little sarah Big World

Category: Self-Improvement

What I’ve Learned in My Travels

~OR~

Special is as Special Does

So we hiked Macchu Pichu. Yes, we did that. The stuff dreams are made of.

But not my dreams. I mean, sure, it’s a bucket-list-worthy, life-changing event that many people spend years saving up and planning for. I’m just not one of those people. I’ve got a bucket list, of course, but this was never on it. Running a marathon? On the list. Writing a book? Also on the list. Climbing one of the New 7 Wonders of the World? Not so much.

Don’t get me wrong–it was cool. It was pretty cool to see this place that so few (or so many?) people will see in their lifetimes. And I much appreciated and enjoyed some time away from B & J on a long, solo hike. It reminded me of riding my bike last summer in France–lots of time to think and just be alone.

But was it worth it? That’s the question, Friends, and I don’t know that I can honestly answer yes. Eric Friend asays our generation has this fascination with travel, valuing it above most other experiences. When we think of vacation, we picture working really hard for a long time to save up. Then you go away somewhere, spend it all, and start over.

And I’ve done that, Friends. Many times, always precipitated by the worry that I’m making the right choice (adventure over stability) and followed the stress of being back at square one, financially and emotionally.

Sometimes it is worth it. France last summer was absolutely worth it–I gained insight, patience, self-love, and of course language skills. And when I did a similar program (a month-long study abroad) in Spain, that was undeniably life changing–I gained confidence, perspective, a life-long friend, and I was finally able to leave a 5 1/2 year, passionless relationship.

Because I was just in one spot for these “vacations,” getting to know a place and its people deeply, rather than just skimming the surface, skipping from town to town every other day, like in South America.

The year I lived in Spain, my happiest months were November, April and May–the three months where I didn’t leave Madrid. Even last year, the year of many travels, I felt scattered, untethered. After I came home from visiting Kevin in Spain in January, I stayed put for (what seemed like) a record 4 months. And I was happier than I’ve been in a long, long time.

So I can’t say that it’s worth it. The stress, anxiety, financial burden and absence do not, for me, justify being able to say “I climbed Macchu Pichu. Yes, I did that.”

*       *       *

You can’t tell me that’s any more special than backyard parties with my family, or playing music with Eric, or going to Mad Men with the Stephanies. You can’t convince me that this whirlwind lifestyle is providing me with growth and experience that I would never get in a small city. You can’t tell me that the hustle and bustle beat sleeping in on Sunday mornings, or reading in my own bed, in my own apartment, on a rainy afternoon. You can’t make me believe that the people I’ve met in my travels are any more special or unique or amazing than the people I leave back home.

Because if I have learned one thing, it is that people are special, and unique, and amazing everywhere. People are also boring, and selfish, and horrible everywhere. And when you’re traveling you have to listen to tales of them drunkenly squandering their parents’ money on their 3- or 6- or 12-month adventures.

Not to give travel, or travelers, a bad name. It’s just that it’s so much easier to make connections and get at a deeper meaning when you allow yourself to stand still in one place, to put down roots.

So, yes, I stood on top of Macchu Pichu. Then I lost my friends, wandered around, waited in the sun surrounded by a teeming mass of tourists, walked back to town shaking with exhaustion and hunger, paid too much for shitty Chinese food, disputed with the waiter over whether or not my money was counterfeit, found my “friends,” went to some hot springs, made small talk with strangers, changed, dicked around in an internet cafe, paid too much for shitty burritos, had to run through town to catch my train, chatted with a naive, impressionable young Brit, then stumbled through Cuzco in the dark to find a hostel, where I slept poorly due to the constant flow of young travelers.

Today, on the other hand, I slept in til 9, ate cereal while checking my favorite blogs, went for a run, made a smoothie, tidied up the house, worked from 2-6 at the library, saw Contagion for free with friends, walked through the warm and windy evening, talked in a parked car, came home, enjoyed a delicious home-made burrito, blogged, and now I’m going to read my book.

This isn’t perfect, it isn’t forever, but it’s a pretty good fit. For me, for now.

I know that there is something more than this, that I have not yet found my place, but I no longer believe I can find it by wandering. My Special can not be found in hostels, or on 8-hour bus rides, or even on top of mountains.

Maybe, just maybe…my Special must be made.

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Meanwhile and Right Now

~OR~

I See Blue Skies

Oh, it’s not all South American grumblies, Friends! Sometimes it’s Salt Lake City grumblies!

Just kidding. Things are lovely here, just look at that view! I get to see that most every day.

I’ve been fascinated with the sky lately. So expansive and mighty, like an infinite, ever-changing fresco-ed dome.

I guess “dome” makes it sound oppressive or confining, but lately I find it to be optimistic and welcoming, telling me that this world and my life are Big (Immense, Towering, Colossal)…and there is so much left to do! What will I make of this life? How will I spend my days?

Because honestly, Friends…(blue skies aside), I’ve been in a bit of a rut, creatively. Feeling stalled, stagnated, stuck. It’s not so much “grumblies” as “blahs,” or what I’m sure many would dub a quarter-life crisis.

I just know that I want something else, something more than this, what I have now. But I don’t know how. All I know is that things have to, and will, change. And I get hope from the sky, little glimmers of possibility, images of late nights writing, mornings baking, weekends at the farmers’ market, epic runs, afternoons reading in bed, long walks, better photographs, crafts and projects and more music. So much music.

Now I just have to figure out how to fit those delicate, soft little pictures together, to make a life.

I think Ariel can say it better than I can:

“I don’t know when
I don’t know how
But I know something’s starting right now
Watch and you’ll see
Someday I’ll be…”

And I do watch. I watch the sky.

Goal Orientation

Things I Am Going to Do Today:

sleep in

drink coffee/pay bills/check up on blogs/pinterest

snack (salty)

– play nintendo with Kevin

– read (Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal Vegetable Miracle)

– nap

– snack (sweet)

– run

– work

– try to reconcile with a friend. again.

– make lists/set goals

 *       *       *

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about goals. Making them, keep them, tracking them. I’ve decided that what I’d like best is to have a goal for every year, every season, every month, every week, and every day. That sounds like a lot, but really it’s not. For example, today is Tuesday, June 12th, 2012. It is summer, I am 26 years old, and here are my goals:

26 Years – be more bad-ass and independent; know thyself

Summer – go for more long walks

June – fast AND organize/decorate the apartment

This Week – better time management

Today – relax and do as I please

 

See? That’s not so much, is it? And they fit nicely within one another, like Russian nesting dolls. It is important to note, however, that goals are not the same as a To-Do list. Today’s To-Do list involves calling my dad, paying the bills, blogging for the library, etc. A To-Do list is about tasks and accomplishments, whereas my goals are about growth and progress. They represent a steady evolution, rather than a check-mark.

And the list above? Well, that’s just because I realized that I would be able to do everything I wanted to do today, at a more-or-less leisurely pace, despite having slept in until ALMOST 11:00 and having to work at 4:00. It pleased me, and so I celebrated with a list.

*       *       *

How about you? What are your goals for today, tomorrow, this week, this month? What are your summer goals? What do you want to do with this year of your life? And, most importantly, how are you going to make this happen?

¡Hola de España! no.7‏

The epic conclusion!!!

New here? Catch up by reading these:

 ¡Hola de España!

¡Hola de España! #2

¡Hola de España! no.3

¡Hola de España! no.4

¡Hola de España! no.5

¡Hola de España! no.6

*       *       *

This will be my last Hola de España. Que triste, ¿no? But I definitely have ganas to come home and be with my friendships and my family in Utah again. Being here has REALLY enforced my appreciation for how unique Utah and Salt Lake City are. No place like it in the world. Even if we do have ridiculous liquor laws.

So…I cheered up in Valencia. I started busquing again, making money, and that’s always nice. I played really well there, and maybe now I’m addicted to the thrill of performing in the streets. Hopefully there’s a patch for that, because no way is it going to be the same in Utah. I also went to the movies two nights in a row in Valencia, the highlight of which was seeing ‘Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay’ in Spanish. Except here it’s called ‘Dos Colgados Muy Fumados,’ which I think translates to ‘Two Very Stoned Stoners.’

Then, on the bus from Valencia to Barcelona, I sat next to this Italian kid named Francesco, and we got to talking (in Spanish, because his English isn’t too hot. And I don’t speak Italian…), and he said that they had an extra room in his flat where I could sleep. So, now I have my own room in an apartment in Barcelona for free for the week. Awesome, no? The other people there are a Chilean girl named Viviana and a boy from Brighton, England named Josh. So it’s all very international, which is a pretty good representation of Barcelona, as a whole. Since I’ve been here (since Sunday) I’ve hung out with kids from Peru, Argentina, Chile, England, Spain, the US, and then a ton of Italians.

Oh, and I’ve been hanging out with my amigo Brett from the U of U. Viviana took us dancing last night. And of course all of this has been very good for my Spanish. (Carol: De verdad, chica, podemos hablar muchisimo en Español cuando yo vuelva, porque ya hablo tanto mejor . Podemos hablar TODO EL TIEMPO.)

Tonight I’m gonna go check out La Sagrada Familia with Brett, and some other Gaudi building. We already went to Parque Güell, which was crazy and beautiful. I’ve also been to the beach here, and I’ll probably go again before I leave. Then I’ll be back in Madrid on Friday, and then home on Sunday in time for supper (which had damn well consist of spicy cheetos, is all I’m saying…)

Oh, and we went and got pinxos and this dark red champagne-like beverage in a bar here that was SO packed. Like, think of when you go to a concert at a really big venue, and when the main band comes on and everyone rushes the stage, and you’re all pressed in together. It was like that. For, like, 45 minutes while we ate and drank, standing. Apparently this is typical in Barcelona, and I actually had a really good time.

People keep asking me which part of Spain I’ve enjoyed the most. It’s really hard to say. I mean, I’ve only been i n most spots for a handful of days. And they’re all so distinct. Barcelona is very Metropolitan, with wide streets packed with people from all over the world. The Gaudi stuff is just icing on the cake. And I liked Valencia, because of the park in the dried-up river bed. I rented a bike there on Sunday morning and rode for an hour and just thought my thoughts and smiled. I liked Alicante, because the beach is right in the middle of the city, and so is the castle, and it’s filled with shady pocket parks, and it’s just got something special about it. I guess La Mata wasn’t that cool, but I had a good time there. Madrid was amazing, but incredibly hot. And I met so many people there, and Laura and I became good friends. I already have plans to return to her. And being there when Spain won the Euro Cup? How can you beat that?

And of course, of course, I loved Oviedo. She’s beautiful, and very sophisticated, and utterly unique. And the people there definitely appre ciate their classical music. Add to that no tourists and a million beaches that are just a bus-ride away, and what else can you say? Oviedo will always be in my heart.

But soon I’m coming home, and nothing is better than home. I miss you all dearly, and I can’t wait to see you. It’s been great. ¡Hasta ahora!

-love, Sarah

p.s. Plus I am so freakin’ tan, it’s going to blow you away. Ha!

*       *       *

And that was that. Then I came home, broke up with my boyfriend, started hooking up with another, younger guy, lived in my parent’s friend’s basement and anxiously began my last year of college. It made for a great diet.

Things I didn’t say in the emails:

-Kevin (the quiet boy) became my boyfriend of right now, after much drama and hesitation on both our parts.

-I came as close to getting sexually assaulted as I will hopefully ever come by the Italian guy in Barcelona. Just so you don’t think that traveling like this is without risk.

-I fooled around with Michael in La Mata, even though he was a dick to me. I normally don’t date jerks, but apparently in Spain I do, because Jorge was a dick to me, as well, though at least he was very upfront about having “la polla pequeña” (his exact words). Honesty can only get you so far, though, and it certainly won’t get you off.

-Also I don’t know if it comes across just how lonely and confused and cranky I was. I hated traveling alone. I hated being by myself, with only the guilt of my impulsive decisions for company. But now I love traveling alone, more than most anything. I guess it’s just…back then I didn’t know myself very well, or love myself, and now I do. Now I’m my favorite person to spend time with. And I guess we can call that growing older. I used to constantly wish to be able to go back in time, try again, start over. But I almost never wish that now. I’m happy to be where I am.

Which is to say: home.

Spring Has Sprung

~OR~

Lately…

I think a lot of people go to Grad School because they don’t know what else to do, they’re unsure of what comes next. After graduating from college and living the dream for a while–just hanging out, working a couple part-time jobs, keeping up with the ol’ hobbies, etc.–they begin to wonder, “Now what?” They have interests, passions, curiosities, but maybe that’s not enough. Maybe they want something bigger for themselves.

I think most people want something bigger for themselves.

And there’s so much pressure to succeed in measurable and familiar ways. That’s why you end up with a whole flock of uncertain, indebted 20-somethings, “advancing their careers” with more schooling. I’ve seen it happen, like a fever spreading among my peers. They’re not sure exactly WHAT they want, but they need some sense of forward momentum, and society approves of higher education.

“What are you up to?” your parents’ friends ask, and you get to say “I just got accepted to Fancy Pants Academy in Ivy Town.”

And then everyone’s happy.

Except…except maybe they’re not. Maybe they don’t actually want to be a doctor or lawyer or mathematician. Maybe they just know that they’re ready for something more, something bigger than house parties and part-time jobs and poor finances. So they commit 2, 3, 4 more years of their lives in the hope that they will then be transformed, birthed like a grungy pheonix from the flames into full blown adult-hood.

Don’t get me wrong–I think Masters degrees and PhDs are fine, if you know what you want. If you are passionate about Physics, go for it. If you’ve always known that you want to be professor, or a doctor, or a lawyer, then study up and make it a reality.

But I think it’s wrong to pretend you’re something you’re not, to follow a set path and give up your individuality for the approval of others. Progress for the sake of progress, with no regard for who you are or what you want. I think there are many ways to “grow up,” move forward and be constantly changing for the better, and I would never push myself to blindly follow someone else’s definition of the next logical step, just because I was ashamed to admit that, honestly, at the age of 26, I still don’t know what I want to be when I grow up.

I think I might like to be a school teacher, or possibly a journalist. I know I could succeed in either of those careers. But right now those are just notions, and there is plenty of time. I’m not certain of those choices, but I’m more and more certain of myself.

Recently I realized that most of my anxiety stemmed from trying to figure out the next step. What do I want? Where should I go? How can I best plan out the future in order to move on from the past?

It was freaking me out, Friends, trying to maintain a hectic, busy life here while also planning for a future that I could never quite convince myself of…so I stopped. I stopped planning. I stopped working so hard just to make a buck so that I could keep living a life where I’m working so hard all the damned time. I’m not going to move back to Spain, I’m not going to make any radical career changes, and I’m not going to Grad School.

Instead, I will:

-read more, watch TV less

-write more, facebook less

-run more, worry less

-listen more, talk less

-walk more, rush less

-sleep more, work less

-share more, isolate less

-hug more, stress less

-cry more, feel more, listen to my heart more, dream more, defy more, and spend less time obsessing over what my former classmates are doing, what my former friends think of me, and what my former goals were when I was a person who would ignore her gut instinct and stick to the plan, one foot after the other, even when it made me sick and anxious and depressed

In short, I will do as I please. I commit to me, to my ideals, my passions, my creativity and self-worth. They don’t give out degrees for that, but I feel a hell of a lot more certain of myself and what I want than so many of my peers that I see grinding the axe at a nine to five plus night school, just to get ahead. Even if all I’m sure of is taking things one day at a time and doing what feels right. Because what I’m sure of…is myself.

*       *       *

I think a lot of people go to Grad School because they’re unsure of what comes next. But I know exactly what I want. I want this, I want here, I want now. Spring is here, life is good, and every day I feel more and more alive. I’m not going to Grad School, because I’m committed to the present; I don’t want to change a thing

First a quick trip to South America, though. See you in 3 weeks and 3 days, Friends.

Luck Be a Lady

~OR~

Gratitude, Re-Examined

Sometimes you get what you want. Sometimes, after a really rough year that culminates with you sitting in bed,  crying, and your friends have to come and sit on the bed with you and force you to talk and eat things…things take a turn for the better. Sometimes you go from sleeping next to the coal shoot to having your own studio; from having shitty friends, to no friends, to amazing, caring, devoted, silly and wonderful friends. Sometimes you go from working all the time and resenting everything to working a good amount, saving up money, and totally digging your job (most of the time).

Sometimes you think you are going to have to make yet another Big Decision, and you are totally prepared to face it, to do the grown-up thing, cancel that darned South American adventure in favor of a stable job and a fulfilling life in a small(ish) town (to see that integrity wins over desire, as Ms. DiFranco might say)…but then instead you get everything. You get to keep that job, the friends, the life, the boyfriend, the apartment.

At least, that’s what’s been going on with me. And I feel guilty. For getting what I wanted. For things working out.

I want to say that it was hard work. That I deserve the life I have because I’ve worked for it, suffered through years of tedious jobs and flaky friends, and I’ve always sought better for myself. Or maybe it’s my Positive Mental Attitude, I tell myself–I’ve willed this better, more sustainable, more fulfilling life for myself by staying positive, dancing when I’m down, and letting things go.

And this is all true–I’ve worked hard and tried to stay positive, tried to grow from adversity–BUT if my current, pleasant situation is due to my own self-love and PMA…then why the guilty feeling?

Well, because. Because, Friends. Because sometimes, self-love is not enough. Sometimes good vibrations and an honest day’s work aren’t enough. Sometimes not even patience, not even just waiting out the storm, can explain the sunny skies.

Sometimes you have to admit that your hard-earned good fortune is really the result of the love, energy, and effort of others. That your many blessings you receive are the cumulative result of those who care about you and going out of their way to make your life better and easier, for no reason other than being outstanding human beings who want the best for you.

And then what do you do? How do you relieve that nagging guilt? How do you let yourself feel that you deserve this?

Well, I guess you just do your best. You keep working hard and looking up and trying every day to show that you are forever grateful to those who’ve taken a chance on you and your happiness.

You say Thank You.

You say: I don’t know if you still read this, D, but thank you. Thank you so much.

Then you move on.

My Newest Thing

…is keeping secrets.

Not for secrecy’s, sake, but for some semblance of self-preservation, a recognition of self worth, that myself and my thoughts, plans and ideas, are to some degree sacred. Not meant to be shared so openly with just whomever.

So where I used to consult everyone I knew about Big Decisions to be made, now I just ask one or two close friends, or I just figure it out myself. Where I used to broadcast my Life Plans and Big Ideas, now I keep them to myself, because I am my own best friend, and I love sharing secrets with just me.

In other news: Kevin moved home from Spain. Last Wednesday. I made him salmon with an orange zest/brown sugar/soy sauce rub, wild rice with shiitake mushrooms, and collard greens cooked with mustard and topped with toasted sesame seeds.

So that’s two secrets right there–Kevin’s back and I can cook.

If You Can’t Be With the One You Love…

…Love the One You’re With

I have a very rainbow-centric job…

…and I kinda dig it.

Truth Time: remember when I was not digging it? And not dealing well? (Here ‘s a refresher. Also here.)

And, really, I was pretty all over the place with most things. Emotionally.  Some days my jobs were okay, some days I liked my friends, some days I felt like MAYBE I’d made the right choice…but other days I was just hanging in there. Like a cat on a tree branch.

But…then I decided not to make any more plans. Because making plans was stressing me out. See, making plans meant making A DECISION, which naturally involved re-assessing all past decisions, in an effort not to eff everything up again. But it also meant trying to figure out the future, and what I might want a month or a year from now.

And I just don’t know that, Friends. I just don’t know.

*       *       *

So. No more plans. Just here. Just this. Some other quote from Rent…

Seriously, though, letting go of the past AND the future has done wonders. Guess what? My jobs are awesome. I love kids. Even when they’re little shits. Okay, especially when they’re little shits. They’re just so bad ass. Look at what my kiddos did for the storytime craft last night:

A metaphor:

You know how some times everything sucks and your friends are flaky and your family doesn’t understand you and your job is killing your soul and you don’t want to do anything and nothing is ever going to get better? But then really it turns out you just needed to eat?

I guess I just “needed to eat.”

The Difference a Year Can Make

~OR~

National Pi(e) Day!

…was last Tuesday. How did I not know about this in advance? Anyways, now I know, because it will be every year, March 14th (3.14…). This day, however, is not to be confused with National Pie Day, which is January 23rd. I celebrated that one last year.

Which gets me to thinking about how much has changed for me in just over a year. Last year, I baked that pie at my moms’ house, where I was living in the basement, next to the coal shoot. I baked the pie by myself, because baking is one of my many coping mechanisms, and I had much to cope with–lack of friends, lack of personal space, lack of direction in life, etc. I was taking everything personally, you see, feeling that I didn’t have decent friends or quarters or plans because I didn’t deserve them.

Now, I do have those things:

AND a much-improved sense of self-worth. And guess what, Friends? It was the self-worth that came first. I had to trust that my shitty circumstances were just that–circumstances. That they did not reflect who I was or what I was capable of or what I merited. I had to trust that I could and would have a better apartment, better friends, and better, more-suitable goals. That I was not inherently flawed, but just going through a bit of a rough patch.

And now? Well, now when I bake a pie, I have many lovely ladies to share it with, friendships that continue to grow and develop and deepen all the time. Now I don’t have to use my moms’ kitchen (unless I’m house-sitting), because I have my very own. It’s small, and imperfect, but it’s all mine.

Now I don’t have to feel guilty about dropping out of school, or quitting my band, or looking for a new job, because I know that it’s okay to want better for myself, and that I deserve it. I know that my thoughts and ideas and dreams and aspirations, no matter how radical or half-baked or uncertain, are all mine. I can do what I want, like eating leftover pie for lunch.

Not that there was much left over.

Some Days

Some days you just can’t win. Some days people expect more of you than you’re willing or able to give, and it is only 9:20 am. Some days you have more things to do than time in which to do them, and it is snowing, and you ride a bike, and you know that nothing is going to be easy or convenient or efficient.

Some days you have to boil potatoes before 10am, just to stay on top of things. (But the steam on the stove makes the kitchen warm and fuzzy).

Some days you know that you are going to get a talking to, and it will not be pretty. You know that you have to tell the truth to some friends, and that it will not be any prettier.

Some days you cry (sob, really) in the bathroom at work for a solid 15 minutes. You pace the halls and take deep breaths, and you are not proud of yourself, but you love yourself and so you say “It’s okay.”

Some days you return to work with eyes so red and swollen that there is no denying what you’ve done, yet nobody says a thing. And that is somehow worse than whatever you’d dreaded them saying.

Some days you roast potatoes, with garlic and rosemary. 

It’s your own recipe, and you use a fancy tip from Cooks’ Illustrated, and they turn out just right.

And you know that, when you get off of work, you will turn those potatoes into potato salad. You will pack up that potato salad, along with some mustard, vegan bratwurst, and beer, and you will go watch Newsies and have a meat-n-potatoes dinner with your girlfriends.

At least that much you can do right. And some days that’s the best you can do.

*       *       *

Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

-Preheat your oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit

-Cut some red potatoes up into little cubes. I used 5 medium potatoes, with the intention of feeding about 5-7 people (as a side dish). Leave the skins on for maximum nutrition.

-Boil a big pot of water, then add cut up potatoes to the boiling water PLUS a bit of baking soda. Say…1/2 a teaspoon for lots of potatoes, but only 1/4 of a teaspoon for not so many potatoes.

-Boil for 3 minutes. Then drain. Then let those hot little spuds cool off.

-Toss your potatoes in some olive oil, a bit of salt, and crushed or chopped garlic.

-Spread the whole mess out on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with more salt, some pepper, and rosemary sprigs (fresh or not, whatevs).

-Bake/roast for 20 minutes or so, until they are golden brown and crispy in parts and a fork slides easily in. BONUS: you can add some lemon juice for the last 5 minutes of roasting for extra amazingness.

-ENJOY! Try them in a salad with mixed greens, dried cranberries, sunflower seeds, and tuna. Or not.