Writing to Learn

When I look at the list of months in my blog archive, it strikes me just how little I’ve written over the past 2 years and a bit, especially compared to my time in Cambodia and on the farm in 2008 and 9. I suppose writing varies inversely to the amount of stuff filling my days.

I’ve noticed, though, that I need write (and talk) to learn. Life over the past couple of years has been so so full of experiences, people, places. I’ve been on the move, constantly changing to the point where it’s hard to describe to people (or sometimes even know myself) who it is that I am and what exactly it is that I do.

Thankfully, I have incredible friends in my life who humor me and listen and help me untangle the sometimes frenetic thinking and doing into something that’s more comprehensible and sometimes even beautiful. They make sure I don’t take myself too seriously (it’s a flaw!) and that I pay attention to the things (usually people) that matter the most.

Even so, with all that reflection in real time, sometimes I feel like I could retreat somewhere and simmer in the sum of life til now… like I could keep myself occupied and become wiser just by being quieter. I’m hoping a 10-day silent retreat in May gives me a little piece of this, and I’m planning something longer — maybe three months — sometime in the next four or five years. A time for silence and ripening.

In the meantime, for the summer, I’m going to hold myself to a stricter schedule of writing. I’ve been trying to maintain a radical openness since coming to Detroit, but recently I’ve been thinking I need to focus in more and process things I’ve heard and overheard, passing thoughts, feelings, into something more coherent (not static or final, but connected… like a mind map, a network of connections).

I guess this is a reminder that this particular blog space isn’t a place where I intend to preach, influence or educate, but to have a conversation with myself and people who care about me who happen to be far away and others who resonate with the questions I’m asking about food and equity and relationships and change in the world.

Making space to actually write things down won’t always be easy, but I think it’s worth it if I can learn something new.

Some things I’d like to take on…

  • Social justice and entrepreneurship — tensions between the individual and the collective. Does the fact that a tension is unresolvable mean that the mechanism is flawed, or perhaps even more important?
  • Brokering roles & the role of social structure in unlocking creativity
  • Arne Naess and the ecological self — is this possible? desirable? true altruism?
  • Does creativity require limiting someone else’s capacity to create?
  • How do we remind ourselves that every story is incomplete? Is there a prayer? A song?
  • Emergence  versus scale?
  • Does financial sustainability in a “social enterprise” have to be based on markets as they exist today? (Must we achieve “profits”? What about grants? Unpacking the financials of that biodynamic farm on Lopez Island)

And some more mundane things about day-to-day life and cooking and some creative projects that I’m working on.

I’m getting more excited as I write about it. That’s a good sign :)

April 20, 2012   1 Comment

New Toilet Feelings

It’s 4:50 am on December 12. I’m in a lovely hotel room at the oh-so-trendy Blue Lime in Phnom Penh and I can’t sleep because I’m too hyped up about flying home today.

My mum calls me “new toilet girl” after a Chinese saying about the type of person who has to be the first to use the new latrine hole once it’s been dug. As much as I want to be sad about leaving, my predominant feeling is excitement. Not excitement to leave, but a deep thrill thinking about moving on to WHAT’S NEXT.

December 11, 2008   No Comments

Life ADD

8:54 p.m. this Monday night, it’s post-shower and I’m slathered with skin-so-soft, sprawled out on my bed like a beached porpoise.

Despite an unfortunate interruption of my shower — suddenly no more water from the showerhead, or the faucet, or in the other bathroom, OR THE KITCHEN SINK — I was finally able to rinse off some of the suds by emptying out my water filter. I guess all the effort put me in a contemplative mood.

The brief period of mourning over losing my friends is coming to an end and I’m starting to get busy again. I realize that my habit of wanting to do everything (KAPE work, BSDA, this new American club, photography, cooking experiments, parties, travel, blogs, emails, reading tons, figuring out what to do with myself post-December) often means the peanut butter gets spread too thin. I, for one, HATE my bread with too little spread. Yet (to draw out the analogy in an agonizing fashion) I not have figured out how to achieve a balance — more peanut butter (energy! motivation! passion!) spread over a smaller slice. (I could go on to talk about cutting empty carbs, but that might be going too far).

Writing seems to be essential to keeping my sanity; emails, to keeping my connection with the outside world. KAPE work’s necessary for the salary, plus the experience I’m now getting with the video stuff. Cooking/travel/hanging out/taking pictures/reading are all just fun.

But where am I supposed to fit in my “life’s work”, my big project that will define my life and change the world? I’m always taking on these new small projects: Learn Khmer, make a video, keep a record of the books I read… but I seem sort of short on the follow-through. My attention span wavers after about 3 mos (maybe 6 mo to a year for things that are less monotonous) and I’m on to something different. I’ve been searching for something to inspire me, so I can dedicate my life to its pursuit, but it seems to me that life is just so full and varied that I’ll always be distracted by something new.

Not that I pretend these feelings are original, I know a few 20somethings of my generation with similar angst, but that only makes me feel marginally better.

In this respect, seems like I need to lock myself into some pattern (med school?) that forces me to stick with something for awhile. Perhaps passion at first sight of my true life’s path is a bit much to ask and I need to stick things out a bit more rather than hope for an instant “click” and quick gratification.

On the other hand, what better time to explore than when you’re young? I only feel like I’m losing time — like I should have done more exploring and less “achieving” when I was still in high school and college. Alas, something to think about when I have children of my very own.’

August 26, 2008   1 Comment

Here we go!

March 29, 2008

So this is it, here we go.

I’m sitting on the plane on my way from Taipei to Phnom Penh. There’s about an hour to go until landing, and I’m feeling pretty well-rested, thanks to my trusty sleeping skills. I sometimes worry that my ability to sleep most anywhere, anytime verges on narcolepsy, but I can’t complain when the same ability allows me to sleep through a 14 hour flight.

I’m looking out the left side window near the front of the plane and can see a coastline, and the outlet of a river — perhaps the Mekong? We’re getting closer to landing and I’m getting a little more nervous — I still know so little about what to expect when I land; it’s scary, but also exhilarating to live so much in the moment, taking things one thing at a time.

Mum and dad dropped me off almost 20 hours ago at LAX. I have many friends and family to thank for their love and support in the past few weeks, but especially mum & dad for helping me get ready for this trip and being excited and proud for me to go off and try something a little off the wall.

After I woke up from my first mini-nap on the flight from LAX to Taipei, I started to panic a little:

“Wait, what?” I thought. “Where am I going? And why? I had a beautiful apartment in a city I love. I’m going away from a loving boyfriend, friends, family, and a well-paying job for what again? Am I running from something? Am I chasing a romantic notion, am I trying to prove something, and if so, what?”

I guess I’ve gotten a lot of questions lately about what I’m going to be doing, why I’m going away at all, and why to Cambodia in particular. I’ve thought a lot about it, and written about it a little, and I guess if this is going to be the start to a log of my adventures over the next few months, it makes sense to talk a little bit about the impetus for the whole crazy thing.

Here’s a little snippet from my original Fulbright application:

My whole life, I’ve excelled at things that were relatively familiar and comfortable. Google opened my eyes to what’s possible when you push the envelope and translate big ideas to action. Psychologists have shown that people can become addicted to success, and risk less because they are afraid of failure. I don’t want that to be me. Just applying for this grant has already pushed me in ways I’m not accustomed to – reaching out to strangers, independent study outside of a formal academic setting – and it’s not difficult to imagine how much more I would grow in 10 months.

As most of you know, I didn’t convince the Fulbright folks, but even so, I think this was the most sincere part of my application and the fundamental reason why I’m on this plane.

I could go on and on about my particular selfish reasons, but staying true to my nature, I’ll just write a couple down in a little list

– Want to do something I care about (e.g. education)
– General travelust — particularly, liking the feeling of being a foreigner in a place and the exhilaration (and exhaustedness) of learning everything over
– Want to test my boundaries; can I do this on my own?
– Find out what’s really important to me — what do I need to live? In the end, not much I think
– Like the idea of being somewhere where my skills and experience and time are relatively much more valuable
– Want to get a little closer to understanding what life can be like in a “so-called” developing country and try to understand more about this morass that is development
– Want time to think and not just be busy busy busy, without a real goal in mind
– Though it can be lonely, I like “starting over” in a place with no expectations of what kind of person I am, what I should do, who I should be

March 28, 2008   No Comments

Things I want to spend time on in Cambodia

– motorcycling
– sewing/ clothing design
– guitar
– language
– yoga/meditation
– writing (book, poetry, short stories, letters, daily journal)
– cooking
– dancing
– other travel
– photography
– reading/research
– grad school Apps

And for more:
– spirituality
– finding my FOCUS
– hanging out with kids

February 1, 2008   No Comments

Up at 1AM on Monday night

Things, they are a changin’.

I really should not be up this late, and yet here I am. I got a lot of good stuff done today.

For the rest of this year (41 days to be exact), I will do one new, exciting “first” each day. Here’s a start from today in chronological order:

— Round I of the HPV vaccine
— Bought myself a really really nice digicam
— May have found an apartment!
— Attending a kickboxing class at work
— Wrote a blogpost in this blog

I have so much energy, and I’m so sleepy at the same time. Can’t wait for turkey-day and for the chance to dump out everything that’s on my mind into some to-do lists.

November 20, 2007   No Comments