Monthly Archives: February 2014

Self, Life

Its a funny thing when you have no debts to pay, no favours outstanding and no change due; you’re subject to nothing but that which makes you content, that which brings you happiness and real enjoyment, not the kind that people so often mistake for the real thing these days. There is some virtue in being selfish, not selfish as in greedy, nor as in spiteful. But to be selfish in the sense that nothing dictates your actions and thoughts but yourself. Individualistic would be a more apt word. Think, when you meet another who is selfless in that they give and always bend to other’s convienences and leave nothing of them self but a willow waving with the next breeze, what impact had that on you? Does it teach you, does it give you cause to think deeper and understand? No. Those people you meet who have such an impact on you are as boulders in a stream. Standing on what they know to be solid ground. Sure in their convictions and drawing strength from this. These change the course of wispy winds and wandering currents. They will only be moved after encountering a force equal in its conviction and even then only after contemplation of the newly encountered.

Something had been throwing me off for the majority of this semester abroad. And I have had trouble identifying it. It was the one subtle, yet omnipresent difference between here and Melbourne. I believe I’ve come to understand it now. Australia was adventure, it was a disruption of the norm and entirely outside of my experiences to date. And such an environment was my expectation this time around. Despite the much more relaxed lead up to this round, the expectation was that the feeling would be similar to before. Nope. Not a chance. It is simply life. And that itself is so disconcerting. I’m in London, across the Atlantic from my family and home, somewhere I’ve never been before, and none of it seems out of place. It does not feel a monumental undertaking, rather another chapter in my life.

It then becomes extraordinary that this has become ordinary.

Self sufficiency, an understanding of the values and pillars you build yourself upon. These are the things that are learned, some of the most important tools to take along in life. To maintain the body and feed the mind, push the spirit and expand the soul. This is being abroad, this is life.

Life is spending the weekend in Wales out on the Pembrokeshire coast, in kayaking and hiking and coasteering, swimming along the coast in the ruins of an old quarry, leaping from thirty feet high to the freezing water below, being carried and rocked by the current, scrambling over jagged slate. And laughing, with vivacious joy, because suddenly there you are, out on a promontory reaching into the Irish Sea, with the wind ripping at you, then swelling around you with your refusal to budge, accepting that you belong here, the waves surging forth to grasp you from a hundred feet below, before accepting their inability to scale the heights you have, the calls of the gulls crying to above the wind and waves, with the same joy that courses in your laughter. And no one else even seems to realise what it is to be here, upon this one piece of the Earth, to be so alive and to join your voice to the wind and waves out over the vast grey horizon. For some reason, they walk by, and you are alone in this liberating moment. It is wondrous, it is true, and it is life.

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Undertake the Uncomfortable

Part of doing something like going abroad, and life in general is about being able to look at yourself and evaluate the ways in which you can improve. It is always possible for you to reason and justify nearly any behavior, tendency, or viewpoint of your own. It is not the natural inclination to criticize oneself.

Hubris, as it were. I am guilty of this many times over. It is less about that which you do well, and more about building up those parts of yourself that are not so strong. I read my previous post and am assaulted by the hubris of it. My complaints are of no fault but my own. I have not made the fullest effort to reach out. I have failed to push outside of the path more traveled. I have not had the courage to undertake the uncomfortable.

And that is so crucial to why I take it upon myself to cross both oceans, to three continents. To undertake the uncomfortable. And yet, I fail in this now, I preach on about how simple this is for one such as me, with oh, so much experience and wisdom. Ha, I genuinely hope that somewhere someone has had a good laugh at me for this. What sort of accomplishment is it to be a medium sized fish in a small pond? No one brags about beating a video game on easy.

Now, I must push myself forward. I have to remember that first step into the LAX terminal last February and what growth came of that. I must undertake the uncomfortable.

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Wander & Rest

Woke up in London today.

It felt appropriate to take a bit of time here before posting, didn’t want to just spew thoughts and emotions, wanted to digest and process things before reflecting on it so far. 

This time around has not started with a free fall. Rather it’s a constant buzz. This not so much exciting as it is enlivening. Feet on the street figuring out the beat of this city. I’m getting to wander again, I love it. Turns out wandering about and getting a bit lost is a handy skill to have in a new city. It helps with getting oriented. And I seem to have picked that skill up pretty well. I find that I have a much better understanding of how to settle and take care of myself and all of the logistics, hassles, and everything else that comes with this. I’m also finding that I handle many of the things that caused some stress last time around, the benefits of experience foster a calmness that I have a feeling will serve me very well.

Then again, it is undoubtedly a different experience from last time. When you’re in a city as large and international as London, at a Uni that has over 50% international students, and already speak the language, there is a lack of challenge. As I’ve been abroad I’ve come to appreciate being American more in a number of different ways. But honestly, when you decide to spend a semester abroad and end up nearly always being around Americans, you run into people you went to high school with, it grates a bit. Look, seeing other Americans is always fun, seeing old classmates is interesting, but I’m pretty sure those things were not high on my list of motivations and things to be excited about. In terms of going abroad, London is certainly the road most traveled. So with that comes a list of pros and cons, and I’ve gotten both. It makes adjustment simpler, but part of me would rather be in a different country, South Africa or Brazil. Yes, I’m complaining about these things as I’m sitting here in London. Yes I know I’m being somewhat entitled and whatnot. If I’m being honest, I don’t think my frustrations have much to do with my setting. It has more to do with the people I am around. I have not met the same type of people as were present in Melbourne. I can distinctly recall the first night at Gilligan’s Hostel in Cairns and the conversation that was had in our room before going out for the night. Religion, spirituality, what are these to you and what do you see them as? And the conversation on the first night here was about fraternities and sororities. A telling difference there. I felt that I was around people with a thirst for life and an excitement and that they would make me a better person. I don’t find that here. It’s hard to say why the difference but it is there. I still know that there are people around me who are every bit worth knowing and will challenge me to grow in new ways. I must take some fault in this for being somewhat arrogant in assuming I know what I am doing from my past experiences, and this results in myself not always being open to others. So I must understand this and move myself forward, this time I can be the impetus in these conversations rather than swimming along with the current. 

On a more day to day note, everyone gripes on the weather and cold, but I have actually enjoyed the crispness, the busy streets, green spaces, squares, parks, haphazard streets, every building being older that the very oldest back home, the sun flitting through barren tree branches down and over the facade of enchanting Victorian facades that have stood many years and give the impression that they will stand many more. Though the very predictable afternoon rain can be frustrating. I’m living in Bloomsbury, Bedford Place. It’s a fantastic location, and a good set up. Hell, there’s a french press here. Gotta have my coffee and instant coffee just won’t cut it for me. I’ve gotten around a good portion of Central London and seen a fair number of sights and attractions. Buses are very convenient and the Tube is impressive. Tower Bridge, Kensingston Palace and Gardens, Portebello Road Market, Columbia Road Flower Market, Borough Market, Westminster Abbey, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Trafalgar Square, Buckingham Palace, Big Ben, British Museum, Regent’s Park, Camden, Soho, Westminster and some more as well. I’ll be in Wales for an adventure weekend in two weeks time. Still working out when to take what other trips when. 

I’ve been to three football(soccer) matches already, Tottenham Hotspur v Manchester City at White Hart Lane, which may be the highlight of this so far, yes Spurs lost 5-1, but the atmosphere was cracking and I loved it. Saw QPR v Burnley over at Loftus Road, another great atmosphere, 3-3 draw. Went and saw Fulham v Sheffield United at Craven Cottage in an FA Cup match, frankly was a terrible match, with Sheffield needing a 120′ header to win it. And the weather was horrid, but did get to see Clint Dempsey. I’ve got tickets to Spur v Everton this Sunday, Spurs v Dnipro and Spurs v Cardiff City coming up end of this month. 

At the moment I’m a bit tired, its been over three weeks of going pretty constantly in New York or in London. I’ve been fighting a bit of a cold or something and everything looks a bit less rosy when you aren’t feeling 100%. So that taken into account, I reckon a bit of rest can’t hurt, and I figure I’m doing alright over here. 

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