave your loved ones goodbye as you enter border security. Hello! You are not me!)

Here’s the other thing about who we are: we constantly undergo change. That’s just the way we were made. There hasn’t been one second since the day we were born where every single part of our bodies, spirits or minds were the same. As we change, what we want changes too. It’s all about the present moment. First, we need to become cautiously aware of our relationship with ourselves. Then we need to find a clearer perspective of where we as individuals stand in relation to time. If we’re reluctantly strolling, eyes closed with a steady pace, on a flat road that’s slowly going nowhere, we’ll end up in a deep dark pit of emptiness reminiscing on all the many chances we had to be something great… if only we didn’t miss our moment.

So what if who you are is challenging you to step into the darkness, to take a risk? What if you dare yourself to do something completely insane? Well, doing it might give other people the impression you’re irrational, impulsive or immature. But you know what it will give you? It will give you the key to yet another aspect of who you are: BRAVE. Maybe that means that we will never reach a point of true fulfilment, because the chase is a never ending cycle of unlocking more and more chambers. But that’s the beauty of it all. That gives us an indication of just how great our capacity for happiness actually is. But the treasure can only grow if we choose to extend our walls.

  • Learn who you are
  • Find what you want
  • Don’t miss your moment
  • Keep expanding those walls

 

Picture taken in Los Angeles at one of the walls featuring the Global Angel Wings Project - a project to remind us that we are the angels of this earth.

Change: a natural course

It’s amazing how change happens gradually, but it’s impact is realized in an instant. One moment you inhale oxygen, the next you’re breathing dreams. The taste of happiness is pure as water from a sprout, unlike the toxic, filtered kind you used to fill up on. Thing is, the moment you stand alone while doing what only you want to do, being who only you want to be, and your smile is totally uninfluenced by anything or anyone else’s wants, needs or expectations – that’s the moment your soul is free to soar beyond what your body is capable of experiencing. That’s the moment your mind is free from the corruption that comes with being born into a fallen world. The moment your heart beats on nothing but your own blood. Change is not emotional or physical. It’s natural, and like everything in nature, it just happens. Once you let it take its course, once you willingly give in to letting it be – you won’t see, hear, smell, taste or feel any different. You’ll simply be different, because change is not bound to human senses or emotional experiences. It is wild, liberating, captivating. It’s probably the closest we’ll ever get to being free.

*This picture was taken on Vance Creek Bridge – a 106 meter high abandoned bridge – one of many breathtaking attractions in Washington. It captures one of the most incredible experiences I’ll remember as long as I live. Not seen here, however, is the moment in which I realized how stepping into the unkown changed me. No human invention can capture such a realization, so I tried to do so using words, which is what inspired me to write this piece.

 

 

To all the single girls

Here’s to the girl with the pretty dress, contoured face and messy hair. The girl whose eyes shine like the crack of dawn and whose smile is like the sunset: entertaining whoever takes the time to look; fading into a mysterious darkness only seen by those who don’t turn away when the light starts to fade. The girl who soaks up the gaze of an entire room, speaking with the same confidence visible in her stride. The girl who is curiously exploring every flavor of life, feeding her dreams with passion and crushing her fears with pride.

Here’s to the girl who is strong, courageous and smart, who stood alone when the clock struck twelve – looking her best; feeling like ashes. I used to be that girl, but I outgrew her and turned into the girl who might, by rare occasion, lose a shoe, but always keeps her dignity. The girl who buys her own bottle of champagne in celebration of how hard she’s worked for what she’s earned. The girl who dances intimately with her shadow and laughs outrageously at her reflection. The girl who comes home to an empty bed relieved not to have to share her chocolates with anyone. The girl who spends New Years Day in pajamas trying to sing along to rap songs and eating tacos with her best friend. The girl who laughs about constantly being broke and smiles because she knows that she is not broken.

Today, I’m making a toast to all the single girls. My wish is that in this new year they will find happiness in extraordinary form, and that the first place they’ll go looking… will be within themselves.

Rain and other conditions

The world is filled with billions of people who each exist within their own sphere. Since humans simply don’t  have the capacity to fathom all that this world has to offer, we create our own bubble in which we can exist and co-exist among and in tune with whatever we choose to include. We like to believe that we rule our own planets…

All my life I’ve lived in one country, experienced one people, perceived life from one perspective. I was happy inside my little snow globe that was planted on the same surface, overlooking the same scene… and then I decided it was time to move; so I did – ten time zones to be exact. And just like that, my world went from a steady standstill to speeding down a slope.

Here in the Pacific North West there are so many everyday things that are practiced completely different and perceived as totally normal. The latest is daylight saving time, which moved me another hour from home. Clearly, my understanding of the term “daylight saving” is imprecise. Even though we adjusted our clocks, the sun now sets at 4:30pm… so much for being frugal! This recent turn of events not only makes me want to have dinner twice, it also tempts me to go to bed at eight. My sleep cycle is in a state similar to jet lag , my recent attempt to shake a few kilos is hanging on a thread and – oh, lets not even talk about being threaded, who knows how to be fashion forward in four layers of clothing and, of course, water resistant shoes!?

In addition to the weather, culture shock is another big contributor to the adaption process. I read about it before embarking on this journey and honestly thought it was just a term someone made up to avoid admitting that they’re homesick. Well, I was wrong – it’s definitely a thing. And just like I couldn’t conceptualize it because I didn’t know it exists, I now find it hard to explain. The main thing, for me, is missing the small everyday things that used to define what “home” means to me. Having my own car, managing my own household, establishing and controlling my own schedule… I didn’t realize these things were so significant until I didn’t have sole autonomy over them. I’m lucky to have joined a family who makes adapting pretty easy, it’s just that moving in with a family after living on your own for 7 years takes a lot of compromise when independence comes so natural. This is good for my future self though, as I do hope to have a family of my own one day. Another part of culture shock is the feeling that it’s me against the world. All. The. Time. When I had a long day and just want to hang out with someone I’ve known for years, the distance between Seattle and South Africa goes from miles to pounds and trying to carry all that weight can really be a downer! Other small things that adds to culture shock are the comminication loops, which happens several times a day. Having to repeat the word “milk” and even my own name four times when ordering coffee is slightly annoying, sometimes embarrassing and always a waste of time (which, even in a laid back city like Seattle, no one has). Luckily my struggle with speech is getting better after three months of speaking primarily English – I even dreamt in English the other night, which was an alarming confirmation of just how much change really is going on! Also a confirmation that new things do get easier in time… it only requires patience, preserverance and a hell of a lot of practice.

So, as everything in my world is an explosion of old and new, I am thankful for this: my roots. Being grounded allows me to go through the motions of learning and letting go without losing touch with who I am. At the end of the day, a snow globe is beautiful regardless of where you put it… and once shaken, its chaos is what makes it so magical.

 

 

Trial and error

It’s all fun and games until you get a $45 parking fine. Whatever fun this coming Friday night might offer, count me out. I will be in my basement bedroom (which is really nice, might i add), binging on organic pumpkin spice cookies (no idea how cookies can be organic but hey, I’ll have it) and reading yet another library book. That’s what I get for thinking “I’ve got this” after spending one month in America. That, and an aching arm for thinking I’m brave enough for a flu shot. And of course another kilo – excuse me, I mean another pound – on top of the several pounds I’ve already gained since coming here. Yes, today is not my best day.

However…

With years of practice, I have learned a beautiful thing called letting go. Well, it’s not always beautiful; actually it’s usually quite tragic… but I think mastering it, or at least coming to terms with what’s worth holding on to and having control over what could destroy you – that is something beautiful I hope everyone discovers at some stage in their personal journey.

One of the main things I have learned in this chapter of my life – trotting about in a foreign country pretending to have it all together while constantly getting lost, avoiding self-checkout for fear of making an error and getting arrested for theft, or having to anticipate walking with a slipping sock and not pulling it up because that’s just not dope yo – is that the reassuring moments are much greater than the challenging ones. Every day is full of challenges and since we live in a fallen world, it’s very typical for challenges that really hit a soft spot to be accompanied by a series of mini-mishaps – bringing you to an all time low. And that’s okay! Personally, I appreciate being miserable sometimes, because it gives me time to reflect, which usually ends up being refreshing… it’s almost like tricking yourself with reverse psychology (I just figured this out and I must say, I feel like quite the philosopher) …(and now I’m laughing at myself for being so vain!) Ha!

Bottom line, I have a lot to be thankful for and I am very happy with where I am (physically and emotionally) in my life right now. I haven’t a clue what my future might hold, what I want to do in the next 5 years or where I see myself in a decade, but I am motivated. People in their 20’s should know that motivation does not have to be connected to an end goal because damn, we’ll all feel like failures before we reach 30 – life is too tough! But really, motivation can be as simple or complex as you make it. Those who know will agree that I like simplicity and I really don’t understand why anyone would choose the opposite – not in this case, at least! Here’s an eye-opener: If you get to do a single thing that makes you happy each day, you can be motivated. And once you allow yourself to see past the challenge, you’ll find something reassuring – and then you have a choice: hold on to the negativity and let it ruin your day, your diet, your dreams… or let it go and allow yourself to gain some confidence.

We’re confusing motivation with rewards. Motivation lies in the process and the reward comes after reaching a goal. If you are happy with what you do, no setback will break your spirit. It may upset you, drive you to the walls, cause you to have a breakdown from time to time, but it will never stop you from doing what makes you happy. The only thing that can stop you, is you choosing to let all the little things get to you instead of letting them go.

This is what I love about writing: once you ink it all out, the blurry lines come into focus and brings clarity to your confusion. Who said mathematics was the only method to problem solving?

So tomorrow I’ll pay my parking fine and write it off as (cringe) a lesson learned. Not only does this add to the story of my life as an Au pair (we call ourselves au poors , touché) but it adds to my experience and growth, which – hello! – brings me closer and closer to my goal. I’m tricking my mind to believe that this, having to pay $45 to a country I don’t even serve, is a motivation: next week, I’ll park further away and burn off all these cookies!

 

 

I used to call it spring

Each day goes by faster as the sun shies away, generously leaving a speck of gold upon the falling leafs. On this young September morning the Seattle sky is painted grey, matching the emotional state which I currently find myself in: the transitioning phase – neither pleasant nor unsatisfactory, simply different. The beauty of it all is that in our lives, change is more often than not the result of a choice (I used to hate the metaphorical term “seasons” until I realized the latter). Since relocating halfway across the world, my life turned upside down. I am forced to do maths (which I hate) to know how much I’m paying for things; I basically have to unlearn everything I know about driving and switch to doing it all the opposite way; in public I say most things twice in order to be understood and on top of all the above, I still wake up at 4:30 every morning and start my day hating my body for being so stubborn with adjusting to this time zone. Professionally I went from a schedule where a regular day included 2 hours of traffic (easy driving), 8 hours on my butt in an office, one hour at the gym and an evening/weekends surrounded by people I’ve known for years. Now, each day is different, I work with kids and no one who is my age in this city has known me for longer than a week; I have to use a GPS when I go for a run and when buying groceries (for example) I get home and find that I bought yams thinking it was sweet potato… Putting it this way must make it seem like I’m an emotional mess, however there is this: I am content with the choices I have made and I am positive that this change is the start of a significant black line on an unused white page which is about to disturb the current grey mass with a drop of perspective, a sense of clarity that will only be understood once the season is complete. It may not be spring in Seattle, but I can sense that something within me is about to bloom. This is going to be a great fall!

Free yourself first

Today, as we celebrate Mandela Day, we take a hurried 67 minutes to honour Nelson Mandela and his values through the act of giving. He is remembered for many deeds of goodwill, but also for his wisdom and how that is reflected in his “walk to freedom”. His acts may inspire us to do something good for 67 minutes, but his words have the power to change our hearts in a way that can make this world a better place today, tomorrow and for the next 67 years. These words surely found a place in my heart:

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” – Nelson Mandela, A long walk to freedom

To free our people from poverty, we must free our hearts from hatred. Only then can love fuel a lifetime of giving.

#freeyourselffirst #promotepeace #preventpoverty