Sometimes a journey doesn’t need a destination

We all reach a time when we’re no longer happy where we are. For some it’s just a matter of restlessness, others have grown to a point they need a new challenge, and occasionally it’s just about becoming so uncomfortable where you are that the unknown holds more hope than your present reality. For some of us lucky ones, we’re hit with all three of these motivations.

I come from a family of restless people. My dad grew up in the mission field, so standing still is a relatively new concept for him. My mom grew up in one place and I think had stood still for too long. So I grew up moving around, but never fully understanding the reasonings behind the decisions.

For the most part, I just experienced the consequences of moving, good or bad. I learned how to make new friends. And I learned that friendship isn’t forever, so you have to enjoy every drop of it while you can. I learned that being somewhere new doesn’t mean you’re alone as long as you’re with family. Treating where you live as if you’re just passing through allows you to live like a tourist in your own town. There’s no expectation of “well, next year I’ll check out that festival” because you really never expect to be there next year.

There were definitely some things I missed out on learning though. I’m not that good at fighting for my friendships or making them work long-term. I don’t really know how to settle down without the expectation of leaving. I’m not going to say I learned to run away from my problems, but I did learn that problems stick with you as long as you’re holding on to them.

But now that I’m on the side of making the decisions about whether or not to move, I find there’s so much going on behind the scenes, and I don’t even have kids to worry about (oh, my poor parents). For once in my life I’m seeing the value of hitting the open road. And maybe what’s really important is the change, not necessarily what’s at the end of the map. I’ve learned today, that sometimes just getting in the car is the step that needs to take place.

I have no fear of the destination, or lack thereof. Every city has amazing places to visit, every church has some incredible lessons to teach you. An office will always come with some fun new challenges and some frustrations. And friends can be made anywhere. Every destination is a good destination. And every journey ends somewhere.

All-lingual

Last night I spent some time talking to an amazing couple in a somewhat similiar-to-ours multi-cultural relationship. Well, even more interesting was observing the dynamics of the bilingual aspect of their relationship. Both speak Spanish and English very well, and I’m guessing the husband also has a third language under his belt. As I started the conversation in English, they continued. Though I speak and understand Spanish fine, the English teacher in me kept speaking in English to keep the wife practicing. But under normal circumstances they communicate to each other in Spanish.

I make Daniel speak English here in the States, and I spoke in Spanish in Peru. Eventually I’m sure we’ll go back to Spanish when I start slipping there or need to brush up on my expressions. But let’s be honest, no bilingual couple stays 100% in any language. And I noticed this even in our conversation last night. Certain sentences were in Spanish, sometimes out of excitement, sometimes because the topic just didn’t feel as natural in English.

A photo posted by Daniel Taipe (@inz) on Sep 6, 2015 at 4:56am PDT

//platform.instagram.com/en_US/embeds.jsBut the one thing I loved watching was what happened every time she was trying to think of a word in English or say a word she didn’t know. Even though I would have understood even if she said the word in Spanish, she turned to him and asked “how do you say… in English?” In those brief moments when she felt lost and didn’t know the answer, her very first instinct was to look to her husband. Sure, she could get the word from anyone, but naturally, without thinking, she turned to him.

This instinct amazes me. Without thinking, we know who we trust the most. And it really is a relationship being built over time that brings you to lean on each other for more than just the basic needs of life. I hope my marriage is learning some of these same lessons.

But more than anything, I hope my relationship with God is building the same way. We often say that we know we should ask God for help even for the little things, but don’t think to do it. I think a lot of this is built on relationship, not even our typical “oh, He came through for me this time, I guess I’ll ask again” or “I know I should ask Him first, so I really just have to remember.” Maybe, just by talking to Him daily, sharing our hopes and fears, we’ll get to the point that without even realizing it, we lean over and ask “hey, how do I say this?”

Day 9: Chance it

I love my days off. I love when I stay at home in my pajamas doing absolutely nothing, except for a big adventurous trip to Subway to eat lunch. I also love when I go out into the real world and enjoy the day while others are busy working. One of our favorite things to do once a month is go to Creative Mornings in DC. Creative Mornings is a free breakfast lecture series for the creative community. Creative Mornings is held in 100 cities around the world and every month each chapter covers the same general topic. There’s time to network, enjoy a muffin or two (or every flavor) and then be inspired, awestruck, empowered, touched or set straight by a short (under an hour) presentation by various creative professionals.

Day 9: Live with a bit of spontaneity and randomness to allow chance a chance. 

Today’s presentation here in DC was on the topic of “Chance.” We heard from Lulu Miller who is an NPR Science Desk Reporter, and overall awesome. She spoke about the many ways that chance inspires creativity, and as a storyteller, she often finds the best parts of stories by accident. Or something along those lines. My take away was to allow as much “randomness” into your life to let it diversify and inform your creativity. Our minds may be interesting places, but very limiting. The more you people, things, concepts, etc impact you, the further you can take your ideas.

After leaving the talk, we wandered over to the National Gallery of Art, since, well, we’ve just never been in there before. It was fabulous, and precisely the practice we needed after hearing the theory. My job has nothing to do with fine art, but I felt myself inspired in many different ways. We lingered over pieces we had never seen before and stopped in awe in front of paintings we had only ever seen in books. We found a set of paintings by
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, the namesake of Daniel’s college in Peru, and an artist who helped inspire modern advertising design (or something along those lines). It was wonderful to sit on the (super comfortable) couches ever few rooms to discuss art with my husband (and rest our tired feet). I felt like it led us to thoughts and discussions we would have never otherwise had. Consider Lulu Miller’s theory confirmed at least once by the Taipe adventurers. 

So if you’re feeling in a little bit of a creative rut, fear not. Do something completely random, stay open to finding something you weren’t expecting, let other’s experience become a part of yours. You may just find yourself on a whole new path by chance.

Day 6: Keep traditions

I’m rather forgetful. I wish I was different, that certain things sparked my memory or haunted my thoughts, but nothing sticks for too long. One of the things I’m particularly bad at is dates. I would forget my own birthday was coming if Facebook didn’t remind me of it. So of course, as life often happens, I married someone who took the effort to commit things to memory. He’s the anniversary keeper in our marriage. And he knows it all, the anniversary of the first day we met, the day he asked me out, the day he proposed, the day I left Peru, the day he came to the USA, the day we got married, the first time we changed a flat tire… he knows it all. Although I highly suspect he has an App hidden somewhere helping him out with some of those.
But we’re a family that likes to celebrate, so it works great that he has in mind so many dates to commemorate. Tonight the occasion was the 1 year anniversary of when he arrived in the USA. We had been apart for 11 and a half months, and only got to see each other once in that time for about 3 days. A year ago I picked him up at the airport and for the first time ever, drove him around. Although it was late, we grabbed a quick bite at IHOP before I dropped him off at the house where he would be staying until the wedding. I tend to bring people to IHOP when they first arrive from overseas, though I’m not sure why. I guess it’s the most American food I know. A year ago it seemed strange to sit down across the table from this man that used to live in my iPhone. 

When we went out tonight I thought to myself, “What a silly anniversary to keep.” Though that never gets in the way of having an excuse to order stuffed french toast. When taken from The word “tradition” holds a strange connotation for me I guess. Most of our family traditions growing up were for us kids. At least I had always assumed that they were. We celebrated Easter the same way every year, because us kids liked it so we wanted to do it again. We opened presents in the same way every Christmas because kids need some sort of structure to know what to expect in these sort of events. When I grew up I didn’t think I’d worry about keeping any special traditions of my own, though I always heard “you’ll start your own traditions when you have your own family.” I just always assumed that I would set up those traditions for my kids when they come around. Then I had a few sad holidays with no traditional aspects, and they were horrible. For several years I celebrated Christmas out of the country, and nothing about it felt like Christmas. In Brazil I ate tacos, in Peru I watch Titanic on TV then fireworks with my sister-in-law over Skype, and ate lemon pie. None of which says “Christmas” to me. 

And now I have my own family. It’s just me and Dani right now, and that’s pretty awesome. We’re still in our first year of marriage, but we’ve spent 2 Christmases together (3 if you count that one of our first dates was eating lemon pie together on Christmas afternoon). We still haven’t established traditions as they’re often understood. But tonight as we sat at IHOP chatting into the evening, I realized the true importance of traditions. Day 6: Creating and keeping traditions helps us blend the past, the present and the future. It’s not a matter of pulling out the same ornaments every year just because that’s what we do. It’s pausing normal day-to-day activities to appreciate what you’ve been through together, remember the great moments, evaluate the time that has passed, express what you’ve both learned and share the experience together. There’s no need to live in the past, but I’d be a fool to pretend like it didn’t happen. And one of the best ways to hold onto the good and keep getting better is to take the time to mark moments in history as they’re happening and remember the value moments that have gone.

Day 5: Look up

Today’s was that day we all look forward to with excitement and anticipation. Jury duty day! I spent hours and hours sitting in a room with 50 strangers to fulfill our civic duty of being there just in case we could participate in the justicial process. Long story short, there was not a single case that required our services. Maybe next time. 
My mood

There was a sort of generation gap in the room. Many people thought to bring books (I’ll admit I was a little jealous), a few ladies even had knitting to work on. Then there were the 35 and unders who were all on electronic devices, myself included. I’m a little awkward in those situations anyway, so any excuse to avoid eye contact is welcome, although after a while I got a little tired of staring down. So I did the unimaginable. I looked up. I couldn’t help but notice some interesting things about my fellow citizens. The room was completely silent. Every once in a while there was a whispered question or “excuse me” as someone got out of their seat to go to the bathroom. There was the occasional whir of the coffee machine, though that may have sounded louder since I was sitting right next to it.

Day 5: Take time to look up at the world around you. Soak it in, observe, draw conclusions, commit some things to memory, let other details stir your imagination, just look around, you don’t need to be entertained every minute of the day. This is one of those lessons I “know” and am often quoting to my husband when he’s chronically our adventures with his camera. But there’s something very special about just sitting down and doing it. I try hard not to be overly connected with my phone. I almost never take it to lunch and am usually the one person at the table not staring at something. But to sit in a room full of strangers, with no one to talk to, no screen to watch and nothing new to learn gave me a wonderful opportunity to play in my own mind.

My most exciting view

So thank you jury duty for reminding me of this great skill. Sometimes the best place to spend some time by yourself and get in touch with your thoughts is in a room full of strangers. 

Day 3: Enjoy!

Welcome to day 3! It’s been a lazy Saturday with relatively little drama. We learned a bit more about the inner workings of generosity this morning at church and celebrated our 11 month anniversary. It may not sound like a long time, but being locked up in a tiny apartment with me for 11 months is probably enough to drive most normal people crazy. I feel like there were a lot of interesting life lessons today, especially from this morning’s sermon. Remember, people aren’t grateful for what they feel entitled to, so live as if everything is a gift. Deep right? Pastor Mike said it much more convincingly.
But I’m going to cheat and use the wise saying from my Yogi Tea for today’s lesson. Day 3: The purpose of life is to enjoy every moment. Ok, so I’m not sure if I agree with this 100%. I think that looking out for others is important, and true love is selfless. And life certainly isn’t a marathon of happiness. We, unfortunately, live in a fallen world and deal with a lot of bad stuff. 
But, I do see a whole lot of value in enjoying every moment, especially with sense of appreciation. Especially the little moments. Enjoy doing the laundry, not because it’s fun (unless it is for you) but because you have clothes, you don’t have to do them by hand (so glad that chapter of my life is over for now). Not that every moment will be fun, but can possibly be enjoyed. Today some of my greatest moments were strange misunderstandings with my husband, which under the wrong attitude (read: if I was feeling moody) could have led to arguments and hurt feelings, but were instead turned into an opportunity to laugh together at ourselves. There’s a big difference in my mind between enjoying the task, and enjoying moments. I may not always love going to work, but I love the little moments of interaction with my coworkers. I certainly don’t enjoy doing the dishes, but seeing the process of something going from used and dirty to clean and orderly is addicting. Cooking isn’t always my thing but put on a little salsa music and it becomes a whole production in my kitchen. 
So tonight, maybe you don’t have anything “enjoyable” planned, but stop a few times and ask yourself “Am I enjoying myself right now?” And if you aren’t (which is very possible) figure out one small thing you could do to fix that. Because a life well lived is a live well enjoyed.

The office is the new classroom

Did you ever read the book, All I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarden? I remember that being such a innovative piece for its time, though I never read it. However the concept was still clear, what are the basic life lessons that can be applied to adult life? It’s a brilliant philosophy but I think that I went a bit too far in my application of it. And yes, that’s probably what I get for not reading the book. I (mistakenly) found myself feeling that, apart from knowledge and such, when it comes to life lessons as they say, “there’s nothing new under the sun.”

I’ll be the first to admit that it’s easy to live life with your head down. It’s easy to do and frequently it makes life easier as well. But like mom always used to tell me, “easier is not always better.” It may be easier to stay in one’s hometown, but many people find new knowledge and experiences by going away to college or around the world. But don’t be fooled, there is no way to live that guarantees a life without problems. So you may as well choose difficult paths that help mold you into a stronger, smarter and more equipped person.

With all this in mind, I’ve started opening up my eyes a bit more at work. If you’re going to spend 40+- hours in one place every week you may as well spend it in a determined way. I’ve been keeping track recently of the broader life lessons that I’ve learned at my office. Here are just a few, without getting too specific about the circumstances that brought me to these lessons.

  • Staying in the middle of an issue does not always shield you from criticism from either/both extremes.
  • As an “expert” it’s your job to be ready to learn and ready to teach at any given time. Never think you only have to do one or the other.
  • One of the most valuable things to know is what is important to those around you. Understand them, learn what makes them tick. 
  • Plan as you may, there will always be someone around you who forgot to plan at all. While there lack of planning doesn’t have to be your emergency, plan a little bit of flexibility into your time just in case.
  • The best benefit a job can have is someone in your line of sight that understands you. Nothing compares to looking up in a moment of panic or stress to have someone looking back with an understanding or comical look on their face.
  • Some of the most unexpected people can bring the greatest of inspiration. Learn from everyone. You never know what information from another field can be applied to your own. 
  • Make the extra effort to share with others how your field can improve their work life. People will care more about what you do when they see how it impacts them. 

Those are the lessons for a few days at least. What else have you learned about life from work?